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.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Photo Friday

[Photo Friday: Curves]

Curves


It's aliens! I's seen them!

It's getting to the point where the story behind the Photo Friday image is more interesting than the image itself.

Again, I was at a loss for what to do for current challenge when I saw this septic truck in the supermarket parking lot (I was there picking up two gallons of milk to make up for the two gallons I poured down the sink on Wednesday—don't ask—like I said, it was a bad week) and the coiled up hose was good enough for the theme of “curves.”

So I walk up close and start taking pictures. That's when I notice this small view port on the tank. Looking closer, there were things moving along the inside.

[The Viewport] ['Twas brillig, and the slithy toves] [Did gyre and gimble in the wabe]

Fast moving things!

Disturbing things!

When I showed Spring the images, she said she could have gone a whole lifetime without seeing those images.

Couldn't we all?

Saturday, August 09, 2003

“Whatcha talking 'bout, Willis?”

Darrell Issa—an alleged car thief who later made his fortune selling car alarms—decides he wants to be governor. So he throws the world's sixth largest economy into utter chaos by paying bunch of losers to collect enough signatures to invalidate an election that's not even a year old—right in the middle of the worst deficit crisis in state history. You can't make this shit up.

Via Flutterby, Gary for Governor!

Yes, California is in a gubernatorial crisis right now, and everybody is running for Governor of the land of Shake-n-Bake. Arnold Schwarzenegger has made noises about running, and Larry Flynt is running and, when you read the article above, so is Gary “Whatcha talking 'bout, Willis?” Coleman.

This is about as amusing as the FAU's newspaper/student government scandal over a decade ago. Personally, I'm hoping Larry wins; he's done more for our Constitutional rights and has run a very successful business so he stands a better chance of getting California out of its financial crisis.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Photo Friday

[Photo Friday: Sleep]

Sleep


Enlightening Clouds

It was late Monday night (okay, since it was past midnight, it technically was very early Tuesday morning) when I finished cleaning the downstairs and taking out the garbage when I noticed some storm clouds off in the distance, backlit with the occastional flash of lightning. I had to grab the camera and tripod and attempt to capture the moment.

[Enlightened Clouds I] [Enlightened Clouds II]

It wasn't easy. First off, digital cameras aren't known to be fast. Or even medium. We're talking S-L-O-W. Given the settings I had to use, we're taking R-E-A-L S-L-O-W. At least three seconds from the time I hit the button until it started taking the picture, and another two or three seconds for the camera to make the exposure, and then another fifteen or so for it to process the image. Normally, for a static scene this isn't an issue at all. Even for a predictable action scene this isn't much of an issue once you get the timing down.

But lightning?

Perhaps if it was a stronger storm with flashes every few seconds it would have been easier, but this was relatively weak—two or three flashes per minute with no timing consistency what so ever. Out of twenty-six shots only those two came out. Generally, I would wait a bit, then press the button and hope that a flash would occur durring the exposure, but inevitably, I would see lightning during the processing phase.

I missed some incredible shots that way.

Okay, I missed some twenty-four shots this way.

Very annoying.

But, in viewing the shots I did get in rapid sequence it is neat to see the clouds billowing, even if twenty-four of the twenty-six shots are quite dark.


A rootless tree

Coming home one day, I saw, just outside the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere, this rootless tree next to the building. Well, not only rootless, but trunkless too! Just kind of floating there, in mid-air, next to the building.

[Rootless Tree I] [Rootless Tree II]

Of course I had to take pictures.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

The Archive Effect

I just implemented a small change to mod_blog, the code that runs this site. I added a new template command, %{robots.index}% that runs the following fragment of code:

if (m_navunit == PART)
  fprintf(fpout,"index");
else
  fprintf(fpout,"noindex");

To use it:

<META NAME="robots" CONTENT="%{robots.index}%,follow">

The effect is to generate:

<META NAME="robots" CONTENT="noindex,follow">

or

<META NAME="robots" CONTENT="index,follow">

Depending on if the page contains multiple entries or a single entry.

So far, nothing earth shattering and to tell the truth, pretty trivial as features go. Not to mention pretty specific. This particular tag is used to control the behavior of search engine robots (at least, those that understand this convention) and it may seem strange that I am instructing these web robots to skip indexing my site unless they pull up a single entry.

But it's not that strange when you think about it. And the feature, however trivial it is to implement (and it's been a feature I've been wanting to add for some time now) is a form of search engine optimization. And is something that other blogging software should do, but doesn't.

