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.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Diebold: giving you the best government for your money

You may notice the ad at the top of my sidebar to the left (and if you are reading this not on my site—now you have a reason to stop by). A bit of satire curtesy of Rand Careaga, who gave his permission for me to run the series, one ad per day (although after a while it will cycle).


Thursday, June 03, 2004

Still more lack of time management


It's Thursday! Not Wednesday.

I hope this isn't a recurring theme in my life …

Some anti-spam ideas

SPF was originally designed to prevent joe-jobs. In this mode, an MTA uses SPF to verify the envelope sender (SMTP MAIL FROM) address during SMTP time. But some people pointed out that SPF can also be used to verify headers to prevent phishing. When used to verify headers, the agent could be an MTA or an MUA, and slightly different rules apply: you have to consider Sender and Resent-From as well as just the “From:” header. Header verification is one of the central themes of the May 2004 merger between SPF and Microsoft CallerID For Email.

SMTP+SPF: Sender Policy Framework

The other day Mark sent me email pointing me to the SPF site. Interesting idea, and one I've come across before and thought about, but didn't think it had enough of a following to warrant doing (although, given the contents of the DNS zone files I have, it's odd that I haven't adopted this yet). But seeing how Microsoft has jumped on board …

Oddly enough, while reading an article about antispam measures I had a sudden brainstorm about a way to make it more difficult for spammers to send mail out. It's a combination of two methods, one in current use, and one that just popped into my head.

The first method is to allow only email from designated MX hosts. That's currently being done, and is a method that SPF was designed to help facilitate. The upshot of this is that a spammer can't just slap a machine on the Internet and spam from that—no, it has to come through a machine that is designated, via DNS, as an MX host. But there are two ways around that: going through the ISPs SMTP server (which the ISP monitors and they are usually aware of heavy use and can cut off the offending customer) and by registering a domain and setting the IP address they get as an MX for that domain.

And it's the second idea that counters that problem. Each DNS record has a “time-to-live” value—how long that record is considered “valid.” Simply reject any connection from an MX host who's MX record's time-to-live is less than, say, a week (actually, I would check all MX records and reject it if any are less than a week).

If I get spam from a domain, one quick check of the MX records and I can stop receiving spam from that domain for a week. Not much in the scope of things, but easily doable and scriptable even. But enough servers do that, and the spammer has to wait a week to send email. It's not enough to change IP addresses—that's easy enough. But the MX records have to change and propagation takes at least a week …

One way around that is to register as many MX records for a given domain as possible, but if you also dump the connection if there are more than say, a dozen MX records (AOL gets by with 4, so does MSN; IBM on the other hand, uses 11). Another way is to register a whole bunch of domains. Possible, but that does tend to cut into the profits a bit …

And really, that's the only way to make spam go away, but making it too expensive to send.

Update later today

Well, I went through some of my email today, applying the rules mentioned above to them, and while all the spam emails would have been stopped, I also recieved two false positives—one from a mailing list I'm on, and one for the guy I work for.

Looks like there are still some issues to work out here …

Friday, June 04, 2004

The Prisoner of Azkaban

The Facility in the Middle of Nowhere goes to the movies. The movie was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Unlike the other two Harry Potter films, this one was, according to Spring, more Halloween than Christmas. And it was all the better for it.

About the only thing I didn't really care for was Michael Gambon's portrayal of Hogwart's headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. While he looked exactly like Richard Harris in the Albus Dumbledore role, it wasn't the same calm understated manner that Harris played Dumbledore—Gambon was more animated and … well … loud (well, compared to Harris' near whispering of the role, it did come across as loud). It's a slightly different interpretation of the role, but having liked the Harris interpretation, it's hard to warm up to Gambon in the same role.

Alan Rickman is, as usual, wonderful in his role as Severus Snape (and I wish, I just wish, he'll get more screen time in the future.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

The Scrawniest Li'l Abner you'll ever see …

But if finding Daisy Mae was easy, obtaining an Abner proved impossible for a time. Actor after actor auditioned for the role and the casting directors continually broadened their search area, seeking someone who was tall and muscular and who could sing. “We started to panic,” Panama later recalled. “No matter how good the rest of the show was, no matter how good the rest of the cast was, we knew that without a strong Abner, we were dead.”

Li'l Abner on Broadway

I was a drama geek at Coconut Creek High School. And Li'l Abner was the musical of the year during my senior year. And I do agree, finding someone to play Li'l Abner isn't easy. The drama teacher, Ms. Linsley, thought she found someone in the guide of W. He was in drama, a good six feet with a physique that of Charles Atlas.

And he could sing.

So there really wasn't any question as to who would get the role.

But keeping him in the role? That was an entirely different question. It became apparent a few weeks after casting that W wasn't really all that interested in being part of the production, despite him being the lead and gaggles of girls in tied-up shirts and short-shorts. The question then became whether Ms. Linsley would fire him (as much as a teacher could “fire” a student from a school production) or W would quit. And sixteen years later, I can't remember if the sequence went like:


W, you're fired.


You can't fire me! I quit!


You can't quit the show because you aren't part of the show! I fired you!


I'm already gone! You can't fire someone who already quit!

Or if it went like:


I quit!


You can't quit!


Yes I can.


Okay, you're fired.


But I quit.


I don't accept your resignation, and in any case, you're fired.

Time does have a way of erasing little details like that.

So now we're out a Li'l Abner, and seeing how the play is called “Li'l Abner,” not having someone play Li'l Abner is definitely a problem. Jon Smithers had the physique, and the singing voice, but at something like 4′10″ he would have made a rather short Li'l Abner. After casting about a few days, Ms. Linsley came to a decision and decided to cast the scrawniest 9th grader she could find. And cast him she did (although I've long forgotten his name and couldn't find him in the year book, but I'm sure Gregory remembers). The idea was to stuff his costume with balloons in an attempt to “bulk” him up some.

Hey, Li'l Abner is a comedy musical anyway, so why not have a scrawny kid bulked out with balloons to add even more humor? Well, that was the theory anyway, and as disasters go, it wasn't as bad as loosing a lead the day before opening night (as happened the previous year with Roar of the Greasepaint, Smell of the Crowd) or actors forgetting entire songs during opening night (as happened the following year with How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying).

