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.

Wednesday, Debtember 04, 2002

Silent Blog

It's that month.

The one month I wish I could skip entirely. I want to hibernate, to avoid any conscience moments in a month of forced cheer, out of control spending, Christmas Carols, and ever increasing traffic levels.

Unfortunately, it's progressing … one … day

at

a

time.

Ugh.

Also, both Spring and I have been rather down lately. I also feel less inclined to do stuff and would rather just hang out and converse with friends. The problem with even that though, is getting in the right mood for conversing; it doesn't help that my sleep schedule is all screwed up to the point where I'm actually getting up in the morning!

If you know me at all, you know that is not a normal thing for me.

Anyway, some email from readers about previous entries:

From: Jeff Cuscutis
To: Sean Conner
Subject: Mail service
Date: Wed, 27 Nov 2002 23:25:50 -0500

Saw the http://boston.conman.org/2002/11/23.1 3 days entry. My boss had the same thing happen this week. He checks his mail once a week. They returned his mail. He was not pleased and called them up. After insulting them “I'm sorry, but no one who answers a phone is a supervisor,” he told them his vacation plans: he will be gone every Monday through Friday for the next 3 months so he will only get mail service on Saturdays.

Amazing.

I guess I can take solice in that we're not the only ones with this problem.

From: Kojiro
To: Sean Conner
Subject: Hey ...
Date: Fri, 29 Nov 2002 17:02:22 -0500

Hey, man, I just hit your page with the New Opera 7, Beta 1, and it's following some nice little tags that you have in your HTML ... check it out ... it's pretty bad ass ... Of course, it's gotta be on a windows box, cause Opera's development on Linux, and all things non-windows is just a bit behind.

I put a screenshot in

http://www.samurai-administrator.com/images/opera7

Kinda large, cause they're bitmaps, but it's kinda impressive. I haven't seen this sort of functionality on any of the other browsers ... at least, not straight out of the box, so I was a bit impressed with this.

Opera finally supports the <LINK> tags it seems, and unlike Mozilla you don't have to turn it on. I suspect (not having seen Opera in action) that the navigation bar only comes up on sites that have the <LINK> tags. It's nice to see that tags I started using some four or five years ago finally getting use ...

From: Steve Crane
To: Sean Conner
Subject: International Money Orders
Date: Sat, 30 Nov 2002 22:13:15 +0200

Hi Sean,

I liked your story about the money order. Of course if you were dealing with a South African you would have got it right away. We call them POSTAL orders. :-)

Cheers.

And now I know (for the record, Steve is a friend from South Africa, if your curious about the time zone in the date).

From: Mischief
To: Sean Conner
Subject: Engineering Porn
Date: Mon, 2 Dec 2002 21:21:53 -0500

Where did you hear about pronography being used in that manner? I'm reading a cyberpunk book, Synners, right now and it mentions porn in that context. It was the first time I've ever heard it used in that manner, so I was quite surprised to see it a few days later in your journal.

I actually got it from the same book, and I'm sure that's where jwz got it from as well (I titled that entry the same as his entry by the way). I read that book, oh, what? Eight years ago or so and it's stuck with me ever since. The first draft of that entry mentioned Synners but a subsequent edit removed it (for better flow).


“The check is done with the process' real id … ”

Your journal software leaves the content files world writable:

That is not so much a bug as a work-around the rather brain-damaged Unix permissions. The software accepts new entries via email or a web interface (okay, so I've yet to actually use the web interface, it's there if I ever need it) and since sendmail writes files as “mail/mail” and the web server runs as “www/www” and since I can upload files (usually images) as “spc/users” there's a bit of a problem.

Why not just have those programs execute SUID/SGID as spc/users? Then there is no problem. Assuming those programs check paths so I can't do anything naughty that shouldn't be a security risk at all.

This is something I'm willing to live with.

I can cook you up a comment system :-)

Email exchange between Mark and myself about mod_blog

Since Mark also has access to the webserver, it would be rather easy for him to “cook up a comment system.”

Heh.

Anyway, I've spent the past hour or so working on making mod_blog SUID and not having much success.

Or rather, partial success.

New entries are added, that isn't the problem. The problem is in displaying the entries (and in generating a few static pages like the main page and the RSS feed which technically I don't have to do, but it lightens the load on the server if I do). And tracking down the problem wasn't straight forward—it worked fine if I (as me) ran it under my own user ID, but it would fail if I ran it as another user (which is odd, since the program, being SUID should have run as me reguardless of who started it). And gdb doesn't allow one to debug a SUID program if you run it as a different user than the one who owns it.

Nice.

That just means I have to resort to other means to debug the program, which is a skill I picked up, despite being tediously annoying (okay, gdb may be able to debug a SUID program as someone other than the owner, but I don't know the magic incantations to do such a thing and I'm trying to track down a problem with my code; I don't really want to fight another program at this time).

I finally found the problem, and it's a Unix problem.

The current method I use to store entries is to store each one in its own file, using a directory structure as so:

year “/” month “/” day “/”

where the directory “day” contains the actual entries.

Now, not every day or month has to be there (heck, entire years can be skipped), so as a quick check I use the access() function to see if a date (as stored on the disk) exists.

access checks whether the process would be allowed to read, write, or test for existence of the file (or other file system object) whose name is pathname. If pathname is a symbolic link permissions of the file referred to by this symbolic link are tested.

access(2) manual page

Since I'm testing for the existence of a directory (and I don't really want to change into it or even at this point open the directory for reading) access() seems the perfect choice to use. But reading a bit further …

The check is done with the process's [sic] real uid and gid, rather than with the effective ids as is done when actually attempting an operation. This is to allow set-UID programs to easily determine the invoking user's authority.

access(2) manual page

Yea.

So while all the damaging system calls use the effective user id, the safest system call you can make, the one that does practically nothing, uses the real user id.

Tell me again how this helps?

So, even though the program supposedly runs under my user id, it really isn't and I have to tell the system that it should. setreuid() should solve that problem.


Three years and still going …

I just realized that today is the Third Anniversary of The Boston Diaries.

My, how time flies …

Thursday, Debtember 05, 2002

Letter to Mr. Woo Chong, Republic of China

From: Sean “Captain Napalm” Conner <sean@conman.org>
To: Mr. Woo Chong <woo_101chong@myself.com>
Subject: Re: CHINA TRUST COMMERCIAL BANK
Date: Thu, 5 Dec 2002 20:47:12 -0500

MR. WOO CHONG
CHINA TRUST COMMERCIAL BANK.
NAN KAN BRANCH, TAIWAN
REPUBLIC OF CHINA

I am Mr. Woo Chong, Bank Manager of Chinatrust Commercial Bank, Nan Kan branch, Taiwan, R.O.C. I have urgent and very confidential business proposition for you.

Wonderful! It was most unfortunate that I had to turn down the Nigerians and their wonderful offers; this couldn't have come at a more opportune time.

On June 6, 1998, a British Oil consultant/contractor with the Chinese Solid Minerals Corporation, Mr. Smith Lawrence made a numbered time (Fixed) Deposit for twelve calendar months, valued at US$30,000,000.00 (Thirty Million Dollars) in my branch. Upon maturity, I sent a routine notification to his forwarding address but got no reply. After a month, we sent a reminder and finally we discovered from his contract employers, the Chinese Solid Minerals Corporation that Mr. Smith Lawrence died from an automobile accident. On further investigation, I found out that he died without making a WILL, and all attempts to trace his next of kin was fruitless.

