Getting Older… Or Younger

…it’s hard to tell. I remember doing absent-minded things as a school boy.

  • Forgetting to bring my trombone on band days.
  • Somehow winding up with the wrong pair of boots to walk home.
  • Walking 3/4 mile to the Radio Shack at Har Mar Mall, then not remembering why I went there in the first place.

Off and on, these sort of absent-minded things happen throughout one’s normal life, or so I presume. I’m not the only one I know with such anecdotes which seem only slightly more frequent in early or late life.

Clearly, though, I’m late in life; so let’s talk about that.

Every weekday morning, after I get dressed, I grab my money clip, phone, RFID key-card for work, sometimes my watch… and finish my final assembly before heading upstairs to gather whatever might be my breakfast and/or lunch to put in my work bag. Invariably, I’ve forgotten to bring my work bag in from the car the afternoon prior, so it’s part of my routine to curse @ myself and grumble as I go out to the garage to get it.

KeyCardRetractorStringThingy.jpgBut the RFID key-card; I always clip the retractor-string-thingy onto a right-hand belt-loop… the between my zipper and my right front pocket. String always plays out to the right. Always.

This morning, I distinctly remember putting it on and feeling something was weird about it. Like it was pointed left instead of right, and suddenly I couldn’t remember if it was the usual thing or not (partly because I wasn’t giving the thought much energy in the first place). Briefly perplexed – not even for a half second – and then off I went to the next thing.

I grab breakfast, grumble my way to the garage and back to retrieve my forgotten work bag, dump my crap in the bag and head to the car. Where are my keys? Go back inside. No keys there. Go back to car. Keys were in my work bag in the back seat, having dumped everything from my hands into the bag. Derp!

By the time I get to the turn for my office 32 miles later, I’ve decided I don’t want to eat what I’ve got in my bag for breakfast – go an extra quarter-mile instead to McD’s. Then back at the office, with McD’s bag in my teeth, coffee in one hand, work bag in the other, I’m fumbling for the RFID key-card on my right hip. Can’t find it.

Back to the car, set coffee on roof, work bag in back seat, shove McD’s bag in work bag, start looking for key-card, and this is when I remember I’m certain that I put it on this morning. I must have, because I remember having had that weird hesitation about it being on pointed the wrong way. I check my hip again, wondering if I only missed it by an inch when I felt for it in the dark. Nope, it’s nowhere on my right belt-loop.

Oh no, I’d put it on backwards (i.e. pointed left instead of pointed right), and now that means that some combination of moves with jacket, seat-belt, getting in, out, in the car, it’s popped off somewhere. Going to have to get it replaced; it’s probably a $50 charge or something. Dang it!

Oh well, at least there are three co-workers already at the office, surely one of them is online on Skype by now, and I can ask them to let me in. Pinged two of them, but eventually I got in, and reheated my now-tepid breakfast in the microwave. Finishing breakfast and preparing to login to the various tools and services to start my workday, I reach down with both hands to grasp my chair seat to lift-and-re-position, and in so doing, my hand grazes something smoother than my wool slacks. What?!

It’s my key-card!

On my left hip. Pointed left. From the left belt-loop. What th… well isn’t that just something I might do in grade-school… or the nursing home?

Grammar Correction as the Devil’s Advocate

I’m a trouble-maker; let’s just make that clear from the get-go.

I also enjoy grammar correction. I enjoy feeling superior, being just a tidbit smarter than the other guy in one little instance or another.

However, I also often enjoy the lesser-used however still correct ways of using words. Especially when it’s accidental, or an otherwise comical twist.


First, red33410 is correct, in his judgement that zgrssd had accidentally typed “loose” when he meant “lose”.

Contrarian that I am, I chimed in with a lesser-used version of “loose” that is a verb, only to have red33410 (much to my delight) correct me with a blanket declaration that “loose” is an adjective. As if “loose” can never be a verb. But alas…


…”loose” can indeed be a verb!

Yes, this is the sort of $#!+ that makes my day, because I am just that sort of prick.

What’s Not Yet VR

…is Linden Labs’ Second Life Project OculusRift

Released just a couple days ago, I learned of its existence because of a Tweet by Jo Yardley (@1920sberlin)… and excitedly downloaded it to try it out. So far, I hate it.

Here’s what a rather small window of the regular 4k flat monitor looks like in 1920s Berlin, with pretty much all the graphics stuff set to ultra, super-duper, make-all-the-fans-spin-fast settings…


And here’s the hammered-$#!+ that happens when going into HMD mode…


Bright noon-day sun. No shadows. No character to the sim at all. Jaggy resolution. Jaggy motion. No mouse pointer (can’t open doors).

Linden Labs had a decade of a head start in VR before the first generally available consumer VR HMDs came out. All the other things necessary to make 3D HMD stuff get really immersive has already matured (CPU power, GPU power, broadband availability, etc.). So Linden Labs had a crazy advantage toward making Johnny-come-lately AltSpaceVR look absolutely noob-stoopid. (And it does look absolutely noob-stoopid.) However, I fear that noob-stoopid is going to win all the attention and users because, from an HMD-user perspective, and even from a 2D hey-I-found-this-thing-on-Steam perspective, that $#!+ “just works”.

