Have you ever wondered where your industry got its start? Since a lot of us are in IT, I bet you're thinking WW2 and the codebreakers at Bletchley Park, Alan Turing and all the rest.

Would you be surprised if I told you it was the loom? Or even further back, the water wheel?

In the 1970's the BBC produced an absolutely brilliant documentary series call Connections, hosted by James Burke. It had a wonderful way of showing technology advancing, not by a solitary inventor, but by taking the work of someone else, often in a completely different field and applying it to the problem they were working on. It's absolutely mind blowing.

Fortunately the internet archive has all three series available to stream, for free. Each episode is about 45 minutes long. There's a lot of anachronisms, the World Trade Center towers make a frequent appearance, for those touched by the events of 9-11, be warned. But, if you have the time, I promise that it will not be wasted.

https://archive.org/details/ConnectionsByJamesBurke/Connections/

And if you want to see the origin of IT.

https://archive.org/details/ConnectionsByJamesBurke/Connections/Season+1/Connections+S01E04+-+Faith+in+Numbers.mp4

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Thank you for that - I'll definitely be checking it out!

I seem capable of running out of worthwhile streaming content despite its seeming endlessness....
 

Google sends you a monthly map of everyplace you've been the previous month. If you're like me, and based on experience, you're probably not, this has always struck me as a little big-brother-ish. Hmm, thinks I. Can I add navigation to my truck? Sure enough, there's ways. Now usually when I'm adding a factory option that didn't come with my vehicle I will ply one of my favorite you-pull-it salvage yards. But it seems that Ford used a module that is coded for the VIN of your particular vehicle. And to get a used module re-coded, requires you to bring a large valise full of money to a dealer. Or just getting a Ford dealer to install a new module requires a foot locker full of money.

TO THE INTERNET!

Yes, as it turns out, there are a multiple companies who sell the module, cutom coded to your VIN. Although you have to do the installation, it lands somewhere between a valise and a footlocker. Call it a large suitcase full of money.

What ho, let's check Ebay. And again, there are plenty of people selling the module. Some as low as $100. But excluding anybody not in the US (easier to wrangle a refund if the part is bogus) The lowest price was still above walking around money, but about one third of the price that Ford would want to install their component. After receiving a windfall from the department of unclaimed property, I pulled the trigger, bought the part and sent the seller my VIN.

The part arrived in five days. I had taken the time to review the installation procedure. Fairly easy, no special tools required. One heartening sign, when I opened the box the seller had included a printed out copy of my truck's build sheet. Obviously the seller has an in with Ford technical support. The process was supposed to take an hour, I had it installed in half that time. Nav works great. I didn't even lose my radio or satellite presets. All I had to do was re-pair my phone to the truck and join my home wifi.

I am sure my descendants will be Morlocks, maintaining machines and popping up to the surface to have the Eloi descendants of politicians, phone sanitizers and marketing wonks down for dinner.

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How big a container of money do I need to send to have your descendants not eat my descendants?
My Google Maps report of all the places I've been in April - June were a single blue dot over my house, with one jaunt up to my folks'.

I imagine our January report will be on dot solely over my folks' place.

But yeah, it's all quite Big Brothery and feels oooky, I agree. I'm also too lazy to do anything about it.

Good on ya!
 

I'm just getting into the swing of going back to work, after 75 days on lockdown. So, as is my custom, I made a breakfast wrap this morning, took it into the living room to catch the weather and traffic (which is still blessedly light). When I was finished, I took my plate to the kitchen, made a cup of coffee for the road and left.

I got to work and thought, did I leave the stove on? No, couldn't have. I'd have smelled scorched skillet while I was eating and watching the tube. After work I went to the grocery store, picked up a few things and went home. I let me dog out and went to stand in front of the fridge to put away the groceries and felt the heat radiating from the front burner, skillet still on it.

