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, Debtember 01, 2001

World AIDS DAY—Link and Think

For example, statistics for new AIDS cases were always quoted as cumulative figures that could only get bigger, contrasting with the normal practice with other diseases of reporting annual figures, where any decline is clear at a glance. And despite the media's ongoing stridency about an epidemic out of control, the actual figures from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), for every category, were declining, and had been since a peak around 1988. And this was in spite of repeated redefinitions to cover more diseases, so that what wasn't AIDS one day became AIDS the next, causing more cases to be diagnosed. This happened five times from 1982 to 1993, with the result that the first nine months of 1993 showed as an overall rise of 5% what would otherwise — i.e., by the 1992 definition — have been a 33% drop. By 1997 the number of indicator diseases was 29. One of the new categories to be added was cervical cancer. (Militant feminists had been protesting that men received too much of the relief appropriations for AIDS victims.) Nobody was catching anything new, but the headlines blared heterosexual women as the fastest-growing AIDS group. Meanwhile, a concerted campaign across the schools and campuses was doing its part to terrorize young people over the ravages of teenage AIDS. Again, actual figures tell a different story. The number of cases in New York City reported by the CDC for ages 13-19 from 1981 to the end of June 1992 was 872. When homosexuals, intravenous drug users, and hemophiliacs are eliminated, the number left not involving these risks (or not admitting to them) reduces to a grand total of 16 in an 11 year period. (Yes, sixteen. You did read that right.)

AIDS HERESY AND THE NEW BISHOPS by James P. Hogan

I'm having problems with this entry and no, it's not technical in nature. They're more of a “how do I write about this topic” problem. Especially since I'm a bit skeptical about AIDS to begin with, as the above quote and the sites I've linked to show.

My intent with this entry was to present a side of the argument that may not get presented; or at least one that I feel might not get presented by the Link and Think Weblog campaign. And I can say with certainty that it has gotten a discussion going on here at Condo Conner.

And that, I think, is the whole purpose of this.

Link and Think


The Twin Towers

POMPANO BEACH—It’s a lofty ambition, but two developers want to rival Paris by building two replicas of the Eiffel Tower in this city.

The developers have presented plans for two 105-story towers, shaped just like the French landmark, that would house restaurants, condo units, a hotel and parking garages. One would straddle a section of A1A along the beach just south of Northeast Second Street. The other, just south of Northeast Third Street east of the highway, would house the museum of the International Swimming Hall of Fame — if it ever moves to Pompano Beach.

Via Tevis.net, Paris in Pompano?

Beach side residents who heard of the plan threatened to secede from the city over the plans so much they detest the idea. But that's nothing new. Paris residents protested the construction of the original Eiffel Tower and it was almost dismantled in 1909. And in New York the construction of the World Trade Center was also met with protest of outraged residents but in both cases, the controvertial towers soon became the icons for their respective cities.


Only funny if you've actually attended the school

For some reason, I found this picture very funny. Yes, I actually did attend the school in question (many many years ago). The picture itself is from a series of pictures of South Florida panhandlers engaging in culture jamming.

The panhandler in question is at the intersection of Glades and the Turnpike. I only know this because I recognize both the intersection and the pandhandler.

Sunday, Debtember 02, 2001

The Patron Saint of Television

A friend of ours was in town from Mexico City and as a gift she gave Spring and I figurines of St. Clare of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Television. She was made such on February 17, 1958 by Pope Pius XII.

Spring promptly put the figurines on both television sets in use in the house.

Monday, Debtember 03, 2001

DNS and VeriSigh Woes

I found out from Mark that the secondary DNS server has changed IP address and I've neglected to fix the appropriate domain registration records.

Also today I received a letter from VeriSign letting me know of my new account information. Gone are the days that I'm known as SC74 in the InterNIC domain database. Sigh. So I guess that means no more email templates. Double sigh.

So I sign in like the letter says, to update the records for at least my own domain and wouldn't you know it—it doesn't accept IP addresses for DNS servers. And my secondary DNS server has been registered with the InterNIC and it still has the old address.

So I'll have to wait until Kelly makes the appropriate changes.


Finally!

I've been working on this project for a bit over a week, and I finally, finally got it working. For the entire week I was fighting what appeared to be a loosing battle with a Microsoft IIS server when all of a sudden it started working.

I had been working on the project today and appeared to be regressing at an alarming rate as I was tweaking code that by all rights should work when I made a final tweak (isolating the code that builds the client headers for the GET and POST commands into a single common routine) so that I could be sure of what headers I was sending for which methods (I need both for this site)) and Lo! It worked!

Looking over the code I see that the only change from the headers I was sending before have the Cookie: header being sent back as the second header instead of the third.

