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, August 17, 2004

Harmful if swallowed

But … the good news is that I am the first documented medical case of a cryogenic ingestion. Read the New England Journal of Medicine. Three articles are in review now, and will be published soon, I'm told.

Via DECAFBAD, Mouthful of Nitrogen

Remember kids, never swallow liquid nitrogen!

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I love the smell of spam in the morning.

Subject: Client Referral
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 07:52:30 -0500

Dear Customer,

Be the very first listing in the top search engines immediately.

Our company will now place any business with a qualified website permanently at the top of the major search engines guaranteed never to move. This promotion includes unlimited traffic and is not going to last long. If you are interested in being guaranteed first position in the top search engines at a promotional fee, please contact us promptly to find out if you qualify via email at This is not pay per click.

The following are examples on Yahoo!, MSN and Alta Vista:

Company: Eco Summer
keyword: adventure travel vacation

Company: Dana Hursey Photography
keyword: location photographer

Company: Oahu Dive Center
keyword: oahu scuba diving



The Search Engine Promotional Consultants

This is an interesting piece of spam.

The wording they use is rather peculiar—“permanently at the top of the major search engines guaranteed never to move.” A quick reading of that lead me to believe they would make sure your website would always come back in the top position for a given query forever and that the result position for your website would never move down (or conversely, up either). But the placement of “guaranteed never to move” could modify “major search engines.”

“But your Honor, we never said search engine placement would never move. All we guaranteed was that the search engines themselves would never move. And have they moved? Nay, I say! Nay!”

I also like how they imply they were responsible for Eco Summer getting top placement at Yahoo (but not at MSN at the time of this writing) but again, the weasel words allow out.

“But your Honor, they were but examples as it clearly states in the email. We never said they were customers of ours.”

I do hope that doesn't mind my interpretation of his email. I also hope he doesn't mind all the wonderful offers (“3xp@nd ur mortg@ge by 3 !nche5!”) he'll start receiving at as his email address is scrapped from this webpage.

Monday, August 23, 2004

What hotter heater

“What's that burning smell?” asked Spring when she walked into the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere. She had just gotten home from work. “Were you cooking something?”

“Not that I know of,” I said. We started sniffing around, trying to locate the source of the burning smell. The strongest source seemed to be coming from the air conditioning vent. Not a good sign, as we had just recently got the thing repaired after a series of back and forth exchanges with the rental office.

Heading upstairs, we first checked the master bedroom; the burnt smell was strong throughout the room, but it wasn't obvious what was wrong; the only thing plugged in and on was an alarm clock. The smell was just above a background threshhold. It was coming from somewhere but the somewhere wasn't obvious.

I then went to check The Kids' room, fearing that The Kids' might have tried an experiment or something, but was confounded by a locked door. The door knobs have a small hole, usually the type where you can jam a straightened hangar through it to pop the lock. That proved futile (as the lock itself is of the turning type—not sure what exactly you do to unlock that type) when Spring started wailing on the door, trying to get the kids to wake up and unlock it.

But no, the source of the smell did not turn out to be a half-forgotten childhood experiment. In fact, there was no smell at all in their room. Back in the master bedroom all the facts were slowly pointing to the air conditioner (which is actually in the master bedroom) when Spring went to check on one of the mail inlet vents. She started coughing. “There's smoke here, lots of white smoke, and the smell is very strong here.”

That was enough for me to call 9-1-1 as we evacuated the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere.

[Fire truck] [Fireman]

“The hot water heater burned out,” said the fireman. “It must have shorted out as it scorched the insulation and outter casing.”

“The wot hotter heater?” I asked.

“Wot hotter heater?”


“You said, ‘wot hotter heater.’”

“I meant ‘hot water heater.’” It was strange, but I had difficulty saying “hot water heater.” Don't ask me why, it just came out as “wot hotter heater.”

“Yes, the hot water heater.”

“You got to the wot hotter heater?” The wot hotter, um, hot water heater is in (as we call it) the Harry Potter Closet, a deep, cramped closet underneath the stairs, all the way to the back, below the middle landing where the stairs turn. We use it as storage. Enough said.

