Religious Crap in Geocaches

Groundspeak forums are aflame once again… this time over a month old thread that has recently been resurrected from the grave.

And, then I found it. Slightly larger than my signature business card was this paper religious tract type of a thing.

Shock! Horror! Oh the travesty!

So what do you think of religious tracts left in geocaches? Personally I dislike the idea – anything paper or even card left in a cache ends up becoming damp and soggy – affecting the overall presentation of swag – not to mention does anyone other than the dilligent CITO’er really get much out of trading for them?

I’d like to know what generous Christian traded for their 1 penny tract… is this a case of “Riches I have not, but I do have this handy geocaching-friendly salvation-simplifying cartoon tract…”?

Come on, there’s some much better religious swag that can be used as quality trade items over a soggy tract!

Becoming A Perfect Killer

If you’re going to work with computers and Linux in particular, sooner or later you’ll need to perfect your killing technique. I’m not just talking about those useless defunct processes or applications that refuse to die – I’m also talking about the Operating System itself. When it comes to Windows you’re pretty limited to the confines of Ctrl+Alt+Del and the power switch, but with Linux, as with anything else, there are many ways to do things.

Force Quit Applications that Won’t Die (Gnome)

The first and easiest way to kill an application is to install the Force Quit button on your top or bottom panel. Right click on the panel, select “Add to Panel…” then scroll down and find Force Quit and select “Add”. This adds a little broken window icon to your panel when clicked on, turns your cursor into a deadly cross. With the cross, click on any window that refuses to die and usually it will be instantly gone.

End that Pesky App
Managing Processes that are not Being Nice (Gnome)

If Force Quit is bit too brutal a method for you, you can always got to System -> Administration -> System Monitor, which is a bit like Windows Task Manager, to view processes in the Processes tab. Here you can choose to End an application in a softer way as well as reset its nice value (priority).

Kill that Lurking Background Process

Sometimes an application will seem to close normally, or even after a force quit, but will continue to skulk in the background, refusing to give up it’s entitlement to your cpu and memory. This is the Terminal comes in handy for terminating that rogue John Connor of processes.

Fire up the terminal (Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal) and type the following:

top

If you already know the name of the application or it’s not eating your cpu cycles you can use grep to filter all or part of the application name:

 ps -ef | grep -i [ name of app ]

Note the process id (pid) of the rogue application taking up cpu then type:

kill -9 [pid]

Killing Applications that Crash your Desktop (X)

Of course, the above methods are not useful if an application has caused your desktop to seize up. Not to worry, Most distributions boot up with several virtual terminal sessions with X (the GUI desktop) running on only one of them.

When X crashes,

  • Press Ctrl+Alt+F1. This will take you to the login prompt of the 1st of 6 terminals running.
  • Login as root, or your user id then sudo to root.
  • Run the top command to get a list of processes and PID numbers.
  • Press Alt+F2 to log into the 2nd Terminal
  • As with killing background processes above, you can simply type ‘kill -9 [pid]
  • Press Alt+F7 to get back to your desktop and all should be well

Note: even if the desktop does not recover after killing the process, if you can access one of the other terminals, you can still do a hard reboot by typing:

shutdown -fr now

If all else fails….

Raise A Skinny Elephant

It may sound like some kind of incantation or ritual now needs to be performed, or possibly a mafia codeword for calling in a hit on your computer – but it’s really just a mnemonic device.

Skinny Elephant Guy
source: Vin Rowe

If your desktop has completely seized and none of the above will work, then just remember that

Raising Skinny Elephants Is Utterly Boring.

This will give you back control of your keyboard, sync your hdd, end all processes, and perform a manual but orderly reboot. Type in the following:

Alt+SysRq (+ letters below in order, pausing between key strokes)
+r =  Put keyboard in raw mode (recapture your key presses)
+s = Sync the disk
+e = Terminate all processes
+i = Kill all processes
+u =  Remount all filesystems Read-Only
+b =  Reboot the system

On reboot let the system perform any filesystem checks and it will recover automatically.

If for some reason you can’t recall Skinny Elephants, or the thought grosses you out, you can always use BUSIER to help you remember – execute it backwards: (Alt+SysRq)+R+E+I+S+U+B.

Bookshelf: The Economic Naturalist: Why Economics Explains Almost Everything

I just finished reading The Economic Naturalist: Why Economics Explains Almost Everything. I read it in part because I’m interested in big picture ideas and why things are the way they are, and partly because it’s coming from the same approach and school of thought as another book I read last year – Freakonomics
.

Not that Freakonomics and The Economic Naturalist are teaching exactly the same subject or entirely in agreement, the ‘school of thought’ I refer to is to examine cultural, historical and environmental mindsets and events and try to determine the reasoning behind such things.

