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.

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Notes on an overheard conversation outside a used book and compact disc store

“Are all the CDs like this?”

“Yup. All ten boxes.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“I've seen a lot of CD collections in my life … ”

“Yes?”

“And I've seen some really bad collections … ”

“And?”

“This collection has to be the single worst collection of CDs I've ever come across. It's like these were given out for free. I'm not sure who would buy this crap.”

“That bad, huh?”

Music for Aromatherapy?

“Erm … um … ”

“I might have to charge you just on principle.”

“You wouldn't happen to have a dumpster, would you?”

“Oh Hell no!”

”Sigh.”

Friday, March 06, 2020

The 2020 Surprise Birthday Party Road Trip

[Note: This is being written after the fact so as not to spoil the surprise of a surprise birthday party. —Editor]

The COVID-19 is close to being a pandemic, and Florida has declared a state of emergency. What better way to celebrate than with a road trip! My friend Joe just turned XX so Bunny, my friend Kurt and I are headed north to Marianna, Florida for a surprise birthday party. The last time we visited Joe was … wow … eleven years ago to attend Joe's father's funeral. At least this time it's under better circumstances.

But first, Bunny and I had to drive from Chez Boca down to Davie to pick up Kurt. Unfortunately, Kurt could not get the day off so we had to pick him up at 5:00 pm. On a Friday. Joy. What should have been a 40 minute drive ended up being over an hour as traffic was insane. I-95 was a parking lot. A segment of the Florida Turnpike was closed. That left the Sawgrass Expressway, which while clean of heavy traffic, left us six miles west of Kurt's house.

Sigh.

And in the short time we spent picking him up, the northbound Sawgrass Expressway clogged up with traffic, leading to even more delays.

And delays.

It was about 2½ hours after Bunny and I started this trip that we finally got out of South Florida. Then we could start the seven hour drive to Marianna.

Let's see … Bunny and I left the house at 4:15 pm. We arrived at the hotel in Marianna around 2:00 am, but Marianna is in Central, Chez Boca is in Eastern, so we arrived at the hotel at 3:00 am our time, making for an eleven hour drive. For what should have been a 7½ hour trip.

Bleech.


Seriously, these were the cleanest gas station bathrooms I've ever seen

The gas gauge was reading “E” by the time we hit I-10 westbound on our roadtrip. I pulled off at the first available exit that had a gas station and that's how we found ourselves at The Busy Bee. How shall I describe it? Hmm … how about The Four Seasons of gas stations?

Seriously, it's impressive as a gas station. Did I say “gas station?” It's also a recharging station. And a food court. And a candy store. And a confection store. It pretty much has everything, including the cleanest public bathrooms I've even seen. They were even cleaner than our hotel bathroom!

So if you are ever in North Florida and come across a Busy Bee, do yourself a favor and stop. You won't be sorry.


Orange you glad it wasn't banana slices?

It's 3:00 am. Or rather, 2:00 am (this time zone change is really throwing me off here). We've unloaded the car, and as I'm plugging in my iPad to recharge, I find orange segments on the floor. Dusty orange segments.

Lovely.

Personally, I think I would have preferred staying at The Busy Bee than our hotel room. It's not that the hotel was that bad (dusty orange segments aside), but that the Busy Bee was that good.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Surprise!

There's not much to report on Joe's surprise birthday party. Joe was expecting only family at this gathering and he was genuinely surprised at our being there. We then spent the rest of the day (and quite a bit of the night) just hanging out, talking and reminiscing, and eating a ton of good food.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Traffic jams at night

If I thought the drive up to North Florida was bad, the drive back was even worse! There was heavy traffic southbound on the Florida Turnpike. And bumper-to-bumper traffic in I-95 south at 11:00 pm. On a Sunday! (“What you are all doing on the road at this time of night? Why aren't you at home sleeping?”)

I think it took us … twelve? … hours to get home for what should normally be a 7½ hour trip (not only did we change time zones, but there was also that whole “spring back” thing to contend with).

We also learned one should not attempt to eat at The Cracker Barrel on a Sunday afternoon in North Florida (there was a waiting line just to park!).

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Notes on an overheard conversation at the Ft. Lauderdale Office of The Corporation

BANG!

BANG!

BANG!

BANG!

“Is there someone trapped in your desk desperately trying to escape?”

“No. It's a construction crew ripping up the tiles on the patio below our office.”

“Oh, so it is.”

