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.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

“Um … what was I thinking?”

One of the problems with writing entries after the fact (like I'm doing now—this being written on October 4th) is that sometimes I can't remember what exactly I wanted to write about, unless I took some notes, which in this case, I didn't.

Next time, I'll have to take better notes.

And plan on keeping up to date on this thing.

Monday, October 02, 2006

“We're afraid of getting blown up.”

“That's where we kind of agree with some of the people who've criticized our show,” Stone says. “Because it really is open season on Jesus. We can do whatever we want to Jesus, and we have. We've had him say bad words. We've had him shoot a gun. We've had him kill people. We can do whatever we want. But Mohammed, we couldn't just show a simple image.”

During the part of the show where Mohammed was to be depicted—benignly, Stone and Parker say—the show ran a black screen that read: “Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network.”

Other networks took a similar course, refusing to air images of Mohammed—even when reporting on the Denmark cartoon riots—claiming they were refraining because they're religiously tolerant, the South Park creators say.

“No you're not,” Stone retorts. “You're afraid of getting blown up. That's what you're afraid of. Comedy Central copped to that, you know: ‘We're afraid of getting blown up.’”

Via Instapundit, ABC News: Secrets of ‘South Park’

Another problem with writing entries after the fact, even with notes, is forgetting about the notes. I had ment to blog this last week.

Sigh.

Anyway, I have respect for the creators of South Park—they go after everybody eventually, even if it means loosing a cast member (and they were aware that it was a possible outcome).

It also doesn't hurt that the show is uproariously funny.

And yes, they do have a point—criticise Islam and deal with death threats (even The Last Temptation of Christ never garnered its author or filmmakers a governmental and religiously sanctioned death threat).


Damage. Censorship. What's the difference?

The Net sees censorship as damage and routes around it.

John Gilmore

One of the services we offer is a manged firewall, and of course we have a few customers that have taken us up on this offer. Smirk called (Friday? Saturday? I forgot to take notes) saying that one of our customers wanted us to block access to MySpace. At the time I told Smirk I'd have to think about how to go about doing that, and when he called today asking for an update, I had to go ahead and do it.

The problem is though, that this is a stopgag measure. As it was, I just blocked access to MySpace IP addresses (found courtesy of host and whois) but what of the future, if (or when) they change IP addresses? Okay, we can fix that, but that's a reactionary response, not proactive.

Well, I could extend the fix through DNS—they use our DNS servers and I'm sure it's possible to put in a zone file such that anything at MySpace resolves to nothing (or say, to 127.0.0.1) such that if MySpace does change IP addresses it's still inaccessible unless you happen to know the new IP address.

So I could check the IP address periodically (say, every hour or so) which would probably work well.

But that still leaves the Google cache—I certainly can't block Google now, can I?

Okay, just blocking the IP address will probably suffice for this customer, and it takes someone with enough technical savvy to avoid these tactics, but you get an idea of just how hard it is to block a site.

Then there's the whole issue of companies treating employees like children but I won't get into that right now.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Image from a webcam I found at The Office and took home to play around with

[Captain Napalm at The Home Office]

Smirk got this D-Link DCS-900W Wireless 2.4GHz Internet Camera to monitor the Data Center, although we already have a security webcam in the Data Center so this little beauty has been sitting around for quite some time.

So I brought it home last week to play around with it. It was pretty easy to set up—just plug it up and go. The image quality is okay as far as webcams go.


“Just one more round … ”

Oh, and one reason why I'm late with the updates here?

This silly thing.

Yes, I'm horribly addicted.

But then again, so is Smirk (muahahahahahaha!)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

It must not be his area of expertise

It was a busy day today and I almost got everything done I wanted to today—the only thing I didn't get done was configuring the Cisco router that was on my desk, because I can't get into the device to configure it. It's not that my serial port doesn't work—rebooting my workstation seems to have fixed that problem—it's got a password on there that I don't have.

I've tried following the recovery procedure but I don't get the rommon prompt, but something that appears to be even lower, like a simple resident debugger where you can change CPU registers, flip bits in memory and set breakpoints.

That's not rommon.

I called G, our Cisco consultant about the problem. “Did you press Ctrl-Break?” he asked.

“No, that does nothing,” I said, hitting Ctrl-Break repeatedly. “I'm not using Windows, G.”

“Oh, that's right,” he said. “You use that Linux stuff.”

“So what does Ctrl-Break actually send?” I asked. “I can then get minicom to send it.”