First off, the chance of someone coming across my pages with a disturbing search request is pretty high, given that up to a full year's worth of text can be indexed (actually, you can get the every entry I've written here in one shot, but I'll leave that up as an exercise for the reader) so that I get a search like:

the chipper that is configured like a triangle with two hitting areas is illegal

with the resultant page being all the entries I've written for 2001; I'm guessing that most, if not all, of those words do appear within the entries of 2001, but not in a single entry.

The result isn't just to solely remove the posibility of distrubing search requests from my site (“aggresiveness of college students in manila”—I'm not a college student, nor am I in Manila, but hey, if they're female, I wouldn't mind them being aggressive) but to actually help the search engines generate good results for people (I'm sure the person looking for “door king 1812 dsl technical information” didn't appreciate being fed every entry for 2002).

Then again, I will miss those that come looking for “mitubishi polyester film corp.”

Friday, August 15, 2003

You too can experience the thrill of being a Master Craftsman in making furniture!

I'm not sure when exactly this occurred—I'm guessing late 70s, early 80s—when some executive somewhere got the bright idea that everybody, at one point in their lives, maybe multiple times in their lives, wanted to experience what it's like to make furniture. I'm guessing that through extensive R & D it came to light that it wasn't the fussy or complicated steps like measuring, cutting, drilling or finishing that where popular, but the actual steps of assembly; the fitting of small wooden dowels, the driving of screws and twisting of fasteners that people wanted to experience.

Or perhaps it wasn't the actual experience of assembly that people wanted but the thought of buying what looked to be expensive furniture at a moderately expensive price for furniture made almost extensively from pressed particle board (which does this hideous expansion number on you if it comes anywhere near water) thinking they're saving money. Lord knows that's probably what my Mom thought during the mid-80s on her furniture buying spree. It certainly couldn't have been the thrill of assembly since that thrill was left to forced on me. Countless shelves, a bed/shelf unit, a desk, and two dressers were among the items of furniture I “hand made” for Mom.

Thrills-a-minute, let me tell you.

It was more of the same today when I found Spring in the Kids' room in the midst of wood laminate particle boards, wooden slats, screws, wierd looking fasteners that you'll never find in any hardware or home self-improvement store and enough headboards to make what looked like two single beds. “I'm trying to puzzle this out,” she said. “The only instructions that came with it were in Chinese.”

Engrish Chinese?”

“No,” she said. “Chinese. And I'm trying to figure out where everything goes.”

“There must be at least illustrations, right?”

“Nope.”

“Ah.” Not good at all.

After a brief interlude where I dropped the Kids off at the Charles Dickens After School Center, Spring and I resumed our forays into the wonderful world of Furniture Assembly—Bunk Bed Edition!

Rough placement of pieces on the floor. Discussions of what piece goes where and what possible function it could provide. The puzzlement over some apparent missing drill holes. And several mis-matched bolts. And non-illustrated directions in Chinese.

Time passes. We had most of the bunk bed assembled when Spring's cordless power drill (being used to drive screws) started straining as its battery slowly died. We were then faced with the prospect of hand driving in some 48 screws to fasten down the slats to support the mattresses. Not looking forward to that, I borrowed a power drill from one of our neighbors. Spring was able to get the Philip's head bit into the drill, but it proved to be too awkward to use so close to the bed frame. So I took the bit out, and attempted to put in a bit extention.

Only the drill wouldn't tighten up.

Great! I thought. I broke the neighbor's drill!XXXX!” I said. “I think I owe the neighbor a new drill.”

“What's wrong?”

“I can't tighten the drill.”

Spring came over, took the drill and attempted to tighten it. “Yup, looks like it's broken.” She handed it back to me.

“I'll go return this and inform them I'll be buying them a new drill,” I said. Spring went to work hand driving the screws in.

Some twenty minutes later I returned. The neighbor took the now non-tightening drill (it still spun under power but unless you jam a particularly large bit into it, it won't be of much use) in stride, saying it was very old, needed replacing anyway and that her parents could get her a new one, since her father always brought his drill over when he needed to do home repair at her place.

That was some good news.

But the bad news was having to drive in 48 screws by hand.


Nothing out of the ordinary should ever happen to you at a Wal★Mart

I met up with Kelly and his friend N for dinner tonight; normally I'd be going to play D&D but the DM is currently on a cruise ship in the Alaskan region (I told him he was not allowed to go, but did he listen to me? Noooooooo!). Afterwards, we found ourselves at the local Wal★Mart Supercenter; N needed some school supplies and Kelly wanted to do a bit of grocery shopping.

