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, January 01, 2005

Big Fat Hairy Deal

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Sunday, January 02, 2005

This auction (found by Spring reminds me of The Rocket Car Legend, a long article about a “real life rocket car:”

I've been trying to figure out a way to put it into words, but the sight is almost impossible to describe. Think of this: You know what it looks like when you shoot a paper clip with a rubber band? One second the clip is between your fingers, and the next it's just … gone. You can't track it with your eyes, because it moves too fast. All you can do is hope to shift your eyes to where it was going, so you can see where it hits.

Think of the same thing happening with a 1500-pound car.

The Rocket Car Legend

I don't know of the story presented above is actually true or not (to me it rings true, but you never know). But this truck … sure, it's a truck cab stuck in front of a jet engine, but Does that mean it could actually work? Where's the air intake? Where's the fuel tanks? Jet engines aren't exactly known for their gas mileage. And as the article above points out, you are going to have a heck of a time controlling the vehicle and forget about brakes—they'll burn out long before you hit that mountain side.

Interesting auction though.


Cuts both ways

American multinational companies outsource manufacturing to China. Why can't a Chinese company outsource management to the United States?

Via Mises Economic Blog, Chinese Buyer of PC Unit Is Moving to I.B.M.'s Hometown

Now this is a twist—China outsourcing to us, and what they're outsourcing is interesting—management! I've often heard jokes about US companies to outsource CEOs as a way to cut costs, but here we have a Chinese company that's outsourcing their CEO operations to us.

I'm not sure what to make of this. Ironic, in a way sure.

So does this doom us as a country of middle to high management?

Monday, January 3rd, 2005

A friend who works at IBM sent the following:

Believe me, the move is only temporary.

The only reason Levono is having anything to do with the United States is because, as part of the deal, IBM still retains an 18% share in the PC Company.

Remember, I work with these types of people every day. It's a good thing they're staying here. If you sent our management over to China, the land mass would be thrown into total chaos by year's end and they'd be strung up in Tienmen Square as enemies of the people.

Monday, January 03, 2005

No, no, I told you to set the alarm clock!

Ah, nothing like waking up to the sounds of the house alarm going off.

I don't think I ever mentioned the house alarm here at the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere, but we have one. And from what I understood, it was inactive (but for some extra money a month it could be, maybe—never really looked into it). But here it was, this morning, going off like a banshee.

Spring called up The Office to no avail—they didn't know anything about the alarm and were amazed that we had one.

Yes, we have one. A loud one. One that won't shut up.

After a continuous twenty minutes, it finally shut up.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

No, no, the alarm clock! The alarm clock!

Ah, nothing like waking up to the sound of a cell phone call at 8:00 am (and when one normally gets up at 11:00 am—this would be like getting a call at 4:00 in the morning).

It wasn't unexpected, but it was definitely unwelcome.

See, one of the projects I'm working on at work is “Project White Elephant” (customer's name, not ours!†) a long and involved project where we're somewhat, but not entirely, involved with the day to day operations of a particular site. Communications involve a form of the telephone game, mostly through email (and occasional phone call)—need I say that what is actually wanted is not what is often asked for.

Much fun.

This morning's call started with events going back a week or so. The customer, MB, has a few old servers that are being decomissioned and donated to a university somewhere in Outer Mongolia. But before being shipped off MB wanted to ensure that any customer data (read: porn, and a lot of it, along with some other accounts and websites) be “scrubbed.”

I was picked to do the “scrubbing.” Not something that is terribly hard on a Unix-like system, provided one has the login information to the administration account on said systems. I sent emails last week asking for such information but had not heard back yet.

Until yesterday—when I learned that the machines in question were being turned off this morning and had to be scrubbed by that time.

I had yet to receive the login information. Heck, I had yet to receive a list of servers to log into!

Seven hours of emails and phone calls and I still couldn't log into all the requested machines to “scrub” them. I was able to gain access to one of the servers and “scrub” it, but not the other … unknown quanity of machines (yes, where were questions as to the exact count of machines being shipped). It wasn't until around 11:00 pm yesterday that I got the information required to scrub the other machines.

