Things I Have Learned…

… in 21 years of existence.

I won’t tell you exactly when I turned 21, but it was somewhat recently. Disregarding the first few years of life when I learned boring things like fine motor skills, facial recognition, and speech, I’ve learned quite a lot of lessons that I’d like to share with you here.

In no particular order:

  • Be a generally good person
  • Save some money each month
  • Never trust someone more than 80%
  • Spend time with loved ones
  • Homework first, play later
  • Have a hobby that is radically different from your job
  • Google is your friend
  • Help your neighbor out when asked
  • Do something stupid at least once
  • Listen to really old people’s stories
  • Stick to your guns
  • Do not be afraid to ask for help
  • Hang on to that one good friend, no matter what
  • Learn how to change tires and oil
  • Your voice sounds a lot different to others
  • You can’t fix stupid

That’s it for now. I’ll probably add on to the list and elaborate on a few of my favorites, but for now I have class.

The Sneaky Bastard…

As you may or may not know, I am a huge fan of the TV series Leverage. I recently bought seasons 1 and 2 on DVD and started watching from the beginning. I’ve seen all the episodes already, but sitting down and really watching them is almost as good as seeing them all for the first time.

And as you can probably guess, being a computer geek, my favorite character is Hardison. Normally the type of Hollywood hacking portrayed on TV bothers me to no end (*glares at the likes of CSI et al*) but the Leverage cast and crew pulls it off marvelously. Unrealistic? Sure. Fun to watch Hardison (and later Wil Wheaton) spread the nerd love? Hell yea.

Now one of the things I do that tends to annoy people is to point out the inaccuracies in tech scenes. Yea, I’m that guy, though I try not to be obnoxious about it. Anyway, while watching Leverage I always like to focus in on the scripts that Hardison runs. Usually they scroll by too fast, but I am used to a command-line interface so I can catch glimpses here and there.

Overall I’m impressed. While he does tend to use a flashy interface, most of his solid work is done in a terminal. This got me thinking. Since I own the DVD now, I can slow down and actually read what’s going on!

As I would expect, a lot of it is made to look cool. It sure as hell looks like real output though. I started doing this on The Mile High Job from season 1. At the 37 minute mark, Parker is looking at a control system in the cargo bank. I paused as soon as the screen came into focus, then stepped frame by frame reading each line.

Then I saw it.

“/Users/tomslattery/Documents/” yadda yadda yadda

My Google Fu brought me to this page. Sure enough, he’s listed as a Visual Effects Designer for Leverage! As far as I know, nobody else in the public realm has caught this. I’m impressed, not only because it looks like he knows his stuff, but because he left that little gem there for someone to find.

It gets better.

The text he uses in that scene (or possibly one earlier, can’t remember) is actually found in a deleted scene from The Miracle Job where Hardison has a flashback to his Finland bank hack. He has a program called “The Encryptor” running that appears to be the same script the attackers use to try and take down the plane!

Now if I can be “that guy” for a minute, I’d like to point something else out about the deleted Miracle Job scene. At the 31 second mark, Hardison has his script running (since God doesn’t outlaw crazy dancin’) and the output includes references to code that would not have existed when Hardison was a teenager. Specifically, I saw libssl 0.9.7 which I believe was first released as an alpha in 2004.

My eyes are on you, Tom…


Before you give me crap about making a class variable public, realize that making the title of this post a full code snippet would be annoying at best.

For you non-programmers out there, the title roughly translates to “Ah gots mah anvil!”

Came today a little after 1:30 while my dad and I were working on the base for a shed. Took it out, did a ring and bounce test (basically to test the quality) and then sadly had to leave it be for a bit.

We went to the bottom of the hill and I explained a bit about how I wanna do the forge setup. Gonna try a few arrangements and see what works. Also gonna invest in an easy-up-easy-down style roof, basically just some canvas or tarp with string on the corners. Gonna feed the string through some screw-in eyes put into four trees in the area.

Relating to the rust removal, I am planning on letting the nails sit for another 4 hours to make it a total of 24. I can see a lot of bubbles on the surface of the vinegar, which is a good sign. Not sure how well it will work, but here’s hoping.

Your Skill in Mining Has Increased!

Not really, but I did get some nice 9- and 12-inch nails for blacksmithing. Was at a friend’s house and the landlord was having some work done that involved pulling these big railroad tie-looking things out of the ground. They were held in place by some pretty rusty nails, and we managed to get 24 of them out.

We spent some time getting the rust off. At first we used a simple angle grinder but found that we were wasting time cutting into the metal. Then we went to Home Depot and got a wire bristled wheel that should have fit, but ended up being the wrong type.

Right now I’m just looking for ways to get the rust off so we can have some nice metal to work with. I’m doing something I am surprised I had never done before, and that is using Coke and vinegar (separately) to clean them. I have a little experiment set up that I am going to check in a few minutes (exactly 4 hours in each solution). I’ve heard arguments for and against these methods, so I figured some good old-fashioned scientific method would be best here.

In other news, my friend and I managed to get a railroad spike hot enough to make the tip somewhat rounded, and we turned one of the cleaned nails into a hot punch for later use. We’re also planning on turning two of the 12-inchers into a pair of tongs, and possibly welding two 9-inchers together for a longer pair.