This, on top of the other bugs I have to code around. Grrrrrrrrrrr …

Tuesday, Debtember 04, 2001

Joel on Bloatware

SMS: Joel, what, in your opinion, is the single greatest development sin a software company can commit?

Joel: Deciding to completely rewrite your product from scratch, on the theory that all your code is messy and bug prone and is bloated and needs to be completely rethought and rebuild from ground zero. SMS: Uh, what's wrong with that? Joel: Because it's almost never true. It's not like code rusts if it's not used. The idea that new code is better than old is patently absurd. Old code has been used. It has been tested. Lots of bugs have been found, and they've been fixed. There's nothing wrong with it.

An Interview with Joel Spolsky of JoelonSoftware

I've been pondering this article for the past few days as I worked on my project and I still feel Joel is wrong about this.

Yes, it does cost if existing code is scrapped and a rewrite is done. But I suspect it's not done correctly—with the original authors who learned the hard way what does and doesn't need to be done. It's done with another set of programmers who have little (if any) contact with the original authors so any important information (like Microsoft IIS servers that send out bad Location: headers) is lost.

That's why it costs so much.

And yet, I've done it. I've rewritten the same program three times over (once to switch implementation languages) and each time the code base has improved over the previous version. The latest version had a better base upon which to make modifications (but it's moot since no version of the program is in use, but not for maintenance reasons).

And the cases Joel uses as examples are well known cases where a rewrite was disasterous, but what of NT? That was based upon an entirely different code base than Windows 3.1 and even my most anti-Microsoft friends admit that NT 3.51 was rock solid and well designed (and had nothing in common with Windows 3.1 or 95 except the API). OS/2 2.0 was a rewrite and vastly better than OS/2 1.x.

The sheer volume of bugs, it seems, proves that rewriting code from scratch does not make for a better code base, it makes it worse. Old code doesn't rust, it gets better, as bugs are fixed. Lou Montulli again: “I laughed heartily as I got questions from one of my former employees about FTP code the he was rewriting. It had taken 3 years of tuning to get code that could read the 60 different types of FTP servers, those 5000 lines of code may have looked ugly, but at least they worked.”

Joel on Software—Netscape Goes Bonkers

And I bet those 5,000 lines of code where a nightmare to maintain. Lou Montulli probably laughed because he didn't have to maintain that codebase anymore. Yet another project I worked on involved a program written by a college student that was so poorly written I can't even begin to describe how bad it was (let's see, in C, but with random indentation, poor variable name choice and could produce garbage in rare but most likely inevitable circumstances). Even the original author refused to help (“Hey, I got paid, man! I'm not touching that fXXXXXg code again! He [the customer] got what he paid for!”). So it was without ceremony (since the author was too far away to sacrafice) that I dumped the code and rewrote it from scratch.

SMS: Yes, but isn't such code tight and small? Don't products built this way avoid the dreaded “bloatware” label?

Joel: Don't get me started! If you're a software company, there are lots of great business reasons to love bloatware. For one, if programmers don't have to worry about how large their code is, they can ship it sooner. And that means you get more features, and features make users' lives better (if they use them) and don't usually hurt (if they don't). As a user, if your software vendor stops, before shipping, and spends two months squeezing the code down to make it 50% smaller, the net benefit to you is going to be imperceptible, but you went for two months without new features that you needed, and THAT hurt.

An Interview with Joel Spolsky of JoelonSoftware

Now, Joel worked for years at Microsoft, so he's biased, but here's a reason as a customer to hate bloatware: You don't have to buy a new computer every two years! You have more resources to store and process your data, not to store bloatware. The software might actually run faster, or run acceptably on something less than the greatest and latest.

But as Bill Gates has said—there's no money in fixing bugs, only in features.


Rememberances of code past

I did work at a company where I was helping to port their product from MS-DOS to Unix. One of the mantras at the company was Thou shalt not change code! And they meant it. And it was taken to silly extremes.

One example: filenames. Under MS-DOS the case of a filename given to MS-DOS doesn't matter as MS-DOS will convert it to uppercase, so specifying README or readme gives you the same file. Unix though, is case sensitive so README and readme are two different files. The company decided that all filenames under Unix were to be lower case, but at various points in the code there might be a file specified all in upper case:


dbf=dbopen("BBSUERS.DAT");

What you could not do was change the case of the filename:


dbf=dbopen("bbsusers.dat");

No. That might break. How, I don't know. But the mantra was Thou shalt not change code! So the proper way to do it was:


#ifdef MSDOS
  dbf=dbopen("BBSUSERS.DAT");
#else
  dbf=dbopen("bbsusers.dat");
#endif

Which makes the code harder to follow. Forget:


#if defined(MSDOS)
#  define F_BBSUSERS	"BBSUSERS.DAT"
#elif defined (UNIX)
#  define F_BBSUERS	"bbsusers.dat"
#else
#  error Please define filename for system
#endif

...

dbf=dbopen(F_BBSUSERS);

That's a major code change (even though it doesn't clutter the code flow with compilation changes). I do think that the Unix manager did manage to get:


char c;

changed to


typedef unsigned char Char;

...

