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, June 01, 2007

Love, Rachel.

The store was first opened by J.R. Robinson around 1987 in a single mobile home. It was then sold to Jim & Sue Lindow, who eventually defaulted on it. The store was closed for several years until D.C. Day reopened it as the Quik Pik. He expanded it to double-wide and now leases it to his son and daughter-in-law, David and Burnadine Day. After D.C.'s death in July 1997, his widow Fay Day managed the store.

In 2006 the Quik Pik was sold to an investor from California, who managed to ruin the small but steady business within a few months. It was closed in the winter of 2006/2007, along with the adjacent trailer park. The nearest gas is now 60 miles south, in Ash Springs, or 110 miles north, in Tonopah.

A Short History of Rachel, Nevada: Businesses

I was actually rather sad to read this bit of news. When Hoade and I visited Rachel back in 2005 (the write-up was done in 2006), we actually shopped at the Quik Pik store (got some ice cream) and talked with Fay Day who was managing the store at the time.

And now—it's closed. Probably for good.

How bad do you have to manage a store with a complete monopolistic lock over an entire region and have it fail?

Reading the entire history of Rachel left me feeling melancholy. Here's a small town in the middle of nowhere that's slowly dying and on its way to being a small somewhat amusing footnote in American pop history.


Clue-by-four on track nine …

I have one final comment about the whole LiveJournal blowup: has no one at Six Apart read Cluetrain Manifesto? I thought this was supposed to be baked into online businesses' DNA or something …

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Little pink flamingos for you and me

BOSTON—The original pink flamingo lawn ornament, the symbol of kitsch whose obituary was almost written after its central Massachusetts manufacturer went out of business, is rising phoenix-like from the ashes and taking wing to upstate New York.

A manufacturer that bought the copyright and plastic molds for the original version plans to resume production in Westmoreland, N.Y. HMC International LLC will pick up where Union Products Inc. left off last year when it shuttered its Leominster, Mass., plastics factory after 50 years of making flamingos.

Flamingos back from the dead (link via Bunny)

Back in October, I reported on the demise of the plastic pink flamingo, but I'm happy to report that the plastic pink flamingo has been taken off the extinction list.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The things I do to configure equipment

It was a little easier this time since I wasn't shoving raw wires into the female DE-9 connector, but pre-crimped wires. Still, working out which way the wires go took a few diagrams to get it straight, so to speak.

So, for my own notes, the wiring diagram for the BayTech DS9 with the DS72 module with a roll-over cable (Smirk, you might want to copy this down):

BLUE	→ pin 4 DE-9
ORANGE	→
BLACK	→ pin 7
RED	→ pin 3
GREEN	→ pin 2
YELLOW	→ pin 1
BROWN	→ pin 5
WHITE	→ pin 8

and for a straight through cable:

BLUE	→ pin 8
ORANGE	→ pin 5
BLACK	→ pin 1
RED	→ pin 2
GREEN	→ pin 3
YELLOW	→ pin 7
BROWN	→ 
WHITE	→ pin 4

Monday, June 04, 2007

My predictions come true

I forgot about this.

Fortunately, I kept a copy, because my prediction that these 2005 predictions would be swept under the carpet were true!

And so were the 2006 predictions, oddly enough. I'm thinking that ol' Fred there was getting some heat about failed predictions, because his current predictions for 2007 are not only served up using Flash (making it harder to quote), but contain this lovely bit of verbiage at the bottom:

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise, except as permitted under Sections 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written permission of Fred Fassett. Please write to XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.

Predictions 2007

Hate to tell you Fred, but your predictions have been reproduced, stored and transmitted, electronically, just for me to read the darned things. The same goes for anyone reading the page, including your loving fans.

Now, as for his predictions in 2005 … well … I read over the predictions, and there isn't any that I can actually point to and say “it came to pass” or even “it failed” because they're all so … obtuse. It's hard to see what he was even predicting, except for his “[s]oon there will be some very strange life forms coming out of the oceans,” but since he's got the hedge word “soon” it's hard to qualify this one either way.

And his current predictions? Most are the “safe” type—cures for cancer and AIDS, weather will get more extreme, economy will strengthen but spending will be cautious, stock market will be unreliable (heh), etc. And a few are of the woo-woo type: “more genius children will be born with more spiritual cognizance with messages from the spirit world,” and “Western medicine and alternative therapies will be combined—doctors will have to go back to school.”

So Fred, I'm not terribly impressed. And removing your past predictions? Tsk, tsk, poor show.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Intellectualizing things into the ground

Thinking that things were going to calm down now that Smirk was headed off to Charlotte for a major server installation, I figured I might go through our DNS records and insure they're consistent. Mainly because the major server installation is going into a second facility up in Charlotte, so we're expanding quite a bit.

Unfortunately, the DNS records are a bit of a mess, what with old records that have accumulated, making it difficult to figure out what's used and what isn't. There's also the problem that we have three types of servers—the physical servers, virtual servers (a complete operating system installation on a simulated machine) and what I'll call pseudo-servers, which are basically glorified websites with their own IP address. It's not always clear what is what (yes, our internal records could be a bit better, but it's an issue we're aware of).

I'm stumbling over the fact that I want to organize the DNS records, but I'm not sure how I want to organize them. Right now, the records are pretty much flat—that is, we have alpha.example.net, bravo.example.net and charlie.example.net, but alpha and bravo are here in Boca, while charlie is in Charlotte (and delta.example.net will be in the second Charlotte location). It's one way of doing things, and it's not bad, since for the most part, we don't care where the servers are physically located. But then we need to filter traffic for bravo and that's a virtual server and you can't really filter the traffic on the virtual server, you need to filter it on the actual server it's running on. I don't remember if that's alpha or romeo. (Or does romeo even have virtual servers? Am I mixing it up with juliet?) And is this level of information even something I want to have in DNS?