Yea, things could have been worse.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Not in a movie mood

“Which would you like to watch first, The Green Mile or The English Patient?” asked Spring. What I heard was, “Which would you like to watch, The Green Mile or The English Patient?” Note the word I missed—first.

I had to think about it, not really wanting to watch either film before deciding upon The Green Mile (which ended up being much better than I expected). Now, that was a few days ago. Yesturday, Spring walked into the Computer Room to announce that we were watching The English Patient.

“Um … ” I said. “I thought you asked me which film I wanted to see, and I picked The Green Mile.”

“No,” she said. “I asked which film you wanted to see first,” she said. “Now it's time to watch The English Patient.”

Oh bloody hell, I thought. “I don't really like historical dramas—oh wait! I like Amadeus. Um … ”

“What's wrong with The English Patient?” she asked. “I know you haven't seen it.”

“It's just … I'm not in the mood for it right now.” And that, right there, is the problem.

I'm almost always never in the mood for a movie.

And I don't know exactly why.

Oh sure, there are films I will almost always watch; Real Genius, Amadeus, Strictly Ballroom, Time Bandits, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Paper Moon (but only if it's on broadcast TV and I come across it while channel surfing—I doubt I'll ever go out of my way to rent it), Sneakers. But for any other film you'll have to twist my arm (some require more twisting than others).

And some films I have really enjoyed have required some very strong arm twisting on my part: Strictly Ballroom, Delicatessen (a French film no less!), Hardware (“So bad, it was well worth the six bucks,” as my friend Bill said, and yes, it is that bad), Enchanted April, The Green Mile.

But for the number of films I've been forced to watch and liked, there are an equal number (if not more) that I've been forced to watch and was either indifferent, bored or hated, like The Game, 8mm, The Iron Giant, Resident Evil, 28 Days Later, Breakfast at Tiffanies, The Graduate, Spies Like Us, The Matrix (okay, I didn't exactly hate this, nor was I bored, but still, I don't know why all my friends think this is the greatest film ever made).

Generally speaking, I don't really care for movies all that much anymore. I'm not sure if it's because of the way they're being made these days, the subject matter, an overfondness of films I saw growing up, OD'ed on TV as a kid, or all of the above. But Spring has a hard time getting me to watch films (heck, let's be honest, most of my friends have a hard time getting me to watch films) and I have a hard time explaining why I just don't want to watch films.

I never did watch The English Patient, having hemmed and hawed and promised to chauffeur Spring to a meeting (today) and The Kids to a pool party (today). Also, The Older wanted to watch The English Patient so that made up for the fact that I didn't.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Who now owns the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere?

Back on June 2nd the following was stuffed in the gateway of the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere:


June 2, 2004

Dear Resident:

This letter is to notify you that the property commonly known as the Complex† has this date sold and transferred ownership to the Complex.

† name of the devlopment has been changed

Well, it was nice to know that the community just sold itself to itself. Or something like that. Also, for the past few days one of the units near-by has been on the receiving end of a “renovation,” which seems to currently consist of everything that isn't a load bearing wall being torn out, rather loudly as the case may be.

[This is NOT our court yard] [The Crane of DOOM^H^H^H^HRenovation!]

Then today, the following was found in the gateway of the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere:

Dear Development In Boca West Residents,

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, Inc., owner and operator of over 30,000 apartment units, has just purchased the Complex Apartments. Over the coming months you will notice many new and exciting improvements being made, including:

We will be selling the newly remodeled luxury townhomes… If you are not interested in buying, but still want to live here, rest assured that your existing lease does not change. You may stay throughout the remaining term of your lease, and you may be able to remain in your apartment thereafter on a month-to-month basis.

Nice to know they won't immediately kick us out of the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere.

I suspect what's happening is that the rental market is drying up as interest rates remain low and everybody who can are buying homes; the fact that our rent remained the same when renewing leads me to believe this.

Then we received the following in the mail (also today, but sent on the 1st):

Dear Tenant:

With reference to your lease of space in the Complex, please be advised that XXXXXXXXXXXX LLC, a Colorado limited liability company has, as of June 1, 2004, sold, transferred and assigned the Complex and your lease to XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX LLC, a Delaware limited liability company ("Purchaser").

Please be further advised that the security deposit under your lease and the accrued interest thereon, if any, have been turned over to Purchaser, whose address is XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, Des Moines, Iowa 50309.

I just love that property in Florida owned by a company in Colorado was sold to a company in Delaware whose bank is in Iowa, just driving a point I hold dear that individual ownership is merely a fiction nowadays, or perhaps a quaint idea of the old fasioned.

But that's a rant for another day.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Somebody forgot their towel …

Several months ago I took over ownership of the Hitchhiker's Guide Project: A Complete Repository Of Characters, Planets, & Other Hoopy Froods from a friend who no longer wanted to deal with it (and I've been meaning to overhaul it, but eh … it can wait). There's a contact page that people can use to send me comments and occasionally I'll even respond to them.

But today … today I got the following:

I printed off a copy of a jpeg in 2002 of a honda accord with a caption stating “The automotive equivalent of a really hot librarian”. Is this jpeg still available? I loved it and want to print it in color as a tribute to fellow librarians everywhere.

Excuse me?

I could understand someone not realizing the site is a tribute to Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and asking me questions about hitchhiking, but this?

Sometimes I really do wonder about people …

Update on Thursday, June 10th 2004

A comment about this from the previous owner of the site:

You'll occasionally get that question from Librarians and people in that industry. I did host that image for a brief time, for reasons I won't go into right now. Check your access logs, you'll find 404s for honda.jpg scattered through them, since a bunch of places never corrected for link rot.

I feel a bit better now …

Programs from the past

Rooting around in the mustier corners of my harddrive, I came across this program I had written nearly a decade ago while attending FAU. At the time, I was a Computer Science major, working in the Math Department for two Ph. D.s, one out of the Psychology Department and one from the Center for Complex Systems, both of which were studying biophysics.

Not that I understood anything of what they actually did; all I did (besides keeping a few computers up and running) was write programs to their specifications.