Monday, March 16, 2020

Is their network infected with COVID-19?

XXXXXXXXXXXX: You've used about 50% data limit and may be restricted for the rest of the bill cycle.

Gee, thanks Oligarchist Cell Phone Company. I'm only using up my current data plan because the Monopolistic Phone Company can't seem to route around a broken router on their network, rendering my DSL useless for large chunks of time (it'll route around the trouble spot for maybe an hour or so, then BAM! right back to the broken router for a few hours).

I admit, I'm lucky. I can easily work from home (and yes, we at the Ft. Lauderdale Office of the Corporation just got the COVID-19 memo to work from home) but now I have to bounce back and forth between the DSL yoyo and the possibly throttled smart phone personal hotspot.

Grrrrrrrr …

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Priorities in the time of COVID-19

When I awoke, I noticed that the DSL was back up. I immediately logged into my web server and did a traceroute back to Chez Boca. Over the past few days when I've run traceroute, I noticed that when we were down the traffic was always hitting the same IP address, and the short time we were up, traffic was being routed around that “bad” IP address. But I saw the packets go through the “bad” IP address and I realized that the Monopolistic Phone Company had finally gotten its act together and fixed the broken link. I then informed Bunny that there was no need to upgrade our data plan with the Oligarchist Cell Phone Company.

Now I can watch cat videos get back to work without trouble.


I just finished reading a polarizing book

I just finished reading the book A Confederacy of Dunces. I started reading it Christmas day as it was a gift from Bunny. She got me the book because she read it was uproariously funny. The fact that it won the Pulitzer Price for Fiction (1981) and is considered a canonical work of “Southern Literature” is just icing on the cake.

I did not find it uproariously funny.
I did not fine it somewhat funny.
I did not find it funny.
I did not find it amusing.
I did not find it slightly amusing.
I downright hated the book.

The only reason I stuck it out and finished the book was because it was a gift from Bunny. None of the characters were likable; all of them were downright loathesome, horrible people. The main character had no arc to his story. In fact, there was only one character to have any form of arc at all.

Back when I was halfway through the book (around mid-January), I wrote to my best friend Sean Hoade about this book. I asked him if he had read the novel, and not only did he, but “[t]hat is the funniest novel I've ever read, and one of only three or four that I've read more than once.” As the main character was a graduate student and the novel takes place in New Orleans, I then asked him if one needed be a graduate student who lived in the Deep South to appreciate the book, because I sure didn't (I'm neither—and no, South Florida does not belong to the Deep South; South Florida is more like a New York City borough than the Deep South—at least we have decent delis down here).

He wrote back:

I've heard that same reaction from some people, and not just non-academic folk. To me, it's like Hitchhiker's Guide—some people find it tear-inducingly funny and others “just don't get it.” It's true that nerds are more likely to find HGTTG funny, but some don't. Some of them even think it's stupid and obvious.

I find both of them a scream. Maybe I'm just an easy laugh. (Well, I am, but still.)

There are no likeable characters, but all are (IMHO) fascinating, especially Ignatius, of course. But everything with Levy Pants slays me.

Honestly, although the saying is usually used to indicate one person's taste is shit, but there really is no accounting for taste. We have pretty similar senses of humor, but we obviously don't agree about this being funny.

It's kind of like the movie Napoleon Dynamite: Back when Netflix mailed out physical DVDs and getting one you didn't like meant a 2-to-4-day wait for another, user ratings were very important as predictors of what subscribers would get as suggestions. You rate Movie A some number of stars, so Netflix recommends Movie B because it has a high rating among other subscribers who gave Movie A the rating you did.

But Napoleon Dynamite destroyed the system, because 100% of people who rented it gave it either one star or five stars. No one gave it two or three or four stars. People either completely loved it or they utterly hated it.

And get this: Netflix algorithms could find no correlation between the rating viewers gave Napoleon Dynamite and any other films. Couple this with the fact that around 2005, ND was one of the top Netflix rentals of the year, and you have a recipe for recommendation disaster.

I think Dunces is like that. I loved both Dunces and Dynamite, but, as mentioned above, I'm an easy laugh.

As Jones would say, “Whoa!”

So this appears to be one of those things where you either love it or loathe it, and I'm in the second camp. So buyer beware. You might love this book. You might hate this book. I don't think you'll be “meh” about this book.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Can one make COVID-19 jokes? I hope so, becuse this is a COVID-19 joke

Bunny received the following text from one of her friends:

I posted a warning at the hardware store to not pop the bubble wrap because the air in the bubble wrap is from China. We had to sedate one guy because he is addicted to bubble wrap popping.

