What did you learn in school today?

That’s one answer down my alley…

 

And for all of you who want to sing along with this song “What Did You Learn in School Today?”  by Tom Paxton – here you go…

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that Washington never told a lie.
I learned that soldiers seldom die.
I learned that everybody’s free.
And that’s what the teacher said to me.
That’s what I learned in school today.
That’s what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that policemen are my friends.
I learned that justice never ends.
I learned that murderers die for their crimes.
Even if we make a mistake sometimes.
That’s what I learned in school today.
That’s what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned our government must be strong.
It’s always right and never wrong.
Our leaders are the finest men.
And we elect them again and again.
That’s what I learned in school today.
That’s what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that war is not so bad.
I learned of the great ones we have had.
We fought in Germany and in France.
And some day I might get my chance.
That’s what I learned in school today.
That’s what I learned in school.

Gibberish Last Names Clogging up Subscriptions

I had been annoyed recently by an increasing number of SPAM subscriptions on my Thaidye.com web site. The script behind the form for these subscriptions and requests for rebate immediate send out a confirmation email to the address entered (as well as to the admin of the site) and add the visitor to a database.

Initially there were a few of those spam entries and I could easily go into the database and manually remove them. But they became more and more numerous, so the first step was to add a link to the email the admin received which allowed for an easy removal of that spam entry.

But finally it got so annoying and time-consuming that I tried to think of a more automated way to handle the spam entries. What they all had in common was

  • a good first name
  • a gibberish last name like NLMAkPJpIVyqCkCeuEh, YijhgzswktJTVWqXhmA or MPSVPkfXInMzFYhEOpp
  • and a good email

The email was probably a good one because there were hardly any bounces for the automatic confirmation emails. That actually bothered me also because these poor recipients got some SPAM apparently coming from me.

Now the quest for me was to find something that all these spam entries had in common so that I could filter them somehow. Unfortunately php does not have a ‘gibberish’ function, so I had to come up with one of my own. Meditating over these entries I finally saw that these spam names often have longer sequences of consonants than would occur in valid names.

With a little bit of help from my friends at Google I came up with the following. With the hope that it might help somebody bothered by the same spammers, here the code snippet to filter those entries:

$first = $_REQUEST[first];
$last = $_REQUEST[last];
$gibberish = preg_match('/[bcdfghjklmnpqrstvwxz]{4,}/i', $first)
          || preg_match('/[bcdfghjklmnpqrstvwxz]{4,}/i', $last);
if (! $gibberish) {
    //do the regular processing
    }
else {
    // pretend every thing went find for the spammer
    // but don't really do anything
    }

Will see how many will slip through – gibberish with less than 4 consonants in a row.

What I am still curious about is ‘WHY’? What the spammer intends with these spam entries. I don’t see any way that could be beneficial to him/her. Discrediting me because the site sents out spam? But why then use gibberish in the last name? I am really curious.

Paperless Living

I am getting better at living a life without paper.

A few weeks ago I have started again to read a pulp science fiction series that I started to enjoy when I was at the tender age of 16. It is still available in print but hard (speak expensive) for me to come by. So, I found a real application for my tablet and am reading these novellas now on a screen.

But beside the entertainment part of my life, I  have also started to get rid of any receipt and other need-to-keep papers. There is a short decision when something comes across my desk if I will ever have to look at or refer to this piece again. If so, it get’s scanned and the  hard copy goes in the trash – or shredder.

This is also true for manuals. Fortunately most devices already come with electronic manuals or you can find them online. But unfortunately not always. Today I looked for the manual of the thermostat at our new house. There was one tucked right behind the wall unit, but obviously I will not leave it there. But I also did not want to start a new shoe box with manuals of things we have around the house, so the decision was made to scan it. But wait, maybe somebody else did this already and I can save the work.

Somebody did, but it was hidden behind having to jump through who knows how many hoops to get it free. Create a free account first. I still did that, but when I then was asked to try this subscription or sign for a trial membership on that other thing, I canceled out of that and did the scanning myself.

Hopefully Google will properly make it known that I did that, so, in case you need that particular manual you don’t have to sign up for any stinking free account – instead you get it right here…

DoIt Model No. 474045 5/2 Day Programmable Thermostat

 

Canon and Nikon together – At Last

Sometime in the dark ages – more than 15 years ago – I invested in a Nikon SLR 6006 with a nice 35-135mm zoom lens and it served me well until the dawn of the (reasonably priced) digital age. Early DSLRs were way too expensive and not worth the money, so I went with a few consumer digital cameras for some years, one of them also a Nikon, albeit not with exchangeable lens.

For many years my old 6006 sat in the closet losing value but I always had in mind  that at one point I would invest in a DSLR and then I could use the nice lens which was about five hundred bucks in the days I acquired it.