Char c;

But that may have been the only concession to Thou shalt not change code! that was made at the company.

For some reason, I'm reminded of this because of Joel. Go figure.


Clueless lawyers? Or subtle marketing trick?

The following web link activities are explicitly prohibited by KPMG and may present trademark and copyright infringement issues:

Via MetaGrrrl, Global Legal Disclaimer

Am I now going to get a notice to remove the link? Oooh, I do so much want one. AutoZone didn't seem to have a complaint about my linking to them but then again, I'm not using their logo.

And in the case of KPMG there, since I'm not using their logo ( … must … resist … urge … to link … to … their … logo … ) and I'm not disguising the URL and bypassing their homepage (I am bypassing their homepage up there, but I'm not disguising the URL) so the only thing left is that rather cryptic bit about “inline links,” whatever they mean by that.

Also in their disclaimer, they say “KPMG is obligated to protect its reputation and trademarks and KPMG reserves the right to request removal of any link to our website.” Yup. You (KPMG) have that right, but that's all you have. You're trashing your own reputation on the web just fine—you don't need anyone else to help you there.

Wednesday, Debtember 05, 2001

Can ANYONE help this guy?

Like most people nowadays, I get email spam almost daily. Recently I've been saving it up for the Second Annual Poetry Spam but today I came across this lovely piece of email that I'm not quite sure is spam or not:

To: <sean@conman.org>
Subject: Time Travelers PLEASE HELP!! ‥
Date: Wed, 5 Dec 2001 09:17:29

If you are a time traveler or alien disguised as human and or have the technology to travel physically through time I need your help!

My life has been severely tampered with and cursed!! I have suffered tremendously and am now dying!

I need to be able to:

Travel back in time.

Rewind my life including my age.

Be able to remember what I know now so that I can prevent my life from being tampered with again after I go back.

I am in very great danger and need this immediately!

I am aware that there are many types of time travel and that humans do not do well through certain types.

I need as close to temporal reversion as possible, as safely as possible. To be able to rewind the hands of time in such a way that the universe of now will cease to exist. I know that there are some very powerful people out there with alien or government equipment capable of doing just that.

If you can help me I will pay for your teleport or trip down here, Along with hotel stay, food and all expenses. I will pay top dollar for the equipment. Proof must be provided.

Only if you have this technology and can help me please send me a (SEPARATE) email to:

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Thanks

Growing up, my friend Hoade and I wanted to build a timemachine and often would talk about how to do just that. Given that at the time we were both in middle school precluded us from actually achieving that goal, since we had not the financial resources with which to start such an undertaking but even if we had, I think we would not have gone far due to our differences in thought with reguards to the 4th dimension: I thought it was a spatial dimention while Hoade took the presuposition that it was in fact, time.

Be that as it may, I am not a time traveller. Nor am I aware of being an alien (contrary to the opinions of some of my friends) nor, as I have stated above, do I have available such technology. Which is sad since clearly this person needs the help, being cursed and all.

So, is there anyone that can help this guy?


Okay, gotta be clueless lawyers

I tried looking at KPMG in Mozilla but it core dumped on me. Great going guys, you really are trashing your own reputation on the web.

Thursday, Debtember 06, 2001

It's all about the buzz …

We watched Art House last night. I had rented it a few days ago (along with some other movies) but the consensus at the time of rental was I'm on my own if I want to watch this. But come time to watch it, and everybody is here, sitting in front of the TV.

It's different than what you might think from the cover art—while it has porn stars, lesbians and over pompous Hollywood types, it's not a juvenile romp of T & A (okay, it has that, but not overly gratuitous) but a rather smart comedy about the buzz in Hollywood.

And at least the director is honest when he said he made it purely for money.


They know … they know …

Ring.

Ring.

“Hello, Pizza Hut. Take out or delivery?”

“Delivery,” I said.

“Phone number.” I give it to them. They mysteriously know my address. “What do you want?”

“Two large meat lover's pizzas.” We're all carnivores here at Condo Conner.

“Type of crust?”

“One thin, one regular.”

“So that's two meat lover's pizzas, one thin crust, one hand tossed crust. Hmmm … no sauce on the thin crust?”

How did they know?

I spent the next half hour looking for bugs …


He seems really desperate …

So far, I've received three (3) cries for help so I'm beginning to think he's either very desperate, or that this might be spam …

Since the email address it was sent to is already a spam trap, I'm getting tempted to reply to this guy for more information …

Oh God, what am I saying?

