We have been very busy lately.  Was told we are the busiest Embassy in the World right now with all we have going on, and at the same time I’m trying my best to stay healthy to get through the winter.  They say warmer weather will be here after March.  Not a month too soon.

With all our household belongings in the apartment, I spend the weekends getting my office set up the way I want.  I have several boxes of computer and electronic parts on the floor, and about a dozen boxes of books waiting on me to get a bookshelf set up.

Throughout my life, I have collected many electronic parts which I feel is a crime to discard.  When someone came up to me and said, “Hey Dwaine, do you have a …”  “I sure do!” was my reply.  But back in 2007, we sold our house in Texas and moved to Moscow to work.  I told myself it was time to grow up and part with the majority of my precious toys.

I remember well the day I backed my truck up to the landfill and tossed out my valued treasures, fighting back the tears.  Didn’t matter whether they worked or not, because you never knew when one might need the flyback transformer from a 12” monochrome CRT.  Or an IBM motherboard with a full 640k memory on it.  There was a box of capacitors taken from old radios that I salvaged.  Many years ago, I dismantled an old mainframe computer for the wonderful parts.  Coils and solenoids, motors and fans.  Wire harnesses and terminal blocks and lights galore!  It was wonderful!  On top of that, I had a brother that would send me old parts from commercial mainframes that had gone bad.  And all those … were tossed too.

There was a flat box with about a hundred compartments, that I had separated my scrapped electronic components into groups so I could find them quicker.  I could not get myself to just toss it out like a farmer feeding the hogs, so I gently laid it on a pile of garbage like I was putting a child to sleep.

And as I drove off with my nose running from the tears, or maybe the stench and dust, I looked in the rear view mirror just in time to see the monster compacting machine rolling over all my belongings, smashing the crap out of everything.  I think I saw an evil grin on the driver’s face.  To this day, I feel it was Satan.

Well, as nature would have it, I am still collecting electronic junk, only now, I haul it from country to country.  And it is all setting on the floor not far from me as I type this.  During the past decade, I have upgraded from desktop computers to laptops, and gone to more powerful operating systems.  What I have ended up with, are three old laptops that I didn’t know what to do with.  Throw them out, you say?  Ah, no.  I don’t think I can handle the tears again.

Then about a month ago, I saw an article on the Web about using old computers to work on scientific projects from your home.  So, I did some checking and found an amazing site that you can set up your computer to work in conjunction with literally thousands of other personal computers around the world.  The idea was to use your computer when it was idling, like when you go get more coffee, or watch another episode of Wedding Chapel Blues, or Bait Shop Hussy or whatever they have these days.

So, I sat the three machines up and tied them to the Internet and got them all updated.  Downloaded a program called BOINC which is a part of the University of California at Berkley, and chose three different projects and assigned one to each of my little machines.

One is running a program called Rosetta, which helps determine the 3-dimensional shape of proteins as part of research that may ultimately contribute to cures for major human diseases such as AIDS / HIV, Malaria, Cancer, and Alzheimer’s.

Another is running Docking, which is a project that aims to further knowledge of the atomic details of protein-ligand interactions and, by doing so, to facilitate the discovery of novel pharmaceuticals.

And the third is running a program called eOn Client, which works on a common problem in theoretical chemistry, condensed matter physics and materials science is the calculation of the time evolution of an atomic scale system where, for example, chemical reactions and/or diffusion occur.

As you may have guessed, I had to cut and paste all that as most of it went over my head like a bird in a windstorm.  But look!  These machines are proof that you should never discard things of beauty!

At night as I lay in bed, I can hear these computers running in the other room with their fans working hard to keep them cool.  Sometimes in the middle of the night, if I get up to pee and get a drink of water, I will wonder into the office and check up on them like a mother checking her babies.  Satisfied, I go back to bed dreaming of the success of hording electronic junk.

Keep kicking.  D.

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