The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

The severe lack of connectivity

Yet more Internet outtages this week. Intermittent access late this week, with a complete outtage all day yesterday. In fact, over the past few weeks the connection here at the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere has been progressively getting worse. To the point that Spring order DSL. Once it gets here and works, we dropping cable (and most likely the TV side as well—the only ones that watch any significant amount of it are The Kids, and I can live without Good Eats (I'll miss it, but I can live without it).

I'm not sure what happened though—the cable Internet was rock solid when we first signed up.

Sigh.


An electronic archeological dig

An essay by Mark Pilgrim on the history of the tilde got me interested in figuring out when I first put up my homepage, http://pineal.math.fau.edu/~spc/ (don't even bother trying to go there—it's long dead link; I don't even think pineal.math.fau.edu exists anymore). I still have a copy of that site, but the earliest timestamp in that site is 1995, and I know I had it prior to that. I think I used the NCSA server, which means I could have had the page up as early as the summer of 1993, but 1994 sounds right to me.

A bit of digging in the archives reveals this email message I sent:

From: spc@pineal.math.fau.edu (Sean 'Captain Napalm' Conner)
To: XXXXXXXXXXXX (Hanh Vu)
Subject: Re: Lunch …
Date: Thu, 10 Nov 94 16:16:42 EST

A long long time ago in a network far far away, The Great Hanh Vu wrote:

-spc (Installing httpd on pineal … yup … I … broke down I'm gonna have a home page … )

Et tu, Sean …

Yea, well … you know … gotta keep up with the times …

-spc (but you can check out what I have with http://pineal.math.fau.edu/~spc/ … )

The surprising thing is that it was late 1994, not early 1994. Slap some CSS on the pages, and it wouldn't look half bad these days. I also found the following gem (which wasn't carried over to the current site):

The Atlantic Sun was the FAU school newspaper for many many years, from the mid 60's (when the university was founded) to about 1990. At this time, the paper was completely student run (there was not facaulty or staff supervisors).

In that year, the paper was very critical of the Administration (so what else is new). In order to strike back, the Administration looked at the academic records of each of the editors and found that most of them technically could not work for the newspaper with such abysmal GPAs. The editors of the newspaper where outraged and shouts of “Censorship” were heard about the campus.

In a very bold move, the newspaper persuaded the Student Goverment to give them several thousand dollars (on the order of about US$50,000), plus all the existing equipment to form a newspaper off campus and become completely independant. So, the old staff left campus with mucho dollars and all the equipment and set up shop about a mile off campus, and thumbed their noses at the Administration (as well as various other body parts).

One year later the Independant Atlantic Sun (as it was called) went bankrupt and folded operations.

It only took about three years for a new student newspaper to form.

Ah, politics. Ya gotta love it … (don't even ask about the Student Goverment here … )

If I remember correctly, the Student President and Student Senate Speaker had resigned due to rumors of suspicious activities, and the quickly held elections were declared invalid by the Student Judicial Branch. That caused the Student Senate to start impeachment proceedings against all the Student Justices. Had everything gone down, the Student council would have consisted of a Vice President (as acting President), three Senators (whose positions were not up for re-election) and no Judicial Branch. It didn't end up that way, but such was the politics of FAU in 1995.

But I digress …

Oh, and yes, I do have email going back that far, possibly a bit further in the past—hard to say when exactly I started saving all my outgoing email. Why I remember—self preservation. A friend of mine was having problems with one of the facaulty and felt it best to keep a copy of all correspondence, just in case. So I started doing the same as well.

And this whole pile of textual bits is courteously of ever increasing densities of harddrives (link via 0xDECAFEBAD).

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Another Sean Conner, in Florida, chasing ghosts …

In Sept. of the year 1999 Dr. Sean Conner, Jonathan D. Russell, Crow, Bryan Malone, and Angela Dubois officially formed the Jax Fl, Ghostbusters. The mission statement at the time was: ‘To relentlessly investigate alleged paranormal activity and psychic phenomena.’ Although not widely known in the Jacksonville area and wondering if we would be taken seriously 2 months went by when we received our first few cases. From that day on we have provided investigation services on a free-of-charge basis. Also during our first year we devised our unique Spectral Classifications System, began the use of previously un-used/un-tried methods and tools of investigation, and jumped on the new technological advancements in this field.

About the Jax FL, Ghostbusters

And eleven months later:

Hello. This is Agent Conner. My partner, Agent Johnsen and I are assigned to the Paranormal Investigation Foundation.

The PI Foundation.

Our mission: to investigate reported hauntings in the northern part of Florida and make a determination as to their validity.

Ghosthunting through North Florida

Quite freaky, having two Sean Conner's running through North Florida looking for ghosts (although Kurt and I didn't find any—bummer!).

I found the link via a search of “Sean Conner” at Gigablast, a new search engine boasting some 286,000,000 pages indexed at the time of this writing (and I got the link to Gigablast from Kim Burchett). And I'm not sure what I make of the site, other than Dr. Sean Conner is well … I don't know. Crank?

