The Boston Diaries

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

Go figure.

Friday, Debtember 01, 2006

Blah

It must have been something I ate. I'm nauseated, but not so much that I feel like giving up an offer to the Great Porcelain God. Mostly I'm flipping between feeling sick, and sleeping.

Blah.

Saturday, Debtember 02, 2006

Non-blah

Whatever was in my system has finally passed (out the right oriface too!) and I'm feeling much better.


Searching for code

From
Mark Grosberg <XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX>
To
sean@conman.org
Subject
Search engine…
Date
Sat, 2 Dec 2006 13:15:15 -0500 (EST)

Hey Sean,

I had 5 minutes to myself this month from work and found krugle.com, a code-search engine.

Ever hear of it? Worth blogging about?

Nope, I haven't heard of that particular one (and I tried it, pretty sweet), but I have heard of a few other ones, such as koders, Programming Langauge Research Engine and even Google's Code Search.

Now, Programming Language Research Engine is based upon Google Co-op, which allows you to make a highly targetted search engine—I wonder how many of the other source code engines are based upon that?

Sunday, Debtember 03, 2006

From the “Flogging the Dead Horse” Department

I know, I know, you like your GPS unit Gregory.

But then I read stores like these, where an ambulance takes five hours to reach a hospital eight miles away, or of the poor German fellow who drove right into a closed offramp and I have to wonder, are we getting too dependant on technology?

Sorry for flogging that dead horse.

Monday, Debtember 04, 2006

What I'd really like is to cause coulrophobia in our customers …

There are times when I'm so tempted to send customers this link. I really would.

And yes, I do need to update the other site more often.

Sigh.

Tuesday, Debtember 05, 2006

Nothing much to see unless you're a programmer

It was a quiet day today and I spent it reading a series of articles on programming. The articles are mostly about topics that have yet to reach the mainstream (although, given what Lisp looks like in addition to some other issues, I doubt Lisp will ever hit “mainstream”) and also provide some of the most coherent explanations I've seen for concepts like continuations, closures and currying.

Wednesday, Debtember 06, 2006

“Education is basically a series of rent-seeking rackets”

Towering over all these lesser scams is the college racket, a vast money-swollen credentialing machine for lower-middle-class worker bees. American parents are now all resigned to the fact that they must beggar themselves to purchase college diplomas for their offspring, so that said offspring can get low-paid outsource-able office jobs, instead of having to descend to high-paid, un-outsource-able work like plumbing, carpentry, or electrical installation.

Similarly with “incentives to bring the best teachers to the worst schools.” Setting aside the fact that you are dealing with a line of work whose labor union is armed with thermonuclear weapons, even supposing you could establish a free market in public-school teachers, how could the worst schools—inner-city schools serving black neighborhoods—ever outbid leafy, affluent suburbs for those “best teachers”? And how many “best teachers” are there, anyway? As the Thernstroms point out, a lot of these prescriptions for school reform assume an unlimited supply of “saints and masochists”—teachers like those in the KIPPs schools, who, Mr. Tough tells us, work 15 to 16 hours a day. I am sure there are some people who enter the teaching profession with the desire to crunch their way daily across the crack-vial-littered streets of crime-wrecked inner-city neighborhoods in order to put in 15-hour working days, but I doubt there are many such.

Via Flutterby, The Dream Palace of Educational Theorists

I found it to be a rather amusing rant against the current American educational system, because, hey, who doesn't like a rant against the current American educational system?

Thursday, Debtember 07, 2006

Still nothing much to see unless you're a programmer

Those of us who deal with programming and are suspicious enough to see that our daily professional life could be improved, are often confronted with functional programming. There is a great misunderstanding going on regarding what functional programming is and what are its benefits, and where and how imperative programming is wrong. Supporters of functional programming claim it is the best thing since slice bread, but I beg to differ, and that's why I decided to write this blog.

A sincere comment on functional programming

Yet another article about programming, related to the post on Tuesday.

I have a bunch of thoughts on this, but they're all half-formed, and I've already spent over two hours trying to get something coherent written, but haven't. This will have to wait until another day.

Update around 1:30 am Friday, Debtember 8th, 2006

Of course, in writing that post, I forgot to mention Coverity (link via Flutterby), which appears to be a form of lint on steroids. It's a commercial product based off the Meta-Level Compilation Project. Pity that it's already gone commercial, but at least they give an indication of what it can do (Mark would probably say something like, “Finding bugs in Linux? Isn't that like shooting fish in a barrel?”).

Update a few minutes later

My thoughts were so unfocussed that I found vocalless music too distracting.

Friday, Debtember 08, 2006

I suspect email isn't long for this world

I'll go out on a limb here and make a prediction: By January of 2009, email as we know it will be dead. It will have to be, given these current stats at The Company (which is a small webhosting company):

Amount of spam through our spam firewall
Total % Day % Hour %
Blocked 53,632,194 94 47,855 96 2,425 95
Blocked: Virus 17,276 0 0 0 0 0
Quarantined 54 0 0 0 0 0
Allowed: Tagged 658,888 1 177 0 7 0
Allowed 2,807,144 5 1,957 4 119 5
Total Received 57,115,556 100 49,989 100 2,551 100

As a friend said (on a private post—hope he doesn't mind me posting it here):

But really I hope you all, being support and customer care, really know that we, being server ops, are doing everything we can to keep up with the dramatic increase in mail volume internet wide.

