Tax argh

Apr. 16th, 2018 09:13 pm
sauergeek: (Default) (which expands to has a nice large link which says "Log in to DOR's web-based application for filing and paying taxes.".

When I log in by chasing that link, I can find no actual web-based application for filing my state income tax. I can see previous income tax returns I've filed, but there's nowhere to generate a new one. Thanks for the 30 minutes of frustration, guys! Guess I'm printing out a PDF again...

Even worse, MA had an online filing system for several years, but dropped it in 2017. I'm going to blame that one on Gov. Baker unless someone can point me at some other culprit.
sauergeek: (Default)
I'm now on what will likely be the last opera of this vacation. What started me on this is hearing "Pirate Jenny" from The Threepenny Opera at a Dresden Dolls concert. I'm not sure why I kept going after that. Whatever the reason, I've listened to and sorta-watched a whole lot of opera this vacation: 18 done, and a 19th — Verdi's La Traviata — in progress. In order, so far as I recall:

  • The Threepenny Opera (in English) (and part 2), Weill & Brecht
  • Die Fledermaus, Strauss (conducted by Placido Domingo, with a call-out by him from the pit, and to him from the stage, in the production)
  • Die Zauberflöte, Mozart
  • The Mikado, Gilbert & Sullivan
  • Rinaldo, Handel
  • Carmen, Bizet
  • Pagliacci, Leoncavallo
  • Fidelio, Beethoven
  • Eugene Onegin, Tchaikovsky
  • Le Nozze di Figaro, Mozart
  • Der Ring des Nibelungen, Wagner, comprising:
  • Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Rossini
  • Aïda, Verdi (possibly missing one act?)
  • Fra Diavolo, Auber (I could find productions only in Italian or German, not the original French, nor in English translation, so I went for Italian on the idea it was closer to the original than German.)
  • Madama Butterfly, Puccini
  • La Traviata, Verdi

    I may well keep going after this, but at nowhere near the sheer number per day. Headphones don't really make sense with the dynamics of work. Many thanks for the recommendations! In case it's useful to anyone else, one useful reference I found along the way was Operabase for listings of recent popular opera productions, among other things, on their statistics page.
  • sauergeek: (Default)
    I'm on vacation this week. This is a staycation, which usually means I'm doing a mix of housecleaning and videogames. (There's also reading, cooking, and whatever else comes to mind, but those two are the big 'uns.)

    This time, for reasons I'm not entirely clear on, I've thrown operas into the mix. I've so far dug up video productions of a staging of six operas and listened to them — mostly while playing games, so not with full attention — but in all cases, this is my first listen (and view) through any of them.

    My next one is Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, one that I've only heard (parts) of via Spike Jones' Pal-Yat-Chee.

    At this point, I'm running out of operas I've even heard of, and am looking for recommendations. Restrictions: No rock operas, no other Gilbert and Sullivan (I know several, but can't handle more than one in a row...), no Philip Glass or other minimalists. Any thoughts on which operas to add to the upcoming list?
    sauergeek: (Default)
    To the tune of "The Sound of Music", perhaps if Lovecraft had been the librettist instead of Hammerstein:

    The hills are alive, and I think they're hungry
    No one has come back for a thousand years
    The hills fill my heart with a dreadful terror
    I fear for my life with each sound I hear

    We're told not to look at the hills when we're on
    The trails near the lake in the trees
    And travel with friends when the black birds fly
    In the woods like bees

    But leave friends behind when they trip and fall
    Over stones in the way
    So someone survives
    And can tell everyone "keep away!"

    Stay here in the town, even if you're lonely
    Close your house at night, always bar the door
    Don't mention the hills in your conversations
    Or they'll take one more
    sauergeek: (Spicy)
    Yesterday morning, I wanted something other than my usual for breakfast, starting with something hot. However, I had no eggs, which seriously limits my breakfast options. I remembered johnnycakes, though, which in simplest form call for only cornmeal, water, sugar, and salt. I had all four, so I made johnnycakes.