Oh how fortunate for us that no will could be found, nor could any next of kin. Oh why am I not terribly surprised at that?

I therefore made further investigation and discovered that Mr. Smith Lawrence did not declare any kin or relations in all his official documents, including his Bank Deposit paperwork in my Bank. This sum of US$30,000,000.00 is still sitting in my Bank and the interest is being rolled over with the principal sum at the end of each year. No one will ever come forward to claim it. According to Laws of Republic of China, at the expiration of 5 (five) years, the money will revert to the ownership of the Chinese Government if nobody applies to claim the fund.

Why not let it ride out the five years? Even at a paltry 2% you'll end up with an extra US$1,549,968.10, unless you don't exactly trust your own bank in these matters.

Consequently, my proposal is that I will like you as a foreigner to stand in as the next of kin to Mr. Smith Lawrence so that the fruits of this old man's labor will not get into the hands of some corrupt government officials.

So that instead, the fruits of Mr. Smith's labor will then go into the hands of some corrupt corporate officials. Wonderful!

This is simple, I will like you to provide immediately your full names and address so that the attorney will prepare the necessary documents and affidavits that will put you in place as the next of kin. We shall employ the services of an attorney for drafting and notarization of the WILL and to obtain the necessary documents and letter of probate/administration in your favor for the transfer. A bank account in any part of the world that you will provide will then facilitate the transfer of this money to you as the beneficiary/next of kin. The money will be paid into your account for us to share in the ratio of 90% for me and 10% for you.

Ten percent? That's it? The Nigerians all offered at least 20%, along with the Russians. Heck, a gem merchant offered me 70% to participate! You are going to have to do better than a measly 10% to scam persuade scam entice scam intrigue me. Just for your insolence, 50/50 split, or talk to the hand.

There is no risk at all as all the paperwork for this transaction will be done by the attorney and my position as the Branch Manager guarantees the successful execution of this transaction. If you are interested, please reply immediately via the private email address above. Upon your response, I shall then provide you with more details and relevant documents that will help you understand the transaction. Please send me your confidential telephone and fax numbers for easy communication.

You know, at least the Nigerians give excuses why they can't just do this themselves, such as government corruption, legal blockages, etc., and I'm wondering the same thing here. If you, who are in the banking industry, don't know anyone else outside of the Republic of China that could help you, then I'm not sure if I want to trust you … not that I trust you to begin with.

Please observe utmost confidentiality, and rest assured that this transaction would be most profitable for both of us because I shall require your assistance to invest my share in your country.

Awaiting your urgent reply via my email address.

Thanks and regards.

Mr. Woo

You wouldn't happen to know a Mr. Zhou Shun Lam, would you? He too, found the account and is proposing a similar scam offer to someone else.

But overall, I was impressed with your command of the English language and spelling, which is more than I can say for some of the other scams offers I've received. But if it's the same to you, I would like to decline the offer.

Your's truly,

Sean “Captain Napalm” Conner

Saturday, Debtember 07, 2002

Another mod_blog user …

Over a year since I've publically released the source code to mod_blog and some else is now using the code!

Woo hoo!

Mark finally broke down (or rather, our current society broke him down) and he now has an online journal for which to vent.

I will admit the install process is a bit on the rough side (but then again, I haven't had much feedback on actually using the software and I know the quirks too well to actually remember them to consciously remember them) and I have cleaned up the code a bit (fixed one small bug that only happened if you had fewer than seven days worth of entries, and replacing calls to access() with stat() since it was stat() I should have used in the first place).

And now, I finally get to bug Mark about when he's going to make his next entry …


Infamy

So, if today is a date which will live in infamy, what does that make September 11th?

Sunday, Debtember 08, 2002

The ultimate in cubicles

Scott Adams approached IDEO to create Dilbert's Ultimate Cubicle, an attempt to address the myriad issues connected with partition-based offices. The result is a modular cubicle that allows each worker to select the components and create a space based on his or her tastes and lifestyle.

Via The Duff Wire, Dilbert's Ultimate Cubicle

I don't know if I would love to work in such a cubicle, or want to run away as quickly as possible. I mean, I love the idea of flippable floor modules and the pop-up floor storage but the sun indicator and the snap hammock are scary; a way to spend way too much time at the office slaving away for “The Man.”

And I'm still of the opinion that cubicles are eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil!


Enlightened Palms

One of the few things I actually like about this month are the lights. More specifically, the lights most people decorate their palm trees.

Driving back from dropping Spring off at work, I saw some impressive displays; impressive enough to go back and take pictures.

So I find myself parking my car at a shopping center in northern West Boca at 2:00 am in the morning, digital camera and tripod in tow as I walk a block towards an exclusive, gated community to photograph their entrace light show, thoughts of cops dancing in my head; anything done at 2:00 am can be construed as suspicious these days but the traffic is very light, which is one of the reasons I picked 2:00 am for this little outting. I setup directly across the street from the development and start taking pictures.

Of course, it was at that precise moment that traffic picked up, cars and trucks wizzing past (as you can see in the picture, which isn't a bad effect really; I like it).

Obviously, I made it home okay.


Directors commentary on “Enlightened Palms”

I'm not really thrilled with how Enlightened Palms turned out; I think Deserted Shopping Center in West Boca at 2:30 am turned out much better. Enlightened Palms is too washed out and grainy whereas Shopping Center is crisper.

I set the digital camera for night shots, indoor (artificial) lighting, no flash and an effective film rating of ASA 400, which as films go, means it's a fast film. It's the speed of film I used in college and I've had good results in using it at night, so I decided to use that setting here. Only the digital camera gives rather poor results with ASA 400 at night; very grainy and black areas tend to be a very blotchy bluish-black (which is more noticable on the original 1984×1488 images).

For Shopping Center (which was taken when I headed back to the car) I decided to see what the results would look like if, keeping the other settings the same (night shot, indoor lighting, no flash) and set the ASA to 100. The results I think look much better, so I'm thinking of doing another attempt at Enlightened Palms in the near future.

Monday, Debtember 09, 2002

Chills from the Cold War

I'm thinking a lot about privacy today. I had a conversation with someone this morning which left me in an internal debate. We were talking about holiday shopping that he needs to do soon so that he can mail presents and I suggested he just buy stuff at Amazon and have it shipped already wrapped. He said he doesn't want to have his every activity tracked by the new Homeland Security database and so uses cash now. It's not that he's sending people uranium for Xmas; he just believes that consumer tracking is America's form of totalitarianism.

My first thought was that he was being a little extreme, but on further explication his reasoning seems sound. It goes like this: If all your consumer activity can be tracked, a profile can be developed and you can be more effectively marketed to. The more you can be convinced that you have needs, the more you will spend your time and money meeting those needs, and the less of your time and money will be available to activities which corporations or government would consider undesirable, such as self-sufficiency or activism. Further, if all your online reading can be tracked, the profile can be expanded to associate the consumer profile with an intellectual profile thus permitting easier identification of those whom the government finds to be intellectually of concern. …

It's an interesting conundrum. Vanity makes me reluctant to abandon the site (and believe me, I'd make a ridiculous number of backup copies of all this work). However, realism is bringing it home to me that I'm sticking my neck way out. Should I consider it activism? Am I providing a useful service in being visably opposed to the Bush administration? In publically stating that I'm a woman who has no intention or need to bear children? In reminding the world that not everyone believes in God? In saying that my life and personality would change very very little if I was suddenly male instead of female? In being, in short, a stinkin' liberal freak?

