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.

Monday, November 01, 2021

So where do Floridians vacation in winter time?

During the colder seasons, most people head south for vacation. But Bunny and I already live in the south where it's hot and humid, so when we vacation, we head north! Yup, Bunny and I are back in Brevard, staying yet again at the The Red House Inn. Twelve hours of solid driving, then hauling our luggage up fourty-seven million flights of stairs later, and everything hurts, even our hair. But we're here, and we're settled in for a much needed vacation, as we skipped last year due to the human malware going around.

Now, given that I haven't been to the Ft. Lauderdale Office of The Corporation in well over a year, I probably could have just taken two days off (one to drive up here, and one to drive back) and worked remotely from Brevard, but I really need the time off from work to meditate on the cultural differences in development our Corporate Overlords are now pushing down on us.

So yeah, Bunny and I are in Brevard, where it's currently 50° (or 10°C for you Imperially challenged) and for us who hail from South Florida, it's quite brisk (read: cold) indeed.


Extreme parking, Brevard NC edition

Bunny and I were walking through downtown Brevard, killing some time until our reservation at Marco Trattoria when we saw this car just stop in the middle of the road, sit there for a bit, then shut off, and the driver just get out of the car!

[A car that is parked in the middle of Main St.] In the actual rules of Monopoly, there is no monetary reward for landing on Free Parking.

It's not like every street parking spot was taken up, no—there were still spots available. But I guess it was just more convenient to park in the middle of the street.

Wow!

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Today must be the eighth day of the week

It's a known fact that Brevard rolls up the sidewalks pretty early in the evening. About half the restaurants close by 8:00 pm, the rest about 9:00 pm with maybe one or two open past that (like The Waffle House of course).

So to give us a bit of time, Bunny and I decided to try the new Brevard Diner, which states it's open from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm. We leave about 7:30 pm, and less than five minutes later, we're pulling up to a building sitting in an empty parking lot and no lights on. The front door reads “Open 6:00 am—9:00 pm Seven Days Per Week.”

Sigh.

I guess the human malware has made things a bit more unpredictable around here.


Extreme home renovation, Brevard edition

Two years ago the house across the street from The Red House Inn burned down, leaving a field of smoldering embers. Today, there are four new houses:

[Four newly build houses in a row, all different.] Black wrought iron fencing is the new white picket fencing.

It's not terribly surprising that they went up quite fast, as they were all built by the same developer. But it is surprising that they're all different, and both Bunny and I love that.

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Extreme service, Brevard edition

While Bunny and I were out for lunch today, we came across this unfortunate soul:

[A skeleton sitting at a lunch counter with an arm outstretched.] “Hello? … Anybody? … At this point I just want a Coke. Also, does anyone know who won the World Series?  Did the Chicago Cubs win?”

On the plus side, the food was good!

Thursday, November 04, 2021

Extreme social bear distancing, Brevard edition

Bunny and I were walking through downtown Brevard when we came across this sign reminding us of our duty to social distance in these times of human malware:

[A graphic showing social distancing as being the size of a bear.] Do NOT offer the bear a Coke. This is only effective against polar bears. Also, I don't have to out run the bear, I just have to offer YOU to the bear.

Also handy to keep in mind: how to survive a bear attack.

Friday, November 05, 2021

Observations of a few oddities at night

A phoenomenon I haven't encountered for years is static electricity sparking in blankets. You just don't get that in Lower Sheol due to the high humidity.

Another odd phoenomenon that has happened twice now here in the The Red House Inn (and it will sound odd, but … ) is the bed shaking in the wee hours of the morning. The first time it happened, I woke Bunny up and she too, could feel the bed shimmying. Back home at Chez Boca, this happens from time to time, but the affect is milder, and is due to freight trains rumbling by (we live a bit over ½ mile (0.8k, again for the Imperially challenged) from the railroad favored by freight trains). But there are no freight trains in Brevard—there are no railroads in Brevard! I'm hoping there's a rational explanation for it besides an earthquake. Anything but an earthquake! I'd even accept a haunting!

But no earthquakes.


Extreme indoor forestry, Brevard edition

For dinner, Bunny and I went to the Jordan Street Cafe in downtown Brevard. We went for the rhubarb pie, but instead we found a tree:

[A live tree inside a restaurant] At least it provides shade against the restaurant lights as it looms large overhead.