Except one.

I could not get into that machine remotely.

So, around 8:00 am or so I get the expected call from the person physically powering off the machines and packing them. I then had to walk this person through “scrubbing” the machine—someone unfamiliar with a Unix-like operating system.

Fortunately, he took directions quite well.

But man, am I tired right now.

†The actual project name isn't “Project White Elephant” but something of similar nature and yes, the customer was the one who came up with the name, oddly enough.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

It lured me in

Sigh.

I should know better than to walk into a bookstore with a wallet full of money.

Especially a really good used/new book store near a college campus.

Fortunately for my wallet, I went after work, giving me less than an hour before the store closed. That tends to limit the amount of monetary damage that I can sustain.

But since the place does sell used books, there are some good deals to be had if you don't mind digging, and I don't mind digging. One of the books I picked up (used) was The Connection Machine by Danny Hillis, creator of the massively parallel computer from the mid-80s. Sure, the architecture is twenty years old and the company that made it, Thinking Machines Corporation, is now defunct, but just wait, another few years and you'll start seeing the home computer become more and more parallel. It's a common theme in Computer Science—stuff done two or three decades past in super computers works its way to the home computer (multitasking? 60s. GUIs? 70s. Networks? 80s. Microsoft just repackages these things as “innovations”).

And speaking of architecture, I also picked up Norm Abram's New House by Norm Abram, and House-Dreams by Hugh Howard, fueling my interest in building architecture of the more homely type. I've had this interest in architecture for some time now, and back when we had cable HGTV was one of the regular stops on the TV dial (hey, they were used books! They were cheap!).

Fortunately for me, the store was closing so I only ended up with those three books.

Now only if I can avoid going by there tomorrow evening …

Friday, January 07, 2005

Help! I'm drowning in a sea of control panels

I'm up to my eyeballs in control panels.

I'm going to have to create pseudonyms for these just to keep them straight while taking about them here.

The control panel we use here, Insipid, I've gone on and on about. “Project White Elephant” (which, as a pseudonym, is really apt) uses Blech which has the misfortune of being available for both Unix and Windows.

I've just been insructed to install Badminton on the “Project White Elephant” systems. In addition to keeping Blech on those system.

Yes, there is method to this madness, although the method itself is madness.

Blech supports Bind 9x. Only Bind 9x does not (yet) support the rrset-order option of Bind 8x. “Project White Elephant” needs the rrset-order option, so we need to use Bind 8x, which Blech currently doesn't support (Blech provides custom compiled versions of services, so of course you can't just upgrade (or downgrade) independantly of the control panel—sigh). But apparently there's no plan to convert entirely over to Badminton (not to mention it would probably be a horribly painful process) so for this one service, we're installing another whole control panel on the systems.

Madness I say! Madness!

But then again, this is “Project White Elephant.”

Sigh.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Happy Birthday Milton Supman

Today is Soupy Sales' 79th birthday.

Happy Birthday Soupy!

Oddly enough, although I like his work, I'm too young to have ever seen his children's show live, and his asking kids to send him little green pieces of paper from their parents' wallets was several years before my time.

And for some odd reason, I find this joke he never told to be really funny:

What starts with “F” and ends with ”UCK?”

A “firetruck.”


We have a winner!

Wow!

I won!

Okay, it wasn't the iPod, but either a $20 iTunes gift card or a $20 Amazon gift card, my choice. Wasn't hard—since I still don't have an iPod, I decided to go with the Amazon gift card. But I still have a chance of winning an iPod though.

Now, only if I had something, you know, to auction off …

Sunday, January 09, 2005

“Hi! I'm Charley Foxtrot!”

Between control panels and “Project White Elephant” it may appear that my new job sucks.

It doesn't really. Aside from the control panels and “Project White Elephant” the job is quite easy really, and gives me time to do my own thing.

But like my other job (managing several servers) when it sucks it sucks.

I'm spending this fine Sunday evening dealing with the current lunacy that is “Project White Elephant.” The particular lunancy I'm talking about would probably be helped with UCARP but sadly, not only do we not have the time to get this installed and tested, but we (myself and C) are not in full control of the project (there's apparently a third name server that's running Bind 9x which is causing all sorts of fun) so we're stuck with the current solution.