MetaGrrrl: Exposure

I was with friends yesterday and the topic turned slightly towards politics. I mentioned article I read where a man got 37 months of jail for making a comment about a burning Bush; the possibility of someone pouring a flammable liquid on Bush and lighting it. Someone (and I'm not naming the group of friends at all) mentioned something that, while I suspect most of the group involved felt sympathetic towards (or at least could understand the sentiment), would have, in public, netted him 37 months in a Federal pound me in the ass prison if not more.

It certain puts a chill on things when you are … “concerned” about what you say, even in the presence of friends.

Something is rotten in the District of Columbia; it appears that even though the Cold War is now over it seems as if Washington (or perhaps the Beltway Republicans would be more precise) can't comprehend that it's over. Done. Dead. We won. The pinko-Commie Ruskies lost. Get over it. First, we get old Cold War Warrior Dick Cheney (Deputy Chief of Staff during Ford's Administration), then Donald Rumsfeld (Chief of Staff during Ford's Administration). And more recently, we get John Poindexter appointed as head of the Information Awareness Office, and über Cold War Warrier Henry Kissinger to lead the investigation into 9-11. And don't forget that our own President's father headed the CIA during the Cold War.

This isn't the fox guarding the hen house—this is a pack of hungry wolves guarding the hen house (and them, along with a lone sheep, voting on what's for dinner).

What next? Alexander Haig shambling back from the Cold War grave?

Growing up, thoughts of nuclear armageddon in my head (after all, Ronald Reagan was in office, one finger on “The Button”), New Zealand sounded like the perfect place for the nuclear weary expat to live (it didn't hurt that in 8th grade I had to do a “political report” on New Zealand and couldn't find a darned thing bad (or political) about the country—consequenty I received an “F” on that report but I wasn't lucky enough to get a country like Cuba or Lebanon or Iran). Now, twenty years later it's not nuclear anihilation that's scaring me, but biological armageddon and corporate slavery and New Zealand is still looking nice (just look at the exterior shots in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring just to see how beautiful New Zealand is).

Sigh.

Will the Cold War ever end?


Echoes from the Cold War

Take command of your soldiers from this fully outfitted battle zone. 75-piece set includes one 11½″H figurine in military combat gear, toy weapons, American flag, chairs and more.

Via email from Hoade, the JCPenny Forward Command Post.

I guess the Cold War isn't over yet.


I won't route 500 miles

I was working in a job running the campus email system some years ago when I got a call from the chairman of the statistics department.

“We're having a problem sending email out of the department.”

“What's the problem?” I asked.

“We can't send mail more than 500 miles,” the chairman explained.

I choked on my latte. “Come again?”

“We can't send mail farther than 500 miles from here,” he repeated. “A little bit more, actually. Call it 520 miles. But no farther.” …

“Okay, let me take a look, and I'll call you back,” I said, scarcely believing that I was playing along. It wasn't April Fool's Day. I tried to remember if someone owed me a practical joke.

Via MrBarrett.com, The case of the 500-mile email

I can't say that I've had a problem this wierd to track down, but I can sympathize with the fellow—email just shouldn't fail due to geographical distances. Hops, yes, but miles?

No way.

But actually, way. Turns out to be a problem dealing with geographical distance, oddly enough.


Re: mR WOO CHONG

I just can't believe it.

From: XXXXXXXXXXXX <XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX>
To: Sean “Captain Napalm” Conner <sean@conman.org>
Subject: mR WOO CHONG
Date: Mon, 9 Dec 2002 15:53:11 -0500

Do you have any more details on this character? I actually called and talked to the guy, pretty odd stuff.

I don't have any more details; but I consider this to be a scam anyway. I don't know anyone in Taiwan, nor do I own a business.

Tuesday, Debtember 10, 2002

Fake Moon landings and other silliness

The James Randi Educational Foundation is a great site for educating oneself with claims of the paranormal, the supernatural and other outright silliness of the New Age. Just recently, their newsletter pointed to a site that had definitive proof that the moon landings were faked!

Way to go!

And the following week even more proof moon landings were faked.

Incredible stuff.


I'm not hearing you

Ring.

Ring.

“Hello?”

Complete silence.

“Hello?”

Silence, then a nearly inperceptible click.

“Hello.”

“Hello?”

“Hello? Can you hear me?”

“Hello?”

“Hello sir. Is a Mr. or Mrs. Conner there?”

“Hello?”

“Can you hear me?”

“Is there anyone here? Hello?”

Another click. ”Hello sir.” Voice has a bit of an echo.

“Hello?”

“You still can't hear me?”

“Hello? I'm sorry, I just can't hear you.” I hang up.

I love playing with telemarketer's minds.

Wednesday, Debtember 11, 2002

Will trespass for enlightened palms

I did another attempt tonight. I found myself at the shopping center (you can see my car in the lower right corner of the picture) for a second try. I had just parked my car behind a hedge when just over the top I see the lights of a police cruiser slide by, heading out of the shopping center and onto the main road; the cop either ignored my presence or didn't see me, which suited me fine. I grabbed the camera and tripod and started walking, only to see a security van drive by, again either ignoring me or not seeing me.

Other than that, there was much less traffic this time.

This time, setting the camera to night scenes, no flash, artificial lighting and ASA 100 the images came out much better.

It was only as I was walking back did I notice the “NO TRESPASSING” signs leading into the shopping center and I had to wonder, Am I really trespassing? Technically it might be, but I had only used the area to park the car; I wasn't really hanging out in the area and I did park very near the entrance.

Good thing I had just missed the cops.


“If it's useless, it must be art …”

I rather like this image which was the result of an experient I did tonight.

Can you tell I've been playing around with graphic images tonight?

Thursday, Debtember 12, 2002

Neon trails along the Florida Turnpike

[Neon Trails along the Florida Turnpike] [Neon Trails along the Florida Turnpike II] [Neon Trails along the Florida Turnpike III] [Neon Trails along the Flroida Turnpike IV] Years ago I worked as a stage hand at FAU and when working the spot lights I would be working on a platform about fifty feet above the audiences' heads. As long as I was busy, I was fine. But during the times I had to sit up there waiting my cue, my thoughts would wander, inevitably to the fact that I was fifty feet above the audience on a thin metal platform and the only thing holding the platform and cat-walk system were a series of poles bolted into the ceiling some fifteen feet above my head and what would happen if that bolt, right there, would suddenly slip?

My grip about the metal railing would tighten at such times, waiting for my cue (or the show to end so I could climb back down to earth). But as long as I was busy, I was fine. Such thoughts entered my mind tonight as I snapped pictures of the Florida Turnpike from an overpass, mainly when a fast moving vehicle or a large semi-truck passed by and the overpass would vibrate.

The sidewalk was covered with a chain link fence (as this false colored image shows) but even so, my attention was drawn to the concrete walls along each side of the walkway. The one separating me from the road was about three-three and a half feet high while the one separating me from a fall of about thirty-fourty feet was only six inches high (as you can see in this enhanced false-colored image). I suppose that since the entire walkway was covered with chain link fencing and that a car along the overpass is more likely to slam into a person than a car flying up from the Turnpike below to slam into a person, that only devoting 6″ of concrete is more cost effective than putting 3′ of concrete on both sides.

I still found it rather disconcerting.

And it doesn't help that I'm rather susceptible to vertigo.