In all seriousness, we did go because we heard the rhubarb pie was incredible, but with rhubarb being out of season, it was not to be.

We did have dinner there, and while the food was excellent, the service was … odd. It serves upscale food, but you order it at a counter, then sit and wait for your order. It was a long wait in line as chaos seemed to reign over the place. And it was a long wait for the food to arrive.

In our opinion, the long wait didn't justify the food, despite how good it was.

Saturday, November 06, 2021

Extreme doors of perception, Roanoke, Virginia edition

Bunny and I partook of a secondary road trip today, driving 275 miles to Roanoke, Virginia for our second visit to Black Dog Salvage. Unlike our last visit where the TV cast were out salvaging, this was an “open house” so they were there. Not that we saw much of them—we only saw one TV cast member but he was too busy to stop and chat (although he did say “Hello!”).

We did, however, get lost in a large hallway full of doors:

[A hallway full of doors. No, really, they're stacked on each other] You might think there's a mystery behind every door, but no, it's no mystery—it's another door.

But don't say we weren't warned though:

[Picture of a sign that says “MORE DOORS”] I wasn't kidding when I said there were more doors.

And yes, there were a lot of doors.

[A picture of more stacked doors in the door corridor] But it's the type of place where you could expect “opening” a door might lead to some other world, but I'd rather not let in a despotic queen into our world.

We did manage to find a door that lead out.


Observations of a few oddities, this time on the Intarwebs

Two observations about previous post:

  1. While at Black Dog Salvage Bunny took a picture of me standing next to a large slab of cherry wood (price—a cool $800, and that wasn't the most expensive slab of wood) and then we went on to get lost in the Hall of Doors.

    Once we got back to Brevard, I started noticing online advertising for slabs of wood. I wish I was making that up, but no, I started receiving ads for slabs of wood. I'm hoping it was because Bunny and I watched a few wood working videos on Youtube and not because of a picture Bunny took of me.

    But I'm not holding my breath.

  2. I use Duck Duck Go as my search engine. While I was writing the previous entry, I used Duck Duck Go to search for the Black Dog Salvage Company website. The first link, I click, and I'm redirected directly to some spam pharmacy site wishing to extend my mortgage by 3″ (or 8cm for those Imperially challenged).

    Hmmm, I thought, perhaps they let their domain expire.

    Curious, I go back to a previous entry just to check the link there, and no, it goes to the Black Dog Salvage site.

    Now I'm paranoid. I check the link on Duck Duck Go, and it's https://www.blackdogsalvage.com/. I check the link on the Black Dog Salvage site I'm viewing, and it's https://www.blackdogsalvage.com/. It's the same text! I have no idea what to think! Perhaps some black arts to game the results in Duck Duck Go? I don't know.

Okay, I decided to dig a bit deeper into that last one. I used Google to search for “Black Dog Salvage,” clicked on the obvious result and … ended up at that same sketchy pharmacy site. Now I think that the Black Dog Salvage site has been hacked to redirect people to the sketchy pharmacy site when coming from a search engine, and not something wrong with Duck Duck Go or Google.

Sigh.


Notes on an overheard conversation at the Red House Inn

“Hello!”

“Hello!”

“Where did you get your take out food?”

“A Thai restaurant on east Main street called Love Eat Thai Kitchen. What do you have”

“We got this Mexican food from … oh … it has a weird name.”

“Yea, I think it's a Japanese place downtown.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, on Broad Street just south of Main.”

“That wouldn't happen to be ‘Quixote?’”

“Yes! That's the place!”

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Extreme white squirrels, Brevard edition

Bunny says I was a bit squirrelly today—I'm not sure what she's talking about.

[A picture of me as a white squirrel] Methinks I've spent too much time in Brevard as it appears I'm going native. Great! Now I have to watch out for Captain Willard coming up the French Broad River.

Monday, November 08, 2021

Extreme scurry of white squirrels, Brevard edition

Seriously, Brevard has a thing for white squirrels:

[A scurry of stuffed white squirrels] The invasion of alien white squirrels is nearly complete. We welcome our new white sciuridae overlords!