Friday, Debtember 07, 2001

The Masters cheated …

Starting with that jangling observation, Mr. Hockney derived a new theory of art and optics: around 1430, centuries before anyone suspected it, artists began secretly using cameralike devices, including the lens, the concave mirror and the camera obscura, to help them make realistic-looking paintings. Mr. Hockney's list of suspects includes van Eyck, Caravaggio, Lotto, Vermeer and of course the maddeningly competent draftsman Ingres. All of them, Mr. Hockney suggests, knew the magic of photographic projection. They saw how good these devices were at projecting a three-dimensional world onto a two-dimensional surface. And they just could not resist.

Via Flutterby, Paintings Too Perfect? [requires free registration to read—sorry]

Way back in '89 or '90 I took a drawing class at FAU and since it's been over seven years I think I can safely admit this: I cheated on my final exam.

The final exam was to draw a self portrait. I had put it off until the day before it was due and in a fit of desperation, I knew I had no time to do a proper portrait, so I improvised.

At the time, I had a photocopy machine in my closet (yes, I actually had a copy machine and I still wish I had it but the whys and wherefores about it will have to wait for another time), a light box (constructed by myself and my maternal grandfather when I was in the 6th grade for a project on animation and which I still own. Why I kept a $10 light box (in 1980 dollars) and not a $100 photocopier (in 1989 dollars) is beyond me but I digress …), a pencil sharpener that produced graphite powder as a byproduct and lots of erasers, and thereby my plan was hatched.

I photocopied my hand. Well, several times, until I got this nice high contrast black-and-white photocopy of my hand. I then prepared a piece of drawing paper by smearing powdered graphite over it turning it to a dark gray shade. I then taped the photocopy to the lightbox, then the shaded drawing paper and using an eraser, proceeded to “draw” my hand.

It took maybe two, three hours from start (“What the hell am I going to do?”) to finish (“God, I hope no one finds out I cheated!”) and the result was good enough to get me an A on the final.

Postscript: I bought a cheap frame for the picture and took it to my office at IBM when I worked there as a student programmer in 1990. Before I got around to hanging the picture up it was stolen one night. I hope that it was stolen because the thief liked the picture and not just for the frame—that would be too demoralizing.

I also have somewhere around here another “drawing” I started of a photocopy of a Coke can. I don't think I can finish it as I no longer think I have the original photocopies to work from. Alas.

Sunday, Debtember 09, 2001

50,000 dancing, singing, wisecracking cockroaches can't be wrong

Another film we rented along with Art House was Joe's Apartment, which no one else here wanted to see. Something about 50,000 cockroaches seems to have been the deciding factor.

But it was a very funny, albeit odd, film about a kid fresh from Iowa moving to New York City and lucking into a rent controlled apartment for only $100/month in the lower East Side. Now granted, he has to share this with 50,000 dancing, singing, wisecracking cockroaches but that's not the reason why the apartment is so cheap—it's slated for demolition to make way for the world's largest single building prison.

Yes, there are a few gross out scenes involving cockroaches but for the most part the computer generated cockroaches aren't that horrific and it is a funny film. 50,000 dancing, singing, wisecracking cockroaches can't be wrong.


Nondeterministic Control Words in Forth

I borrowed a Dr. Dobb's Journal from Mark yesterday. I'm only mentioning it because Spring was commenting on it as I was reading it.

It's the Annual Forth Issue from September of 1983 (#83). It's not the fourth issue of the year, but instead about the computer language Forth, developed by Chuck Moore.

I enjoy going through old computer magazines and technical manuals and that's what Spring said separated the geeks from the nerds—geeks like looking through old magazines and technical manuals. I personally can't say I do it because I'm a geek, but I do do it because there are sometimes some interesting techniques that might otherwise get lost (and let's face it—looking at old computer ads are always fun (10Mbyte hard disk for any computer for only $2,300! What a steal!).

For this issue, it's the articles about Forth that are interesting. A couple of articles about Forth on the Motorola 68000 which are still relevant today, nearly 18 years later because of the popularity of the Palm Pilot, which uses a Motorola 68000.

The real mind bending article was NonDeterministic Control Words in Forth by L. L. Odette. The gist is having the program just randomly pick one branch of code or another, plus the ability to backtrack and pick the other choice (if the current branch leads nowhere towards the solution) makes for elegant solutions to certain classes of problems. It's an intriguing method—at any point where you can select a course of action, you save the program state and pick one course. If that turns out to be a non-solution, or a poor solution, you restore the program state and automatically take another course.

Something to think about, which is why I love going through old magazines like this. There are possible treasures to find like this.


Hold me …

And speaking of old computers I came across something very scary and something that probably shouldn't have been done. I mean, there's doing something just to prove it possible, but, like INTERCAL, some things are better left dead and unimplemented.

Tuesday, Debtember 11, 2001

A very niche website here …

This site has to be about the most targetted website I've seen. I'm just flabberghasted that someone would pay money to house something so specific that it just boggles my mind.