And then there're the routers. Since I started at The Company our network has expanded quite a bit (enough to make OSPF worth while) and dealing with traceroute becomes an issue. About a year ago, I set up DNS records for the various routers with the names encoding the interface being used. But in the past year, not only have certain routes changed (say, the other end of se0-0.router.customer was moved from se2.edge1.bct.rt to se0-1.edge2.bct.rt (where rt is “router” and bct is the airport code for Boca Raton)) but the interfaces have changed as well (for example, going from a single T1 serial connection to a multipoint link binding multiple T1s). So is the interface type important to know? Or just the router? (I'm thinking—just the router). Also, note the name I gave our edge router—edge1.bct.rt. Conceivably, this means I can create a DNS zone rt, which contains all our routers. But by the same token, I'm inclined to create a DNS zone bct, which contains the routers located in Boca Raton.

Basically, is name.bct.rt better or worse than name.rt.bct?

I don't know. But I do know that we have stuff other than routers that's somewhat datacenter centric, like managed switches we have in Boca, as well as Charlotte (airport code of ctl).

Ah … I'm thinking too hard on this. Time for some Dicewars

(oh, and it turns out Smirk didn't leave for Charlotte today after all—too much stuff came up at the last minute and pushed his trip back a few days)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

“Because it's never to early to plan for retirement”

Today, Bunny dragged me along to a retirement money management seminar being held at the upscale Boca Raton restaurant Pete's (which I've always confused with Pete Rose's Ballpark Café which is just down the street. The difference? You don't have to take out a second mortgage to eat at Pete Rose's). She received an invite over a week ago, and since it included a free dinner ... Spend an hour listening to a financial pitch to eat a gourmet dinner?

If there's one thing I learned in college, it's “never turn down free food.”

The pitch wasn't that bad actually, much less intensive than the web seminar we attended a month ago, but I do have to wonder about some of the investment programs presented—100% upside, no downside, and some with a payout of 110%? The money has to come from somewhere, and my gut feeling is that it comes from the expansionist money policy the Fed promotes by keeping interest rates dangerously low and inflating the money supply while severely underreporting inflation (so let's see—keep interest rates low and crater the dollar overseas, or strengthen it by increasing interest rates but risk the already shaky mortgage industry and cratering our economy domestically).

But I'm not an economist, nor an accountant, so what do I know?

Anyway, the food was quite good, although Bunny felt that the cinnamon overpowered the subtle flavor of the sweet potatoes (while personally, I felt the cinnamon masked the flavor of the sweet potatoes enough to make them palatable, but then again, I'm not a fan of sweet potatoes). The meal was definitely worth the hour pitch for the financial company offering the seminar.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

This nagging feeling

You ever get the feeling where you know you have to do something, but you've already done everything you need to do? (And yes Smirk, I fixed the <shudder> control panel)

I have that feeling now.

And I don't know what it is I'm supposed to be doing.

I hate this.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Visions of Futures Past

And the exhibit showed electronic cars that we'd all drive to work in 1997, and ways to raise more food for the world through hydroponic greenhouses we'd all use when we went to Mars, and so on. Epcot was originally going to be a huge experiment in sustainable living, but when Disney realized there was no money in that, they had GE, GM, and AT&T drop these huge advertisements for life in the future. And the same thing is, in 1983, it all seemed so fucking feasible that in 20 years we'd all have video phones and TVs with smellovision and pod cars, and I remember that view of the future so vividly. And now that future is in the past, and none of it happened. I used to read in Compute magazine about how, maybe if we all tried hard, cars might have a single microprocessor in them, and it would be so cool to get so much blazing power out of an 8-bit 6510 wired into our engine. And now, I've got at least twenty processors sitting on my desk, in my watch, in my camera, in my mouse, and none of them are doing anything remotely as interesting as what I thought they would be. I have ten times the computing power of that Xanadu house sitting in the battery charger to my camera, and none of it is being used to automatically cook my food or turn on the jaccuzi when I get home from work. And that's sad, in a way.

Tell Me a Story About The Devil: The assorted ramblings of a Midwestern writer in Denver

Xanadu has been torn down, and we still don't have flying cars.

I want my future back!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

It's the end of the world as we know it! Again!

We now predict a terrorist Dirty Bomb or Nuclear Bomb will hit the UN plaza in Midtown Manhattan sometime on or before 2007Sivan30, i.e. before sundown June 18, 2007. We expect it on 2007Sivan20 (June 7–8).

The Lords' Witnesses, the True Bible Code, End Time Chronology

But … but … but … Psychic Fred didn't mention any bombs in his 2007 predictions. But I do like the admission that if nothing happens, “we will not be able to stretch the most specific one of our 20 flexiproofs any further in our present understanding” (“flexiproofs?”). And it's not like they haven't revised their predictions before:

On April 29th we started predicting dates for a terrorist Nuclear Bomb at the UN in midtown. Here are the mistakes we have made …

We no longer make predictions of the precise day. But we do predict it will happen sometime in the month of Sivan 2007—see 20 flexiproofs.

In correcting these incorrect dates we had to improve our chronology several times.

The Lords' Witnesses, the True Bible Code, End Time Chronology

Really? You had to correct your dates several times? I wonder how long it will take before reality sets in?

I'm guessing around June 19th. That is, if the UN isn't a smoking radioactive crater by that time …

God, I love Crank.net.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Close Encounters

[re—mi—do—do (octave lower)—sol]

Monday, June 11, 2007

WTFHDYUTTMGTIA111111

“Hey, Sean!” It was Smirk, calling from Charlotte. “Can you text message me the IP addresses we're using up here?”

“Um … ”

“Just the numbers, and just make a small ‘R’ next to the router addresses,” said Smirk. “I know how painful sending a text message is.”