Blah.


More Server Madness

This site contains information relating to the development of Linux kernel-based virtual servers running on a single piece of hardware. This particular virtual server model is implemented through a combination of “security contexts”, segmented routing, chroot, extended quotas and some other standard tools.

Linux-VServer

Mark sent me that link, saying it could help with some of the control panel madness around here and even allow C to sell a virtual server for the more advanced customers (instead of a dedicated host) I don't think it will really solve the problems I have with the control panels.

I don't want to use the control panels.

But our customers do.

Generally, C only uses Insipid for his control panels, and it's not like the customers are clamoring to use other ones like Blech or BadmintonInsipid works well enough for them (and if they are advanced enough to want something else, they're advanced enough for a dedicated server).

“Project White Elephant” is the anomaly here, running both Blech and Badminton. It's running Blech because you can get support up the wazoo, and Badminton only because the other admin working on the project can't configure DNS using the command line (okay, there's also the issue that Blech comes with Bind 9x, and there's a feature we need that's only available for Bind 8x but that's another rant).

Using a virtual server won't really fix that problem.

It's a nice idea though (and yes, I will keep this link in mind for the future).

Monday, January 10, 2005

Composites and annotations

I came across these photos (via lemonodor) and little did I realize that there's a whole Flickr community devoted to such “composite photos” (well, maybe “community” is too strong a word here—more like a group of people who tag such work with “composite”).

Reminds me of the one I did.

Another interesting feature of Flickr is the annotations one can add, although it's done through Flash. Surely, I thought, there must be a way to do that through CSS and maybe some Javascript. So last night (well, technically this morning) I played around a bit. Yes there is a way, I thought. And I need to stop calling myself Shirly.

It's not perfect, but as a “proof-of-concept” it's not bad.


Boston Diaries 2004 Year End Mash-up

Take the first sentence of the first entry of each month in 2004 and smoosh them into a paragraph to see what you get.

Spring Dew: 2004 in a Paragraph

Sure it's silly. But hey, why not? Sounds like the results could be interesting, so here goes—the first ever, the Boston Diaries 2004 Year End Mash-up:

And I feel fine. I am so far behind on entries it's not even funny. For any of this to make any sense, I have to explain my current job situation. Yes, I haven't updated here in a while. Yet more Internet outtages this week. You may notice the ad at the top of my sidebar to the left (and if you are reading this not on my site—now you have a reason to stop by). Through Spring's church, we obtained tickets to a minor-league baseball game at Roger Dean Stadium, which is located at the north campus of FAU. Remember kids, never swallow liquid nitrogen! When Mom and I moved down here in 1979, we were immediately greeted with the spectacle of Hurricane David bearing down on us. This is incredible news and I wish the scientists luck in applying this to humans. And thus it starts: National Novel Writing Month. It's been over a year, and we're still not quite there with the “virtual gaming table” that Bob wants.

Now, I had to take some liberties—for instance, some of the entries the first literal sentance was from something I quoted, so I opted instead of grab the first sentance I wrote (which gives us the wonderful “Remember kids, never swallow liquid nitrogen!”), which, I think, is more in the spirit of what was intended, if not the letter.

Although, if you are curious enough to see what this would read if you pulled the first literal sentance, be my guest …

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

today

All I have to say about today is: “Project White Elephant” and South Florida drivers.

Oh, and homework for tonight (for “Project White Elephant”) is to learn qmail, which is unlike any other Unix MTA out there.

Sigh.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Dumbfounded

From: [some customer]
To: [support at The Company]

http://www.XXXXXXXXXXX/subscribe.html

I tested this page with my own email address and did not do what it's suppose to do. Please check.

That's it. No indication of what it's supposed to do or what was wrong with it, just that this random script on this site didn't work. At least I got a link to the script in question.

From: [support at The Company]
To: [some customer]

What is it supposed to do, and what did it actually do?