What I do know is that I'll be trying Gigablast for vanity searches, just to see what wierd stuff turns up …

Monday, May 03, 2004

Rerouting the pattern buffer to circuit B

The Internet connection at the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere is out again! I called the cable company to see if it was still a nationwide/statewide/citywide outtage but no! This time it's our connection itself. They scheduled a truck to come out Wednesday to check our physical connection.

Wednesday.

Lovely!

Meanwhile, I'm sneaking in on a neightbor's WAP that is lagging big time. Quite annoying.

Either that, or their Linksys router has problems handing multiple NAT sessions to a single location—that wouldn't surprise me a bit (and is one reason I don't use the Linksys router to NAT).

Thursday, May 06, 2004

The Ghost in the Comic

Bob Kane came about as close to that model as was possible. In the mid-40's, he struck a deal with the DC people that paid him a modest piece of certain Batman grosses. He also contracted to deliver Batman art, for which he was paid a very high rate—high enough that he could hire a ghost to do the work, and still have a tidy sum left for himself.

Bob Kane, Part 4

At 12, there was one thing I knew for certain—that I wanted to be a cartoonist, and my friend Hoade and I worked at it with a passion that a twelve year old can muster. Sure, my strip at the time, Mr. Featherhead may have been a rip-off of Shoe (but in reality, I would have said it was more “influenced” by Unca Scrooge than by Shoe) but Hoade's strip, Bachelor's Pad was a complete rip-off of Bosom Buddies (only without the cross-dressing bit—for that, you need to read his “Once a Man, Once a Woman” comic, based off the title I came up with).

So when an opportunity came up to meet Jim Davis, creator of Garfield, we leapt at the chance to meet our idol. But years later, when we learned that Jim Davis was no longer drawing Garfield our respect for Mr. Davis fell.

But I always thought that Mr. Davis having others draw his cartoon was an isolated incident. Charles Schultz was the only person to draw Peanuts. Bill Watterson was the only person to draw Calvin & Hobbes. And I assumed the same was true for other comics like Bloom County or even Cathy, and that what Jim Davis was doing was extraordinary.

Now, as I come to find out today, it was Schultz and Watterson who were extraordinary; Jim Davis was just continuing a long standing tradition:

Largely because of that second “first,” Fisher's income soared. The strip was soon retitled Mutt & Jeff and by 1920, his salary topped a quarter of a million dollars per year [which in 2004 dollars, is $2.3 million —Sean]. This was back when, as H.L. Hunt might have said, a quarter of a million dollars was a lot of money. In 1920, a spanking-new Ford sold for $575 [$5,400.00 in 2004 dollars. —Sean]. In other words, for what he was making from his daily comic strip, Fisher could have purchased a daily new car.

By this point, he was barely, if ever, drawing or even writing Mutt & Jeff. He hired an artist named Ed Mack to do that, paying him a sliver of the feature's income. In 1932, when Mack passed away, he was replaced by Al Smith who, amazingly, produced Mutt & Jeff for the next fifty (that's five-oh) years, finally getting to sign it after Fisher's death in 1954.

So what was Fisher doing from before 1920 'til 1954? Well, he wasn't drawing Mutt & Jeff, that's for sure. He gave interviews as if he did, but he didn't even affix the “Bud Fisher” signature on every strip. Al Smith even did that for him.

Bob Kane, Part 2

It just never occured to me that this was the normal state of affairs in the comic industry. And no less than Bob Kane, creator of The Batman was a willing participant in it.

Now, understand, I like Batman. Not really the comics, or the TV series or the movies, but the concept. Here is a man without superhuman powers, facing the worse in humanity. Okay, he's an Olympic callibre athelete, an intellectual powerhouse to match Einstein and rich beyond belief, but when it comes down to it, he's still human and an equal match to the Man himself, Superman.

One can inspire to be The Batman—no one can hope to become Superman.

But to think that the creator of The Batman wasn't the one who toiled over the art but left that to others, just doesn't seem right to me. But I did have to laugh when I read the following:

Bruce Wayne was who [Bob Kane] wanted to be—the handsome playboy socialite who was so wealthy, he didn't have to work. When Kane told me this, I wondered why he hadn't had Bruce Wayne pay someone else to put on the bat-suit and fight crime.

Bob Kane, Part 4

Yea … I wonder why …

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Call me!

Some spam, if it can be called that, confuses me. This is one of them:

From: <eddie@XXXXXXXXXX>
To: <sean@conman.org>
Subject: where are you, man ?
Date: Sun, 9 May 2004 01:34:31 +0000

We need to talk, ASAP. Call me.

That's it. “We need to talk, ASAP. Call me.” No salutations, no name (other than “Eddie”), no phone number.