“Um … okay,” I said, and hung up.

Okay … down down down down down options … um … no option to send a text message, okay, so backXXXX wrong button … down down down down down, okay, button underneath options—XXXX didn't want to call him, exit exit exit exit, sigh.

Down down down down down details? Okay, options? I guess send message, so down down down down select. Yes, text, so select. 6 4 … how do I … no no no! Not “Oh”—I wanted ”64”. Grrrrr. Back back. Okay, how do I get out of T9 mode# # # # # # # # # # # # I guess it's out of T9 mode by now. 6 4 … no, not “mg” … grrr … 6 6 6 6 4 4 4 4 … okay, the dot … um … how about * 1 1 1 1 3 3 3 3 no, looks horrible. back back back 1 pause 1 1 1 1 3 3 3 3

Oh, XXXX this!

Exit exit exit exit exit exit exit down down down down down call “Hey Smirk, you got a paper and pencil?”

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

“Tanks for the memories …”

At the awakening of the worlds, when
all were alone, and, isolated, fought
many and varied battles unaided,
a voice was heard to cry, “Bolo!”
and warriors found their brothers in arms.

The game takes the form of a tank battle for up to 16 players, set on an island. Players enter the game with their tank on a boat, somewhere off the coast of the island. They move to the island's shore, and leave the boat to drive up onto dry land. Players can shoot at each other, lay mines which only they can see, and engage in battles with the automatic pillboxes which are found on the island. They can also form teams to work together as allies, and can alter the map in various ways. For example, when a mine explodes, it leaves a crater. If the crater is adjacent to sea or river, it will flood with water. Players can build bridges over rivers, and buildings to make a fortress wall, and farm the forests by cutting down trees, to provide the materials for all this building. The forests also grow, not under the control of the players, but in a semi-random fashion designed to appear realistic. All these changes to the map must be communicated to all the other machines in the game so that all players see an identical map at all times. This is the central problem of the project—the maintenance of a distributed replicated database, where some data, such as the location of a particular tank, has a primary site (that player's machine) and some, such as the map and alliance information, does not.

"An Experiment in Real-Time Networking.

Dan W., my friend from FAU, was a big fan of Bolo, but I didn't realize it was the result of a university dissertation.


Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Just … just … just …

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth (video via Flutterby)

This is how kids are learning math these days?

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Granted, as a student I kept asking what, exactly, was the point of learning my multiplication tables, but I did it anyway. And I cheated all through fourth grade mathematics (which may have eventually led me to repeat pre-algebra in 8th grade), but the techniques discussed here appear to make the traditional method of long division appear easy and straightforward.

I seriously doubt that I would have “found” the way to do long division on my own.

And describe two ways of solving 36 ÷ 6?

Um …

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

I am so glad to be out of school, these days.

Updated on Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

Embedding YouTube videos doesn't quite work for me, and it's not because of the blogging engine I use …

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

So much for embedded journalism

Apparently, LiveJournal filters out embedded material (using the <OBJECT> and <EMBED> tags) and drops everything else past that when reading syndicated feeds.

Also, the use of the <EMBED> violates the HTML 4.01 Transitional standard, but without the <EMBED> tag, the video isn't actually embedded.

Sigh.

So I just removed the embedded video and provided a link to it.

And people who read me exclusively through LiveJournal will now know what I'm talking about.


Programming like Lego? I gave that up long ago

[S]oftware is not like Lego; we still do not assemble software from ready-made components as if we were building a Lego house. Almost every programmer has to write low level stuff like if blocks, for and while loops, opening and closing files, creating and deleting resources, thread synchronization etc.

Comment on Code Reads #1: The Mythical Man-Month

I never thought of while loops or opening a file as “low level details.” Twenty-five years ago, “low level” was writing in Assembly language and twiddling bits. But times change, and what was once a high level language (C++) is now considered “bare metal,” much like Assembly was years ago.

But “while loops” and “if blocks” are low level details? I don't necessarily think so. You might be able to hide such things behind more syntactic sugar (just as “while loops” hides the goto it's built out of) but I don't think you'll ever hide them completely (exceptions are one way of hiding a goto but I think that particular cure is worse than the original disease it tried to cure).

And there are others out there who will say we have software Legothe Unix command line. A series of pre-written programs (easily over a thousand such programs) that can be linked together in millions of ways.

Actually, the more I think about it, the more I'm inclined to think that the Legoesque metaphore of software development is not the way to go. We've already been there and have gone beyond it. In its pure form, Lego has a limited number of bricks, in a limited set of colors, which can be used to build just about anything you can imagine. That is, if you don't mind your resulting thing looking a bit blocky. The closest thing we have to that in computer science? Other than the command line, the only computer language I can think of that fits that (limited number of commands is the closest analogy I can think of) is Assembly. Moving, shifting, adding (among other mathematical operations) and testing of bits comprise over 80% of Assembly language (the other 20% Shifting execution to other parts of the program and some other, really esoteric operations usually reserved to the operating system itself).

How many programmers today use Assembly daily?

Not many.

We've got tools that will take a high level concept like:

double A[2][4];
double B[3][2];
double C[][];

C = A × B;

And assemble all the Lego bricks Assembly language instructions required to express the concept (in this case, matrix multiplication). We'll do better, programming wise, to program at higher conceptual levels, than in trying to make programming like Lego bricks.

(I'm also finding Scott Rosenberg's Code Reads well worth reading)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Off towards Crystal Waving Territory

It's been a rather hectic day today, mostly over borrowing a video camera from Smirk for a weekend trip I'm taking to Orlando with Bunny. Getting the video camera involved three trips to his house; first time the battery died, so he needed time to recharge it to “finalize” the writable disc inside. A few hours later, I was able to pick up the camera, but had to return an hour later so Smirk could “finalize” one more disc he forgot about.