    Making them turned out to be very easy; the hardest part was spreading out the batter in the frying pan. I worked from johnny cakes (from Tablespoon). The recipe assumes a smaller frying pan; my big pan wanted two tablespoons of butter for the first round, and an additional tablespoon for the second. I had no milk, so I used water in its place. I also reduced the recipe to 1/4 of what it called for. That quarter recipe was just about right for an experimental run, and fed me breakfast with no leftovers.

    The cornmeal mush glued itself to the pan when it initially went in, but came loose and turned over easily when it was time to do so. To eat, I cut them up and dipped them in maple syrup. Nom! Will make again.
    sauergeek: (Default)
    This post was originally going to be a comment on another post about sad smoke detectors. It got long and ranty, so I put it over here instead with significant edits.

    I'm a systems administrator[1]. I'm also a luddite about a lot of technology. These two things are not in conflict; in fact, one leads to the other.

    I wear the security hat at work. Wearing the security hat means I'm the one responsible for making sure that our systems are reasonably secure, and I'm also the point of contact for any security issues (such as malware, breakins, attacks originating from our systems, or anything else related). Wearing the security hat also means that I regularly look over the log files produced by our systems, to try to make sure that there's nothing bad happening on them. In looking over those log files, I have come to one inescapable conclusion: the tendency toward the Internet of Things is exposing the fact that an awful lot of software out there is crapware (which includes stuff that isn't securable), poorly secured, or both.

    Those log reviews show me the end result of the crapware and/or refusal to lock down devices: constant portscans from around the world, hundreds of thousands of failed login attempts on our systems, coordinated attacks of all sorts coming in from disparate parts of the world, and who knows what else I'm missing. Every now and then, one of the attacks succeeds. (We recently had someone's email account get broken into due to that user's bad password practices. The attackers used the broken account to try to send tens of thousands of pieces of spam. Fortunately, they failed. I've set up defense in depth on our systems; one of the other layers caught it all.)

    Most[2] of the attacks I see in the logs are because entirely too many manufacturers can't be bothered to write good software, and entirely too many people can't be bothered to actually use the software properly even if it is (beyond any reasonable expectation) good.

    Given all the shenanigans we've had with even high-end consumer electronic manufacturers bollixing up incidental Internet connectivity (never mind the number of point-of-sale systems using default passwords or the vulnerability of SCADA systems on critical and/or hazardous infrastructure), I want as little Internet-connected stuff as I can get. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the only Internet-connected stuff I have actually connected to the Internet are things whose primary job is to do so: smartphones, tablets, computers, and networking hardware.

    I've only vaguely thought about a Nest, but have consistently rejected the idea. The rejection is in no small part because I am probably running my own thermostat at further extremes than anyone non-malicious on the other end would think of. Last winter I had the heat set to 50F (10C for those of you in the sensible part of the world); I believe it never turned on all winter. When I'm away in summer — including at work — the AC is off. It's also off most of the time I'm home. (I have windows and I'm not afraid to use them!)

    My smoke (CO, heat, and any other) alarms should sound an alarm when they detect the thing they're supposed to detect. They should also tell me — with beeps, dammit! — that there's something wrong with them. I keep the manuals for precisely this reason. Those alarms should not be reporting anything at all to anyone other than me when I am home. If I'm not home, they can report all they want, but nobody's going to pay them any mind. Certainly there's nobody else who would be in any sort of position to do so if they did hear the alarms.

    If someone offers me a new whizzy toy that wants Internet connectivity — for example, my new washing machine — I will not set up that Internet connectivity. If someone offers me a new whizzy toy that requires Internet connectivity despite being a thing that shouldn't need it, I will not buy that device. And if someone offers me a new whizzy toy that will let me order things by voice recognition over the Internet (I'm looking at you, Amazon Echo), I want nothing whatsoever to do with it.

