On Fireworks

The Tucson area is filled with tons of fireworks stands; even the grocery stores have displays of fireworks available for sale. There’s even a “discount fireworks” tent on a vacant lot next to a road I frequently drive on.

However, the actual use of retail fireworks (as opposed to the big stuff used by professionals in approved displays) is prohibited in the city of Tucson. Indeed, many cities and counties prohibit the use of fireworks, as they’re enormous fire risks. Same thing with all Federal lands within the state borders (e.g. National Forests, National Parks, BLM land, etc.).

Nevertheless, business as the fireworks stands appears to be going gangbusters as people stock up for the Fourth of July celebrations.

It’s 103F outside now with 16% humidity (it was 108F yesterday and 8%). Combined with it being incredibly hot and dry, there’s already several huge wildfires raging in the state, so firefighting resources are occupied with combating these fires. All we need now is some idiot to inadvertently set some new fire with his fireworks.

Yes, the Fourth of July is traditionally celebrated with fireworks, but buying (and presumably using) fireworks with the current weather and fire conditions seems like an enormously stupid thing to do.

I hope people are responsible, use their fireworks in appropriate areas, and have suitable means of quickly extinguishing any resulting fires quickly and completely.

CloudFlare Followup

A few days ago I posted about how I was going to be testing CloudFlare on this site.

Here’s a snippet of the stats generated since then:

(click to enlarge)
By caching static content (images, CSS files, JavaScript, etc.) at various datacenters around the world, the service has substantially sped up the response of my site (between 50-67%, depending on the day), as well as saving a not-insubstantial amount of bandwidth (which is nice, as I pay for bandwidth used).

About 10% of visits were known threats, usually comment spammers but occasionally automated exploit hack attempts and botnet zombies. These are blocked from getting to the site.

I’ve received no complaints from legitimate users, either by email or through the CloudFlare messaging system (it shows up for blocked visitors), which is an extra plus.

So far, things look quite promising. It may be more effective for more traffic-heavy sites than my own, but even for a small site like this one it’s saved a bunch of resources.

On Moving

I preparation for our move to Switzerland, my wife and I have been going through all of our possessions. Some items, like clothes, computers, silverware, and dishes are getting boxed up and prepped for shipping.

Other items, which we’d like to keep but can’t justify bringing to Europe (or which won’t work with the electricity there), are getting boxed up to bring to the homes of our respective parents, who have been kind enough to donate some attic space for our boxes.

Then there’s the crap. Holy moly, is there crap. We’re not hoarders by any stretch, but when you put three people (two of whom are teachers) into a smallish two-bedroom condo, clutter seems to accumulate rapidly. There’s reams of papers, mostly in binders, that relate to school stuff (lesson plans and the like), posters and other in-class stuff, and so on. In going through the closets, there’s a huge amount of clothes that haven’t been worn for years (that goes straight to Goodwill), old electronics, and so on.

In the last month or so, we’ve taken probably a dozen kitchen garbage bags worth of clothes to Goodwill, recycled a bunch of old electronics, and shredded or recycled a massive amount of paper. We sold the bed (and moved to the futon), then sold the futon (and moved to an air mattress loaned from a friend). The tropical fish and their stand has been moved to a friend’s house for the duration. All that’s left is the TV (anyone in the Phoenix area want a 32-inch flat-panel 720p CRT TV and black IKEA TV stand?), a few bookshelves, a desk (anyone want an IKEA desk?), two chairs, and the computer.

Sure, it’s not spring anymore, but we’ve taken spring cleaning to a whole new level.

Now, to keep things this simple when we’re in Europe…

CloudFlare Testing

I’ve decided to test CloudFlare service on my blog.

It’s basically a DDoS-resistant caching service that should increase page loading speed for visitors.

In addition, it also detects potentially malicious traffic (ranging from spammers to botnet members) to the blog and will block them with a “challenge” page that describes why they were blocked and offer a CAPTCHA to proceed. While it’s supposedly quite good at not blocking legitimate users, it may inadvertently challenge ordinary visitors. If this occurs to you, please let me know (either by email or by filling in the appropriate field on the challenge page).

New Rifle & Camera

As I have been getting ready to move in August, I’ve been selling off or donating most of my non-essential personal possessions. Old clothing and shoes have gone to Goodwill, along with some old electronics. It’s amazing how little cruft I had accumulated over the years.

Some things, however, are staying in the US: several of our wedding presents (for example a waffle iron, a new blender, and so on) are electric and only work on 120V 60Hz power, and so won’t work in Europe (where 240V 50Hz power is the norm). Others, like our nice crystal glassware, are fragile and valuable, and we don’t want to risk shipping them. While the Swiss will allow us to import essentially all of my firearms (with some paperwork, naturally), we’re not going to take them over right away: they’re bulky, heavy, require secure transport, and we have higher-priority stuff that needs to go first.

With all this paring down, it may seem odd that I would be purchasing new things. Some things, such as updating my wardrobe, make sense as clothing is quite expensive in Switzerland (a $40 pair of Levi’s jeans here in Arizona is about $180 in Bern), but I’ve also added a new camera and rifle to my stable.

My friend Louis had recently upgraded from his Nikon D40 to a D7000 and was looking at selling his camera, an 18-55mm lens, a 55-200mm VR lens, and some filters for a great price. I’ve been looking for a decent D-SLR for a while, and the offer was something I couldn’t refuse. Having a decent camera seems to go quite well with moving to a very photogenic country.

I have also been looking at getting a Swiss K31 rifle for some time (coincidentally the same country I’m moving to for graduate school), as they’re modestly priced, well-made, and extremely accurate. My friend Nathan had one and doesn’t shoot it much, so he made me a good offer and I’ll be picking it up next week. While it’s likely going to stay here in the US with my other firearms, I may see about taking it to Switzerland after we move (e.g. if we come back to the US for the holidays, I could take it back then). The Swiss don’t make much of a hassle about importing firearms, and I seriously doubt they’d make a fuss about bringing a Swiss-made rifle back to its country of origin. If I do bring it to the country, it’s likely that I can get ammo for cheap, which is good. :)