And between all of these trips I attended Scribal Night and dinner.

Fun fun fun.

Anyway, the trip to Orlando. Bunny and I are headed to the area (taking back roads, much like my last trip) to play our regularly scheduled D&D game‡.

Saturday we're headed to a small town I first read about over 25 years ago—Cassadaga, a New Age haven of crystal wavers. And when I found out about the Nighttime Orb Photography Tour, how could I not go there? Maybe this time I'll see some supernatural phenomenon (do do de do do), unlike the last time I went ghost hunting.

Sunday, we're hoping to catch sight of the largest gator ever built on our way to the Kennedy Space Center, and then afterwards, head back home.

Should be fun, but updates may be sporadic until I get back.

‡Bob is running the game in Orlando this week since he's attending SleuthCon. His game is run over the Internet so we don't have to go, but since some of Bob's other players from the West Coast are showing up, if we do play with Bob in Orlando, we'll be able to meet these players in person.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Driving through Dueling Banjo Country

Our hotel is located just off US-192 in Kissimmee, Florida, and to get there, I decided, like on my last trip, to take the back roads to get to our final destination. The plan consisted of taking US-441 north to Kenansville (north of the more well known Yeehaw Junction) where we would then turn left onto Canoe Creek Road until it runs into US-192, whereby we then take another left until we arrive at the hotel.

Another aspect of this trip is that I wanted to avoid any and all chain restaurants and eat only in local establishments—my own private Feasting on Asphalt if you will. And our first stop was in Okeechobee at a place called the Brahma Bull. A rustic place, it was practically dead when we arrived mid Friday afternoon. I didn't think much of it at the time, but that could be a bad sign.

[Hindus should probably skip this place]

Fortunately, it wasn't. Bunny and I had the special, Fish-n-Chips (using perch instead of the traditional cod) and it was quite good. The coleslaw was particularly good; enough so that Bunny asked for the recipe.

I must note that the men's room theme was rather disturbing—a bull chute—I guess the clientele can get a bit rowdy there.

[Moooooo!]

We then continued northward along US-441, through Yeehaw Junction til we hit the major Kenansville metro area, which consisted of a livestock feed store, a human feed store and what I could only assume was a bar. It was rather difficult to miss Canoe Creek Road, it being the major, and only interesection in Kenansville.

[The Greater Metropolitan Area of Kenansville] [Here's our turn] [The Local Hot Spot]

The ride up Canoe Creek Road was nice, although I was surprised at the high amount of traffic we encountered along the road—about one car every other mile or so. I had expected to be the only vehicle along this road.

And contrary to the title of this entry, Bunny and I encounted not one single banjo player, much less two dueling banjo players, much to our relief.


Geeking out at the end of a long day of travel

Bunny and I arrived at the hotel around 6:00 pm. I was planning on calling Bob, our D&D DM to see where he was, but while Bunny was checking us in, I followed the various signs for SleuthCon and found Bob already set up for our weekly D&D game in one of the conference rooms. He'd even gone so far as to set up a projection screen so that some of the early arrivals for SleuthCon could watch our D&D for the evening.

So I checked in with Bob, and Bunny checked in with the Front Desk. We then found our room, unloaded the car, and then headed back to the conference room to partake of some D&D action.

[D&D Group—yes, we're playing on computers] [I … I have no idea …] [The diabolical plans of the DM]

The only exception to my “non-chain restaurant” rule was tonight, as Bob ordered multiple pies from Pizza Hut. This was the only chain-restaurant food Bunny and I ate during the trip.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

In the Land of the Crystal Wavers

[Make sure you have your crystals ready]

We made it to Cassadaga, although we didn't travel the backroads but instead took I-4 East.

I had planned on arriving before 3:00 pm so we could take a historic tour of Cassadaga, but by the time we got going, it was a bit after 2:00 pm, so speed considerations took over asthetic considerations and thus, the trip up I-4. Cassadaga proved to be a bit futher than I expected, about 60 miles away.

We didn't arrive in time for the 3:00 pm historic tour (but more on that in a bit).

But we were in Cassadaga, a place so thick with mediums you can't wave a crystal without hitting one (as I joked to Bunny).

[Spiritualists here] [and here …] [and here …] [and here …] [and here …] [and here …] [and here …] [and here (and the Purple Rose also does aura photos) …] [but not here, about the only exception] [and don't mind the chem trails]

When we enquired about the tour we just missed, we were informed that the Nighttime Orb Photography Tour (which we planned on taking) included the historic tour normally given at 1:00 and 3:00 pm, only at night, and with the opporunity to take pictures of ectoplasmic orbs (or, whatever they are, and I'll be getting to those in a bit). Fortunately, we didn't really miss anything.


Photographing the unseen

Cassadaga is a small town and everything to really see is on the main street. We poked around the few shops there, and while gawking a large display of polished rocks in small side room of the Purple Rose, a medium came in carrying a Polaroid camera and leading a gentleman to a chair in one corner of the room.

He was having his aura photographed.

The man was a bit skeptical of the whole thing and asked how the camera could take a picture of his aura. The medium answered that the it was a specially modifed Polaroid with a computer (mounted on the bottom of the camera) that could detect the aura and modify the picture to reveal it visually. The gentleman then asked how the computer worked, and the medium professed no knowledge of things related to computers. “I can barely turn them on,” she said.

Okay, so now I have to get a photograph of my aura.

Bunny and I wait around for several minutes until the medium is finished with the previous customer. His first photo was deemed unacceptable by the medium, having entirely too much red, which was “residual auric energy from the previous customer.” She then handed the gentleman a large crystal to hold in taking the second photograph, which turned out “better” as far as the medium was concerned. She then spent several minutes interpreting his aura and handing him a small stone from the rack nearby to help him to boost one of his chakra points.

