Audiobook Complete: Greylorn

Title: Greylorn
Author: Keith Laumer (1925-1993)
Source: Librivox

This is a long short story or novelette.   As often happens with classic science fiction, the technology that seemed speculative at the time was overtaken by  events and is very dated now.  The story was pretty good though, and well read, with a classic “short story surprise” ending.

York Mystery Plays

In 2006 we traveled to York, England, to participate in the quadrennial presentation of Mystery Plays.  This was with the International Pipe and Tabor Festival, held that year in conjunction with York’s early music festival.  We (the taborers) worked up music appropriate for the mystery plays, and accompanied them through the streets of the old city of York.

It was a great experience, and I’m regretting I couldn’t participate this year (2010).  Especially since as my taborer friends talk about this year’s edition, there are photos turning up from four years ago!  And I want a place to keep track of them, hence this post.

My photos from 2006:

Laurie and Gillian from an extensive set of photos at

More photos from 2006:  Same photographer as the flickr set above, more photos!  I’m particularly fond of #17 and #38.  Poke around to find more of 2010.


From 2010 (without me 🙁 ):

Video at

Canon Wins! Most languages on a warning notice!

We’ve just added a new Canon printer at home.  There’s a one sheet warning notice, with cautions about loading paper correctly – photo paper here, plain paper there.

The interesting thing is the number of languages this warning is printed in, filling both sides of the page.  I’m certain of English, German, French, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Danish, Greek, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish, Czechoslovakian, Magyar,  (p2) Polish, Slovakian, Russian, Turkish, and Romanian.  I think I am identifying Latvian and possibly Georgian.  There are two that are some flavor of Arabic, but I have no clue which is what, and there’s another in the Cyrillic alphabet.  Also something that looks related to Latvian, but isn’t the same, and another that might be related to Finnish.

Languages are cool, and this is the most I’ve ever seen at one time.  Kudos to Canon!

Audiobook Complete: The Great Shadow

Title: The Great Shadow
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)
Source: Librivox

This is a nice little adventure story, set in Napoleonic Scotland and France.  Our hero tells the story from the perspective of old age, reflecting on the happenings of his youth, first love, running off to war, and so on.  The characters are entertaining, the plot serviceable, and the reader does a pretty good job.

I enjoyed this one, and might listen to it again on a trip sometime.

Thoughts on Gambling

Basically, I don’t get it.  There’s more to it of course, but my logical mind doesn’t understand how people can waste their money that way.

What spurs these thoughts is a recent experience working “The Money Wheel” for a neighborhood festival.  I looked at how it worked, did a rough estimate of the odds, and was appalled that anyone would think they might have a chance to come out ahead.  Then I looked at the way the “game” is played, and still can’t figure out what might be fun about it.

The game is simple.  There’s a large vertical wheel, with photocopies of currency attached to it, a pointer, and dividers so the pointer will always point at one of the bills when the wheel stops rotating.  There were 60 slots on the wheel, about half $1, about a quarter $2, some $5, a few $10, two $20, a joker and an American flag.  So that’s  1:60 to hit a joker or flag, 1:30 to hit a $20, down to best odds of a little worse than 1:2 on a $1.

To play, you place a chip on the location on a board that matches $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, joker, or flag.  You can play multiple chips and multiple locations at one time.  Then you watch the caller spin the wheel, and wait for it to stop.

OK, so playing is putting down some chips, watching the wheel go around, watching all the chips that didn’t match get taken off the board by the house (me!) and receiving the payout for anything that did match.  The payout is 1:1 on the $1, 2:1 on $2, 5:1 on $5, and so on, up to 25:1 on the joker or flag.

Oh, cool, I can put down one dollar on the joker, and get 25 back when I win?  Yes, but on average the house will have taken 59 dollars from you before you win – odds of 1:60, payout 25:1.

Well, how about playing on the $1?  I can’t lose so much there, right?  I hit almost half the time!  Yes, but you lose a little more than half the time.  28:60 I think I counted as the odds.  So you can’t win there, either.

The other numbers are about the same – and in fact, the odds are hugely tilted toward the house.  So standing around and putting down chips to see them go away most of the time is fun?  Oh, sure, every once in a while someone hits, and hits big.  And usually keeps playing and loses it all, and more.

I understand the idea that gambling on poker, or blackjack, or even horses can be seen as a way of paying for the entertainment time of enjoying the activity, win or lose.  But standing and watching a wheel go ’round?  Not for me!

And that brings me back to my beginning:  I just don’t get it…

Travel Tips – cord management

When traveling with geek toys, packing and keeping track of the connection and power cords gets to be a problem.  Lots of cords come with velcro straps attached, but not all of them.  So what to do?

You could buy velcro straps and add them to the cord yourself.

Or you could be cheap, and use sandwich bags.  I like to use zip lock sandwich bags, one cord per bag.   A cord with power brick attached may need a quart sized bag instead of sandwich size.  Coil the cords, slip them into the bag, zip the top, and you’re done.  The cords don’t get tangled, and they are a lot easier to see and understand for the TSA employee looking at the carryon bag XRay.  The bags hardly weigh anything, and are big enough (compared with twist ties) to see easily, so you won’t lose them often.

Google Voice – Open to All!

Google announced that Google Voice is no longer an invitation-only service.  Anyone (in the USA) can get an account, or use an existing Google account to activate Google Voice for yourself.

I like it a lot, even though I’m not a heavy phone user.  If I were, I would absolutely love it.  Take a look at the Google announcement at, and see if you think you might be interested.

Audiobook Complete: Ultima Thule

Title: Ultima Thule
Author: Mack Reynolds
Source: Librivox

Told from the perspective of a new agent in United Planets Bureau of Investigation on his first assignment, this is really a political discussion.  As the new agent visits planet after planet in search of a purported political agitator, the problems of multiple political systems are explored.  The “surprise” at the end isn’t huge, but it was enjoyable anyway.

Audiobook Complete: The Story of My Misfortunes

Title: The Story of My Misfortunes
Author: Peter Abelard (1079-1142)
Source: Librivox

One sentence summary: What a whiner.

I can’t say this was a particularly enjoyable book, but it was fascinating, something like a train wreck is fascinating.  It does provide some additional background to the love story of Abelard and Heloise, but that background is not flattering to Abelard.  Egotistical, self-centered, competitive, not someone I really want to know any better.

The translation seems to flow pretty well, and the reader is top notch.

I can’t say I recommend this one, unless you’re a glutton for history.

Standalone JNDI

I have a need at work to implement a standalone command line Java program that needs to be able to use local JNDI.  I’ve got it working, but it was way harder to figure out than it should have been, and I couldn’t find any blog postings that used the version of code that I used.  So, I’m documenting here.

If you don’t already know what any of this means, move along, nothing to see here.

I’m using the JBoss JNDI provider, which is in the default JBoss distribution.  I’m using JBoss 4.2.2.GA

First, add the jars you need to your classpath:

  • jnpserver.jar
  • jbossall-client.jar

Next, write a file with these entries:


Make sure the file is on your classpath.

Then, include this in your code.  I suggest at the top of your main(), where it gets run at start:

try {
 NamingBeanImpl jnpServer = new NamingBeanImpl();

 } catch (Exception e) {
 // TODO Auto-generated catch block

That’s it, you now have JNDI available in your program.  There is probably more that can be done with the file to load objects at start, but I’ll learn that as I need it.

To add things to the context programmatically:

 Object object = "TestApp";
 String name = "config.appName";
 Context context = new InitialContext();
 context.bind(name, object);

To look up an object in the context:

 Context context = new InitialContext();
 Object object = context.lookup(name);