Yesterday alone we saw a temporary spike of email volume that was measured at 100Mb/sec for about 2 hours. This is really really hard to keep up with, and has a lot to do with why I am getting out of the webhosting industry all together.

And another friend (not the same as quoted above) is seriously looking for another job away from webhosting as well, although I don't know if it has to do with the email volume or not.

Saturday, Debtember 09, 2006

Two pictures taken at night with a 15 second exposure while walking down a neighborhood looking at the outside season decorations somewhere in South Florida

[Lightbright I]

 

[Lightbright II]

 

Sunday, Debtember 10, 2006

Bah, humbug

Scrooge has been called ungenerous. I say that's a bum rap. What could be more generous than keeping your lamps unlit and your plate unfilled, leaving more fuel for others to burn and more food for others to eat? Who is a more benevolent neighbor than the man who employs no servants, freeing them to wait on someone else?

Oh, it might be slightly more complicated than that. Maybe when Scrooge demands less coal for his fire, less coal ends up being mined. But that's fine, too. Instead of digging coal for Scrooge, some would-be miner is now free to perform some other service for himself or someone else.

Via Instapundit, What I Like About Scrooge: In praise of misers.

I've always felt that Ebeneezer Scrooge got a bum rap (than again, that could be my inner “Bah, humbug!” speaking). Several years ago, after watching about the five billionth rehashing of A Chrismas Carol, I got the idea of writing a short story about Scrooge that takes place seven years after the events in the book. In the story idea, Scrooge is once again visited by the ghost of his ex-partner Marley, wherein he learns that not only has he lost all his wealth to philanthropy, but that the very people he was helping were taking advantage of him.

Monday, Debtember 11, 2006

On the menu tonight: spam

I had dinner with my old roommate Rob tonight, and the main topic of conversation was, if you can believe it, spam.

Rob, who works at Negiyo, is dealing with similar issues that I am at The Company, only a few orders of magnitude worse (Rob was amused at the low volume we have to deal with at The Company). They have over a 150 email servers slowly melting under the strain of spam coming into their network.

Given the load, I mentioned to Rob that it sounds like Negiyo is having C10k problems with email, and that they should talk to Google. Rob didn't think that was likely.

“I've noticed that about 40% of the spam I get comes through the secondary MX record.”

“We only use one MX record,” said Rob.

“Can you set up a secondary and just dump all mail to it?”

“With over a million zones, I don't think management will accept that.” Basically, they won't change a million zone files.

“How about greylisting?”

“Too much programming,” he said. “I doubt management will go for it.”

“What about telling your customers to use Gmail?”

“It would cost too much money to partner with Google,” Rob said.

“No,” I said. “Just tell your customers to use Gmail.”

“Oh, an indirect partnership,” said Spring.

“I don't think our customers will go for that,” said Rob. “We can have 100% uptime on the webserver, but if email goes down for even five minutes, our phones light up.” Spring concurred (since she too, works for Negiyo) and yes, I have to admit, our customers are the same way.

“You could always just dump bounce messages, and messages sent to <>,” I said.

“We do that already,” said Rob.

“You guys are screwed,” I said.

“I know.”

Tuesday, Debtember 12, 2006

You mean it's another one of those talk like days?

“So where are the Christmas decorations?”

“Not here.”

“I can see that.”

“So why ask?”

“Because … because it's Christmas. It's the holiday season!”

“There are other holidays this time of year other than Christmas.”

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“No, I'm not. Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Saturnalia—”

“Saturnalia?”

“Saturnalia.”

“What the XXXX is ‘Saturnalia?’”

“Please, don't cuss in my blog.”

“Sorry.”

“Accepted.”

“Okay, but what the … beep is—”

“You just said ‘beep.’”

“Yes.”

“Why did you say ‘beep?’”

“Because you just told me not to cuss in your blog.”

“So instead of reworking your sentance to exclude the swear word, you actually beeped yourself?”

“Yes.”

“You're weird.”

“Be that as it may, you still haven't answered my question.”

“Which is—”

“What the beep (and please, don't make a fuss about me beeping myself; I'm not the one with problems cussing) is ‘Saturnalia?’”

“Okay, remove the religious overtones of Christmas.”

“Okay.”

“And what do you have left?”

“Eating. Giving presents. Decorating. Buying stuff you don't need and going horribly into debt.”

“And that is Saturnalia.”

Blink. Blink.

“Okay, move it to ancient Rome and you have Saturnalia.”

“And you called me wierd?”

“Hey, modern Christmas is all but Saturnalia in name.”

“Okay, so where are the Saturnalia decorations?”

“Not here. Too much trouble.”

“Too much trouble tossing up a tree and a few lights?”

“Too much trouble. Especially following The Rules.”

“The Rules.”