The program I found was one of three I wrote dealing with a pair of equations they were studying:

x1 = ((A × y) + B) × x × (1 - x)
y1 = ((C × x) + D) × y × (1 - y)

From what little I remember, I seem to recall this being a form of simulation of two neurons interacting, but I have no idea how to interpret the results; all I know is that it can produce some rather striking images by ploting the results, then feeding those back into the equation, repeating this several thousand times. By changing the constants A, B, C and D you get wildly different results.

This program was had four slider controls that allowed to you vary the constants and updated the result in real time (and was quite impressive to view on the SGI workstation on my desk at school). The second one (written for a particular video card on a PC) would randomly pick A, B, C and D; you could view the previous 16 images and blow any of them up (or save the parameters to disk for later viewing). You could also have it step sequentially through values. This program was actually the backdrop for a BBC interview of one of the doctors I was working for.

The third program I wrote was a bit more complex. Instead of plotting the results of interation through the equations, it instead kept track of the results, and when it detected a loop, it would then save the number of points generated before a loop was detected (some values of A, B, C and D would vasillate between two or three points, while other values of A, B, C and D would never repeat even after 5,000 interations). And it worked its way systematically, varying A through its range of values and keeping B, C and D constant. It would then bump B up, and then run through all values of A, then bump B up, and so on until B hit its upper limit, then bump C up a bit, and so on. It took the better part of a year to run through all values of A, B and C. Then the data was plotted in three dimentions, using time as one of the dimentions (basically, an animation of a rather odd looking two dimentional image) and stored on video tape (which took me the better part of three days making, having to edit about five minutes of video frame-by- frame).

Again, not that I understood what the results where, just that I did it.

I enjoyed the work, and the office space was incredible; there are days when I wish I was still in that office.


Just for a lark, I decided to Google for the doctors I worked for and came across some of their recent work:

A new proprietary de novo peptide design technique generated ten 15- residue peptides targeting and containing the leading nontransmembrane hydrophobic autocorrelation wavelengths, “modes”, of the human m1 muscarinic cholinergic receptor, m1AChR. These modes were also shared by the m4AChR subtype (but not the m2, m3, or m5 subtypes) and the three- finger snake toxins that pseudoirreversibly bind m1AChR. The linear decomposition of the hydrophobically transformed m1AChR amino acid sequence yielded ordered eigenvectors of orthogonal hydrophobic variational patterns. The weighted sum of two eigenvectors formed the peptide design template. Amino acids were iteratively assigned to template positions randomly, within hydrophobic groups. One peptide demonstrated significant functional indirect agonist activity, and five produced significant positive allosteric modulation of atropine-reversible, direct- agonist-induced cellular activation in stably m1AChR-transfected Chinese hamster ovary cells, reflected in integrated extracellular acidification responses. The peptide positive allosteric ligands produced left-shifts and peptide concentration-response augmentation in integrated extracellular acidification response asymptotic sigmoidal functions and concentration-response behavior in Hill number indices of positive cooperativity. Peptide mode specificity was suggested by negative crossover experiments with human m2ACh and D2 dopamine receptors. Morlet wavelet transformation of the leading eigenvector- derived, m1AChR eigenfunctions locates seven hydrophobic transmembrane segments and suggests possible extracellular loop locations for the peptide-receptor mode-matched, modulatory hydrophobic aggregation sites.

Designing Human m1 Muscarinic Receptor-Targeted Hydrophobic Eigenmode Matched Peptides as Functional Modulators

Yea, I don't understand it either.

And that's just the abstract. I can't imagine how impenatrable the actual paper is.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

I'm interrupting your coup d'etat for my coup d'etat

In an article entitled, “When the War Hits Home: U.S. Plans for Martial Law, Tele-Governance and the Suspension of Elections,” Madsen and Stanton delved into the more frightening aspects of what might be in store. "One incident, one aircraft hijacked, a 'dirty nuke' set off in a small town, may well prompt the Bush regime, let's say during the election campaign of 2003-2004, to suspend national elections for a year while his government ensures stability," they wrote. “Many closed door meetings have been held on these subjects and the notices for these meetings have been closely monitored by the definitive”

Will the 2004 Election Be Called Off? Why Three Out of Four Experts Predict a Terrorist Attack by November

Reading this article it seems that having a Republican CEO of an electronic voting machine manufacturer isn't enough for President Bush, so the prudent thing is to have a backup plan. Good thing too, because of recent developments on the Diebold front.

Am I concerned that President Bush might try to suspend elections? Well, we were in the midst of the Civil War in 1864 and the US managed to hold an election (although a Republican did win … ). But the article is alarming to say the least and it's all too easy to get wrapped up in the thought that we might not see another election any time soon (at least, an election at the Federal level). And there are people with very deep pockets that want President Bush out of the White House and you know, just know, that President Bush knows this, and knows that his father wasn't re-elected even though he too, was a war time President. So yes, reading that, I was concerned.

But … a search for “Bush suspend elections” reveals a bunch of sites, most of come across as one step short of the deep end. And then the clincher:

JUNE 8, 2004 1600 PDT (FTW)—Why did DCI George Tenet suddenly resign on June 3rd, only to be followed a day later by James Pavitt, the CIA's Deputy Director of Operations (DDO)?

The real reasons, contrary to the saturation spin being put out by major news outlets, have nothing to do with Tenet's role as taking the fall for alleged 9/11 and Iraqi intelligence “failures” before the upcoming presidential election.

Both resignations, perhaps soon to be followed by resignations from Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage, are about the imminent and extremely messy demise of George W. Bush and his Neocon administration in a coup d'etat being executed by the Central Intelligence Agency. The coup, in the planning for at least two years, has apparently become an urgent priority as a number of deepening crises threaten a global meltdown.

Based upon recent developments, it appears that long-standing plans and preparations leading to indictments and impeachment of Bush, Cheney and even some senior cabinet members have been accelerated, possibly with the intent of removing or replacing the entire Bush regime prior to the Republican National Convention this August.

Via Metaphorge , COUP D'ETAT: The Real Reason Tenet and Pavitt Resigned from the CIA on June 3rd and 4th

President Bush has pissed off the CIA.