Once she was free I then asked if I can get my aura photographed while taping the procedure (I had borrowed a video camera from Smirk and had it with me in the store). The medium was a bit reluctant. “My mother, who owns the store,” she said, “generally doesn't allow filming.” Okay. Not terribly surprising really. “But let me ask,” she said, wandering off to another part of the store. A few moments later the medium returns and says that it's okay for me to film the procedure.

I'm guessing that $25 is $25 more than they would have had had they said no.

So I set up the video camera in the small room, angled such that I'm the only one in the shot—I was less concerned about getting her picture than I was her answers to my questions recorded. I asked where she got the “computer” attached to the Polaroid camera, and she said it came as a complete unit from a dealer (like this camera for about $3,000.00).

You don't say?

How curiously expensive.

[Do not taunt Happy Fun Bowl]

Just prior to the medium snapping my picture, a pure tone filled the store. “Hear that sound?” said the medium.

“Yes.”

“That's the Crystal Bowl,” she said. “It's a pure Middle-C tone, filled with red. I hope it doesn't affect your aura.” She sat me down in front of a black cloth, had me hold a quartz crystal I was buying (I happen to like crystals as crystals, and had picked up a nice sized piece of quartz. The medium said the crystal “picked” me, and said I should hold it during the photograph). “Oh dear,” she said as she took the picture. Apparently the pure Middle-C tone of the Crystal Bowl had affected the picture. “I ran out of film,” she said, and scurried off to get some more.

A couple of minutes go by, she returns. We set up again, and my aura is photographed. Apparently the redness of the Middle-C from the Crystal Bowl had waned, because my “aura” had very strong yellow tones (“spontaneous, open, optimistic, friendly, intelligent, healthy”) with white colors over my face (“imagination, insight, higher consciousness”). In fact, of the eight colors of the “chakra,” I was missing blue (“intuitive, peaceful, loyal, calm, tender, good listener”) and I had a very minimal amount of red (“passion, vitality, creativity, energy”). She then rooted around the bins of rocks and handed me a blue stone and a red stone to help make up for the lack of blue and red in my aura.

[I think I look a bit jaundiced myself]

It's amusing though. I'm looking through the meanings of the various chakra colors and I'm seeing only positive traits like “creative,” “compassionate,” “psychic,” and “charming”—stuff that most people would say could apply to them, or would like to think applies to them. What I don't see are any negative aspects, like “jealousy,” “greediness,” “pettiness,” or “gullible.”

I'm just saying.


These entries are taking long enough to create due to the heavy photography, so screw the commentary on this one and let's just see some pretty pictures of the area around Cassadaga, okay? Okay!

[Lake Helen—home of the American Gothic Church]
[Delightful Downtown DeLand]
[This place has really good food]

Bill & Frank's Brickhouse Grill—really good food

[Bunny and I kept hearing bells—I think this is where they were]

Little fluffy orbs

Bunny and I arrived back in Cassadaga well in time for the 8:00 pm Historic and Nighttime Orb Photography tour. We walked up to the bookstore and found a few people sitting around waiting. It turned out that one of them, an older gentleman who looked and sounded like Donald “Screetchboy” Sutherland was actually the Reverend Ben Cox, our tour guide for the evening.

[Our Orb Hunting Group—Rev. Ben is in the center]

He was a wonderful speaker and story teller. He lead us around Cassadaga, telling us the history of the place, along with the various spirits that supposedly live in the various buildings.

[Our guide, Rev. Ben, is one bright fellow]

He then took us to the main Spiritualist Temple in town and explained how not only the church service works, but how séances are conducted in the small red-lit room at the back of the temple.

[Rev. Ben explains the ins and outs of the Séance Room]

Now, about those orbs …

After the tour, he lead us to a small clearing behind the temple and told us that this area was rich with orbs and that we should have no problems with catching one or two, but for the best results, we should use flash photography.

Hmmm …

I took a bunch of photos with and without flash.

Here's a pair (the first is the actual photograph, the second photo has been processed with histogram equalization to pull out more detail) taken without the use of flash:

[lack of flash, lack of orbs]
[enhanced—lack of flash, lack of orbs]

and here's a pair with flash (the “orb” is along the ground just below the tree):

[flash, meet orb]
[enhanced—orb, meet flash]

I took twenty photographs, some without flash, most with, and in every one with flash, there were orbs (in most cases, they were only visible when the image was equalized). In this pair, I present the picture with the most visible orb, along with the equalized version, showing even more orbs floating around:

[What a lonely orb]
[Wait … not so lonely after all!]

What's going on here are light reflections, either from pollen, dust, bugs or even reflections in the lens from the flash. I seriously doubt they're really any form of “ectoplasm” (which Rev. Ben explained is similar to salt water).

[A close-up of the orb]
[Enhanced close-up of the orb]

Overall, Bunny and I felt the tour was worth the price. It was entertaining and informative, and everybody enjoyed themselves. It was interesting to see a real séance room and learn how séances “work.” The Reverend Ben is an excellent speaker and story teller.

And overall, Cassadaga was an interesting place to visit. Quite peaceful, and laid back. It might even make a nice place to take a vacation, if one can keep from tripping over all the crystals.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The long way home

Not much to report on today. And few pictures.

Our plan for today was to take SR-50 east towards Titusville, pass the world's largest built alligator, hit the Kennedy Space Center, then head south back home.

We left the hotel around 12:45 pm, taking US-192 to I-4 for the few miles north to SR-50. What we did not know was that SR-50 just east of I-4 is Little Saigon. For what seemed like a mile we passed block after block of Asian and Vietnamese stores.

Little Saigon in Orlando? In El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de la Porciúncula, yes, I would expect a Little Saigon. But Orlando?