“The Rules. No 50s lights. No multicolored lights. Restrictions on wicker reindeer. Stuff like that.”

“There are restrictions on wicker reindeer?”

“Yup. Neighbors get upset at reenactments of The Wicker Man.”

“Reenactments of—wait a second!”

“Hello, yes?”

“Our bantering.”

“Yes.”

“Back and forth.”

“Yes, we're bantering back and forth.”

“It wouldn't happen to be ‘Talk Like Michael Bendis Day’ today, would it?”

“It would so happen to be ‘Talk Like Michael Bendis Day’ today.”

“What a geek.”

“Why thank you.”


“Well, you have to know these things when you're a king, you know.”

After spending some time last month trying to develop alternate graphic presentations for kinematic ratios in winged flight, I decided to try to answer one of the timeless questions of science: just what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Via Flares into Darkness, Estimating the Airspeed Velocity of an Unladen Swallow

And now you know.

“Know what?”

“Pardon?”

“Know what?”

“Hey, I already did the post about Talk like Michael Bendis Day.”

“No you did not.”

“Yes I did.”

“No you didn't.”

“Yes I—hey, wait just a second …”

Wednesday, Debtember 13, 2006

How long until enough admins say “Enough is enough!”?

The Email Situation is getting worse. From a mailing list I'm on:

From
"Jay West" <XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX>
To
"General Discussion: On-Topic and Off-Topic Posts" <XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX>
Subject
classiccmp list (sort of) help requested
Date
Wed, 13 Dec 2006 15:51:49 -0600

Listowners perogative to ask a question that is only halfway on topic … ;) I figure some people here may have some good suggestions—offlist please.

There is a SpamAssassin machine(s) filtering spam being sent to the list that sits in front of the classiccmp server (we're also making use of Pyzor, Razor, milter-ahead, and clamav). It's been doing a wonderful job, such that most spam is kept out of the moderators faces. However, over the past few months I've noticed that more and more is getting through (not to the list, but to the moderators eyes who have to kill it all manually). Same goes for many of my customers.

What concerns me is that 99% of the new spam making it through is vaguely sensible english phrases (apparently automatically pulled from online books, or from usenet post archives, etc.). If there was also an advertisement text, Spamassassin could catch that. However, the text is all just english phrases (I've noted them to be targeted phrases, like having to do with computers, sometimes old ones) but … the advertisement is a graphic attachment. Since SpamAssassin can't do OCR on the small gif or jpg attachment that says “buy viagra here” … I am not sure what to do about this. It comes from all over, not just a few servers, etc.

Before you say “just kill all emails with graphic attachments” [the mailing list this appeared on is geared for older computer systems and as such, the general population of the list frown on email attachments, being “old school” and all that; thus this comment from the list owner —Editor] … keep in mind that these spamassassin machines do their job for thousands of domains that I host, not just classiccmp.org. So just killing all emails with graphic attachments is simply not an option. If anyone can give me a few ideas that will work well for ISP/hosting-class environments, I'd love to hear it. Off-list please! Thanks in advance for any advice.

Best regards,

Jay West

I can't see this continuing for much longer before most ISPs and webhost companies simply give up on email entirely (or some people get real serious about solving the spamming problem and we end up with a rash of spammers dying due to excessive rapid lead poisoning).

I wrote the following back to Jay:

From
Sean Conner <sean@conman.org>
To
Jay West <XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX>
Subject
Re: classiccmp list (sort of) help requested
Date
Wed, 13 Dec 2006 17:26:24 -0500

I work at a webhosting company, and we're getting swamped. I have a friend who works for Negiyo (huge web hosting company) and they're getting swamped as well. And we both ran out of ideas.

What you might want to start with is disallowing catchalls (all email to a domain going to a single email account). That will probably cut some of the spam down. Another thing you might consider is setting backup MX records to 127.0.0.1. I tried that for my own domain and it cut spam 40% (I don't filter spam to my personal domain, but by the same token, I don't have a catchall for my domain either). You could also try looking into greylisting although it might not scale for a few thousand domains.

Another idea I just had—perhaps do an MD5 hash over the body of the email and store the result. If you get a match (or some number of matches) then it's probably spam and can be deleted (although it may be a mailing list; try applying some heuristics).

Short of that, I don't have many other ideas.

-spc (beginning to think that email will be dead in a few years … )

I wish him luck.


Night lights

It was four years ago that I last photographed lights at night (I absolutely love Christmas lights), so it's been more than long enough. Tonight Bunny took me to the Holiday Fantasy of Lights at Tradewinds Park, where I managed to get some spectacular photos this year.

[Englightened road] [Green streaks] [The car moved right at the end of this picture] [Englightened Christmas Colored Trees] [Setting the scene for “Englightened Christmas Colored Trees’] [What Number Six never told anyone is that the Village was quite nice at night …] [Wavy light tree] [Yellow Streaks] [1.21GW @ 88mph] [Tunnel of light] [Work continues on a nearby mountain (what?  A mountain in Florida?)] [Someone call the NBA!] [Silver Streaks] [Magic Kingdom] [Damn bears were impossible to photograph!] [Squiggles] [Squiggles II] [Squiggles III] [“Photon torpedos fired, sir!”]