“Um,” said G, “I don't know what it sends.”

Sigh.

A Ph.D, and he works with computer communications for a living, and he doesn't know what Ctrl-Break under Windows send.

Sigh.

I suspect that it sends a BREAK character (which isn't a character per se but a condition created on a serial line) and that's what I'm sending from minicom and getting dumped into this debugging monitor.

“Can you hook it up to a Windows box?” asked G.

I took one look at the only Windows box in The Office, which is in Smirk's office. “Nope. But I'll take it home and try it there.” I have access to some Windows boxes at home, and I figure I can humor G here.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Bad secrets

I humored G.

And as I suspected, I need to send a BREAK character, which I was originally doing.

Without getting into rommon, there's no way to recover or reset the password.

Sigh.

Update on Friday, October 6th, 2006

I think I found the solution.

Woot!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Your Friendly Neighborhood Police Officer

It's 1:30 am and I'm driving Gregory home. We had just finished having dinner at the local IHOP and we're headed west along Lake Worth Ave when I notice something flashing in the rear view mirror. I look up.

The police.

Behind me.

Requesting via its lights to pull over.

Oh XXXX! I'm going to jail.


My birthday is in January. Between December 2004 and March 2005, my driver license expired, car registration expired and we moved from The Facility in the Middle of Nowhere to Casa New Jersey.

So it was a very busy time for me.

I also do not suffer bureaucrats, and the thought of dealing with the DMV wasn't high on the list of things to do.

So …

My car registration lapsed.

I did send in a check through the mail, but apparently, the check is still in the mail (although I was able to renew my license online).

So, the car registration is a year and a half overdue.

The last time I was pulled over for an expired registration, eleven years ago, it was nine months expired and it required an immediate court appearance (of course, that time, I also had no proof of insurance and the car wasn't even in my name).

A year and a half though?

I'm expecting a trip to the Friendly Neighborhood Police Station.

XXXX!


“Sir, do you realize your tag has expired over a year ago?” asked the Friendly Neighborhood Police Officer.

“Yes,” I said. “I just … haven't gotten around to renewing it.”

“Well,” the Friendly Neighborhood Police Officer said, “I pulled you over because since [some street that I don't recall now] I've seen you swerve over the lane four times.” Ouch! “Where were you coming from?”

“We just finished eating at the IHOP at … ” And at that moment I achieved what many Buddhists spend years training for—that perfect Zen moment when all thought is vanquished. “Um … um … ”

“Congress,” said Gregory from the passenger side.

“And … um,” I said, pushing through the perfect Zen moment, “… Military!”

“Okay,” said the Friendly Neighborhood Police Officer. “And before that?”

I was still struggling through that perfect Zen moment. “I picked up my friend from the Dirty Dwarf.” A local pub. “Um … I … um … wasn't there. I … just picked … him,” and I pointed to Gregory, “up. From ‥ there.” Great, I thought. I sound completely drunk!

“Have you had anything to drink?” asked the Friendly Neighborhood Police Officer.

“Um … no.” Aaaaaah! I'm not drunk! Really!

“So I need your driver's license.”

“Here you go, and proof of insurance,” I said, handing these over. “And the … um … registration.”

“The expired registration,” said the Friendly Neighborhood Police Officer.

“Yes … the … expired … um … registration.”

The Friendly Neighborhood Police Officer heads back towards the cruiser.

I'm seeing money fly out of my bank account.

I'm seeing myself in the back of a police cruiser.

This is not good.

XXXX!


It's most likely 1990. Or 1991. It's 1:30 in the morning, and I'm driving. With me are three friends. I'm doing 55 in a 35 zone when I get pulled over. It's the first time this has happened to me.

And back then, I achieved that perfect Zen moment. Every answer was stuttered. Nearly incoherent. Fumbling with the wallet. Very nervous. Very horrible experience.

Amazingly enough, I just get a warning.


A few minutes go by. The Friendly Neighborhood Police Officer comes back. “I'm not going to run you through the sobriety test. Your eyes are not bloodshot and I don't smell alcohol.” Thank you! “So I'm just going to give you a warning.” What? He's handing back my license, insurance card and expired registration. “Just get this taken care of, okay?”

I'm not getting arrested?

<blink>

<blink>

I'm not getting a multi-thousand dollar fine?

<blink>

<blink>

I'm not getting a written warning?

<blink>

<blink>

I'm just getting a verbal warning?

