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, July 01, 2002

Sold! (Tenatively)

The past two and a half weeks that Condo Conner has been up for sale have been interesting. I've resisted writing about it here on the off chance that it may scare off a potential buyer (how ever unlikely that is). But over the weekend I got an incredible offer on the place. I signed my end of the acceptance and the buyer is expected to sign off tomorrow. If so, the closing will be at the end of this month.

Woo hoo!

(l (i (s (p () (i (s () (f (u (n)))))))))

My first exposure to Lisp was in the summer of '86 in an introductory class on artificial intelligence. My impression of the language was that it was mildly interesting but littered with CARs, CDRs and parentheses. Lots of parentheses.

It also doesn't bode well when a typical fragment of Lisp looks like:

        (LET ((MIN (CAR LIST))   ;gets SETQed below
              (MAX (CAR LIST)))  ;gets SETQed below
             (DO ((ELS (CDR LIST) (CDR ELS)))
                 ((NULL ELS)
                  (LIST MIN MAX))
                 (LET ((CAND (CAR ELS)))
                      (COND ((NOT (NUMBERP CAND))
                             (RETURN 'INVALID))
                             ;; at most one of the next
                             ;; two cases can occur.
                             ((< CAND MIN) (SETQ MIN CAND)) ((> CAND MAX)
                              (SETQ MAX CAND))))))

Someone well versed in Lisp would be able to see what that does (much like someone well versed in Perl would be able to tell what $data =~ m/^211\s+\d+\s+(\d+)\s+(\d+)\s/; does—maybe).

But after reading Paul Graham's article about using Lisp for web-based applications and hearing the remark that XML is nothing more than Lisp in drag, I figured it may be time to give Lisp another look.

The two major dialects of Lisp today are Scheme and Common Lisp. Since Scheme is conceptually simpler and cleaner than Common Lisp, I decided to give it a try. The MIT version requires one to already have the MIT version installed before you can install the MIT version (and that's another lovely feature about Lisp—recursion to an infinite degree (or until you run out of memory)).

Off to try Common Lisp.

Oddly enough, the CMUCommon Lisp also requires an installation of CMUCommon Lisp before you can install CMUCommon Lisp.


Fortunately, Gnu (which itself is a recursive ancronym) has both a version of Scheme and Common Lisp that don't require a pre-existing installation to install.

Another thing I've come to realize is that Lisp, much like C++, accreted features over it's current 54 year history so quite a bit of arcana is needed to successfully write programs in it. Then again, the principles underlying Lisp are so simple that, like Forth, one can implement a Lisp system (functioning, if limited) in a few days of work so maybe that's the way I should proceed.

I guess he'll make peeing on hydrants legal …

His official campaign bio describes Percy as a compassionate conservative who takes a hard-line with social parasites, particularly fleas and worms. His past is free of sex scandals, due to “timely neutering.”

Via CamWorld, Dog Runs for Office in Florida

In Cerebus, creator Dave Sim had Cerebus run as Prime Minister against a goat.

It was a very close race.

Now in real life, we have someone running against a dog.

Life is stranger than fiction. Heck, life is getting stranger than satire and that's saying something.

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

They're still there …

Drove by the bank today and guess what? The black vans are still there.

And still no white vans to be seen …

Very suspicious …

Very suspicious indeed …

This is getting annoying

“So, do you want the bad news, or the really bad news?” said Rob. I had just sitten down to each lunch too!

“Um, how about the really bad news?” I said.

“Good thing you're sitting down,” he said. “The DNS resolver libraries everybody uses has an exploit and it affects a lot of systems.”

Rob was notifed of the most recent vulnerability just released and yes, it does affect a lot of systems. So this is what? The third major exploit in a week for Unix?

I'm now off to spend a few hours tracking this down and fixing it …

Metasearch engines

I've worked for C4 before and from time to time I look back and see what they're currently up to.

I find it amusing that they are no longer using their “technology” in metasearching and instead now rely upon Google. I wonder what happened?

The reason I bring this up? I just finished talking with someone interested in my experiences with metasearch engines (who was also interested in my work on the Electric King James Bible and The Boston Diaries) and is interested in hiring me as a programmer.

Woo hoo!

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Yet another site that doesn't get it

The web site is available from 7.00 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET Monday through Friday and 8.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday

NASD Public Disclosure Program

But you'll only see that when the site is not open.