I don't know anyone named Eddie. Ed, yes (an uncle), but no one from the domain of XXXXXXXXXX, and most certainly no Eddie. I checked the domain out, and it's registered to an Eddie Zhao of Brooklyn, New York, and the site points to a Yahoo store that currently doesn't exist, and the IP address in the email comes from Japan. So if this guy is trying to sell me something, he's doing a rather poor job of it.

“Call me.”

Call you?

Idiot.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Word to the wise

Word to the wise: Requesting a password reminder is not hacking an account.

I normally try to avoid online drama, but events between two people whom I read got pretty much out of hand, and while I avoided leaving any comments in their respective websites, one point is still gnawing at me. So I'll comment here, in neutral ground (and I know both of them will read this) and (probably against my better judgement, but that's never stopped me before) give my two bits worth.

A bit of the backstory: Alice and Bob (obviously not their real names) were an item (albeit a long distance item) and during the time they were together, Alice helped Bob register a few domains, and setup one or two web-based communities. Life happened, and several moons ago Alice and Bob broke up. But contact and billing information for the domain hosting and community sites were not updated. Or updated correctly. Or something to that effect.

This brings us up to Friday.

Alice notices that she's still listed as a moderator on the community site run by Bob. Curiosity getting the better of her (and I suspect, a desire to fix the problem right then and there and remove her information), she requested a password reminder.

Which Bob was notified of:

Word to the wise: When you request a password reminder on XXXXXXXXXXX, it goes to the e-mail address on record for that account. So the person associated with that e-mail address now knows that you tried to hack [the] account.

Okay. Do you really think I'd be stupid enough to fail to change the e-mail address and password on a community I now moderate?

How stupid does that make you? *laugh*

It was that comment that struck me badly.

Yes, accessing a computer you are not allowed to access is a Federal offense (not that I totally agree with it, but that's the law as it is currently). But note that in order for it to be a Federal offense, one has to actually access the computer in question. Attempting to gain access? That's a different question. And attempting to gain access to a computer that at one point you had access to? That might not even be a Federal offense.

Case in point. My account at FAU lasted way past my last days there. For all I know, I may still have an account there. Let's see …

[spc]linus:~>ssh spconner@XXXXXXXXXXX.fau.edu
spconner@XXXXXXXXXXX.fau.edu's password: 
Permission denied, please try again.
spconner@XXXXXXXXXXX.fau.edu's password: 
Permission denied, please try again.
spconner@XXXXXXXXXXX.fau.edu's password: 
Permission denied (publickey,password,keyboard-interactive).
[spc]linus:~>

Hhmmm … guess I no longer have access there, but I know that this will show up in the logs; something like:

May  9 23:25:11 XXXXXXX sshd[22328]: Failed
password for spconner from 10.0.0.2 port 36180 ssh2

But will FAU (or the department this machine was in) do anything about it?

I doubt it. It's a one time thing. Now, had I tried multiple times, say, five, ten, a hundred times, then yes, that would definitely be a hacking attempt. Once? Just seeing if the access is still there.

Other examples of hacking?

May  9 13:48:25 janet kernel: IP fw-in rej eth1 TCP 69.70.115.31:1343 69.167.102.16:2745 L=48 S=0x00 I=26379 F=0x4000 T=107
May  9 13:48:25 janet kernel: IP fw-in rej eth1 TCP 69.70.115.31:1345 69.167.102.16:1025 L=48 S=0x00 I=26381 F=0x4000 T=107
May  9 13:48:25 janet kernel: IP fw-in rej eth1 TCP 69.70.115.31:1347 69.167.102.16:3127 L=48 S=0x00 I=26383 F=0x4000 T=107
May  9 13:48:25 janet kernel: IP fw-in rej eth1 TCP 69.70.115.31:1348 69.167.102.16:6129 L=48 S=0x00 I=26384 F=0x4000 T=107
May  9 13:48:34 janet kernel: IP fw-in rej eth1 TCP 69.70.115.31:1348 69.167.102.16:6129 L=48 S=0x00 I=30400 F=0x4000 T=107
May  9 13:48:34 janet kernel: IP fw-in rej eth1 TCP 69.70.115.31:1347 69.167.102.16:3127 L=48 S=0x00 I=30401 F=0x4000 T=107
May  9 13:48:34 janet kernel: IP fw-in rej eth1 TCP 69.70.115.31:1345 69.167.102.16:1025 L=48 S=0x00 I=30403 F=0x4000 T=107
May  9 13:48:34 janet kernel: IP fw-in rej eth1 TCP 69.70.115.31:1343 69.167.102.16:2745 L=48 S=0x00 I=30405 F=0x4000 T=107

Someone trying to get into my home network. Well, rather, mutiple someones. 51 different sources for 166 attempts (18 from one IP address alone).

And that's just today.

That's a hack attempt.

Requesting a password be emailed?

I'm sorry, that is not a hack attempt.

I suppose Bob's comment hit me rather hard since I've been on the receiving end of hacking attempts multiple times (and still am, as you can see above). After a while, it simply becomes noise and the only hack attempts that are worth consideration are those that actually break in and do damage.