From: [some customer]
To: [support at The Company]

Anyone who wanted to get on our mailing list could enter their email address on that webpage. Anytime we update our webpage, the people on the mailing list are supposed to be notified via email automatically.

Okay, so I now know what it's supposed to do, but not what it actually does right now. I took an educated guess:

From: [support at The Company]
To: [some customer]

So it's not mailing out notifications when the website is modified? Was it working at one point?

From: [some customer]
To: [support at The Company]

Yes, it was.

Yes, it's not mailing out notifications or yes, it was working at one point? I assumed “yes” to both questions, then checked the page listed:

<form method="post" action="/cgi-bin/cgiemail/mail_list.txt">

Basically, it's trying to run a text file as the script. I then checked /cgi-bin/cgiemail/mail_list.txt and it didn't exist. Oh, there was a mail_list.txt file, but it wasn't in the /cgi-bin directory, nor was it a script, but a literal text file.

Sigh.

I suppose I could have avoided the little back-and-forth there had I immediately checked into this, but I just hate being told, “It's broke, fix it.” What's broken? Where? What is it supposed to do?

There was some more back and forth clarifying a few issues (“no, you cannot execute a text file”) and this is where we currently stand:

From: [some customer]
To: [support at The Company]

Unfortunately, the one who originally built the website left our office. There's got to be a way to make it work. During the past year or so our ftp folders with you changed several times. Somehow the subscribe webpage got affected. Is there anything you can do on your end to fix it?

It's now a contest to see what's harder, my forehead, or the desk.


Oh, so that's why the mail server blew up

Backing Up and Restoring Your Mail Queue

The bad news about backing up and restoring your mail queue in /var/qmail/queue is that it's nearly impossible.

qmail by John R. Levine

So, looks what what we were attempting to do for “Project White Elephant” can't work.

So far, I think the desk is winning.

Update later today

Woo hoo! [doing the happy dance] The client has finally agreed to scrap the current setup and go with something more sane, which means no more control panel! And no qmail.

Update Tuesday, February 8th, 2005

Boo hoo! [wanting to commit sepiku] The client requires the use of a control panel. Or rather, the admin hired to maintain the machines once they're set up requires a control panel.

Sob!

Friday, January 14, 2005

Pressure

I do not handle stress well.

Wednesday was bad.

Yesterday wasn't that bad, but I fell asleep almost immediately upon coming home, and still managed to get up late.

Today is bad.

As if osCommerce wasn't bad enough (that site … how can anybody use that site? It's the most horribly designed site I've come across) I now get to debug the Dansie Shopping Cart.

Woot!

Only 102 warnings when run with /usr/bin/perl -w (and since perl spits out those warnings when the script runs, it confuses Apache).

Running it without the warnings option gives me:

": No such file or directory

I also like this bit:

 # May not be used without purchasing a license. Do not attempt to run this
 # script on a site other than which it was licensed for.
 # Modification of this script other than:
 # 1. Adjusting the perl path in the first line above.
 # 2. Or setting the $vars variable below.
 # May void your right to technical support and subject you to legal action.

And the customer is upset because she paid for this and she doesn't understand it worked on four other servers and why can't I fix it and … and … and … and …

According to this, I can't debug their 4,000 line script (technically, it was one line; all the formatting had been removed to protect the guilty) without subjecting her to possible legal liability and voiding her warrentee.

The conversation went downhill from there.

The upshot: the customer doesn't care—she wants it working.

So I get the job of debugging some wonderful perl code.


I'm ready to run screaming towards the hills

I'm attempting to debug the shopping cart from hell. I finally got rid of the warnings, and the script is generating the following:

Set-Cookie: shopper_id=91548; path=/;
Content-type: text/html

<HTML>

But Apache still doesnt' like it. I poke around and fine a test.pl script:

#!/usr/bin/perl

print "Hello world\n";

Okay. I can build on this, adding stuff to see what Apache might be complaing about. I run this script from the command line and get “: bad interpreter: No such file or directory”.

Excuse me?

# which perl
/usr/bin/perl
# more test.pl
#!/usr/bin/perl

print "Hello world\n";

Huh?

I write my own version of this:

#!/usr/bin/perl

print "Hello world\n";

And it worked.