The CIA. Rumored to help remove governments even mildly disinterested to US interests. Rumors they were involved in Dallas. This is not a department you want to be on the business end of.

If this is true, then it's ironic to think that the CIA may attempt to overthrow our own government to save our own government. Even more ironic when El Presidente's father used to run the CIA. I'm not sure what I make of the CIA trying to oust President Bush. On the one hand, it makes them the Good Guys. On the other hand, they are known to be involved in several coup d'etats (Venezuela, Chile, Iraq (yup—back in 1996) and Haiti to name a few) and the propped up governments didn't exactly have democratic leanings. On the gripp ing hand President Bush may even be a greater evil than C'thulu.

Things are messy indeed, so messy that President Bush has hired a private attorney due to the Plame Investigation (oddly enough, involving our friends, the CIA). The tone people are taking when talking about President Bush hiring a private attorney is that of “Hey, Bush? Why ya hiding if you aren't guilty?”

Fourth clue: Bush and Cheney have both hired or consulted private criminal defense attorneys in anticipation of possible indictments of them and/or their top assistants in the Plame investigation. On June 3, just hours before Tenet suddenly resigned, President Bush consulted with and may have retained a criminal defense attorney to represent him in the Plame case.

Will the 2004 Election Be Called Off? Why Three Out of Four Experts Predict a Terrorist Attack by November

Quite a different change from the normal government attempting to intrude on the lives of citizens by asking “What do you have to hide?”. Refreshing even. But what these people seem to have forgotten though, is that this standard operating procedure for sitting Presidents, both Republican and Democratic:

Faced with possible prosecution in the Whitewater probe, Clinton initially turned to the White House counsel for help, believing his consultations would be kept secret under traditional attorney-client privileges. Previous administrations shared that belief. Only Richard Nixon, Rothstein said, hired a private attorney to advise him in the face of a government investigation into Watergate, which ultimately led to his resignation in 1974.

But two federal appeals courts ruled in 1997 and 1998 that presidential communications with the White House counsel weren't privileged when they were about personal, rather than governmental, matters. Clinton was forced to hire his own attorneys, and the rulings changed the presidency forever.

“It means the president needs his own lawyer if he's going to talk about personal liability, whether it's civil or criminal,” Rothstein said.

White House officials declined to explain why Bush contacted a private lawyer. They also refused to say whether other top administration officials had sought legal advice.

Bush gets a lawyer in case of questions

Am I still concerned about an “October Surprise?” Not as much as I used to, given the large number of players trying to outdo the others, such as:

In 1988 in Los Vegas, a DEA agent was convicted of illegal wiretapping but his conviction was overturned when it turned out that the FBI had illegally put a video camera in his office.


A few years ago the left-wing government of Angola employed Cuban troops to defend US oil refineries against a Maoist revolutionary supported by the Reagan Administration. It's hard to be politically correct when the world starts to look like “Monty Python's flying Circus.”

R. Shweder, New York Times, 9/27/93

Somehow, I think we'll get through November.

Friday, June 11, 2004

He may look like Death, but he's not really Death

Via kisrael, I found this link to Buttercup Festival, an odd little web comic. The artwork is fantastic in that ink and watercolor kind of way, but the actual comic itself is rather sureal. The main character may dress like Death, and carry a scythe like Death, but he really isn't Death. The artist also does another web comic, Green Evening Stories where the artwork is even more fantastic in that ink and watercolor kind of way than Buttercup Festival.

Following some links I came across a well researched article on the history of web comics. Quite interested, and little did I realize that Dr. Fun was not the first Internet based comic (web based, possibly, but not Internet-only).

Saturday, June 12, 2004

The Lord's Prayer throughout history

Bible translations are tricky things, mainly because so many Christians take the Bible as the infailable and ultimate Truth of God™. But the Bible has also been translated and while God may be infailable, we humans aren't quite so lucky. It's also interesting to view the various English translations throughout history.

For instance, various translation of the Lord's Prayer:

Fader uren thu in Heofnas, Sie gehalgud Nama thin; To Cymeth ric thin; Sie fillo thin Suae is in Heofne and in Eortha. Hlaf userne ofwewirtlic sel us to daeg; and forgev us scyltha urna, suae we forgefon scylgum urum. And ne inlead writh in Cosnunge. Al gefrigurich from evil,

Lindisfarne Gospels (date not given)

Unser vater ynn dem hymel. Deyn name sey heylig. Deyn reych kome. Deyn wille geschehe auff erden wie ynn dem hymel. Unser teglich brott gib vnns heutt, und vergib vns vnsere schulde, wie wyr vnsern schuldigen vergeben, vnnd fure vnns nitt ynn versuchung, sondern erlose vns von dem vbel,

Luther's New Testament (1522)

Oure fadir that art in heuenes, halwid be thi name; thi kingdom cumme to, be thi wille don as in heuen so in erthe. Giv to vs this day oure breed ouer other substaunce; and forgeue to vs oure dettis, as we forgeue to oure dettours; and leede vs nat in to tempacion, but delyuere vs fro yuel,

First Wycliffite Bible (ca. 1382) (NOTE: the letter ‘G’ and ‘g’ looks like a cross between a lowercase ‘g’ and ‘z’)

O oure father, which art in heven halewed by thy name. Let thy kyngdom come. Thy wyll be fulfilled, as well in erth, as hit ys in heven. Geve vs this daye oure dayly breade. And forgeve vs oure traspases,

Tyndale's New Testament (1525-26)

Our father which art in heauen, hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdome come, Thy will be done, in earth, as it is in heauen. Giue vs this day our daily bread. And forgiue vs our debts,

King James Version (1611)

Also interesting is the shifting of letterforms, how four hundred years ago our ‘v’ was shaped like ‘u’ and our ‘u’ was shaped like ‘v’. Also, the King James Version, of them all, sounds the best. Compare that, to a modern (1963) translation I found:

Our Heavenly Father, may your name be honored; May your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day the bread we need, Forgive us what we owe to you, as we have also forgiven those who owe anything to us.

The New Testament in Modern English (1963)

There's no flow; no lyricism at all. I suppose the reason the King James Version sounds so good is that that's the version I've been exposed to all my life, and it sounds like the Bible; it is the Bible.

