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.

Thursday, January 03, 2002

Catching up

Happy New Year. Hope this year is better (way better) than last year. We can only hope.

Still been sick, but I'm getting a bit better (yea, right—cough cough sniff). I've also been working on updating a site I took technical editorship (read: I add new entries by hand) of a year ago or so.

And Spring and I reorganized The Computer Room today. We had talked about doing this for a month or so because frankly, the space was getting tight and the desks currently employed are for the most part, hard to move, heavy and falling apart (the desk Spring was using practically fell apart when she finally moved her computer system off it). Our first thought was to use hollow core doors with cinder blocks for legs (and some extra storage space for small items) and initial pricing at Home Depot (last month) was about $50 per desk for the required materials. At the last minute (last week I think) we switched plans and decided to get fold-out tables at Costco which were about $50 a piece.

Rob and I took his car to Costco and ended up with three tables (two 73″ × 26″ and one 48″ × 24″) which would fit perfectly in The Computer Room.

Then Spring and I cleaned The Computer Room of almost all items, vaccuumed, then put the new tables in and reset everything back up. It's much better in here, although I'm a bit sad that I had to take the IBM PCjr and Amiga 500 offline (and if you know me, you probably had to read that twice—yes, I took both computers offline, although I might still set the Amiga back up). Somethings just had to go for space reasons. I'll get the pictures up later (I had borrowed Rob's camera and I need him to get them off).


Another Anniversary

Today is also the one year anniversary of Spring and I meeting in person.

Funny how I remember these things …

Friday, January 04, 2002

Oscars cancelled!

“This has been an embarrassing year for all of us and I think it’s best if we just forget that it ever happened,” AMPAS executive director Bruce Davis said at a press conference. “I mean, when two of the five Best Picture nominees are `Lord of the Rings' and `Harry Potter,' and the other three are animated films, I think we as a community have to admit we have a problem.

“Could you come up with even one Best Actor nominee this year?” Davis added, disgustedly. “We were so frustrated that we were thinking of relaxing the rules to include Osama bin Laden's Al-Jazeera videos, but ultimately decided against it.”

Via InstaPundit, Predictions, Schmedictions!

I also liked the prediction of French strikers going on strike. While these aren't real predictions, I wouldn't mind them actually happening—they're quite amusing.

Saturday, January 05, 2002

You won't here this on the radio

Spring did a search for Singaporean music and found Shueh-li Ong, an Austrailian born artist who apparently did an album of Singaporean influenced music. It's quite good.

Of course, you'll never hear this on American pop radio. Noooooo … the RIAA can't let that happen.


Cookies!

Fudgie No-Bakes

Ingredients:

  1. Boil sugar, cocoa and milk for one minute.
  2. Add oatmeal, peanut butter and vanilla.
  3. Stir until all are combined.
  4. Drop by teaspoons onto waxed paper.
  5. Let sit at least 30 minutes.
  6. Eat and enjoy!

Over the holidays, Spring took care of our friend Lorie's dog (since they couldn't get a kennel in time). For payment, Lorie gave us a basket of goodies to make a nice meal, including the recipe and ingredients for “Fudgie No-Bakes.”

The recipe is straight forward enough and since I like to make cookies, I took it upon my self to make them. Almost immediately there seemed to be a problem. The first instruction is:

1. Boil sugar, cocoa and milk for one minute.

We had no milk. Lorie gave us all the ingredients (on the assumption that we had no cooking supplies, which is a fair assumption) except for the milk. Spring ran out and returned shortly with milk. Then there seemed to be another problem. Again, with the first instruction:

1. Boil sugar, cocoa and milk for one minute.

But you have to look at the amounts:

2 cups sugar
½ cup cocoa
½ cup milk

That's a lot of sugar to disolve in ½ a cup of milk, much less boil it. Spring suggested that I heat the milk first, then add the sugar and cocoa. That worked surprisingly well and in a few minutes I had a nice chocolately sauce. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

I then encountered the next problem:

2. Add oatmeal, peanut butter and vanilla.
3. Stir until all are combined.

That, by the way, is three cups of oatmeal, which soaked up all the sauce and started to crumble before my eyes. Spring then suggested a spash of milk to moisten it up and that did the trick.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Sunday, January 06, 2002

The New Computer Room

So, here are finally the pictures from the reorganization of the Computer Room that I promised.

We start with the before pictures. At the entrance you are immediately innundated with clutter. On the floor is a Mac Classic, an IBM terminal and a DEC VT320 terminal. Looking through the doors (it's a set of double doors leading into the Computer Room) I'm even amazed that we functioned in here. The desk across has an Amiga 500 on the left and an IBM PCjr on the right, but they're buried. That yellow thing on the desk is a Nerf gun.

Looking into the far corner of the room, you see even more stuff. Stuff. Lots of stuff. On the desk shown is a huge 21″ monitor for an HP/Apollo 425t, of which I have two of them on the bottom of the stack of computers you see sitting under the desk (the top three units are a VAXStation 3100, a DEC Storage expansion and a MicroVAX 3100). The smaller screen to the right of the 21″ monitor is another DEC VT320 terminal.

This was my work area. Not nearly as bad as Spring's workarea. The desk was barely large enough to hold her computer so she was forced to use a TV tray for the keyboard (it's a black IBM PS/2 keyboard with built-in mouse—way cool). My computers are actually underneath this desk so she had very little leg room.

You can see the rat's nest of wires that were under Spring's desk. It took us quite a bit to untangle this mess, and get rid of the desks on this side of the room. And now you can finally see the Amiga 500 and IBM PCjr.

We moved all the stuff to the living room for temporary storage. Yes, there was quite a bit of stuff in there.

In this shot you can see the HP/Apollo 425ts and VAXen clearly, along with the Sun 3/80 on the floor. The desk here (it's actually a drafting table) is still in excellent shape and is staying in the room. And the vaccuum is the one Rob bought to handle the flooding crisis on Christmas Eve.

Ahhhh! Room! (the clock looking thing in that last shot is indeed a time clock that works (curtesy of the ISP I worked for, and it's sitting next to a manual typerwriter I learned to type on. Above them you can see a PC in a brass case from IBM.)

The desks were replaced with fold-out tables. Here you can see what will become Spring's new workarea. The stack of computers was later moved to the corner and my new work area. The smaller fold-out table is for the printer and scanner. Spring has set up her area, and you can see I've set up my computers under the drafting table. My work area is now uncluttered and I can even hook up the DEC VT320 terminal to my workstation. I even managed to find a place for my webcam.

I've still yet to figure out what I'm going to do with the Amiga 500.

Monday, January 07, 2002

“… you just wouldn't get it.”

I finally finished updating the DaveWorld Journal Site with the new layout and new entries.

I'm glad that's over.

Now off to bed.