To take the pictures, I (again) set the camera to night scenes, artificial light, no flash and ASA 100, and while the camera was on the tripod, leaning it against the fencing so that the lense had a clear shot through a link. Then it was waiting for a suitable number of vehicles to pass and hitting the button at the right time. For the vehicles coming towards me the trick was to find the right time to hit the button—too soon and I wouldn't get a good streak of light. Too late and I'd miss them entirely. It was easier to time the vehicles going away from me—as soon as I saw the headlights appear from below the overpass, hit the button.

What I really find interesting in these shots is that you can't even see the vehicles—they're just not visible, which I find fascinating.

Friday, Debtember 13, 2002

Oh duh! It's Friday the 13 …

Wierd.

Our October water bill was something like $300.

Huh?

According to the Water Company though, we used something like nine hundred billion gallons of water in October and thus we were duly required to pay for this spike in usage. And spike it is—our normal water bill is not even close to this range.

None of us here in the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere can recall how or where we used nine hundred billion gallons of water. We thought that perhaps the construction workers used our spigot to water down the roof or something, but that was back in September, not October. The only odd thing water wise to happen in October were my attempts to clean the courtyard but I seriously doubt I used nine hundred billion gallons of water doing that (come on—the water pressure here could barely drive an industrial strength water nozzle).

Color us perplexed.

On top of that:

The city of Boca Raton has declared a water contamination emergency and is warning all residents and businesses to boil drinking water until further notice. This water advisory was issued Thursday, Dec. 12, after routine water tests revealed the presence of Coliform bacteria in samples from throughout the city's water system.

The Palm Beach County Health Department requires two consecutive days of clean water tests before the advisory can be lifted, so Boca Raton water users will be asked to boil their water until at least Saturday, Dec. 14.

Water should be boiled for at least three minutes before drinking, brushing teeth, washing dishes or food preparation.

The presence of bacteria could cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea and headaches. Boiling the water kills the bacteria.

For updates, water customers can call the city's hot line at 367-7004.

Nice …

Saturday, Debtember 14, 2002

Nigerian scam, meet Cthulu …

From: “DR DAVID EHIZOJIE”
Date: Mon, 07 Oct 2002 079:1429:44 -0400
Subject: God is above all things

… Another thing is that, you must take the shining trapezohedron and keep it in a safe deposit box, until you are ready to come to Nigeria. I want you to bring it with you to Nigeria. You know that a lot of people here are very experienced in this kind of matter over here, therefore when you bring it here we will consult the wise ones for them to tell us what it is and what you should do with it. Now that they know that you have it and they have not come near you but they have shown themselves t you, then there is an edge you have over them. In this case you must not take anything for granted. Keep the thing in a safe deposit box and also keep the key to box far away from where you are goimng to sleep this night, let us see if they are after you or they are after the stone. Which ever way we have to get to the bottom of this. I am very positive that this will put your name in the front pages for a very long time.

Oh my god. This may be the most gullible person in the whole world. I should be trying to scam him for money. I mean, I'm not even writing good Lovecraftian fiction here. You'd think anyone with an IQ greater than that of a bag of hammers would see through this. If I'd know the guy was this gullible, I would have planned out a longer story arc.

David Ehi Reverse Scam

I have a few friends (Hi Jeff, hey Rob) that will get a kick out of this. And I think this predates a story line at User Friendly.

But I'm seriously wondering just how long the Nigerians can keep this up. Mass emailing random people just makes the scam more known and as more and more people take sport and try to reverse scam the scammers, at some point it's going to be more cost effective to get a real job than attempt a 419 scam …


It wasn't the Wrath of Khan, but neither was it the Final Frontier

Spring and I went to see Star Trek X: Nemesis and as an even movie, it stands a very good chance of being half way decent.

It does have an interesting premis—after all, the Romulan system is a double planet consisting of Romulus and Remus and all we've seen so far are the Romulans (who branched off from the Vulcans long ago) and never any Remians ... until now. But we only get glimpses into the political situation between the two systems, which is a shame. I will say, though, that the space battle is one of the better ones I've seen (almost as well done as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) and I just couldn't believe the amount of damage done to NCC-1701-E (“There goes Picard's premiums,” I said to Spring).

Is it worth seeing in the theater? Perhaps if you like eyecandy space battles (my only complaint—the design of the Enterprise-E—there were parts when I could tell it was computer generated and what's with the Aztec design? The peak in design was still Star Treks I & II) it's worth seeing on the big screen, otherwise, it's a rental.

Sunday, Debtember 15, 2002

Is turn about fair play?

Really … I wonder just how illegal it is to scam a scam artist? I mean, if I report the income to the IRS it shouldn't be a problem, right?

From: Sean “Captain Napalm” Conner <sean@conman.org>
To: usman g <usman7431@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: help me
Date: Sun, 15 Dec 2002 06:42:54 -0500

ATT, MNG.DIR & GEN MGR

It is with mixed sentiments that I write to lodge this pressing situation to you. Actually it took me time before writing you because of the importance of the huge confidence herein. However, the recommendations made about you by a very good friend of my father who is working with the Export Promotion Council of mali is sufficient for any trust. I hereby wish to introduce my humble self.

I am USMAN GWARZO, eldest son of Alhaji Ismaila Gwarzo, the former security advisor to the Nigerian late Head of state, General SANI ABACHA, who passed on in June 1998.

currently the incumbent government of General Olusegun Obasanjo is freezing all foreign accounts suspected to be misappropriated government fund. And this has culminated in freezing my fathers foreign accounts.

Unfortunately, the trial may be extended to the family as advised by my fathers legal counsel if the utterances by the Director of Publicity to the Federal Government CHIEF DOYIN OKUPE is anything to go by. Invariably, this affects me as my father lodged the sum of US48.2M in my account in October 29, 2000. as a result of this development. I have taken measures to protect and secure the fund. So on the 5th of November, 2001, I converted the whole amount in $100 bill and immediately lodged it into a Security house to avoid detection with the help of some high rated officials for ultimate movement into foreign beneficiary account. All machinery has been put into place for this money.

Now I recourse to you for assistance to shield this fund in your account until this trying period is over. I have the approval of my incarcerated father to offer you a trust instrument of 25% of the total amount for your assistance after the deal is over.

I request that you apply degree of confidentiality to this humble plea for help with all seriousness, as it demands.

Please contact me at once by reply fax through my fax 234 8037236567 and state your private telephone and fax number.

NOTE: The deal is 100% risk free.

TREAT AS URGENT

Best regards,
USMAN GWARZO
My Email usman701ng@yahoo.com

Someone working for the Export Promotion Council of Mali recommended me? Yea, I know the guy.

THAT FAT BASTARD!

No wonder he recommended me for this—he figures that I'll just forgive him the $500,000 (United States Dollars) he owes me if he does me this favor.

WELL SCREW THAT!

Tell that fat bastard I want my damn money and I won't deal with him, nor his friends or family until I am repaid IN FULL!

Got that?

US$500,000 in full. Until then, I will not deal with anyone he recommends.

No offence to you.

Best regards,
Sean

Update later today ...

Turns out Mr. Usman Gwarzo is over his email quota and can't receive any more emails.

Bummer.