At least, the English version of the Bible.

I'm not sure who King James had to do the translation, but with people like Francis Bacon, William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson, he must have had an incredible pool of talented writers. I would hate to think of how the 1963 translator would have done with:

To be, or not to be, that is the question …

Hamlet, Act III, scene i

Um …

To live, or to die, a decision to make …

Anyway, I just thought it was interesting.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

… but it's a moaning heat …

Nothing like listening to the wailings of a cat in heat. Yes, the past few weeks our new house cat, Tula has desperately wanted to mate and it's driving all of us (including the other cat, Spodie) absolutely mad. It got to the point where Spring even tooks matter in her own hand and attempted to quiet Tula down.


Didn't work.

So yesturday we finally got her to the vet. The operation was a success, thankfully, and the stitches will be coming out in nine more days.

Major Time Sink

Of all the computer games out there, Sim City is one of the few that I can play for extended periods of time. We're talking hours here. So it was bad news when Wlofie mentioned installing Sim City 3000 on one of the machines here.


There are some differences between the original version (which I'm used to) and this version. One, more fine tuned zoning, more services to operate, deals with other cities and more ways to obtain financing than raising taxes or embezzling funds). The one thing that Sim City 3000 doesn't have is a way to make bridges. The original version you could extend a road or railway across a body of water; this version you can't. Or at least I haven't found a way to yet.

Still fun.


Gotta stop.

Really gotta stop.

Okay, going to stop now.

Right after I finish zoning this area …

Garfield a commercial, not artistic, success

In his 1982 interview with Shapiro, Davis admitted to spending only 13 or 14 hours a week writing and drawing the strip, compared to 60 hours a week doing promotion and licensing.

Garfield's origins were so mercantile that it's fair to say he never sold out-he never had any integrity to put on the auction block to begin with. But today Davis spends even less time on the strip than he used to- between three days and a week each month. During that time, he collaborates with another cartoonist to generate ideas and rough sketches, then hands them over to Paws employees to be illustrated.

Via the Ferrett, Garfield—Why we hate the Mouse but not the cartoon copycat. By Chris Suellentrop

This certainly explains Bill Watterson's comment about Garfield being “consistent.” It also puts a different spin on my meeting Jim Davis, creator of Garfield.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Getting with the repair culture

For the past few months the cord was getting more and more touchy and the slightest movement of the laptop would cause it to come loose and stop supplying power. Yesterday, it finally gave out. Wlofie said that he would be happy to help fix the cord, so we went to Radio Shack to pick up a new tip for the cord, as well as some shrink tubing and glue sticks.

We had the old end with us in the store and I picked what appeared to the correct power tip to use, but when we got home, the tip turned out to be too small to use. To today, I went back to Radio Shack, taking both the non-fitting tip and my laptop so I could try various tips to see which one would fit.

Upon returning home with a tip that fits, Wlofie then spent the next half our or so soldering the new tip, and using the shrink tube and glue stick to make sure the new end would remain solid. The resulting job, I think, was quite well done; Wlofie, however, feels as if he could have done a much better job.

Now to get with my source of ThinkPad parts and see if I can't get a replacement power cord.

The greylist approach to spam

I've been rather relunctant to add much in the way of anti-spam measures on the mailserver I use, if only because I'm horribly afraid of false positives; loosing email is a big thing with me. Also, most of the anti-spam measures are processor intensive, having to do an analysis of the actual email in question and attempt to classify it as “spam” or “non- spam”.

But during a thread on a mailing list I'm on, I came across a concept of “greylisting,” which seems very promising, as the statistics in the whitepaper state:

Analysis of Effectiveness

Based on testing with the example implementation, over a testing period of about 6 weeks, we had raw numbers of:

So we have a better than 97 percent efficiency assuming that all email is spam, but it's actually better than that, since most of the email that got through was not spam. Unfortunately, telling exactly how much better we did is impossible without individually inspecting each email, which of course we did not do.

Now lets look at our inefficiency:

Unfortunately, this is a pretty poor number. But let's correct it a bit. Almost all of these delayed emails were mailing list traffic which used a unique id for the sender address (see above note regarding VERP). So if we disregard all triplets that passed only one email, we should exclude that type of traffic, and we get a new set of numbers:

This puts things in a much more favorable light, and merely disregards delays for emails that are generally not timely anyway.

Now let's see what effect greylisting would have on network bandwidth, based on some general averages.

These numbers are based on spam collected via various methods before the testing period. We picked these as nice round numbers that are pretty closely in line with analysis of previously seen spam. As for the SMTP overhead, in most cases it was less than 500 bytes, but we decided to err on the conservative side.

From this, it follows that for every spam blocked using Greylisting, we save enough bandwidth to "pay" for 10 deferred delivery attempts. If we total that up to give a real-world number (using the unadjusted numbers to give a worst case picture):

338018 (# spams) x 5000 bytes = 1.69 Gbytes of bandwidth saved
33586 (# blocks) x 500 bytes = 16.7 Mbytes of bandwidth wasted

This gives us a net gain of over 1.67 Gbytes of traffic that was saved by implementing Greylisting in our tests. And that's just on a fairly small site.

Greylisting: Whitepaper

Even better is the actual method—there's no modification of SMTP itself, and the processing is dead simple. In fact, the processing doesn't even require looking at the email itself. All it requires is that the SMTP server keep track of the sender, receiver and the client IP address (the “triplets” mentioned above) and for an IP address never recorded, simply sending back a “try again later” response.

It's that simple.

Which is why I like it.

After a period of time (the whitepaper suggests one hour) you can then let the email through, and you keep the IP address on a “whitelist” that allows that IP address to send through without going through the “try again later” phase; the records that comprise the whitelist should expire after a period of time of inactivity (the whitepaper suggests 36 days).

I know the company that Spring works for, Negiyo, started using some anti-spam measures and for the past two or three weeks, they're getting slammed with both spam and complaints from customers about massive false positives—in fact, their email system is in total melt down right now. So this “greylisting” method would seem to be something they need to add right now (are you listening Rob? JeffK? Look into this!). Granted, there are some issues (such as large sites using multiple machines to send out email) that need to be resolved (record a range of addresses instead of individual addreses for instance) before implementing this, but I think that the returns given for such a simple thing are worth it.