Go figure.

Eventually, after taking a wrong turn onto SR-520 and having to execute a U-turn back to SR-50, we found it.

[That's 200′ of gator goodness there]

The largest gator ever built, all 200′ of it. And for an attraction that's still active, I would have expected to see more advertising for it somewhere along SR-50 (along the Turnpike, you can't drive 200′ without seeing a billboard for Walt Disney World—or at least, discount tickets for Walt Disney World).

By the time we hit Titusville, Bunny and I were famished from lack of food. We turned south along US-1 (also known as Federal Highway, or Dixie Highway, depending upon where you are) and started our hunt for a suitable eating establishment. After about five miles of nothing, Bunny put down an ultimatum: “The next restaurant we see, we eat.”

The next restaurant we found was a small Chinese take-out place. “Well,” said Bunny, “that rule wasn't cast in stone.” We drove on, and eventually found a place to eat.

[The almost famous Dogs ‘R’ Us]

The Dogs ‘R’ Us Grill. A rarity these days—a local fast food restaurant. Couldn't pass this one up.

And again, it was good.

Either that, or the spice of hunger made it taste all the much better.

But so far on this trip, all the local establishments we ate at were very good and a nice break from all the mediocre conformity you normally get at a national chain restaurants.

By the time we finished eating, it was nearly 4:00 pm, and we decided that it was just simply too late to visit the Kennedy Space Center. So we turned south along US-1.

By the time we hit the corner of US-1 and SR-60, we'd both had enough of the backstreet approach to driving, so we turned west along SR-60, and hit I-95 south back home.

All told, it took us maybe six hours from the time we left the hotel to arrive back at Bunny's house. Whereupon I was exhausted and took a two hour nap.

And thus ended our weekend mini-vacation.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Attack of the Sleeping Storm

I'm not sure if it was residual stress from all the driving I did over the weekend, shaking off some low level cold I may have picked up, or the various cryslals I picked up in Cassadaga zapping my energy, but whatever it was, I slept pretty much the entire day.

When I did wake up around 10:00 pm (yes, you read that right, 2200 hours) Spring said that it might have been the storm that passed through the area today. “Did you fall back asleep around 4 or 5 o'clock?” she asked.

“Yes.” Okay, so I didn't sleep the entire day. I was up for maybe two or three hours though.

“Must have been the storm,” she said. “At that time at Negiyo, everybody was struggling to stay awake.”

How odd …


Is it global warming, or just urban heat islands?

Some quick links before I go back to sleep.

It seems that Anthony Watts is questioning the collection of tempurature data and that the data is showing urban heat islands and not necessarily global warming.

I got the link from Flutterby, which has some further commentary and links about this phenomenon (do do de do do) that's worth reading up on as well.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Link dump

I must be feeling better today, as at least I'm conscious.

Anyway, doing yet another link dump, as I'm horribly behind on stuff around here.

The next big thing in computing (via Flutterby), which is about dynamic scaling of computing (or websites).

And then there's the real price of gasoline (via Flutterby again), which states that the price of gasoline here in the States is too low by $3.50/gallon due to government subsidies (and how with the artificially depressed prices, we'll never get around to fully developing alternative energy).

And finally, acquaintance of mine moved to Nicaragua because, as he put it, “I've wanted to … outsource myself to someplace warm and sunny with decent DSL.” Globalization can cut both ways I guess.


The Spiritualists … they're following me …

I was just about to start my car and leave the grocery store parking lot (grocery shopping is normally Monday but I was a bit under the weather so to speak) when this older woman approached my car, holding out a small pamphlet. Letting out a sigh, I rolled down my window.

“Here you go,” she said, handing the small pamphlet. “God bless.” And she wandered off.

I looked at the pamphlet. It was an honest to God Christian Tract.

I think this is the first time I've ever recieved one.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Next time, I think I'll skip the pizza as a late-night snack

I was feeling a bit under the weather last night and this morning, and that apparently affected my dreams. They're not exactly nightmares (and oddly enough, that's the second time this week I've referenced that entry) but more the type of dream where everything is normal, yet it isn't.

The one dream I do remember fits that mold. I was in high school, but not the one I actually attended. This one was out in some mountainous region like the Rockies. That's the normal bit. The not-quite normal bit was when the mountains started … liquifying, but that's not quite the right term. But it wasn't exactly like a rock slide either. The mountains just … melted? But no heat was involved. Probably more like the mountains turned into a type of non-Newtonian fluid (much like cornstarch with water), upon which the school was carried upon down into a valley.

Not sure what that was all about, but at least I didn't miss the bus (which is normally the nightmare I have when I dream about school).


Things that make you go “Hmmm … ”

I was working on the Cassadaga entries (yes, I'm quite behind on the entries here) when I was struck by this sudden thought—this:

[This is a chandelier]

and this:

[This is a so called “orb”]

are very similar …

Hmmmm ….

Thursday, June 21, 2007

More of the Victorian influence

Spring likes the current TARDIS interior, but frankly, I can't stand it (although granted, it's just marginally better than the mid-90s interior, which in my universe, never happened). No, I like the standard interior.

But I absolutely love the Victorian TARDIS interior:

[Now that's a console!]

There are, unfortunately, very few pictures of this interior on the Internet, oddly enough. To get some, I actually rented the episode this interior appears in, and grabbed some screen shots:

[Sorry about the color]
[but I wanted the detail]
[so I had to stretch the contrast a bit]

(of course, after I did all that, I found the Wikipedia page for this interior—sigh)

I'm not sure why the producers didn't use this interior more, nor why they even had it to begin with. The information about this particular interior is very hard to come by.

Pity. It's a lovely TARDIS interior.

