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, October 13, 2001

Afghanistan—it's a dangerous place

Gone were the network war hogs who hiked in from Peshawar and wrote stirring tales of muj bravery. Now sleek white UN turboprops off-loaded female journalists in waiting chauffeur-driven black Mercedes. Over lunch and dinner at the UN mansion (with exercise room, satellite television and bar) they chronicled the horrors of the lack of health care, the treatment of women and generally how life sucked and apparently just for women. There was even a standard journo junket. The first stop was to see Mullah Qalaamuddin, the deputy head of the Religious Police (the Department for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice), where every writer was assured to get a few giggles from the latest fatwah: no paper bags, no white socks, four fingers of beard and no picture-taking. Then off to a barber for a little humor, a clandestine visit to a girl's school, pack a lunch for the Friday executions and then back to Peshawar to file. The object of their journalist lust? The dreaded burqa, a garment worn by every women outside of cosmopolitan Kabul for centuries but suddenly held up as being a sign of the devil in Kabul. Not many paid attention when Hekmatyar made it mandatory long before the Talibs showed up. The writers never really mentioned that they were in the most destroyed city on earth, a militarily occupied zone with a war raging 15 kilometers to the north, rockets raining into the city and young men are pressganged. Somehow in their zeal to create women's rights in a country staggering to its knees, they forget to mention the complete lack of jobs, housing, medical care, health services and education for men (who must provide for their women and children) let alone women. The articles inflamed the world and shut down any aid to the wartorn region. How did the Taliban get lynched on women's rights? It's akin to taking the KKK to task for not providing minority scholarships.


This is a fun site. The commentary is colorful yet very informative, using humor to get the point across—this (and every other country profiled on the site) is a very dangerous place to be, and why the place is dangerous.

They even give background information on the Players in the area, like this on the Osama bin Laden:

So let's just say Binny is the bearded Ross Perot of the Middle East. Technically Binny Bang Bang (he keeps going an going and going and going …) can now join Castro and Qaddafi for drinks at the Bad Boy's Club, unless the United States keeps turning off his cash flow. A man with 40 brothers, 13 sisters and wealthy patrons can probably play hide the pickle longer than the State Department can. For now bin Laden is a right-wing billionaire (or millionaire or even destitute, depending who you talk to) who combines industrial activity with political activism.

Afghanistan-Osama bin Laden

Or even this on the Taliban:

The black-turbaned Taliban are a PR agent's worst nightmare. A visual mix of Darth Vader gansta rappers and rejects from a Bible play, they come to press conferences with Noriega-style Ray Bans, scruffy beards, long black robes, armed bodyguards and an attitude that makes Louis Farrakhan seem like Mr. Rogers. The Taliban are not bad guys, they're just a little rough around the edges and they don't get out much. Maybe a guest shot on Oprah with a sensitivity coach would help them "address their issues." Their leaders are primarily 40-something muj selected from the Durrani tribes from the backwater southern provinces of Helmand and Uruzgan. They are a simple, pure people led by very religious but culturally isolated mullahs who want outsiders out of Afghanistan and to establish a pure Islamic state. They are simply mad as hell at foreign intervention and ain't gonna take it any more. The funny thing is their northern enemy says they are just the latest Pakistani-backed stooges in this too-long-running war movie/soap opera.

Afghanistan-The Taliban

You should probably just go read the site before I quote it in its entirety here.

How to even describe this thought

I just had a weird thought.

Native Americans, those that where here before the European invasion of 1492 and covering those of both North and South America, are genetically incapable of growing facial hair.

The Taliban made it a crime to have a beard less than four finger widths in length, and if it isn't long enough, you spend time in jail until you have one long enough.

So, does that mean that a Native American, assuming one would want to, can't belong to the Taliban? He probably can't become an Orthodox Jew or even become an Amish Mennonite.

“Although,” said Spring when I told her this, “the Amish might be more forgiving and let one become a member.”

“But in the Amish community, when a man becomes married, he has to let his beard grow,” I said.

“Okay, then maybe a Native American who becomes Amish can't get married,” she said.

Like I said, it was a wierd thought.

Sunday, October 14, 2001

Post Apocalyptic Boca Raton

Spring and I were hanging out with Mark, Kelly and Adam when I suggested we take a walk. It was an option earlier in the evening but we found ourselves bowling, Denny's and finally back at Mark's. All agreed except for Adam, and after a long conversation about which vehicle Adam would drive home, either the Mitubishi SUV or the BMW 325i (he was renting both, but lending one of them to Mark—don't ask, long story) he left (in the BMW 325i as he had a date later on) and the rest of us took a walk through residential Boca Raton.