Oh sure. It’s pretty easy to make SecondLife look soooo much better than AltSpaceVR. On a flat monitor, anyway. The avatars in AltSpaceVR are laughably horrible. Everybody looks like a friggin’ Pez dispenser, at best. But you can probably voice chat with them without wrestling with your audio settings. It probably already just works.

Then we get to HMD, and, well, the WORST thing I’ve yet to see available in the Store from Oculus Home – and I’ve seen some pretty crappy stuff – the worst thing was still far better than how SecondLife looks in Project OculusRift

Funny that the Release Page shows a long list of “Resolved” issues. All the problems I’ve listed so far are either listed exactly as one of the resolved issues, or there’s something VERY close in that list. Looks to me like maybe most of the Resolved issues accidentally didn’t actually get into the build that they put out for download.

And – again – SecondLife is largely WHY I got an Oculus Rift. So this $#!++y behavior from a FOUR-DOT-ONE release is crushingly disappointing.

Sansar better get released to public beta SOON. And it had better be so awesome I crap my pants. Otherwise, Linden Labs will become nothing more than a footnote in the VR story – if that. That would be sad. They had so many advantages.

What Is VR?

I disagree with many people on this, but that also puts me in good company. Many of the brightest minds out there also disagree with many of the other brightest minds out there.

One blogger and VR-creator whom I admire greatly likes to use the hashtag #VRisthepaintingnotthebrush a lot lately. But here’s the funny thing: she uses that to defend the idea that SecondLife IS VR, even if you don’t experience it via an HMD 3D headset such as Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. Well, yes, I agree with her on that particular point. Except, that an HMD is not a “brush” in that metaphor. Rather, it is merely the glass through which one peers to see the “painting” you’re not allowed to touch.

Then, in the next breath, she tells me…

VR = computer-generated simulation of a 3D environment that can be interacted with.

That’s one of the many definitions with which I do not completely agree. That is one example of VR, but there are more “brushes” than just CG, if we are to extend that same metaphor. More to the point, I believe that definition to be too narrow. Here’s why…

My 1st VR Experience

I do not recall how old I was, or where we were. Science Museum of Chicago? DisneyLand? Anyway, I was a kid, and we walked into a round room that was essentially a cylindrical movie theater with no seats. There were hand rails, and I was able to see above and hold the hand rails as readily as my 5’2″ mother – so I was probably around 12, give or take. The movie was 360-degree panoramic, probably in 7 or 8 sections. We could look in any direction, though the view top-to-bottom was restricted similar to any other movie. Or, for that matter, similar to riding in a car where the windows allow you view in any horizontal direction to the outside world, but looking UP or DOWN doesn’t allow you to see very far.

The movie included clips of Grand Prix racing, helicopter flying, downhill skiing, white-water rafting, and who-knows-what-else. I remember there being a particular scene during which for whatever reason (likely my natural curiosity about how stuff works) I wasn’t watching the screens at all. I was watching the viewers. And I watched as all of them leaned in unison to one side, all of them white-knuckling the handrails. One person fell over – clearly hadn’t taken the warnings to heart as to why there were handrails.

Even though they didn’t call it VR, I say that was Virtual Reality – because of two things:

  1. An entire room full of people were convinced they needed to lean into the turn. They felt like they were really there (the “Reality” part).
  2. They weren’t in fact really there (the “Virtual” part).

Can Be Interacted With

…is part of one definition of VR that I see from more than one source. Well if that’s the case (not sure if I’ll ever concede that point, but for the sake of argument, OK), then just how much interaction is enough interaction?

If I’m in a VR museum, or an ancient tomb, or some other notable place that has been photographed from a bazillion angles and stitched together such that I can walk around in it and look more closely at one thing, then another, and it feels like I’m there, isn’t that the same level of interaction I would have with art at the Louvre? I can’t touch the paintings. I can’t feel the walls of an ancient tomb. It’s not allowed. Nor is it possible if I’m actually standing in my basement wearing an HMD.

They like to say that “interaction” means I can move or change it. I disagree. I don’t care if I get to use the brush, or my interaction is rather as a passive observer. I care about whether it seems real, and my interaction is similar to how my real-world interaction would be, and it seems like I’m there, although I’m not.


…is part of one definition of VR that I see from more than one source. Well if that’s the case (not sure if I’ll ever concede that point, but for the sake of argument, OK), then just how much computer involvement is enough?

When they take a bunch of pictures and stitch them together, they’re not stitched together by a seamstress. Nor are they presented as prints. A computer is delivering the 360×360 content, likely through an HMD, but certainly via a computer. So a computer was needed to make it, AND present it.

Many “experts” like to say that if the source of what you’re seeing is an array of cameras, that doesn’t count as VR. I disagree. I don’t care about which “brush” was used. I care about whether it looks real, and seems like I’m there, although I’m not.