We both found it funny, even if it might not be true. There is some concern about COVID-19 survivability on surfaces though, so be careful.

I am so getting struck by lightning.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Still another issue with DoH, yet this time it isn't my fault

So I'm reading this comment on Hacker News and none of the links are working. Odd, because I have had no problems since Debtember with my current implementation of DoH. The broken links in question all have the hostname ending with a period. While unusual, the trailing dot on a hostname makes is a “fully qualified domain name.” I won't go into the full details of a “fully qualified domain name” (that's beyond the scope of this post) but suffice to say, it should be supported.

Okay, fine. I start looking at my script and … well … there's no reason for it to fail. I mean, I did find two bugs (one typo and one logic bug in handling an error) but they were unrelated to not resolving a fully qualified domain name. Down the rabbit hole I go.

What do I find once I hit bottom? Not Alice, but I do think I found a bug in Firefox. And I think it's a similar cause as before—a different codepath.

When I force Firefox to use DNS, both boston.conman.org and boston.conman.org. (note the trailing dot) produce the following DNS request:

00000000: 00 00 01 00 00 01 00 00 00 00 00 01 06 62 6F 73 .............bos
00000010: 74 6F 6E 06 63 6F 6E 6D 61 6E 03 6F 72 67 00 00 ton.conman.org..
00000020: 01 00 01 00 00 29 10 00 00 00 00 00 00 08 00 08 .....)..........
00000030: 00 04 00 01 00 00                               ......

When I switch back to DoH however, boston.conman.org. (note the fully qualified domain name) generates this:

00000000: 00 00 01 00 00 01 00 00 00 00 00 01 06 62 6F 73 .............bos
00000010: 74 6F 6E 06 63 6F 6E 6D 61 6E 03 6F 72 67 00 00 ton.conman.org..
00000020: 00 01 00 01 00 00 29 10 00 00 00 00 00 00 08 00 ......).........
00000030: 08 00 04 00 01 00 00                            .......

There's an extra NUL byte after the domain name, and I suspect what's happening is that the extra “.” at the end is being encoded instead of being ignored. I've created a bug report so we'll see how this goes.

Update on Friday, March 27TH, 2020

The bug has been fixed..

Monday, March 23, 2020

Doing my thing to maintain social distancing

About fifteen years ago [Has it really been that long? –Sean] [Yes, it has been that lone. –Editor], I was playing in a D&D game that had transitioned from being all in-person to partially on-line. I was not a fan of the on-line compoent but I stuck it out for perhaps a year before leaving the game entirely. For me, the reaons include:

I hated it so much that I have since refused to even consider playing in an on-line D&D game. My stance has caused one casualty—one friend accused me of “poisoning the minds” of our friends against running an on-line D&D game, but as I tried pointing out, I was the one who refused to participate in such a game; our other friends were more than welcome to run an on-line game, but that argument went nowhere, and I think that friend still holds a grudge (well, for that and another slight that's beyond the scope of this post).

Unfortunately, due to circumstances apparently beyond the world's control, and the fact that I'm currently running a D&D game, I have been forced to reconsider my stance.

Yes, I ran our twice-monthly (actually every other week) game yesterday, entirely on-line! (sorry, XXXXX­XX)

We settled upon using Roll20, a web-based on-line gaming system. The free version is barely good enough for our use. On the plus side, there's no software to install, but on the minus side, it does seem to be quite heavy in bandwidth. It took about an hour to get all six people (myself and five friends) all online and talking (video chat!). I had to inform Bunny not to stream video while we were playing, and even checking email was a slow and painful process. And during the game, one or two players would suddenly disappear; usually reloading the page would fix the problem.

But we managed to get through the session and well … I hope this doesn't go on for much longer is all I have to say.

One funny story—during the hour we spent trying to get Roll20 working, I tried several different laptops here at Chez Boca. One of the laptops was the managed Windows 10 laptop from The Corporation's Corporate Overlords. The website was blocked by the laptop because of a password breach from 2018! Lovely.


This is the type of town that gives small town politics a bad name

A meeting for a South Florida city government exploded into a shouting match over the city's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, leading the mayor to storm out of the room as one commissioner accused her and the city manager of failing to close the city's beaches and shutting off peoples' utilities in the midst of the outbreak.