A horrified glance at the knob confirmed, yes, Ray, you Red Forman grade dumbass, you left the stove on. Fortunately the burner was on the lowest setting and the skillet was a carbon steel pan. Which I may or may not have enthused about here. The pan was like, "What? That's all you got?" I may have taken some working life off that burner, which probably was not rated for nine-ish hours of continuous use.

Fuck.

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Aw man.

There was one whole year I spent driving back around the block to check if I'd shut the garage door after backing out because I just couldn't trust myself to remember. The one time I was sure I had and didn't check... I came home and it was closed and thought, "I was right! haha!" but then my neighbor came by.

"So you left your garage door open but I was able to reach around inside and hit the button for you..."
Protocols are now in place to, hopefully, prevent a repeat.
 

75 years ago today, one theater of the largest war in history ended. Linked below is the official radio anouncement read by Winston Churchill at three o'clock in the afternoon, in London.

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5/8
 

On April 25th, 1976, two men, protesting the US treatment of American Indians, trespassed onto the outfield at Dodger's Stadium in Los Angeles during the bottom of the fourth inning. they put an American flag on the ground, quickly sprayed it with lighter fluid and attepted to set it alight.

While they fumbled with the matches, Rick Monday, an outfielder for the visiting Chicago Cubs, dashed in, snatched up the flag and ran off to the infield with it. Eventually, he brought it to the Dodger's dugout, handing off to Dodger's pitcher Doug Rau. The protestors were arrested and charged with trespassing.

When Monday came up to bat at the top of the fifth inning, the entire stadium gave him a standing ovation. A digital sign in the outfield flashed the message; "Rick Monday... You Made A Great Play..."

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I love when you do these "On this day" segments. It's Cliff Clavin-esque, but better. (But Cliff would probably focus on the brand of matches and why that batch didn't work that day.)

Eeeeeee!
 

The first iteration of my public mask. Isn't it funny that just a few months ago, antifa members were being told to take off their masks or face arrest. Now we're all wearing masks. If the bank lobbies were still open bank guard would suddenly be the hardest job in America.

My sister says I look like a Marvel comic book villain. She's not wrong. But damn, I need to beat back those eyebrows a little.


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Most excellent! And great check matching.
Agreed! The line-up work is schweeeeeet!
 

This week's Crock Pot Sunday adventure is Butter Chicken sauce. I've never made this before, since, Indian food was never on the menu in rural New England while I was growing up. I am venturing into culinary Terra Incognita.

I blame Jill. Since I had it one time the Philadel group went to an Indian restaurant for dinner. I've kind of been jonesing for it ever since.

So, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

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Most excellent! You must report on the outcome!

Just last night I whipped up a *lovely* coconut milk curry with swordfish (snagged some on sale a while back and had it in the freezer). I stole the recipe from a website called melskitchencafe.com. The recipe there calls for shrimp, which I've also used in the past. Is there a link to the recipe you're using?
My modification of a recipe I found on the interwebz, calling for cauliflower to replace the chicken. WTF!? Especially since I replace the rice with riced cauliflower, double cauliflower is not called for. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Slow Cooker Butter Chicken
yield: 6 SERVINGS prep time:10 MINS cook time: 5 HRS total time: 5 HRS 10 MINS

This rich, creamy Slow Cooker Butter Chicken has the taste of authentic Indian butter chicken, made easy and healthy with everyday ingredients and veggies!

Ingredients
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts — about 4 medium breasts, diced
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 yellow onion — diced (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
4 cloves minced garlic — about 4 teaspoons
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (14-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons unsalted butter — cut into small pieces (use coconut oil to make dairy free)
1/2 cup half-and-half or full-fat coconut milk — do not use light coconut milk, as it will water down the sauce
1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt — or non-dairy yogurt to make dairy free

FOR SERVING:
Prepared brown rice
Quinoa
Naan
Chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions
Dice the chicken and set aside.

