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 10, 2006


My cell phone rang.

I went to answer it, but I couldn't read it. At first, I thought the screen was upside-down, but when I rotated the phone, the screen was backwards! It was flipped and reversed. After the phone call, I powercycled the device (by removing the battery) and it's fine now.


But yes, I'm posting again!

I've been sick since June 29th with a cold and as typical with me, when I get a cold, I get a cold. Almost two weeks with gallons of snot, sleep, liquids and Vitamin C and I'm finally better.

And even had I been posting, it would mostly have consited of entries looking much like “Still sick. Gallons of snot. Tired. Going back go sleep.”

Though between bouts of unconscienceness, I did manage to collect a few links I wanted to throw out, so here they are, in no particular order:

Via Instapundit comes The Energy Family, a blog about a family trying to convert their house to run entirely off the grid.

Also via Instapundit comes this report about the lack of tornadoes in Nebraska and Kansas this year (well, at least until the fifth of July). This year we've only had one tropical storm so far, unlike last year when at this time we were at two tropical storms and two hurricanes with a third hurricane up and coming, so maybe this year will be quiet (although, looking at the 2004 season the first storm didn't form until the end of July and that was the year Florida got slammed with four storms).


Via Yet Another Really Great Blog comes … this … and really, I don't want to spoil the fun, but if you like Star Trek and Star Wars, then you should get a kick out of the video (and please, do watch it through the end, it's very amusing—it's got dancing Stormtroopers for crying out loud!).

And finally, via Michael Duff is this David Hasselhoff video (amusing in as far as it stars his old TV partner KITT).

I did mention I was sick, right?

With a cold.


(Amusingly enough, my boss Smirk called me up to inform me that I had been neglecting my duty and not updating The Boston Diaries often enough, so get on it, pronto! And to think, most people are worried about being fired for blogging, not for lack of blogging … )

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

Syd Barrett, one of the original members of legendary rock group Pink Floyd, has died at the age of 60 from complications arising from diabetes.

Via metaphorge, Pink Floyd's Barrett dies aged 60

For the few of you who I know are Pink Floyd fans, this sad news is for you.

Bricks and mortar from a website

Wlofie directed me towards the Hirst Arts Fantasy Architecture which allows you to build your own miniature castles (primarily for role playing games, but used for other reasons as well).

The whole site excites me on two levels.

One level, that of going out, buying molds, plaster of paris, some glue, and going to town making cathedral or two.

And on the second level, the sheer amount of information given on the site on model building. Not only the number of projects you can make, but tips to help the building process and instructional videos on the various techniques used to build the models. And even more great (given that the company just sells the molds) are how the molds are made, with instructions on making your own molds.

That, I really like. Bruce Hirst (owner of the two person company) is not afraid of telling you how he makes the molds. Given the time and complexity I'm sure it's easier and cheaper to buy the molds from him, but still—the fact that he goes into such depth on how he makes them is very neat. The site is well worth the few hours it'll take to go over everything.

Cultural implications of the Princess Leia bikini indeed …

So Spring mentions the Princess Leia bikini (from Return of the Jedi although I doubt I really needed to mention that) so I click over to the article and immediately check out the pictures (what? Bother reading an article about Princess Leia's bikini? Yeah, right).

As I'm drooling looking over the pictures, one of the models looks awfully familiar to me. Looking closer and yes, I know her! Amazing.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The fit hits the shan

It's the scheduled day at the office. Prior to sitting down at my desk:

  1. I get a call from R (for whom I manage a few servers). One of R clients is mentioning the terms “proxy,” “multiple IP addresses” and “redundant servers,” which to me screams “reverse proxy” which means at best, a recompile of Apache (since I never compiled in reverse proxy support) or worse, a complete reinstall of the latest version of Apache. Oh, and the client wants it done by tonight.
  2. There are no parking spots available at the office. None. I have to drive to the end of the building and around the corner before I'm able to find a parking spot. This has never happened in the few years I've been working with Smirk.
  3. The three-phase power system to the Data Center is blown. We're running on the backup generator and the three A/C units in the Data Center are off line.

It can only get better from here, right? Right?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The teflon shan

Okay, yesterday wasn't quite as bad as I made it out to be.

  1. I'll get to this in a moment, but it did involve installing a new version of Apache.
  2. I could use the exercise anyway.
  3. There wasn't much I could do about the power that hadn't already been done (except for running around in a mad panic).

So, that leaves setting up a “reverse proxy” as per request. The server was running Apache 1.3 (at the time of install, there were still some issues pertaining to PHP and Apache 2.0, and I'm a very firm believer of “if it ain't broke, don't fix it!” theory of management) and what they were asking required features only available under Apache 2.0 or higher.

So I downloaded the latest version (2.2.2) and spent several hours getting it compiled correctly. It's not that it didn't compile cleanly, but in setting it up, I would have expected:

./configure --enable-mods-shared=all [other options not important]

to, you know, compile all the available modules. Only, it doesn't. It compiles most of the modules. I had to explicitely include support for SSL, proxy and the caching modules. Go figure.