“Yes. Sorry about the mess.”

“Oh, that's okay. Better that than a fire.”

“Yes,” he said. “Here, let me show you.” And he lead me deep into the Harry Potter closet to show me the damage. “As you can see,” he said, pointing things out with his flashlight,” the casing of the wot hotter heater—”

“Wot hotter heater?”

“Great, you got me saying that now,” he said, sighing. “the casing—” and he pointed, “is burned, along with the insulation.” I snapped a few pictures. “The main power cord has also burned through.” Snap. “And take a look here,” he said, pointing to the blackened rements of a control panel. Snap.

“So we have no hot water?”

“You have what's left in the heater, but that's it.” He indicated where he unplugged the unit.

[Scorched casing] [Burnt cord] [Burnt electronics] [Burnt panel]

As I remarked later to Spring, the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere has been the most exciting place I've ever lived in. Between spider infestations (don't ask), walls bleeding honey, water leaking through the kitchen lights (oh yes, about a week ago or so, we found water leaking from the master bathroom into the kitchen through the light fixtures) and constant fun with the air conditioner, you can't ask for a more interesting place to live.

I'm not even going to ask what can happen next …

Update later today

heh, we had the exact same thing happen to me and insanity back when we lived in a nice two floor apartment in Ft. Lauderdale. She had the fire department there and everything.

Turns out that the design of the water heater / air conditioning closet was to blame. As the A/C unit was directly above the water heater and all the condensation that the A/C generated dripped right onto the water heater, eventually causing it to fry. It looked almost exactly like the pictures you have in this entry.

Squeaky, commenting on the situation

Something to think about when designing a house ... don't stack the air conditioner above the wot hotter heater.

Comment today, gone tomorrow

A while ago Spring setup a syndicated feed for The Boston Diaries at Livejournal. So if you have a LiveJournal account you can add my blatherings to your friend's page. Hey, it's what my feed is for, right?

But I've noticed, through some experimentation, that LiveJournal does not keep the entries around for all of eternity (or as long as it's in service), but will delete them as soon as the entries fall out of the feed file. This, I can't fault them for, since why should they keep copies of this? And since they get rid of the entries as soon as they are no longer in the feed, any comments posted to the LiveJournal syndication are deleted along with the entry itself from LiveJournal.

So, you make a comment to my feed at LiveJournal, it won't surivive forever.

Which explains why I sometimes quote comments made there here.

Just letting you guys know …

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Oh, that water heater

The wot hotter heater has been fixed, amid curses from the plumber. He installed a new unit (top of the line—hey, we weren't paying for it) yesterday (“I'll give you hot water if I have to stay here and heat it myself with a match!”) but had to return today to reroute an ill placed piped so it would pass inspection if it ever came to that. He said that the original installation, bad as it was, was probably done that way to save a measly $20 or so during building.


Spring and Wlofie both said that the original savings of $20 then is now costing the Rental Office big bucks. But I cynically replied that the original company is no longer the owner. In fact, the company that built this play may not have been the company we rented these units from, so who knows who palmed that $20 (possibly per unit, and there are several hundred units).

So things are pretty much back to status quo here at the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere.

And I hope it stays that way.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Of course …

I spoke too soon. We received the following letter today from our wonderful Rental Office:

This letter is to advise you that in accordance with paragraph 17 of your lease agreement, the manager of XXXXXXXXXXXXX Apartments is giving you official notice that your lease is due to expire. Please be advised that we will not be renewing your lease agreement, nor will you be given the opportunity to remain as a month to month resident.

YOU MUST MAKE ALL ARRANGEMENTS TO VACATE THE PREMISES KNOWN AS XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, Boca Raton, FL 33433. If you fail to turn in keys and do not vacate on 9/30/04, we shall have no alternative but to advise our attorney's office to proceed in regaining possession of your unit. Please be advised that in accordance with Section 83.58, Florida Statutes, the landlord is entitled to demand double your monthly rent for as long as you remain a resident.