WOOT!

“Thank you,” I said. “And yes, I'll get this taken care off. Thank you.”


As we're driving away, Gregory convinces me that I should blog this.

Nah. I doubt I will.


A pie in my pocket

Between playing with Cisco routers and being pulled over by The Man, I decided to try my hand a making Alton Brown's Pocket Pies, only instead of mangos or chocolate, filling them with curry chicken (lunch type stuff).

It wasn't difficult (a bit on the messy, sticky side, and not at all perfectly round); I ended up with 10 curry chicken pocket pies and two filled with appricot preserves (since I ran out of curry chicken).

I took two of the curry chickens and one of the appricot preserve one for lunch. Quite tasty if I do say so myself.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

“A Møøse once bit my sister …”

There's nothing more enjoyable than introducing Mønti Pythøn ik den Høli Gräilen (vulgarly known as “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”) to someone that's never seen it (in this case, Bunny).

In my circle of friends, that's not a large group of people (at this point, I think there's only one other friend that hasn't seen the film).

Less known, however, is the original plotline. In that, King Arthur & Co. are questing for the Holy Grail throughout the ages and in the end, it turns out that the Holy Grail is in a Catholic Church, which God can't enter because he's Protestant …

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Now you cooked them, then they're gone

I baked a dozen pocket pies on Thursday/Friday. I took three (two chicken curry, one apricot preserves) to work on Friday. Today, there was one (a chicken curry) left.

Looks like they went over well.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Elevator pranks

Since it's been at least ten years, possibly twelve, I'm guessing the Statute of Limitiations has kicked in and I'm free to discuss such matters now, although to be on the safe side, I won't mention my co-conspirators in this.

Anyway, over a decade ago, on March 31st, some friends and I found some crime scene tape somewhere on the FAU campus. Realizing a good opportunity when it arrives, we took it upon ourselves to festoon the ground floor elevator in the Computer Science and Engineering Building with said tape. We also took a roll of masking tape, and placed a body outline in said elevator, only with the hand sticking out of the door. One would have had to get off on the second floor to see the matching tape outline of the hand.

It was a sucess for as long as it lasted, as we did scare the cleaning crew, but alas, it was cleaned up fairly quicking the next morning, April 1st.

I was reminded of that when I saw this elevator and thought, man! That's much cooler than what we did!.

Although, that looks like it took some time to plan and execute.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I guess this means no more living in a Gibsonian novel …

At the 11th hour, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist managed to attach his anti-gambling bill to the Ports Security Bill and both bills were subsequently passed through the Senate.

The bill now only needs to be signed by President George Bush to become law, and it is widely expected he will sign it before congressional elections early in November to gain support from the political right.

There are those that believe the Republican moves to restrict the accessibility of payments to online gambling institutions is more likely to be due to a desire to restrict the flow of money to overseas-owned gambling institutions, many of which are publicly listed on the UK Stock Exchange.

Anti-Online Gambling Bill Approved by Congress

I received a call from R today, saying he got my message (about something else unrelated to this entry) and to ask if I had been following recent gambling related legislation. I told him no, I haven't, so he related the news (see above) to me.

Normally, this would elicit another “government can't tax it, so let's ban it—typical government” comment from me before going on with my life, but in this case, it does affect me. I've mentioned once or twice that I help manage some servers with hundreds of gambling related marketing sites, and if this is actually passed into law and has any level of enforcement, it looks like R may be closing up shop in 270 days (number of days sites have to become compliant with the new law), since the majority of his income is from hosting said hundreds of gambling related sites.

Sigh.

I'd hate to see it go, since despite a few problems, it's not a hard job and it makes for some nice supplimental income (and some good stories; I also doubt R makes much from the hundred or so non-gambling related sites he also hosts).

But we'll see how this situation pans out in the coming months.


“So, does that mean blogs4god.com is a tool of Satan?”

Should teenagers and others in the Church express themselves to the world through blogs? Because of the obvious dangers; the clear biblical principles that apply; the fact that it gives one a voice; that it is almost always idle words; that teens often do not think before they do; that it is acting out of boredom; and it is filled with appearances of evil—blogging is simply not to be done in the Church. It should be clear that it is unnecessary and in fact dangerous on many levels.

Let me emphasize that no one—including adults—should have a blog or personal website (unless it is for legitimate business purposes).

Via metaphorge, Blogs—and God's Youth

And from over-reacting government to over-reacting religion, we have this—blogs are the work of the Devil (unless it's work related, then it's God's work).