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Extreme warning, Brevard edition

Bunny and I decided to check out some stores outside of Brevard, but I think we went a bit too far afield:

[Eight pottery heads, all sitting on metal staffs] “We were just trying to get a head, but there's no body left.”

Even Kim Jong-un seemed to be having second thoughts about coming out this far:

[The pottery bust of what looks like Kim Jong-un on a bed of rocks] “Wow dude! I'm stoned out of my head!”

We felt it best to head back to Brevard.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Extreme doors of perceptions, this time Highlands, NC edition

Another day, another mini-road trip. This time, to Highlands, North Carolina. An old friend lives in the area and we decided to drive out to have dinner with them. On the way there, we ended up in a small Mexican restaurant in Rosman for lunch (one of three restaurants in town as it turns out). Not bad, but the town of Rosman (population: 576 as of 2010) makes Brevard look positively metropolitan.

Then onwards to Highlands. Along the way, we came across a salvage place (sans website, else I'd link to it) and stopped. There, I found yet another stash of doors:

[A picture of more stacked doors] It was tempting to think that opening one of these doors would lead to Black Dog Salvage Company in Roanoke, but I think the only thing that would happen is I find more doors … or perhaps let in some pan dimensional beings, and that would be a Bad Thing™.

I'm sensing a theme here.

Anyway, we finally arrived in Highlands at 4:45 pm, which was bad since the entire town rolls up the sidewalks at 5:00 pm on the dot. Fortunately, Bunny's friend was at the restaurant, where a good time and good food was had by all.

After a few hours, it was time to drive back along US-64 to Brevard, in the dark. I had fun driving along the up-and-down widing road, but for Bunny, it was a white-knuckle experience.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Extreme spices, Brevard edition

Today was a cold, miserable, rainy day here in Brevard, so we didn't get out much. But a few days ago, we did stop by the local Food Lion, the other grocery chain in Brevard. Whereas Ingles is the more upscale type grocery store, Food Lion is your … um … less expensive grocery store. So my expectations were pretty low.

What I was not expecting was to find actual turmeric!

[A picture of fresh turmeric] A mutant carrot or a mutant worm … you decide.

I've never seen fresh turmeric! Much less expect to find it in a … um … less expensive grocery store!

Friday, November 12, 2021

Extreme vinyl records, Brevard edition

It was much nicer today than yesterday so Bunny and I went shopping. At one of the stores, this vinly record caught my eye:

[A picture of the “Barbie Sing-along” vinyl record, with Barbie, Ken, and three kids, one of which is darker than the other two] ♫One of these things is not like the others, / One of these things just doesn't belong, / Can you tell which thing is not like the others / By the time I finish my song?♫

And now I'm curious as to what other horrors could be found in this pile of records?

[A picture of the “Growing Pains” soundtrack] Seriously?  They released a 90s TV show theme on vinyl?  There was market for this?  Who? No!  Wait!  I don't want to know! [A picture of a record with Fonzie on the cover] And you thought William Shatner was bad!

Those were the three worst I found, thankfully. I also found this album from Moms Mabley, a black comedienne popular in the 50s and 60s:

[Picture of Moms Mabley comedy album] A comedy album about Lincoln, Kennedy and King?  By a black woman?  This I have to hear!

Just a bit of triva: she was born in Brevard.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Extreme parking lot traffic, Asheville edition

Bunny heard about The Vintage Market Days in Asheville, so we headed out today. I will say, getting in wasn't an issue—getting out was:

[a picture of a crowded parking lot] “Is there another way out?” “I don't know, parking lot designers are sadistic bastards.”

That isn't a line of parked cars. No, that's a line of cars attempting to leave the parking lot! It took us about twenty minutes to get out, and it only took us that long because we took advantage of a van that took too long deciding where to go and we cut ahead (to be fair, a number of other cars also cut ahead—we weren't the only ones to do this). I attempted to locate another exit, but the cell phone coverage was a bit spotty and I couldn't get a decent satellite picture of the parking lot in Google maps. Sigh.


Notes on an overheard conversation while driving and listening to Christmas carols

“Well that's an oxymoron!”

“What?”

“The lyric: ‘a winter wonderland!’”

“Oh. That's not an oxymoron.”

“Oh really?”

“Yes—you wonder why anyone would live in a winter land.”