Via Bunny, Florida city meeting melts down as officials scream at each other over coronavirus response | Fox News

Why does it not surprise me that this took place in Lake Worthless? And why does it not surprise me that it involves Lake Worthless Utilities?

Stay classy, Lake Worthless. Stay classy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

You still have the flexible schedule but the games of nude laser tag with lingerie models is not an option

I'm on the second week of working from home, and I'm totally not watching cat videos. Nope.

Not at all.

Not one bit.

And while working from home can be awesome, it's not all less time in the car and fewer spam calls.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Return of the Alien White Squirrels

Almost three years ago the Total Transylvania Eclipse Banner arrived at our house. I manged to buy one of the banners that adorned downtown Brevard during the 2017 total eclipse. Bunny had apparently saved the shipping tube it came in, because just today she found a few postcards and stickers that were shipped along with the banner (she's reusing the tube to ship some stuff out to her brother in Seattle).

What a cool find!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

There just aren't enough clue-by-fours

In this paper I present an analysis of 1,976 unsolicited answers received from the targets of a malicious email campaign, who were mostly unaware that they were not contacting the real sender of the malicious messages. I received the messages because the spammers, whom I had described previously on my blog, decided to take revenge by putting my email address in the ‘reply-to’ field of a malicious email campaign. Many of the victims were unaware that the message they had received was fake and contained malware. Some even asked me to resend the malware as it had been blocked by their anti-virus product. I have read those 1,976 messages, analysed and classified victims’ answers, and present them here.

5. The fifth group is actually the most worrying. I call this group ‘MY ANTI-VIRUS WORKED, PLEASE SEND AGAIN’, as these are recipients who mention that their security product (mostly anti-virus) warned them against an infected file, but they wanted the file to be resent because they could not open it. The group consisted of 44 individuals (2.35%).

Via inks, Virus Bulletin :: VB2019 paper: 2,000 reactions to a malware attack — accidental study

Over a year ago, the Corporate Overlords of The Ft. Lauderdale Office of The Corporation started sending us phishing emails in order to “train us” to recognize scams. Pretty much all it did for me was to treat all emails from our Corporate Overlords asking for information as a phishing attempt (it's also made easier as each phishing email has a specific header designating it as such to ensure they get through their own spam firewall—I am not making this up). And I was upset over the practice as I felt our Corporate Overlords did not trust their employees and felt they had to treat us as children (the managed laptops don't help either).

But reading this report is eye opening. Over 2% requested the malware be sent again! Over 11% complained that the “attachment” did not work (they were infected) and another 14% asked where was the “attachment”—what?

I … this … um … what?

I should not be surprised. I mean, someone has to fall for the scams else the scammers wouldn't waste their time. The scary bit is that this validates what our Corporate Overlords are doing.

Sigh.

But Bunny will find the following response group amusing:

10. One of the biggest surprises were 31 members of group number 10 (1.66%) who spent time pointing out all the spelling errors and typos made in the original message. I call this group “I'M A GRAMMAR NAZI”.

Via inks, Virus Bulletin :: VB2019 paper: 2,000 reactions to a malware attack — accidental study

Heh.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Looks like that DoH issue I had last week has been fixed

Oh cool! The Firefox bug I reported last week has been fixed. One week, I don't think I can complain, and it's nice to know that I apparently gave enough information for them to reproduce the bug and fix it. It looks like it'll be out in release 76 (the current version of Firefox is 74).

Obligatory Picture

[It's the most wonderful time of the year!]

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

You have my permission to link freely to any entry here. Go ahead, I won't bite. I promise.

The dates are the permanent links to that day's entries (or entry, if there is only one entry). The titles are the permanent links to that entry only. The format for the links are simple: Start with the base link for this site: http://boston.conman.org/, then add the date you are interested in, say 2000/08/01, so that would make the final URL:

http://boston.conman.org/2000/08/01

You can also specify the entire month by leaving off the day portion. You can even select an arbitrary portion of time.

You may also note subtle shading of the links and that's intentional: the “closer” the link is (relative to the page) the “brighter” it appears. It's an experiment in using color shading to denote the distance a link is from here. If you don't notice it, don't worry; it's not all that important.

It is assumed that every brand name, slogan, corporate name, symbol, design element, et cetera mentioned in these pages is a protected and/or trademarked entity, the sole property of its owner(s), and acknowledgement of this status is implied.

Copyright © 1999-2020 by Sean Conner. All Rights Reserved.