I’ll start by saying it’s a good book and it did cause me to learn a few things, but I didn’t find it as good a read as Freakonomics. For a start I found the first few chapters to be shallow in terms of depth of understanding and plainly ignored or forgot factors such as ‘herd instinct’, scotomas or other practical and cultural factors. One such example given is the reason for all cabs in New York being painted yellow (reasoning being visibility for hailing) however, this just doesn’t explain why all cabs in London are black (or even carry full body cover advertisements)!

Of course the reason for sticking plainly to economic explanations can be understood because as the author, Robert Frank explains, these are adapted economic student essays. In fact early on Frank issues a disclaimer as such in that the answers provided are “hypotheses suitable for further refinement and testing”. So I shouldn’t be too harsh on the answers which seem to miss vital points of consideration.

As I said I did learn some things, including the meaning and application of opportunity cost, rational choice theory and pricing hurdles. The book does get much better after the first few chapters and there are some explanations that have caused me to see things in a different light. Good answers are found for the differences between worker salaries and contractors, why tobacco CEO’s (and probably Bank CEOs too) are willing to endure public humiliation and why workers usually vote for safety regulations but ignore them given the choice. The book also helps you to frame things in a different light, did you know for example, that women who wear high heals are competing in an arms race?

The Economic Naturalist is a worthwhile read and it will help you to think, however I think the reader should bear in mind the answers given are not always the end of the story.

Cross Dressing Lego Storm-Trooper Geocaching Travel Bug

About 6 months ago I had an idea for a travel bug – a lego figure that requires cachers to trade just one item until it no longer looked like it’s former self. This idea morphed into a deserter Clone Storm Trooper who wanted to become an individual… and so this Travel Bug was born:

TB2THBF" TB2THBF

Here’s how he started out:

Cross Dressing Lego Storm Trooper

The mission was simple: Change just one item from this Lego imperial clone trooper, take a photo and move him on.

His first change was body armour, provided by geocacher Boat456.

Change of Armour

6 months later he’s only managed to travel 133 miles but he’s already gone through some major self discovery, courtesy of High Beeches and Wear Pilgrims

Getting in touch with his feminine side...

Where next? Who knows…?

Onto the next glamorous star system!

Thanks to all the cachers who have helped move the Storm Trooper on so far!

A Storm Troopers Odyssey
Tracking in Google Earth

My new magnetic duck micro #geocache, first and only of its kind!

Fraggle Rock

Since I published the Youtube vid of Superted, I’ve been exploring to see what other old shows I could find. Who remembers Fraggle Rock? Another show I used to love as a kid.

I always wondered what the Doozers constructions tasted like – and did they ever get to complete a building project?

Duck Micro #geocache Take 2 looking less like something out of Star Trek

2 Months on The Shangri-La Diet

I don’t have the greatest eating habits, and I don’t diet well either. I’m too finicky and enjoy sweet things way too much. So when I heard about the Shangri La diet a year ago I was intrigued. It wasn’t until summer 2009 that I finally picked up the book. We were visiting family in BC and I spotted it in a second hand book shop.

I only got round to reading it this January and before I was half way through I was eager to give it a go. The theory is based on science and self-experimentation by Seth Roberts. The idea is that we all have a set-point (a food thermostat) and the higher the set-point, the longer it will take for us to feel full (just as a temperature thermostat regulates the temperature).

The goal is to lower your set-point for food just as you would lower the thermostat to lower the overall temperature of your home. As you lower your set-point, you eat less to get full, and in eating less your body shrinks.

So how do you lower your set-point? Roberts lists a number of methods but the one he found most successful – in fact consistently proven – was taking a combination of sugar water and flavourless oil as part of his regular diet.

The beauty of it is that you don’t need to change any of your eating habits at all – you just add the sugar water or flavourless oil to your daily intake and let the magic begin.

Onto My Experience…

It took me a little while to get my head around the concept of the book at first, it seemed to make sense reading it but then when I came to try and explain it I struggled. Still after finishing I decided I’m crazy enough to try it. I started out by taking a tumbler glass of cold water with a tablespoon of sugar in – what I didn’t remember was that I was supposed to sip it. Remove my appetite? It did – but also left me with a giant headache! I then took to boiling the water and drinking it like I would tea or coffee which is much less pain.

It took a few days for the weight loss to kick in, but the appetite died straight away. I found I could easily dodge a packet of crisps or chocolate bar. Interestingly, when I did finally become hungry, I became hungry for much healthier things, and new tastes. This all happened without any conscious thought – Instead of buying a chocolate bar when I found myself in a cafe or newsagent, I’d mysteriously find some sort of will power to simply ignore it. It’s like magic – all craving and hunger gone.

After a while on the sugar water, the sweet taste in your mouth gets a bit sickly so I decided to hit the extra-light olive oil. I poured a table spoon and slurped it back. After about half an hour I felt the oil sinking to the bottom of my stomach and when that happens – the thought of a greasy packet of crisps is enough to make you feel physically sick. The oil felt like it had 3x the power of the sugar water – I could get by on one meal a day and eat nothing all evening – every time I turned to the cupboard where the biscuits are I had to look away.