    [1] For those who don't know, being a systems administrator means I break computers for a living. (I also have to fix them afterward, but the goal is to break them then fix them so they run better afterward.)

    [2] Another major reason behind attacks is overly-permissive Internet service providers, but that's beyond the scope of this rant.
    sauergeek: (Condo)
    I've just gotten some rather nice mid-high pile rugs, and I'd like to put furniture on them. Having seen the long-term results of furniture standing on carpet — dents that never really come out — I'd like to get feet for the furniture to keep the rug pile from getting crushed.

    I'm looking for something like these — I picked up some at Tags to try — but with spikes an inch long. The ones in that package have spikes that are 1/4". Those feet worked better than nothing at all, but a 24-hour test with a table left dents that I expect would not be easily fluffed back out after a long stint of the table just being there.

    My own searches for things like this have been particularly frustrating: not one seller or manufacturer I've found specifies spike length. (Additional frustration: many of the sellers give the full dimensions of the package the feet come in, rather than the dimensions of the individual pieces in the package.)

    What I want is a manufacturer that made feet like that with spikes an inch long, in a variety of sizes. (Ideally, I'd get one that could handle my dresser, which has feet that are 4" on a side.) Does anyone know of where I could find this sort of thing?
    sauergeek: (Default)
    Warning: broken bits of dentistry involved.

    Thursday evening, a chunk of something popped off one of my teeth while I was flossing. The gap between that tooth and the next one over had been catching floss and shredding it for a couple weeks, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. (I knew I had a dental appointment coming up in another couple weeks, so I figured it would keep until then. Guess not.)

    I called my dentist's office and left a message telling them what happened, and asking that they fit me in at earliest opportunity. 7 AM Friday, I got a call from the dentist office: could I make it in for 8:30? I could, and did, with 15 minutes leeway.

    Turns out, the bit that popped off was part of an onlay I'd had for ten years. The rest was still attached to the tooth. My dentist said that the reason it hadn't lasted much longer was because I grind or clench my teeth — which I do. I have a nightguard, even, but apparently that wasn't enough.

    The last two onlays I had installed (yes, I've not been kind to my teeth; I'm a lot better about that now) took a week or two to turn around. Once I heard that I'd broken an onlay, I was expecting the same. I was pleasantly surprised that they now had the ability to make them in-house. I got the pertinent teeth imaged by a fancy software suite and an odd probe (it was a solid metal thing, and it was warm), which I eventually got to see on-screen. Then the bonus: getting to watch their in-office CNC machine carve the new onlay out of a block of porcelain. (Yes, it uses a lot of water — based on signs nearby, recycled — in the process.)

    Given the beginning of a chunk of something popping out when I flossed, having it fixed and being on my way to work before noon the next day was a pretty good end.
    sauergeek: (Spicy)
    This posting courtesy of [personal profile] desireearmfeldt's memelet: "Post to DW talking about one fun thing you did recently.". I cooked someone else's recipe! (At least sort of.)
    coraline made a tasty thing; I altered it )
    sauergeek: (Default)
    Saw the word "chatoyance" in the comments to someone else's post, and this came to mind:

    Chatoyancy is a form of divination using cats' eyes. Practitioners initially used the eyes of deceased cats. There are some records of chatoyancers killing cats to acquire their eyes, but in fragments of letters from that era, they determined that killing the cat for its eyes ruined the divination. The practice of chatoyancy was initially codified by an unknown author in the now-lost Quod Visus Cattus[1].

    Some time before 981, a chatoyancer[2] found that a cats-eye gem worked as a usable if inferior substitute for an actual cat's eye with the notable advantage of not having to find a dead cat first. This discovery caused a schism among chatoyancers, separating those who insisted upon using only true eyes of cats, and those who thought that the gem was acceptable. The latter faction was by far the smaller of the two, as the cost of a suitable gem was often beyond the reach of practitioners. Some letters between practitioners of this period, debating the merits of gems, survive. Many critics denounced the use of chatoyantic techniques on gems as a bastardized form of lithomancy.