Surprised us.

Thought we had until January, but it looks like the Rental Office thinks otherwise. We found our copy of this years lease so hopefully this is all one big happy mistake. I hope so.

Now, Florida law has changed a bit regarding the breaking of leases, and now, if we were to break the lease, we owe the Rental Office a fee of $3,000. If this isn't one big happy mistake, does that mean the Rental Office now owes us $3,000 for breaking the lease?

Somehow, I think not.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

No fence sitters here

The fact that some of the units are still occupied has not stopped the Rental Office from renovating the units as today they tore down the fence to the courtyard here at the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere.

They also painted the front door, but at least we got warning about that.

Friday, August 27, 2004

It's magic

For our entire history, right up until a hundred years ago, the idea of flying carpets and magic lanterns held peoples imaginations in thrall. Now that we have everyday miracles like jet aircraft and electric lights, all some people want is to return to a time when the belief in magic was common but the everyday blessings of magic—telephones, computers, antibiotics didnt exist. Back in the anti-nuclear 80s lots of folks drove around with SPLIT WOOD NOT ATOMS bumper stickers, and I often asked myself, how much wood have these people actually split? Ive done an hour in my 20's and I thought I was going to die.

It's sad, frankly—at least to people like me. I find it terribly, tragically sad that the more successful and comfortable we become, the more people pine for a time when none of these everyday miracles existed. Outdoor bathrooms on January nights and miserable coal stoves that need to be tended hourly just to heat a pathetic half-gallon of tepid water need to be experienced to be believed—and not just in a 24 hour adventure, but continuously. Death, hunger, cold, disease, infant mortality— we have fought them tooth and nail for millennia, for what? Apparently in order to so insulate people that they can long for “ancient wisdom,” return to the “holistic tribal remedies” of the past, and hold up the most primitive and achingly poor cultures on earth as being the sole repository of “authenticity” while scorning every advance that they take completely for granted.

Magical thinking is everywhere today, and it is growing. It threatens the foundations of reason, individualism, science and objectivity that have delivered this success so well and for so long. It is dangerous. If we are to continue to thrive and progress, then we need to sharpen some sticks and drive a stake through the heart of this monster, and right quick.


I don't take indoor plumbing or hot water for granted—I have no desire to experience life in a “magical” setting. I like my hot and cold running water, thank you very much. And A/C. And electricity. And the Internet.

I like the trappings of modern life.

Monday, August 30, 2004

I'm in the money

Woohoo! I've made a whopping 55¢ from Amazon!

It's been perhaps a year or so since I signed up to be an Amazon Associate (and I'd link to the Amazon Associate site, but there doesn't seem to be a direct link to the Amazon Associate site—go figure) and I really didn't bother much with it at the time, but when I took over The Hitchhiker's Guide Project site, it was suggested (by the previous owner no less) that it would behoove me to link to the books, seeing how the film The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is slated to come out Real Soon Now™.

So I went ahead and did just that.

Starting July 20th. And in that time, I've had (as of writing this) 1,075 unique visitors click on through to Amazon (about 33 per day). And in that time I've sold two (count 'em, two) books to Amazon.

“And which books have you sold,” you ask? Okay, you probably didn't ask, but I'll pretend you asked anyway, because the two books I've earned a commission on aren't in that list above. Nope. The two books were Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse and (this is the real kicker I think) The Seven Lady Godivas: The True Facts Concerning History's Barest Family by (and this surprised me even more) Dr. Seuss.

Don't ask me how that happened. I'm not complaining (okay, I can—about the lack of sales) but still, Lady Godiva? Dr. Seuss?


But still, I've made some money. So, all I need is several thousand more sales …

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The clearning of leasing confusion

Finally we cleared up the confusion over our lease. We have until what we thought was our original date to move out, and better yet, if we decide to move ealier, they'll waive the $3,000 “breaking the lease” penalty, since it's in their own interest to get us out of here.

Now, we just need them to fix the oven and replace the kitchen lights (since technically, that's their problem) … perhaps there's another reason they want us out …

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