What's up around Concord?

This week the Concord Public Library launched it's new website. Some of the new features on the website include access to the Special Collections including original survey diagrams by Thoreau, as well as a Brief History of Concord.

Since April or May of this year the library has been closed while under renovations and additions. It's expected to reopen in January, and I supposed the new and improved website is part of the PR to build anticipation for the reopening. I for one have been anticipating the reopening for quite a while. I live just a couple blocks from it, and I can't wait to start spending my weekends there in new reading rooms. For me, the library has been particularly difficult to concentrate in because of the creaky floor boards.

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Photo Gallery of Mexico: Oaxaca, Mont Alban, San Miguel de Allende

Click for Mexico Photo Gallery

[View My Photo Gallery] [ Travel Mexico with 3rd House Party]

What follows is an excerpt from a personal letter to a friend in Spain, made shortly after my return home from Mexico:

[August, 1999] For my trip to the south of Mexico I used the budget travel guide "Let's Go". When I arrived at the airport in Mexico City, I found that my luggage was lost, but I was so tired that I was having difficulty thinking& even in English! That night I went to a hotel where my reservations were made one week in advance and a clerk at the desk told me that I did not have a reservation. He denied that that I paid money, and told me that there was another hotel across the street. After some arguing, someone helped me out. The clerk finally returned my money, 130 Pesos and I left. It was clear that this clerk was lying and wanted to keep my money, and he immediately rented the room to someone else.

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Old friends, faded memory, and good conversations

Yesterday evening, I had the great pleasure of a visit from my old friend Bettina from Germany. Together Mercedes and I met Bettina and her husband Bernhard for dinner at the Colonial Inn here in Concord. I first met Bettina in 1994 while staying at the Vashon Island Youth Hostel near Seattle. I found it striking that I had forgotten the exact circumstance that we met at the hostel. The hostel offered free materials for making your own pancake breakfast, and for Bettina it was her first time so I helped out a bit. Later we continued talking while taking the ferry to Seattle, and in my own memory this is where we met.

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Epson Perfection 1670 Photo, Negative, and Slide Scanner

I'd like to recommend the Epson Perfection 1670 Scanner for the purpose of scanning photographic slides. I recently purchased one at Best Buy for just $89 which is very reasonable compared to its big brother the Epson 3170 for $189. I read the CNET reviews and a couple of them seemed negative, but I figured I could always return it if the quality really was sub par, and that was why I bought it directly from a local store rather than by discount mail order.
Thumbnail View of Resulting Image from Scanning Two Slides at 800 pixels/inch  (image height reduced from 3000 to 300)

Setup was easy, although the many layers of wrapping and stickers was a pain. It includes a black frame to hold either a strip of negatives or two slides. This frame lays on top of the glass pane, and after removing the white reflector on the under side of the lid, a top light is exposed. In slide mode, the scanner shines this light through the slide or negative and onto the electronic receiver under the glass.


After some testing, I settled on a scan resolution of 800 pixels/inch. The scanner generates an image of the black frame and the two slides (a smaller version of the scan result is shown to the left here), and then the user must later perform image editing to isolate each slide into its own image file. Because the slides were scanned into this combined image, the resolution needs to be larger because you end up trimming it down to separate the two slide images. Depending on image detail, this combined slide image was typically 2 - 4 MB, and then each image isolated from it ranged about 800 kb - 1 MB. I tried to up the resolution to 1200, but the scan time was unreasonably long at 3-5 minutes. At 800 dpi, the total time to put two slides on the bed, scan them, & remove them was about a minute and a half.


I recently scanned my Yellowstone and Alaska slide collections, each one culled down about 125 slides per set. To scan a set of 125 images, crop the individual slides from the dual scan, and then edit the images in Adobe Photoshop to remove the specs of dust and improve the brightness required about 6 hours each. At 6 hours per set, that pretty much ate up my weekend, but to have high quality digital images made from my withering slides provided a great relief. I think the Epson slide scanner was a very good purchase and well worth the cost. In 1997 I had some of those slides scanned at a little shop on Kneeland street in Boston, at a cost of $1.25 per slide. I recently checked prices and found that $1 per slide was about the norm, which would have cost perhaps $250 in total.


Previously, I purchased the Nikon Slide Copying Adapter ES-E28 for my Nikon Coolpix 995. This requires an external light source and I found it very difficult to get sufficient light, and even pointing it at the Sun on a very bright day wasn't good enough. The problem was that the center of the image would be at a higher brightness than the edges, making it look like the slide was taken in a tunnel. I was very unhappy with the slide scanning feature of that adapter. To the contrary though, I scanned some negatives with ES-E28 and I found it worked very well.

Hiking in Alaska's Denali National Park

Hiking in Denali National Park, A Photo Gallery

This photo gallery of Alaska is a collection of images from my trips to Alaska in August 1992, December 1992, and August 1994. The destinations along the way include:

  • Seattle, Washington
  • Vashon Island, Washington
  • Anchorage, Alaska
  • Denali National Park
  • Talkeetna, Alaska
You can also read about an interesting night on the Thorofare River here.