    A second codification of chatoyancy appeared in or around 1304: Libro Modi Videre Sicut Feles Verax[3]. This codification dismissed all forms of chatoyancy other than those involving the eyes of an actual cat. It is notable in its speculation about the use of the eyes of living cats, which in turn spurred a number of experiments -- all failures -- in the immobilization of cats to use their living eyes for divination. However, practitioners of various other forms of chatoyancy continued divination through their preferred method during this period, though no codification of other forms is known.

    Roger Bacon's publication of his Opus Majus in 1267 led to an increasing use of the scientific method. While many disciplines, including chatoyancy, adopted Bacon's methods, improvements in science reduced the need for all forms of divination. Most practitioners of chatoyancy -- and divination in general -- were reduced to essentially parlor magicians. Many charlatans claimed to be able to see the future through various methods, with chatoyancy being one of the more esoteric. While the practice of chatoyancy did not die out in the era of science, fewer and fewer true practitioners could be found.

    The salvation of the practice of chatoyancy came from an unexpected source: William Morton's demonstration of the use of ether as an anesthetic in 1846. Further demonstrations of other forms of anesthesia, especially in veterinary medicine, has led to successful demonstrations by modern chatoyancers of the use of the eyes of living -- if anesthetized -- cats for highly accurate divination.

    Many recent works on chatoyancy[4] speculate that the reason live, anesthetized cats provide such accurate divination is that the divination operates on the dreams of cats. These speculations have led to various experiments[5] on naturally sleeping cats in an attempt to use their eyes for divination without waking them. While these attempts have so far been unsuccessful, investigation continues.

    Today, likely more than half of the veterinary specialists in cats are chatoyancers. The active scientific investigation into the theory and practice of chatoyancy should hone its accuracy in the near future. There are numerous avenues of research in the field for dedicated investigators, and the employment opportunities are predicted to grow at least over the next decade. Chatoyancy is a thriving method of divination with a bright future.

    [1] Quod Visus Cattus initially circulated in the area of what is now Switzerland as several copies of a small handwritten manuscript in the early 4th century CE. The last known copy was lost in the great flood of Grenoble in 1219.

    [2] Believed to have been the Welsh chatoyancer Dafydd ab Gethen, member of the court of at least Maredudd, and author of the widely discredited De Divinatione Feles Oculos in Varias Incideritis.

    [3] The author is not named on any extant copy. However, most known copies of, or references to, the book are found near Buda. The author is suspected to be noted chatoyancer Ilona Budai.

    [4] See, for example, Seeing With Cats Eyes by Rumiko Watanabe (Elizabeth Gundersen, translator); Dreams of a Cat by Arthur Jones; and Chatoyantic Inquiries by Giselle Marley and DeShawn Robertson.

    [5] Every issue of The Journal of Chatoyancy through #44, except #8 and #21, contains at least one such paper. The publishers dedicated both issues #20 and #38 entirely to experiments on naturally sleeping cats.

    Beef stew

    Mar. 26th, 2017 03:33 pm
    sauergeek: (Spicy)
    This particular batch of stew has been one of the best I've made, so here's the recipe from memory. Some parts are, of necessity, vague.

    1 small boneless chuck roast (~2.6 lbs), cubed. (Do not trim fat.)
    2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed.
    1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into coins.
    1/2 lb white mushrooms, sliced.
    2 cloves garlic, minced.
    5 c water
    5 beef bouillon cubes
    3 bay leaves
    1/3 c sherry
    2/3 c red wine
    thyme (1 T)
    rosemary (1/2 T)
    savory (1/2 T)
    cumin (1 t or less)
    celery seed (1 t or less)
    black pepper (1 t)
    balsamic vinegar (1 t)

    Warning: everything from the sherry on down is approximate. The sherry was the end of my bottle; I topped it up to a cup with red wine. Everything else was to taste; the balsamic went in dead last as a necessary correction of seasonings, and was maybe 1 t.

