Everyone, if not directly affected themselves, has been hearing about the financial crisis. Layoffs, downsizing, increased medical costs, high energy costs, and dwindling social services are worrying millions. It’s a dark time and there are few rays of sunshine to cheer those caught in this downturn. But sometime trouble brings out the best in people.

My friend, author Vera Nazarian, has been struggling with a number of hardships including facing foreclosure on her house. You can read all about her situation here. Last Friday a few of her friends decided to try to help. They organized an online fund-raiser to try to come up with the $11,229.72 needed so she could keep her house.

By Friday evening 192 people had contributed nearly $3800. By Saturday, word was spreading through the Science Fiction community and by 7pm Saturday the total raised was over $7000. Sunday night, sometime after 10pm, the goal was reached. In three short days, hundreds of contributors had turned a bleak, miserable situation into a Holiday miracle. I thought happy endings like this only happened in the movies!

Money continues to pour in and Vera will not only keep her home but she will be able to deal with other problems that have been haunting her. I’ve never seen anything like this before but I hope it will happen many more times for others in need. People working together really can make a difference.


Total of $25,438.37 in 655 contributions as of 12/17/08.  Talk about a miracle.  Vera’s house will be saved and many of her other problems will be taken care of too.

Nasty Weather

We had some very nasty weather last night. Heavy rain, high winds, lots of lightning. Really lots of lightning. Power went out around 6pm and I got the generator out around 7:30. We took some nearby lightning hits. This morning I am assessing the damage:

-My Linux box is dead. With luck it’s just a power supply.
-The computer I use with my ham radio stuff is also dead.
-Jan’s computer boots but can’t connect to the network.
-My computer also will boot but looks as if its Ethernet card is dead.
-The router is fried.
-Our satellite TV box is also dead.
-The phones upstairs and in my office are dead.
-Answering machine is dead.

Lots of electronics still unchecked – could be more damage. Haven’t gone out to my observatory yet to see what happened out there.

At least it is all stuff that can be replaced and I’ve got the laptop to get online. No visible damage to the house and, other than lack of sleep, Jan, I, and Itty are all fine.

Hope this is the end of the T-storms around here!

When I get a chance I’ll post some pictures of the flooding and other damage around here.

Blog Update

I’ve just finished putting my customizations back after upgrading to the latest version of WordPress. I hope I remembered everything. If anyone spots something that doesn’t look right, please leave a comment here.

Akismet is a very good tool for blocking comment spam on WordPress blogs. It has blocked more than 550 spam comments on my blog alone. Unfortunately it recently decided my URL was a spam site and started blocking my comments on other peoples blogs (notably those of Leo and Alice .) It even blocks my comments here if I include my URL! I’ve tried contacting Akismet and tried marking my comments as “not spam” but so far nothing has helped.

If you have a WordPress blog that I often comment on, please check to see if any of my posts have been blocked by Akismet and mark them “not spam.”

You can do this by going to the WordPress Dashboard (by clicking Site Admin) then under the Spam heading click the link on the number of comments blocked. If any of my comments are trapped, please check Not Span and then click the box that unblocks the checked items. This should, supposedly, train Akismet so that it stops blocking my posts. Posts marked spam are only kept for 15 days so you probably need to do this every couple weeks to make sure there aren’t other false positives.

Thanks in advance.

What Day Is It?

Pi Day

Yes everyone, it’s 3/14. This is the day when we celebrate everyone’s favorite irrational number. (Yes, I know there are a lot of √2 fans also, but there isn’t any 41st of January!).

Did you all get your Pi Day cards in the mail at 1:59:27 this morning? I have to admit, I missed the deadline. Maybe next year.

Here’s a link where you can learn all about Pi Day.

I’ve just had this blog updated to the latest version of WordPress. I think I have all of the customizations back in place. If anyone notices anything that doesn’t match the pre-01/15/08 version, please post a comment here with info about it. Be sure to refresh your cache (CTRL-F5) to see the current state.

Podcast redux

Here is an up-to-date list of the podcasts I subscribe too. I enjoy them all and thought readers here might also find some of them interesting. Links are to the podcasts home pages but all can also be found (free) on iTunes.

StarStuff – Astronomy and space science. Weekly from Australia

Astronomy A Go-Go A weekly astronomy podcast for everyone. Emphasis on observing.

Astronomy Cast A weekly fact based journey through the cosmos. Can be a bit technical at times.

Cranky Geeks A weekly panel discussion of current technology news and developments. Host John C. Dvorak. Sometimes humorous, sometimes controversial.

Daily GizWiz Mad magazine writer, Dick DeBartolo, digs into his massive gadget collection. Daily Mon.-Fri.

FLOSS Weekly All about Free Libre Open Source Software. Supposedly weekly but erratic.

net@nite What’s happening on the ‘net right now? Host Amber MacArthur with Leo Laporte. Weekly.

Planetary Radio Weekly on space science and astronomy.

Security Now
Host Steve Gibson with Leo Laporte. Weekly discussion of computer security.

SolderSmoke Weekly discussion by amateur radio experimenters. Emphasis on DIY construction projects.

StarDate Daily, 2 minute, summary what to look for in the night sky.

The WordPress Podcast Weekly audio forum for news, tips and commentary on WordPress (the program that powers this blog.)

This Week In Tech Leo Laporte and others discuss the week’s tech news.

What’s New Now Weekly (in theory) discussion of technology news and events wit host Jim Louderback and guests .