I'm not trying to slight Bob here—after all, I doubt Bob has much experience with being hacked, but I do think that the schadenfreude is misplaced in this instance. Alice did not attempt a hack, nor is she stupid:

With regard to [the] allegation, I have this to say: Yes, I triggered the password retrieval function of the community. Here's why—

The userinfo page on … the community in question still list me as the community moderator. About two days ago, I sent … a politely worded e-mail asking [Bob] to take my name off the userinfo page for … the community in question. I did not think that this is an unreasonable request, particularly since we broke up over five months ago.

I noticed earlier today that the userinfo pages had not been changed, and I idly wondered if my e-mail address was still listed on the community. I was pretty sure that this was not the case, since I was pretty careful to remove myself when I handed it over to [Bob] back in November, but I was curious, so I hit the password retrieval tool.

Just curious. And had I been in a similar situation as Alice, I would have done the same.

Guess that would make me stupid then …

Monday, May 10, 2004

Totally new spectacles.

Last week Spring dragged me out to an eye exam and to select a new pair of glasses. It had been several years since my last exam and selection of eye glasses and Spring felt it was time to get a new pair.

So while I was waiting for her and The Kids to get their eyes examined, I perused the shop looking at glasses, and I'm amazed at what they're doing with glasses nowadays. I saw frameless glasses at $300.

Frameless.

As in, you get two lenses connected by a nose bridge, with the arms attached to the outer edges of the lenses. No frames. Arms are flexible though.

$300.

The pair I found, for a bit less than that, were ones I've been wanting for some time now.

[Twisty glasses] [And they look just like my old glasses] [Bendy glasses]

Flexon.

You can flex them. You can bend them. They spring right back into shape. So no worries about them getting out of true. They can't. And they weigh about half that of my old pair.

Quite nice.

And nearly indistinquishable from my old pair, as I found out when I came home with them today and Spring didn't even notice.

Heh.

While picking up the glasses, I had a few minutes to kill before they were fully ready. Walking around the shop, I noticed that Britney Spheres has a line of eyeglasses! She doesn't even wear glasses, and she's hawking a bunch of spectacles.

Sheesh!


A fresh design with every reload

StrangeBanana is a program that creates a random webpage design. The page design you are looking at has never been seen before - it was created programmatically just now. If you want, you can use this design for your own website (in that case you should save it immediately, because when you leave the page, you will never be able to get the same design again).

Via weblog.cemper.com, StrangeBanana: Computer-generated webpage design

Another example of what is possible with CSS. Each time you reload the above page, you'll get a random design. It's a neat concept and the designs are workable but not really great. Perhaps I can use that idea for next April's Fool Day.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Cable no more

Due to stellar performance of the cable modem, Spring decided to order DSL from DSLI (the provider Mark uses, and if he's happy with them then they have to be good). That was a few weeks ago, and yesturday the unit arrived. I didn't get a chance to install the unit until today.

Inside of ten minutes, I had the unit unpacked, plugged and powered, the IP address (static! No extra charge!) programmed into the firewall/NAT system (an old 486 running Linux with three NICs, one for the LAN, one for the WAP, and one for the Internet) and ready to go—

Nothing.

The DSL modem powered up with green lights and everything. But couldn't get out on the Internet. Double checked the IP address and yes, everything is correct.

I then call DSLI tech support. Poor guy on the other end never heard of Linux. And then when he asked, “Can you run Outlook or Outlook Express on that?” I told him, rather harshly I'm afraid, “If you are asking if I can check email, yes, I have an email client on the machine.” Subject dropped.

I then noticed that the ethernet light on the firewall wasn't on. I replaced the network cable I got from DSLI with the network cable I used on the cable modem, and after a few minutes, I was on the Internet. I thanked tech support (even though he never heard of Linux, nor really understood what it was, he was still nice, and I was even able to put him on hold) and went about enjoying my new Internet connection.

Oh, I also packaged up the cable modem (putting the bad network cable in the box) for later shipping back to whence it came.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

… and you thought the real story was inside!

WAKE UP LAURA! HE'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU!

The Dick Van Dyke Show Comic Book—Issue #9 cover blurb

Which had nothign to do with the stories in the comics …

LAURA COMES TO HER SENSES AND LEAVES THIS MAN [picture of Dick Van Dyke] FOR A GUY WHO ART DIRECTS COMIC BOOK COVERS.

The Dick Van Dyke Show Comic Book—Issue #10 cover blurb

… but everything to do with a story happening in the background …

GOOD RIDDANCE! ROB IS SPIRITED OFF TO THE PLANET TWYLO AND NEVER COMES BACK!

The Dick Van Dyke Show Comic Book—Issue #11 cover blurb

… between the art director of comic book covers and Mary Tyler Moore's character …

LAURA REALIZES SHE HAS FOUND THE IDEAL MAN

The Dick Van Dyke Show Comic Book—Issue #12 cover blurb

… just prior to his taking a nice long vacation wearing a white coat with long sleeves.

