All posts by ThatBlairGuy

That Blair Guy has been working in software for longer than he cares to admit. These days he works throughout the software stack from the web UI down to SQL (and sometimes no-SQL), generally on the .Net framework, with frequent excursions to NodeJS, Linux, and PHP.

Tracking Billionaires’ Planes

So, this is fun. CNet did a story about a college kid wrote a bot to track the whereabouts of Elon Musk’s private plane and post it on Twitter. Musk offered him $5,000 to take it down, the kid counter-offered, asking for an internship, but Musk apparently wasn’t interested.

So, the kid now has an online store selling merchandise with an image of Musk smoking “something” with the slogan, “I know how high Elon is.”

So, would you like to know the location of Elon Musk’s plane?

Not interested in Elon Musk? He also has trackers for the planes belonging to Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. (It looks like he’s set up trackers for a number of other planes as well.)

(Photo via flickr user Anna Zvereva, used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Wordle strategies

Like many folks, I’ve jumped into playing the “Wordle” daily word-puzzle. I think what impresses me most about it is that, not only is the game engaging, it also doesn’t appear to be monetized. (It does utilize the Google Tag Manager, but that just seems to be so the game’s creator can find out how many people are playing it — answer: A LOT!)

My usual approach to the puzzle is to start with something like STARE; a word with a lot of common letters. Assuming I get any letters right, my next step is to think up another word which uses those letters as my next guess, and so on.

Today, I used a different strategy. My first guess yielded three letters (albeit, with none in the correct position). For my second guess, I used five entirely different letters. This time I had two letters right, and one of them in the correct position.

At this point, I had all five letters; I just had to figure out where four of them belonged. And I was able to solve the puzzle in three guesses. (It generally takes me four guesses, sometimes five.)

I’ll need to consider whether to continue with this strategy or go back to the old one.

What strategy do you use?

Wordle 211 3/6


Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?

Oh, the random stuff that pops into my brain…. What was the name of Pavlov’s dog?

Turns out I’m not the first to wonder that. In 1992, a researcher named Tim Tully went to Russia to visit the last location where Pavlov worked and wrote an article about his search for the dogs’ names (it turns out there were at least 40).

The article includes photos of the dogs, with their names (technically, photos of the photos in an album), but only lists a few of them in the article text.

Doing a bit more searching I found a Quora article which has the full list of the dogs’ names. Some of them translate as names we might give dogs today (Buddy, Clown, Jack, and the like).

  1. Bierka
  2. Nalyot
  3. Golovan
  4. Arap
  5. Arleekin (Clown)
  6. Avgust
  7. Baikal
  8. Barbus (Big Dog)
  9. Box
  10. Chingis Kahn
  11. Chyorny (Black)
  12. Diana
  13. Drujok (Buddy)
  14. Ikar
  15. Iks (X)
  16. Jack
  17. Joy
  18. Jurka
  19. Krasavietz (Beauty)
  20. Laska (Ferret)
  21. Lyadi (Lady)
  22. Martik
  23. Mikah (Nice Girl)
  24. Milord
  25. Moladietz (Good Boy)
  26. Murashka (Cute Little Thing)
  27. Nord
  28. Norka (Mink)
  29. Novichok (New One)
  30. Pastrel (Fast One)
  31. Pingiel
  32. Rex
  33. Rijiy I
  34. Rijiy II
  35. Rogdi (Old Russian Prince)
  36. Ruslan
  37. Tungus
  38. Umnitza
  39. Valiet (Jack)
  40. Zloday (Thief)

Leaving Facebook

The Washington Post ran an article recently with the title You’ve decided to quit Facebook. Here’s how to migrate your online life elsewhere. That’s a little misleading as the article covers more than just the how, but also gets into some of the complexities of leaving, and even why leaving may not be practical for some folks.

And it is difficult. I’ve been on the verge of leaving Facebook for several years. Partially because I have no great need for Mr. Zuckerberg to track me in more and more detail. Partially because of the potential to lose entire days of my life scrolling through the feed. Partially because I’ve seen enough to be convinced that social media is indeed responsible for the spread of misinformation and the resulting social ills.

But it’s tough to leave. As that article points out, there’s a huge network effect. Which is to say “I’m on Facebook because that’s where most of my friends are online.”

I held off on joining Facebook for a long time as I didn’t see the purpose of a “micro-blogging site” as Facebook and Twitter were described at the time. I already had an active blog, and didn’t see much point in posting things twice. (Indeed, with my own blog, I own my words as opposed to letting someone else make money from them.)

The turning point came in 2009 when a friend’s baby was born, and the announcement went out on Facebook and I only found out when another friend forwarded the news.

I’ve been on Facebook ever since. Posting memes, letting people know what’s going on in my life (most of our friends found out via Facebook when my wife and I got engaged).

Over the past several years, I’ve been reducing my presence on Facebook. I still post things that made me laugh, photos of my dog (who also frequently makes me laugh), and Facebook pages are still an effective way of promoting various other activities.

And it’s still how I keep up with what my friends are doing. Kid photos, news of my nieces and nephews, vacation photos, and more.

But I tend not to share my day to day routine. If something requires more than a sentence or two (e.g. “Glorify the Lions“), I’m more likely to put my words on a site I control (i.e. one of the “Chaos and Penguins” sites). Instead of Facebook Messenger, I’ll send text messages or emails when it’s possible.