The only other rough spot I encountered was a rash of 403 Forbidden result codes when trying to browse the websites normally on the box. Going back to Apache 1.3 they all worked. Apache 2.2? All the sites were forbidden.

Now, the configuration files between 1.3 and 2.2 haven't changed that much (thankfully! There's over a thousand sites on the box) but still, it took me several hours to track down the problem which is due to some changes in the default configuration. Apache 2.2 has the following as part of the default settings:

<Directory />
    Options FollowSymLinks
    AllowOverride None
    Order deny,allow
    Deny from all

Apache 1.3 doesn't.

And since the websites are not under the default location, but elsewhere, that bit of configuration meant that none of the sites were accessible by anyone. Yes, sometimes the obvious things take awhile to notice.

But that's all working now.

Friday, July 14, 2006

“Your page must contain not more than 15 outbound links”

"Edward Taylor" <>
Links partnership request to
Fri, 14 Jul 2006 09:49:08 +0400


My name is Edward Taylor, and I want to propose you triangle (three way linking) link exchange. I can place your link on the one of the following home pages:

Page where you place my link must meet next requirements:

  1. Page Rank of the page is not less than Page Rank of our Page - 1
  2. Your page is not the page in site link directory
  3. If your page has less PR than PR of our page, then you page must be home page.
  4. Your page must contain not more than 15 outbound links.

Here is my linking info:
<a href="" alt="Phentermine">Phentermine</a>

Waiting for your decision, and responce.

Regards, Edward Taylor.

I get quite a bit of these from time to time (and I could have sworn I quoted one of these before here, but I can't seem to find it). What's funny is that Edward here is obviously using software that finds pages with a Page Rank of 5 or above (and the Page Rank of The Boston Diaries is 5), at least pulls the page down to grab any mailto: links (which I do have on the page) and sends an email to said address requesting said link exchange, but it doesn't check the number of outbound links! If it did, I wouldn't even get these as I have, at a minimum of fifty-three (53) outbound links (which is before you count links in the individual entries).

And least you think that Edward there pulled the number 15 out of the air, all the link exchange requests I get in this form all require 15 or less outbound links, as if there's some scientific explaination that says that 16 or more outbound links is bad for Page Rank (which I frankly don't care about, which is another reason why I probably won't ever make any money on this thing).


If only these people would bother to look at the pages before they spam, but alas, that would probably take too much effort.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Toilet woes

[Not much to it, is there?]

I've spent the day trying fix a toilet problem.

The problem is that water is slowly leaking from the tank to the bowl, and once the water level in the tank gets to a certain level, the ballcock assembly (the thing to the left in the photo above) kicks in, refilling the tank. The noise isn't much, but it's annoying enough when trying to sleep.

So it's obvious that the flapper (the red round thing in the center of the photo above) isn't making a proper seal (unless you flush the toilet just right, which not everyone in Casa New Jersey does). Replacing the flapper isn't difficult at all, so one trip to Home Depot later, and I have a new flapper.

Only it isn't making a decent seal. So it looks like I need some form of gasket to go between it and the pipe beneath it.

It took two trips to Home Depot, and I still don't have a gasket that will fit (the only other gasket I didn't buy I know won't fit). So it looks like I'll have a bit more work to do to get this fixed properly.

Ah, the joys of home ownership.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

It is now 61 AA

It was 61 years ago today that the first nuclear bomb was tested, thus making it 61 AA (link via wcg).

Viva Lost Wages

Besides being 61 years since Oppenheimer became Shiva, it was one year ago today that I flew out to Las Vegas with my friend Hoade.

I must not have finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince since I haven't finished (or even started) the write up of the trip. I still have the notes, on 88 5×3″ pages (a small wirebound notebook).

Penny slots no longer
take pennies but
nickels. They are being
phased out for more money
making machines.

595 Prime rib

pix 42–43 Carpet of
Hôtel San Réno [mispelled in notebook, it's supposed to be Rémo —Editor]

Dancing Bartenders
Centerfuge @
  MGM Grand.

Notes from page 18 of “Viva Lost Wages!” notebook

[Yes, all casinos have carpet like this]

pix 42 mentioned above

[I think it's designed to confuse people]

pix 43 mentioned above

I really need to finish up writing about the trip, which included a sidetrip to Rachel, Nevada which was eerily quiet (quiet enough to hear our shoes squeaking as we walked). I also forgot about the Chinese cook who threatened us with his mad martial knife arts at the Hôtel San Rémo buffet.

I really need to get this written up.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Snippits from Lost Wages

I have yet to start writing about my trip to Las Vegas last year. So to hopefully encourage me, today's snippit is from one year ago today:

[There's an arrow that starts at the top of the page, past the first paragraph and pointing to the second paragraph. I don't know how to simulate it here, so I'm describing it—it is an important part of the notes though, as you'll see. —Editor]

I tried a quarter machine
(quarter from Hoade). I go
to pull the arm. Nothing.
I have to press the button.

Before the above, Hoade
puts a quarter in a slot machine
and hits the button. I berate
him for not pulling the arm.