Walking on a beautiful day like today

Nice day out—think dark clouds hanging low in the sky; the wind kicking it up a bit. I love days like this and I wanted to walk somewhere. Since there is nothing to drink in the house. I figured I'd walk to the local mini-mart and get some Coke. Hmmm … I gave the rest of my cash to Spring so she could get lunch, since she starts her new job today. Okay, so that's out.

I know, I can check the mail. Nope. Can't do that either—Spring has my keys since she borrowed my car.

Sigh.

I ended up taking out the garbage.


Watch, I can hear you …

Spring's watch (which she forgot to wear today) is going off again. She can't remember how to turn the alarm off, but she can set it. So now it's set to go off at 6:00 pm every day.

Problem is, I don't know how to shut the thing off, so I'm here hitting random buttons hoping to shut it up.

Tuesday, January 08, 2002

Happy Birthday

So in celebration of today, Spring starts singing:

“Happy birthday to you.
Happy birthday to you.
Thank goodness you're not the messiah …
Otherwise you'd die this year.”

Ha ha ha. Yea.

Then, I get a card from my best friend Hoade that has the Top Ten Party Games for the Chronologically Challenged:

10. Bobbing for Dentures
9. Guess My Prescription
8. Musical Walkers
7. Strip Bingo (aka “Scare the Neighbor's Dog”)
6. Twenty Incoherent Questions
5. Whack the Piñata Teenager
4. Who Passed the Gas?
3. Pin the Enema on the Donkey
2. Spin the Prune Juice

And the Number One Party Game …

1. Who Can Stay Up Past 9:30?

Gee … I feel so loved …

But in defense, both Spring and Hoade are rocketing towards their birthdays (next month) … heh heh heh …


The Real secrets they don't want you to know …

So I get the following spam today:

Date: Mon, 7 Jan 2002 20:06:09 +0800
To: lhrghufhky@neo2.neotraffix.com (that ain't me)
Reply-To: supertime@neo2.neotraffix.com
Subject: Secrets you aren't supposed to know!

Wealthy people and banks have been using these programs for decades to make 5, 10 or even 20 times more on their investments than the average investor.

Find out what they don't want you to know.

We have and we are willing to teach you! You can do this part-time, full time or big time.

We will supply you with EVERYTHING you need to make unlimited profits in this phenomenal market. We have taught thousands of individuals, just like yourself, how to tap into this phenomenal income stream. Many of our clients have QUIT THEIR JOBS and now work only for themselves!

If, and only if, you are ready to learn, motivated, and ready to invest in yourself, simply visit our site and find out more!

VISIT OUR SITE TODAY http://neo2.neotraffix.com/govseccert/

**************************************

To be removed from future mailings, click below, and send mailto:nomoreplease@neo2.neotraffix.com?subject=autoremove Please allow 72 hours for removal.

Okay, so occasionally I'll check out a spam, and using Lynx (no way am I going to even attempt looking at this site with IE) I view the site. To my surprise it's readable and it seems that the Big Secret is … Tax Liens! To learn even more, send some money to us and we'll send you this book yada yada yada.

Well, I think, if it's such a good idea, why sell the information on doing it? Why not keep it quiet and keep making money? Or, if you are feeling altruistic, give the information away.

Off to Google to research this. Of the few pages I read, I think I get the idea behind this: the owners of the property become late in paying taxes on said property, the local government (county or state) will then aution off the tax debt. The action is based on the interest rate, which starts at the highest rate the local government can charge for late taxes (one example was 14%) and then goes down. When you win the auction, you pay off the tax debt right there, and then get to collect the payments from the owners at the interest rate you won the auction at (that, at least, is one method—there are several more but they're variants on that).

But the big payoff is when the property owners default on the taxes—if that happens, you then own the property! Real estate, pennies on the dollars! Hype hype hype.

The idea seems solid, and the information you get is usually listings of when and where the auctions are being held, as well as some advice, but I did find this on Google which I doubt will make any of those books:

Infomercial makers and Internet hucksters are promoting investing in unpaid property tax bills as the latest road to wealth. Purportedly, buying so-called tax-lien certificates yields fat interest checks or even ownership of the distressed property.

What could be wrong with that?

For one, it doesn't work in California.

There's no money to be made buying tax liens

I just love Google.

Wednesday, January 09, 2002

Must be a compression of the facts

Yesterday on Slashdot, they had a blurb about Zeosync's claim of a compression scheme that supersedes Claude Shannon's work.

I only mention it here because an associate of mine (who will remain nameless unless otherwise told) not only knows the company, but the company my associate works for has been contracted to actually implement the algorithm, which I've been told is so convoluted that even the scientists at Zeosync are struggling to comprehend. I find that rather amusing (not so my associate, who, being the head programmer, has to most likely write the code).

I've also been told it's not a constant 100:1 compression ratio, but that's the best case you can expect to see.


“… oh, and my fan unit is marginal so I've taken the liberty of ordering a new one … ”

Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe estimates that more than 99% of the world's computer capacity is wasted. He points out that modern microprocessors, such as Intel Corp.'s Itanium, engage in speculative execution—in which some values are computed or retrieved before they are needed—while doing other work. He says that principle should be moved to higher levels, to the operating system and to application software.

“What's done at the hardware level is really minuscule compared to what could be done,” says Metcalfe, a partner at Polaris Venture Partners in Waltham, Mass. “This is a very old, deep idea that needs to be pursued much further than it has.” He calls the idea “anticiparallelism.”

Anticiparallelism

Well yes, most computers spend 99% of their time waiting for something to act upon, usually the much slower and totally unpredictable user. It's an intriguing idea, but I'm not giving much hope over the software end of things—programmers are already adding too many features not really used or needed, or are incorrectly assuming which areas of the code need improvement (optimization) and wasting time there. What programmers think the users want are rarely the things the users want, who come up with their own ideas of what they want (gasp!).

But hardware is another story.

Several years ago I worked at a company that wrote a package that ran on a large number of platforms, from desktop units to mainframes and in a backroom they had a Stratus mainframe they were loaned to test their software on. One day a fan unit shows up at the office for the Stratus computer. No one there had any idea who might have ordered the unit and when Stratus was called, the office was informed that the computer had ordered the fan unit, as the one currently installed was going marginal and needed replacement.

Now I find that cool! Okay, so I would want my computer to ask permission before buying itself more memory (especially if it's going to be using my bank card!) but still, that's a good use of anticiparallelism. Having it fetch every article from Slashdot is not. Especially if it retrieves comments at a level of -1.


It's sooooo geeky it's cool!

This is sooooo geeky, it's cool! I want one! I have no idea where I'd put the thing, but man … Wow!

Thursday, January 10, 2002

A sick puppy

I got email from an ex-cow-orker today, JM. She still works at The Company for the same boss I did when I worked there. I didn't mention it here, but I was fired for basically taking time off (three weeks) for a pretty bad case of bronchitus. My ex-boss, upon my return said: “I had pnemonia for six weeks and I didn't take any time off!” I though he was an idiot then, but what JM told me, he's even more of an idiot that I thought. Or certifiable.