Nigeria Central

Man, it's Nigeria Central here. No sooner do I get yet another Nigerian Special Offer than I receive the following about Mr. Woo Chong:

From: XXXXXX <XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX>
To: <sean@conman.org>
Subject: FW: PLEASE CONTACT ATTORNEY
Date: Sun, 15 Dec 2002 15:26:30 +0800

Dear “Captain” Conner,

Perhaps you would enjoy some further comedy from Mr. Woo. I received the same “scam” letter … But, having no previous experience with such types of “unusual offer,” and being as I actually bank with China Trust, I replied with some remarks roughly equivalent to what is contained in your posted commentary (minus the stuff about the Nigerian offers and the request for 50%). I was just curious as to how this letter found my email address, etc. Also I was hoping that whoever “Mr. Woo” is … He is someone completely unrelated to China Trust Bank that is just finding ways to amuse himself.

In his reply, his command of English appears to be slipping; he claims to have tried a phone number I didn't give him and has misspelled my name. If he indeed is a member of China Trust and has access to my files, indeed my phone number would not have worked as I have moved; however, I find this unlikely. See below:

From: “woo chong” <woo_chong123@amrer.net>
Date: Sun, 15 Dec 2002 11:28:26 +0800
To: <XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX>

Subject: PLEASE CONTACT ATTORNEY

PLEASE CALL MY ATTORNEY! DEAR XXXXXX, I MUST THANK YOUR PROMPT RESPONSE TO MY MAILS, PATAINING THIS TRANSACTION,AND FOR SENDING YOUR TELEPHONE NUMBER.I TRIED THE NUMBER, I HAD NO RESPONSE. I HAVE TO ALSO BRING TO YOUR NOTICE THAT BECAUSE OF THE LOAD OF WORK HERE IN MY BANK, I HAVE GIVEN MY ATTORNEY WHO IS IN LONDON, THE RIGHT TO CARRY ON WITH THE TRANSACTION. HE HAS ALL THE DOCUMENTS AND INFOMATION REGARDS THIS TRANSACTION. HERE IS HIS DIRECT TELEPHONE NUMBER:(447753262320), HIS NAME IS MR WATTS. PLEASE TIME IS NO LONGER ON OUR SIDE, ENDEAVOUR TO CALL HIM AS SOON AS YOU GET THIS MAIL. I WANT TO ALSO REMIND YOU ONCE AGAIN THAT ALL I NEED FROM YOU IS UTMOST TRUST AND MAXIMUM SECRECY IN THE COURSE OF CARRING OUT THIS TRANSACTION.I WANT TO BELEIVE THAT YOU ARE A GOD SENT, AND WE WILL MEET WHEN THIS TRANSACTION IS OVER TO DISCUSS INVESTMENT MODALITIES. ALWAYS GET BACK TO ME AFTER EACH CONVERSATION WITH MR WATTS,MY ATTORNEY. LOOKING FORWARD TO A SUCCESSFUL AND PROSPEROUS BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU. REGARDS, CHONG. – Get your free email from www.amrer.net Powered by Outblaze

(and it's not helping matters that I'm the second result for a Google search on “Woo Chong”)

If this keeps up, I'm going to have to write more about blogging …


“I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.”

WASHINGTON—Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger stepped down Friday as chairman of a panel investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, citing controversy over potential conflicts of interest with his business clients.

Via The Duff Wire, Kissinger Quits As Chairman of 9/11 Panel

So that's one Cold War Warrier down, many more to go. But it scares me that Kissinger had to resign because of conflicts of interest. Just what clients would have a conflict with Kissinger investigating the September 11th attacks? The US? The nations of OPEC?

The man scares me.

The meeting [in June 1969] was unpleasant. As Valdés [foreign minister of Chile] describes it, Kissinger began by declaring: “Mr. Minister, you made a strange speech. You come here speaking of Latin America, but this is not important. Nothing important can come from the South. History has never been produced in the South. The axis of history starts in Moscow, goes to Bonn, crosses over to Washington, and then goes to Tokyo. What happens in the South is of no importance. You're wasting your time.”

“I said,” Valdés recalls, “Mr. Kissinger, you know nothing of the South.” “No,” Kissinger answered, “and I don't care.” At that point, Valdés, astonished and insulted, told Kissinger: “You are a German Wagnerian. You are a very arrogant man.” Later, to his embarrassment, Valdés learned that Kissinger was a German Jew, and suspected that he had gravely insulted him.

Via Robot Wisdom, The Price of Power

It's a good article about the events leading up to Kissinger's involvement with the CIA backed coup that overthrew the elected government of Chile on … September 11th, 1973.


Don't drink the water … oh wait … now you can!

I called the Boca Raton water hot line (as opposed to the Boca Raton hot water line) and was duly informed that as of noon today, the water was safe to use.

Yea!

Monday, Debtember 16, 2002

Could have been drinking the water

From: Jeff Koecher <XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX>
To: Sean “Captain Napalm” Conner <sean@conman.org>
Subject: Hey … Don't drink the Water [comment]
Date: Mon, 16 Dec 2002 17:30:11 -0500

Hey,

Just as a curiousity, why are you posting about calling the Boca Raton Water HotLine to ask if the water is ok to drink? You don't use Boca Raton Water, you use PBCWUD water, in other words Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department. Boca Raton Water Goes west to the turnpike, no further. And to think you were actually brushing your teeth with bottled water a few days :-)

Just figured I'd tell you, since you seemed to not of known.

P.S. This would have been a good comment to your journal :-) I'm just messing around.

Jeff

Heh. I didn't know we didn't use Boca Raton water since I don't pay the water bill around here (Rob takes care of the water bill) and don't actually see who we pay for water.

Ah well …


Christmas shopping

Mark and JeffK invited me to go with them on some last minute Christmas shopping at Sawgrass Mills. Sawgrass Mills is the largest outlet mall in South Florida, and it may very well me the largest one in the US—two miles of stores. It's been a few years since I last went and if anything, it's larger than the last time I visited it.

What struck me the most about the mall were the ever pervasive television sets hanging from the ceiling. Huge sets blaring commercials. It's a trend I've noticed over the past few years as more and more commercial locations have television sets for your viewing pleasure. Mostly I've noticed it in restaurants (even fast foor places like McDonalds and Burger King) and it's a trend that I don't really care for; if I want to watch TV I'll watch it at home, I don't need to go out and watch it.

It's amazing how big some of the stores are. Also amazing is the stuff being sold nowadays. One store dedicated to nothing but items advertised via infomercials at 3:00 am on most cable channels (although we did not see any Flowbees which was a disappointment). Foreign soldiers. Sumo wrestlers. Baby dolls in car seats (since you know, it's now illegal to have a baby in a car without a baby seat). One amusing item was a plastic statue of James Brown, perhaps 12″ tall; press a button and he starts moving around singing “I feel good!” although he doesn't look all that good—he's more of a James Green than a James Brown.

In one toy store, JeffK had hidden a toy he wanted for his niece on a previous trip, due to the long lines he figured it would be best to hide the toy and retrieve it at a later date. Since we arrived at the mall about an hour before closing the crowds weren't that bad and the lines, if any, where short. So JeffK took advantage of this opportunity to retrieve the gift. Although because of the lack of crowds, we did have to fend off people manning the kiosks trying to offer us samples of their wares. Not even lack of eye contact was enough to signal our disinterest in their sales pitches and we had to continuously state “No thank you” time and time again.

We finally found an exit near a Disney Store. Standing nearby was a security guard looking particularly bored so as we passed, I took pictures of the display window, saying “Copyright violation!” loud enough for the guard to hear each time I took a picture.

He didn't seem to care.