The one arm bandits take
your money, and the arm
doesn't even work!

Hoade paid 50¢ for
Friday's newspaper. [It was a Sunday when I wrote this note —Editor]

Notes from page 21 of “Viva Lost Wages” notebook

This was the day we visited some Buddhist temples in the area. At one of the temples I lost an argument with some scrub brush across the street and spent the next hour or so picking needles out of my arm and legs.


Later in the day, we ended up in the Luxor, the pyramid shaped hotel at the southern end of the Strip. While there, we snuck aboard the “inclinators” (which move both up-down and left-right along the edges of the building) and managed to get a few vertigo-inducing photographs.

[Floor 24 looking out into the hotel]

Life, wheat, mildew

"Judson Combs" <>
Life, wheat mildew
Mon, 17 Jul 2006 19:12:28 0000

Your cre dit doesn't matter to us! If you OWN real est ate and want IMMEDIATE5 cash to spend ANY way you like, or simply …

The spam itself is nothing special, but for some reason, I love the subject line—“Life, wheat mildew” although I think it would scan better with the addition of a comma: “Life, wheat, mildew.”

What a cool thought: Life, wheat, mildew.

Yes, at times I am easily amused.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Snippits from Lost Wages

Still have yet to get the write up started, so yet another snippit from notes I took:

Road [US-93 in Nevada —Editor] actually has more
traffic than I expected.

Stuck in traffic just outside
Alamo—doing a slow 30mph
A wide load spanning both
lanes is slowing us down

Bumper to bumper traffic
outside Alamo—400 population.
Rush hour 8:30am

Alamo has a motel
with showers and telephone.

Notes from page 36 of “Viva Lost Wages” notebook

Yup, we hit rush hour traffic in a town of 400 along US-93 with only two towns between Las Vegas and the turn to Rachel.

[Even out here there's traffic!]

Rush hour traffic just outside Alamo, Nevada

But once we hit the Extraterrestrial Highway the traffic cleared up and it was smooth sailing to Rachel, Nevada.

[Yup, the road just kind of vanishes like that]

The road to nowhere Rachel, Nevada.

Along the way, we passed one of the access roads to the mysterious Area 51, which in this case, is a one lane dirt road heading off into nowhere (in the photo below, it's the white line on the right side of the picture).

[Abandon all hope, ye who enter here]

Area 51 is just beyond the mountains in the distance, at the end of the dirt road.

We nearly missed Rachel as it's a small cluster of trailers on the south side of State 375 (aka “The Extraterrestrial Highway”) with only three permanent buildings, one being the Little A'Le'Inn, one being the gas station/super market (who's proprietor drives into Las Vegas each week and buys supplies from Wal★Mart) and the third being a thrift store/community center.

[Earthlings welcome]

The infamous Little A'Le'Inn.

[The vast supermarket in Rachel]

The Gas Station/Supermarket

[Dig the old style gas pump, back when gas was below $1/gallon]

The old style gas pump. So old it doesn't have display dollars, hence the handwritten “2.” Gas was $2.89/gallon (this was last year—it's probably higher this year).

For me, this was probably the highlight of the trip, even though we only spent about an hour, hour and a half in Rachel. The next time I'm in Nevada, I would definitely like to spend more time out here.

Wil “Not William Shatner” Wheaton

[Take two. First time through, the keyboard got stuck in uppercase that some how survived a reboot. It took a powercycle to get the keyboard unstuck. Go figure. —Editor]

It's funny.

Wil Wheaton is currently in Las Vegas, one year after I was there. Hoade and I had just missed World Series of Poker when we went, which probably explains this entry on page 22 of the “Viva Lost Wages” notebook: “I don't think we'll be running into Wil Wheaton anytime soon.” It would have been quite funny to go up to him and mistake him for William XXXXXXX Shatner.

Postfix, Dovecot and Ravencore! Oh my!

I think I've finally calmed down.

Rough day at “The Office” (even if it was from home). SMTP authentication problems, control panels and horrible documentation.

Let's see … can't uninstall the control panel probably because I modified it so that it would actually work with the Apache installation, which means I couldn't reinstall it with the updated versions of Postfix and Dovecot since the system installed versions do not support SMTP authentication (with Postfix providing the SMTP part, and Dovecot providing the authentication portion). Finally had to upgrade to the latest version, uninstall that, upgrade Postfix and Dovecot, reinstall Ravencore and still have it fail (although I figured out the immensely bizarre method Ravencore uses to store the Postfix configuaration file, and the cached copy of the Dovecot configuration file so at least using Ravencore won't break SMTP authentication).

Then there was getting Dovecot to authenticate not against /etc/passwd but another password file. Turns out you need to specify the file twice under different options:

auth default {
  passdb passwd-file {
	args = /etc/dovecot-passwd

  userdb passwd-file {
	args = /etc/dovecot-passwd

Yeah, I don't understand it either.

