The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Penn & Teller

Bunny and I went to see Penn & Teller live at the Kravis Center for Performing Arts. We both had a good time watching them from the nosebleed section, despite having already seen most of their act on television and YouTube (the only new thing we saw was Penn juggling fire batons (pretty easy according to Penn) and broken wine bottles (which is hard, given they're different weights and, well, wrist-slittingly sharp)). We also saw them deal with victims volunteers who, shall we say, weren't quite up to speed (“No, keep your arm up … no, up! Hold it here! No … here!”).

The one trick I was hoping to see was their famous bullet catch, but alas, they did not do that trick. They did, however, allow one person in the audience to have their smart phone video record disappearing and reappearing in a dead fish. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see the resulting video, so we still have no idea how that trick was done.

Oh wait …

An amusing spam email that certainly wins the “Nice Attempt To Bypass Spam Filtering Programs” Award

henry thomas <>
undisclosed recipients: ;
Hello, I'm Henry Thomas 22 years old boy,I humbly write to solicit for your partnership and assistance in transferring and investing of my inherited fund which is USD$8.3.M US Dollars from my late father who died during the crisis in my country.Please I need your urgent assistant, contact for more information on how you are going to receive the total fund for an inverstment in your country and also assist me to join you to continue my education as well,I wait your reply. Mr Henry Thomas
Sat, 6 Feb 2016 20:19:32 +0900 (JST)


That's it. That's the entire email message. Either “henry thomas” confused the subject line entry field for the email entry field, or this is a novel attempt to avoid content filtering of email for spam analysis.

I'm almost tempted to reply to him in the subject line to see if he does likewise, and thus, we carry out an entire email conversation via empty emails and overly long and verbose subject lines.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Shatner's World

I must say, William Shatner certainly put on a show. Over the span of two hours (which didn't feel at all like two hours) he regaled the audience with stories of his life (and make no mistake—this is his show, all about things Shatner), how he started in theater (and why … he does … those … dramatic pauses in … his speech!) moved into film and television, his dealing with death (his father, a beloved horse, his third wife) and of course, his “singing” career. He did “sing” “Real,” but did not “sing” “Space Oddity,” “Major Tom (Coming Home)” or most regrettably—perhaps mercifully depending upon your view, “Rocket Man.”

Other than not “singing” some of his more notorious “songs” it was fun. And you never got the idea he's 84. Eighty-four! And surprisingly, the auditorium wasn't even all that full. I mean, Shatner! How can you not like him? Unless you're George Takei that is.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Notes on two overheard phone conversations pertaining to some nefarious objective

Young Mr. Hoade!”

“I have bad tidings, young Mr. Conner! The accursed airline has cancelled my flight! Now my plans to kidnap you have gone astray!”

“Those scofflaws! Did they perchance give a pathetic excuse for the cancellation?”

“We're currently having … a weather moment here in Lost Wages.”

Weather moment? Does Lost Wages even have weather? as I seem to recall, it's either bright and scortching hot, or dark and freezing cold.”

“Apparently the pilots here do not know how to react to a light drizzle.”

“As your attorney, I advise you to go medieval on their behinds. Also, I see they have a flight that is not cancelled, going to Detroit followed by a flight here to Lower Sheol. Try getting on that one.”

“Will do, young Mr. Conner!”

“Young Mr. Hoade!”

“I have good tidings, young Mr. Conner! I found another airline that will attempt the perilous flight through a light drizzle to Lower Sheol!”

“Another airline? What happened to the accursed airline?”

“All flights cancelled. None of their pilots could face the slight misting from dihydrogen monoxide.”

“So you got a round trip from the other airline?”

“No, one way. The accursed airline will still honor the trip back from Lower Sheol to Lost Wages.”

“I'm flummoxed.”

“The accursed airline refunded the entire ticket price and let me keep the return ticket. I was then able to get a one-way ticket on the other airline to Lower Sheol.”


“And I shall still be able to kidnap you tomorrow.”

“And I shall still be able to drive the getaway car.”

House of the Rising Sun, here we come!”

Monday, January 04, 2016

The Big Short

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

—Upton Sinclair

Markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.