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Extreme taxidermy, Brevard edition

It's our last day in Brevard (we're leaving tomorrow, back towards warmer climes) and we spent the day not doing much of anything.

But a few days ago we went into Mantiques, an eclectic antique shop with a more masculine bent to it, and well …

[A picture of half a taxidermied gazelle—at least it's the front half] I …I don't think leaving the front legs on added anything but disturbing dreams.

I can say with honesty I have never seen taxidermy quite like this.

And with that, we leave Brevard.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Extreme sales position every one is dying for, Brevard edition

Actually, one more picture, caught by Bunny as we were leaving Brevard this morming:

[Picture of a “SALES HELP WANTED” sign in a cemetery] “The customers are quiet and don't complain at all, but if they do, you do have permission to use a chain saw on them …”

It's a bit hard to see, but that “SALES HELP WANTED” sign is in a cemetery!

Yeah.

Anyway, we made it back safely to Chez Boca, and thus ends our 2021 trip to Brevard.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

At least the vice president of our Corporate Overlords laughed jocularly when I answered “Too short” when he asked “How was my vacation?”

Ah, the first day of work after a two week vacation—6,000 emails to catch up on, mutiple fires actively burning, and the whooshing of deadlines as they fly by breaking the sound barrier. I'm not sure what's worse—this, or the freezing temperatures we left behind in Brevard. Aside from dealing with a week old request to reprovision our lab machines for the Oligarchic Cell Phone Companies, the most pressing fire was dealing with a possible change in “Project: Cleese.”

A proposed change in downstream processing with … oh … let's call it “Project: Waldo,” is stalled because the data needed for “Project: Cleese” to talk to “Project; Waldo” can't be generated fast enough. The data technically isn't needed for the proposed change in downstream processing, but to avoid changing “Project: Cleese” it was decided to generate fake data, and yes, said fake data can't be generated fast enough (seriously).

The fix is easy—it's just the removal of four lines of code (checking for the presence of the data, which now technically isn't needed), the modification of one other line (to deal with missing data), and it will just work. Alas, we're blocked by fellow cow-orker CZ (he works directly for the Corporate Overlords, and has been assigned to my team to make up for loss of employees in my department this past year) because of his extreme discomfort at changing any code outside of what has been planned. As was explained by several people, the changes won't affect the results at all, but CZ has yet to be fully convinced. It's definitely a culture clash between the Corporation and our Corporate Overlords

Yeah, my vacation was too short.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Bad mood

I was not in a good mood today. It was bad enough that Bunny said I shouldn't be driving, so I ended up abandoning her (and the car) and walked home (for the record—I wasn't upset at her, just stuff that had accumuated over a few days which came to a head while I was trying refuel the car).

Once back home, I took some additional time to cool off by listening to some NIN (the album “Pretty Hate Machine”) at 11. Because 10 just wasn't loud enough.

I'm better now.

Monday, November 22, 2021

And to think I've been spelling my name wrong all along

I've always spelled my name “S,” “e,” “a,” “n.” Have been all my life, and I've been under the mistaken thought that that was the proper spelling of “Sean.” But it turns out, the proper Irish spelling is, in fact, “Seán” if this video is anything to go by.

Also, I learned that Sean Connery was not in fact the first actor to portray James Bond. No, that honor goes to American actor Barry Nelson (who played the spy in 1954!). Sean Connery is not the second actor to portray James Bond either—that goes to South African actor Bob Holness who played the spy in 1957 (for a radio dramatization of Moonraker).

So that makes Sean Connery the third actor to portray James Bond.


Tea, fluoride and brittle bones

I came across this video with the clickbait title of “How Much Tea Can You Drink Before Your Bones Crumble” and I got worried. I drink quite a bit of tea, and now I find out it can cause brittle bones? But having watched the video, the person in question was a lady who drank 150 cups of tea a day (or rather—every day she brewed a gallon of water with 150 tea bags and drank that) who ended up with skeletal fluorosis, caused by an excess of fluourine accumulating in the body.

It wasn't the fluourine in the water that caused the issue (and the video goes into the history of fluoridation—it does prevent tooth decay), but that and an excessive amount of flourine in tea caused the condition. It seems that tea is one of the few plants that will suck up flourine and concentrate it.

But I don't think I have too much to worry about as I don't drink anywhere near 150 cups of tea per day.