Sigh.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I remembered to bring everything else to the office …

I'm getting ready to configure the router when I realize—I left the serial cable at home!

Sigh.

Let's see if I can work with what I got …

Update about an hour later …

Yup, I was able to configure the router with what I had. A bit inconvenient to work with, as the router had to be sitting on top of my workstation, but yes, I was able to finally get it configured.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Well, there goes that idea for a million bucks

Netflix is sponsoring a contest to improve it's recommendation engine and in doing so, it releasing 480,000 (scrubbed) customer records to help contestants create better recommendations.

I heard about this a few days ago and I've been mulling over the possibilities, and while I have little experience in writing such engines, that also means I have less preconceived notions of what is and isn't possible, which means I might have a breakthough method that others working on this problem professionally might not even conceive of.

I mean, it could happen, right?

My idea (and yes, I'm giving it away here for reasons that will become apparent in a bit): Netflix allows one to rank genres (for instance, I've ranked “documentaries” highest, followed by “comedies” and “science fiction/fantasy” (in no particular order). My thought—find other people who have ranked genres the same as I and see what they like. I'm also assuming that genre “influence” might bleed over, such that I would prefer a humorous documentary over a more serious one.

For instance, Alice has ranked “science-fiction” highest, followed by “horror.” Bob has ranked “science-fiction” highest, followed by ”action & adventure,” therefore, Alice would probably enjoy “Alien” over “Aliens” as the former is more horror based than the action based latter. While both are classified as “science-fiction” by Netflix as the “primary genre” each has a different “sub-genre” that are picked up by viewers (most likely subconsciously), so Carol, who has ranked genres similarly to Bob would probably prefer “Aliens” over “Alien.” And Dave, who ranked his genre preferences as “science-fiction” and “drama” respectively would probably like “Alien3.”

Well, that was the idea.

I signed up, and downloaded the two gigabytes of data and was disappointed.

You see, they scrubbed the customer data so much, all you get basically, is that on such-n-such a date, customer number so-n-so rated this-n-that film four stars.

That's it.

Okay, you get a list of the 17,000 films and when each customer rated said film, but that's it. No genre information about either.

Granted, I could go in and find the Netflix classification on each film, then try to suss out the genres each customer probably likes, but frankly, that's a whole lot of work for some unreliable reconstruction of data, so I can't even test my idea with any confidence.

And what's to say that Netflix (or rather, Cinematch™) isn't doing that already?

So then I decided to see if I could find anyone working on this contest and blogging about it. In my limited (two) searches, I've only found Harry Chen to have any comments on the contest worth reading, and he makes a point I didn't consider:

Although I have no evidence to prove my theory, but I believe Netflix's user rating data assumes that user ratings came from the same Netflix account were made by a single person. I believe that's not true for most of the Netflix accounts. Many families only subscribe to a single Netflix account. In my family, my wife and I share a single account. We both actively manage this account and rate movies. It's inappropriate to consider our combined ratings as the ratings of a single person. Just because I like action movies and my wife likes comedies, one can't conclude with full confidence that we as a single Netflix account user like both action movies and comedies.

People Rent Movies for Others to Enjoy

Another problem associated with a single account usage is that a user who rents all the movies may not be the same person who actually watches them. For example, parents may rent movies on the behaves of their children. While they rent movies, but they may not watch all of them. In fact, parents may not even enjoy watching them at all. If a parent rents a half dozen of cartoons and 1-2 action movies a month, should the recommendation engine automatically assume that cartoons are the user's favorite? What if the user continues to rent cartoons but at the same time rate those movies with very low scores (1 out of 5 stars), is cartoon still the user's favorite movie?

Why Netflix movie recommendation doesn't work

That might skew the results a bit.

Also, in discussing this with Wlofie, he felt that the single ranking was too limited. Why did I rate, say, “Plan 9 From Outer Space” ★★★★? It's certainly not a good film (worth, maybe, maybe ★) but it's one of those films that are so bad that's it's actually fun to watch in a MST3K way. So having multiple rankings per film can lead to better recommendations.

But by making the ranking system more complicated, it means less uers will bother to rank a film (and really, Netflix has made it dead simple to rank a film—about as simple as you can get it). Heck, even I didn't bother ranking films when I first started at the site. Making it harder means less data. Maybe better data, but does it help if there's so little? (for reference, Wlofie has yet to rank genres he likes at Netflix, and perhaps that's one of the reasons why it scrubbed—not enough people have ranked genres).