This is a Wal★Mart—middle America! Squeezing out Mom-&Pop shops left and right America! Safe, mediocre, predictable America! Nothing out of the ordinary should ever happen to you at a Wal★Mart.

Imagine my surprise at being surprised—thrice—at Wal★Mart.

Now, upon entering the Wal★Mart, we passed a stand of fliers. When I looked closer, the fliers were school supplies of the various elementary schools in the area. I had never seen such a display before! So I grabbed about half a dozen, one from a different school. Upon reading I was completely blown away.

Park Springs Elementary, for instance, requires of its first graders one (1) disposable camera, one (1) box of gallon Ziploc™ bags, and one (1) box of tissues—but only if your last name begins with “A” through “L” (a disposable camera? Excuse me?), otherwise one (1) box of tissues, one (1) box of sandwich Ziploc™ bags, one (1) box of colored pencils and cotton balls (cotton balls?). Second grade at said school requires one (1) skein of yarn, one (1) box of 7 oz. paper cups, one (1) pack of large size paper plates (but only if your last name begins with “A” through “F” … um … this is second grade, right?) one (1) pack of small size paper plates, two (2) boxes sandwich size Ziploc™ bags, one (1) box assorted plastic utensils (only if your last name begings with “G” through “K” and now I'm starting to get scared), one (1) box large Ziploc™ bags, napkins and one (1) box of baby wipes.

Okay, that's it! Baby wipes? Plastic utensils? Cups? What is this, the students have to cook their own lunches? Nowhere on the Park Springs Elementary school second grade supply flier does it even mention pencils, pens or paper (oh wait … sorry, it does mention paper, but that's optional). Writing utensils aren't mandatory until third grade. Forest Hills Elementary is a bit better—first graders get to bring two (2) expo markers.

Then again, at Forest Hills Elementary, first grade girls have to bring one (1) box of gallon size Ziploc™ bags.

Um …

It was at this point the second surprise walked up. He stops, looks at me and says, “Are you Sean? Sean Conner?”

My reputation has really preceeded me, was my first thought. How does this guy know me? I then notice that he does, indeed, look familiar. Hold on a second! I thought. I KNOW THIS GUY! “Hold on,” I said. Thought. Heavy thinking. I was just thinking about this guy about a month ago or so. “Dave!”

“Nope!”

“Dale!”

“Yup,” he said.

“But I can't remember your last name,” I said. He says it, and yes, it finally clicks. Someone I had not seen for easily twenty years. He even mentioned that he had thought of me in the past week. Brief introductions go around, and we chat for a few seconds. He asks what I'm up to and when I say I'm underemployed I get my third surprise of the evening.

A job offer.

Granted, it's for a parts driver for a local dealership, but hey, I might be intrigued enough to take it. He gives me his number and we part ways.

This is Wal★Mart! Not a middle-school reunion! Or a job faire!

And what is with first grade girls having to obtain a box of gallon size Ziploc™ bags?


“It's mapped. I'm just not showing it to you.”

Kelly and I found an interesting bug in Windows XP tonight (“Oh no! Not a bug in WinXP? Say it ain't so!”)

I had taken a few photographs tonight and Kelly was attempting to copy them from my camera to his computer. Normally, you just hook the camera up to the computer via a USB cable, which then appears as a storage drive to the system and you use the normal system to copy the images off (under Linux, the camera appears as a removable SCSI device, oddly enough).

When I hooked my camera up, it didn't show up on Kelly's Windows XP system. We knew the system recognized the camera since each time I hooked it up, Windows would make one sound, and when I disconnected the camera, Widows XP would make a different sound, so something was happening.

But we couldn't see it.

Some poking around, and it seems that Windows XP has a minor glitch (“you don't say?”)—it will happily map a physical device (like my digital camera) and a logical device (like a network share) to the same drive letter (say, for example, F:) and only the logical device will be visible to the user.

Kelly remapped the logical device (his network share) to a different drive letter, and lo! We were able to access the camera.

And Windows XP is supposed to be the pinacle of Microsoft operating systems?

Scary.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Yes, it's still up and running

I received email from XXXXXXXXXXX asking when I'm going to remove an entry where I mention him. I'm not sure if he doesn't like the clarification I made on that page, just doesn't like being mentioned at all, or hates the fact that said entry is the third result you get when searching on his name, or a combination of all three. I do not want to remove the entry; after all, this is my space here, but yet he didn't exactly ask to be mentioned here.