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Hiking in Yellowstone National Park

Hiking in Yellowstone National Park, A Photo Gallery


In 1993 I hitched, walked, climbed, and hiked from Jackson Hole, Wyoming to Yellowstone National Park. Along the way I covered around 10 minor peaks and logged about 150 miles by foot. For most of my trip, I visited with my friend Karen Heidemann of Bremen, Germany. Karen volunteered in Yellowstone on a botany science project for the whole summer, and she is now a professor of botany at the University of Trier. This was one of the best trips in my life, and I'm happy to have discovered Yellowstone in a much more thorough way.


Let me tell you about the time I woke up under a buffalo...


Photos include the following:


  • Mammoth Hot Springs
  • Sepulcher Mountain
  • Mount Everts
  • Electric Peak
  • Skyline Trail in the Gallatins
  • Bighorn Peak
  • Bunsen Peak
  • Gardiner River (Boiling River)
  • Osprey Falls
  • Norris Geyser Basin
  • Pronghorn Antelope
  • Buffalo
  • Elk
  • Bighorn Sheep
  • Wildflowers

Red Hat has launched WIDE OPEN Magazine


Red Hat has launched WIDE OPEN Magazine, a technical magazine for open source professionals and advocates. The magazine will feature a range of topics, from technical information to thought-provoking editorials about the future of open source. WIDE OPEN will collaborate with other industry leaders and Red Hat partners to bring subscribers a variety of views and opinions.


The Red Hat Magazine is currently available in Italy, Germany, and France. Starting in 2004, Red Hat, Inc. and bmind, LLC are offering the Wide Open Magazine, a Red Hat magazine. The Premiere edition of the US magazine will be available in March 2004. If you subscribe now, you will receive a System Administration CD as a free gift. A subscription includes 6 magazines a year and 3 CDs of open source software such as Fedora Core 1 with every issue. A preview of one of the articles is available online.

Molecular Biology and IT Classes at Harvard Extension School

The Harvard Extension School offers a great selection of courses in both Biology and Computer Science, making a great combination of classes to help ramp up on Bioinformatics. Having been working in IT for 4+ years now, I've been growing rusty on my Biology skills and knowledge, and in an effort to refresh myself and make some gains towards my interest in Bioinformatics I've decided to take a couple courses this semester.


Starting tomorrow, I'll be taking Principles of Genetics and Biochemistry II, on Monday evenings. In addition, I'll be adding to my programming skills with XML with J2EE on Thursday nights.


Thinking ahead a bit, this sequence might be well followed by the Genomics and Computational Biology and Introduction to Proteomics in for the Fall semester, and then Web Services in the Spring of 2005.


On a related note, the Bio-IT World Expo will be held in Boston again, March 30 - April 1, at the Hynes Convention Center. Although I have attended some of the past I3C meetings, I feel that I'm still a bit premature to get much out of this year's conference. I think I'll be better prepared to attend the expo in 2005.


Ten years ago I completed Neurobiology, Signal Transduction, and Molecular Biology at the Harvard Extension School, and more recently a Java course. I feel that enables me to make a fair comparison. I elieve that the quality of courses at Harvard, with regard to both the faculty and facilities, is superior to any of the other local universities also catering to the continuing education crowd. I especially enjoyed the MolBio class by David Dressler at Harvard. Dr. Dressler was especially articulate, comfortable, and knowledgeable in front of the class, although I don't see any courses benefiting from his instruction in recent semesters.


At Brandeis, I took an Intro to XML course, an Advanced Java course, and a Cell Biology course, and only the XML course met my expectations for faculty, and all of them fell way short in my expectations for quality of facilities. All of the CS courses at Brandeis@Night are held in a single deteriorating building with poor HVAC, kindergarten-like wooden chairs, and sardine-like seating arrangements. My advice is to avoid Brandeis if at all possible.

Configuring the Walmart Microtel Special as a Linux/Windows Workstation

Last summer I purchased another pc system while I was considering setting up my own Linux webserver to run off my aDSL line. I decided to try it on the cheap, so I read a review of the Walmart special, a Microtel SYSMAR417 PC with Lycoris Linux OS & AMD Duron 1.2GHz and 128MB RAM, for just $199, and went for it. I was skeptical about the Lycoris Linux OS becuase I've been using Red Hat since RH5 in 1998, but I thought I'd give it a chance. Just as I was starting to admire the Lycoris graphical interface, I was prompted for a some kind of registration and there was something about a fee. Well, its been a while now, and I really don't recall exactly what turned me off about Lycoris, but it was then that I grabbed my Redhat 9 CDs and felt a sense of relief about the time I got to Disk Druid to reformat and partition it myself.

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CF_MKVDK: Programmatically Index Documents with Verity's Utility mkvdk

Unofficial Workaround for CFMX Crashes When Indexing PDF documents on Solaris.

If you've ever been interested in checking out the Verity tool "mkvdk" or if you are currently experiencing JVM crashes when indexing PDF files on Solaris with CFMX 6.0 or 6.1, then you may want to have a look at a custom tag cf_mkvdkcreated as replacement for using CFINDEX.

In the ColdFusion documentation the mkvdk utility is described, briefly, as:

"The mkvdk utility is an indexing application, provided with other Verity utilities, that you can use to create and maintain collections. It is a command-line utility that you can use within other applications or shell scripts to provide more sophisticated scheduling and other capabilities."

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