I think the concept of a series of cover blurbs telling a story in and of itself over consecutive issues, independent of the stories in the comics is an intriguing idea. That's just … so … so … odd … in a compelling way that were I to publish a comic book (or magazine) I would have to do this—tell a story of some event going on behind the scenes through cover blurbs.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Death by a hundred zeros

Google, the Web search engine which attracted a loyal following in part because its simple Web site is uncluttered by obtrusive graphical banner ads, has now decided to sell the sort of ads it once scorned.

Via Michael Duff, Google to Sell Type of Ad It Once Shunned

Say it ain't so! Say it ain't soooooooooooo!


Tracking changes

Well, it took several hours, but I was able to compile the Subversion client. I ended up compiling OpenSSL twice because the Subversion configuration script couldn't find the libraries, but once I got that straightened out, it compiled fine even if it did take a few hours (not that I have the fastest machine on the planet).

Subversion is a version managment tool. You place files under Subversion (or CVS or GNU Arch, or ClearCase or any number of other programs) and it allows you to track changes to documents. You check out the current documents, make your changes, check them back in. The various differences between the tools deals with concurrent checkouts (some require you to lock the files when checking them out so others can't edit the file you are editing, others will attempt to merge all editing changes back in) and whether you can version directories, and how easy it is to manage different versions of a document. Usually used to track source code changes, but it can be used to document changes for just about any document type.

I'm satisfied with CVS. Heck, the only reason I started using CVS was to have the ability to work on some projects on multiple machines and not have to schlep tarballs from machine to machine to keep in sync. Before that, I never really bothered to use source control (except for the year I worked at IBM, but then, my exposure to the actual source code was minimal—all I was doing was writing test cases).

Mark doesn't care for CVS, and after looking at GNU Arch, went with Subversion. This was a few years ago when installing Subversion wasn't a trivial process (as my Calculus teacher used to say). It in fact, required quite a bit of mojo to get working, and thus was one reason I stayed away from it. The other being the rather hefty requirements in hardware.

Now, recently I used GNU Arch for a project for Mark. Even though later it would be placed under Subversion, I wanted to get a feel for how GNU Arch worked. It didn't require nearly the resources of Subversion, and was easier to compile and get running (although the requirements for Subversion have been falling, and the installation procedure has gotten easier).

And between CVS (which doesn't allow you to track directories, nor allow you to change file names without loosing the history of the file, nor handle change sets well, or … ) and GNU Arch (which does all that) I would rather use CVS. GNU Arch, while having features not present in CVS, is still rather clunky to use. Under CVS, when I commit my changes:

% cvs commit cgi

(which commits any changes I made to my CGI library) it will pop up an editor and let me write what changes I've made (nearly all revision tracking software will allow you to annotate what the changes where), then upload the current version to the respository (where the master copy is kept; Subversion works simularly). Under GNU Arch however …

% tla commit
commit: no log file provided (see `make-log')

See, what you are supposed to do is:

% tla make-log
++log.guide--mainline--1.0--spc@conman.org--2004-seminole
% vi ++log.guide--mainline--1.0--spc@conman.org--2004-seminole
Error detected while processing command line:
Not an editor command:
+log.guide--mainline--1.0--spc@conman.org--2004-seminole
Press RETURN or enter command to continue
% vi ./++log.guide--mainline--1.0--spc@conman.org--2004-seminole

Make the annotations, then I can:

% tla commit

Annoying having to do an extra step (and trying to use joe on that filename causes it to dump core—I'm thinking that the plus signs are causing some problems, and my copy of joe is rather old), but I can somewhat see why it may be done that way. Generate the log file, then edit it while making your changes, but hey, if tla commit doesn't find the log file it's looking for, it should at least generate the file and let you edit it then, during the commit.

There are other annoying aspects of GNU Arch, and the amount of diskspace it uses is almost twice as much as subversion (and interally uses filename of ridiculous length). So now for the rest of Mark's stuff, I'll be updating directly into his Subversion repository, and I'll keep using CVS for what I'm currently using it for. I don't have plans on converting to GNU Arch any time soon.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Mississippabamasisboomba Bound!

I'm taking care of last minute details before heading off on the road towards the hip-happening town of Tuscaloosa, Alabama!

You might be wondering why, of all places, why would I go to Tuscaloosa? Because I'm off to see my best friend Sean Hoade, professor to non-English speaking students at the University of Alabama and perpetual grad student.

Let's see … got the rental car for Spring … my car has been cleaned … laundry done, now to pack … try to grab a short nap before heading off into the night on the long dark road.


On the road again

I'm outta here!

See ya on the far side of the moon.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Alive and well on Ganymede

It was the batteries.

I had entended to be in the car, pulling out of the driveway (okay, parking lot) at 11:45 pm Friday. 10:50 pm latest. But my car, Lake Lumina, was eating my batteries.