I then have to remind myself This is the web … of course there's going to be a site like this …


30 second commute

“You have no reason to get dressed, do you?” asked Spring.

“Um, no. Not really,” I said. We had gone food shopping a few days before, so we could now eat at home instead of having to actually get dressed before eating.

In fact, now that I think of it, I haven't actually gotten dressed in … um … oh dear. If I have to think about it, it's been too long (how long ago did we go grocery shopping?). I also think I'm fast appraching TMI here …

Which is one of the problems of working (or rather, slacking) at home—unless you actually have the discipline to get dressed every day, you won't. For me, I can roll out of bed and if I take a leasurely stroll across Condo Conner it will take me all of 30 seconds to “commute” to my office on the other side. Where I will plant myself in front of the computer for the next X hours pretending to work and maybe, when I get exceedingly board, I will actually do some work.

I suppose I could get some discipline—shower and dress before going to the Computer Room, but if I am to do that, then why not sit in a dining room chair for half an hour and simulate the effects of driving to work? Move my body left and right as I take imaginary corners. Lurch forward when the imaginary jerk in front of me stops suddenly. And randomly (roll a six sided die and if it comes up 1) extend the “drive” by 30 minutes due to imaginary traffic. Then I can walk the rest of the way to the Computer Room, um, office.

Where I can have one of my computers programmed to randomly call me through out the day, to simulate annoying cow-orkers or managers, thus breaking my concentration. For the randomly selected meetings, I can go into the living room and watch CSPAN for half an hour to two hours.

For lunch, I sit in the dining room chair for 15 to 20 minutes, then walk into the kichen for food. After eating there, sit in the dining room chair for another 15 to 20 minutes and head back into the Computer Room, um, office for another round of random phone calls and watching CSPAN on TV.

Then, at 5:10, I can leave, sit in the dining room chair for another 30 minutes (or an hour, if I roll a 1) and arrive home. Whereby I can then walk into the Computer Room and veg out in front of the computer.

Why are you looking at me funny?


Captain Napalm through the USENET ages …

You've probably heard by now that Google now has USENET archives going back to 1981 (it seems from May 17th, 1981). Now you get to see all my postings to USENET. Great.

But I did find this little gem where I implemented a template system for C (before the STL for C++ was ratified I think). And there's probably a good reason why it's in alt.hackers.


The Nine Films of George Lucas

I wish Lucas & Co. would get the thing going a little faster. I can't really imagine waiting until 1997 to see all nine parts of the Star Wars series.

Via the Google USENET archive announcement, First mention of Star Wars Episode 6, June 1982

Ah, innocent youth … if you only knew then that it would be another 16 years before George would film another installment, and that it would have a character more annoying than an entire race in the third film …

But I remember the hype back then. Nine films in total; a trilogy of trilogies if you will, with only two characters making all nine (R2-D2 and C-3PO). But alas …

Oh, and the answer to the trivia question on the first mention of Episode 6 of Star Wars: A New Hope.

Wednesday, Debtember 12, 2001

What? Me worry?

I just had a rather interesting phone conversation with Dad. From a guy who swore up and down that he would never get one of those new fangled computer thingies, he was asking some rather pointed questions about a particular laptop computer. I don't know if I should be worried or not. For one thing, I'm tech support. Woo hoo! And I get to educate Dad about the finer points of Internet life, like virii, Trojans, worms, hoaxes and spam.

Things are going to be rather interesting I can see.

Thursday, Debtember 13, 2001

He's here …

Man, Dad is fast. Got the computer, signed up with an Internet provider and sent me an email.

Interesting times indeed …


Little silver mail boxes

I'm checking the mail (snail mail, the stuff they physically send and you need to put a stamp on, etc.) and I notice that the Condo Association has decided it was time to repaint the mailboxes—I suppose to ensure that property values don't fall too precipitously because of lackluster mailboxes.

So I'm looking a freshly silver painted set of mailboxes. They look nice and all, in a Tin Man sort of way, when I notice that it appears that the painter in question had used not only spray paint, but had neglected to cover up the actual keyholes. I suppose that keeping the mailboxes from actually being used is one way to keep them looking nice.

I force my key in, and spend a few seconds forcing the key to turn. Now granted, it might have been difficult to turn due to the rather large amount of mail that had accumulated there, but that still doesn't excuse the silver paint (of course, being in the lock means the paint takes longer to dry) all over my key and hands.

Bloody condo association!


Parade parade

Spring and I recieved an email from a friend telling us about the Holiday Parade in Coral Springs. Since we live down the road a few miles, we figured we'd go and see it.

We left around 5:00 pm, ran an errand and grabbed a bite to eat, and drove to the parade. We parked about half a mile away since I figured we might not get any closer and there was a handy parking lot right there. It was a pleasant walk.