We’re looking at various selections of fuel. We used up all of our charcoal but plan on making more soon. In the coal versus coke wars (coke in this sense meaning refined coal) we’re going with coke for a cleaner, hotter burn. The extra cost is well worth it I would imagine. I don’t think the neighbors would appreciate a large plume of yellow smoke.

Pretty excited about tomorrow, which is when the anvil should be here. Forge still is not built, but we are planning on taking some time to do it later in the week. Tongs are going to be an issue. I have some things that sorta work (long pliers and cooking tongs) but can’t handle metal with enough dexterity. Still a relatively long way to go, but the journey is part of the fun.

Not sure what else to say, really. Just lots of excitement.

A Scary Thought

It’s 6:00 PM and I am bored in class. Teacher is going on about the difference between reactive and proactive anti-virus. Fun stuff. I decide to check eBay for anvils, and after a few minutes I see one I like.

6:05 PM now, and I have decided to go through with the purchase. For $155 I could get a 40 lb anvil, 14″ long by 3″ wide with hardie and pritchel holes. Not a bad deal. At this point I realize it’s been a few years since I have used my eBay account, and I don’t remember the password.

6:07 PM. I go to recover my account info. I’m asked some questions that I know the answers to, but I have mistyped some of them. I’m tired, give me a break. I re-enter the info. Wrong again. Oops, I forgot that I used to use a different address. Third time’s a charm.

6:10 PM. Alright, “Buy Now”. Free shipping, so the total is $155, and I make a $5 donation to some children’s education fund. Oh crap, gotta verify via PayPal.

6:12 PM. Alright alright, I admit it. I wrote down the password to my PayPal because it was long, and the pass is at home somewhere. No problem, “I forgot it”. Not even asked questions this time, just for my email.

6:13 PM. Email arrives, click link, reset pass. Damn, not long enough. Alright, got it. PayPal pass changed.

6:14 PM. I go to confirm the order, change my address to my current one, and click the button to complete the order.

6:15 PM. I sit back and smile as I revel in my quick grab of a good deal.

6:16 PM. Holy shit I just did all of that in 15 minutes.

Think about this. In 15 minutes I went from being half-asleep in class to having goods shipped across the country to my doorstep. This could have easily been done by someone else with the right knowledge. Emails are fairly simple to intercept in a coffee shop. You can guess a staggeringly high amount of questions/answers. A professional criminal could have done this faster, and with more accounts nabbed in one sitting.

It’s kinda scary to think that I basically just hacked myself while answering questions in class and texting my friends. And I didn’t even realize I had done it.

Dear God I Antiqued…

I know, I know. Let the bashing begin.

If you had told me a few weeks ago that I would go antiquing, I would have laughed and called you insane. But recently I did just that.

Believe me, it wasn’t like I planned this. I was taking my girlfriend to pick up an application at a local shop, and I saw this antique store that I had passed a few times but never entered. I figured she might enjoy it, and we had some time to hang out, so we went in.

At first, I was a bit overwhelmed. There was just stuff. Stuff from floor to ceiling, wall to wall, and I was afraid that I would knock something over because the passages were so narrow. Luckily my girlfriend didn’t have this problem because she is tiny :)

After poking around for a bit, something caught my eye. It was a pile of old tools, some rusted some looking like they had just been forged. I was instantly hooked. I dug around for probably 20 minutes picking up this thing and that, wondering what each tool’s purpose was.

Eventually I settled on three. One was a combination hole punch and what I will call a “short little line” punch. The second was a simple ball-peen hammer that I liked. The third is my favorite of the lot, something I have come to understand is called a Farrier’s Nipper. Go figure. It’s basically like tongs used for clipping metal, I guess. I figured they would work as real tongs, then I could modify them a bit for a better grip. Total price was $13.

After dropping the diminutive one off, I decided to check the other stores in the area. It’s not a large town, but there were three other antique stores around so I checked them all. The first two had nothing of interest, but the third proved useful. At first I was skeptical, since the ladies working there looked prissy and way too polished up. I meandered to the back and found a small treasure trove of tools. Most were modern, but there were some nice older hammers there.

That’s when I saw her. She was beautiful, solid, and looked like she had some experience. Just holding her in my hands filled me with a sense of belonging. She was a 4-pound cross-peen hammer with fading red tape wrapped around the handle. The balance was perfect, and she just fit. And at $4.50, I had to have her.

It was a fiery romance from the beginning. I dressed her up in some electrical tape to improve the grip and hide the mildly unattractive red tape which was her only flaw. I named her Ahmer (pronounced “ommerr” with a slight roll of the R at the end) for the Arabic word for red.

So here we are now. I have her cradled lovingly in my lap as I type this, the warmth of my body transferring to her metal. I have a feeling she will provide me with many thrills as of yet unknown to me. It’s a beautiful thing we share…

Anyway, I know it’s still unmanly as all hell to go antiquing, but dammit where the hell else am I going to find these things?

Oh and as a side note, if you happen to have or know someone who has an anvil, do not hesitate to let me know.