As I was loading the car, Spring mentioned that the cigarette power adaptor for the CD player wasn't working, so I might want to use batteries for it. I grabbed the batteries from the trunk (they were in the computer case; I brought them along for the digital camera) but by the time I got settled into the car, I could only find three of the four batteries. I searched around the passenger side a bit, and when I looked at the batteries in my hand, only saw two.

I could have sworn I had three, I thought. Before the car sucked up more into a parallel dimention (filled with mismatched socks no doubt) I sequestered the remaining two batteries in the arm rest and resumed my search. Five minutes later, I had located the two missing batteries (one in the trunk, one underneath the driver seat). In the process though, I snagged my fingernail on something, so I had to go back into the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere to trim it, least it bother me for the next 800 miles.

So it was the batteries that delayed the start of my trip to Mississippabamasisboombah. By the way, I fixed the cigarette power adaptor by reversing the polarity of the electron flow regulator.

No, really, despite sounding like trite Star Trekian technobabble, I really did have to reverse the polarity on the plug end of the adaptor.

Half an hour later (refueling both the car and my wallet) I'm on I-95 north. The plan is I-95 to Ft. Pierce, cut over to the Florida Ronald Reagan Turnpike to I-75 North to Atlanta, cut over to I-20 and ride that into Tuscaloosa, home of my friend Sean Hoade. The fact that I was driving through Florida at night was a bonus. There is nothing worse than driving through Florida. Miles and miles of orange trees and swamp. And flat. Flatter than Kansas. And loooooong. It takes hours to get out of Florida when you live at the bottom of the state. Long hours of nothing but orange trees and swamps. Swamps and orange trees. And billboards advertising tickets to the temple of the Rat God. And the state of Florida advertising the SunPass (a transponder to electronically pay your tolls) alá Burma Shave style. A series of signs like:

You have miles to go

Through oranges and swamp

But you forgot your money

And feel like a chump

Burma Shave SunPass.

A few hours later and I'm travelling north on I-75 viewing billboards for the Café Risque, a diner with all nude waitresses, just south of Gainesville, a town that only exists to serve the University of Florida.

So it's coming up on 5:30 am. My thought processes at the time: Gainesville is a college town, where there will be cute college girls working their way through college and some are known to do some pretty risque things, like nude waitressing. I haven't eaten since early evening the day before, and besides, I need a break.

Food. Nude college age women.

What's not to like?

On reflection, I suppose that going to Café Risque at 5:30 am on a Saturday after the semester is over is not the time to go if one wants to see cute nude college age women.

I pay the cover (a cover! for a diner!) and head inside, where the one (1) waitress working at the time comes over and asks what I want. Now, she was easy on the eyes, but looked to be in her mid 30s. Not bad, but then again, not a cute college age woman. And the silicone enhancements did nothing for me.

Now a slight digression. I don't really case for silicone enhanced chests (to put it nicely). None of my friends, male or female, really care for silicone enhanced chests, and I really have to wonder, are there guys (or girls for that matter) that actually like silicone enhanced chests on women? I've yet to actually meet someone that says, “I like 'em big and fake!”

After breakfast I was back on the road again (sorry, but the Café Risque wasn't all that great on a 5:30 am Saturday morning during semester break) counting the miles until I left this acursedly long and endless state. Once past Gainesville, I was going, “it can't be long now 'til the Georgia border.”

Fifty miles later, as I passed I-10, “it can't be long now 'til the Georgia border.”

Fifty miles later, “just how XXXXXXX long is this XXXXXXXXX state? WHEN WILL IT EVER END?

But end, it did. At 7:54 am. Seven and a half hours later (taking into account my breakfast break). And it was simply amazing. One second, flat land of nothing but oranges and swamp, and the next second, rolling hills and real trees! No more palm. No more orange. No more mangrove. Trees! Oaks! Maples! And other trees whose names I've long forgotten.

Woot.

For the most part Georgia was for the most part, uneventful, unlike the last time I drove through Georgia, or rather, attempted to drive through Georgia. That time, in December of 96, my car's transmission seized up so bad the car wouldn't move in neutral. That was bad. It was a Saturday. That was worse. In Cordele. Could it get any worse? Half way between Christmas and New Year's Eve. That's about as bad as it could get (but that's a story for another time). But this time, I sailed past Cordele without a second look.

[The Lost City of Atlanta] [Traffic on I-20 and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd]

But notice I said “for the most part.” It wasn't until I hit Atlanta that this trip's problem manifested itself. About a mile before the I-75/I-20 interchange, one of those electronic signs flashed by at 75 mph

I-20 WESTBOUND ... CONSTRUCTION ... 2 ... LANES ... CLOSED

At least, that's what I thought I saw. But really, could I do anything about it? And sure enough, I get on I-20 westbound only to find that due to construction, the two leftmost lanes where closed.