The time of the DSLR finally came in form of a Canon T4i. I had strongly considered waiting for the perfect mirror-less camera, but the deal I got on the Canon – I just could not pass up. I did not go with a Nikon DSLR because I also wanted to use the camera for video and Canon seemed to be superior in that department. Thus, I still had that good Nikon lens sitting there without any use. The idea of selling it on eBay shattered quickly when I saw for how little these cameras were traded – it really appears the time of the 35mm film is over.

I finally a reasonable offer for an adapter for Nikkor AF lenses to EOS bodies and it arrived today.

First test with that ‘good’ Nikkor lens were rather disappointing. It appears that lens technology has made long strides over the last decade and a half. The lack of transfer of data to and from the lens through the adapter (none) was no big deal, as I grew up, focusing manually and with the camera set to aperture priority the exposure was still pretty automatic – if I wanted. One feature of the Nikkor lens I was looking for was the macro range – at 35mm I could push one little button and extend the barrel quite a bit further, thus getting much closer to the subject.

Here the closes with the Nikkor

nikon-out

and the closest I could get with the Canon 18-55

canon-out

That was pretty good, but then I wanted to see how it fared when I looked closer, and this is where the disappointment took hold.

Big bad color fringes on the Nikkor lens

nikon-in

at least in the out-of-focus areas of the image while the Canon lens showed no such faults

canon-in

I will have to make some more test to see how the aperture will affect this behavior as, I believe, the Nikkor was wide open, while the Canon was exposing with the lens closed to 11. Now I start to imagine how the quality will be for a modern lens for the price of the old Nikkor, and even more so for a modern lens that I can not justify to buy.

What this little experiment really drove home to me is that the experts are right when they say that glass is more important than body.

UPDATE:

The above was written sometime in March of 2013. Since then I looked into other options of getting a closer look at things without using the macro setting on the Nikkor lens.

When it was time to buy something from Amazon with a price under the minimum to get free shipping, I added a Macro Extension Tube Set and a Macro Reverse Ring Camera Mount Adapter. The first one simply adds distance between the sensor and the lens, thus allowing to focus on objects closer to the lens (but losing the ability to focus on infinity with a ring inserted). The second allows to reverse the lens and mount it on the camera with the filter thread, allowing for extreme close-up shorts.

When I received these adapters I took my trusted lens cap and took a few shots to compare with what I could get with the old Nikkor lens. This time I was positively surprised. I got the same good quality of the image with my 18-55 lens – much better than the old Nikkor lens.

Close-up with Distance rings

Close-up with Distance ringsNow, that I have a solution to do close-up photography without the use of the Nikkor lens I can put that lens on eBay again, throwing in the body of the 6006 which I have not been able to just throw away so far.

Past Life Echoes

Past Lfe EchoesEchoes from the Past – a story once told on a web site that were to promote diving into past life times, not out of curiosity, but to find and remove reasons for things not quite going right…

It was a beautiful morning in Frankfurt…

I had been very excited about my first job after college although that excitement had now calmed down a bit after a long winter – living in bread-and-breakfast hotels waiting for my own place to become available. Spring had finally come and with it the date to move into my own apartment close to my new work in Frankfurt, Germany.

Now life was just perfect. A good job with the perception of an abundance of money after long years of scarcity during college. A very nice girl-friend, my own comfortable apartment and now – to top it all – spring had sprung.

And there I was, driving through this beautiful morning, along the river Main. Heading into Frankfurt.

Music from the radio, and then suddenly I started to cry.

I mean CRY – tears running down my face, sobbing deeply.

It was just a song on the radio! In case you are interested – it was “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” by Edith Piaf – -

- – what, you don’t even know who that is? – OK, just briefly so that my story will make more sense. Edith Piaf was a big singing star in the 30’s in France. Her stardom peaked during the 40’s when Germany occupied bigger parts of France, especially Paris. She died before I was beyond the children’s song phase – in this lifetime.

In other words, I could not have had any experience with her that I could place within my current lifetime.

So – what the heck happened?

It took me many years to find out – many years and a lot of money. I might, at a later time, tell this long story of my trials and tribulations, but for now let’s get on with the short version and Edith Piaf.

On this beautiful morning my drive into town was fortunately long enough to give me time to collect myself, this was an experience that I could not forget and that did not really seem to make sense to me.

Shortly after these events I started to study a philosophy that easily accepted the idea of past lives. However learning about a philosophy and making a connection to the real life around us are usually two very different subjects.

Although being educated in the hard sciences I had started to look for more meaning behind it all. Somehow physics alone was not explaining all the things I could observe. Science fiction had been a nice compromise with the technological aspect on one side and the possibilities of mental and spiritual powers on the other.

I had easily accepted the idea of telepathy, surviving the death of a body and similar concepts found in science fiction but it had always been from the point of view of a spectator.

That was about to change! The philosophy I was learning about was an applied philosophy, meaning that the ideas we studied were not only of intellectual value but were actually put to the test by trying them out.