Some public disclosure program, huh?

I wonder if this book is the cause of that? Or is the NASD so dense as to think the web isn't twenty-four hours?

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Seattle down under

Ubiquitous South Florida Weather Forcast

Lows in the high 70s, highs in the high 80s. Partly cloudy with a 20% chance of scattered showers. Winds NE at 15 knots; seas 1-3 feet with a light to moderate chop.

If I didn't know any better, I'd swear I was living in Seattle.

Normally, Florida has two seasons, wet and tourist. And during the wet season (what you would normally call “summer” and “fall”) we do get rain. Nearly every day. But, and this is the important part, it's never all day long, being at most half an hour and usually it's partly cloudy all day long.

This year? Grey skies all day long. Rains all day too. Not at all like the typical Florida summer day.

Thursday, July 11, 2002


Think about that. How does Microsoft grow its size? Certainly not by listening to Robert Scoble.

It does it by visiting Boeing, GM, EDS, the U.S. Government, and various other big Fortune 1000 companies and organizations.

Now you know where the pressure for Palladium is coming.

Via Scripting News, Robert Scoble on Palladium

Thirty-five years ago you had large hulking machines cordened off in frigid, windowless rooms maintained by high priests while you logged in from your terminal in your office. One machine may have supported thousands of users so therefore it was easy to maintain control over the system—for there was only one system to maintain.

The computer industry was firmly centralized in those days.

What was your userid? Clickity-click

Twenty-seven years ago the pendulum peaked. over time, people took computing into their own hands and were no longer solely dependant upon the large hulking machines in some back room.

Slowly, over a twenty year period the computer industry shifted from a centralized model to being decentralized, fueled by the likes of Microsoft and Apple.

But that too, has passed. The pendulum has peaked and the computer industry is slowly, inexorably, sliding back towards a centralized model once again.

Only this time it's behind hulking networks cordened off behind firewalls manned by jubilent IT staff giddy with new found power.

Okay, so I exaggerate a bit. But there is a definite trend towards centralization going on in the computer industry, and Microsoft is definitely attempting to ride that wave, but unlike the turnaround they did to suddenly support the Internet, this will require more than just buying a web browser and making their office suit spit out poorly formatted HTML.

Like, oh … security?

In any case, I'm guessing that this trend will be increasing for another ten years or so before the pendulum starts its swing back towards a new decentralized mode, whatever that will be in 2025 …

The methodology of writing hypertext

I'm not happy with the previous post, and I'm not happy with this one either but looking over this now, I'm pretty happy with this entry.

As it usually happens, I compose these great entries in my head with exquisite phrasing yet I have no way of recording these thoughts except in my rather unexquisite memory of mine.

For instance, I had intended to chart two trends in the computer industry; the one dovetailing smoothly into the other yet all I could remember is the decent into centralization. I have no idea what the other trend was or even if I'm just misremembering it.

It also didn't help that I thought of that entry as I was falling alseep yesterday. If this keeps up, I may have to keep a tape recorder on me.

On second thought, my Newton 2100 can record messages. Maybe I should try that.

The other problem I have is methodology.

When I write the entries, I compose them, inserting HTML as I go along, adding <P> tags here and <EM> tags there and when it comes time for links, I stop and locate the link. While most times the actual URL is a simple cut-n-paste operation, I still type

<A CLASS="external" HREF="[then paste URLhere]">

by hand. And if I mention someone, say, Spring, I don't type “<shift>-s p r i n g” but

<A CLASS="external" HREF="">Spring</A>

I spent nearly two years writing software to make posting entries easy and I still type out common stuff like this by hand.

Needless to say, such mucking about stop the thoughts cold. Looking back at past entries the ones I like the best are typically the ones with the fewest links in them. If I have to hit Google for an entry, forget it. That's maybe a minute or two lost right there looking for the right page.

But old habits die hard. I tried, in the previous entry, to write first, then link later, but I'm having to retrain myself. Just like I am for this entry—I've had to stop myself several times to keep me from embedding HTML before I've finished writing, yet I'm still marking the areas that I feel need links (only I hope I remember what I want to link to).

Perhaps if I type something like:

In //official site/Cerebus//, creator //find link/Dave Sim// had //link to character/Cerebus// run as //link to issue/Prime minister// against //link to character/goat//.