It's funny. I lived practically across the street from this for almost fifteen years and not once did I ever bother to go. Now that I live about fourty-five minutes north … I go.

Go figure.

[Merry Christmas to all …]

Thursday, Debtember 14, 2006

Crazy Day

Today was a rather crazy day.

The email woes continue to pile up (complaint one: not receiving email, but a check of the logs show a successful delivery of email—go figure. Complaint two: another customer says emails aren't going out. Upon further inquiry, it seems he's trying to send out a few hundred emails to his clients, wishing them a happy holiday season. Sigh) as I was attempting to finish up some household chores before driving into The Office for a dinner meeting.

[Ooh, pretty doodles]

Then it was the drive down to The Office and then a three hour meeting (with dinner). Much talk, not much resolution as XXXXX XXXXX XXXXXX XX XXXXXX XXX XXXX XXXXXXX XXX XXX XXXXXXXXX XXXXXX XX XX XX XXXX XXXXXXXXXX XX XX XXXXXXX XX XXXXXXX XX XX XXXX (best not to ask—it's still starting up).

Then back home for a family finance meeting (the home insurance is skyrocketing and our property taxes have tripled!) for a few hours (fun fun fun).

Only then did I get a change to finish up yesterday's entries (sorting through a lot of photos, and writing code to help generate the entry) and then this entry.

So, now to relax and get to bed.

Friday, Debtember 15, 2006

A one time tax break

When it comes time to prepare and file your 2006 tax return, make sure you don't overlook the “federal excise tax refund credit.” You claim the credit on line 71 of your form 1040. A similar line will be available if you file the short form 1040A. If you have family or friends who no longer file a tax return AND they have their own land phone in their home and have been paying a phone bill for years, make sure they know about this form 1040EZ-T.

What is this all about? Well the federal excise tax has been charged to you on your phone bill for years. It is an old tax tha t was assessed on your toll calls based on how far the call was being made and how much time you talked on that call. When phone companies began to offer flat fee phone service, challenges to the excise tax ended up in federal courts in several districts of the country. The challenges pointed out that flat fee/rate phone service had nothing to do with the distance and the length of the phone call. Therefore, the excise tax should/could not be assessed.

Via Shadesong, A Geek in Beantown: Special One Time Tax Credit on 2006 Tax Return for Excise Tax

Not only will I have to remember this for April 15th, but I'll also need to check my cell phone bill—I seem to recall some rather suspicious looking taxes on that.

Saturday, Debtember 16, 2006

“There's nothing better than camel head soup … ”

I hate travel.

No. Too strong.

I really dislike travel.

It's not that I hate the destinations—often times I'm ambivilent about the destination and I'm only going because of people I know (although there are exceptions). I hate travel because of the getting there (and boy, do I have plenty of travel horror stories to tell).

Travel in and of itself is not my thing.

So I'm finding Michael Palin's Sahara to be very amusing, in a schadenfreude type of way. From trains that run over a day late where the first class accomidations means you share a bunk with one other person (and steerage class means you share a bunk with a ton of iron ore) to river boats that run aground. Where you get to sample such delicacies such as camel head and sheep testicles.

Yum.

Yes, watching the show is definitely re-enforcing my biases against travel. And truely, there is no better way to travel than through the small screen (in much the same way that I appreciate nature best through the Animal Channel).

Sunday, Debtember 17, 2006

Lucky

“I'm afraid we're going to have to call it off,” I said to Spring over the phone.

“Why?”

“Because I'm talking to Mr. Officer here,” I said, looking up and out the car window at the State Trooper as I handed over my drivers license, insurance card and registration.

I was rushing home from rebooting a recalcitrant server, doing about 80mph on I-95 so that Spring and I could catch the Tri-Rail down to Opa-Locka; Spring thought I might like to take pictures of the City Hall, and in order to do this, we needed to make the 5:00 pm train.

But I suspect Mr. Officer overheard my comment to Spring. He glanced at my papers, then pulled a pen out. “Would you rather have a warning, or a ticket?” he asked.

Well. That's certainly a no-brainer. “A warning?”

“Okay,” said Mr. Officer. “Just keep it slow, and you'll want to check out your tire there.” He pointed to the front driver side tire. “That looks to be, what? 20 pounds of pressure. A bit low.” I climbed out of the car and took a look.

Yup, it was low.

“So please, get it fixed.”

“Thank you,” I said, taking the written warning from him. “Merry Christmas.”

And I'm trying hard not to get cocky (and yes, the car is now legal to drive).

Afterwards, I called Spring back, saying that we could probably make it afterall, but that we would have to meet at the station.


“Don't forget the passport.”

Spring felt I might like to take pictures of the Opa-Locka City Hall. She also felt it would be nice if we took the Tri-Rail down to the Opa-Locka station, about a block away from the City Hall.

I almost didn't make it but I parked at the Lake Worth Tri-Rail station and as I was walking (the parking lot is about a block away from the station itself) I heard the train pulling into the station. I started to run (boy, am I out of shape) but it turned out to be a maintenance train going through the station.

