A Boot Disk for Crop Seeds

The extinction of animal species gets the most press coverage, but plant species are also in danger. This probably deserves a bit more attention since so much of life is dependent on plants. (And it’s not just as a food source; plants are also responsible for turning carbon dioxide into free oxygen. We might miss that when it’s gone.)
The government of Norway has established a Seed Vault. That way in the event of a global disaster, it may be possible to restart the world’s agricultural systems.

Nearly Back Online

After last weekend’s most inopportune system meltdown, I figured it would be close to two weeks before I could get a new drive, get everything reinstalled, and start using my notebook PC again. I had some good luck though and I’m well ahead of schedule.
About a year ago I had the opportunity to pick up a docking station that was otherwise destined for the scrap heap. The dock seems to be compatible with the notebook, and since my notebook PC doesn’t have a floppy drive I thought the removable one installed in the dock might come in handy at some point. Boy did it ever!
When I first realized I’d have to reinstall Windows, I started looking around for a floppy drive I could use with the XP boot floppies I made a while back. The floppy from another salvaged notebook didn’t have the right connectors (same manufacturer, but several years apart). Then I thought of trying out the drive from the docking station.
Once I popped the drive out of the dock, I realized it wasn’t a floppy after all. OK, that’s not a problem. It was the right form factor and connector, so at least I had a spare CD drive in the event that went South next. (My laptop also sees a fair amount of use playing DVDs, so I occasionally wonder what I’ll do if that drive fails.)
Then I realized the module I had popped out of the docking station wasn’t a CD drive either. It was a hard drive in a modular enclosure! Figuring it probably wasn’t the capacity I needed, I put it aside for a while with the idea that maybe one day I’d use it to back up essentials from the notebook.
In the meantime, I continued working to get the old drive back to a usable condition. Once I finally concluded it was physically no longer usable, I ordered a replacement and took another look at the removable one.
It turned out the removable drive was from a different manufacturer than the dead one (Fujitsu versus Seagate). But it was otherwise an exact match for the old one, including the same 40GB capacity. And from inspecting the drive (no sign anything was ever on it) and what I know of the history of those docking stations, I very sincerely doubt it was ever used. I’m not even convinced it was powered on more than one or two times to format it with NTFS.
So A few turns of the screwdriver and the salvaged drive is now installed as the laptop’s primary hard drive. I’ve already installed Windows and the essential pieces of the add-on software. (Adding applications such as Open Office is yet to come.)
The replacement drive is already on its way and there doesn’t appear to be a way to cancel the order. I have another salvage system I’ll try it out on. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll install it in the removable drive module and use it for backing up essential data. (The restocking fee is sufficient that unless it’s defective, I’m not inclined to return it.)
So thanks to a little luck, the notebook PC is back in working condition a few days sooner than expected. All that remains is reinstalling some software.
It’s still a nuisance, but I’m much further ahead than expected.


My notebook PC went “toes-up” on Friday evening. After several of hours of troubleshooting over the course of the weekend I eventually determined that the hard drive had sustained an unrecoverable failure. (Notebook hard drives evidently tend to fail more frequently than their desktop counterparts.)
Happily, I didn’t keep much of anything vital there. Somewhere down the line I’ll probably realize it had my only copy of something, but most of my important files are stored on the desktop computer which gets backed up automatically. So nothing too vital appears to have been lost, though it did mess up my plans for getting some stuff done while I was sitting at the Shore Leave table during Balticon.
I took the drive out this afternoon so I could make sure the new one I was ordering would fit into the same space, and I’m really impressed at how small it is. 2 1/2 inches wide, by about 1/3 of an inch thick (9 mm). Who knew something so tiny could cause so many problems?
The replacement should arrive on Wednesday or Thursday. Then comes the real fun. I’ve installed various versions of Windows a number of times. But this will be the first time I’ve ever installed it on a computer that doesn’t have a floppy drive.

Missing Persons

Amy and I have a long-standing tradition of calling each other while we’re in the car on a long drive. A month or two ago I called her while driving home from the other side of the state, a month before that, she called me while driving home from Las Vegas. Today she called me while driving from California to Louisiana. (Amy clearly drives to and from far more interesting locations than I do.)