Undies In A Twist

Therefore, I shall not get my undies in a twist if someone markets a 360-spherical video (that isn’t even 3D) as a VR experience. They can call it that if they want. It’s not as compelling (or immersive) as some other VR experiences I’ve had. But that’s the end of my criticism of misuse of the VR term with stuff like that. After all, if the roller coaster makes some viewers scream, and others sick, just how Virtually Real does it need to be in order to qualify as Virtual Reality?

PGP Keys

Here’s my public key for my day-job email address.

Version: GnuPG v2.0.22 (GNU/Linux)
Comment: A revocation certificate should follow


And here’s another key, for my personal email address.

Version: Mailvelope v1.1.0


Hot Water Recirculation System

In the paragraphs to follow, when I say “…if it were up to me…”, please realize what I mean is that if I were making decisions on a new house being built, or if the water heater failed and needed replacing, or if any-number-of-other-circumstances meant that it wouldn’t be wasteful to discard appliances and/or fixtures which are currently working just fine. Big if.

That having been said… if it were up to me, I would not have a large tank water heater. It would not be electric. It would likely be a pair of tankless, natural gas, instant-on water heaters; one near the North end of the house where it would supply the downstairs and upstairs bathrooms (their directly above/below each other), and another in the (South end) laundry room to supply the clothes washer, the dish washer and kitchen sink directly above the laundry room. Even though the pipes are insulated, it’s the long (East-facing rambler) run from North to South in a cold basement that has caused us to run countless gallons of water down the kitchen drain waiting for the water to get hot.

From the top of the water heater all the way up, it used to be rigid 7/8" OD copper.

From the top of the water heater all the way up, it used to be rigid 7/8″ OD copper.

But – an inexpensive and easy compromise for the time being is a Hot Water Recirculation System. I just installed one today. It was one of the easier plumbing jobs I’ve done, involved only two minor thumb injuries (nearly no blood), and a total cost under $200. I watched a couple videos online of people describing their installation of this very same unit, and although they only needed about an hour, and needed zero to two parts beyond what came in the box, in both cases it looked like their house was built decades more recently than this house. Stuff was easier to get to. Hookups were flexible tubing at both ends.

Mine would need more parts, and more trips to Home Depot. Oh well.

5:30-6:45am, 5-6pm, 9-10pm

5:30-6:45am, 5-6pm, 9-10pm

So the idea is that if all of the hot faucets in the house could begin deploying water warm enough to wash one’s hands within several seconds (rather than a full minute at full open), less water is wasted. And presumably, it is more energy efficient to allow the water in the hot-side pipes to cool to room temp during the times we’re extremely unlikely to need any hot water. So we have three hour-long periods of please-pre-heat-the-pipes established. Getting ready for work in the morning, dinner and dishwasher time, and getting-ready-for-bed time.

After we use it like this for a while, we may adjust those start/stop times. We may even find we only need two periods.

The real

The real “brains” of the system, is a semi-dumb crossover valve that opens at anything below 85 F.

The “normal” way to install this crossover is to put it under the kitchen sink. The (assumedly) flexible supply hoses that go from the under-sink shut-offs to the kitchen faucet are connected instead to the “out” connections of this crossover. Then two new flexible supply lines go from the shut-offs to the “in” connections. In our case, I lucked out. There used to be a non-code-compliant shower in the laundry room. So there were overhead hot and cold supply lines with big 1/2″ copper and union connections. I cut the pipes above the unions, and put on brass compression fittings. Larger “supply” than usual, but it worked, and it’s only another six feet of pipe to the kitchen faucet from here. Close enough. Then I merely capped off the “hot out” and “cold out” supply connections on the crossover. That’s the white PVC caps you see in the photo above.

Top to bottom, rubber washer fitting above pump, another rubber washer fitting below, then a thread-goop nipple into the tank.

Top to bottom, rubber washer fitting above pump, another rubber washer fitting below, then a thread-goop nipple into the tank.

I figured if any of these new connections was going to leak, it would be the galvanized (dielectric plastic insert inside it) nipple that went into the tank. No sign of trouble there yet.


7/8″ OD copper with brass compression fitting.

But this one – above the pump, top end of the flexible hot supply, this one took the most torque to get it to quit dripping. I suspect it’s related to how deeply the stamped the lettering is along the side of the copper. You know… so that I know that it’s copper (and what size it is). The half-inch stuff at the other end either wasn’t stamped, or I lucked into an un-stamped area. Whatever the reason, it took a lot less torque than this one.

Here we go again… but if it were up to me, something like this would be required in every home West of the Rockies. And no, you can’t have a golf-fairway-like lawn if you live in a place that nature has decided should be desert. No irrigation for vanity – only for growing food. But this is just one in a very long list of reasons that California (and the other Western states) would never want me to be their king.

The great thing about this is that I didn’t do it in order to choose personal suffering for environmental reasons. Rather, it was a situation where my convenience AND saving natural resources align nicely. I’d rather not waste time nor water nor money waiting for the water to heat up at the sink.