The New Cuckoo’s Egg

The EYE TRIPLE EE has an article about the recent (2005) Greek cellphone hack which left the entirety of the Greek government tapped via their cellphones. It’s light on details but still an interesting read.

If anyone’s wondering, the runtime code modification usually only happens in virtual machines or mainframe style systems with “machine partitions”. The fact that someone seems to have gotten outside of that and mapped it effectively is wildly good stuff. It’s very likely that on some level an employee of both the cellphone provider and the hardware vendor were in on it since it would require a fair bit of knowledge about what vodafone was seeing to hide effectively.

Lymes Disease!

Me and the Doctor are pretty sure I got lyme’s disease again.

I had been feeling crappy all last week as I wrote down. I figured it was a combination of working myself to death and exposure to chemicals. A few nights ago I commented to Kelly, “Gee, this toothpaste makes my mouth go numb!” We didn’t think anything of it and I went to bed. The next morning I woke up and realized I couldn’t feel half my face. Uh oh, Bell’s Palsy. For those not in the know, it’s when your nerves become inflamed and lose communication. And what causes our nerves to become inflamed? Lyme’s disease. Suddenly, it wasn’t an issue of being run down, it was an issue of losing the battle yet again to the common deer tick.

Lymes is particularly fun. There’s ongoing debate as to if it really exists or if it’s just a manifestation of other diseases. (If your doctor says it doesn’t exist, find a new doctor). There’s also the camp that says, “Well, just check yourself for ticks!” Avoid these people too. Surely the transmission vector is a tick bite, but I’m in the camp that once you have it, you have it forever. The flesh generally keeps it in check, but once the immune system takes a crash, those little buggers can come right back. Case in point – my first bout of it we did find the tick. The other two bouts were complications of being totally worn out or otherwise having another medical problem. Thankfully the cure (antibody cocktail) doesn’t conflict with anything else, so treating it is easy.

Right now the palsy is playing havoc with the 7th and 8th spinal nerves(?) and results in numbness and weird texture effects with food. I wouldn’t call it synesthesia but it’s close where flavors have textures food critics wouldn’t normally assign. I didn’t realize how grabby pasta was on my palette until I didn’t have my sense of taste on half my tongue. The good news is that the methylprednisolone I’m on is rapidly improving things. However the cure is worst than the disease – I went from numbness to pins and needles as the nerves get unpinched and start sending signals back.

Lymes titer will be back in a week and then the doctor can figure out what delicious cocktail of antibiotics to put me on. In the mean time I’ve been told to quit turning wrenches or doing work which might re-inflame my tissues.

Ah well, at least one of the days when I got 10 hours of sleep I felt good enough to work on the car. If anyone is wondering how I got all the tree crap off: Cyclo’s No. 7 car wash. Buy yourself a soft bristle brush if you’re going to use it, since the sponge isn’t going to motivate much off the car.

This is the cleaned up MR2

This is the cleaned up MR2

Napping in the Car

I detect a new trend: Napping in the car. Kelly has decided she’s going to pee every 30 minutes on the dot as Alex tapdances his way to his due date on her bladder. This is fine, until she comes home, then I wake up every 30 minutes with her.

The joys of being a light sleeper.

Between fighting off the sinus infections (finally going away) and the 30 minutes deal I’m woefully sleep deprived. I’ve taken to napping in the car, which is actually quite nice since the seats are wonderfully contoured. Folks, this is the future – INDIVIDUALLY FORMED BEDS WITH FAUX LEATHER AND 7 WAY LUMBAR SUPPORT.

I also bought a Brinkmann Smoke & Grill (charcoal) for $30 from Home Depot last weekend. It’s a manly grill, and having two heights for smoking and grilling means you can pull the dutch cooking trick of cooking poultry under a steak. While not heart healthy, this is fantastic when it’s done. I like them because they offer recipes on their websites, and they also sell the conversion kit just in case you want to make an electric smoker. While I’m a diehard fan of cooking with charcoal on a grill, moreso than gas, the smoker is more about making smoke out of wood than it is anything else. Then again, my argument for charcoal is that the propane/electric grills don’t get the smokey taste, so it’s a tough call.

This weekend: Smoke meats, work on the chimney. Maybe fish depending on the weather.

Housework and Headaches

It hasn’t exactly been a banner week over here. I realize I haven’t posted in a week. That’s because despite opening the windows and running box fans I still got gassed by the KILS2 primer we’re using in double coats for the rooms. This gives me a migraine headache but more importantly I managed to cop gods own sinus and ear infection off it.

The worst part is that this manifests itself in sore sinuses and a headache but otherwise I feel good if I remember to get plenty of sleep. It seems to be going away though, I should have it kicked by the weekend.