I don’t know if I’ll ever completely leave Facebook, but I doubt I’ll ever fully embrace it again.

Glorify the Lions

A friend recently shared an African proverb, leading me to wonder about the other side’s perspective….

Until the Lion Learns How to Write, Every Story will Glorify the Hunter

“And so you see young one, as we once hunted the humans, they too eventually learned to hunt us. First with the spear, then the bow and arrow, and with time, they learned to come for us with guns.”

“But we remember the old days. While we would only hunt for food, and to protect ourselves, the humans hunted us for sport. Yes, for their own barbaric entertainment.”

“In the year the humans called 2019, a great plague fell against them, diminishing their numbers to but a fraction of what it had been. And now, 100 years later, we return to the hunt; looking not only for food, but also culling their herds ‘lest they become so populous again as to threaten all within the great Circle of Life.”

Sailing with Magellan

A random memory….

During a high school discussion of Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition to sail around the world, one classmate asked, in all apparent seriousness, why Magellan didn’t just go through the Panama Canal.

The question may have possibly led to some merriment.

In these more enlightened days, I assume everyone understands he was either trying to save some money on tolls or possibly had left his E-Z Pass transponder in the other ship.

(Spanish Galleon image used according to Pixabay license.)

No Ordinary Sneeze

It was no ordinary sneeze.

A particularly vigorous sneeze of the ordinary variety might, at best, upset a small gravy boat. This was not such a sneeze.

A sneeze of the super-human variety might propel the entire Spanish Armada across the world so quickly that would be no time to drop a coin in the toll basket at the Panama Canal, even if one had existed at that time. A sneeze of this sort would not be troubled by such an anachronism.

No, this was a category 45 sneeze. The sort which, had it occurred within the pages of a Fantastic Four comic book, would have caused even Galactus, Devourer of Worlds, to stop midmeal to say “Bless You” while offering you a solar-system sized handkerchief.

(Header image: public domain via WikiMedia Commons.)

The Martian Chronicles

Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles” was pretty much my gateway to science fiction. I recently re-discovered that all of the stories were given a month and year, setting them in an unimaginably distant future.

The First Expedition launched for Mars in January of 1999.

According to the original timeline, it’s now been 16 years since Walter Gripp decided he was better off alone than with Genevieve Selsor (The Silent Towns)

In April of 2026 Captain Wilder of the fourth expedition returns from the outer solar system and finds his friend Hathaway’s family living on Mars. (The Long Years)

In August of the same year, a windstorm causes a fire, destroying a house in Allendale California. (Note: If I ever manage anything near that level of automation in a smart house, the dog will receive better treatment.)(There Will Come Soft Rains)

In October 2026, the Thomas family arrives on Mars for The Million Year Picnic.

And that’s it. We’re 64 months away from the entirety of The Martian Chronicles being set in our past.

Welcome to the Future!

Why are They Called Grandfather Clocks?

Mom often refers to the newspaper’s comics page as “The educational section.” And while she means it in jest (I think), I’ve learned something new because of a web comic.

Monday’s Questionable Content has one of the characters concluding a discussion by saying, “…and that’s why they’re called grandfather clocks.”

It really had nothing to do with anything (aside from the character, Brun, being fascinated by clocks), but it did leave me wondering,… “Why are they called grandfather clocks?”

So, I asked Google (because that’s how things work these days) and learned the story of how the American songwriter Henry Clay Work was inspired to write the song “My Grandfather’s Clock.

There’s a really nice write up from 2012 at Today I found Out, but the gist of it is that in 1875, Work was staying at the George Hotel in Yorkshire and was intrigued by the longcase clock (what we now call a “grandfather clock”) in the lobby.

The story goes that the clock had belonged to the hotel’s previous owners, the Jenkins brothers, and kept perfect time throughout their lives. But when the first of the two brothers died, the clock suddenly became less accurate. And at the moment the second brother died, the clock stopped working altogether.

Inspired by the story, Work wrote the song, “My Grandfather’s Clock” which became a huge hit, selling more than one million copies (a nearly unprecedented achievement at the time). As a result of the song’s success, the public began referring to longcase clocks as “Grandfather clocks.”

Johnny Cash recorded a version in 1959.

Boyz II Men recorded a version in 2004

Wikipedia lists a number of other recordings and stories using it for inspiration.

Cover image, public domain via Wikipedia


A friend posted a most unusual photo on Facebook today: it’s a gravesite in a cemetery, but in front of the headstone, there’s an iron “cage” of sorts. The cage is sunken into the ground on all sides, and through the iron straps, you can see where grass has been growing, protected from mowing for many years.

Accompanying the photo is the caption, “I’d like to know the back story….”

I very much wanted to make a joke about it being the burial site of a vampire, zombie, or other undead creature, but I was curious and started googling.

This appears to be a mortsafe. Basically, a cage intended to make it difficult for anyone who might try to disturb the grave (apparently there was a lively trade in corpses for sale to medical schools). Normally, they were only left in place for six to eight weeks until the body had decomposed and would no longer be in a state to be saleable. This one appears to have been left longer.

Probably because that’s where they buried a vampire, zombie, or other undead creature.