Tuesday, Debtember 17, 2002

More enlightened palms

Mark, JeffK and I met to take even more pictures of enlightened palms. Driving around looking for a good place to photograph, we came across a small park just south of Mizner Park (a shopping center) in Boca Raton. We parked the car about a block away and I proceeded to take numerous pictures. In the middle was an interesting abstract sculpture that was a nice focal point to some of the photographs. While we were there, Kelly called and we convinved him to drive out and meet us.

After a few hours, we decided to move on and as we drove past Mizner Park itself, we realized it was a terrific place to take pictures. By then I had run out of battery power, so Kelly and I went off to a local 7-11 to get more batteries while Mark and JeffK waited at Mizner Park for our return. As we drove back, a security guard started following us, so we decided it wasn't worth the possible problems; it was after 1:00 am and Mizner Park is considered private property. At this point, Mark and Jeff felt it was late enough and since they had to work the next morning, decided to bail out. Kelly and I continued driving around, but there weren't any places as impressive as Mizner Park, although I did take quite a few pictures from the front seat.

Around 3:30 am Kelly and I were both hungry, so we drove to a diner he knew of in Ft. Lauderdale; it looked closed as we drove up to it, but it turned out that the signage was being worked on. Afterwards Kelly dropped me off, then he himself went home.


Those crazy Canadians

I finally received the books from AccordionGuy and those crazy Canucks, using duct tape and foreign newspapers to wrap packages.

So now it's time to hunker down and learn all there is about genetic algorithms, Lisp (both Scheme and Common Lisp) and Rebol. Fun fun fun.

Wednesday, Debtember 18, 2002

Lord of the Movies, II

Spring and I went to an early matinee showing of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. The scenery was just as lush as the first movie, the special effects were just as good and Gollum was much better done than in the first film (I think they completely re-did how Gollum looked between the two films—in the first he was less … cute and more threatening looking). But while the first film followed the book closely (cutting a few scenes out and compressing the time quite a bit) the film makers here took quite a few liberties with the story as I understand (I know the general story; I've yet to actually read the books). The two biggest being Elves at Helm's Deep (“Elves? The Elves never showed up at Helm's Deep!” shout the true fans of Tolkien) and (sorry for the spoiler here) the near death of Aragorn (“What's with that?” we have the Tolkien fans saying).

Some quibbles I had with the film—Gimli is played more for humor than anything. While in the first film there was only one dwarf joke (“No one tosses a dwarf!”) there were multiple ones in this film (“Toss me. I cannot jump the distance. You'll have to toss me. Don't tell the elf!” Or that he's too short to see the orcs coming because he can't see over the wall). And two—Faramir is less sympathetic than his brother, Boromir (in the book Faramir is supposed to be the wiser of the brothers and more likeable).

Overall, still a very good film and worth seeing on the big screen. Still, my complaint is about having to wait yet another year for the next installment.

Thursday, Debtember 19, 2002

Hacking your way to worse grades

(CNN)—It was a breeze for 15-year-old Reid Ellison to hack into his high school's computer grading system. But what to do once he broke in took a bit more ingenuity.

You see, Reid already has a perfect 4.0 grade point average at Anzar High School in San Juan Bautista, California. So to leave his mark, he decided to lower his grades to a 1.9 GPA—a meager D+.

Via email from Ken, Student gets ‘A’ for hacking school computer

He got away with it because he had permission from the school to hack their computer system.

While I never hacked the computer systems that housed the grades in FAU I did hack a few systems. More specifically, I tested exploits on the CSE computers, then promptly reported the holes to the sysadmins there. And there were a few other things I did (notably in the Computer Graphics Class) that now a days would get me thrown out of school pronto (okay, so I disrupted class one day—the instructor was quite boring).

I was, however, there when the CSE found their systems hacked. Seemed someone broke into the system and replaced the login program with one that would allow anyone to log in with root privileges (highest access). It was poorly done from a purely asthetic standpoint—any non-valid user id (and anything for a password) would get you logged in as root; the first student that mistyped their userid would get root access and possibly blow the whole back door.

Sheesh.

A better written program would only allow a certain userid with a special password access, without the login being logged.

Um … not that I ever did that, mind you.

I mean, if you are going to install a back door, you might as well do it right

Friday, Debtember 20, 2002

A different breed of animal

What type of insane telemarketer calls at 8:00 am? Have they no shame? No decency?

What am I saying? These are telemarketers


Evolving answers

So I'm reading the genetic algorithms book I received, An Introduction To Genetic Algorithms by Melanie Mitchell and it's quite interesting. I've known the basics of genetic algorithms but I've never really programmed any. Generally, they work like natual selection: you have a population of possible answers (e.g., a list of cities to visit in a particular order) to a problem (e.g., the Traveling Salesman, where you want to minimize the distance traveled) and you cross breed the current population (by taking two (or more perhaps) answers, selecting a portion of their results, and mixing the two to form one (or more) new answers), and possibly mutating the result a bit (e.g., swapping two random cities in a given answer). You keep doing this over and over until you get an answer, or an answer that is good enough. You don't just select potential answers to breed by random—no, you select them based upon a certain criteria (in this case, those in the population with the shortest answers so far) that drives the results towards your eventual goal.

This can't be applied to every problem though, and for those that it can be, the trick is to pick a representation of the data that can be mixed up and mutated easily.

As I'm reading, I'm also doing certain exercises from the book to help cement my understanding of the processes involved in programming genetic algorithms. It's an enjoyable way to spend a few hours.

Saturday, Debtember 21, 2002

The days flying by

Today's going to be a very short day.

It's the Winter Solstice, which actually is the shortest day of the year.


Robocoaster

Back on November 22nd Spring and I attended The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions where I mentioned seeing a large robot arm that would fling people about.

Well, I came across the website for it.


Manipulating images

One of the reasons I haven't been updated as I should is due to the delay in processing the images from the other day and I really wanted to get them done and posted before I resumed regular posting here so as to give you a chance to see them before they slide off the main page and into archival oblivion.

I took over 100 images that night.

There are two problems with selecting which images to choose from: one—Spring's computer, which has enough memory to process large images (the raw images are 1984×1488 high quality images—they average about 700K each) but her monitor is less than optimal for viewing images (it's a bit dim and the color is way off). Two—my computer has a much better monitor but seriously lacks the memory to process large images; with only 32M of RAM just working with one of these images is taxing (loaded into memory each image takes up some 11M of memory, and my system usually has 5M of physical RAM free so loading these images for processing causes the system to hit swap space pretty hard). Ideally, I wanted to convert these images down to a managable size to view them quickly and pick the ones I wanted, but I did not want to sit there resizing 100 images by hand (either on my machine or on Spring's).

Little did I realize that I had software to do batch conversions already installed—ImageMagick. It's a series of programs you can run from a command line to batch up processing of images, so convering 100 images is as easy as:


for i in *.JPG
do
	echo Converting $i 
	convert --sample 496x372 $i /tmp/$i
done

And then go off and do something else while my computer crunches away.

And crunches. And crunches. And swaps. And swaps. And I mean seriously swaps. The harddrive LED was searingly bright.

For two hours.

I told Rob this, and he let me use his computer to do the processing. Since he also runs Linux, I was able to log into his computer from mine, use ImageMagick (since he had it installed) to do the mass conversion (less than five minutes for 100 images—sigh) and run the GIMP to do final tweaks on the images I did select.


“Coffee, tea or strip search?”