This allowed me, for the first time, to leave my spectator’s view-point behind and get involved. Thus I experienced that there were past lived and that made a whole lot of a difference in my daily life.

Now back to Edith …

… it must have been one of those WOW-moments while singing in the shower – that I realized, some time after I had to cry so hard, that I knew Edith Piaf! I did some digging with the techniques I had learned and found myself to be one of those Germans occupying Paris, France in World War II and having a hell of a good time, going to shows and other entertainment Paris had to offer.

Imagine this proper SS officer, arrogant to the max, believing that Paris was all his – that was me!

One of those shows my buddy-officers and I had liked had been a concert with Edith Piaf.

And did I ever connect to this tiny person with the huge voice and those sad eyes.

There was something about those eyes – something always there but never firm enough in my grasp so that I could have examined it to understand.

I also felt that there was something more but I could not get a handle on.

What to do?

For quite a while I chose one very interesting way of handling it – ignoring it. Have you ever done that? That was pretty easy, because rarely this incident was brought up to it the level of consciousness in order to actually bother me.

But deep down we always know if a matter is just dormant, right? Waiting to be restimulated and taking control is rather different than the condition when something is really, once and for all, handled.

I did unravel the whole story to a point where it now takes effort to recall it because it has become unimportant. It obviously had an effect on my life because uncontrollable crying can be considered ‘having an effect.’

There are now many resources available on the interweb if you are on the quest to unravel your past or find out, for example, why you are afraid of heights or small spaces. One I can recommend is the Whole Self Institute which takes a no-nonsense approach to subjects like past lives or grief handling.

How To Make Symbols With Keyboard

Alt + 0153   ™   trademark symbol
Alt + 0169   ©   copyright symbol
Alt + 0174   ®   registered ­ trademark symbol
Alt + 0176   °    degree symbol
Alt + 0177   ±   plus-or ­-minus sign
Alt + 0182   ¶   paragr­aph mark
Alt + 0190   ¾   fractio­n, three-fourths
Alt + 0215   ×    multi­plication sign
Alt + 0162   ¢   the ­ cent sign
Alt + 0161   ¡    upside down exclamation point
Alt + 0191   ¿   upside down question mark
Alt + 1   ?   smiley face
Alt + 2   ?   black smiley face
Alt + 15   ?   sun
Alt + 12   ?   female sign
Alt + 11   ?   m­ale sign
Alt + 6   ?   spade
Alt + 5   ?   Club
Alt + 3   ?   Heart
Alt + 4   ?   Diamond
Alt + 13   ?   e­ighth note
Alt + 14   ?   beamed eighth note
Alt + 251   ?   square root check mark
Alt + 24   ?   up arrow
Alt + 25   ?   down arrow
Alt + 26   ?   r­ight arrow
Alt + 27   ?   l­eft arrow
Alt + 18   ?   u­p/down arrow
Alt + 29   ?   lef­t right arrow
Alt + 0196   Ä   umlaut upper A
Alt + 0214   Ö   umlaut upper O
Alt + 0220   Ü   umlaut upper U
Alt + 0223   ß   german sz
Alt + 0228   ä   umlaut a
Alt + 0246   ö   umlaut o
Alt + 0252   ü   umlaut u
Alt + 0128   €   Euro

A more complete list of Windows Alt Key Codes.

The Lensman Series by E. E. Doc Smith

First LensmanMany years ago that I read the Lensman series by Doc E. E. Smith, the precursor to all modern space opera that came after it. Even at the time I read it the technology was dated as these books were written in the 40s and 50s (and even I had no read them when they were first published), but that all did not matter to me at all. These were just great stories.

My first read was in a German translation and I am rather certain that I read at least a few of the books in English after I came to the US of A. For a long time now I wanted to read them again but these books are hard to come by – most of them were out of print and I believe still are – you can’t really find them on Amazon in form of inexpensive paperbacks, maybe as bound collectors items but not for an amount that I was willing to spend.

So I had given up for a while to find a complete set, but recently discovered the first, Triplanetary, as an ebook and am about to finish it on my tablet (apparently the only useful application for a tablet.)

As I was approaching the last few pages I needed the next one – First Lensman. Quite a bit of googling later I finally hit the mother-lode at Arthur’s Bookshelp. He had them all and as I was at it, I also got the Skylark series for the time when I’m done with the Lensmen.  That could be a few years at the slow pace I am going.

Just in case you need the sequence of the book, because it is sometimes hard to figure it out the chronology:

  1. Triplanetary
  2. First Lensman
  3. Galactic Patrol
  4. Gray Lensman
  5. Second Stage Lensman
  6. Children of the Lens

And here – as we are at it, the sequence of the Skylark series:

  1. The Skylark of Space
  2. Skylark Three
  3. Skylark of Valeron
  4. Skylark DuQuesne