Postfix wasn't a problem—good documentation there. The only problem with it was Ravencore overwriting the configuration file with its own copy without the proper SMTP authentication settings. It was just a matter of tetting the proper settings into the bizarre format Ravencore uses to store the Postfix configuration (each line gets its own file—sigh).

Hours! (You paying attention, Smirk? Hours!)

Update on Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

Smirk just called to remind me that I was the one that picked Ravencore. So there you have it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Wynn: the Disneyfication of European Elegance

Power outtage @
Rio just as dinner
was ending. Very dark
and quiet.

    XXXXXXX.[What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. And that's all I'll say about this note. —Editor]

The Wynn: the Disneyfication
of European Elegance.

Notes from page 44 of the “Viva Lost Wages” notebook

Upon returning from Rachel, Nevada, Hoade and I met with my Dad (who drove in from Palm Springs, California to meet us) and we headed off to the Carnival World Buffet at the Rio for dinner.

The buffet was huge and we spent quite a bit of time running around gathering food and stuffing our faces. Just as we were getting ready to leave the power at the Rio goes out.

Casinos are never quiet—at the very least there is the background radiation of a casino is the constant din of “Money money money money money” from the slot machines (next time you're there—just listen to them—I swear they say “Money money money money money”) and the they're lit so you can easily make your way through the maze of beckoning gambling games, but a dark and silent casino?

Nothing is scarier than a dark and quiet casino. For perhaps a full ten to fifteen seconds there's total quiet then the slot zombies come shambling out. “Slots …. slooooottttttsssssss.” Fortunately for us, we had the buffet chairs to fend off the slot zombies as we made our way outside.

The title for this installment comes from the observation I made about The Wynn, where we headed to calm down after the attack of the slot zombies. Yes, the Wynn is very elegant. But it has this … Disneyesque feel about the place. Heck, most of modern Las Vegas has this Disneyesque feel about it, now that I think about it.

Snippits from Lost Wages

What was interesting about this day last year is that I have the most notes (a full twenty pages) from today, but that Hoade and I really didn't do anything today. We hung around the hotel room for several hours, then went out to visit a bunch of casinos the in the area.

[That's the Bellagio in the background]

Hoade in front of Disneyesque European Elegance.

Guy sleeping in the doorway of
the unused entryway of the
restaurant. Dad and I had

The waitress was a bit snarky.

Kid on a leash. What is that
telling the kid? What does that
say about the parent? Why
would parents bring kids to
this place [Las Vegas —Editor] anyway?

Plane after plane after plane
is landing at the airport.
I've seen a dozen planes in
a few moments.

Notes from page 45 of the “Viva Lost Wages” notebook

I think we were both getting burned out by this point, as we had already done everything we wanted to do on this working vacation (Hoade came to Las Vegas as research for a book he was writing. Since he's never been and I had, he tagged me to come along with him).

[And there's a bit of a faux Paris in the back ground. Much like Disney.]

Me, in front some Disneyesque European Elegance.

A really large and obnoxious
American is bitching about the
size of the $595 prime rib.
He is about as tall standing as
he is lying down.

I may have to write a simulation
of Keno, just to get a feel for
the odds. Although the payouts
are probably the odds.

Hoade and I pretended to play
Keno. 20 # out of 80 are selected
the player can select up to 15.
There is a variation where you
win quite a lot for getting
0 #s. Hoade and I still

Notes from page 46 of the “Viva Lost Wages” notebook

Most of the notes I took today were personal in nature, observations about Las Vegas, the band playing at the Hôtel San Rémo that night, that type of thing.

Thoughts on Vegas:

Notes from page 60 of the “Viva Lost Wages” notebook.

That last note reminds me of Easter Island—the natives built larger and larger heads to bring favor back from the gods as their habitat slowly died around them.

Yup, this day was a rather depressing day in Las Vegas.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Snippits from Lost Wages

It was one year ago today that Hoade and I spent our last day in Las Vegas. We checked out early, but had an entire day to kill, seeing how our flight didn't leave until 10:40pm.

One of the towels at the
Hôtel San Rémo is from

[Hoade and I decide to take the stairs down instead of the elevator. —Editor]
The stairs going down only
go to the second floor, then
lead outside. Hoade and I
run into someone else who was
lost within the utility
Jeffries Tubes of the Hôtel
San Rémo.

Going down to the lobby,
I got into the elevator. Inside
were two elevator engineers.
The door would close, then
open. Three times. By the
time we finally started
down, one said, “We're
not responsible for these
elevators. We're working on
the building next door.”

Checking out, the guy [the desk clerk –Editor] said
“There is still four ninety-
five.” Is that 400 and
95 dollars? What? It was
$495, for the hour of Internet
Hoade used.

Notes from pages 67–68 of the “Viva Lost Wages” notebook

The Hôtel San Rémo was under construction at the time, being turned into the Hooter's Casino, and the day we left the elevators were a bit “problematic.” After checking out and bidding adieu to the hotel, we then headed out to Hoover Dam.

We ended up parking on the Arizona side of Hoover Dam, walking down several flights of stairs (embedded in the landscape) and walking across to the Nevada side to check out the Tourist Center.