We talked about small town parades vs. big city parades and I mentioned that the last parade I remember attending was in Brevard, NC as a very small kid, and that was a small town parade, down the main street, which is lined with two story buildings with mom-n-pop shops on the ground floor and apartments above. Big city parades are those with huge floats with the air filled with confetti and thousands upon thousands of people waving and cheering from the sidewalks and windows of tall buildings.

This is Coral Springs. So suburban it hurts. It lacks the charm of small towns and it definitely isn't a big city. We may be seeing a parade, but it isn't a parade parade.

We sat around for maybe an hour or so waiting for the parade to start. The parade itself was going to be on the east bound side of Sample and school busses, with police escourts, where driving back and forth along the west bound side dropping off people and participants. Street vendors were selling cheap inflatable toys, water and soda at extortionistic prices.

“That's what we should do,” I said. “Get some water, some soda, get an orange vest and walk around selling drinks and makes lots of money.”

“But if the cops stop and ask for your permit, you'll be busted,” said Spring.

“You really think the cops stop these people? They're pretty busy escourting busses around.”

“They probably do. Or the company that got the contract will know you aren't with them and ask the cops to check up on you.”

“That's easy then—I'd have a partner along to run interference. A cop comes up to me, the partner would then come up and distract the cop while I slip away.”

“And what about the interference? How will he get away?”

“I'll disguise myself, cause some interference so he can get away.”

“That seems to be an awfully large amount of work to make some bucks,” she said.

I pondered this. Yes, it did seem like quite a bit of work. “Might as well just mug the vendors then. Easier that way.” She agreed.

It was 7:30 pm and the parade still hadn't started. We debated about going back to the car and getting the folding love seat stashed in the trunk, but I said why not walk towards the starting postion of the parade (on the west end of Sample) and once we see the parade, stop there and watch it. She agreed and we started walking west along Sample.

About a half mile or so up the road we saw that the parade had started winding its way down Sample, so we picked a spot and sat down.

The highlight of the parade were the Firefighter Calendar Girls. On the back of the firetruck was a large sign saying “We need loving homes!” but while Spring and I wouldn't mind giving a loving home to the Firefighter Calendar Girls, we both suspected the sign were for the dalmations being paraded alongside the fire truck.

There were also the obligatory school marching bands (but a puzzling selection of schools though—about half the schools present were in Coral Springs but some were from as far away as Sunrise and Pompano, but not Coconut Creek, which is next to Coral Springs and where I went to school) and the various groups of animal lodges and cheesy floats and blantant advertising banners being paraded down Sample.

Over all we had an enjoyable time.

But it still wasn't a parade parade.

Friday, Debtember 14, 2001

Mindless Meme Propagation

My friend meant well, but still, how hard is it to go to Google, type in a search request and on the first link (!) see that this is an unsubtantiated urban legend or rumor?

On that particular forward, I was the 161st person to get that. It was forwarded some eight (!) times before my frind got it and forwarded it out to his friends, some of whom, I'm sure, are forwarding it yet still.

Sheesh!

Tuesday, Debtember 18, 2001

Suckage

I found out the hard way (at the ATM) that I had in fact lost my check card. No amount of scouring through my wallet or the various locations I keep my wallet at home brought to light the hallowed card.

I had last used the card on the 13th at an ATM (in fact, the same one I was at when I found my card missing), which goes to show you just how often I actually use the card. Spring and I went back to the video store we rented videos from the other day, thinking that it may have fallen out there.

No luck.

Upon getting home, I called my bank and had the current card cancelled. I was worried since with a check card you are liable for more money if it is abused than with a proper credit card. The good news is that there wasn't much money in the account to abuse (the bad news being—there isn't much money in the account to use). Fortunately for me though, the last transaction on the card was the ATM from the 13th so I most likely left it in the machine.

I ordered a new one but it'll take something like two weeks to arrive (given the current holiday season and the recent Anthrax scares). Sigh.

Wednesday, Debtember 19, 2001

Lord of the Movies

Spring and I were invited to the opening of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (and this has the highest rating of a film I've ever seen over at the IMDB) at a relatively obscure theater just past noon on opening day by a friend of Spring's, Russ.

The movie is incredible. The special effects were incredible and the computer generated effects were not at all annoying (except for the few shots of Gollum). They did an incredible job of resizing the actors (John Rhys-Davies is not a small man yet plays Gimli the Dwarf). The landscapes were more impressive and beautiful than those in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (the landscapes where one of three things that kept me watching that movie—the other two being Natalie Portman and the third being the fight sequence between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon and Darth Maul). It was a beautiful movie.

I could however, do without the introduction at the beginning of the movie since the material there is covered several times through the rest of the film, but that's me. Otherwise, I have no complaints about the film other than I have to wait another year for the next installment.