Spring had already bought my ticket and I had a few minutes to catch my breath before the actual Tri-Rail train pulled up.

[The Tri-Rail is a'coming] [Spring asking the security guard about the neighborhood (outlook not so good)] [Opa-Locka Tri-Rail station] [Platform 9 3/4] [Hmmm … a Batman villian must be nearby] [Watch out!  Train coming through] [Bert's been overfeeding his pigeons] [Train still coming through]

But Spring has miscalculated the timing and was unaware that we would arrive at Opa-Locka after it got dark. And because the neighborhood of Opa-Locka is less than stellar, we decided to stick around the train station until we could head back north.

Monday, Debtember 18, 2006

Oh how I long for the Monopolistic Power Company here in Florida

Beeeeeeeep.

Beeeeeeeep.

Beeeeeeeep.

It wasn't my alarm, in this case, my cell phone (the actual alarm clock long having died on me) as that starts out very soft and gradually gets louder (a very cool feature that).

Nope, this was a loud inscessent beep.

It was then I realized it was the UPS.

Yup. Power failure.

I roll out of bed, confirm the power outage (yup—bathroom lights don't turn on—we's got no power) and start the process of shutting down the computers.

Blah.

I later learn that Lake Worthless Utilities were doing maintenance on the power lines in our neighborhood and hadn't bothered to inform anyone they where doing that.

Lovely bunch of fellows there.


alt.spammer.die.die.die

I swear, I'm getting ready to tell our customers to shove it and use GMail; we don't handle email anymore.


Parable of the Stairs

The other day a young girl came to the door to solicit my support for her presidential candidate. I asked her why I should vote for this man. She was very nice and earnest, but if you got her off the talking points she was utterly unprepared to argue anything, because she didn't know what she was talking about. She had bullet points, and she believed that any reasonable person would see the importance of these issues and naturally fall in line. But she could not support any of her assertions. Her final selling point: Kerry would roll back the tax cuts.

Then came the Parable of the Stairs, of course. My tiresome, shopworn, oft-told tale, a piece of unsupportable meaningless anecdotal drivel about how I turned my tax cut into a nice staircase that replaced a crumbling eyesore, hired a few people and injected money far and wide—from the guys who demolished the old stairs, the guys who built the new one, the family firm that sold the stone, the other firm that rented the Bobcats, the entrepreneur who fabricated the railings in his garage, and the guy who did the landscaping. Also the company that sold him the plants. And the light fixtures. It's called economic activity. Whatss more, home improvements added to the value of this pile, which mean that my assessment would increase, bumping up my property taxes. To say nothing of the general beautification of the neighborhood. Next year, if my taxes didn't shoot up, I had another project planned. Raise my taxes, and it won't happen—I won't hire anyone, and they won't hire anyone, rent anything, buy anything. You see?

“Well, it's a philosophical difference,” she sniffed. She had pegged me as a form of life last seen clilcking the leash off a dog at Abu Ghraib. “I think the money should have gone straight to those people instead of trickling down.” Those last two words were said with an edge.

“But then I wouldn't have hired them,” I said. “I wouldn't have new steps. And they wouldn't have done anything to get the money.”

“Well, what did you do?” she snapped.

“What do you mean?”

“Why should the government have given you the money in the first place?”

“They didn't give it to me. They just took less of my money.”

That was the last straw. Now she was angry. And the truth came out:

“Well, why is it your money? I think it should be their money.”

Then she left.

And walked down the stairs. I let her go without charging a toll. It's the philanthropist in me.

James Lileks: A minor political note, if you're interested in such thing

My guess, the girl worked for a PIRG where knowledge of a particular issue isn't a requirement to work for them (link from Jane Galt).


Archie in the 21st Century

So I learn that Archie Comics are getting a face lift with a new direction in art. It seems odd to think that Archie & Co. will have a whole new look—what caused this to happen? Wasn't the old house style good enough?

But when you look closer at past (70s) Archie (50s and 80s) comics (60s) you can see the style has changed over time—it's not as static as people make it out to be.

And perhaps the Archie company realized they needed to update the look of the comic to remain relevant (and more importantly—solvent!) in these modern days. After all, they know their market better than I do (heck, I don't even buy Archie comics anymore) and it's the obsessive catering to the hard-core fan that has gotten DC and Marvel into the mess they're in today (wherein the story lines are hopelessly messy, and any new time buyer is going to be totally lost without buying about a thousand dollars worth of back issues across all their titles—in other words, they aren't new reader or casual reader friendly).

But it sure would go down easier if the artwork was even halfway decent.

Ick.

Tuesday, Debtember 19, 2006

Bad Hair Day

Today was so bad at The Office that I've blocked it out of my mind (read: the only notes I have for today were “bad hair day” and since I'm writing this nearly a week later, I've forgotten all the details).