It would have been nice to have additional data from Netflix, but given privacy concerns, I can see why they might have scrubbed as much data as they have. Ah well. Perhaps I'll mull this over a bit more and play with the data a bit.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Me? I'm not superstitious …

Despite two near traffic accidents on the way to work, this hasn't been a bad Friday the 13th. It's been a quiet day at The Office and I spent time moving the corporate blog to a new server and domain name. About the only bad thing I could report happened to be Smirk and I having a difference of opinion on what an “enterprise system” is.

So, I'm happy to report that noth—…øääää…

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Alphabet soup and an inability to type

DSL, DSU, it's all alphabet soup, and I find that it's easy to get confused (much like I'm confused typing this entry—I can't type for some reason) about what's really going on (man, I really can't type for some reason).

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Note for myself

[Still can't type. I'm actually typing this on (and the the previous entry) on Tuesday the 17th and I'm finding it really hard to type. Must have had something to do with the little incident Monday evening. Hopefully this inability to type will pass.]

Just a note for myself—make sure the network cable I'm using is the proper type. It's easier to use the Fluke to check the cable than it is to swap out a network switch.

Monday, October 16, 2006

“And this is why I use these keyboards …”

This video tests the myth that a Model M keyboard can be used to kill a man and you can still type on it afterwards.

Model M vs Zenith Bull—Keyboard Carnage

While the proper designation is the Model M keyboard, I know them as the “IBM PS/2 keyboard” and it's the only keyboard I use on my computers.

And yes, they are very tough.

About the only keyboard tougher than the IBM PS/2 keyboard is the original IBM PC 84-key keyboard—forget the high impact plastic, this keyboard was made of metal!

But alas, you can't use those on modern machines, so the next best thing are the PS/2 keyboards.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Building blocks

After spending several hours wiring up a few customers to our network, Smirk and I ended up at Denny's (funny how no one ever sets out to go to Denny's, but inevitably end up there) and the topic of Coral Castle and how Edward Leedskalnin, weighing all of a 100 pounds, could build such a structure by himself (where some of the blocks used weigh as much as nine tons).

I mentioned to Smirk that I came across a possible technique which basically uses leverage, counter weights and pivot points but that I didn't remember the actual details. So imagine my surprise when I found a video of the technique while reading Jason Kottke's blog.

It was then that I remembered that I mentioned this technique two years ago.

So there you go Smirk—a way that Edward Leedskalnin could have built Coral Castle (secret message to Spring: maybe this is it, and maybe it's not).


Something else I might need to code around

For those that read the LiveJournal feed of this site, I apollogize for sending a flood of entries your way.

It's something I have to remember—that the <title> element of the RSS feed cannot contain named HTML entities since RSS is messed up that way. I need to use the numeric versions.

What happened is this—I titled an October 7th entry “A Møøse once bit my sister …” and used &oslash;&oslash; in the title. The LiveJournal RSS parser rejected the feed because of that. And because of that, my entries since the 7th haven't been showing up.

I just became aware of the situation and fixed the title (by replacing &oslash;&oslash; with &#248;&#248;) which means a sudden influx of twelve (or thirteen if this gets in with the current batch) entries.

Sorry about that.


Notes from a conversation about various and sundry things between myself and Smirk

“We need to set up a server running Cacti on SXXXXXX's network because they're having major network problems. I put the Fluke on their network and it found broadcast storms up the wazoo.”

“SXXXXXX? Are you sure it wasn't NXXXXXXXXXX? They're the ones with the networking problems.”

“Nope, it was SXXXXXX.”

“Wait! Let me guess … they run Windows?”

“Full Windows shop. Flat network.”

Of course!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

One more Bill Watterson interview

Q: What led you to resist merchandising Calvin and Hobbes?

A: For starters, I clearly miscalculated how popular it would be to show Calvin urinating on a Ford logo …

Via kisrael.com, Fans From Around the World Interview Bill Watterson

Woot! Another Bill Watterson interview! The interview seems to be related to the release of The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, the collection of every single “Calvin and Hobbes” strip every published.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

“But would you veto it if the Democrats had control of the Houses?”

A few days ago I was having a semi-political conversation with some friends and the topic of executive power came up. One of my friends said that either the Legislative or Executive Branch be given certain powers (I don't recall which branch by the way) and countered with: “Okay, your party has that power. Do you trust the other party with that power?”