I guess he'll make peeing on hydrants legal …

That will let me keep the flow going and provide enough context when I go back over the entry to fill in the links (and make any editorial changes that might arise as you can see if you check the final result). Oh, and remember to change text like




Well, off convert this to HTML.

Friday, July 12, 2002

Them darned fancy <HR>s …

I've been following dive into mark's 30 days to a more accessible weblog and so far, everything he's said to do I've pretty much done with this weblog.

Today's entry is about the <HR> tag and how to change the look of them. The method he uses works, but is a bit of a kludge. Mostly because it supports Netscape 4x, which doesn't support CSS to any decent degree.

That's why I've forgone Netscape 4x support entirely. How I do it is the way it's supposed to be done. First off, in the HTML for this page, I hide the style sheet from Netscape 4x:

  @import "/bdstyle.css";

Netscape 4x doesn't suport “@import” so nothing gets included (thankfully, else my style sheet would crash it, hard). The style sheet then has:
  width:                50px;
  height:               16px;
  border:               none;
  margin-top:           0;
  margin-right:         auto;
  margin-bottom:        0;
  margin-left:          auto;
  padding:              0;
  background-image:     url(hr.gif);
  background-repeat:    no-repeat;
  background-position:  center;

Then in the HTML page, to use the image, I do:

<HR CLASS="next">

And I have my fancy <HR>. And it works fine under the current versions of Netscape (6x), Mozilla (from about 0.9.2 on up), Opera and Internet Explorer (although those last two draw a faint grey border around the image).

Saturday, July 13, 2002

A pleasant surprise from Slashdot

I'm working on a project for a client, and I need to see exactly what transpires between a web browser and a web server, since what I've written isn't exactly working correctly.

So towards that end, I've written a program that acts as a very simple web proxy server—all it does is pass the data on to a real web proxy server, but it also dumps everything to disk so I can examine the traffic (it's not enough to look at the pages, I need to see what else is going on in HTTP).

As a test, I went to Slashdot. As expected, the program saved all the sessions, didn't crash and didn't leave any zombie processes. And then going through the saved files when I found out that there's an Easter Egg in the pages Slashdot send out.

You normally can't see this, even if you view the source of the page, since the Easter Eggs aren't part of the page. They're in the header portion of the transfer (not to be confused with the <HEAD> section of an HTML page—there is a difference). For instance, on the HTML pages (and it's only sent with pages that are text) on one page I found:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Sat, 13 Jul 2002 10:08:51 GMT
Server: Apache/1.3.26 (Unix) mod_perl/1.25 mod_gzip/
X-Powered-By: Slash 2.003000
X-Fry: That's it! You can only take my money for so long before you take it all and I say enough!
Cache-Control: no-cache
Pragma: no-cache
Connection: close
Content-Type: text/html
Content-Encoding: gzip
Content-Length: 10760

And on another one I found:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Sun, 30 Jun 2002 02:11:36 GMT
Server: Apache/1.3.26 (Unix) mod_perl/1.25 mod_gzip/
X-Powered-By: Slash 2.003000
X-Bender: OK, but I don't want anyone thinking we're robosexuals.
Last-Modified: Mon, 03 Dec 2001 17:55:42 GMT
ETag: "33673f-13e-3c0bbc9e"
Accept-Ranges: bytes
Content-Length: 318
Connection: close
Content-Type: text/plain

And yet another one:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Sat, 13 Jul 2002 10:09:23 GMT
Server: Apache/1.3.26 (Unix) mod_perl/1.25 mod_gzip/
X-Powered-By: Slash 2.003000
X-Fry: I'm never gonna get used to the thirty-first century. Caffeinated bacon?
Cache-Control: no-cache
Pragma: no-cache
Connection: close
Content-Type: text/html
Content-Encoding: gzip
Content-Length: 18303

It seems to be quotes from Futurama, but I can't be entirely sure, as I've never seen Futurama. But still, it's neat finding stuff like this buried in programs (or websites as the case may be).

Sunday, July 14, 2002


Every so often, I check out Advogato as an interesting article, column or editorial sometimes shows up. I check out the article about solving Freecell, which leads me to a lecture about writing the software, which, in the middle of it, has a link to Tom Holroyd, who I knew at FAU.

I wonder what the probability of that is?