After some more grumbling on my part they eventually finished with me and I went to retrieve our luggage from the x-ray machine. Upon returning I found my wife sitting in a chair, crying. Mary rarely cries, and certainly not in public. When I asked her what was the matter, she tried to quell her tears and sobbed, “I'm sorry … it's … they touched my breasts … and …” That's all I heard. I marched up to the woman who'd been examining her and shouted, “What did you do to her?” Later I found out that in addition to touching her swollen breasts—to protect the American citizenry—the employee had asked that she lift up her shirt. Not behind a screen, not off to the side—no, right there, directly in front of the hundred or so passengers standing in line. And for you women whove been pregnant and worn maternity pants, you know how ridiculous those things look. “I felt like a clown,” my wife told me later. “On display for all these people, with the cotton panel on my pants and my stomach sticking out. When I sat down I just lost my composure and began to cry. Thats when you walked up.”

Via jwz's livejournal, Coffee, Tea, or Should We Feel Your Pregnant Wifes Breasts Before Throwing You in a Cell at the Airport and Then Lying About Why We Put You There?

My Dad keeps asking when I'm flying out to visit him again. And I keep telling him I'm no longer going to fly anywhere until crap like that stops. I got stripped search the last time I went to the airport and I wasn't even flying!

Several years ago for Thanksgiving I flew a round trip from Ft. Lauderdale to Chicago to Boston and I got searched in Chicago, never mind the fact that my plane was taking off in about twenty minutes.

Lord knows what will happen to me if I try flying now.

Sunday, Debtember 22, 2002

Break-in attempts

Must be some new exploits out there. Mark called and said he found evidence of someone attempting to break into the co-located box we have. He would have notified the appropriate parties of the attempt but he wasn't feeling very well.

I check the logs, and sure enough, there were attempts to break in from XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.birch.net. I then checked the logs going back a few days and on the 21st I found more attempts from XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.videotron.ca and yet more on the 19th from XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.videotron.ca, each using similar methods to break in.

None of the attempts succeeded though.

The two from videotron.ca are probably the same person; I have to wonder if the one from birch.net is also the same person?

Monday, Debtember 23, 2002

Splitting hairs

I finally got fed up enough to have my hair cut (much to the relief of Dad). There was enough hair on the floor to make a small pet and my hair is a bit shorter than I generally like, but that just means I can forego the next hair cut for an extra week or so.

Tuesday, Debtember 24, 2002

A whole new meaning to computers crashing

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) intends to conduct a race of autonomous ground vehicles (see “Technical Details” for a definition) from the vicinity of Los Angeles, CA to Las Vegas, NV in 2004. A cash prize will be awarded to the winner. The course will feature both on-road and off-road portions and will include extremely rugged, challenging terrain and obstacles. The purpose of the race is to stimulate interest in and encourage the accelerated development of autonomous ground vehicle technologies that could be used by the US military.

Via c o d e r l o g, DARPA Grand Challenge

Sounds like a fun challenge actually. An autonomous vehicle that needs to travel 300 miles over uncertain terrain and any refueling must be autonomous as well (although each team can place the refueling station along the route before the race begins). And a cool $1,000,000 to the winner.

Unfortunately, unlike Full Metal Challenge, the teams do not get funding before hand …

Wednesday, Debtember 25, 2002

Christmas

Bah! Humbug!

Thursday, Debtember 26, 2002

“The database server crashed … it must be high tide.”

A week without problems … everybody was happy. Happy, that is, until it started again. The same pattern. 10 hours on … 2-3 hours off …

And then somebody (I seem to remember he said that the person had nothing to do with IT) said:

“It's high tide!”

Which was met with blank looks and probably a wavering hand over the intercom to Security.

“It stops working at high tide”

This, it would seem, is a fairly alien concept to IT support staff, who are not likely to be found studying the Tide Alamanac during the coffee breaks.

It's high tide

Like the last problem I mentioned, this one, while sounding entirely off the wall, does have a logical explanation as well.

Users. The problems they come up with sometimes …

Saturday, Debtember 28, 2002

A small college reunion

I spent the evening with several friends from FAU; it just worked out that several of my friends from college were back in the area visiting family, although I missed out on meeting with SeanW (who was unable to make it to the dinner tonight).

Monday, Debtember 30, 2002

Semantic HTML

There's quite the buzz in the weblogging community over Mark Pilgrim's use of the <CITE> tag (among other more esoteric tags in HTML). It's a nice idea, but all the standard says about <CITE> is:

CITE:
    Contains a citation or a reference to other sources.

HTML 4.0 § 9.2.1 Phrase elements

And only a few scant and quite trivial examples. I'm not sure of the exact usage of the <CITE> tag. In the following:

In Snowcrash, Neal Stephenson explored the implications of neuro-linguistic hacking …

Now, am I supposed to mark that up like:

In <CITE>Snowcrash</CITE>, Neal Stephenson explored the implications of neuro-linguistic hacking ...

Because I'm citing the book Snowcrash? So, along those lines, if I had instead written it as:

Neal Stephenson, in his book Snowcrash, explored the implications of neuro-linguistic hacking …

Would I then mark it up as:

<CITE>Neal Stephenson</CITE>, in his book Snowcrash, explored the implications of neuro-linguistic hacking ...

since now I'm emphasizing Neal Stephenson over the book? But the book was written by Neal Stephenson so should it instead be:

In <CITE>Snowcrash</CITE>, <CITE>Neal Stephenson</CITE> explored the implications of neuro-linguistic hacking ...

Okay, so it's a contrived example, but generating semantically correct markup isn't trivial and expecting the general public to get it correct is asking a bit too much. As one person pointed out, given a hypothetical tag like <EDITOR>, is it:

<EDITOR>Joe Blow</EDITOR>

or

<EDITOR>vi</EDITOR>

(except when it's <EDITOR>Frontpage</EDITOR> but I won't go there)?

There are other semi-obscure tags for semantic mark-up and fortunately, most of them are less ambiguous as for usage, like <CODE> is for mark-up of computer source code, or <SAMP> for program output. Unfortunately the HTML spec lists both <CODE> and <SAMP> as an inline tag, not a block tag which really restricts their use. I'm not sure what the W3C was thinking when they made <CODE> and <SAMP> inline. Using <CODE> to mark-up code fragments will turn something like:


for (i = 0 ; types[i].sl != NULL ; i++)
{
  if (strstr(filename,types[i].sl) != NULL)
    return(types[i].sl);
}
return("text/plain");

into:

for (i = 0 ; types[i].sl != NULL ; i++) { if (strstr(filename,types[i].sl != NULL) return(types[i].sl); } return("text/plain");

Nice, huh?

Dougal Campbell suggests using:


CODE
{
  white-space: pre;
}

Which sounds good, but doesn't work. The CSS spec states that white-space is only valid for a display type of “block”, which <CODE> isn't (remember, it's “inline”). To work, you really need:


CODE
{
  display:     block;
  white-space: pre;
}

Which works fine in Mozilla, but fails for IE 5x (which is most likely a bug) and Lynx, which doesn't even look at the CSS file (and it looks like I have one regular reader who uses Lynx). As much as I would love to use <CODE> and <SAMP> for semantically better mark-up, I'm afraid I'm still stuck with using <PRE>; otherwise I'll end up with:


<CODE>for (i = 0 ; types[i].sl != NULL ; i++)</CODE><BR>
<CODE>{</CODE></BR>
<CODE>  if (strstr(filename,types[i].sl != NULL)</CODE><BR>
<CODE>    return(types[i].sl);</CODE><BR>
<CODE>}</CODE></BR>
<CODE>return("text/plain");</CODE><BR>

Which is silly. (Okay, it's easy enough to write some code to automatically convert the source code, but semantically, does it even make sense?)