[The thing is immense]

Hoover Dam, from the Arizona side looking over to the Nevada side.

[Water collection towers]

The backside of Hoover Dam (taken from the Arizona side).

[Lake Meade is looking a bit low]

That white stripe signifies the old water level of Lake Meade.

After looking around it was late morning and the temperature was rising. We nearly collapsed on the way back to the car; having to climb several flights of stairs damn near killed us.

The trip out to Hoover Dam killed the morning, but that still left the afternoon and evening to kill.

[There it is.]

So. Nevada University. There it is.

I just like the picture.

Lunch. Drove about an hour to the very edge of Las Vegas (northwest corner) and killed a few hours in a book store. Then back towards the airport, dinner, then a few hours at the terminal.

I was lucky however, to get an upgrade to First Class (for both legs of the trip home) for only $100. Yup, I took it and yes, First Class is much nicer than coach, although the weather back was bad, so there wasn't much to look at out the window, and given the time of day, I ended up sleeping most of the way home.

Oh, and did I mention
the pillows? Hoade is
really going to hate me.

And there are television
screens, but I don't know
if that is a 757 thing
or a 757-1st C [class —Editor] thing.

Fortunately, I have a headset.
God, I could actually like flying.

I am certainly happy to be
going home. I think I will
close today out here. It's
past midnight @ home.

Notes from page 75 of the “Viva Lost Wages” notebook

Of limited interest

John Molino and Patricia Warren formed an Arizona internet company, the Free Yellow Pages Corporation, in 1997. Relations soured between them. Molino negotiated to buy out Warren's interest. Without reaching a final agreement with Warren, Molino moved the assets of the company to Florida. There, he incorporated a similar company,, Inc. He transferred the assets of the Free Yellow Pages Corporation to, without paying any compensation to Warren or the original company. Warren had a strong claim to a 50 percent beneficial ownership interest in and its assets because it was essentially the same business as the Free Yellow Pages Corporation. Nevertheless, when Go2Net sought to acquire in 1999, Molino represented that he was the sole owner. …

Go2Net and Molino finalized the merger agreement near the end of October 1999. About two months later, Warren contacted Go2Net and informed them that she was a 50 percent shareholder of's predecessor corporation. She demanded that Go2Net cease using's property until resolution of the matter. It is unclear whether, and how, Warren's demands against Molino and Go2Net were ultimately resolved. Go2Net's immediate reaction to Warren's claim was to negotiate with Molino over the course of nine months for the protection of a larger escrow account, while at the same time advising Molino that Go2Net was 'prepared to pursue all rights and remedies available to it.' The negotiations seemed promising at first but ultimately failed in September 2000, when Molino informed Go2Net that he did not intend to enter into an escrow agreement. Molino demanded $16 million from Go2Net. Go2Net did not complete the registration of Molino's Go2Net stock, and Molino was not able to sell it.

Go2net, Inc., Res./Cross-App. v., Inc., App/Cross-Res.

Unless the name “John Molino” means anything to you, don't bother reading this. On the other hand, if it does (and I know a few of my readers will be interested in this), then this will make for some facinating reading.

Too much time on his hands

In these days of “fast” and “convenient” I decided to commence a work of “painstaking” and “craftsmanship”, making my own wristwatch. I have had the idea for a certain arrangement of the watch dial, as on the image at the right, for a while now. My investigations into available movements showed that no production movement would give me this layout. After a long period of indecision and wondering what I was really getting myself into I decided to make my own movement, followed by the case and dial.

Via The Mess That Greenspan Made, Making a Watch by Hand

I also have a few readers that might be interested in making a wrist watch by hand. I personally would have gone with a pocket watch, but that's me.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Snippits from Lost Wages

Technically, the last day of the trip, although I technically wasn't in Las Vegas, or even Nevada, but aproximately 37,000 feet above the United States sitting in First Class.

Wow, the steward call
button worked though. [Neither the light nor the radio worked in my seat, dispite being in First Class. —Editor]

I will definitely be
processing this trip
for a while to come. [A year anyone? —Editor]

We flew over a thunderstorm.
Very beautiful. And frightening
not that we were in any position
to get hit but the disg ts
display of raw power. And
so frequent too.

Notes from page 83 of the “Viva Lost Wages” notebook

And flying over a thunderstorm reminded me of a time years before when I was flying home (from Hoade's wedding) on July 4th at night. The weather was clear and from about 35,000 feet I was able to see hundreds of firework shows dotting the landscape. Little flower explosions popping all over the place.

Both the storm and the firework shows were wonderful to watch from above.

I arrived at West Palm Beach around noon on the 21st and very happy to finally be home.

And thus ends the “Snippits from Lost Wages.”

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Anything RPG

Risus is a complete Role Playing Game (RPG) designed to provide an “RPG Lite” for those nights when the brain is too tired for exacting detail. Risus is especially valuable to GMs assembling a quick convention game, or any late-night beer-and-pretzels outing. While it is essentially a Universal Comedy System, it works just as well for serious play (if you insist!). Best of all, a Risus character takes about 20 seconds to create!