We chitchatted for a little while and then the connection was lost. That was kind of an odd thing since the various wireless companies usually make sure you’re never too far away from a cell tower while following the Interstate. But then it occurred to me, Amy had mentioned that they’d just passed through Roswell, New Mexico about an hour earlier.

We got reconnected about 15 minutes later and Amy was quick to assure me that no, aliens hadn’t abducted her. But I’m not sure what to think – it’s possible she wasn’t able to speak freely. She laughed off the possibility of being abducted and almost immediately the signal was lost again.

I haven’t heard from her since.


I received a questionnaire on Tuesday which asked, “Do you have trouble making decisions?”

How do you answer that?

My first thought was to answer “Yes,” but having that response come to mind so quickly seemed quite decisive, don’t you think? So maybe the answer is “No.” But if you’re thinking about answering “Yes,” then answering “No” isn’t entirely truthful either, is it?

I left it blank.

Fishing on Memorial Day

My brothers have persuaded our East Coast cousins to join them for a camping trip this Memorial Day weekend. Although I won’t be able to attend this year, Susan included me on the email where she listed the food and beverages she’ll be taking with her. It’s a pretty thorough list, covering everything from pancake mix to applesauce to hot chocolate (I think it’s a bit warm for that last, but different folks have different preferences). Grace replied by asking why her caviar wasn’t listed.
That one’s pretty simple really. I attended the first family gathering at this campground and as I recall, there’s a fishing pond down by the campground entrance. So to get her caviar, Grace will need to take along a fishing rod, tackle, and bait. (I seem to remember my niece catching a fish several years ago using a nightcrawler on a hook.)
Although I’m not sure where the fish and game commission stands on the subject of drift nets, I am fairly certain that although the technique will yield large quantities of fresh fish, throwing in a boulder with an attached stick of dynamite tends to be frowned upon.
Once Grace has caught a suitable number of fish, obtaining the caviar is left as an exercise for the student.

Scatter-brained Telephony

My cell phone has a very cool voice-dialing system that gets activated when I use the wireless headset. All I have to do is tell it the name of the person I want to call and if that name matches an entry in the built-in phonebook, the phone reads the name back to me. Once I confirm that it made the right match, the phone makes the call without me ever taking the phone out of my pocket.
The phone has some problems with some of my friends’ names, but for the most part it’s pretty darn reliable. One of today’s calls however was quite surprising.
Phone: Say a Command
Me: Voice Dial
Phone: Say the name or number
Me: Mom and Dad
Phone: Did you say, “Mom and Dad”?
Me: Yes
Phone: Sorry. No match found
So simply put, the phone was able to find the text “Mom and Dad” in the directory so it could confirm that’s who I wanted to call. But once I confirmed that’s who I wanted to call, the phone immediately forgot the conversation?
I think my phone has Alzheimer’s.

Adventures in Legislation

According to radio, Montgomery County Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg was successful in her bid to have Montgomery County be the first in the nation to ban the use of trans fats in restaurants.
According her March press release, she’s a Health Professional, so I guess we can assume that she actually knows what a trans fat is and why it’s bad. Perhaps I’m skeptical, but I’m thinking the rest of the council doesn’t know anything about them aside from the fact that there’s no political risk in banning them.
No word is given on how this will help lower taxes, reduce traffic, improve schools, or anything else that the voters actually care about.

I Need to Find Something Better to Read

I eat fast food more often I like, but when I do, I usually get it to go. Tonight was the first time since early last fall that I actually went and ate my dinner in a fast food restaurant.

It’s been pretty well established that I’ll read practically anything (more about that another time), and tonight was no exception. While I was eating, my eyes strayed to my hamburger’s wrapper and I read the inscription: “Nothing says you like having things your way more than having this WHOPPER with Cheese.”

But I ordered my sandwich without cheese. Does this mean I don’t like having things my way? Are they saying my way is wrong? Does this mean that the only way I can truly have it my way is to have it their way?

Probably the best way to handle this in the future is to eat the wrapper and read the burger.