It seems that a few weeks ago, my ex-boss had a cardiac cath operation to remove five (5!) blockages from his heart and there he was, back to work two days later.

In-bloody-sane.

And I'm not even British!

I'm just wondering if you have to be at Death's door to get sick time. That is just … words are failing me.

Friday, January 11, 2002

“Irony is hard, let's go shopping!”

A few weeks ago, I hacked the messages on our ATM: there are a bunch of places where you can change the messages it prints at the top of the screen, and the text it scrolls through while you're waiting for it to dispense its money. We've gotten complaints already!

Some Guy: What's up with the Unamerican shit on the ATM?

Devin: Unamerican?

Some Guy: Yeah, it says “SURPRISE SURPRISE, THE GOVERNMENT LIES!”

Devin: Uh… they do.

Some Guy: Yeah, but you're not supposed to say things like that! Especially not now!

Devin: Isn't that kind of the point of this country? That you're allowed to say whatever you believe?

So now I made some random chump actually think about it. My work here is done.

We got another complaint about the ATM as well: this other guy seemed very confused. “The ATM says `DESTROY CAPITALISM'—but then it charged me a service fee!” Irony is hard, let's go shopping!

Your Love Gives Me Such a Thrill, But Your Love Don't Pay My Bills

It's hard not to admire Jamie. He pretty much does what he pleases and doesn't suffer fools gladly. I'm catching up on his trials on setting up and now running the DNA Lounge, a club in San Fransico.

If only there were more people like him in the world.

Saturday, January 12, 2002

Bill Gates is dead.

I'm finding this site amusing and chilling at the same time. And yes, there is nothing so strange as this, a film on the conspiracy on the assination of William Henry Gates, III on December 2nd, 1999 (consequently, two days before my first entry in this journal) or the Citizens for Truth who are looking into this.

Given the way these sites (and others it looks like) are constructed, you would almost think William Henry Gates, III was assasinated. Who ever is doing this has quite a bit of time on their hands for a rather strange hobby.

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

fycrdthsy2cnwrktzeosync

My associate just wrote in again about ZeoSync and their claims for exceeding Claud Shannon's theoretical limits for compression. I'm keeping the identity of the associate secret mostly for protection if this does fall out as a hoax, but anyway, my associate writes (and I have permission to quote this):

I am still undecided on how valid their claims are. They seem to have toned them down a little. Typical academics.

Slashdot is still battering the shit out of them, but I highly suspect that but I could be wrong. I'm not enough of a data compression [expert] to say one way or the other.

Their algorithm certainly is interesting, it's just too damn slow to implement if you ask me—and I'm talking silicon here, not software.

Amusing. It may just have to wait until quantum computing becomes a reality before the algorithm can probably be implemented in any reasonable amount of time. And that is pure conjecture on my part.

I also find it iteresting that one of the scientists mentioned, Borko Furht (who's page was last modifed on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2002) that he hasn't even mentioned working at or for ZeoSync. I would think that something this revolutionary would be worthy of mention.

Hmmmmmmm …

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

“Rise up! Your employer is stealing your life!”

It was during the years of office work that I caught on: I got two weeks' paid vacation per year. A year has 52 weeks. Even a comparatively unskilled, uneducated worker like me, who couldn't (still can't) do fractions or long division—even I had enough math to figure that two goes into 52 … how many times? Twenty-sic. [sic] Meaning it would take me 26 years on the job to accumulate one year for myself. And I could only have that in 26 pieces, so it wouldn't even feel like a year. In other words, no time was truly mine. My boss merely allowed me an illusion of freedom, a little space in which to catch my breath, in between the 50 weeks that I lived that he owned. My employer uses 26 years of my life for every year I get to keep. And what do I get in return for this enormous thing I am giving? What do I get in return for my life?

A paycheck that's as skimpy as they can get away with. If I'm lucky, some health insurance. (If I'm really lucky, the employer's definition of “health” will include my teeth and my eyes—maybe even my mind.) And, in a truly enlightened workplace, just enough pension or “profit-sharing” to keep me sweet but not enough to make life different. And that's it.

Amen! Now, only if my ex-boss would get this message. Or perhaps not—he may want to work himself to death serving his corporate masters. Nothing like dying at work to show dedication, eh?

Thursday, January 17, 2002

And now for something completely different … and I mean different

I'm looking at the ingredients for some prepackaged prepared food item (I'm not saying what) when this idea hit me: Is this for human consumption, or pet consumption?

I'm told you this was something completely different.

So, here are the ingredients:

INGREDIENTS: Ground wheat, corn gluten meal, wheat flour, ground yellow corn, water, sugar, glycerin, meat, hydrogenated starch hydrolysate, soybean meal, bacon fat preserved with BHA salt, sorbic acid (a preservative), artificial smoke flavor, calcium propionate (a preservative), glyceryl monostearate, phosphoric acid, choline chloride, added color (Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Yellow 6).

So … human food? Or pet food? And what is it?


Notes on a browser history mechanism

In my usual wanderings of the web, I came across an article on Xanadu (the article is long, but informative). For some reason as I'm reading, I'm thinking about the way current web browsers implement their history mechanism and just how bad it is—it's linear, which is the antithesis of hypertext.

Sure, a browser like Mozilla or Internet Explorer will keep track of all pages viewed, but the actual history mechanism, used by the ubiquitious “BACK” button, is horrid. Start the browser, browse five pages, A, B, C, D, E and then go back two to C, then view X. There's no real easy way to get back to pages D and E without knowing what pages they were, and if you weren't paying enough attention to where they were, you could spend the next hour or so trying to find them in the global history list. So I thought, wouldn't it be interesting to do a graphical representation of your browsing session?

The history session would start when you launch the browser and hit your first page.

[Figure 1]

[In the illustrations, text presented in a light yellow box is similar to the Tool Tips you'll see under Internet Explorer or Mozilla when you place the mouse over a link or image. If the text is in a light blue box, it's just a comment relating to the node it's near.]

As you browse pages, new nodes are added, in a linear list building downward:

[Figure 2]

The current node is marked (currently, with a large black dot) and the arrows point to the page you visited. Notice how they all point downwards from the first page (at the top) to the current page (at the bottom). The “BACK” button takes you to the previous node:

[Figure 3]

Or you can select a node to go back to with the mouse:

[Figure 4]

Hitting the “FORWARD” button will take you forward one page:

[Figure 5]

Okay, nothing too out of the ordinary and so far pretty straightforward. But, going back to the middle node there:

[Figure 6]

It's only when you start to follow a new path do things start changing. The old path you followed will swing out of the way, and the current path you are following will then continue on downward.

[Figure 7]

Which leads to another convention I'm using: the vertical path is always the current path, and the one that the “BACK” and “FORWARD” buttons on the browser will follow. Go back twice from the current node (labeled http://www.cse.fau.edu/~borko/resume.html) and then forward twice, and you'll end right back up to the same node. And, if you go back and follow a different path:

the previous paths with swing around, and the current path will start building downward again.