I kept it up for a month and consistently lost weight. Unfortunately things changed at work and I found myself working late and on an irregular schedule. I still managed to lose weight but not as fast. I seem to be over the busy period now so I’m going to get back into the routine and I’m aiming to lose another 3 stone. At this rate I calculate I could manage this by October in time for our 4th wedding anniversary – so I’ll post updates.

One caveat I think I have discovered. At one point a few weeks ago I attempted to ramp up the weight loss and started taking 3 tablespoons of oil in one go – this seemed to have a counter effect – it was putting me off my appetite but achieved little. So the best advice here is not to go gung-ho, you’ll just hit the other side of the bell curve. Just maintain a steady course and the weight will eventually drop off. I’ve found it tends to be a ratio of 3 pounds off, 1 or 2 pounds on.

So how did much weight have I lost so far? In 2 months I’ve lost 13 pounds – 1 pound shy of a stone. I may have lost more too if I had followed it consistently, but I have even skipped days due to a hectic work schedules. I have not been meticulous in tracking results as I wasn’t sure how it would go, but here is my personal chart of what I did track so far:

2 Months Weight Loss
2 months weight loss on the Shangri-La Diet

I have managed to convince others, but no-one yet has taken it up. I was stopped outside church on Sunday by someone who had noticed the weight loss and wanted to know how I did it. I have still yet to convince my fiercest critic – my loving wife, but at least she’s stopped calling it a placebo!

If this has whet your appetite (pun intended) or got you interested then you can pick up a copy of The Shangri-la Diet at amazon.co.uk.

Netbabble Podcast Episode #6: The Digital Economy Bill #debill (12/04/10)

Our latest Netbabble podcast is available over at netbabble.com. In this one we discuss the controversial Digital Economy Bill recently passed into UK law.

There’s a lot I didn’t get to say about this one, but I hope I made my feelings clear. It’s a bad law, and it’s already ineffective since not only is it possible to cover your tracks almost completely whilst file-sharing, pirates are already working on new technology – just as BitTorrent rose out of the ashes of Napster.

The sooner big media dies or gets a new business model the better. I look forward to the future where non-commercial sharing is legal and treated the same as the sneakernet.

Bookshelf: Beam Me Up, Jesus

Beam me up, JesusI picked up this book, by Jim Gerard (who is apparently a comedian) expecting a witty, well-researched, ‘Louis Theroux’ look into end-times rapture pop culture – the cousin of Christian theology that we don’t mention in polite company, but I must have been thinking of another book and mistook it for this one.

To be fair to Gerard, he does offer a disclaimer right at the start and this should be taken as a pitch for the humour and intellect level to be expected – “If you’re a secular humanist who believes in reason rather than magic fixers, this book will provide that warm feeling of smug superiority.”

The book does start off well, the first few chapters and the Readers Digest version of the Book of Revelation really did make me genuinely laugh. As I delved further into the book however, the book became less of a research-based humourous guide or retelling and instead more of a compilation of tired and stretched out anecdotes and bad jokes.

It’s painfully clear that Gerard has made up the bulk of his research with Wikipedia and Google. Nothing wrong with that I guess, but it’s obvious that material gleaned from search engines dried up pretty quick – which left Gerard to pad the rest of the book with drivel.

By about half way through the book, it seemed as though Gerard had outsourced the writing to an angst-ridden 14 year old. I hate not finishing a book, so I began to skip chapters until I got to the end – I found I skipped most of the last half.

The real tragedy about this book however, is that there is so much real funny material to go on, why make it up? Why couldn’t Gerard interview some real people who believe this doctrine and utilise subtlety to drive the point? I felt this Amazon.com reviewer put it very well:

“And yes, this book could be humorous, but in my own view, most of the humor would derive naturally from the peculiarity of the doctrines and beliefs that comprise Rapture Christianity. Instead, however, author Jim Gerard has apparently done only a small amount of research and then has embellished his meager findings with a whole lot of kooky commentary and absurdist tangents. It’s a kind of Dave Barry-esque treatment, and for me it just did not work. In some places it’s actually difficult to differentiate between what is truly strange or funny about the Rapture community and what is merely “schtick” added by Gerard to beef up his chapters and evoke readers’ guffaws.”

To sum up, you should really only read this book if you are:

  • An angst-ridden atheist 14 year old
  • You hate Christians in general and revel in any opportunity to reaffirm your bias and loathing, regardless of accuracy
  • You don’t understand the humour of Louis Theroux, Ricky Gervais, Sacha Baron Cohen… actually just about any British comedian as well as Michael Moore, Stephen Colbert, possibly even Jon Stewart or books like The Men Who Stare at Goats and think they are not real comedians.

And for those people, I’m going to offer up the Amazon link anyway. Buy Beam Me Up, Jesus: A Heathen’s Guide to the Rapture now at amazon.co.uk.