I bet David Rhodes wishes this would die

My name is David Rhodes. In 1992, my car was repossessed and bill collectors were hounding me. I was laid off work and my unemployment ran out. In October 1992, I received a letter telling me how to earn $800,000 anytime I wanted. O fcourse, I was skeptical, but because I was so desperate and virtually had nothing to lose, I gave it a try. In January of 1993 my family and I went on a 10 day cruise. The next month I bought a brand new Mercedes with cash. I am currently building a new home in Virginia and will never have to work again. This money program really works perfectly every time. I never failed to receive less than $500,000. This is a legitimate moneymaking opportunity. It does not require you to sell anything or come in contact with people. And, best of all, you only leave the house to mail the letters. If you have always thought that someday you would get a lucky break, then simply follow the instructions and make your dreams come true.

Blah blah blah … fairly typical pyramid chain letter, except that it came via postal mail!

Yes, I received a David Rhodes letter via the post office (I can only hope that Brian W., Carrissa P., Christopher J., Shira K., Carla G. and Melody B. aren't taken away by the authorities (at least, until after Christmas) as such chain letters are illegal).

How neat is that?


Data center in a box

Oh my! It looks like Sun is doing what Google was rumored to be doing.

Wednesday, Debtember 20, 2006

These people should know better

Went into file manager and went to edit one quick thing on an html page and got this error. It worked previously. Please check it out. Thank you.

getpwuid(): uid not found: 508

The complete ticket from one of our resellers

This is from one of our resellers. They have scores of sites with us. Across a few servers.

They know this. Apparently, what they don't know is that I'm not psychic.

I replied the only way I could:

What server? What website? What file?

Sigh.

Thursday, Debtember 21, 2006

It's easy to make, so of course I burn it

Hummus is easy to make. And a heck of a lot cheaper to make than to buy. How easy? Cook some chick peas in boiling water. Drain water. Mash. Add tahini (which is crushed seaseme seeds, and it's pretty easy to get here in Lower Sheol), water and lemom juice (keep adding until the consistency is nice and smooth). Optionally throw into a blender or food processor to make it even smoother.

That's it.

So of course, I start the cooking process, and forget about it for four hours!

What I ended up with was a bunch of carbonized chick peas (which, as Alton Brown would say, are not Good Eats™) and one rather burnt pan.

An hour of hard scrubbing later, and I'm on my second attempt.

Only this time, I have a timer I'm carrying around to remind me to check up on things every twenty minutes or so.

The result: some gosh darn good hummus (I added garlic and olives to the mixture, as Spring likes her hummus that way).

Friday, Debtember 22, 2006

The spam just keeps rising

Spam levels rose by another 35% in Novemeber. This really does prove to me that I made the right decision in leaving the webhosting business. Its getting to a point now were email is going to no longer be cost effective to host. Now where I am at now has their own problems with spam, it's nothing to the level of where my last employeer was at. Here we get about 200-300 spam messages a day. Though we do get too many false positives but that is going to be a big part of what I am going to be doing here early on.

I'm 100% sure I made the right decision

Looks like my prediction might happen sooner than I expected.

Saturday, Debtember 23, 2006

Two amusing musical links

I've got two musical links for today.

First one, from Bunny: Straight No Chaser—12 Days. A twelve man a-cappella group sings “The Twelve Days of Christmas” but it's no Twelve Days you've ever heard (I do feel sorry for the one Jewish guy in the group, but you'll have to watch it to see what I mean).

The second one: Pachelbel Rant—a rant on Pachelbel's one hit wonder, Canon in D (and yes, it surprised me that the Classical World had one hit wonders), and amazingly enough, one can't get away from Pachelbel's Canon in D. Even today.

Sunday, Debtember 24, 2006

Catsup on Christmas Eve

I wasn't feeling all that well yesterday so when I finally got home from a last minute dinner meeting (set up a few weeks ago by Smirk, but only today did he remember it—sigh) I fell asleep.

Slept a long time, but when I did get up, I felt much better.

So I spent the day taking it easy (hey, it's Christmas Eve), catching up on all the entries I've missed here for the past week, and even made some brownies (Spring's sister is arriving here tomorrow for a few days).

Now, time to veg even more.

Monday, Debtember 25, 2006

An old fashioned Merry Christmas

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[Yes, I know it's misspelled. That's how I found it. But it took me about ten tries just to get it posted—I'm not about to muck with it further trying to correct the misspelling. Sigh. --Editor]

Tuesday, Debtember 26, 2006

Well, that was Christmas

Christmas as only slightly chaotic as the plans to pick up Spring's sister changed at the last minute.

But dinner went well and the rest of the evening was spent watching a very hokey Hebrew Hammer (think an Orthodox Jewish version of Shaft—I guess that makes it a Judexploitation film) and several episodes of Torchwood (a spinoff of Dr. Who) that was better than I expected it to be (basically, man who can't die heads a team recovering alien artifiacts that show up on Earth).

And today was a quiet day. Not much of anything noteworthy happened today.

Wednesday, Debtember 27, 2006

It was the best of ideas; it was the worst of ideas

From Spring comes news that Val Kilmer is signing up for a sequel to “Real Genius” and I for one, have mixed feelings about this news.

On the one hand, I loved the film, the lines (“What are you looking at? You're laborers; you should be laboring. That's what you get for not having an education.”), the characters (especially Michelle Meyrink's Jordan)—everything about the film. So why shouldn't I want to see more of these characters?