Risus: The anything RPG

Actually, I had to do a search for “Risus” after seeing this image which was from this series of motivational RPG posters which I got from a mailing list I'm on, to get to the page quoted above.

It does look like it's a fun game and charater creation is simple, although it probably takes a bit longer than just 20 seconds to create a charater (maybe a minute or two). And the mechanics are pretty easy— just role some dice and if the sum meets or exceeds to value picked by the GM you succeed, else you fail. It might not be a good system for a long campaign, but for a one shot or having nothing else to do, it'll do.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Adventures of Alfredo

I've never heard of Alfredo, nor of adventures but I have to admit, they're rather amusing in a “stick figure from the home computer wave of the 80s as animated by a bored 13 year old” way (link via kisrael).

Monday, July 24, 2006

Me on cold medication, II

In the directory where I keep draft versions of entries, I found one labled cold.medication dated July 7th which contained the following:

I've been coming down with a cold so I ended up going to bed early last night. At about 3:30 am I found myself unable to sleep so I took some cold medication that's a cheap knockoff of Ny-Quill in a pill formulation, and then drifted off to sleep.

At 6:30 I found myself wide awake in a red convertible doing about 130 out of Barstow conversing with Hunter S. Thompson about the finer points of wumpus hunting as a swarm of bats trailed behind us.

Yes, when it comes to drugs I am such a lightweight that what some people pay hundreds, nay, thousands of dollars for better living through chemistry I can experience with cheap OTC stuff meant to fight off a cold.

And hating every moment of it.

There is no way I'm making it in to work today.

Funny, I thought. I don't recall writing that. But I must have, since it was written when I was sick. And I am a lightweight when it comes to OTC medication.

Then I noticed that the file was dated June 7th, not July 7th. Which was odd, since I wasn't sick on June 7th. It was then I noticed that it was June 7th 2005 and it all made sense. Yes, I was sick then so that's when I must have written it.

Imminent death of Las Vegas is a bit premature

Fifty years ago a Life magazine cover asked—“Las Vegas—Is Boom Overextended?” After all, three hotels had opened in the spring of that year costing a total of $15 million and two more were opening that summer including the $5 million Dunes. “Had Las Vegas pushed its luck too far?” Life wondered.

Nearly 30 years later, Malcolm Baldrige, while serving as Secretary of Commerce in 1984 was quoted as saying, “the current boom in Las Vegas could last four more years.”

But, of course here we are 20 years later, and Sin City continues to boom.

What Life Magazine and Poor Malcolm failed to grasp is what really makes Las Vegas—Las Vegas. The town is ground zero for high time preference. People go to Las Vegas to have a good time, blow their money and maybe be a little bit naughty. After all, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas (or according to the Palms casino “didn't happen at all”)”. Let's face it you don't go to Vegas to be civilized or prudent, just the opposite. As Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman told the Denver Post: "People don't come here from the Midwest to go to an AA meeting.”

via ThoughtStor ms: Las Vegas, High Rises and High Time Preferences

An interesting article about Las Vegas and the seemingly perpetual prediction of its demise and how it never comes about. Although the article does go into depth into the real estate slowdown happening in Las Vegas even as it continues to grow.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

She doesn't even have Katrina to blame …

In 2003, Bridget Green was thrilled to learn she would be the valedictorian of her New Orleans high school. Only days later, however, she learned that she had failed to pass the Louisiana graduation exam. Eventually, on her seventh attempt, she passed—by a single point.

Green's story makes the case that state graduation exams serve as useful checks on the value of a diploma. In this case, her school failed her by handing out A's for material that was never learned.

Via Mostly Cajun, All American and Opinionated, Tests expose flawed diplomas

It used to be that in the US, students would be enrolled in regular (if maybe very basic or remedial) classes and taught in English only; today an immigrant student is more likely to be taught in their native language (well, most likely if Spanish) and no (or very little) immersion in English.

Curious, I asked Wlofie about immigrant education in Sweden and (if I get this right) Sweden will have a student to a year or so of full immersion in learning the Swedish langauge, then go into regular class rooms, which seems much better than either the old US “sink or swim” method, or the “native language teaching” the US is using now.

I don't know why I thought of that when reading the above article (well, other than the abysmal drop in quality of US primary schools over the past few decades when even a valedictorial can't even pass a graduation exam) but at some point the educational system has to implode, right? Right?


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The joke's on me

Gregory came over last night (okay, technically this morning but really, if it's before 5am, it's last night, but since it's technically today I'm posting it here) and we all went out to IHOP for dinner (yes, we keep strange hours). While there we told very bad jokes.

As we were leaving, I told the following joke: “A long time ago two guys decided to build a house on the side of a mountain. During the design, they figured they would need 100,000 bricks to build the house and ordered that many. When the bricks arrived, they started. At the end, they found they had one brick left over. What did they do with that brick?”

“I don't know,” said Gregory.

“Threw it off the side of the mountain,” I said.


“That's the punchline,” I said.

“That's like your other joke,” he said. “Why is an orange?”