My friend said I had an excellent point.

With that, I wonder if President Bush will feel safe if the Democrats gain the White House in 2008? And more importantly, will the Democrats repeal the law in question? (link via News From Me)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Firewalls

It's been a firewall type of week this week.

Today I'm configuring the fifth firewall for Smirk's home network, allowing him to work from home. Let's see … the first two attempts were Cobalt RaQs that I couldn't get working. The third was a 1U PC that sounded like a jet airplane and the fourth was another 1U PC that sounded more like a Cesna, but was still too loud.

This latest one is yet another Cobalt RaQ but since it's already in sevice as a firewall, it'll pretty much be good to go (and it's being replaced with the PC that sounds like a jet airplane since it'll be sitting in an equipment room for one of our clients).

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Pink flamingos and burrowing owls

The plastic pink flamingo may go the way of the dodo bird.

The iconic lawn ornament is on the verge of extinction after 49 years of existence.

Union Products Inc., the Leominster maker of the kitschy rendition of the long-legged tropical creature, is scheduled to shut down Nov. 1.

Not a leg to stand on: Plastic flamingos face extinction

Wow.

An American (if kitschy) icon is going away.

It reminds me of an idea I had. I wanted to run for the FAU Student Government under the Silly Party, given the antics the Student Government was going through at the time. My plan was, once elected, to buy thousands of pink flamingos and use them to form the FAU logo on the lawn in front of the Administration building. After a month or so, I would then sell off each pink flamingo as “an Official Florida Atlantic University Pink Flamingo Logo Pink Flamingo” (yeah yeah, I know—the mascot of FAU is the burrowing owl. Details, details).

It never got past the idea stage (and I never mentioned it to anyone) and now—now it'll never happen under any Student Government.

Pity.


Parts unknown

A few weeks ago Spring lamented that she was jonesing for a trip, any type of trip. So last week I announced that we were going on a trip.

“We're going on a trip next weekend,” I said. And by “weekend” I meant Spring's weekend, which extends to Monday.

“Cool,” she said. “Where to?”

“I'm not saying,” I said. “I want it to be a surprise.” Because, you see, I wanted the destination to be a surprise. “But we'll be gone Sunday and Monday.”

And so tomorrow morning, well, late morning and quite possibly early afternoon, we're leaving for parts unknown.

Well, unknown to all but me.

Muahahahahahahaha!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Leaving for parts unknown

We're leaving within the hour to parts unknown.

At least this way, you're getting fair warning that there might not be a post for a day or two (it depends if we can find an open wireless hot spot at our destination).


On the Road

We're currently in Lake Wales, Florida, just a short (very short) distance away from our final destination. Along our very circuitous route (I-95 south to I-595 west to US-27 north) we saw some interesting sights—the sea of grass, burning of sugar cane fields, Lake Okeechobee, Gatorama, the Placid Tower (which surprised us—a three hundred foot tower/restaurant) in Lake Placid (home of the 1980 Winter Games—who'd've guessed Florida would have housed the Winter Games) and even a dome house for sale.

[Nestled in the trees] [A cylinder with a dome]

Unfortunately, the house apparently has been abandoned for quite some time, as there were hundreds of huge spiders with large fangs rawr rawr rawr.

[Arachnophobia anyone?]

We're talking feet across looking like something right out of J. R. R. Tolkien. We didn't stay long.

The hotel we're staying at is under serious renovation, or perhaps it's still under construction, or something like that. Drywall, cinder blocks, exposed lumber, guys in hardhats walking around (very odd on a Sunday). That must be why the room was so cheap for the night.

Tomorrow, we hit the final destination.

And then home.

And I'll be bringing video of our travels back with us.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A visit to Isengard

Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it.

Edward W. Bok

I was worried about the weather this morning, afraid it might rain and ruin the plans I had for our destination was an outdoor destination. But the weather cleared up enough not to rain and it made the day an enjoyably cool one.

And our destination?

[Welcome to Isengard]

The Historic Bok Sanctuary which houses one of the largest musical instruments I've ever seen, the carillon (basically, a large tower with bells—this one has 60 bells of various sizes which are played via a specialized keyboard).

[A keyboard with which to play bells] [Cutaway view of the tower—the bells are at the top] [Just a sample of two of the bells]

The grounds around the tower are a conservatory and are well maintained, lending themselves to the serene feeling one gets when walking around the site.