Me: 0. Desk 2:

Okay, probably some invisible character in test.pl that's giving the perl interpreter fits. Delete #!/usr/bin/perl and retype it.

: bad interpreter: No such file or directory

Me: 0. Desk 3:

Much mucking around later (and remember, this is a side trek from what I'm supposed to be doing—debugging some comercial perl script) I find out that not only is test.pl in the Microsoft text format, but that the version of vi (vi!) I'm using is “smart” enough to deal with the Microsoft text format and keep the file in that format!

Me: 0. Desk 4:

XXXX this, I'm going home.


I ran screaming towards the hills, only I didn't get so far

I should have stayed at work.

Weather wise it was a horrible day—raining and cold. The roads were slick and by the time I left the office, it was dark outside. And along Yamato Road, between Congress and I-95 is an infamous railroad crossing. As I was approaching the crossing guards decided to come down a second time, thus causing me to stop short, least the car get smacked across the top.

Only I got smacked across the rear by the person behind me.

I wasn't in a good mood to begin with; this certainly didn't help matters any.

After collecting my dark thoughts, and making a few calls to let some friends know I might either be late, or not arrive at all (it was, after all, the weekly D&D game) depending upon how things went.

Lake Lumina, being the large American car that it is, suffered no ill effects (except for the license plate, which now has a noticible dent in it). The car that hit me … well … it was hard to tell how much damage it received since it was pretty much beat up to begin with. The other driver and I discussed things for a bit and it was decided that there was no real reason to call the cops.

All things considered, it could have been worse.

The D&D game was a wash, but lately, it's been a wash every session, but since I rarely pay attention to it anyway, it was a nice way to relax (without the clamour of kids).

Saturday, January 15, 2005

And even in the hills, I can't escape

Never did figure out why the Dansie Shopping Cart doesn't like our server.

C called today (during dinner in fact) asking if I had gotten anywhere with it. After yesterday I didn't care to get anywhere close to a computer (in fact, dinner consisted of Thai curry, whereas everybody else went with the squid eyeball sushi—sigh) but once home from dinner, I started looking into the problem a bit more.

After a few hours, I called Blech tech support to figure out why the simple perl-based CGI script wouldn't work.

After a few more hours, I found out some things:

  1. CGI scripts have to be owned by the account owner and group, not by root or any other user. I was unaware that Blech used the suexec option of Apache—an option I've never used before.
  2. The Blech tech support call center is not in India, but in Russia, some twelve hours away.
  3. Neither I nor the Russian tech support could get the Dansie Shopping Cart to run under Bleck. I suspect that it runs under an older version of perl and/or an older version of Apache.

Guess that means the customer will have to switch shopping carts.

Wheee!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Nope, still can't escape

The server this site is hosted on went down.

Again.

It wasn't that unexpected (it went down twice unexpectedly), but it could have picked some other time than 11:00 am on a Sunday to go down.

Oh wait—Murphy's Law Finagle's Law.

Anyway, preparations where made for such an emergency (after the last debacle) and the transition of sites to a new server went, for the most part, smoothly. Started the backup. Went back to sleep for an hour. Checked, went back to sleep for another half hour. Sites finally restored on the other server, schlep over the configurations and everything was pretty much up and running.

A small digression. On each server, I have the Apache configuration file broken up into pieces, which are then patched together to make the final configuration file—there's a section for the base configuration, another section listing the IP addresses and then sections for websites and websites with a secure certificate. I just had to patch these pieces into the configuration file on the other server.

The only small problem were a few scripts that had some very old paths hardcoded in that had to be modified (could have been fixed with a symlink, but that would have broken about a hundred other sites that used said symlink to work—but it was only about six sites that needed fixing).

Now we just need to retrieve the server and see what failed (I'm guessing the harddrive, given how it was serving up webpages quite slow, yet there was no load and the network was not saturated at all).

I'm hoping tomorrow is quiet.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Koyaanisqatsi

Today was quiet.

It was sunny and cool; a very nice day today.

We lost the client with the troublesome shopping cart, but those things happen (on the bright side, we don't have to deal with the Dansie Shopping Cart).