While in the short term this seems like a good easy way to control spam, one concern is the adaption of spammers of techniques around this. Such issues are covered in the whitepaper, but there's another technique that was mentioned on the mailing list that is just as easy to implement and raises the cost of mail delivery to spammers, if used in conjunction with greylisting.

In RFC-2821, there are recomended timeouts for each phase of email delivery using SMTP (averages five minutes). This can be used to our advantage, and during the “try again later” responses, and for the initial “let mail get through” phase—all it would take is a minute or two delay on the server and it gets too expensive for the spammer. In some previous entries I go over just how many emails can be sent by a spammer, and the calculations don't include intentional delays on the part of the server. And delays of even a few seconds can cause a spammers costs to rise.

I do however, think I will attempt to get this installed on my mail server and see how it works.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

The patent is truely over …

As I write this late Saturday night, it is now Sunday in Japan. According to the Unisys web site's “LZW Patent and Software Information” page, “The U.S. LZW patent expired on June 20, 2003, the counterpart Canadian patent expires July 7, 2004, the counterpart patents in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy expire June 18, 2004, and the Japanese counterpart patents expire June 20, 2004.” It's over.

LZW patent expires

And I have to wonder if Unisys ever made a profit on this patent, given the way they handled it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Guess the Dictator!

Another reason I'm not overly worried about this upcoming election is because we've been through this all before (and muddled through somehow):

The Dictator XXXXXXX invaded XXXXXXXXX without the consent of Congress, as called for in the Constitution; declared martial law; blockaded XXXXXXXX ports without a declaration of war, as required by the Constitution; illegally suspended the writ of habeas corpus; imprisoned without trial thousands of XXXXXXXX anti-war protesters, including hundreds of newspaper editors and owners; censored all newspaper and telegraph communication; … ordered Federal troops to interfere with XXXXXXXX elections to assure XXXXXXXXXXX Party victories; deported XXXX Congressman XXXXXXX X. XXXXXXXXXXXX for opposing his domestic policies … on the floor of the House of Representatives; confiscated private property, including firearms, in violation of the Second Amendment; …

Now, the question I have for you is … which American President is this talking about?

  1. Franklin Roosevelt
  2. Abraham Lincoln
  3. Lyndon Johnson
  4. Richard Nixon

Two from each party, all war time Presidents. Take your time, for I suspect that most Americans will be surprised with the real answer, given how bad history is actually taught here in the States.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

“Rule 1 in house-breaking, never answer the phone. Rule 2, bring tools, you looked like an idiot. Rule 3, never forget rule 2.”

“Who is this?”

“Look out the window and see.” Flash of light. “Rule 4, never stand where you can be photographed. Are you listening Richard?”

“How do you know my name?”

“Rule 5, never admit to your name.”

Via Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency is one of the most tightly plotted books I've ever read, starting with what appear to be four independent stories, only to end up being one intricate story (that took me two reads to fully understand what happened when and where).

It's an incredible story.

Ray Frisen did a comic strip adaptation of the story, totally unauthorized, so best read it before the sharks lawyers take him it down.

Now that's a low interest rate!

From: “Effie Champion” <>
Subject: $67213
Date: Wed, 23 Jun 2004 21:47:59 +0500


I sent you an email a few days ago because you now qualify for a new mortgage. You could get a $300,000 for as little as $700 a month! credit is no problem, you can pull cash out or refinance.

Best Regards,

Effie Champion

I've received quite a few of these, all from different people. Now, $300,000 for as little as $700/month?

Where do I sign up?

Let's see … break out the mortgate calculator here … typical length of a mortgate is 30 years, borrowing $300,000 with $700/month payments, works out to -1.13% interest rate.

I know the Federal Interest rate is low, but not that low. And a 15 year mortgage works out to -10.2% interest rate.

Those are some nice rates.

Now, working from the other end … how long does it take to pay back $300,000 (with no interest rate) at $700/month? Three hundred thousand divide by seven hundred … divide by twelve … multiply the remainder by twelve …

Thirty-five years and nine months.

At a measly 1% the mortgage would take 44 years to pay off. 90 years at 2.5%. Anything higher and my mortgage calculator laughs hysterically and accuses me of robbing my kids' inheritence (that is, if I have kids).

Who are these guys kidding? There's no way you could get a mortgate for $300,000 at $700/month. No way!


Thursday, June 24, 2004

The history of Mary Jane

Then the single law which has done the most in this country to reduce the level of drug addiction is none of the criminal laws we have ever passed. The single law that reduced drug addiction the most was the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act.

The labeling requirements, the prescription requirements, and the refusal to approve the patent medicines basically put the patent medicine business out of business and reduced that dramatic source of accidental addiction. The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, not a criminal law, did more to reduce the level of addiction than any other single statute we have passed in all of the times from then to now.

Via The Old New Thing, The History of the Non-Medical Use of Drugs in the United States

An absolutely fascinating article on the history of marijuana laws and enforcement in the United States. Prior to the 1937 Federal ban of marijuana, 27 states had laws against the drug and all, with the exception of Utah, fell into two camps—the western states, to stem the tide of Mexican immigration and the eastern states, afraid that heroine addicts (cut off because of the Harrison Act of 1914) and drunkards (cut off because of Amendment 18 of 1919) would instead substitute marijuana. The one exception, Utah, passed the first actual criminal statutes against marijuana because of returning Mormom missionaries to Mexico were using the drug, and, as you know, the Mormoms have to outlaw fun.

And the actual passing of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 (yes, it's a tax act) made for some interesting reading:

You want to know how brief the hearings were on the national marijuana prohibition?

When we asked at the Library of Congress for a copy of the hearings, to the shock of the Library of Congress, none could be found. We went “What?” It took them four months to finally honor our request because—are you ready for this?—the hearings were so brief that the volume had slid down inside the side shelf of the bookcase and was so thin it had slid right down to the bottom inside the bookshelf. That's how brief they were. Are you ready for this? They had to break the bookshelf open because it had slid down inside.