In a nonstick skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium high. Once hot, add the onion and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, curry, garam masala, chili powder, salt, and tomato paste. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Transfer the onions to a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Lay the diced chicken on top and top with tomato sauce. Stir to combine the sauce a bit, leaving the chicken pieces undisturbed underneath. The chicken pieces will seem a bit in the way. Just use a spoon to prod the sauce so things are more evenly coated. Scatter the butter pieces over the top.

Cover and cook on high for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours or on low for 4 to 6 hours, until the chicken is cooked through and reaches 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. The cooking time may vary based on your slow cooker, so check early to ensure the chicken does not dry out.

Stir in the half-and-half. Let cool a few minutes, then stir in the Greek yogurt. (Don't stir in the yogurt right away; if the butter chicken is too hot, it will curdle.) Enjoy warm over brown rice, quinoa, naan, or riced cauliflower, sprinkled with fresh cilantro.
I would just like to let you know that I'm going to steal the tag "I blame Jill". I suspect I may have a few uses for it. :P
Lay on. It's not copyrighted.
Furthermore, I suspect she'd take it as the compliment it's meant to be.
True. It's an honor. :-)
Many many lifetimes ago, Jeremy and I used to have Indian Food Tuesdays (or was it Thursdays?) where we'd cook Indian dishes at home. MAN were they tasty. It taught me a lot about spices that I hadn't been exposed to as a half-Italian growing up in north Jersey. Cumin? Cardamom? Who?

But yeah, it is a delicious and fairly easy cuisine to make at home, and sooooo satisfying.
Crock Pot Sunday was delayed 24 hours due to a St. Patrick's Day party/Westworld viewing party. I threw it together on Monday afternoon and had it over Riced Cauliflower. Disappointing. I am one of those people who can taste bitter, better than average. The bitter flavor cut right through the sauce and really put an odd flavor on the whole dish.

Tuesday I had it over plain white rice. Holy cow, what a difference. Bland is a flavor and the bland flavor of the rice made the sauce sing. This dish was something to look forward to as I was locked in from Tuesday onward.

But that's another blog post.
Glad to hear that it was (when properly paired) a success!

(Though to be clear - I would absolutely have tried the riced cauliflower first too. Gods damned carbs n' shit.)
 

My 13 year old cat, Spot, has been living with a bone marrow cancer diagnosis for 9 months now. Her buddy, Scout, passed in November. Since then I've been her only source of love and affection. 

I should have known something was up when she stopped coming by for love and affection at bedtime. She stopped eating, and with a long holiday weekend coming up I knew it was probably time, before she had to suffer through three days to see the vet. So, I went looking for where she had denned up.

When I found her the look she gave me removed all doubt that it was time. Fortunately, my vet had me bring Spot to her house. My vet gave Spot a quick exam and agreed that it was time.

And just like her buddy, Scout, Spot left as soon as the euthenasia drugs hit her system.

Losing two pets in two months is hard. I like fixing things. But with Spot, and Scout before her, there was no fixing this. And the only choice I had left was to give them mercy.

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Oh jeez. You poor thing. My condolences. *hugs* You are such a kind and caring pet owner.
Many hugs and much sympathy.
I'm _really_ sorry man. Losing any pet is super tough. Two so rapidly must be miserable.
I am so sorry. Take care.
I'm so sorry for your loss. Glad you were able to help this kitty have less suffering.
 

After a bad week, I heard the news on Friday that Neil Peart had passed away. 

My mom and I moved to the Chicago suburbs in 1978, thorougly uprooting me from my Mayberry like life in rural New England. My hometown was an example of late 70's post-industrial collapse. No jobs, no surviving industry, and being located in a valley, no radio signals. We'd get one rock station, that specialized in 60's hippie and acid rock and distantly, on a good night, a pop station out of Westerly, Rhode Island.

And then I got dropped into Chicagoland, and the rock scene there was heavily influenced by Canadian imports. Moxy, Pat Travers, April Wine, Triumph and this little band called Rush.

While my school peers listened to more mainstream bands, the nerds at my school all listened to Rush, among other bands. WLUP would occasionally throw one of their songs on the air, and it was always a good time. While Rush wasn't mainstream, it was at least well known enough in Chicago that you weren't completely ostracized for listening to them.