IN ATLANTA STOP
IN TRAFFIC STOP
STOP CAR STOP
LOVE SEAN STOP

me, in an SMS message to Spring.

Thirty minutes later, the lanes open up again, only to have the two leftmost lanes close yet again!

Thirty minutes after that, the lanes open up, only to … stay open. An hour, to go maybe five or ten miles.

And thirty minutes after that, I'm not feeling all that well. Nausea is eating at me, and realizing the time, 12:30 pm, and realizing that I've been up since about … oh … 2:00 pm the previous day, I realize that it might be prudent to … oh … take a nap!

It's amazing how refreshing an hour nap can be at times.

About half an hour of travel later, I'm in Alabama.

And Central Time.

Which means I've just gained an hour.

Or something like that.

Now, when I woke up after my nap, I couldn't locate the directions to Hoade's house once I arrived in Tuscaloosa, Mississippabamasisboomba. I checked the interior of Lake Lumina. The trunk. Inside all my luggage. Then, the terrible truth of the situation dawned on me—of all the things I could forget, I forgot the directions!

So I decided to drive on, and see if I could recall the directions. I knew that I had to get off at exit … seven something. And go right, but merge left … and … something about a Red Lobster (because, if a town has a Red Lobster, it must be a hip-happening place) … and turn, but follow the road because a Harpysomething or other turns into … Harposomething but it's really Harpysomething or other and look for a sign … and oh hell I think I'll just have to call, which I could, because unlike previous car trips I've been on, this time I actually have a cell phone!

But the battery on the cell phone is nearly, if not already, dead. I had charged it the day before, but somehow going into an extended area really started draining the battery because by the time I arrived in Georgia, I had lost all bars on the battery indicator, so I was trying to use the phone as little as possible. I had the charger with me, but it was the wall-wart type of charger, which required the use of a wall with an electrical outlet, so as I approached the Mississippabamasisboombah Welcome Center I hoped I would be able to secure a wall with an outlet in order to make necessary calls.

Once inside the Welcome Center, I spied a plethora of walls, each with a plethora of electrical outlets that I could use. I approached the Information Desk, behind which an Information Desk Specialist sat, waiting to dispense Information.

“How may I help you,” asked the Information Desk Specialist.

“Yes,” I said. “May I borrow one of the outlets?” I motioned towards a set on the nearest wall.

“No,” said the Information Desk Specialist. “I'm sorry, but Mississippabamasisboombah State Laws specifically outlaw the use of electrical outlets in public buildings since the State actually doesn't bother to pay the bill.”

“Oh,” I said. “Thank you.”

“You're welcome.”

I walked out of the Welcome Center, thinking that I should have just used the outlet without asking, on the principle that it is easier to ask forgiveness than ask permission. I specifically did not bother to use a more hidden electrical outlet, since being in Mississippabamasisboombah, the extreamly slim chance of being caught and slammed into a Mississippabamasisboombahlian jail stilled outweight any utility I might get in actually getting directions to Hoade's house.

Now, had I actually thought this through, it might have worked. But I didn't. So I turned on the phone. Still had power for that. I phoned home, thinking that someone there could read the directions back to me. Only I got the answering machine. While I was listening to the answering machine, my phone got an indication that I had voice mail. So I checked the voice mail. Now, if I don't check the voice mail, it will constantly beep at me, but if I do, I have to listen to the entire message, then do something with it, or else it will cause my phone to constantly beep, reminding me that I have an unheard, or partially unheard, phone message. So I listen to the entire message, which was Hoade, which reminded me, I could call Hoade for directions!

“Hoade? This is Sean—”

“Hey bud—”

“I gotta make this quick—”

“What?”

“I have to make this quick—”

“Wait, let me get to another part of the store so I can hear you.” Pause. Pause. Hurry up Hoade, my phone is going to die any second now! “What's up bud?”

“This needs to be quick, my cell battery is dying. I forgot the directions at home. How do I get to your house?”

“Quick. Right. Get off I-20 at exit 73. Go right, but merge to the left lane. Turn left at the third light, follow—”

Battery died.

Great!

I get in the car and start driving. My plan is to find a wall with an outlet. Where can I find a wall with an outlet that I might serenditiously use an outlet? Half an hour later I have my answer: Arby's!

I order a roast beef and a drink, yes, I'm dining in. As I take my tray into the dining room I'm scanning for any sigh of wall outlettage. And in the far corner of the dining room, I hit wall outlettage. I sit right next to the outlet, pull out the power adaptor, plug it in, only to have it fall right out.

Not only is it illegal to use an outlet in Mississippabamasisboombah, but any outlet you do find will be the frictionless kind where the plug just falls right out.

I try the other outlet, just for kicks.

That too, is the frictionless Mississippabamasisboombahlian electrical outlet.

This is not a good situation.

Lacking the universal force known as Duct Tape, I use my body to hold the plug in place. It may be illegally using a frictionless Mississippabamasisboombahlian outlet, but it has power and that's all I care about.