We ended up in a section of Boca Raton just east of FAU where Mark and Kelly showed Spring and I an abandoned section of Boca Raton which was very interesting.

It seems that during the late 60s/early 70s a developer had built some roads and put up four demo homes in this particular area and thought he could get approximately $100k per home, when homes in that area at that time were going for $50k-$70k per home. No one bought in, and after awhile the demo homes were knocked down and the area left to itself.

The roads are still there but are mostly overgrown and you can't even see the area from the populated roads immediately around it. Water and electrical services are still there; it's just waiting for some developer to buy the land and start building, but we decided to head back there during the day to take pictures and document the area before anything happens to it.

It's about the closest you'll get to a post-Apocalyptic Boca Raton in Boca Raton, and I'm amazed it's been like this for so long.

Almost live

Just finished up with some last minute bugs in mod_blog and now it's pretty much ready to go live. I now need to write lots of verbiage describing what I'm trying to do, but reguardless if it's ready or not, it will go live by Tuesday, the latest.

Woo hoo!

In going through past entries testing the navigation, I realized that I had actually repeated myself. On April 20th of last year, I wrote about Hoade and I meeting Jim Davis (who we meet on April 20th of 1981). I also wrote about it this year on August 16th.


I get the feeling I may repeat myself from time to time.

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

Hey! I know him!

Oh my!

It seems that my friend Ken and his Significant Other made the front page of the USA Today Money Section. The article is about couples that both loose their job and how hard it is to survive in these lean uncertain times.

Ken is managing by forming a company with his Significant Other in order to keep the money coming in and them under their new house.

Oh my!

Van Gush

Spring and I were out buying a mattress (my twin bed mattress is not cutting it; neither is Spring's futon mattress) when we noticed a copious amount of radiator fluid underneath the van. She popped the hood and it looked like a small hose came loose and was draining all the fluid. But it was on the bottom of the engine block, so it was hard to reach it from the top, and nearly impossible to see it from the bottom without getting an eyeful of chemicals.

Spring tried reaching down but when she grabbed the hose it fell off. It was a small segment of hose, maybe five inches in length. Fortunately, there was an auto repair shop next door. Unfortunately, the auto repair shop was closed (it being 6:00 pm and all), but fortunately, there was an auto parts store across the street. We decided to load up the van with the mattress and drive there.

They couldn't help us. No one there knew anything about vans, and even if they did, Margate city ordinances disallowed anyone making vehicle repairs in the parking lot (according to a sign on the building).

We then decided to attempt the drive home and hope the tempurature would stay low. We got about two miles before having to turn into a parking lot and shut the engine off to cool it. Spring was jonesing for a cigarette so we got out of the van to walk to a gas station on the other side of the parking lot when we realized we parked right in front of an auto repair shop that was still open!

We have to leave the van there overnight while they check it out. Meanwhile, we called Rob to pick us up at the repair shop.

Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Van Gone

The repair shop called today—the bottom of the radiator is completely rusted and needs about $1,200 for repairs. Spring had been thinking about selling the van anyway, since it had been overcome by entropic forces anyway. She was able to sell to one of the mechanics.

We headed over there to clean out the contents. Unfortunately, we had to leave the mattress there since it wouldn't fit in my car, but we made plans to transport it home with Rob since he has a vehicle large enough to transport it.

When tuna goes bad

“Hey, what happened to the tuna?” I asked. There was a small Tupperware container of tuna in the refrigerator.

“I gave it to the cat,” Spring said. “It was old and kinda off. You can't eat that, but the cat can.”


“Yea, dogs and cats have great immune systems—it comes from licking your butt.”


Thursday, October 18, 2001

On Hearses and Mattresses

We had a rather busy afternoon today. Rob, Spring and I spent a couple of hours having lunch and picking up a mattress.

Lunch was at Stir Crazy's, with the misspelled Chinese words but the food is good.

We then drove to pick up Rob's hearse. Yes, he owns a hearse. A 1972 Cadillac Hearse. The thing is huge. The thing is purple. The thing is feared and hated by the Condo Commandos so Rob parks it at a local storage facility.

We drive over to the auto repair shop to pick up the mattress. They were rather amused to see a hearse pull up, and even more amused when we loaded the mattress into the back of it (it almost laid flat—yes, the hearse is that big).

Then home, a quick unload of the mattress, and then back to the storage place before the Condo Commandos give us any grief.

hack hack hack

Lots of work on the code that drives the Boston Diaries. Lots of clean up work.

The Creature Wasn't Nice

Late in the evening, Spring and I met Mark and Kelly at a restaurant for dinner, then over to Mark's house to watch a movie.