So I removed all mention of him from the entry. It will, however, take some time for Google (or any other search engine) to reindex said entry.

I did, however, check the logs for 2003 and as far as I can tell, no one looking for XXXXXXXXXXX has hit the entry in question. Not one hit! Yes, several hits from search engines indexing my site, but not one live person. So I don't think XXXXXXXXXXX has anything to worry about.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

It worked last week …

About a week ago, I was able to successfully mount my home directory, which is on a Linux box, to the Windows XP box we have, using samba. This week however, it's acting strangly.

Map the drive; it's successful. Try listing some files …

Z:\>dir
 Volume in drive Z is ?
 Volume Serial Number is 2E0D-011F

 Directory of Z:\

File Not Found

Z:\>dir *.jpg
 Volume in drive Z is ?
 Volume Serial Number is 2E0D-011F

 Directory of Z:\

11/12/2000  09:32 PM            15,678 seanroy.jpg
09/05/2002  11:00 PM             7,134 flower.thumb.jpg
04/28/2003  11:32 PM            77,731 Untitled-4.jpg
04/28/2003  11:33 PM           130,531 Untitled-5.jpg
04/28/2003  11:33 PM           137,230 Untitled-9.jpg
04/28/2003  11:33 PM           143,943 Untitled-20.jpg
04/28/2003  11:33 PM           165,048 Untitled-27.jpg
04/28/2003  11:33 PM           128,356 Dad & elephant.jpg
04/28/2003  11:33 PM           143,821 sean at desk.jpg
               9 File(s)        949,472 bytes
               0 Dir(s)   8,011,644,928 bytes free

Z:\>

Like I said—wierd. Short directory listings are fine; anything too large (and I'm still trying to define “too large”) and it simply hangs. But it's not like a massive amount of data causes it to hang—I viewed a 40M Quicktime movie so it's not that. And the behavior just started this week. A week ago—it was fine.

I even went so far as to download, configure, install and run the latest version of samba; it still exhibits the same problem.

Like I said—wierd.

Then again, this is Windows we're talking about …


3D images!

My maternal grandfather was into photography, mostly films (8mm although he did some work in Super-8 in his later years) but he did have a few odd-ball 35mm cameras like the Realist 3D 35mm camera from what looks to be the 50s. To say it's a manual camera is an understatement. Manual shutter speed, manual apature and a very odd focusing system; a parallax system where you line up the top half of the viewport with the lower half. It's a bit harder than it sounds because the view port itself is this small hole on the back of the camera along the bottom edge which is hard to see through.

I'd had the camera for years—since 1982 when he died, and I've never gotten around to actually using the camera. Not even when I was taking photography at FAU about ten years ago. I finally played around with it a few years ago, around 1999 or so, by taking some pictures around Condo Conner. Given the manual nature of the 3D camera I also took along my semi-automatic 35mm camera which I used to set proper shutter speed and apature. I had the pictures developed and promptly forgot about them, until one of the Kids found the photos.

In looking at the photos, I realized that I'm going to have to ask them not to cut the negatives since the size of the images are a bit smaller than normal.

To view the image, you'll need to cross your eyes util both images merge into one (you can try with the thumbnail below, but if it's too small, click on it to attempt a larger version), although according to Jason Kottke about 5-10% of people have trouble doing this. I attempted to do a red/blue version for those funky 3D glasses you get at films but I had trouble getting the right shades of red and blue to get it to work properly. Perhaps if I played around with it more I could do it.

But for now, enjoy my first attempt at 3D photography.

[3D Trees!]

Thursday, August 21, 2003

A question of two photos

In looking over the pictures I took tonight of my Realist 3D camera I realized that while I selected the first photo to display I actually liked the second photo much better. I selected to display the first photo for its predominately white background, but the second one, while more dramatic (which is one reason I like it) has a busier background (although it shows more detail on the camera, which is the second reason why I like it).

So, if you are inclined, please inform me which one you like best.

Thank you.

[Straight forward picture of Realist 3D camera] [Dramatic shot of the Realist 3D camera]

Monday, August 25, 2003

It isn't SoBig after all …

Everybody I know has received at least a thousand copies of the SoBig.F virus email and yet, what do I get?

From: “John Llamas” <XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX>
To: <sean@conman.org>
Subject: I am seeking a reputable vendor of inflatable sheep …
Date: Sun, 24 Aug 2003 23:36:29 -0700

Hello

I am a “generously proportioned” male (375 pounds) with a less than generous penile length (4 inches erect). I seek a vendor of quality inflatable sheep who can give away free samples as I am unemployed.