[Lush vegitation abounds] [More lush vegitation] [But let's not forget the spooky trees!]

But I picked the destination simply because of the tower. As a kid I came across photographs of the place my maternal grandfather had taken, and I was always intrigued by the place and have been wanting to visit the place for years. When I decided to take a trip I knew just the place—Bok Tower.

[Behold Isengard!] [It's too light to be Barad-dûr] [“It's only a model!” “Shh!”] [Of course it's pink!  This is Florida after all!]

What was disappointing was the music. I mean, we're talking 60 bells of various sizes, but whether it was the fact that it was 60 bells, or the player of the carillon still learning to play the instrument, the music just didn't do anything for me.

[That's a brass door, not a gold door, but it's still impressive]

I would have liked to have stayed a bit longer and soaked in the environment a bit more, but The Kids … they got hungry.


Yeehaw! We're at a junction!

For the trip back home, I decided we'd take State-60 east (even though the scariest drive of my life had been along State-60, but that was at 1:00 am with 50′ visibility and a semitruck doing 100mph right behind me—that was then, this is now, in the middle of a sunny day) and at Yeehaw Junction take US-441 south all the way back home.

[They sell good food bars there] [Steven Spielberg must have been inspired by this truck for his film “Duel”]

For such a small one building town it sure was noisy with all the truck traffic passing through.

Now, before the trip, I was told that US-27 was a very dangerous route to take, but I found State-60 and US-441 to be way more frightening than US-27 ever was on this trip (maybe because US-27 was two lanes each way the entire trip, whereas State-60/US-441 were two lanes total through this part of the state).

[North shore of Lake Okechoobee] [The lake is around here somewhere] [Ah, there's the lake!]

As we were driving home, the weather off towards the south east looked rather ominous, although the threatening rain never did materialize.

[The sky is getting darker] [and darker …]

Now, for this trip, I borrowed Smirk's digital video camera and took about an hours worth of footage over the past two days.

[Me directing the video—photo by Spring Dew]

The intent is to edit the raw footage into a video blog entry that (hopefully) will be coherent and amusing. We shall see.


Not quite in the nick of time

Congratulations!

You are now the proud owner of a genuine Tucows Squishy Cow.

I'm sorry it took such a long time to get to you—I announced the Squishy Cow giveaway right as our stock of Squishy Cows went bone dry. Thanks for being so patient!

Your Squishy Cow should provide years of entertainment not only as a desk accessory, but also as an amusing prop in your photographs and home videos.

Remember, if you post Squishy Cow photos on Flickr, please give them a tag of SquishyCow or SquishyCows so everyone can find them!

Enjoy your cow!

Joey deVilla
Technical Evangelist / Squishy Cow Wrangler
Tucows
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Way back in July I'm reading The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century when I see this entry on getting an official Tucows Squishy Cow and all I have to do is take photos with the Squishy Cow in interesting places in Florida.

So I sign up.

And wait.

And wait.

And eventually forget about the whole thing.

But what should I find waiting for me when I finally get home?

[Mooooooooo!]

My Official Tucows Squishy Cow.

Had it arrived but two days earlier I would have taken it with me to Bok Tower.

Heck, I could have taken photos of it next to real Holstein cows.

Sigh.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Spooky music from the ether, redux

A few weeks ago, Bunny sent her Theremin albums to CVC Productions to get them converted from 78s to CDs and they finally arrived back from the company.

The album, Music Out of the Moon, is interesting if only because the Theremin is not the dominant instrument. In fact, one has to listen closely to find it in some of the jazz-like tracks on the album. The music itself is okay, and I found myself liking two of the tracks.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Uh oh …

I think I'm coming down with a cold.

Not surprising since I spent two days in a car with various people who have all had, or had, a cold.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

An explanation for the lack of updates for the past few days

Yup, I have … have … a … a … achoo! … a cold.

Gosh darn it.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The guy can solder

As the video above shows, he also knows how to solder …

Fabio on Technology: A Brief Interview

Fabio?

An electrical engineer?

I'm not sure what to think …

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The appropriate device for cooking dead things

Just what we need now—one dead stove.

Then again, given that Halloween is just around the corner, perhaps it's fitting. Nothing like a dead stove to cook dead things.

Sigh.