We ended up watching The Creature Wasn't Nice (aka “Naked Space”). It starred Cindy Williams and Leslie Neilsen as crew members aboard an exploration starship that is being terrorized by a large slimy, gelatinous creature. It's amusing, but it just doesn't sink to the levels of badness that Plan 9 from Outer Space achieves that makes it worth the trouble of seeing.

The Creature Wasn't Nice isn't a film I would go out of my way to see, but if it's there, and there's nothing else worth watching, then yea, I'll watch it.

Friday, October 19, 2001

They're everywhere …

When we got home from Mark's there was a message on the answering machine (we got home around 2:30 am):

“Hi, this is Mark. On the way to drop Kelly off where I work, about two miles from my home, to get his his car,” said Mark, “we saw three unmarked white vans. Just thought you might want to know.”

I'm telling ya …

Almost there

You may have noticed some rather odd entries yesturday that are no longer there. Well, I was testing a bunch of code that allows me to post entries via email or a web page form. I then had to test code to test a configuration file (to allow more than one blog on the system) and I'm finding that the code to generate the RSS file is buggy and misses entries. It has to do with how I internally store entries.

But aside from that, it's pretty much done now. All that's left now is to move the programs over to the server, copy the archive over, install everything, and then it'll be live.

Woo hoo!

Oh, also expect to see a bunch of new entries for the previous days pop up at odd times too. I have notes, but I have to actually write the entries.

Saturday, October 20, 2001

M & N's—the candy of the web

Stop! Go back and re-read the subhead above—at least 2–3 times—then let it sink in before continuing.

The sentence above illustrates the proper use of the hyphen and the two main types of dashes. They are not the same, and must not be confused with each other. In some fancy fonts the difference is more than just the width—hyphens have a distinct serif. If you don’t know the rules already, let’s review them. First, though, a definition:

An “em” is a unit of measurement defined as the point size of the font—12 point type uses a 12 point “em.” An “en” is one-half of an “em.”

Via Jeffrey Zeldman Presents: The Daily Report, A List Apart: The Trouble With EM 'n EN

So it made sense to use double hyphens (–) instead of em dashes and double primes (") instead of quotation marks. In any case, those workarounds were already familiar to anyone who’d grown up with typewriters, and readers adapted to ascii-only typography during the early days of the Internet when usenet, email, and the web all shared the same primitive markup and text display.

These days, standards-compliant browsers can handle entity names, and even Netscape 4.x can manage numeric entity codes—but why should you care? After all, using the technically correct punctuation marks would mean a dozen new entities to be memorized and a lineup of well-meaning but under-informed editors and teammates to win over—and retrofitting any significant amount of copy is always a hassle.

Also via Jeffrey Zeldman Presents: The Daily Report, A List Apart: Typography Matters

It may seem strange that a programmer would care about typography, but it's not unknown—Donald Knuth took 10 years off writing The Art of Computer Programming to write the computer typographic system, TeX.

So I wrote some code to translate some of the more egrarious hacks I've been using to get what I want, and converted over using the proper characters that are available. And yes, I checked the the Usual Suspects (Lynx, Netscape, Mozilla and Microsoft IE) and they all support the characters (well, Lynx as best as it can) required, so that's that.


In preparing to go live, I'm going through the past entries and making sure that they're consistent with what I'm doing now, and attempting to validate my documents to HTML 4.01 Strict.

So far it's taken me a few hours to go through December 1999, January 2000 and February 2000 and the current entries. And in doing so, I found out a couple of things I didn't know about specifying URLs within the <A> tag: You have to escape any ampersands in the URL!

News to me, but I suppose if I read the spec carefully enough it would be apparent, and all the browsers I checked (Lynx, Netscape, Mozilla and Microsoft IE) all handled it correctly.

So it looks like that I might want to add code that accepts the entries to make corrections in the HTML code I type in. Maybe even include the code I wrote earlier so I can still type “ and not &#8220;.

Obligatory Picture

[It's the most wonderful time of the year!]

Obligatory Contact Info

Obligatory Feeds

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

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

The dates are the permanent links to that day's entries (or entry, if there is only one entry). The titles are the permanent links to that entry only. The format for the links are simple: Start with the base link for this site:, then add the date you are interested in, say 2000/08/01, so that would make the final URL:

You can also specify the entire month by leaving off the day portion. You can even select an arbitrary portion of time.

You may also note subtle shading of the links and that's intentional: the “closer” the link is (relative to the page) the “brighter” it appears. It's an experiment in using color shading to denote the distance a link is from here. If you don't notice it, don't worry; it's not all that important.

It is assumed that every brand name, slogan, corporate name, symbol, design element, et cetera mentioned in these pages is a protected and/or trademarked entity, the sole property of its owner(s), and acknowledgement of this status is implied.

Copyright © 1999-2021 by Sean Conner. All Rights Reserved.