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

The Ins and Outs of Calculating Browser Usage

I spent the past few hours writing a program to parse the browser string from the web server log files. Why didn't I use an existing web analyizer package? I wanted the browser strings to be rewriten to have correct information, as well as being in a more consistent style. This meant changing it from, say:

Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows 98; Win 9x 4.90; Q312461)


MSIE/6.0 Windows/98

This also means I can generate decent stats about the popularity of certain browsers on the fly (using the Unix command line, I can pull out the browser string, feed that through the newly written program, then count unique browsers easier). An initial run through last month's log file for my blog:

Browser Statistics for The Boston Diaries
# Hits Browser/VersionOS/Version
1,228 Googlebot/2.1 -/-
748 MSIE/6.0 WindowsNT/5.1
712 MSIE/6.0 Windows/98
641 MSIE/6.0 WindowsNT/5.0
476 Mercator/2.0 -/-
371 MSIE/5.5 Windows/98
303 MSIE/5.0 Windows/98
302 MSIE/5.5 WindowsNT/5.0
238 -/- -/-
216 MSIE/5.01 WindowsNT/5.0
137 ia_archiver/- -/-
113 Syndic8/1.0 -/-
101 NCSA/- -/-
101 MSIE/5.01 Windows/98
100 MSIE/6.0 WindowsNT/4.0
99 Mozilla/3.01 -/-
89 Gecko/20020529 Linux/i686
88 Gecko/20020523 WindowsNT/5.0
81 MSIE/5.14 Mac_PowerPC/-
79 Mozilla/5.0 -/-
68 SlySearch/1.2 -/-
66 MSIE/5.5 Windows/95
62 MSIE/5.5 WindowsNT/4.0
62 Gecko/20020529 PPC/Mac
61 Openfind/- -/-
55 MSIE/5.0 Mac_PowerPC/-
49 Indy-Library/- -/-
48 Gecko/20020510 Linux/i686
42 Mozilla/3.0 -/-
41 -/-
40 Gecko/20020311 WindowsNT/5.1
38 MSIE/5.01 Windows/95
36 -/-
33 Gecko/20020530 WindowsNT/5.0
28 bumblebee/1.0 -/-
28 Gecko/20020510 WinNT4.0/-
27 Opera/6.02 Windows/2000
27 MSIE/5.0 WindowsNT/4.0

This gives a decent flavor for what's being used to view my site (out of the 7,943 hits last month, about 16% were from the Google spider) but one of the primary reasons I did this was to see just how many people are still using older browsers like Netscape 4x or Internet Explorer 4x (which would show up as Mozilla/4.x and MSIE/4.x respectively). So, strip out the operating system column, and look at only the major version numbers, we then get:

More Specific Browser Statistics for The Boston Diaries
# Hits Browser/major Version
2,210 MSIE/6
1,671 MSIE/5
1,228 Googlebot/2
543 Gecko/-
476 Mercator/2
238 -/-
142 Opera/6
141 Mozilla/3
137 ia_archiver/-
134 Mozilla/4
113 Syndic8/1
101 NCSA/-
79 Mozilla/5
68 SlySearch/1
61 Openfind/-
49 Indy-Library/-
45 MSIE/4
37 Netscape6/6.2
28 bumblebee/1
26 Netscape/7
24 BlogBot/1
22 Win32/-
22 Konqueror/3.0
20 Frontier/8.0
16 Internet/-
16 Ask-Jeeves/-
15 Mozilla/-
14 Microsoft/-
14 Konqueror/2.2
12 w3m/0.2
12 obidos/bot
12 Mozilla/4.7C-CCK-MCD
11 myownhomeblogindexingservicecrawler/-
11 htdig/3.1
10 Mozilla/3.x

The bad news: 48% of the browsers were Internet Explorer 5x or 6x (although surprisingly enough, I did get five hits from a Mozilla based browser under OS/2). The good news though, is that 58% of the hits were from browsers capable of viewing CSS without crashing. And speaking of horrible browsers that can't support CSS, about 2.5% were running Netscape 4x or IE 4x (they can see the site, only it doesn't look that great).

I also checked the log file for Spring's site (Hi honey!). 53% of her visitors are using Internet Explorer 5 or higher, or Mozilla (or Netscape 6 and higher). Only about 3% are using Netscape 4x or Internet Explorer 4x, which is pretty much on par with my site (the rest are mostly robots or experiemental browsers).