One the good side, I think I'm over my cold.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Ritualistic Carving of the Jack O' Lanterns

[The selected victims]
[Lobotomy central]
[Larry, Moe and Curly (not their real names)]
[Larry (he's a jelly fish) by Spring]
[Moe by The Older]
[Curly by The Younger]

Monday, October 30, 2006

Alien packets from outer space

I finally got monnet, my simplistic network monitor/dumping program, working under Linux kernels higher than 2.2. I wrote it a few years ago, both as an educational experience, and as a tool to see what activity existed on the network at work. I like it better than tcpdump or ethereal because it shows the traffic in real time with a concise summary:

S:02608CD87517 D:0014BF4DECE5  ARP         A:request ETH:IPv4 10.0.0.1        10.0.0.160     
S:0014BF4DECE5 D:02608CD87517  ARP         A:reply   ETH:IPv4 10.0.0.160      10.0.0.1       
S:02608CD87517 D:000D935D6D86  ARP         A:request ETH:IPv4 10.0.0.1        10.0.0.13      
S:000D935D6D86 D:02608CD87517  ARP         A:reply   ETH:IPv4 10.0.0.13       10.0.0.1       
S:0040332E103C D:02608CD87517  IPv4        S:10.0.0.3        D:10.0.0.1         UDP            S:NTP        D:NTP        62
S:02608CD87517 D:0040332E103C  IPv4        S:10.0.0.1        D:10.0.0.3         UDP            S:NTP        D:NTP        62
S:0014BF4DECE5 D:02608CD87517  IPv4        S:10.0.0.160      D:69.59.240.102    UDP            S:(10000)    D:(10000)    
S:02608CD87517 D:0014BF4DECE5  IPv4        S:69.59.240.102   D:10.0.0.160       UDP            S:(10000)    D:(10000)    
S:0040332E103C D:000D935D6D86  ARP         A:request ETH:IPv4 10.0.0.3        10.0.0.13      
S:000D935D6D86 D:0040332E103C  ARP         A:reply   ETH:IPv4 10.0.0.13       10.0.0.3       
S:000D935D6D86 D:0040332E103C  IPv4        S:10.0.0.13       D:10.0.0.3         TCP      AP    S:(52643)    D:SSH        58
S:0040332E103C D:000D935D6D86  IPv4        S:10.0.0.3        D:10.0.0.13        TCP      A     S:SSH        D:(52643)    10
S:000D935D6D86 D:0040332E103C  IPv4        S:10.0.0.13       D:10.0.0.3         TCP      AP    S:(52643)    D:SSH        58

That's the output from my home network for a few seconds of activity. I find it interesting to see the traffic that floats across the network, and I've already found some interesting stuff at work—like the Cisco router one of our customers is running (he forgot to turn off the Cisco Discovery Protocol, and it's leaking out onto our network), or the ICMP router discovery packets (again, from said customer), IGMP packets (from yet a different customer with a talkative router), the Spanning Tree Protocol the various switches use to communicate, and then there's the weird stuff.

S:00E0B0641863 D:00E0B0641863  (9000) 60

And then there's:

S:00E0B0641862 D:AB0000020000  DNARC       63

I have this as the “DEC DNA Remote console,” but as far as I know, we have no DEC equipment anywhere on our network. And from the looks of it, both alien packets derive from the same (or similar) equipment, but the really odd thing about this (as if things weren't weird enough) is that I can't reconcile the locations I saw these two packets—different segments of our network (i.e. the network segment I saw the first wierd packet is physically disjointed from the network segment I saw the second weird packet).

I wonder …

Did I perhaps discover the mysterious Halloween Packets?

What was that noise?

It came from the wiring closet—

Excuse me while I go check it out.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The appearance of Captain Marvel

Shazam! That must have hurt (link via Sean Tevis). No wonder Captain Marvel picks an out of the way spot to transform.


“And twice-times-a-thousand glares and winks and blinks and leerings of fresh-cut eyes.”

[Ooooh … scary …]

The Younger Pirate, A Friend Screaming, The Older Karate Master

[Arg!  There be booty!]

The score (which The Kids will be taking with them tomorrow when they fly to visit their father).


Christine lives

Spring came home. “Grab your camera,” she said. “You have to see this!”

And with that, I grabbed the camera and we headed back out along back streets to a patch of land that had recently (as of that day apparently) been cleared (local harvesters, I guess, given the season).

[Come on—restore me so I can eat you!] [Just ripe for the picking!]

And there, unearthed from the vegetation (um … yeah) was the ghastly sight of Christine awaiting her next victim.

Halloween is such the odd holiday.

Obligatory Picture

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

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

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