The colors my wife chose (“peanut butter”, “watersprout”) look good. The other one we’ve affectionately dubbed “easter chicken” is yellow beyond yellow and we’re not going to use it. Hell I’m colorblind and even I understand this is yellow like you’ve never seen yellow before.

That being said, I was a desk zombie monday and tuesday at work and I finally broke down and decided I needed a proper breathing mask. The 3M ones I had “for painting” which were the Chinese ones “for SARs” wasn’t working out for me. It cut down on the fumes but clearly not enough if I was getting sick, again. On ebay, I managed to score a brand new S.E.A. Gas Mask which is good for just about everything including acids, bases, organic solvents and other nasties. Basically it will protect you against paint thinner and nerve gas all in the same breath! Now I’ll have to get my wife one since I’ll feel terrible if Al Queda goes after the Philly Suburbs with poison gas and we’ve only got one mask.

My brother says the firehouse has the same style of mask but it’s not quite the same thing. If anyone is wondering, yes, my mask can be a SCUBA mask (if I buy the right accessories, of course), but a fireman’s setup isn’t a very good SCUBA mask. Apparently a SCUBA mask wants to work at slightly less than 1 bar of pressure, while a gas mask with an active feed works at slightly more than 1 bar of pressure. He says when they jumped in his buddies pool, the found the fire gear worked to about 5 feet of water at which point the escaping air out the top and the water gushing in the bottom made for very interesting problems.

As soon as the mask gets here I’m going to get up on the roof and do the chimney. Of course the tube of masonry says “use outdoors, or in a well ventilated room. Do not inhale”. Great, just like everything else.

The camry gave me crap today also, just because cars can smell weakness and always choose to pick on you when you have an ear infection. The car dead cylindered on me again (backfires, lol!) and ran like crap. I decided to stick my head under the hood before limping over to pep boys and discovered that the cap and rotor I put on last weekend I didn’t spend enough time with. One wire had managed to work itself off the cap. This wire had previously given me problems because the shroud was on top of it weird but I figured it would fix itself once it got warm, being plastic and all. Well, it fixed itself, right off the rotor. Easy fix, but still a PITA driving down 422 with a cloud of gasoline following you.

Poison Ivy

I thought I still had resistance to poison ivy. You can actually build up a tolerance to it if you’re exposed enough.

Moving off the farm clearly hasn’t been kind to me, I never remember getting actual, weeping hives after handling the stuff. The worst was I used to get a rash and just make a mental note not to touch it.

We’ve got ivy (decorative) going up the trees in the yard and used as ground cover. I personally hate this, the previous owner had no idea that while it makes fantastic ground cover, it also chokes the hell out of all the trees it grows on. Of course, whoever built this development many years ago also put it in everyones back yard. While I feel like we’re doing the woods behind the house a disservice with it, I also feel like it’s impossible to clean up.

All of the trees on our property I gave a quick walk around and if there was climbing ivy on the tree, I cut the stem. My buck knife was significantly duller by the end of this process (10 trees worth of ivy total) and one tree in particular just outside the fence is completely dead. The other trees may end up following suit shortly, the ivy was mature enough to have grown out along the branches and it covers the trees leaves. There may be quite a bit of firewood this fall depending.

The ivy gets under the bark with it’s suckers and still has managed to stay green (but drooping) a week later. This, to me, is wild because in the spring and summer the roots are generally pumping as much as they can to the leaves. Cut the vines low and I would expect the leaves to die in short order. What I am suprised at is the ivy wood itself hasn’t bled anything. Either the ivy has god’s own pulmonary system for a plant or these guys weren’t working too hard. It’s also possible the plants have become so ingrained in the tree that they don’t need roots anymore.

This fall I plan on rubbing what low stems are left with gasoline. The gasoline penetrates the oily layer present on all ivy leaves, gets transported to the roots and poisons the whole system.

All this work wouldn’t be complete without a walk through the woods to survey what other ivy is out there. Upon my return I took a shower but made the mistake of taking a hot shower before checking to see if I had picked up any oil. Oh what a tragedy, I missed a legitimate opportunity to rub alcohol directly into my bloodstream via my open wounds! The next day the familiar rash appeared and I didn’t think anything of it. Two days later, it’s weeping hives.

Thankfully, I can give COLLOIDAL OATMEAL positive reviews for getting rid of the itch but more importantly drying out the sites which broke out. Now, if only I could get rid of all the ivy in the first place, I would be set.

Oh God, Housework

Thankfully my inlaws are awfully crafty people. Things I’ve learned about houses:
1) Some people are masking-tape people, some people can do it freehand. I’m a masking tape person. I would rather put on 2 widths of tape and waste time doing that so I can use a huge roller than delicately try to paint small parts.
2) You will learn awesome things at every breaker box you work on. Every single house I’ve done any electrical in has had fun ideas about how all this works.
3) Your wife will buy color samples and use them everywhere. Including surfaces you hadn’t previously thought about painting.