And now to go watch Koyaanisqatsi.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

An 88 minute New Age Music video

In the mid-80s I remember watching Siskel and Ebert review Koyannisqatsi and each giving it a good recomendation (their trademark “thumbs up/thumbs down” started a few years later). The clip they showed looked intriguing but it wasn't until about five or six years later in college that I got to see the film.

Or rather I somewhat saw it.

My friend Bill and I were taking Music Appreciation at FAU and towards the end of the semester the instructor had us watch “Koyaanisqatsi” because the score was done by Philip Glass. Now, it's hard to say if it was the actual film itself or the setting, but I certainly don't remember much of the film as I fell asleep. I think the entire class, with the execption of the instructor, fell asleep watching the film. The Philip Glass score is … mellowing (for lack of a better term). New Age moderism on steroids.

Fast forward over ten years. Spring has signed up for Netflix and given access to her account, I slipped it into the queue. Why not give it another try? It had arrived the other day and was sitting on my desk waiting to be watched (primarily by me alone—Spring wasn't sure of the viability of this film).

It's hard to say what the film is about, other than contrasting the structures of man and nature, along with the droning Philip Glass score. But this time (perhaps frame of mind, perhaps setting) I was able to sit through the 88 minute film without once falling asleep. It's visually stunning with some inovative camera work, although at times it does seem to flow slower than 2001: A Space Odyssey. And certainly not everyone's cup of tea.

Not by a long shot.

Although the previews for the sequels, Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi were enough to get Spring interested in seeing those.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

It's hard to be politically correct when the world starts to look like “Monty Python's flying Circus.”

It isn't that any US oil company would say “no” to Iraq contracts if the situation shaped up there and contracts came their way. But Iraq is a mess right now, and is there is no security—political, legal or physical—to guarantee a return on a multi-billion dollar investment. It's unlikely that any of these companies asked for this invasion because they all prize stability—the stability of contractual arrangements, of a regular return on capital, of not getting their employees killed and their equipment blown up—above nearly anything else. Even the stability guaranteed by very nasty governments. Dealing with the “devil,” whatever headgear it wears, is pretty common in the oil business.

But there is an oil component to the invasion and occupation, and I believe it is this: the United States, through invading and occupying a nation with significant oil reserves, would show the world especially the up-and-coming consuming nations of China and India—that in the event that push comes to shove, and this resource gets scarce, Americans come first.

The Myth of “Peak Oil”

A very interesting article on oil production and the predicted “oil peak,” which is that peak oil production after which it's all downhill, may be a myth after all. There are differing types of crude oil—some are easier to obtain gasoline from (and when you hear the price of a barrel of oil quoted, it's that type of oil—the most expensive, sought after type) than others (which are cheaper by barrel, but more expensive to extract gasoline from).

It also goes into some details about oil refinery and NIMBYism of the US that I was unaware of:

Recently, Aramco offered to build and pay for two brand new refineries in the US to help meet that demand on the condition that someone else obtain all the necessary environmental permits first or that the federal, state and local governments involved fast-track the process and protect it from legal challenges. It was a generous, unrealizable, and extremely cynical, offer.

The Myth of “Peak Oil”

But this bit (funny in and of itself):

(Does anyone remember how funny it was 20 years ago when we all learned that Cuban soldiers fighting on behalf of the Marxist government of Angola were guarding the Chevron concession—the concession that earned Angola the hard currency to pay for those troops?)

The Myth of “Peak Oil”

Reminded me that I have a similar bit in my personal quotes file:

A few years ago the left-wing government of Angola employed Cuban troops to defend US oil refineries against a Maoist revolutionary supported by the Reagan Administration. It's hard to be politically correct when the world starts to look like “Monty Python's flying Circus.”

R. Shweder, NYT, 9/27/93

So that was Chevron! How about that.

Anyway, I'm bullish on energy futures and the resourcefulness (or despiration, take your pick) of us humans. I for one would like to see nuclear energy used more here (the pebble bed reactor design is quite safe actually) with less dependance on oil for energy production.