The upshot of all this rambling about semantically correct HTML? Um … not much really. I won't be changing the mark-up I use too much since I do lose the visual appearance in most browsers (although I may try giving the <CITE> tag a bit of a go).


One lucky dude

11:15 pm. Mark, JeffK and I were hanging out here in the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere, trying to work up the energy for a walk when I received a phone call from my friend Russel S. Our friend Gregory Pius was in a motorcycle accident, although fortunately he only (only!) broke a few ribs and his clavicle. Russel was on his way to the hospital.

Mark, Jeff and I then headed to the hospital. Once there, we inquired about Gregory and was told the rules there only allow one person to see a patient in the ER; since Russel was already there we would have to wait our turn. Word was sent back to Gregory that I was there waiting. A while later Russel and L. (Gregory's ex) arrive back in the waiting room, breaking hospital rules by both visiting Gregory). After a bit of brief conversation, L. and I break hospital rules and both go back to see Gregory.

Gregory was conscious and coherent, although his arms were scraped up and still a bit bloody. He had indeed broken six ribs and his clavical; more tests were being done to see what else might be wrong. I asked him what happened; he was on his motorcycle folling his parents (mom and step-dad) home when he took a corner a bit too fast and hit a car next to him at about 35 mph. I don't know when exactly the accident happened but considering what happened, Gregory was very lucky.

Gregory was also quoting Monty Python so things aren't that bad.

In the room with Gregory was L., her friend (which surprised me) and I. We were talking to Gregory, trying to keep his spirits up as a technician came in, strapped some electrical pads to his chest for monitoring and allowed Gregory some small sips of water in an attempt to get a urine sample for testing purposes. After about fifteen minutes the head nurse popped in, saw that there were two people too many in the room with Gregory and started to kick us out. As I walked back to the waiting room, I kept expecting L.'s friend to tag along but he remained behind with L. Once back in the waiting room, Mark, JeffK, Russel and I sat around waiting for news.

About an hour later, L. and friend come back saying that Gregory has been heavily medicated and was currently sleeping. A urine sample had been retrieved and it came out clean, which was a good sign. Gregory was being admitted to the hospital and there was no real point for anyone to remain at the hospital.

On the way out, L. showed us Gregory's helmet, which the visor had been split up the center and one of his steel-toed shoes, which had the leather torn away at the toe, explosing the steel tip.

More as things progress.

Tuesday, Debtember 31, 2002

Notes on a book found in the emergency room at 12:07 am

While waiting in the emergency room to hear news of Gregory, JeffK pointed out a book sitting on a near by table. “Why don't you read about Queen Victoria?” he said.

“Is that what that book is about?” I reached over to pick up the book. It has obviously been abandoned in the emergency room and had been sitting there for some time. No one else was near the book. “It looks pretty old,” I said.

“When was it written?” asked Mark.

I flipped to the copyright page. “It was printed in 1971,” I said.

“Wow, that's older than I am,” said Jeff.

“But that's not when it was originally written.”

“When was that?”

“1965.” I flipped through the first few pages. Just past the Table of Contents was a list of illustrations that appeared in the book. “Hey, pictures!” I then started flipping through the book and stopped dead. “Now this is odd,” I said.

“What is it?”

“It's an ad,” I said, holding it to where Mark and JeffK could see it.

“I've never heard of ads in books before,” said Mark.

“Neither have I,” I said.

It was wierd. Four ads appear in the book. The first for Club Cocktails, the “ready to drink real cocktails. Hardstuff.” 25–48 Proof no less! The second ad—Kotex Kotique™. “Truly effective—but ever so gentle.” Third ad is a classic—you're soaking in it. Yup, there is Madge, telling the incredulous customer that yes, “Palmolive softens hands while you do dishes.” And last but not least, Sanka® Decaffeinated Coffee, just in case you couldn't stay awake reading the book.

Kotex and Kotique are registered trademarks of Kimberly-Clark Corporation. Sanka is a registered trademark of General Foods.

Club Cocktails.  They go where you go. Come discover the Kotex Kotique Madge!  A dishwashing liquid to soften hands? Sanka Decaffeinated Coffee

Core dumps, WAPs and war driving

After visiting the hospital, Mark, JeffK and I headed over to Kelly's to hang out for a bit. How we ended up talking about Michael Jackson, I don't know, but when we were tyring to show Mark just how badly Jacko looks these days, Kelly's Windows XP box crashed. What I did now know, but Mark did, was that Windows XP can generate a crash dump for later analysis. When Mark checked the dump directory, Kelly had approximately 50 dump files already there.

Unlike Windows NT, Windows XP doesn't come with dumpcheck.exe, which will tell you exactly where the crash took place. Mark then spent the next half hour or so (why not?) trying to determine the location of the crash, and to track down a copy of dumpcheck.exe. Unfortunately, Kelly's copy of Windows XP was set to only record a minimal dump, of which dumpcheck.exe wasn't able to work with. But Mark was able to track the crash down to ntkernel.dll which pretty much means a buggy driver, although not which driver is bad. Kelly then configured Windows XP to do a full dump next time it crashes.

After expressing the sad state of affairs with Wacko Jacko, talk then turned towards wireless networks. Mark recently aquired some equipment and was looking to set up a WAP at home. Mark didn't quite realize that WAP security was a joke (crackable with as little as 5K worth of traffic) and that really, you need to firewall off any wireless stations; all WAP security was good for was “to keep someone from inadvertantly connecting to your network.” Mark was then curious as to the range and from experiments done here at the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere, we were able to pick up a signal outside the building, up to maybe twenty yards or so (Rob and I didn't go much futher than that). We then decided to test Kelly's range.

Mind you, this was at 2:30 in the morning.

So with laptop literally in hand, we walked down the street and found that the signal strength was good for perhaps a hundred yards or so—definitely three houses down although it wasn't a straight cut-off point. The frequencies used tend to bounce around so that going around a corner only ten yards away would cut the signal entirely; but hit just the right spot and the signal can bounce down the street.

We also talked a bit about war driving and the best areas to concentrate on down here in Lower Sheol. We figured the best places would be around Congress, between Yamato and Clint Moore (in Boca Raton) and along Cypress Creek, between I-95 and Powerline (in Ft. Lauderdale). One of these days …


“We need to work on your blood-curdling scream … ”

Spring and I went to visit Gregory in the hospital tonight. He was awake and coherent and finally in a proper hospital room; until something like 5:00 pm today he was stuck in room 7 of the emergency ward since his arrival. From the explanation there seemed to be a shortage of beds at the hospital.

On the good side he has the whole room to himself.

Around 9:00 pm the nurse somes in to change the bed sheets. We leave the room, but it was plainly audible that Gregory was not happy about the situation, what with six broken ribs and a snapped clavicle. Half an hour and three nurses later, the bed sheets are fresh and Gregory is receiving the Oh-So-Blessed Pain Killers. Spring leans over to Gregory and says, “Gregory, we need to work on your blood-curdling scream. Something that will definitely tell the nurses to back off!” Greg found that quite amusing.

Fifteen minutes later he's snoring away in drug-induced dreams. We stay for a bit longer, then head on our way.

Obligatory Picture

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

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

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