And then we come to the second hand—“Real Genius” was self-contained. There were no dangling plot lines to tie up. The Good Guys got the girls, the Bad Guys got a home filled with popcorn, all was right with the world. What possible story could they do after twenty years? Mitch, Chris, Jordan and Ick go in search of Lazlo and Sherry Hollyfeld before Jerry Hathaway and Kent get to him first?

I'm having problems seeing a possible sequel. Sometimes, no sequel is better than a sequel.

And I think this is one of those times.

But I hope (if this pans out) to be pleasently surprised.

Thursday, Debtember 28, 2006

What? Another gamer film?

Bunny wanted to see “The Gamers” again, but my copy isn't a full copy—it's missing the commentary so I told her that she might want to rent it from Netflix. And apparently, in looking for it, she came across “Gamers” which has some big name stars for such a niche market film.

But I'm finding the clips to be very cringe inducing indeed and I'm thinking I'll probably just skip this one entirely.

Friday, Debtember 29, 2006

Schlepping bits

It amazes me sometimes what we go through to move bits from one computer to another.

I wrote my humor column on an old Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer using VIP Writer. When the time came to put it online I had the distinct pleasure of copying the files, which involved the following steps:

  1. Creating a specialized serial cable to go from my Color Computer, which used a 4-pin DIN plug, to my Amiga 500, which used the more standard DB-25.
  2. Load up VIP Writer, and select the “Print” option.
  3. Load up a terminal program on the Amiga, open up a capture buffer and then hold down the space bar to fool VIP Writer on the Color Computer that indeed, it was talking to a printer. Once the column finished “printing” I then saved the buffer into a file. I did that for every column you see.

That was just to get the files off the Color Computer. I still had to get them to the webserver in question, which, at that time, was my workstation at FAU. That involved one of the following steps (which I don't recall, since it's been about fourteen years):

  1. Dial into the FAU modem bank (this was way back before ubiquitous Internet access like we have now) and connect through an intermediary system (the dialup modems were hooked into a terminal server, which didn't talk TCP/IP, but DECNET—the intermediary system talked both DECNET and TCP/IP—this was way back when there were other networking standards other than TCP/IP) and then to my workstation, whereupon I had to upload the columns using the Kermit protocol, which was dog slow, but it worked, unlike the XModem, YModem or ZModem protocols.
  2. Copy the files to an MS-DOS formatted floppy using a special program on the Amiga, which reprogrammed the floppy hardware (and caused the computer to act very strangely while doing so), then physically take the disk to FAU, where I then used a Sun Unix workstation in the Computer Science Department to copy the files off, and then use FTP to get them to my workstation, where I could convert them to HTML and so place them online.

Thankfully, such days are long past us, and the ability to copy data is indeed easier. I'm working on a project at The Company whereby we need to extract data from QuickBooks. This involves:

  1. A program running on the same computer as QuickBooks that talks to QuickBooks using COM, with the data encoded in qbXML.
  2. The same program will then package the data into another form of XML and use SOAP to transfer the data to a webserver.
  3. The webserver is running a program that can accept the SOAP request, then extract the qbXML from inside the SOAP request. It then extracts the data from inside the qbXML and then we can work with the data. Probably by passing it onto yet another program.

Yup. Nothing like wrapping data into two different XML formats, transferring it across the network like a webpage, then extracting the data from within two different XML formats.

Sure is easier than the old days.

Saturday, Debtember 30, 2006

Walt Dismal World

Several months ago my wife and I made the fateful decision to treat our two kids, ages 8 and 3, to a Disney World vacation over Christmas break.

Via news from me, Walt Dismal World: Part 1

And that was his first mistake. It gets worse:

Next we looked for air transportation–and struck out. Delta and Southwest both offer nonstop Raleigh-Orlando service, but Delta wanted $700 per ticket for the 80-minute nonstop flight (less expensive seats were available for an ATL connection). Southwest was cheaper by far, but still set me back $1200 for four tickets.

Gulping hard again, I ponied up the fare.

Lastly, I checked on Walt Disney World tickets. As every parent on earth but me knows, there are four parks at WDW: Magic Kingdom; Epcot; MGM Studios; and Animal Kingdom. My local AAA agency educated me on the ins and outs of WDW ticket options, and we settled on "Magic Your Way" tickets for two adults and two kids with no "Park Hopper" option (if you don't know, don't ask) for five days.

Total Disney ticket cost: $774. I gulped again and proffered my Amex card to the nice AAA lady.

Via news from me, Walt Dismal World: Part 1

And it gets even worse from there. I read parts of this aloud to Bunny, and as I was reading she was imploring me not to read anymore, lest I hate travel even more than I do now. “You don't need to read stuff like that,” she said.

But as I read further (it's a three part article) I began to realize that Will Allen III was particularly stupid in planning his trip to the Kingdom of the Rat God in Central Sheol—this from someone who can find safe taxicab services in the Sudan. Although, I guess when you are used to arranging reliable private overland transport from Mandalay to Bagan in Myanmar, going to Walt Disney World, the American Mecca for kids, during the Holiday Season, appears as a no-brainer.