This is different

I've never hid the fact that I have an online journal (or blog—I'm not entirely sure of the difference myself) but I've never really gone out of my way to announce it at work, given some of the stories I've read about (even Mark was affected by a previous job—that's why he no longer blogs).

“Sean,” C, my boss, said, “about your blog … ”

Uh oh, I thought.

“Could you change my pseudonym?”

“Excuse me?”

“I don't want to be known as simply ‘C,’” said C. “I'd rather you use ‘Smirk.’”

“Oh.” Certainly wasn't expecting that. “Okay.”

“Great,” said Smirk. “Keep up the good work.”


“Speaker of the House recognizes the Senator from Disney”

Congress extended copyright an additional twenty-five hundred years. Spike Greenbaum owed every dollar she had made to Israel, because St. Jerome's translation was based on Hebrew sacred texts. To use the Bible, all Catholics became Jewish, and Disney bought the rights to the Iliad and the Odyssey.

And everyone was content, except for the storytellers who had to buy a Disney license or prove that their work did not owe anything to any story that had ever been part of human civilization.

Via isen.blog, The People Who Owned the Bible

As I was leaving for work yesterday, Smirk asked if I still had the Electric King James Bible up and running. “Yes,” I said. “but the server crashed and I had yet to install mod_litbook on the backup server.”

Talk then turned towards having other translations available, and I said that yes, I wanted to have multiple versions, but I've yet to come across another translation that was in the public domain. Talk then turned towards intellectual property issues in general, and copyright in specifics and how things are going crazy here.

To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

The Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 8, clause 8

“Limited time.” Yeah, that's a good one.

And if things keep going they way they are, this little story might just end up being true.

I personally wouldn't mind seeing copyright terms being the original 14 years, plus an optional 14 year extension (and if that was the case today, my humor column would now be in the public domain instead of the pseudo-copyright-limbo that it's in right now) but short of the total collapse of Disney I don't see that happening any time soon.


“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”

After writing my last entry I was curious to see if FAU still had a school newspaper. The one I wrote for, the Atlantic Sun, imploded due to a scandal involving funding from the Student Government—basically, the administration became critical of the solely run student newspaper and forced it from campus; the Student Government then turned around and gave the equipment (which belonged to FAU) and lots of money (which belonged to FAU or the students, depending on who you believe) to the former editorial staff so they could open up an student run newspaper off campus. There was a lot of controversey whether the Student Government had the right to do that.

This was also around the time that the Student Government nearly imploded—the Student President resigned under somewhat suspicious activities along with the Student Senate Speaker. Then the Judial Branch declared the recently held elections invalid which prompted the Sentate to start impeachment proceedings against all the Justices. So if the election was held to be invalid and the Justices were all impeached, then the Student Government would have ended up being a Vice President (who would have been the President at that point), three Senators and no Judical Branch at all.

Well, it's over ten years later, and I see nothing much has changed except for the name of the newspaper.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

All that's left is the name

My friend Gregory sent a link to an aerial view of Andytown, Florida. Andytown doesn't exist anymore, having been demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass highway back in 1979, but it's amusing to think that you can still locate it on Terraserver.

Friday, January 21, 2005

The squealing fanboy in me

As a kid, my absolute favorite comic book was “Uncle Scrooge” (although I read a slew of others, like “Donald Duck,” “Bugs Bunny” or even the occasional “Richie Rich”) but for some reason some issues just weren't that great. I couldn't exactly pin down why some of the issues were lackluster but just a quick glance through a comic and I could just tell, by look, if it was worth buying or not. The artwork alone was clue enough if a particular issue of “Uncle Scrooge” was worth it or not—if the artwork was good, then the story was good too.

Now, what my 36 year old self knows that my 9 year old self didn't know, is that the “good” issues (and therefore why “Uncle Scrooge” is my favorite comic book) were all done by Carl Barks.

I just love his work.

But the thought never occured to me that “Uncle Scrooge” would be available through Amazon. That is, until I read InstaPundit.

Oh, now this is exciting.

Well, at least to me, Scrooge fanboy that I am (and I'm amazed that I haven't written more about Uncle Scrooge or Carl Barks).