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Bobby is, I think, a bit too pedantic

New day, new article in 30 days to a more accessible weblog. This time about labeling of form elements. Hey, why not? It's easy enough to do.

So then I decide to use Bobby, a validator that checks the accessibility of a webpage and one of the fussiest (if not the fussiest) accessibility validators I know of. So then it's a process of validate, figure out what Bobby is complaining about, fix, lather, rinse, repeat.

I easily get AA approved (if I make sure not to have duplicate links with the same text, and hack the URL of the results page) but the exhaulted AAA rating (which it uses by default) just wasn't there. Let's see … I explicitely set the forground and background colors for the Google image (previously, I had just set the background color), set the properties for the <FIELDSET> and <LEGEND> tags so they don't disrupt the visual look of the page (yet are still there for those that need it) and added them to both forms on the page, even though the Google one only has one visible field to set (come on! a <FIELDSET> for one entry field? What are you guys smoking?) I even added the <LABEL> tags the way Bobby wants them (explicit labels instead of implicit labels).

No go.

Now what?

Seems that to get the exhaulted AAA rating, I need to add placeholding characters in the text entry fields over there to the left (or way below, depending on how this page is rendered).

Yea, right

Accessibility vs. usability? I'm not entirely sure what the accessibility issues are for filling in bogus or example data for the two fields and it's pretty obvious to me what should go in there but hey, you never know. But in any case, I'm not filling in the fields with bogus or example data as that would violate my æsthetic sensibilities with the page.

Thursday, July 18, 2002

A blogger's HTML

An article about the Dublin Core at got me thinking about the problem of indexing weblogs. The major problem is that there is no semantic markup to include meta-information in the body of a webpage. Sure, you can include meta-information in the <HEAD> section, using both <META> and <LINK> tags, and that's fine when the page in question is about a single topic.

But a weblog has several, mostly unrelated entries on a single page, with the rare weblog having several nearly article-length entries on the main page (and by extension, the archive pages). Google indexes these pages as if it were on a single topic and as a result, you get fodder the Disturbing Search Requests.

There are heuristics that can be used to index a weblog page, but it would be nice to have some defined way to mark individual entries, with the ability to include meta-information for each entry. I had intended for my software here to build up the <META> tags (since I do include keywords/classification for each entry I write) and while that may be viable for up to a weeks worth of entries on a page, it starts getting silly for a month, and for a whole year? It's just not practical.

But from the Dublin Core article, I ended up at the W3C site and came across XHTML 1.1, which is still being worked on, but (and this is the exciting part here) this version of XHTML can be extended! (unlike XHTML 1.0, even though the name says it's extensible) It's completely modular so new variants of XHTML (for example, it can be extended to MathML) can be constructed from bits and pieces of existing XHTML modules.

So in the future, it may be possible to extend XHTML to include meta-information in the middle of a page, instead of just in the <HEAD> section (sorry, <head> section—XHTML uses lower case for tags). So instead of having to parse code like:

<h3><a class="local" id="2002/07/16.1" href="/2002/07/16.1">The Ins
and Outs of Calculating Browser Usage</a></h3>

<!-- programming, statistics, web browsers, web log files -->


I spent the past few ...

<h2><a class="local" id="2002/07/14" href="/2002/07/14">Sunday, July
14, 2002</a></h2>

<h3><a class="local" id="2002/07/14.1" href="/2002/07/14.1">Probability</a></h3>



It can, instead, have an eaiser time with:

<meta name="keywords" content="programming, statistics, 
              web browsers, web log files">
<link rel="permalink" href="/2002/07/16.1">
<link rel="next"      href="/2002/07/17.1">
<link rel="previous"  href="/2002/07/14.1">


I spent the past few ...


<meta name="keywords" content="daily life, web pages, home pages, 
              six degress of separation, Tom Hoylrod">
<link rel="permalink" href="/2002/07/14.1">
<link rel="next"      href="/2002/07/16.1">
<link rel="previous"  href="/2002/07/13.1">



Tuesday, July 23, 2002

All Hail Arial!

The medium is the message.

–Marshall McLuhan

I'm looking at two copies of The C Programming Language, Second Edition by Brian W. Kernighan and Dennis M. Ritchie. One (my copy) was printed in 1990 and the other one (Rob's copy) is from 2000. What's interesting are the differences.

Rob's copy looks and feels less elegant.