Notes on a Conversation about Billy Elliot

Spring has been trying to get me to watch Billy Elliot since we rented several days ago. My relunctance to watch it has a bit to do with my relunctance to see many movies (I do have to be forced to watch certain types of films and often times I end up liking the film but I digress) but it has more to do with the subject matter—someone who is hiding what they are doing from other people and the inevitable Embarrasing Scenes that I find way to painful to watch.

“But it's got a riot in it,” said Spring.

“Yea … ”

“It's got kicking down of door,” she replied.

“Woot!”

“It's got judicious use of sledgehammers in it,” said Spring.

“Are you guys talking about Office Space?” asked Rob.


An embarrassing richness of embarrassment

So I finally broke down and watched Billy Elliot with Spring. And while there were some very funny and surreal bits in the movie (such as Billy and Debbie are talking as they walk and Debbie is drawing a stick across the bricks in a building, then along a line of riot police, like there is nothing at all wrong about running a stick along a line of riot police, then along another wall and the bit where Billy's brother is running away from the riot police and is taking a most torturous route through homes) but it was, as I was afraid of, an embarrassing number of Embarrassment Scenes that our hero has to endure.

And I for one, cannot endure Embarrassment Scenes at all so that made the movie quite painful for me to watch (and yes, at one point, Spring covered my eyes so I didn't have to watch one quite painful Embarrassment Scene).

Overall I found the movie okay if a bit uneven in the handling of comedy and drama.

Thursday, Debtember 20, 2001

Lord of the Movies II

As if once wasn't enough, Spring and I saw Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring with Mark and Kelly in a larger theater with much better sound and way more people.

Just as impressive.

But the movie ends and Mark is visibly disapointed. “That's it? It's over?”

“Um … yea,” I said. “Didn't you realize this was the first film of a trilogy?”

“No. I never read the books; I don't even know what the story was about!”

“Oh,” Spring, Kelly and I said.

But Mark did enjoy the film.

[WARNING: Movie/book spoilers ahead—if you don't know the story, stop reading unless you want a surprise spoiled for you] The entire audience got into the film to the point where Boromir gets shot with the initial Uruk-hai arrow—the background music and noise is cut and you hear the thunk of the arrow and the entire theater is silent. The silence is broken when someone in the theater goes “Shit!” An epithat that this just can't happen! This isn't happening. But it is.

A very powerful moment in the movie. And both times I've seen the movie my eyes tear up. The death of Boromir is a painful thing to watch.

Saturday, Debtember 22, 2001

“Three times for geeks, who will pay.”

Yup. Spring and I saw Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring yet again today, with yet another group of friends. At least this time I actually like the film, unlike Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (which I saw not only three times, but three times on opening day, with various groups of friends, but that's another story).

This movie is likely another maneuver to capitalize on the new found infatuation of visually oriented youth with bright and dazzling display of the occult, witchcraft and evil. It is another presentation of using evil to fight evil. And it presents sorcery as both “good” and bad. Violently. Grotesquely. While the story being based on evil fighting evil with evil is bad enough, it is clear the filmmakers capitalized on extremism. Tolkien certainly described the evil and demonic characters in his novel quite grotesquely but not nearly as hideous and vile as those in this movie. After more than 500 movies I suspect I can say with credibility that any of the imagery of evil you have seen before now does not match the evil in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. And there are two more Lord of the Rings coming.

ChildCare Action Project (CAP) review of The Fellowship of the Ring

So the evil presented in this movie is worse than that of The Exorcist? Or even of Hellraiser (which the ChildCare Action Project does not have a review on, oddly enough)?

Even the scripture they quote in supporting their view is, in my opinion, a bit shakey. Let's see, they use Deuteronomy 18:9-12, but there I'm guessing that Moses is using his authority to make sure none past him surpass his power. The Ten Plagues? The Passover? The parting of the Red Sea? Shall we then condemn Daniel? Need I even start with Jesus?

The rest of the references are from the New Testament, which isn't too surprising since a tenet of Christian thought (from at least the 10th century onwards) is that God has removed Himself from intervention in this world and that any magic done is no longer through Him but through Satan (which, in my mind, clinches the notion that Christianity is a death based religion but that's a topic for some other time). It is also worth noting that J. R. R. Tolkien was an ardent Christian (Catholic I do believe) and even convinced athiest C. S. Lewis to convert (and who later went on to write the Chronicles of Narnia, a Christian allegory).

Monday, Debtember 24, 2001

Holiday Spewage

I awoke to the sound of heavy machinery being operated in Condo Conner.

I walked out of the bedroom to find Rob with a 10-gallon wet/dry vac working the area in front of his bathroom. “The bathroom flooded,” he said when he saw me. “I tried plunging, but it didn't work.”