Notes on a conversation between myself and my Boss who understands blogs and won't fire me

“Ah, come on Sean, you know you like Frontpage.”

“Okay Smirk, what drugs are you on and can I get some?”

“If I give you some, will you take them?”

“Oh sure. I'll take them; down to the corner to sell them.”

“To me?”

“Yeah, I'll take your drugs and sell them back to you.”

“You're going to blog this, right?”

“Of course.”

Monday, January 24, 2005

Thirty-plus inches

Way back in mid 1999, I had a job prospect up in Boston—a contract job for six months or so and I figured that if I got the job, I would maintain a journal so I could keep my friends (and family) up to date. The name I came up with was, obviously enough, “The Boston Diaries.”

Only I didn't get the job.

But I liked the name, even though I never cared for Boston the few times I've been there (and each time was in late November—yeah, I sure picked the right season to visit Boston).

And it's pictures like these that make me glad I'm not living there.

Thirty-plus inches.

Brrrrrrrr

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Six Degrees of Flickr

Wait. Let me get this straight.

A guy from Scotland goes 5490 miles to Tokyo and takes a picture of a girl taking a picture. She turns out to be from England, 413 miles away from him.

Impressive, but not all that weird.

UNTIL!

He posts the picture he took on a Website (in Canada, irrelevantly) and within 6 weeks the girl in the photo finds it?

That is truly amazing. I am deeply impressed. Any one care to calculate the odds?

Via Jason Kottke, Harajuku on Flickr

This is mostly for Spring, who's such a big fan of Flickr.


Frontline on the Internet

Another link, again mostly for Spring but others may find this of interest as well, Frontline has several episodes available for viewing online (link via Jason Kottke).

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Chili Incident

I made a lot of chili tonight.

As I was assembling the ingredients it became apparent that with the amount of stuff I was using that my largest pot wasn't going to hold everything. Or if it did it would be right up to the brim, threatening to overflow once the heat hit it.

So I brought in my second largest pot and split the ingredients between the two pots.

Did I mention it was a lot of chili?

So, several hours later the two pots of chili are cool enough to refridgerate. I open the refridgerator and start clearing space on the bottom shelf to hold two large pots of chili. It was then that I started playing Sokoban with the contents of the bottom shelf. It wasn't working until I figured that I could take the large industrial size jar of ketchup and move it up a few shelves. One pot of chili was wedged in the back, and the other one was mostly sitting on the bottom shelf next to it.

Only it wasn't sitting far enough back.

As I was moving the ketchup jar up, the one large pot of chili started listing towards me, and downward towards the kitchen floor.

Usually, such events have the appearance of happening r-e-a-l s-l-o-w-l-y when in reality they take like5microsecondsandbam! Only the pot of chili didn't take like5microsecondsandbam!—it fell r-e-a-l s-l-o-w-l-y, first into my lap (as I was crouched down in front of the refridgerator playing Sokoban, remember?) then fell r-e-a-l s-l-o-w-l-y, turning such that the lid was now facing my stomache and I watched in horror as r-e-a-l s-l-o-w-l-y the pot puked half its contents over me and the kitchen floor before I could stop it.

On the bright side, I now had enough chili to fit into a single pot.

Friday, January 28, 2005

So long to the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere

I am amazed.

I am amazed that Spring was able to pull this off—finding a house and getting a mortgage in under a month.

[Sunrise at Casa New Jersey]

She signed today.

We have housage.

The middle of next month we're moving in to Casa New Jersey (I originally called it “New Jersey House” partly as a joke, but Spring liked the name so it stuck).

Finally, we get to leave the bees and the fire prone water heater behind

Monday, January 31, 2005

A thus a month closes

After Friday's craziness (which wasn't all that crazy really), the weekend was pretty quiet, mostly spent sleeping and relaxing (well, except The Kids). I did a bit of work on a project (although not the one I should be working on alas, but a neat diversion). And today at work was pretty calm too. No control panels or crazy customer requests to deal with.

It was after I got home that things were rough (sigh).

Thankfully the house is now quiet.

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:

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