Friday, June 22, 2007

“I forsee myself getting a license … so therefore, I'm psychic, so give me my license … ”

SALEM - Lawyers have the bar exam. Accountants have the CPA exam.

Should Salem's fortunetellers have to pass a test of their own to prove they're psychic?

City councilors, hoping to crack down on fraudulent fortunetellers, are trying to define exactly how a psychic can become licensed to set up shop in the Witch City. They want candidates to undergo a criminal background check and to either live or run a business in Salem for at least a year.

Via Swift, Salem struggles to sort out psychic “free-for-all’

Funny, Cassadaga also licensed their psychics. Bunny actually asked the Reverend Ben about this, and he said there was a board that certified all the psychics and mediums in Cassadaga.

Go figure.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

“Mars is amazing! Mars is aaaaammmmmaaaaaaaazing!”

Bill Watterson may not approve, but this is funny. Those guys at Robot Chicken are twisted, sick, and hilarious.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Crazy theremin music

This is for Bunny: a cover of Gnarls Barkley's “Crazy is cool” featuring a couple of theremins (link via spin the cat).

Monday, June 25, 2007

And the title has nothing to do with the film …

I worked on Star Wars Episodes I and II, on the Matrix films, on AI and Terminator 3; yet 25 years later there are ways in which Blade Runner surpasses anything that's been done since. Watching the theatrical release DVD at home with PM reminded me of Scott's genius for creating stunning effects with simple technology.

Via Instapundit, Blade Runner at 25: Why the Sci-Fi F/X Are Still Unsurpassed

An all too short (unfortunately) look at some of the special effects of Blade Runner by Mythbuster Adam Savage. I just wish he went into a bit more depth on this, but alas …


But, how could it fail? I thought China was Communistic and needn't concern itself with economic viability. Or does this mean Communism, in fact, doesn't work? Oh my! Say it ain't so!

It's rather heartening, actually, to think that we aren't alone in abandoned theme parks. It seems that there's an abandoned theme park in China (via Instapundit).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sometimes, I wish software were alive, so that I could take the occasional program out back behind the shed to put it out of my misery and maybe scare the rest of the little software programs to behave unless they too, wish to spend the last few seconds of life out behind the shed. What? Me? Bitter?

One of our customers has been having this weird email problem for the past few weeks, and the fact that we're still working on it means that we haven't exactly solved it yet, nor have we (rather, I) found the source of the problem (and the problem? Mail from one of our webservers, S, is being sent to our customer's colocated email server, W. Now, email for W goes through our spam firewall B. So, we have S → B → W. But somewhere along the way, the mail is bouncing back to S with the error “Client host rejected: too many connections( 2 ).” Unfortunately, this is on B, the spam firewall, which is an appliance, which means, we have very little control over its operation, but I digress).

Now, because of that, I've been having to check the logs on various servers, which include the spam firewall. The only way to check the logs on the spam firewall is through a web interface. Said web interface is restricted such that connections from certain IP addresses are allowed, all others rejected. That's fine, except when I'm not at Casa New Jersey. Then, checking the spam filewall logs is rather difficult.

So I figured I would install Firefox on my virtual workstation at The Office. I could then run the browser there (which is allowed access to the spam firewall) and have it displayed on whatever computer I happen to be using (assuming I'm using X Windows). So, on my virtual workstation, I issue the following command: yum install firefox.

Problem number one: I haven't fully thought this through (more on this later). Problem number two (and the more immediate problem at this point): I'm using yum, a package management system. Oh, it installs Firefox all right. But somehow in the process of installing Firefox, yum, for some bizarre reason, decides to delete the contents of /dev.

Now, for those of you who might not be familiar with Unix (of which Linux is a derivative), the contents of /dev are special files that enumerate the devices on the computer. Deleting the contents doesn't actually delete the device drivers (code that manage the devices), but it does make it hard for any programs to find any devices to use. Which leads me to problem number three: my virtual workstation is now useless.

How yum deleted /dev (no—scratch that—I know how yum deleted the files, obviously by using the unlink() system call) why yum deleted /dev/ I don't know. There's no reason why installing Firefox should do that. I resist the urge to debug yum and figure out why it did that, and just accept the inevitable fact that ocassionally, yum will just decide to delete /dev (and possibly other useful stuff like /bin or /home/sean/images/pr0n) and get on with my life (and the problem at hand, which is a dead workstation).

I manage to get my virtual workstation in working condition and now I'm able to log in, and run Firefox.

Oh, that's right—Firefox will check for a locally running instance and tell that one to open up a window, because, you know, sending all that GUI traffic across the network makes it run even slower, even though that's what I want, you stupid piece of XXXX!

Sigh.

And it seems that the latest version of firefox doesn't even support the -no-remote option.

Aaaaarrgggl!

So I go do what I should have done in the first place (problem one)—use an ssh tunnel: ssh -L 8080:spamfirewall:443 virtual-workstation. Then I can point my locally running broswer to http://localhost:8080/ and login to the spam firewall.

Now I can get back to solving the actual issue with email.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

He told me that, in his opinion, all the calculations that would ever be needed in this country could be done on the three digital computers which were then being built—one in Cambridge, one in Teddington, and one in Manchester. No one else, he said, would ever need machines of their own, or would be able to afford to buy them.

Douglas Hartree and not Thomas Watson, Sr. as popularly thought.

And according to Scott Hanselman, we might be headed for that future. Only the five computers of Scott's future are not single computers, but five “hives” of computers providing us with most of our services, with Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Sun (with the fifth “hive” being personal computers running shared computing programs like Folding@home).

And while it seems such an outcome is destined to happen, I personally find it a bit scary, although I can't exactly articulate why I find this scary (other than not having control over my own data or computer) and hopefully, we won't end up with The Big Five.