“What?” I said.

“Why is an orange?” asked Gregory.

I, for the life of me, couldn't remember ever telling that joke. “I don't know. Why?”

“Because motorcycles don't have windshields,” Gregory said.

“That was my joke?”

“Yes,” he said. “You wrote it in one of columns.”

“I did?”

“Don't you remember?” asked Spring, “this exact same joke came up a few years ago and we checked it.” I have a hardcopy of all my columns (what's on my site is only about a third of the columns—the rest range from “eh” to “burn it. Burn it all to Hell! I never wrote such trash!”). “It was there,” said Spring.

“I certainly don't remember it,” I said.

And I certainly can't find it.

The only thing that's even remotely close is this bit from the “High tech brings low-down tricks, big mess” column of April 27th, 1988 (which isn't online by the way):

Shut up! Let me get back to my column. Now, where was I? Ah yes, the cafeteria … the cafeteria is okay, if you like institutionalized food. So what if the pizza is schizo? I don't mind, as long as the psychotic chicken is kept in the straightjacket.

What if it was 7–1?

I liked it better as 7–2. And I also like 5–10 records.

But that's it. I can't find any occurances of “oranges” or “motorcycles” in any of my columns.

I may have to let Spring look for it.

Looking into the library and Check-point-Charlie

While looking for the source of last night's joke I did come across some really good bits from otherwise “eh” to “burn it. Burn it all to Hell! I never wrote such trash!” columns) like the following from “Looking into the library and Check-point-Charlie” (a commentary on the bag search the FAU library had instituted at the time):

Curses! Trapped again by Check-point Charlie. I open my knapsack, which was ransacked by the man.

“Right! You're cleared.”

“Can I ask what you're looking for?” I cautiously ask.

“Any material that belongs here in the library that has not been properly checked out, government forms, periodicals, microfilm, that sort of stuff.”

“What about rifles, shotguns, sub-machineguns, knives, numchauks, Chinese stars, cocaine, marijuana, heroine, pornographic material or bombs that I may have?”

“As long as you don't hijack the library, it's fine.” Well, ask a silly question …

Murphy's Law, December 9th, 1987

Or this bit, from “Conner's rash of bad luck” whereby I talked about working at Radio Shack back when they actually carried all sorts of electrical devices:

“Hello, can I help you find some particular item?” I ask, after my manager throws me in the customer's direction.

“Yes, I'm trying to hook up my VCR to my car battery and 8mm movie projector, so I can record my home movies while I drive to Hueytown, Alabama. But I'm not entirely sure how to do it? Do you sell anything that I could possibly use?” is the usual request of the customer.

“Uhhhhhhh …” I say, looking around the store for something that looks remotely like a VCR-car battery/8mm movie projector connection kit and seeing nothing. “Do we have any VCR-car battery/8mm movie projector connection kits?” I end up asking the manager.

“Yes, right here,” he says, walks over to where I am standing, and holds up a cable. “One end goes into the VCR, this end goes into the 8mm movie projector, and these two ends (four ends on a cable?) hook on the car battery,” he says, holding the strange looking cable. “And over here we have the Radio Shack Universal Mounting Kit that goes with the cable, but we sell them separately to get more money.”

“Fine, I'll take it,” says the customer. And then my manager writes up the ticket and get the 6.25% commission.

Murphy's Law, October 5th, 1988

And this bit, from “Time for a checkup and a nasty shot of novocaine:”

“How was the dentist?” mom asked when I got home.

“Tewwible,” I replied.

“Oh well, I rented you a movie to make up for the visit,” said mom, handing me a video tape.

“Wha' is it?” I asked.

“Marathon Man.”

Murphy's Law, November 16th, 1988

Trust me, the rest of the quoted columns? You don't need to read. And the columns not here? You don't need to read those either.

If this keeps up, I might not come into the office on Wednesdays

Two weeks ago the fit hit the shan. It hit again today. The power was out in The Office for perhaps an hour. Now that the power is back on, the A/C doesn't work, either in The Office or in the Data Center (and not having A/C in The Data Center is not a GoodThing™).

And to top it all off, one of the servers I manage for R is dead due to the heat, and I have about a thousand sites to move to a new server.


Oh, and on top of that, one customer can't send emails to anyone at AOL, I can't log into one of the servers because the control panel is asking for a licensing key, and I have to come back into the office tomorrow because I can't seem to configure this XXXXXXX DSL unit to save my life (and I might have to go to the client site to troubleshoot it, which is in Boca Raton).

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The joke's on you

So a long time ago a gentleman gets on an airplane smoking a cigar (which tells you this is a long time ago when one could do such things). The passenger next to him was an older lady with a small lap dog.

“Excuse me sir,” said the lady. “But your cigar is upsetting me. Could you please get rid of it.”

“Well, ma'am,” said the man, “your lap dog is yipping up a storm and I find it very annoying. If I get rid of the cigar, you have to get rid of the dog.”

“Well, I never!”

“That, I can believe,” said the man. “But get rid of the dog, and I'll get rid of the cigar.”