The content—the actual words themselves—are the same. The page size is the same—layout and page numbers have not changed one bit. But Rob's copy is nearly a third thicker, which may be due to a heavier paper, and the typography is different—less crisp, more bold, somewhat blobbish if you will. It's … well … uglier. Louder.

And that's coloring my perception of the book (well, Rob's copy of the book). Which is a bit odd, because it's the content that should matter, not the medium. But Donald Knuth, one of the more preeminent programmers of our times, took ten years to perfect computerized typography as he was dismayed at the presentation of his content at the hands of the early computerized typographic systems.

But the 2000 printing of The C Programming Language represents the current conventions used in the printing of technical books today (well, not quite—it's not six hundred pages with mind numbing detail about how to use a particular editor or compiler and inane iconic pictures yelling at us to remember this or be wary about that), just as my copy was a snap shot of the conventions about a decade ago.

But the web is different.

Sure, most sites don't bother to update every page when a redesign happens. So, for instance, you can see the evolution of pages at Salon, or the evolution of pages for a personal site. It provides an interesting historical view on the current conventions used on the web (or for the site) at that point in time.

And then there are sites like The Boston Diaries, which are purely dynamic in nature. Play around with the templates some, and every page, going back to the start, has the new look and feel, historical context be damned (you may notice a few pages that don't have the new look—those are (were) statically generated and haven't been integrated with the template engine that primarily drives this site. The design is taken from Caveat Lector: Reader Beware! (without permission I might add) and hastily modified for use in this example). I find this ability both exciting and disturbing. Exciting because it makes changing the look of the site easier. And disturbing because it makes changing the look of the site easier, and I mean that in the most Owellian way.

Verdana is the font to use. All Hail Verdana. We have never used Arial. Arial is the font to use. All Hail Arial. We have never used Verdana.

It might seem silly that I'm making such a big deal out of this but I don't think so. You (those reading this) have no way of seeing the original, table driven design. There's no record of the evolution the site went through—no way of charting the progress (or regression for that matter) this site has been through (outside of possible archives at the Wayback Machine). This is the way my site has always looked.

No, really.

So is the medium the message? Does the look of this entry make any difference to the content of this message? And is the way it looked yesterday as important as the way it will look tomorrow?

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Experiments in cooking

“Mmmm, this is delicious,” said Spring. “Is that cinnamon I taste?”

“Yes,” I said. “I think I got a bit too much in there though.” I wasn't entirely satisfied with the results. Spring, however, seemed to like it enough. “Can you taste what else I added?”

Chicken and Orange Rice

An experiment in cooking


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. Mix all ingredients except chicken in a large bowl (careful with the cinnamon).
  3. Pour ¾ of mixture into a large casserole dish.
  4. Add chicken to casserole dish.
  5. Pour remaining mixture over chicken.
  6. cover casserole dish with lid and place into oven for 1 ½ hours.
  7. Serve and enjoy.

Spring took another taste, and pursed her lips in thought. “No,” she said.

“Orange juice.”

“Get out of here!” She took another bite. “Really? Orange juice?”

“Yup. I'm glad you like the experiment though.”

“When I experiment, it never turns out good,” she said. “What made you mix orange juice and cinnamon?

“Well, I had a craving for orange, so I thought I'd use orange juice and since cinnamon is used with apples, and an apple is a fruit, and so is an orange, I thought they might go nicely together.”

“But orange juice?”

“Well, I get sometimes get Orange Beef at the Chinese restaurant so it's not unheard of.”

“But in rice?

“When have you ever gone to a Chinese restaurant and not gotten rice?”

“But they don't put it in the rice,” she said.

“Well … yea,” I said.

“I would have never thought to put cinnamon and orange juice in the rice.”

“I'll have to leave out the cinnamon next time,” I said. I didn't quite like the taste; it wasn't bad mind you, just … a bit … off. It would be something that would have gotten shot down rather quickly on Iron Chef no doubt.

“Well, try less next time,” Spring said. “What happened? Did too much fall out when you added it?”

“Yea, a rather large cloud of cinnamon clumped out.”

“Yes, that happens to me too.” She took a few more bites. “But it is good … ”

Syndicate this!

Rob and I were talking the other day about a feature of LiveJournal—the friend's page. If you have an account on LiveJournal, you can list other users of LiveJournal as “friends” and then read their new entries on your “friends” page. It basically collects the X most recent posts from all your friends (who have to have LiveJournal accounts themselves) and presents them on a single page, only with a style you choose.