The current path doesn't have to always build downward. The current path could be color coded so the paths don't have to swing around when you take a fork. Another variation could be the current node is always in the center. Other refinements could be pages on a path that are on the same site could be grouped some way (background color?) such that you could collapse all pages on that site to a single node (to reduce clutter).

There are also some problems this method presents (that I'll leave as an exercise for the reader) but I think I would like to see some browser implement this as a history mechanism.

Friday, January 18, 2002

1000 blank white cards

Via my dog wants to be on the radio comes this rather fasinating game called 1000 blank white cards. The rules? Well, short of drawing the cards yourself (well, you and the other players) there aren't really any other rules, other than play proceeds clockwise, unless otherwise noted. Something like Nomic with cards, only less rules.

I remember years ago in college (“Uh oh, there he goes again, reminiscencing again!”) my friend Bill and I are in one of the library study rooms trying to kill time between classes (we had a couple of hours). There was a blackboard in this particular study room and fortunately we actually had chalk on us! (And no, we weren't TAs—I think we had the chalk for use playing pool where we would chalk up part of our hand to help the cue stick slide but I digress). What I don't recall is if we actually had a checker board on us, or drew one but at any rate, somehow we had a checker board and pieces. We started to play a game of checkers, but to make it more interesting, after each move, we would add a new rule to further complicate the game.

The only one I remember is “Kings [in checkers, which we were playing] now move like Queens [like in Chess, which we weren't playing].” We both laughed ourselves silly over that one, but I guess you had to be there at the time to get the full effect. I also remember winning the game since I was able to contrive a set of rules that forced Bill to forgoe a turn, thus loosing the game.

Anyway, it seems that 1000 blank white cards is a similar game—similar in that “we make up the rules as we go along.” And those can be real fun if you have the right mix of people.


The Very Expensive Dog … only it's a cat.

Unlike last time, I was awaken to the sound of someone pounding on the door. Rob had answered it by the time I got out there, and on thought of what happened, I should have just let him answer the door.

“Is Paula Conner around?” asked the postal carrier.

“She is no longer living,” said Rob. Long story short—Mom died a few years ago and I've been rather lax about updating everything that was in her name. Already, this isn't sounding good.

“Oh,” said the postal carrier, looking a bit lost at the news.

“I'm here,” I said, surprising Rob a bit. “I can sign for it.”

“I have a certified letter. If you can sigh here,” the postal carrier said, handing me a pen and a form to sign. “And here.” More signage. “Thank you.”

“This doesn't look good,” I said, opening the certified letter.

“It almost never is,” said Rob.

January 16, 2002

Ms. Paula Conner
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

RE: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, XXXX

Dear Ms. Conner:

It has been brought to my attention that there is a dog being kept in your apartment.

This is a violation of the Rules & Regulations of the Documents of XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.

You will be subject to a $100.00 per day fine (maximum $1,000.00), unless you get rid of the dog upon your receipt of this notification.

Govern yourself accordingly.

Very truly yours,

[signature]

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Property Manager
For the Board of Directors

XXXXX

Cc: Board of Directors

They have got to be kidding!

First off, this is a condo not an apartment (unless they pulled a fast one over on my Mom and we don't even own this volume of space, which, truth be told, given the number of rules and regulations around here, I doubt I can even do anything with it but I'm digressing here). Second, we have a cat, not a dog.

And $100.00 per day?

And of course I get it on a Friday so they'll be out of the office and I won't get a hold of them until Monday so by then I'll owe about $300 to $400 in fines.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX!

So I dig out the RULES AND REGULATIONS OF THE XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, XXXX and check:

  1. Pets belonging to Unit Owners who have signed a pet permission agreement and which have been approved by the Association will be allowed within the Condominuim Property subject to the following restrictions:
    1. No animal other than household, domestic animals (dogs, cats, small birds) shall be permitted upon the Condominium Property at any time.
    2. No animal may be kept, bred or maintained for any commercial purpose.
    3. No animal weighing in excess of twenty (20) pounds may be brought or kept upon the Condominium Property.
    4. Each animal brought or kept upon the Condominium Property shall be at all times under the control of the Owner.
    5. Each Owner shall promptly remove and properly dispose of all waste matter deposited by his animal upon the Condominium Property.
    6. No animal shall be allowed to constitute a nuisance.
    7. No pet which dies or is disposed of may be replaced. It is the intent of this rule that there be no pets permitted on the Condominium Property which were not initially approved by the Developer.

“Looks like they got you,” said Rob.

“I don't know about that,” I said.

“I think so,” said Rob. “It's pretty clear to me.”

“But I don't have a dog. We have a cat,” I said. “Perhaps I should call back and say we have no dog here.”

“That will only buy you a few days.”

“Your probably right. I'll call and see if I can straiten this out.” I looked over the rules and regulations a bit more, and found this:

  1.  
    1. Before XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, XXXX, may levy any fine as provided in its documents, the party against whom the fine is sought to be levied shall be afforded an opprotunity for hearing after reasonable notice of not less than fourteen (14) days and said notice shall include:
      1. A statement of the date time and place of the hearing.
      2. A statement of the provisions of the declaration, association by-laws, or association rules and regulations which have allegedly been violated; and
      3. A short and plain statement of the matters asserted by the association.
    2. The party against whom the fine may be levied shall have an opportunity to respond, to present evidence, and to provide written and oral argument on all issues involved and shall have an opportunity at the hearing to review, challenge and respond to any material considered by the association.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX!

They broke their own XXXXXXX rule! I had no notification of this what-so-ever!

I called the representative who sent the letter. The representative wasn't in, but I left a message, stating that I had no dog, but I did have a cat, and that they were in violation of Rule 28 by not sending me notification and what's up with that. Oh, and there's this Mercedes in a guest parking spot that hasn't moved, is covered (which I thought was a no-no) and it has had a flat tire for months. So it has to be towed.

I feel bad about doing that, even given all the grief I've had over vehicles, but I felt that if they were coming down on me, then I'm sure as Hell going to start going down on other flagrant violations of the Rules and Regulations around here.

Oh God! Am I turning into a Condo Commando?

Say it ain't so!


So, who are the Condo Commandos?

So I head out to get the license plate number of the Mercedes that's been sitting out in the parking lot for weeks now. I figure that if the Condo Commandos are going to make my life a living Hell, then I'm going to make a lot of people's lives a living Hell. If they didn't like Spring's van then I'll get nasty myself.

I start attempting to raise the car cover when a group of people nearby ask what I'm doing. So I tell them. I am then informed that they are responsible for the car and go into length about their situation.

A slight digression. When I was working the night shift, I would occaionally get home to see a nice looking, if seriously old, gentleman laboriously making laps around the parking lot with a walker. I always found that inspiring; here is someone that obviously has trouble walking taking the time and effort to remain active. Heartwarming, you know?