Stuff we did this weekend:
The one toilet needed a new float kit. It would fill but periodically leak. If you lifted the float up just a bit it would stop drawing in the water. When I went to bend the plastic arm, I broke it.

The upstairs toilet was a write off. The fatass who owned the place before me broke the porcelain around the water tank where it connects to the bowl. When we bought the place I turned it off. As I was trying to flush it with the water off to drain things, the water tank broke around the handle. Still waiting to see if the trash service here actually picks up the mess. Of course, as we’re trying to remove it, it’s breaking more and more and more and we finally realized it didn’t have any structure. We just tapped it with a hammer until it came up, which was fine because the closet bolts (what holds the toilet to the flange) were rusted fast anyway.

The wax ring which came with the new toilet was too shallow, but we had enough foresight to buy a new, jumbo ring which did the trick.

WHY DID HE PUT THREE PRONG OUTLETS IN WITH NO GROUND? We ended up figuring out there was a ground wire run for a distance and fished our stuff to that. However, 11 outlets later and we figured out that not only were some of these hot splices with no breaker on them aside of the mains, some of them were plain wired backwards. Which is fine if you have a lamp, but plug a computer in and kiss it goodbye.

’nuff said. I suck at spackle. I am, however, the king of using the large roller without runs. I also prefer to mask with tape rather than freehand paint the edges.

Oil Tank
The clowns who sprayed the basement for mold, mildew and whatever else sprayed over the sight-glass on my oil tank. As I was crawling my way back there I realized there was a shallow pool of kerosene under the hard line to the tank. These guys had managed to step on the line between the heater and the tank as they were spraying. Not only did I have to clean off the sight glass but thankfully some messing around with the compression fitting got it to seal. The bad news is that the next time it happens, I need a new compression fitting.

Car Fun
Of course, the Camry’s ignition system finally quit while I was out running down paint. Thankfully it only needed a new cap and rotor but the igniter is obviously not put in a user serviceable location.

Carpet Cleanup
I thought those carpet scrubbers were busywork until my father in law brought his over. I was going to replace the carpets myself but that thing really does a fantastic job of getting stains out of carpets. We’ve got one of the hoovers (second or third hand at this point) and we have a light blue carpet upstairs. The den carpet doesn’t look so hot because it was next to the mud room, but it lifted the mud right out of it (although it needs a second pass) and the upstairs light blue carpet with coffee stains (I hope) came right up with only one pass.

1) Refinish hardwood floors
2) Powerwash the deck, seal it
3) Repoint the chimney

Then at around 7pm last night I came down with a 100.7F fever and promptly collapsed.

My Lawn Tractor is AWESOME

First, it has a top speed of 15mph. That alone makes it awesome because I could drive it to the store if I could explain to the police WTF I was doing.

Second, there are no police where I live but state police, and they don’t get off the highway.

Third, the cargo sled attachment works really well and doesn’t get me weird looks at the farmers market. It does get me weird looks at ACME.

If you buy one of these – and I highly suggest you do since a 42 inch wide cutting deck makes really quick work of the yard – BUY AN EXTRA SET OF BELTS. The ones that come with it from SEARS are crap, and the sales reps dug out the wrong part number three times before figuring it out.

Also buy a cup holder. I have flashbacks to the MR2 every time I try to drink a beer while riding it.

Anyway, in terms of construction – everything is well built where it needs to be well built. The body work is only so-so but it’s steel where it counts. Sometimes it’s overbuilt – the pins and posts under there range from oversized to oh-god-why-did-they-bother size. The belt routing for the accessories is a bit hairy depending on what you put on there. For instance the cutting deck actually requires you pull two of the pins (throttle and elevation) to route the belt around them, but otherwise it’s an OK design. I generally wish the spring for the idle pully were harder but I won’t knock it.

The aerator attachment is hilarious. Any speed over 3rd gear throws plugs of dirt (which looks a lot like dog shit) about 10 feet into the air.

The Roads to Here

Good god if you’re coming to visit keep your wits about you. Quick rules for driving around here:

  • Everyone is stupidly aggressive. I just about ran down a motorcyclist today because he pulled out of a gas station while looking at me. Protip: Just because we make eye contact doesn’t mean I’m letting you out. I’m especially not letting you out if I saw you drive into the gas station from the other side to avoid the traffic I’m sitting in.
  • Keep your windows up while driving by the park. The mosquitoes here will kill you. And the deer take “window down” to mean “food here!”
  • The speed limit on 422 is there for a reason. Don’t be the guy who nails a deer.

Also Paradise Pizza is really good – but also really expensive. An “XL” pizza with everything on it + coke is $18.99.