Hah!

Little did he realize.


Some Walt Disney Stories

Speaking of Disney—I have three travel stories relating to Disney, two horrible (to give an indication of just why I hate travel) and one just plain silly (not to give a totally biased acount against travel).

Disney Horror Story #1

My Mom's cousin and her family had come down to visit us and they wanted to take their kids to Walt Disney World. I was invited to go along, and on Sunday, Feburary 27th, 1983, we drove to Orlando. The adults got to sit in the cab of the pickup truck, while us kids were relegated to the uncovered bed of the truck in back. The trip up there wasn't that bad, and we stayed with some friends of the family, who also worked at Disney.

The following day, Monday the 28th, we went to Epcot, having driven in the back entrance by said family friend, thus avoiding both the long wait to get into the park, and the actual price of admission. We ended up entering and exiting the park through one of the exhibitions.

That part wasn't that bad.

After spending a few hours at Epcot, we left then headed over to Sea World for a bit. Things were going fine until I, sitting in the front row of the Killer Whale show, got drenched by one of the whales.

And I didn't have a change of clothes.

So, on the drive back, there I was, huddled beneath a thin jacket in the back of an open pickup truck, trying desperately to avoid freezing to death. It was a miserable three hour tour trip.

Made all the worse because Monday, February 28th, 1983, was the season finale of M.A.S.H, which at the time, was my favorite TV series.

Which means I missed it.

Well, not entirely—I did see the final two minutes of the episode.

I ended up getting horribly sick that week.

[Okay, technically it wasn't technically a horror story about Disney, but we still visited one of the parks that day. And I've yet to still see the season finale of M.A.S.H., twenty-four years later. —Editor]

Disney Horror Story #2

No date for this one, but it happened sometime during the very late 80s, very early 90s.

During the week, I got a call from my Aunt Kay (Dad's sister) and Uncle Dale that they were going to be at Walt Disney World and would I like to come by and meet them there.

For some obscure reason, I said “yes” (I suspect it was because I had yet to do a road trip on my own, and felt this was as good a time as any—so I guess this would place it sometime in '89 or so). On the appointed day (a Saturday as I want to recall) I got up early, and drove the two and a half hours along the Florida Turnpike to International Drive in Orlando.

It then took another hour to drive the few miles along International Drive to the parking lot of Walt Disney World.

It then took yet another hour to get from the parking lot to the actual park itself.

And then I had the daunting task of finding my familiar relations.

This was back when cell phones weren't quite as ubiquitous as today.

I finally met up with them around 1:00 pm.

Spent the day riding rides and eating hideously expensive food and around 10:00 pm we all headed to the monorail station to leave the park.

Only the monorail system had broken down, thus trapping a few thousand people within the Kingdom of the Rat God for several hours past closing.

It was around midnight that I was eventually back in my car, heading south as fast as my little car could go (I didn't worry about speeding tickets as state troopers blew past me on the Turnpike), with this massive migraine headache for the entire trip.

Not a fun time.

Disney Silly Story

Again, no definite dates, but given the facts of the story, this one happened in the very early 90s, back when I was living at home, working a job that paid me ridiculous amounts of money, meaning I had large amounts of discretionary funds to burn through.

My friend Sean Williams announced one Friday that instead of the usual Saturday plans, he instead, had to drive up to the University of Central Florida (in Orlando) to pick up a pair of shoes from his brother. Not having much else planned for that Saturday, Bill Lefler, Mark Hamzy (which is a different Mark than the one I normally mention here) and I invited ourselves along for the ride.

So Saturday morning we all piled into a car and headed north.

We arrived at Sean's brother's dorm room, picked up the pair of shoes, and were back in the car in less than half an hour. Sean was ready to drive all the way back; Bill, Mark and I were simply amazed that that was it.

Drive three hours to pick up a pair of shoes?

Yup.

So Bill, Mark and I browbeat Sean into going to Epcot.

Now, mind you, it was around 5:00 pm when we did this.

And it was around 6:00 pm when we paid for, and entered into, Epcot.

Most people wouldn't have bothered to enter any of the Disney parks past 2:00 pm, but not us. We (actually, now that I think about it, I think it was mostly Mark) wanted to see Epcot, and gosh darn it, we were going to see Epcot.

We walked around a bit, discussing where we should eat (and that's another story for another time, the whole “Where Should We Eat” ritutal we went through every Friday and Saturday) and ended up in the Mexican Pavilion (where I had Chocolate Chicken—a very unusual but rather tasty dish).

Afterwards, we stuck around for the fireworks show, then left.

So, not only did we have enough money for a fairly expensive Mexican dinner, but enough money to get into Epcot for a fairly expensive Mexican dinner.

But like I said, I was living at home at the time, making obscene amounts of money. So was Bill. And Mark. And Sean.

Sunday, Debtember 31, 2006

Rocket's Red Glare

Given the amount of fireworks going off, you'd expect it to be the Fourth of July. Or some other celebratory holiday.

Go figure.

Obligatory Picture

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

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

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