And now here I was, calling in his car! He could barely drive, but he could not change the tire, and the Condo Commandos were after his car as well. He has until the end of this month to get the car in order or else it'll be towed!

I then told the small group why I was out there and they found it incredible! They wanted to know who spied on me and turned me in! A cat of all things!

We also talked a bit about Spring's van, and while a few of them admitted that they felt it was an eyesore, they never called in and complained about it. Heck, they found it amazing that a covered car in a guest spot is apparently illegal.

Bloody Condo Commandos!

Saturday, January 19, 2002

“Yes Virginia, it snowed in South Florida.”

Of course, it was 25 years ago today that it happened. I wasn't down here for this (I moved down here in August of 1979) but my friend Hoade was down here, being a native and all. Of course, he was sick that day and never did see it.

Today, 25 years later it's in the low 80s and of course we're running the A/C here …

Sunday, January 20, 2002

First Impressions … in Lego

Ever since I did some concept images of the Samurai Administrator using Lego Bricks and Toys, I've been interested in possibly doing a comic strip using the figures. A quick web search revealed that quite a few people have done Lego animations but as far as I can tell, only one strip has been done in Lego, and then only for a week.

You'd think that if people have time to recreate New York City with Lego bricks, that someone would do a comic strip.

None that I could find.

So, I decided to do one myself. Not that I plan on doing this on a regular basis—well, not until I possibly get a larger cast than I current have (about six people, two of which are in convenience store garb, one cop, two regular people and one samurai administrator).

As it was, it took me several hours to do.

Monday, January 21, 2002

Mounting fines

So I called the head Condo Commando again in reference to the certified letter I received on Friday about having a dog (which we don't—we have a cat).

And again, I left a message. Why do I get a feeling I won't get a return call until the 29th?


Enough! Enough already! We get the message!

As if the certified letter I recieved telling me to get rid of my non-existant dog was bad enough, today in my mail I received a copy of that letter, plus another copy of a certified letter I've yet to actually sign for!

Enough already!

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Depressing phone call #1

So I call the person responsible for the latest certified letter and the prognosis isn't good. Each person needs to fill out an application and pay a $100 processing fee. Oh, and during the interim period while the Condo Association is considering whether to aprove the applicant or not, the person apply cannot live here.

Well, they can, provided I get a letter from the Condo Association saying it's okay for them to stay here during the approval process.

Yea, right. Like that will happen.

Okay, I suppose it could be tried, but given the force the Condo Commandos have swooped down here at Condo Conner and none of us are really that thrilled with staying here much longer.

Condo Commandos: 1
Residents: 0


Depressing Call #2: more mounting fines

And then I called the head Condo Commando yet again in reference to the first certified letter I received about having a dog (which we don't—we have a cat).

And again, I left a message. Why do I get a feeling I won't get a return call until the 29th?


Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions

But most new communities seek to pre-empt any such adaptivity by repressive, fiercely enforced “convenants, conditions, and restrictions.” These are the dread “CC & Rs” that homeowners' associations use to control such details as what colors you may paint your house, what pets (and in some cases what children) you may keep, how your lawn will look, your roof, your fence, your driveway (no campers, trucks, or car repair), your backyard (no drying laundry or unstacked firewood).17 Any neighbor might report you. What if you ignore or defy such rulings? The homeowners' association can take your house or send you to jail. Joel Garreau points out that these organizations have all the powers of government—the ability to tax, to legislate, and to police—without the usual restrictions of democratic representation or being answerable to the US Constitution….

What makes homeowners' associations so viciously conservative? Market value is determined not by how well a house works, but how it looks in the context of its neighborhood—“curb appeal,” as it's called. Vast effort has gone into making the development look nice to a carefully calculated market segment, and that must not be undermined. When you sell your nice house (Americans move every eight years, on average), do you want the prospective buyer to see someone repairing their car or putting out laundry to dry next door? Suppose they've got a metal roof instead of tile, or a nonstandard dormer sticking out? Well, if they can't, you can't. This degree of institutionalization of real estate value over use value is odious enough as an invation of privacy, but it also prevents buildings from exercising their unique talent for getting better with time.

17 The CC & Rs of Irvine, California, state that they are “for the purpose of uniformly enhancing and protecting the value, attractiveness and desirability of the Properties.” An excerpt gives the flavor:

Section 7.04. Parking and Vehicular Restrictions. None of the following (collectively `Prohibited Vehicles') shall be parked, stored or kept on any street (public or private) within tne Residential Area: any commercial type vehicle (including, but not limited to, any dump truck, cement mixer truck, oil or gas truck or delivery truck); any recreational vehicle (including, but limited to, any camper unit, house/car or motor home); any bus, trailer, trailer coach, camp trailer, boat, aircraft or mobile home; any vehicle not in operating condition or any other similar vehicle; any vehicle with a width in excess of eighty-four (84) inches; any trash dumpster; or any vehicle or equipment, mobile or otherwise, deemed to be a nuisance by the Board. No Prohibited Vehicle shall be parked, stored or kept on any Lot or Common Area except wholly within an enclosed garage, and then only if the garage door is capable of being fully closed. Prohibited Vehicles shall not be allowed in any driveway or other exposed parking areas, or any street (public or private) within the Residential Areas, except for the purpose of loading, unloading, making deliveries, or emergency repairs…. Garages or other parking areas within the Residential Area shall be used only for parking authorized vehicles, and shall not be used for storage, living, recreational, business or other purposes.”

I added those italics. I had to.

–Stewart Brand, How Buildings Learn

My first reaction is, Gee, I don't know anyone who uses their garage for vehicles! Everyone I know uses them for storage (good thing they don't live in Irvine, CA).

This is what happens when people take their homes to be an investment instead of a living area. Heaven forbid anything cause the value of the home to lower! Good Lord, I'm surprised anyone is allowed to live in such places, because, you know, living means use, and with use comes wear, and with wear comes tear and anything not in mint condition lowers in values (or isn't as high as mint).

Hey! I see a whole new financial arena opening up here! Homes you can't live in! What an investment! The homes are always spotless, pristine. Their value should skyrocket through the roof! How can anyone pass up such a deal! All the drudgery and downsides of owning a home (mowing the lawn, fixing leaks) with none of the upside! But think, the value won't decrease!


little pink houses

The old Levittowns are now interesting to look at; people have made additions to their houses and planted their grounds with variety and imagination. Unlike these older subdivisions, Irvine has deed restrictions that forbid people from customizing their places with so much as a skylight…. Owners of expensive homes in Irvine commonly volunteer stories of not realizing they had pulled into the driveway of the wrong house until their garage-door opener failed to work.

–Joel Garreau, Edge City

The cultural historian Paul Groth says the critics were dead wrong about the Levittowns: “They've survived beautifully. People are proud about adapting them. The original cheap materials wore out, as predicted, and people were happy to put in new materials.”

The garage-door experience has been turned into a tool. You drive down your street of identical houses with the garage door opener pressed on. The house with its garage door opening is yours.