    Put everything except the vinegar in a dutch oven. Bring to a boil; reduce to simmer. Simmer uncovered for about two hours, stirring every ten minutes or so.

    Adjust seasonings to taste; I found a dollop of balsamic vinegar fixed up the flavor balance nicely.

    At the end, I covered it and brought it back to a boil, then shut it off and left it sit on the stove overnight. I packed it into containers in the morning once it had mostly cooled.
    sauergeek: (Default)
    One useful thing I've found from getting skunked: a workable de-skunkification mix. A chemist came up with the mix based on a liquid filter he used to break down hydrogen sulfide in a waste gas stream. It's a 192:12:1 mix (in my case, 1 cup, 1 tablespoon, and 1/4 teaspoon) of 3% hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and liquid hand soap. See the actual recipe for details and some explanation, and his IFAQs for a more detailed explanation of how the reaction works.

    One of the worst-hit things was one of the bike panniers. I went after the pannier with this stuff and a toothbrush, and it slew the stink. (As a control, the bike itself, which I am slowly acquiring the tools to properly dismantle so I can get at all the places that skunk spray got, and which still is not acceptable in company.)
    sauergeek: (Default)
    While riding from the train last night
    A skunk did I espy.
    But far too late did I see him
    To stop or 'void his eye.

    So he turned 'round quite fast in place
    And up his tail did raise --
    A sight I hope to never see
    In my remaining days.

    I put on speed as best I could
    I could not stop or swerve
    In time to miss impending doom
    While coming 'round the curve.

    I thought he missed! I kept my pace
    Along the avenue.
    But when I stopped, a ling'ring smell
    Told me his aim was true.

    And so I must clean everything
    Myself, my bike, my clothes.
    I hope that soon I will no more
    Offend another's nose.

    That way perhaps I'll ride again
    Though now with increased dread
    And I'll ride slow, to better see
    A skunk in flowerbed.
    sauergeek: (Headshot)
    Go vote. (And if you don't think your vote matters, why is there so much squabbling over who gets to do it?) See also, this magnificent statement (warning, Facebook link) on the subject by a professor at West Point.
    sauergeek: (Headshot)
    The AC at work[1] has public-access thermostats. As I've been thinking about my own carbon footprint lately, I've been paying attention to what those thermostats are set to. They all seem to be set rather cold -- mostly in the 71-73[2] range, but on a few occasions, I've seen as low as 68. I try to keep the one near me at 75, but occasionally people set it lower.

    At home, I also have central AC. When I'm not home, it's shut off. When I am home, it's set to 78. If it's cool enough outside, I shut off the AC, open up some windows, and set a fan to try to get air circulating through them.

    Do you have an air conditioner? If so, is it central or room? And either way, where do you have the thermostat[3] set?

    [1] Nominally central, but in actuality a bunch of separately controlled units with a 40+ year age span.
    [2] All temperatures are in degrees Fahrenheit. It's what they're all instrumented in, and what I most easily think in.
    [3] I'm assuming your room AC, if that's the case, has a thermostat, instead of a "more cool/less cool" control.
    sauergeek: (Headshot)
    More tab closing, more tasty links.

    The Complete List of American Whiskey Distilleries & Brands, actively maintained by the blog owner. Trying to find US-made and bottled whiskey? This will tell you who's making their own vs. who's bottling someone else's. Informative.

    Much more interesting for the list of old spooky radio shows than their particular selection, The 15 Spookiest Episodes of Old Time Horror Radio couldn't help but include probably the most famous one: War Of The Worlds. But it goes on to list a variety of shows. The only one I recognized was Lights Out, which originally broadcast Chicken Heart, since done as a live radio show by the Post-Meridien Radio Players.