Best regards

John Llamas

Um … yea.

Not quite so big there, huh?

I will certainly say that at the very least, I get entertaining spam. Almost makes up for the seven Nigerian scams I received this week.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Photo Friday

[Photo Friday: Broken]

Broken


3D cameras and other equipment

The other day I asked which of two shots I took of a Realist 3D camera people liked better. Well, the masses spoke three people commented that the second, more dramatic shot was the better of the two.

Also, reader and online friend Steve Crane sent me a link to the Mission3-D—3-D Attachment for Digital Cameras which combines a special camera mount, stylish 3D glasses (more durable than the paper red/blue you normally get) and software (Windows, of course). I personally could do with just the mount and forego the glasses (which I can't use since I wear glasses) and the software (which I won't like using) but at $129.00 it's a bit pricy.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Photo Friday

[Photo Friday: Neighborhood]

Neighborhood


Welcome to Camazots!

It was a bit hard to select the one photograph for this week's Photo Friday challenge as there were several I wanted to use. After selecting the one I wanted and posting, I then checked Photo Friday and found this:

Please only submit one link per challenge, even if you have several photos for the week's Challenge. If you need your link changed for whatever reason, contact us and we'll change it.

Photo Friday: How to Participate

So technically, I'm not limited to a single photograph, even though most participants (including me so far) only submit a single photograph, and most weeks so far, selecting one single photograph hasn't been a problem (most of the times, it's just selecting the one from about a dozen or more of the same subject, just taken at different angles or with different lighting) but this week, I had a few photographs that I wanted to use.

[Neighborhood I: Waiting] [Neighborhood II: The Armed Gate] [Neighborhood III: The Gate [Neighborhood IV: No ID, No Admittance] [Neighborhood V: Closer than they appear] [Neighborhood VI: More waiting]

I guess that the next time I find myself with multiple pictures for a Photo Friday feature, I shouldn't hesitate to use them all.

The photographs themselves were taken a month ago while I was waiting to get into a friend's house. He lives in this exclusive gated community; so exclusive that there is only one way in and out—through the gate (and it's not just a small cul-de-sac either, but several large cul-de-sacs spread out). I've joked with my friend that all some terrorists need to do is take over the gate house (which is quite large as gate houses go) and simply block traffic. Given the pathological need most Americans have towards driving and commuting to work, just blocking car access at this one gate is enough to hold an entire community hostage!

The week I was there they had an inexperienced guard at the gate; it took over half an hour to get through (as you can see, the line extended back towards the main street). Most annoying, and let's face it, it's about as effective towards security as the TSA.

And thus welcome to the modern American neighborhood.

Sunday, August 31, 2003

It has begun!

I found myself at Wal★Mart today picking up a new camera tripod (I made the mistake of letting the Kids “look” at my old tripod, sigh) and upon entering the store, right there just inside the entry, was a four and a half foot singing Santa Doll, belting out those cherrished Yule Tide carols that we all inundated with 24/7 …

A singing Santa Clause.

It's not even September yet and The Season™ is already among us.

God help us all …


Vampires, werewolves and ghosts! Oh my!

As Spring and I were putting the Kids to sleep, the Younger mentioned that he was scared. Spring tried to reassure him, and I said myself, “There is nothing to be afraid of.” Well, except for ending sentances in “of.” We then turned out the lights and left the Kids to slumber.

“I remember having those feelings,” said Spring. “Of being scared.”

“Yes, the other night The Younger said he was scared to sleep. I asked him what he was scared of and The Younger said, ‘Vampires, werewolves and ghosts. There are ghosts around here you know.’ I told him not to worry because the front door was locked and that I would bar them from coming up stairs.

“But then the Younger goes, ‘But they can still come in through the roof!’ I replied, ‘If they come in through the roof, I'll defintely hear it and come rushing up here to take care of any vampires, werewolves or ghosts. They'll have to answer to me!’”

Spring was delighted. “Ah, my home defender!” She hugged me.

“Defender nothing!” I said. “Any monsters coming through the roof are going to have to answer for property damage! We don't own this place and I certainly don't want to be liable for property damage!” Priorities, you know.

Obligatory Picture

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

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

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

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

http://boston.conman.org/2000/08/01

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

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

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

Copyright © 1999-2017 by Sean Conner. All Rights Reserved.