–Stewart Brand, How Buildings Learn, commenting on the quote by Joel Garreau above.

There are quite a few of those Irvinette communities here in South Florida and everytime I see them, I think—Camazotz. It's the sameness of all the dwellings that scare me the most and yes, it can be quite difficult to tell them apart they're so cookie cutter in look.

And then I think back to my paternal grandparent's house (in Royal Oak, MI, just north of Detroit). They had a plain white Cape Cod style home but the other homes on their block: the firehouse red one a few doors down, or the green one on the corner. The two huge multistory homes across the street. The white house with deep red trim. All of them different. All of them with character. All of them with basements (but I digress—you really can't have basements here in South Florida).

My next house there will be no association of any kind. I want to paint my house pink if I wish to.

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Mounting Fines III

“Is the head Condo Commando in the office?” I asked.

“I haven't seen the head Condo Commando here in the office today, but sometimes he sneaks in the back door. Let me transfer you.”

“Okay.”

[insert S/X here—“The Girl from Impanema”]

“You have reached the voice mail box for the head Condo Commando. Please leave your name and message.”

Sigh.


Dream of the Future

Walking back from the bank (and store to pick up some sugar) I was thinking about the recent events here at Condo Conner and about how difficult it would be for me to give up this place.

I'm too sentimental at times I think.

The Condo Commandos aside, the place is nice. It's a good location; the neighborhood is quiet and the place is comfortable. And I've lived here since 1988 when my Mom bought the place.

I think it may be more that my Mom bought the place than anything else.

Did I mention I may be too sentimental at times?

I have a hard time seeing myself living anywhere else, but then again, I've always been that way, although of all the times I have moved (perhaps ten times in my life) I've only moved voluntarily once—in August of 1992 to Boca Raton to live with some friends while at collage (only to move back here in late 1993 but that's a story for another time). And in all that time, I really could only see myself moving to a few locations.

First is a small Cape Cod house in Royal Oak, MI where my paternal grandparents lived. Sure, it's small, with old style (two pronged) electrical outlets and only recently has a touch tone phone been installed (early 90s) but it's comfortable. I know that house. And the neighborhood. I can picture myself driving off the 11 Mile exit from I-75, going north along the surface drive to Gardinia, hanging a left and turning onto the appropriate side street, then a block and a half to pull into the driveway. I even had half a mind to re-errect the old bell in the front yard (my grandparents had a cast iron bell, maybe twenty to thirty pounds, mounted on a pole in the front yard and used it to summon the kids home for dinner. It was still up as late as 1978 until some punk kids knocked it down for the nth time, and then it languished in the garage ever since). “Yea, turn down that street, then go a block and a half and look for the house with the bell out front. That's where I live.”

But it's no longer in the family. The grandparents are no longer around, and the family sold the house.

Sigh.

Second is anywhere in Brevard, NC, where I lived as a small kid. It had that small town charm with a real Main Street with two story buildings with shops along the ground, apartments above and beautiful scenery. Seasons that change and Halloween felt like Halloween. It's a great place to grow up as a kid, but I can see where it would start to really suck for high school students, or people without kids. The closest thing to a night life would be Asheville, about half an hour away to the north.

And it wasn't quite the same when I visited the place in 1988 (nine years after moving away). The drug store I used to buy comics at was a Hallmark store. More fast food restaurants in the area (I remember the first McDonald's in Brevard was built in 1977) and it seemed … more crowded.

You can't go home again.

Sigh.

I'm too sentimental at times I think.

“The only constant in life is change.”

Time to move on methinks.


Raising Ukeleles

So what was it that got me all maudlin on the walk home? Weeds and dead leaves.

Weeds. And no, that that kind of weed. The kind that most people hate to find in their yard. Native flowers, that type. Specifically, the smell.

I'm four years old and we're living somewhere in Royal Oak. Out back of our townhome is an embankment with a train track running atop. It's spring, maybe summer, and us kids are playing on the embankment and track, waiting for the trains to come so we could watch them thunder by. I remember this only because of the smell of flowering weeds covering the embankment. That smell always brings me back to that place, that time.

Dead leaves. Not so many down here, but you can find them. And the sight and smell of those take me back to Brevard.

Autumn. Past the explostion of color in late September/early October to late October/early November, when the leaves have turned all brown and dried and carpet the ground. The rustling crunching noise as you walk. Piles of brown dried leaves to jump into, signalling the oncoming of Halloween in the county seat of Translyvania County (no joke!). Running with friends from house to house collecting sweets and gorging yourself sick by the next day.

I'm looking over the letters I've received over the past few days, growing sad at having to leave yet another place.

“You can never go home again.”

The weight of history is threatening to engulf me. It is time to move on.

I must.

If only it weren't so painful.


“Okay Shermy, set the wayback machine … ”

Consider the hardware: a computer system with close to 400 parallel processors, 100 terabytes of disk space, hundreds of gigs of RAM, all for under a half-million dollars. As you'll read in this in interview, the folks at the Archive have turned clusters of PCs into a single parallel computer running the biggest database in existence—and wrote their own operating system, P2, which allows programmers with no expertise in parallel systems to program the system.

Via Flutterby How The Wayback Machine Works

I find this stuff facinating. Google runs off 8,000 servers, this site has 100 terabytes of storage, and my friend Kelly works at a place that processes gigs of log files every day.

He said that before he optimized the processing, it sometimes took about 30 hours to process one day's worth of logs. Now, it can finish (for a real busy day) in under 22 hours. He works for a really busy site and I found the inner workings quite interesting.


Is this a case of a server working around a browser bug that is working around a server bug?

Mark is writing an embedable webserver and asked me to look into a rather odd problem he's having. I looked into it, and yes, it's an odd problem.

He's testing the redirection code, so if you give a URL like:

http://www.example.net/news

and news is a directory, then it will redirect you to:

http://www.example.net/news/index.html

So far so good. Only to ease testing, he's running the server on non-reserved TCP port, so the URL:

http://www.example.net:8080/news

is then redirected to

http://www.example.net:8080/news/index.html

And therein lies the odd problem.

Netscape 4.07 and Lynx 2.8.1pre.9 under Linux (okay, RedHat 5.2, my current home platform), when given the new location, goes to

http://www.example.net:8080:8080/news/index.html

Which seems to be okay when you connect directly to the webserver, but gives a web proxy (like squid) fits. IE 5.0.whatever fails entirely. Mozilla 0.9.2.1 under Linux works fine and seems to get the URL processing correct, but Mozilla 0.9.5 under the Macintosh fails much like IE does.

But here's the real kicker: They all work fine when Apache sends the redirect with a port number.

We can't figure it out. As far as we can tell, the server response is the same between Apache and Mark's server, only the server name is different (okay, the HTML page sent with the 30x response is a bit different too, but not my much).

Very odd.

Thursday, January 24, 2002

Whirlwind

9:00 am: Rob and I leave Condo Conner for Find-a-Home, a free (to us) service to locating places to rent.