The entire debate on the national marijuana prohibition was as follows— and, by the way, if you had grown up in Washington, DC as I had you would appreciate this date. Are you ready? The bill was brought on to the floor of the House of Representatives—there never was any Senate debate on it not one word—5:45 Friday afternoon, August 20. Now, in pre-air-conditioning Washington, who was on the floor of the House? Who was on the floor of the House? Not very many people.

Speaker Sam Rayburn called for the bill to be passed on “tellers”. Does everyone know "tellers"? Did you know that for the vast bulk of legislation in this country, there is not a recorded vote. It is simply, more people walk past this point than walk past that point and it passes—it's called “tellers”. They were getting ready to pass this thing on tellers without discussion and without a recorded vote when one of the few Republicans left in Congress, a guy from upstate New York, stood up and asked two questions, which constituted the entire debate on the national marijuana prohibition.

“Mr. Speaker, what is this bill about?”

To which Speaker Rayburn replied, “I don't know. It has something to do with a thing called marihuana. I think it's a narcotic of some kind.”

Undaunted, the guy from Upstate New York asked a second question, which was as important to the Republicans as it was unimportant to the Democrats. "Mr. Speaker, does the American Medical Association support this bill?”

In one of the most remarkable things I have ever found in any research, a guy who was on the committee, and who later went on to become a Supreme Court Justice, stood up and—do you remember? The AMA guy was named William C. Woodward—a member of the committee who had supported the bill leaped to his feet and he said, “Their Doctor Wentworth came down here. They support this bill 100 percent.” It wasn't true, but it was good enough for the Republicans. They sat down and the bill passed on tellers, without a recorded vote.

The History of the Non-Medical Use of Drugs in the United States

There's more, a lot more, in the article. Yes, it's long, but it covers the testimony of industry in the 1937 hearings (birdseed packagers got an exemption to use hemp seeds; the other industry experts didn't care one way or the other), the fall out of the early enforcement in the 40s, Reefer Madness, the gateway drug, organized crime, Prohibition, schedules, the War on Drugs—to say nothing of the dogs.

And the author makes a convincing case for the next major prohibition in the United States, but you'll have to read the article to find out what it is.

But a hint—look at a habit of the lower classes that the upper classes have kicked. And California … always look at California, for as it goes, so does the nation.

Friday, June 25, 2004

I can't believe I read the whole thing

As you can tell from our spiffy logo, this is about the life of everyone's favorite Spider-Man clone, Ben Reilly. “The Clone Saga” as it became known, was the most controversial Spider-Man story ever told. Years after the saga ended, fans are still divided as to whether the story was a landmark moment in Spider-Man history, or an embarrassing smudge of the 90s that further complicated the titles. To give you a little bit of a hint, let me say that I wouldn't begin a project like this if I hated the clone saga.

GrayHaven Magazine presents … “The Life of Reilly”

Ah, Spider- Man.

Of all the Marvel comics, I suppose Spider-Man is my favorite—then again, I'm not much of a Marvel fan to begin with, preferring DC. Then again, I'm not much into superhero comics anyway.

Be that as it may though, Spider-Man. Of all of Marvel's heros, he's the one that I can relate to the most—an awkward teenager who can't get a date yet saves New York time and time again, only to have screeds written against him by the horrible editor James Johah Jameson. And who can forget those incredible lyrics from the 60s animated series?

Spiderman, Spiderman,
Does whatever a spider can
Spins a web, any size,
Catches thieves just like flies
Look Out!
Here comes the Spiderman.

Is he strong?
Listen bud,
He's got radioactive blood.
Can he swing from a thread?
Take a look overhead
Hey, there
There goes the Spiderman.

In the chill of night
At the scene of a crime
Like a streak of light
He arrives just in time.

Spiderman, Spiderman
Friendly neighborhood Spiderman
Wealth and fame
He's ignored
Action is his reward

To him, life is a great big bang up
Whenever there's a hang up
You'll find the Spiderman.

(These lyrics are probably the third most recognized animated lyrics from my generation, only exceeded by “Conjunction Junction” and “I'm just a Bill” from School House Rock)

But since I don't really follow superhero comics that much, little did I know that in the mid-90s, a resurected story line from 1975, in which our Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman fought against his own clone, a little story line that nearly destroyed the whole Spiderman franchise.

Okay, a bit of hyperbole there, but still, in the 35 part (yes, thirty- five part) series you not only learn of the nearly two year long saga (through the four Spider-Man comic books and some special one-shots) every excruciating details about Peter Parker/Spider-Man (the “survivor” of the 1974 story and possible clone) and Ben Reilly/Scarlet Spider (supposedly killed and the “real” Peter Parker) and all the plot twists there-in (who really is the clone, and whose body really did end up in that smokestack in 1974?) but the details about what was going on behind the scenes at Marvel during that time.

Reading the series (and yes, I can't believe I read the whole thing) it struck me that superhero comic books and soap operas, despite the different media and target audiences, are basically the same thing. The editors had a definite story arc they wanted to present, but continuity errors, marketing pressure and the big problem—changes in employment of editors and writers caused the storyline to spriral out of control (at one point Ben Reilly was supposed to end up being the real Peter Parker, but seeing how the clone Peter Parker had not only married Mary Jane, but was about to become a father, complicated matters. And what about all the Spider-Man issues between 1975 and 1994? You mean that wasn't Peter Parker but a clone? You begin to see the problem here … ).

It's a fascinating read, although I did find myself skimming the Spider- Man story line to skip to the behind-the-scenes machinations going on at Marvel.

“Enuma elish” this ain't …

Here, according to the London Times, are a few sample passages:

Mark 1:4

Authorized version: “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”

New: “John, nicknamed ‘The Dipper,’ was ‘The Voice.” He was in the desert, inviting people to be dipped, to show they were determined to change their ways and wanted to be forgiven.”

Mark 1:10-11

Authorized version: “And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him. And there came a voice from the heaven saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

New: “As he was climbing up the bank again, the sun shone through a gap in the clouds. At the same time a pigeon flew down and perched on him. Jesus took this as a sign that God's spirit was with him. A voice from overhead was heard saying, ‘That's my boy! You're doing fine!’”