At least I hope …

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Chilling to some 80s tunes

While it usually takes me loud angry music to get out of a bad mood, I should also remember the following music can also lift my bad mood:

For that last one, it doesn't have to be the actual New Order version—these two work as well:

Oh, this is indeed a deep rabit hole I can happily fall into …


Notes about a fragment of “Hotel Hack”

I received a nice email from a reader regarding A Fragment of “Hotel Hack”, written some twenty years ago wherein I mused about hypertext. The sad thing is that most (if not all) of the links I referenced have not survived. Yes, I could go back in and update the links, only for them to slowly rot again over the next two decades. Or perhaps changing the links to point to The Wayback Machine are in order (archived version with most links working—I've long since forgotten what I linked to).

Or perhaps I could change the links to a “director's commentary”—that might be an idea, but the commentary itself would dwarf the scant few paragraphs and might make for an interesting NaNoWriMo entry (even if it's not technically a novel). I mean, the commentary for “making him think he's Ethel Merman” would be something like:

Ethel Merman was a singer and actress in the mid 20TH century, known for her powerful singing voice. The reference here is not to Ethel Merman herself, but to a scene in the movie “Airplane” (1980), where Lieutenant Hurwitz had delusions of being Ethel Merman, and was played by Merman herself, breaking into song as orderlies tried to restrain her.

The movie “Airplane” was itself, a remake of the 1957 drama “Zero Hour!” which did not star Ethel Merman, sadly.

One could do a deep dive on all the references in “Hotel Hack”—Phone Cops, Boys from Bell, Leni's films, hoomei, tons of references to cover.

Maybe one day I'll get a round tuit.


Notes on an overheard conversation

“I have one thing to say about that Max Headroom stuff.”

“And that is?”

“Whatever works. For me, it's Beethoven's Ninth. Turned up to 11.”

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving

I was about to post the ASCII art turkey when I thought I'd better check to see when I posted it last—last year, and back in 2008 and 2006. A quick search for Thanksgiving ASCII art isn't showing much, but I did find this one:

                    _
                   ' _<_\
                  /'/o)o)
                  \ \_/\/  ,-----------------.
        ,.-=--.-. |.(____\ |  Nothing says   |
      ;:_  \  |  `:.`---'  |     "Happy      |
   ,-'  `.  ' \    \\ / |  |  Thanksgiving"  |
 .'  -.   `_      __'|/ '| |  Like a Honey   |
,'     `.     ,,-'  | |  | |   Glazed Ham!   |
|'` .__   ,--'      | '`'\ `-----------------'
`._    _/'        ,/      |        ||_
|  `...'                  |--....,-'__\.__
`     |                 ,' \      -||  -:;
 |   |                `-'  ;       ||_;--"
 `.  |         |           |     ;-''
  `.  \___    /           /-._;,'
    ;,-'  ,  /           /
   /   ,-'_ / _'  |    ,'
  |  ,' ,' / :     \_,,'MJP
  | .'_' ,' ||      '.
  '/',;-' _ /\    --.` ..___
    '      ; .`--.   `\ _>.
         . ,' `\'.     \\'''
          '     -'      '

	-- Art by Michael J. Penick

And yes, I've done the glazed ham for Thanksgiving.

I also noticed I used a variation of “Gobble gobble” as a title last year, 2008, 2004 and 2002.

Well … [Deep subject. —Editor] nothing like blogging for twenty years to make fresh takes on Thanksgiving difficult.

I also don't think I can top last year's post about turkey drops, so I think I'll just leave you with the wish to have a Happy Thanksgiving with those you love, followed by a nice long nap as the tryptophan works through your system.

Friday, November 26, 2021

A most persistent spam, part IV

I recieved an email from new reader Emily asking about Alaksandr, the Russian sendmail spambot that was plaguing me for months. It seems that Emily is having to deal with Alaksandr and asked me for some help, having read my posts detailing the problem.

There wasn't much I could say. “Aleksandr” only went away once I removed the email accounts he was spamming, and a check of my logs showed it's no longer showing up here. But it appears to still be an issue for others. Emily and I still have no idea why someone would spend the time and effort to send such spams. I wish I had answers.

Obligatory Picture

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

Obligatory Contact Info

Obligatory Feeds

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

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

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

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