12:00 pm: Rob and I have already filled out the applications to live in an apartment and are heading for lunch.

I wasn't really expecting this to happen quite so fast, but there you go.

It started yesturday when Rob sent me a few listings for rentable homes in Boca and I started calling the numbers. The first one I called was to a company called Find-a-Home located in Pompano Beach just a few miles away. The person who answered said they have hundreds of listings and the service (for us) is free to use. So Rob and I decided to try them out and look at a few places, and on Saturday, go back with Spring when she's not working.

We left the house around 9:00 am to make sure we have plenty of time to see a few places. We arrive and are immediately met by Lori, a frazzled mom-type who is always chattering away. She hands us a questionaire to fill out while she's answering the phone for a few minutes.

Over the next hour she pretty much grills us on what we are looking for—pressing for details all the way. Which city? How much? Do you care if it's a townhome? And in between, Rob and I kept adding details—no association. No gated communities. No restrictions on vehicles (at which point, we had to digress and tell her about Rob's hearse).

After all this, she tells us she has a rental community in mind; two story townhomes with private fenced in yards, many trees around located in Boca Raton. She's describing the unit (which is a 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom unit) as I realize I know what apartments she's talking about—the same units that our friend JeffK lives in, located in South Boca Raton.

That is indeed the place. It sounds agreeable to both Rob and I and all three of us drive out to look at the unit. There we met The Rental Manager (who's name I forgot, so she'll be referred to as TRM), an overly friendly woman who was good friends with Lori. Rob and I were then taken to the model, which sold us immediately. Nice construction, decent layout (although the kitchen is a bit small, but comes with microwave, and the downstairs bedroom isn't much larger than a walk in closet), huge master bedroom; master bath has a Roman tub with jacuzzi implements, and the second bedroom (with private bathroom) that is fairly sizable. A porch spans between the two bedrooms and overlooks the fenced in yard. The mirrored stairwell won't be in the unit we're taking.

And they have nooooo problem with Rob's hearse.

And so we found ourselves back in the rental office filling out paper work for background checks, employment checks, etc., etc. The sureal part was Rob listing me as his current landlord (“No Rob, I am not evicting you.”). Moving in will be fairly cheap and fairly soon if we're accepted—February 5th.

The only hurdle will be passing the checks. If that goes, and we do move in, then I'll work on getting Condo Conner rented out.


No good deed goes unpunished.

Rob and I found ourselves having to run a few errands after getting home from our morning running around. On the way out to the car Rob spotted a set of keys lying in one of the reserved parking spots. I think I know who they might belong to, but don't know for sure, nor do I remember which unit they live in. So we decided to let them be.

Upon returning back, we see a car parked in the spot and I wondered out loud of the owners of the car found the keys. Rob said they more likely parked on the keys, and yes, he was right. The keys were still lying on the ground, almost crushed by the front left tire.

I picked up the keys, intending to put them under the whiper blade but Rob said that was an inventation to having the car stolen. I didn't want that, nor did I want to leave the keys on the ground. The car key on the chain matched the model car in the space, and I figured a good test to see if this was the correct owner was to use the key to open the car and leave the keys on the seat and lock the car back up, since the owner obviously had a second set of keys.

I took a quick glance around, inserted the key into the door. Unlock and open the do—

WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP! ALERT! ALERT! DANGER! DANGER!

—or alarm is going off toss keys on seat slam door shut walk away like someone trying to walk away nonchalantly but failing miserably as Rob is attempting to remain upright laughing so hard and Spring coming out asking us what we did.

Friday, January 25, 2002

A preemptive callback

In a surprise move today, the head Condo Commando called me this morning. He excused himself for not getting back sooner by saying he was on sick leave, and that they weren't going to fine us. “Read the letter more carefully,” he said.

I scanned the letter. “ 'You will be subject …',” I said.

“That's a far cry from being fined,” he said. “So, do you have a dog?”

“No. I have a cat.”

“Pets aren't allowed here.”

“There are other people with cats,” I said. “Quite a few places.”

“Well, give me their names and addresses and I'll send them letters too.”

“I don't wish that! Besides, we have an indoor cat. It never goes outside. It's never been outside.”

“Well, the Vice President of the Board complained …” Aha! That's who turned us in! “… so I'll get back with him about it.” The call ended there.

I did not mention the other problem we're having. I figure since the head Condo Commando didn't mention it, he doesn't know and I suspect they may have gotten us confused with another unit, with a dog and unauthorized occupants.


A very rare request

I got an email today from someone looking for a tutorial or resources on writing a metasearch engine. I got the email because I've written three of them over the past six years or so.

I told the person that I know of no tutorials or references about writing metasearch engines since when I started, there were about two in existance that I knew of and that to me, it was pretty straightforward what you need to do in order to write a metasearch engine: you get query (using CGI most likely), reformat the queries for each engine you support and make the request like a browser would (which means you need to support HTTP and CGI from the client side) and then process the pages you get back (so you need to parse HTML) and display output like any CGI script can.

Easy.

Okay, maybe not that easy as there are some nagging details you only find out about by doing an actual implementation (like certain IIS servers will send out two complete header sections, or that IIS doesn't follow the HTTP redirect specification at all, and what exactly are you supposed to do if you get a redirect on a POST?) but if you take it piece by piece it's not that overwhelming.

Or is it just me?


A lesson learned

Don't used shredded cheese when making a grilled cheese sandwich.

That is all.

Saturday, January 26, 2002

Too much, too little, probably just enough

I was talking to Hoade today and one of the topics was my weblog/on-line journal here. He said he and his wife tend to get glassy eyeied (eyed? eye-ed? eyied?) when reading the more technical entries.

“Does anyone actually understand what he's saying?” I think is the direct quite from his wife.

Meanwhile, Mark recently observed that I'm writing fewer and fewer technical articles.

Guess I'm doing something right.

Monday, January 28, 2002

“But first you must jump through this flaming hoop … ”

I noticed that I need to update the nameservers on my Internic record and seeing how I'm still with Network Solutions, um … make that Verisign the old method of updating my records (via email like I used to do) doesn't work for this domain (although it still works for older domains that still have SC47 listed as a contact) because I was “upgraded” to the new “easier” method of updating information.

“Yea … right. No, I believe you!”

Things are somewhat of a mess here in Condo Conner (due to the recent reorganization of the Computer Room, and the possible impending move out of Condo Conner) so I have no idea were my new account information is. No problem, the web site has a link to let people recover that information.

Good news? I get my account number.

Bad news? No password.

I go to the page requested, and I have to answer a “security” question correctly before they'll cough up my password. Security question? I thought. I don't remember what question I need to answer. There are four or five possible questions. I pick the most likely one, and nope. That isn't it. Another one. Nope. How about this one? Nope. And what about this one? Nope, and oh, by the way, your account is now locked. Please call Customer Service. Have a nice day.