Via metaphorge , New Bible translation promotes fornication

Not only does it promote fornication, but it mangles the English lanuage as well. Like I mentioned a few days ago, modern translations of the Bible just don't have the lyricism of the King James Bible. “‘That's my boy! You're doing fine!’”?


Saturday, June 26, 2004

Chess influence

I found myself being dragged to a chess club meeting at Spring's church. Not being much of a chess player, and not wanting to play, I took along my laptop to keep me occupied (the chess club is more for The Kids than any of us adults).

Unfortunately, I didn't prepare fully, and not having wireless access at the church, I found myself with not much to work on. I then decided to use the time to write a program I've been meaning to work on for some time.

One of the problems I have with chess is seeing the influence each piece has over the rest of the board. With that in mind, the program I wrote displays the board not with the standard checkerboard pattern, but colors the squares as to “ownership” of the board. In my case, blue squares denote that black owns that square, red squares show white influence, yellow squares convey conflicting influence where both black and white could claim ownership and grey (of which the sample picture lacks) show no influence whatsoever of that square.

I didn't quite finish at the chess club meeting; the big obstacle was the lack of suitable graphics for the pieces. Afterwards I played a bit more on fleshing out the program, grabing images from xboard. Right now the pieces can't be moved (they're placed there at program startup) but at least I got most of the infrastructure down, and I have something I can work on the next time I get dragged to a chess club meeting.

Monday, June 28, 2004


Last night Spring expressed her dismay at the general clutter about the house and how she can't stand being in many of the rooms and the lack of workspace at The Kids' computer (since her computer is still in the shop). We discussed for over an hour different ways of arranging the living room and dining room to make some more space and by the time we headed off to bed, the best we could come up with was moving some bookshelves to the opposite wall and shoving the desk with The Kids' computer up against the wall, instead of perpendicular as it was.

Upon going downstairs this afternoon I saw that Spring had a real brainstorm and she managed to rearrange nearly the entire living room/dining room area, giving more room for the computer area. The bookshelves are on the opposite side of the room, but instead of blocking the sliding glass doors (which my idea would have) they instead form a short partitioning wall between the living room and dining room; the long white couch and comfy chair swapped places and the desk is now against the wall, along with a small folding table, giving plenty of work space.

It looks completely different, yet it's still functional.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Riding it out

I got that feeling again, the one I get when I'm hit with sleep paralysis—I'm awake, but feeling drugged out and unable to move or speak. Every since I found out exactly what that feeling was, I was able to control the paranoia and helpless feelings normally associated with it and kind of “ride it out” as it where.

Except for today.

Not feeling quite right and still a bit tired, I went upstairs for what I was expecting to be a half hour nap. Two and a half hours later I get hit with a rather nasty sleep paralysis attack. I knew what was happening, but still, the impulse to get up (or rather, attempt to get up) was strong and I ended up just flopping around trying to get out from under the covers, unable to call out for help.

I made a valiant attempt, but ended up flailing on my back when the mattress started bucking up and down. Mattresses normally don't buck up and down and knowing what I was going through, I came to the conclusion that I was not being abducted by aliens, seduced by succubi or possed by Linda Blair, but instead was still partially dreaming.

Experiencing sleep paralysis is bad enough—dreaming of experiencing sleep paralysis is even worse. Or perhaps it's the knowledge of sleep paralysis and dreaming you are experiencing it is bad. All I know, the next thing I'm seeing as I struggle to open my eyes is a creature flying out from behind the bathroom mirror (visible from the bed). Great, I thought. Not only am I suffering from sleep paralysis, but I'm hallucinating at the same time. Such thoughts didn't keep from from yelling out “Help!” although it came out more like “Eeeaaaah!”

So I'm flailing around, trying to get somewhere by any means necessary, yelling “Help!” or “Get away!” (to the flying hallucination from the mirror) and wondering why no one was even coming to help, because they were just down the hall in the living room. And this went on for what seemed like half an hour or hour or so. I think I'm about to get up when I don't. I'm yelling like Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein. There's this hallucinated creature on a loop, flying out from behind the mirror, disappearing, then flying out from behind the mirror. And where is everybody? Can't anyone hear—

—and I snap out of it.

I'm finally awake, for real. In the same position as I was when I fell asleep some two and half hours ago. And the reason no one heard me is that no one was down the hall in the living room, because the living room isn't down the hall, it's down the stairs on the other end of the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere.

And I still felt like crap.

Bloody sleep paralysis.

Back to the Cheese Shop

Through the grapevine, I heard that the Company, the one I used to work for, has an open position. In the Cheese Shop.

Yes, I'll be working for the same manager that had me fired. But that was three years ago. Let bygones be bygones. And it's not like I'll have to go through much training, having worked in the position before.

So yes, I sent in my résumé.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

I just won the Jury Lottery

Nothing quite like getting a letter with


across the middle.

For the United States District Court.

Could be worse. My first summons ever was for the Federal Court down in Miami (fortunately for me, I was able to get out of that due to being a student at FAU).

Starting August 8th I have to call the court house no earlier than 5:30pm to see if I have to serve the next day; a ritual I have to follow for the following two weeks. There's a form to fill out (using a #2 pencil of course) and the questions are all fairly standard questions like “Have you ever been convicted of a State or Federal crime?” but there were two that just struck me oddly. The first is silly:

Question 4


And the second was:

Question 7


Now, question 6 was the “Have you ever been convicted …” question, and honestly, I didn't know how to answer question 7. So I didn't. But in the “REMARKS” section on the back, I wrote the following:

I did not answer #7 since it didn't seem to apply in my case. Answering “yes” would imply that at one point my civil rights were restored, while a “no” answer would imply I don't have civil rights. Since my civil rights were never taken away, they never had to be restored in the first place so I felt that the question does not apply in my case.

Will I have to serve? I'm not sure … the first time I actually went in, I wasn't selected, but the second time I was selected (although the case was settled before it began so we were dismissed), so now I'm figuring I have some chance at being selected. But given that lawyers for both sides tend not to like highly educated people (since they're harder to bamboozle) and I listed eight years of college (never mind I never graduated—the form just requested the number of years) I might not even be considered. Who knows?

But we'll see …

Now, off to mail the form.

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