Half an hour later, I have directions and a full belly.

Ten minutes later and my car feels like it will vibrate itself to death.

Ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da I-20 had suddenly formed ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da millions of tiny little ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da speed bumps ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da causing the ba da ba da ba da ba da CD play
er ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da to sk
ip ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da as my teeth ba da ba da ba da ba da started to shake ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da loose.

Twenty minutes of that and I hit the upmteenth contruction zone (about every fifty miles through Georgia I hit a twenty mile section under construction, and the same was shaping up through Mississippabamasisboombah) of the trip, only this time the speed limit was 50.

50.

Palmetto Park Blvd, not a mile from the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere, with traffic lights, has a speed limit of 50.

50.

This is a highway.

50.

And people wonder why I hate travel.

That last hour of the trip was the absolute worst. Here I am, so close, yet I could feel my eyelids closing. Brain shutting down. Teeth falling out. CD playing sk
ipp
ing.

Bad.

I was never so happy to see Tuscaloosa, even though it looked much like Margate, only Margate squared.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Boring trip pictures

One of Hoade's life long dreams has been to make a movie. But in the time he's been here in Tuscaloosa, he's become quite the star in the local indimovie scene, being in three films so far, Blut und Feldt, a German expressionistic film about Muppets gone bad, where Hoade played a detective gone bad; The Tool, a film about a man (played by Hoade) who may or may not have a guardian angel studying his every move, and a third film whose name escapes me, but Hoade plays a skinhead with a thing for guns. By far the best is Blut and Feldt.

He also showed me his wife's organizational skill in the freezer:

[Vanna White will be played by Sean Hoade] [Neatly organized frozen vegetable matter]

After lunch at a local diner, we visited a cigar shop where Hoade found a rather amusing towelette, indicitive of the area:

[Wash Away Your Sins] [Right your wrongs with a wipe]

We then visited the local collage he currently attends and teaches at:

[Sign of the times?] [Clark Hall, Part I] [Clark Hall, Part II] [A sense of history] [A typical student dormatory] [Denny Chimes I] [Denny Chimes II] [More sense of history]

After looking around a bit, we hit the library. Hoade had to look for a book for his wife, and we checked out a digital video camera.

Yes, a digital video camera. Any student here can check out a video camera and then use the computers (all Macs) to edit the resulting video.

[Yea, but FAU's library is FIVE stories!] [Okay, no nude women on FAU's library] [Or Fabio] [Yea, FAU's library sucks compared to this]

Later on in the evening we went out to dinner. Coming back to the car, someone had socked his attenna. Well, socked and ragged it really. Very wierd.

[Usually this doesn't happen until September] [There's no way I'm washing this!]

Back at Casa del Hoade, we talked and played around with the digital video camera, having fun with the night vision mode.

Yea, we're easily amused.

Monday, May 17, 2004

The atomic nuked veteran commemorative plate

Today Hoade had to run an errand to the Mississippabamasisboombah DMV to get his (and his wife's) car registered with the state. Our first stop was the Tuscaloosa Court House as Hoade felt that if such an office existed, it would be at the court hourse.

I was rather surprised at how laid back things were at the Tuscaloosa Court House as there was a refreshing lack of X-ray equipment and border guards at the entrance. Contrast this to the local Broward Court House near the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere where the guards, standing on the other side of the high-powered X-ray equipment, cheerfully wear rubber gloves, “for your protection.”

We wandered about for a minute, found an appropriate sounding office, and inquired within, but alas, the Mississippabamasisboombah DMV was not in the court house, but across the street.

A short walk later, and we were in a rather short line waiting our turn at the counter. Strung across the ceiling where the various plates one could get in Mississippabamasisboombah but the one that stuck out was the license place commemorating “atomic nuked verterans.”

Atomic nuked veterans.”

Funny, but I would not have pegged Mississippabamasisboombah as having a significant population of atomically nuked veterans, expecting instead a state like New Mexico or Nevada or Tennessee to have that distinction, but I guess I'm sadly mistaken.

But we were still highly amused.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Editing digital video

Hoade and I spent several hours at the library trying to edit the footage (shot with a digital video camera we borrowed) we've accumulated over the past few days. The software, running on a high end Mac (with gigs of free space, just for editing of video), was fairly easy to use once shown how; the consuming bit came in waiting for the video stream to be read off the tape. Twice. First time through the audio tracks were not transfered. Then a significant amount of time was spent in converting the footage to MPEG and burned onto a video CD—all for naught, because it was a bad copy that didn't work.

Sigh.

Other than the bad CD, it was a cool experience and the fact that any student, reguardless of major, can make their own film is wonderful. Okay, so maybe the resulting films won't be all that great, but the idea that anyone can make a film is great.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Time management, or the lack thereof

I could have sworn today was Wednesday. It felt like a Wednesday. That's what I get for loosing track of time (and for not updating like I should, but I'm slowly rectifying that).

Obligatory Picture

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

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

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