Cheating

Bunny and I just had a little contest to see who could do the Daily Jumble first—Bunny would do it normally, using her brain and a pen, and I would “cheat” by using the computer. The jumble was:

What the tourists paid to use a cell phone in Italy.

THALC _ [_] _ [_] [_]

SEGUS [_] _ [_] [_] _

RETOAT [_] [_] _ [_] _ _

MEINER _ [_] [_] _ [_] _

[_] [_] [_] [_] [_]
[_] [_] [_] [_] [_] [_] [_]

So, did I have a Jumble solving program? Nope. Just the Unix command line, used like this:

GenericUnixPrompt> grep '^[thalc][thalc][thalc][thalc][thalc]$' /usr/dict/words
catch
hatch
latch
GenericUnitPrompt>

I then had to scan the output list (which isn't a very long list) to find the word that actually matches. In this case, the word can't be “catch” because there aren't two Cs, nor can it be “hatch” since there aren't two Hs, leaving the first Jumble word as “latch.”

A couple of minutes, and I have all four words decoded. I then had to take a call on my cell phone. Bunny was still working on word number three.

A few minutes for the conversation, and I start on the solution. By now, Bunny had guessed half the answer, and was working to figure out the last Jumble word (which is “ermine”). I was working to get the final solution, with twelve letters, split between two words, it wasn't easy. A list of five letter words that can be made from the twelve letters of the solution was too large to scan. So was the list of seven letter words. I bogged down, and Bunny was able to pull in the final answer and win.

Just goes to show you that even when “cheating,” you might not always win (now, had I searched the dictionary list for words starting in a capital letter, I might have won, but that thought didn't occur to me).

Thursday, June 28, 2007

24 employees and 200 servers? What type of company are they running over there?

An apparently sucessful company.

  1. The site is serving up seven billion pageviews a month from 200 servers.
  2. All 24 employees work at a Victorian house in San Francisco
  3. The company has never had a tech quit in 12 years
  4. [It] never holds meetings.

Via Steve Dekorte, The XXXXXXXXXX Secret

The company? Craigslist. I would also note that Craigslist is still privately held, and I fear the day that it isn't—just look at Google since they went public.


Computers are cheap, but not power

If you're Google, or any other company building out massive datacenter farms, cheap hardware is a strategic advantage. It means you can build larger and larger datacenters for less money. Computers may be smaller and cheaper than ever, but they still require electricity to operate. You now have a new problem. The electrical power used to drive all that free hardware you've amassed becomes your greatest expense:

All this tells us is that Google's problems aren't necessarily our personal problems. Not exactly news. But if you multiply that result by the tens of thousands of servers in Google's server farm, all operating at near 100% load, it's a whole different ballgame. Efficiency is a strategic business decision for Google. Considering the millions upon millions of computers in the world, more efficient PC power supplies are also part of the greater public good. Do no evil, indeed.

Via reddit, When Hardware is Free, Power is Expensive

Power is a concern at The Company. Not only is it powering the computers, but the support equipment (mainly the honking air conditioning required) that needs to be factored in as well.

In fact, Smirk had me building a ton of firewall boxes (as well as our name servers) out of old Cobalt RaQs, not because they were cheap (well, yes, they are) but because they use very low power. We even tested using a Mac Mini as a very low cost server platform. The RaQs worked well. The Mac Mini … eh.

What's really working well are the virtual servers—running multiple servers on a really large server. That's working for us, as a small webhosting company. Google, on the other hand, is another beast entirely.

Friday, June 29, 2007

GNU news is good news, I guess

Hmmm … it seems that the FSF has finally released the GPLv3 (with an accompanying FAQ).

This means I have to read through it and see if I like it or not, or if I should just stick with the old version 2 of the license for my projects.


Six Things I Learned About Programming

This is an interesting meme: Three Things I Learned About Software While Not In College (via reddit). And a lot of the comments are centering on three things learned in college and out of college.

So I'll play along here.

Three things I learned while at college:

  1. Not many students “got” programming, and far too many were there for the money (ha ha, the joke was on them come the Tech Stock Crash of 2001).
  2. It is possible to get into an upper level class and still have no clue how compilers work (“Where do the comments go?” indeed … ).
  3. Make friends with the system adminstrators—that way, you'll stand a better chance of avoiding … um … “complications” for pranks misunderstandings gone awry.

And the three things I've learned since:

  1. Clear code is better than clever hacks. Especially if you end up maintaining the codebase.
  2. You Aren't Gonna Need It.
  3. Not many people “get” programming, and far too many are proving this in Perl and PHP.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

The thrill of plastic army men

I remember the comic book ads touting a mass of toy soldiers (link via news from me) as a kid, and I was always curious.

But never having the money, nor the desire to actually destroy one of my precious comic books, I was to remain curious about these ads. I always assumed they were like the little green plastic army guys that were omnipresent in my childhood. Even as an adult, I was curious as to what these kits actually were.

And now I know—they're even cheaper and cheesier than the little green plastic army guys. Glad I saved my (non-existent) money.


I don't mean anything by this; it's just an observation, that's all.

Basically, it's that she works great if you don't use her as a substitute for knowing roughly where you're going. You can't follow her instructions mindlessly but she sure helps me get around, even on semi-familiar turf. I'm learning the names of local streets I only vaguely knew and every so often, even when I know how to get where I'm going, I ask her to plot a route and it's sometimes a clever suggestion.

news from me: Heeding Henrietta

This reminds me of an incident that happened over a year ago (obliquely referenced as “Gregory started to drive, but wasn't feeling all that well, so I took over for him”) dealing with a GPS (and Gregory and I have been over this incident many a time before, and I doubt we'll change our respective minds on the situation) but yes, I can agree that GPS works best if you don't slavishly follow its directions.

Then again, I can say the same thing about using computers too.

Obligatory Picture

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

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

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