—John Maynard Keynes

Bunny and I just saw “The Big Short,” based on the book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine. I can't say anything about the book, not having read it, but the movie was good. It was also amusing in that it broke the fourth wall multiple times. Such as when they cut to someone famous, like celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain or economist Richard Thaler and actress/singer Selena Gomez, and have them explain some complicated financial term through cooking or playing black jack. Other cases of breaking the fourth wall occur when characters have just finished a scene and then explain that it really didn't happen that way.

It was amusing. And it just worked for this movie.

It's well worth seeing.

And it was also sobering to see just how crazy the housing bubble was.

Friday, January 01, 2016

All's quiet on the New Year Front

It's next year. And it's finally quiet outside. I can only hope it stays this way.

And that we still have a lawn.

Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, Debtember 31, 2015

It's the end of the year so lets blow stuff up!

Good Lord! It sounds like the Middle East outside, and that can mean only one thing—our neighbor is setting off fireworks. Sigh.

And to think that Bunny and I specifically drove to Brevard to avoid his Fourth of July show It's not that we hate our neighbor—we don't! He's a lovely guy. It's just that … well … he goes a bit overboard with the fireworks. And it's not like I'm the “get off my lawn!” type of person, but I'm afraid to look outside and find we don't have a lawn!

Jenkies! Did that just hit the house?

I'm hunkering down until next year!

Wednesday, Debtember 30, 2015

So how do you determine undefined behavior in a language you are reverse engineering?

I generated a list of all possible commands in INRAC. That was easy enough to do as everything is pretty much separated by spaces. I also resorted to writing my own INRAC programs to play around with some of the odder parts of the language. By doing those things, I'm able to see what various constructs do in order to reverse engineer this bizarre language.

For instance, *6.2&N. That's a call to section 6, lines that have two letter labels where the second letter is “N”. So, any of the following lines:

AN boredom 8 bored 7 bore 7 gloom 8 gloomy 8 empty 8 hollow
BN stupidity 8 stupid 7 idiot 7 folly 8 silly 7 fool 7 jerk
CN feeling 12 feel 7 emotion 7 passion 8 passionate 8 hysterical
DN craziness 8 crazy 8 bananas 8 random 8 strange 8 weird
DN humor 7 joke 7 jokes
EN doubt
GN junk 12 stinks 8 cruel 8 useless 8 lousy 8 bad 7 garbage 
HN idleness 8 lazy 7 loafer 8 easy
JN art 8 creative 7 artist 7 life 8 alive
MP pray 8 holy

Assuming it picks “EN”, *6.2&N will return “doubt”. But if you change it to *6.4&N, and it still picks line “EN” you'll get “doubting”. Change the second number and you'll get “doubted”, “doubter” and even “doubtingness”. In looking at the section header, this has a (what I'm calling) “parsing value” of 2, which I think means “this is a list of verbs, conjugate depending upon second number.”

In the above code snippet, the numbers apply to the word following and inform INRAC of what to return for that part of speech (say for irregular verbs). There also appears to be synonyms thrown in. For instance, I wrote:

X *6MP *6.1MP *6.2MP *6.3MP *6.4MP *6.5MP *6.6MP *6.7MP *6.8MP *6.0MP

And got the following output:

prayes prayes pray prayed praying prayed prayer holiness holy pray

So it appears that the word defined for “.8” also affects the word defined for “.7”. Interesting.

I'm not sure what >31*6.2()47 fully does (examples from yesterday). It does set variable 31 to a random conjugated verb in section 6 but I can't determine what else it does. The parenthesis don't seem to do anything, nor does the extra number at the end.

I also figured out what !2*11&npr does. It sets variable 2 to the output of calling section 11, lines labeled with a term endig in “npr”. But it also outputs the section; >2*11&npr would just do an assignment with no output. This bit of weirdness: !2'3'4*11&npr, does the same as !2*11&npr but clears variables 3 and 4. Go figure.

Obligatory Picture

[Don't hate me for my sock monkey headphones.]

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

You have my permission to link freely to any entry here. Go ahead, I won't bite. I promise.

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