“Nice,” I said. “I didn't know you had a wet/dry vac.”

“We do now,” he said. “Went out and bought it today.”

“Why not rent?”

“What's going to be open today?

“Good point,” I said. Rob went back to work, and I headed off to the bedroom. I went back to the bathroom (the master bath is at one end of the master bedroom) and I knew the situation was bad—water had flooded my bathroom as well.

Worse, I have books stacked all over the bathroom.

Great, I thought. I walked back out to talk to Rob about borrowing the vac when he was done. “Bad news.”

“Oh no,” he said.

It was then that Spring came home. She's dog sitting for a friend of ours for the next few days. “I have bad news,” I said.

She looked worried. “A fire?”

“No,” said Rob. “The opposite. Flood.” We then filled her in on what happened. She too, was dismayed when she heard about the books in the bathroom. Spring and I went to our bathroom and I started handing out books to her. Fortunately, my copy of Shockwave Rider (by John Brunner), a paperback, soaked up the water, keeping the rest of the books dry (okay, my First Edition copy of Cryptography Applied was wet on the back cover, but it's a slick cover so no damage was done).

Books safely out of the way, I then turned my attention to the problem at hand. The toilet bowl was at a normal level, but the water had backed up in the shower stall. I took a plunger to it, trying to possibly clear the pipes to lower the water level, but all I obtained was the shower stall coughing up a few hair balls and other assorted material better left unsaid. But the water level remained. Spring attempted to plunge, but still, the water level remained unchanged.

I then took to using the vac to soak up the water from the carpet around the bathroom door and to sucking up the water from the bathroom mat. After getting as much water out of it (several gallons) I then went outside to dump the water.

There, I talked to my neighbor. He said that this happens from time to time (although I can't remember it being this bad, and I've lived here in Condo Conner for over ten years) and that the appropriate parties have been contacted, although due to the holliday, it may take some time before the plumber comes, as our location is third on the list.

Now I really have to go to the bathroom.

Ho ho ho.


Holiday Drainage

As Rob and I headed out to McDonalds for bathroom and food, we saw the plumber outside snaking out the sewer line from the building, a good sign.

Upon returning, the plumber was no longer around, and the neighbor said that the blockage has appeared to been cleared away (someone flushed a wad of paper towels down the toilet it seems). Now all that is left is to dry out the carpet and clean the shower stall.

Friday, Debtember 28, 2001

Hack, ack, ptooey *cough*

The dishes are piling up. So's the garbage. There are blankets and pillows everywhere and I've been nuking food.

Yes folks, I'm sick.

Again.

On the 24th I woke up fine. On the 25th I woke up feeling like Death Warmed Over. Maybe not that bad, but enough to make me wish I could swap out my head for a new one.

I was feeling a little bit better yesterday, but tripping on a bookshelf (you pretty much have to loose all sense of balance to do that) and almost onto Spring, and sounding like a feral animal foaming at the mouth as I try to breath last night I took as a signal that I probably shouldn't get out of bed any time soon.

Blarg.

Sunday, Debtember 30, 2001

The Big Q

NyQuil, NyQuil, NyQuil, we love you; you giant fucking Q!

—Denis Leary

   The Nighttime,
     Sniffling, Sneezing,
   Coughing, Achy,
Stuffy Head, Fever
   So you can Rest
and Have a Good
   Morning Medicine

NyQuil

Wow!

Now I see why Denis Leary loves NyQuil.

In her ongoing battle to cure me, Spring gave me some NyQuil since we were all out of Robitussin (one of the active ingredients in both is Dextromethorphan, a cough suppressent).

In thirty seconds I was out, and within 45 seconds I was tripping.

Now mind you, I rarely take medications or drugs so this is pretty new to me and it seems that certain … um … effects take rather easily to me. I remember back when I was thirteen or fourteen, sitting at the dentist's office waiting to have my wisdom teeth pulled. The dentist left me in the chair breathing nitrous oxide for what seemed to me about half an hour. During that time everything turned white. White on white. Beautiful. And I was floating. And flying.

And quite high.

The dentist later remarked that he had never seen anyone laugh so hard from taking nitrous oxide (aka “laughing gas”). It was good enough that it left me waiting for my next visit the following week to have even more wisdom teeth pulled out (but the second time wasn't nearly as good as the first time alas).

So yes, since I rarely (usually only when prescribed) take drugs, when I do they usually hit me quite hard.

So I lay there, passed out on NyQuil, my legs stretching out to inifinity, my right arm slowly growing fuzzy—not hairy fuzzy but quantum fuzzy, like it was probably there within a certain area usually defined by the volume taken up by my right arm, give or take an inch or two. And then things got wierd. I think.

I don't remember much other than waking up some twelve hours later quite dehydrated and still feeling groggy.

Obligatory Picture

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

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

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