I have a LiveJournal account, if only to read the journals of my friends who are hosted there. If you check my friends page, you'll see that I picked a rather conservative style. Yet visit the actual site of any of my friends and you'll see their words in a different style.

Which leads me to yesterday's post about styles, only coming in from a different perspective. This time it's not about historic perspective (although Michelle has changed the default template of her site since I started reading it; I'm not sure when she made the change since I mostly read her through my friends page, which is a different style altogether) but about current presentation through a form of syndication.

Ah, syndication. Most blogging software supports syndication via one of the several flavors of RSS (in order, 0.9, 0.91, 0.92, 1.0, 0.93 or 0.94—yes, that is the correct order and no, I'm not about to get into the why of it right now), an XML based file that contains the interesting bits from a weblog—author, last date updated, and the last few entries. So in theory, it is possible to make a “friends” page reguardless if you have a LiveJournal account or not, and to include more than just friends on LiveJournal.

While I like the “friends page” feature of LiveJournal (as I use it) I'm not so sure how I feel about it though. I only include the links and titles to each of my entries, although I could include the actual entry itself in the RSS file. I didn't though, since I was uneasy with the idea that someone could reformat my content to suit themselves. Which is odd, since browsers will do that anyway (like under Lynx, or Netscape 4x or IE or Mozilla) and I'm much less concerned about that.

For instance, the feed for Marcus' site does contain the entries themselves, so it's possible I could pull that down and format his content to my liking, even though he spent over a month working the style of his website to his liking. I wonder how he would feel knowing someone was reading his stuff if it looked different? Yet a “friends page” is exactly what he wants though (since he was one (out of several) that pestered me to get email notification going for my site). And how would I feel if someone was formatting my stuff differently?

Friday, July 26, 2002

It's open source, so at least I got it working

Yet more exploits against OpenSSH according to Mark so I should upgrade. Thanks to a suggestion from Mark, I was able to get OpenSSH 3.4p1 compiled and running, with privledge separation under Linux 2.0 (technically, 2.0.36 and 2.0.39):

	  int fh;

	  fh = open("/dev/zero",O_RDWR);
	  if (fh == -1)
	  	fatal("mmap(`/dev/zero'): %s",strerror(errno));
	  address = mmap(NULL,size,PROT_WRITE|PROT_READ,MAP_PRIVATE,fh,0);
	  if (address == MAP_FAILED)
	  	fatal("mmap(%lu,%d): %s",(u_long)size,fh,strerror(errno));
#  else
 	    -1, 0);
 	if (address == MAP_FAILED)
 		fatal("mmap(%lu): %s", (u_long)size, strerror(errno));
#  endif
 	fatal("%s: UsePrivilegeSeparation=yes and Compression=yes not supported",

modified openssh-3.4p1/monitor_mm.c:87-109

I had to define USE_MMAP_DEV_ZERO and BROKEN_FD_PASSING in openssh-3.4p1/config.h to get this working. But working it is, thankfully.

Did the RIAA kill WorldCom?

For example, traffic might have grown faster than it actually did if the recording industry had not put the legal kibosh on Napster. Some say that if it were legal to trade video files a la Napster, it would be so popular that we wouldn't have any overcapacity. In fact, we'd have to install new long-haul capacity. If this is right, the most effective short-term fix to the overcapacity situation would be to reform intellectual property laws to be more consistent with how people want to use the Internet.

Via InstaPundit, CRISIS AND REVOLUTION IN TELECOM (as quoted in Redwood Dragon)

An interesting look at a possible cause of the recent telecommunications problems and why a dumb network is “A Good Thing.”

“It's been tough. I'm unemployed, but I'm coping.”

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone—
Losing your job, quitting school, going broke and moving back home with your mother after living abroad for years would be tough on anyone.

It's even tougher when you're a former military dictator who once had the power to execute opponents at will.

Via InstaPundit, Ex-Dictator Broke, Living With Mom

Reading this makes me feel better about not having a real job. At least I'm not living in my parents' basement, sleeping till noon and wearing nothing but a bathrobe …

Ahem …

Saturday, July 27, 2002


I'm sorry, I just find this stuff interesting.