    A variety of maps of the cosmos across history in Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time in 4,000 Years of Mapping the Universe. While this is ultimately a book review for the book, it has pictures of several of the maps, which are fascinating to look at and to try to derive the level of understanding of the cosmos at the time.

    One set of 9 Small Beer Cities That Deserve National Attention. I've been to two of them -- Portland, ME and Burlington, VT -- and if the rest are as good as those two, all nine are worth visiting.

    A recipe for Fresh Apple Salsa that I've made several times, and rather enjoy. Mostly here for me, so I don't have to keep searching for it and saying "wait, is this the right one?".

    A historic look at wallpaper in New England, with a browsable online archive of their whole collection. Historically interesting, and also a neat source of ideas for decorative patterns.
    sauergeek: (Headshot)
    There is no need for gods of chaos. There are children.
    sauergeek: (Headshot)
    Once again closing tabs, and finding several that I think will be of interest. Enjoy!

    The Rocky Horror Muppet Show. A script for a Muppet/RHPS crossover, with Kermit starring as Dr. Frank N. Frogger. [ profile] kelkyag had never seen this, so I dug it up. Then I figured some of the rest of you might not have seen it either.

    The King In Yellow. HP Lovecraft had his own literary influences, and Robert W. Chambers was one of them. A series of stories by the original creator of the King in Yellow as well as several other aspects of the Cthulhuverse.

    A master ice cream recipe (custard, cooked) that also includes several recipes and ideas for how to tweak it. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks promising.

    Photographs of keys can now be used to make duplicates, courtesy of a phone app. One more bit of security to keep track of.

    I recently discovered I can't digest raw or lightly cooked onions anymore (onions cooked into oblivion appear to be fine, but I'm still experimenting), so I've had to start looking for onion-free recipes. One tasty recipe I found was an onion-free macaroni salad, which I made several times over the summer. Pancetta (though I've been using prosciutto), fresh thyme and lemon, yum! I leave out the sugar.

    Man Constructs 3D Printed Concrete Castle. No explanation needed -- it's exactly what it says on the tin. He first had to build a 3D printer that could print in concrete. Per his website, he's looking for backers for bigger projects.

    And finally, a timely link: The 2014 Massachusetts Ballot Questions Explained in Plain English. A short explanation of what each ballot question is asking, with a similarly short set of points on why you might want to vote for or against each.
    sauergeek: (Spicy)
    Apple picking tomorrow (18 Oct) morning! [ profile] kelkyag and I -- and anyone else who wants to come with -- will be going apple picking at Shelburne Farm in Stow. We'll be at the orchard at 11.

    This isn't my usual place, but I was in Oregon for that Northern Spy season. Shelburne Farm still has Northern Spy, starting Saturday. They also have a number of other varieites (see the website) and fresh cider donuts.
    sauergeek: (Headshot)
    Unexpected find in the condo trash bin: a box containing a mail shirt. It's (likely) steel rings, weighs 30 lbs, all the rings are riveted so far as I can tell, and too small for me to fit into -- my hand will not pass the cuff. It may need some cleaning, and appears to be oiled. The sleeves have what look like were intended to be leather mitten mounts, but there's no leather mitten.

    There are also has two separate legs with sturdy built-in leather soles for the feet, that my feet are entirely too large for. The legs are each about 7 lbs.

    There was also a pair of linen drawstring shorts in the box, but no gambeson or any other sort of under-protection in evidence.

    Anyone small (both relatively short and relatively thin) in the SCA or other medieval fighting recreation group need some fighting armor? I'm pretty sure this will pass. Any similarly-sized larper want realistic prop armor? For those who know her, Mikka fits in the shirt. Without padding, it is knee-length on her, and the sleeves are too long. A good padded gambeson would eat up a fair bit of the length. With the shorts on for some padding, she can't quite get the legs all the way on, but her feet fit the built-in soles.
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