The airplane takes off. The dog yaps. The guy keeps puffing on his cigar. The lady asks again for the man to get rid of the cigar. And the man answers the same way: “Get rid of the dog, and I'll get rid of the cigar.”

This goes on for most of the flight until the lady finally has it with the cigar. She opens the window (again, back when one could do such a thing on an airplane) and tosses the dog out. “There,” she said, “I got rid of the dog. Will you now get rid of the cigar?”

“As a gentleman, I keep my word,” he said, and with that, tosses the cigar out the window.

A short time later, the plane is making its landing and when the woman looks out the window, she sees her dog, clinging on with its life to the wing of the airplane, its claws buried deep to keep from being blown away. And guess what she saw in the dog's mouth?

No, not the cigar! The brick!

All's quiet on the cyberian front

The A/C is working, the dead server is now live and running (I think the video card overheated—it's been replaced with a cooler card), the DSL unit has been configured (apparently, it can't handle NATing at all—go figure), Smirk is taking care of the licensing issue, and since I haven't heard back from the customer with the email problems, I'll assume it's been handled as well.

Friday, July 28, 2006

It's a thankless job, but someone has to do it

Happy System Administrator Appreciation Day! (via Rob my old roommate)

[Do not meddle in the affairs of sysadmins, for they are subtle and quick to anger.]

Make sure you show your appreciation. For me, a few liters of Coke or a good quality tea (heck, even dark semi-sweet chocolate) would be nice.

“And I drive …”

An incredible oratory piece by Eric Burns (at about 17 minutes or so, but worth the listen) about artistic endevours, or rather, the lack of artistic endevours (and the Match Game) that I suspect quite a few people I know can intimately relate to.

Make that Fridays as well …

It was good for about a day. Now, the A/C is out again, and R's server that died on Wednesday is dead again.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

And this is a light page

Last May I took a trip to North Florida to visit a friend of mine over the weekend, and I took a Pocket PC with me to make entries during the drive.

Well, I just got a call from Smirk, who provided said Pocket PC. He just got the bill for said Pocket PC. The Monopolistic Cell Phone Company is claiming 4MB were transferred and therefore $100 is owed for data transfered. Smirk called me to ask if I actually used that much data.

I said that sounded high and I couldn't think of what I might have browsed that caused 4MB of data to be transferred, and that I pretty much just used the device to post the few entries during the drive up there and that at worst, it could have only been maybe 300K or so of data transfer. Smirk asked if I could generate a decent approximation and I said I would and get back with him.

I thought of maybe doing a test entry as if I were doing it from the Pocket PC but having the firewall keep track of the data trnansfers, then multiply that amount by the number of entries I actually posed through the thing when I realized that I still have the log files from May.

So I pulled all the requests made to my website via the Pocket PC and added all the data transfered.

Oh my.

The result was a rather sobering 2,586,760 bytes transferred via 161 requests.


And here I thought my site was rather light, what with using CSS for layout and the mostly text based nature of the site.

So I guess it's conceivable that I could have used 4MB of transfer in a few days.


Sunday, July 30, 2006

A boring Sunday

The Kids are grounded and it really affects The Younger the most. He kept hanging around me, which is a sure sign that he's bored.

“So let me guess,” I said. “You're bored.”


“Well, look behind you,” I said. We were both in the kitchen at the time, with The Younger standing in front of the kitchen sink. He turned to face the sink, which was full of dishes. I nodded towards the sink.

“But I'm not that bored,” he said.

Later on in the day, he got that bored and did the dishes without prompting.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Besides, it all ends in 2011 anyway …

Sadly, this includes every denomination and congregation ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH! No matter how faithful they claim to be, all churches can be faulted for at the very least a corrupt authority. Such as relying on the Bible plus their confessions and other such writings. More than this, 99.999999% of churches today use counterfeit, fake, ersatz, perverted versions of the Bible. These include: The NIV, ASV, the Living Bible, the Rainbow Bible, the Extreme Teens Bible, the Spongebob Squarepants Bible and who can fathom what else is out there.

The Church Age Is Over

But that still leaves the King James Version as a non- counterfeit, non-fake, non-ersatz, non-perverted version of the Bible ( just to let you know that both the HTML and CSS are not valid on that page and wouldn't render at all under Firefox (I had to select “View → Page Style → No Style” to see anything at all)—IE might be another story).

But seriously …

A few weeks ago I was contacted by the Peacemaker Ministries asking if they could link to my Electric King James Bible. I was flattered actually, that someone found it useful in the seven years that it's been up and running. Durring that time, a few glaring ommissions and typos were found (mod_litbook was fine— it was a few typos in the configuration files) and fixed and a few days ago I got an email saying the site is now live.

Now, I don't fully agree with the contents of the site. Okay, I don't think I agree with the site at all, but as far as I can tell, they are free to link to the Electric King James Bible all they want—it's out there publically available.

I'm just stoked that someone (even one I don't agree with) found my site useful!

Obligatory Picture

[The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades]

Obligatory Contact Info

Obligatory Feeds

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

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

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

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

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

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