Marcus wrote in, asking why Google seems to have abandoned his weblog, although I'm not sure if he was asking about referers from Google, or Google actually spidering his site. Hard to say what is going on, and from doing some research on my own server I did come across some rather interesting figures.

Google spidering vs. Google referers for The Boston Diaries
Date of log Googlebot hits Google referers Comments
October 2001 0 0 blog went live 10/22
November 2001 721 26
December 2001 1,421 348
January 2002 579 733
February 2002 341 1,073 something wrong with Googlebot?
March 2002 854 694
April 2002 1,019 649
May 2002 1,073 675
June 2002 1,228 504
July 2002 994 512 incomplete month

While traffic from Google's spider has gone up, actual traffic from their engine has gone down. I'm not sure if they've tweaked their page ranking algorithm to decrease the their sensativity to blogs, or I'm now fighting with a bazillion other weblogs for Google traffic, or now that I've been live for nine months things have settled down and I can expect a similar level of traffic here from now on. But, for contrast, I decided to scan a static (relatively unchanging) website— (for the same time period as my online journal/weblog):

Google spidering vs. Google referers for Conman Laboratories
Date of log Googlebot hits Google referers Comments
October 2001 185 286 blog went live 10/22
November 2001 275 301
December 2001 435 395
January 2002 279 370
February 2002 74 462 something wrong with Googlebot?
March 2002 226 393
April 2002 226 307
May 2002 382 358
June 2002 540 293
July 2002 215 285 incomplete month

You can see here that the level of traffic from Google searches is pretty constant, although the Googlebot seems to go up and down. It is apparent though, that something was up with Googlebot in February as visits from it dropped dramatically for that month (and I'm only saying for those two months—I haven't actually checked any of the other sites I host).

And after all this checking, I still don't have a difinitive answer for Marcus as to why Google has slacked off his site. My own experience is that Google likes—part of that might be the stableness of the URLs on all parts of (my personal site, used to be hosted elsewhere, but when I first moved it to in October of 98, I placed permanent redirects from the old site to so the engines at that time immediately found my new site) and there's something to be said for stability. It might also like my online journal/weblog (but Google seems to have an afinity for those in general). I'm not sure what to tell Marcus though.

Sunday, July 28, 2002


It was four years ago today that I resigned from my job at Visual Data (who had bought the web design company I worked for a year previously) to start working at Eminet Domain (which I worked at until mid-2000). I just found some draft resignation letters. The first one went:

Tuesday, July 28, 1998

To Whom It May Concern:

Due to the continuing product-aligned reorganization with significant third-wave solutions and the promise of integral new downsizing and nondiscriminatory divisional reshuffling I do hereby give notice that I intend to maximize my unrealized extensive expansion into humanistic revenue-oriented reimbursement into seamless middle-management reassessment and offer to Visual Data my voluntary revenue-oriented solution to the continuing unfulfilled financial promises by releaving you of the ongoing support of my employment at this institution within the coming fortnight.



Sean Conner
July 28, 1998

The other one I liked much better and actually wanted to use:

Tuesday, July 28, 1998

To Whom It May Concern:

Unappreciated and
with a heavy heart,
I hereby resign.



Sean Conner
July 28, 1998

but I was told to write something more traditional, but without the buzzwords of the first draft.

Ah well …

Monday, July 29, 2002

A broken 24-hour clock is right only once a day …

I recieved an email from Pete Boardman about the comments I've made about the 24-hour analog clock I have. Apparently, they're more popular than I thought, given that he runs a site dedicated to them.

One of the more intriguing designs was the Cyclos watch, which is a hybrid 12/24 hour watch, where the hour hand grows and shrinks as the time progresses. Some of the other designs are quite beautiful, but alas, if I have to ask how much …

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Yea, like he would ever allow it …

I had a rather distrubing dream last night, and one of the disturbing elements (if not the most disturbing) was seeing, on television the latest animated series—Disney's Calvin and Hobbes, done the drawing style of Ted Rall with the feel of Tim Burton's Nightmare on Christmas, only not as lighthearted.

Calvin came across as being a whiny brat (well, more so than in the actual comics) and they didn't even get Hobbes' voice nominally close and the whole dark nature of the show (the opening credits had the family moving to a new house and Calvin imagining the house devouring them) didn't at all jibe with the comic and I was sad that Bill Watterson had either sold out, or lost control of his intellectual property.

Good thing is was just a dream …

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