It's about this time that I want to say

MAY YOU BURN IN HELL!

Me? Bitter? Nah.

So I call Customer Support. “We're ignoring customers as fast as we can. Please hold until we can ignore you too.”

Death metal version of “Girl from Impanema” played on.

“Um … um … may I … ah … help you?” Finally.

So I explained the situation. I was then told that I would be emailed a form that I would then fill out and fax back. “I don't have a fax machine,” I said. “Is there any other way this can be done?”

“Um … ah … no … um … not really,” was the reply. So I need to fill out the form that is sent to me via email …

“What format is that in?”

“Ah … um … it's um … Microsoft Word.”

“I'm sorry, I can't use that.”

“Um … ”

“I'm a Unix shop here, and I don't have Microsoft Windows.”

“Well … um … ah … you need to fax us a letter saying what you … um … need done and um … photo ID …”

“Excuse me? A photo ID?”

“Yes, ah … with the address um … listed … here.”

“And hypothetically speaking, if this is business related?”

“Um … yes … what?”

“What if this is a business account? My photo ID is not going to have my work address on it.” Well, given the way corporations are taking over, that might not be too far off, but I digress.

“Then … ah … um … you … need to fax … us a … um … letter on … company letterhead.”

“Thank you.”

MAY YOU ROT IN THE HOTTEST RING OF HELL NETSOL!

Ahem.

The tech however, did email me a text copy of the form I need to fax back. How nice.

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Dances With the Last of the Texas Chainsaw Alien X-Men in the Iron Mask le Miserables

Spring, George (my friend from Boston visiting friends down here for a few weeks) and I went to see Brotherhood of the Wolf (aka “Le Pacte de loups”). While not a great film, or even a good film, it was okay, if somewhat confused as to what it wanted to be. Political thriller? Supernatural horror? Pyschological horror? Hong Kong action? Historical drama?

Most likely all of the above.

What we have is 1765 France where some supernatural creature (which most people in the movie think is a wolf) is going around eating women and children. The King sends a naturalist (and his friend, a Mohawk named Mani) to investigate. After an unsuccessful hunt, the King sends in a veteran who kills an unusually large wolf and forces the naturalist to fake the body to make it look more imposing than it is—thus making it seem like the creature has been caught when it hasn't.

It also seems that from that point onward, the seeds to revolution are growing and our heroes get plopped right into the middle of yet even more attacks by the creature.

See it for the babes. Don't see it for the CGI.


All bananas, all the time

So I get this email:

Date: Mon, 28 Jan 2002 19:52:19 -0800
To: <webmaster@conman.org>
From: Brianna XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Subject: Link Exchange Request

I just added a link to http://boston.conman.org on my site.

You can find it here:
http://www.bananasite.com/links/bananaat-large.html

I would be very grateful if you added a link to http://www.bananasite.com

I prefer a simple text link, but I also have several banners and sample text links at:
http://www.bananasite.com/links/addlink.html

Let me know if you would like any changes in your listing (category, description, etc) even if you decide not to link back.

Thanks,
Brianna

Well.

She found the pages where I talked about banana spiders on a trip I took through Northern Florida while ghost hunting a year and a half ago. I suppose I should write her back with a link to here so she can effectively catagorize all my banana entries.


Hectoring Googlewhacks

Spring sent me a link describing googlewhacking, where you take two words, type them into Google and see if you can get a single result.

Oh, and the two words have to be real words.

My first attempt was a winner. Now, if I state what my first attempt was, it will still show a single result until this page is indexed, then it will no longer be googlewhackable material. But just so you know that when I did this, it was a googlewhack:

hectoring kumquat

Other ones I came up with that were winners: hectoring scalawag and hectoring tangerines. My attempt at apocalyptic waldo not only turned up 725 results, but a page even mentions an Apocalyptic Waldo!

The stuff you find on the web these days.

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

The MPAA is really going to love this idea …

I'd love to hear a commentary track by someone who hates a movie, ripping it to shreds. Or a track by an expert who disagrees with the facts in a film. Or a track by someone with a moral or philosophical argument to make. Or even a Wayne's World–style track from dudes down in the basement who think The Mummy Returns is way cool.

Via E V H E A D, You, too, Can be a DVD Movie Critic

It could be said that Pink Floyd did this to the Wizard of Oz (but that is still unsubstantiated) so the technique is actually quite old, and Roger Ebert has some excellent ideas for commentary. I can just see Mark, Kelly, Rob and I doing commentary for movies like WarGames (“Cool!”), Hackers (“What a piece of dung!” “But it has Angelina Jolie's breasts!”), Swordfish (“What a load of crap!” “But it has Halle Berry's breasts!”) or even The Net (“What a horrible film!” “And it doesn't even have Sandra Bullock's breasts in it!”).

Thursday, January 31, 2002

Um … not really.

In this plastic crazy economy of ours, I pretty much had to use plastic to pay for the DSL connection to Condo Conner. Technically, it's a check card, not a credit card, but as it has that Visa logo on it, it works about the same, only I can't get myself in debt.

Now, I lost the card and had it replaced. So it's no real surprise that I got a letter from my DSL provider that they experienced a distrubance in the Force economic flow, as it were (never mind that I've yet to actually see them debit my card, but I'll have to pour over my bank statements a bit more to see what exactly might be going on). They provided an 800 number I can call, stating “our customer service represenatives are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

Okay, to me that means I can call at 2:00 am Eastern and get this straightened out.

So I call at 2:00 am Eastern to get this straightened out.

“ … and press two for your broadband service.”

Beep.

“For issues with broadband, please call 1-800-XXXXXXXX. Thank you for calling XXXXXXX.”

Excuse me? This isn't a small company by any means. This is a huge company. Can't they afford to automatically forward my call? Couldn't they have printed the correct 800 number to call? What, are they trying to turn everyone in the U.S. into phone operators?

So I call the new number.

“ … and for billing issues press four—”

Beep.

“Our billing office is currently closed and there are no represenatives able to take your call right now. Please call back during normal business hours of … ”

Um, guys? Customer service represenatives? Available 24/7? Remember? Hello? Hello?


Alligator Alley

I drove George to Naples which is on the west coast of Florida, so she could visit her parents. It's not a bad drive, about 85 miles, of which 78 are along Alligator Alley. Now it's I-75 and four lanes wide, but when I moved down here in 1979 it was a two lane road with a high death rate on it (78 miles with no exits and a huge truck doing 50 in front of you the tempation to pass is all too great … do you see where this is going?). It still has its share of accidents but they're not nearly as bad. And there are actually two exits now between the endpoints. Woo hoo!

The drive over took a little over an hour (Speed limit on Alligator Alley: 70 mph) so it wasn't that bad (it takes an hour to go from West Palm Beach to Miami and both are considered local towns here in South Florida). And dispite the please from George's parents, I could not stay for dinner as I had to drive back across the state to pick up Spring from work.


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[Here I am, enjoying my vacaton in a rain forest.]

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

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