All of that changed in 1982, when we moved back to New England and the valley of shadow of radio signals. Coincidentally almost in time with Rush's release of their album, Signals. Then, my age peers didn't want anything to do with Rush or Geddy Lee's shrieky vocals. The content of Peart's lyrics was of little interest to them. Rush became my solitary pleasure. The music I listened to alone, frequently when I had time to read the liner notes and contemplate the message that Peart, Lee and Lifeson were sending.

Peart, in his younger years was an admirer or Ayn Rand, and although by his own admission he parted ways with her philosphy, he remained a staunch libertarian. And that belief shone through in his lyrics, and in a way, infected me. Meanwhile, the 80's and 90's rolled on. The albums kept coming, life was good.

Until it wasn't. Peart was rocked by two tragedies, the death of his only daughter and his wife. Rush ended their tour early and went on hiatus. I didn't know it at the time, but Peart took to riding his motorcycle around North and Central America, twice, trying to decide whether he wanted to live or die. As usual, great pain can be channeled into art. And he wrote about his journey in a book, Ghost Rider.

Hiatus usually means a band is done. But around the beginning of 2001 I started hearing rumors of a new Rush album. And sure enough it came to be. My favorite band was back and hopefully would be forever. 

But if you live long enough, you get to see your heroes die.

Peart officially retired in 2015. It was explained that he retired because he could no longer perform at the level he expected of himself due to tendonitis. Of course, it's easy to now surmise that his retirement was related to his diagnosis of brain cancer. 

So, here's Rush being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an honor that was long denied them. It's a nice snapshot of a happier time and acknowledgement that this little quirky trio from Toronto is, was and always will be cool.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTAqCEPMHEg


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Thanks for this Ray, I listened to Rush as a kid and didn't know the whole story.
I've known you 15 years and there is still so much I don't know about you. I had no idea you were a huge Rush fan. Sweeeeet!

Thank you for writing and sharing this snapshot.

Losing Neil, man... this one hurts.
Ouch. I thought he left the band to write steampunk fiction (which he did do in the past few years). He was an amazing musician and inventor - his drum rigs were unreal.
 

Christmas is just a couple of days away and the hustle and bustle of the end of the year dash is almost over. Once Christmas is over we're into the week between, an almost non-week for those of us who have to work.

My schedule has been overbooked due to Microsoft ending support for Windows 7. We shall not mention Vista and 8.X and their failed promises. Most of the computers I am responsible for are updated, the remainder are scheduled and I'm on track to be legally covered on January 14th when 7 hits end of life. But things have been a little hectic. Not frantic, but there's been little time to rest and enjoy the holiday activities. Sorry if I've missed you these last few weeks. The Christmas cards never got sent, sorry. But rest assured you've all been in my thoughts.

So have a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Joyful Kwanzaa, and/or a Happy Festivus. And to all a safe, happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

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12/23 '19 2 Comments
It sounds like you've got things well under control, surely due to your thoughful planning and general kick-assery. If you find you need any last-minute help updating computers, I'm happy to lend a hand, just ask! I upgraded mine from Windows 7 to 10 last week while I was on the road for work and I was shocked at how pleasant it was. Still getting used to the Windows X interface, but I don't hate it.

Merry Christmas and Happy Yule, my friend. I hope things settle down soon, and you can take a breath to enjoy the season for a moment or three.
Jill "xtingu" Knapp 12/24 '19edited
I use classic shell for my more cretaceous end users. My work computer is going last since I need a reliable machine if something goes kablooie. I've had a 10 tablet for a couple of years now. I built a new home computer that is also 10, back in May. Immediately after I stood up the new home computer my old one went belly up. So I've been on 10 for some months. It's interface is kludgey for administration and the program list begs for shortcuts on the desktop. But it is much more usable than 8.X.
Ray Conrad 12/24 '19