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.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Fifteen hundred words a day. No problem.

Today is November 1st.

And that can mean only one thing: the start of National Novel Writing Month.

And like many years gone past I will yet again attempt to write a novel.

Maybe this time I'll finish.

Ha! I slay myself!

A quiet melancholy

As alluded to yesterday, The Kids are off to see their father in some far off western state for the holidays (and yes, the entire holiday season, which means we won't see them until January), armed to the teeth (and then some) with mini sugar bombs in the form of two bags of Halloweed swag and a bag of Halloween themed sugar cookies (courtesy of Bunny). But despite the quiet, and the clean kitchen sink, Spring is concerned about their absence; understandable since they're her children. So while the next two months will probably pass relatively quickly for me, they will undoubtedly pass slowly for her.


Today was a rather crazy day at The Office. First were some email issues (I'm really beginning to dislike email sendmail, dovecot and saslauth.

Then there were the network switches for a customer. Two 50 port Cisco switches (48 Ethernet and 2 gigabit Ethernet). The configuration was easy (trunked the two together via the gigabit Ethernet ports and four Ethernet ports for backup, a few ports VLANed for the public side of the network, and the rest under a separate VLAN for the private network)—it was the installation that was … troublesome.

We knew about the two 24 port switches we were replacing. We didn't know about the two cheap consumer grade switches behind a table and underneath a pile of CAT-5 cable.

So there was mounting of equipment on the wall. Ripping out of old network cables. Plugging in new network cables (we couldn't use the majority of the old cables as they were too short for our use). Tracing down some other cables. Swearing when we found the other two switches. The dangling power strip we ended up mounting on the wall. The table that fell apart and had to be reassembled.

The full installation took about four hours.

And as usual, we didn't plan on going to Denny's, but that's where we ended up.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Yet another Day 10

It was a crazier day at The Office and I wasn't even at The Office; I was working at home.

And it's official—Ihate sendmail, dovecot and saslauth.

I think the pinnacle of the mess was this lovely bit of sendmail—from the configuration file /etc/mail/access on the server as installed:

# Check the /usr/share/doc/sendmail/ file for a description
# of the format of this file. (search for access_db in that file)
# The /usr/share/doc/sendmail/ is part of the sendmail-doc
# package.
# by default we allow relaying from localhost...
localhost.localdomain RELAY
localhost             RELAY             RELAY

And the format of said file from /usr/share/doc/sendmail/

The table itself uses e-mail addresses, domain names, and network
numbers as keys.  Note that IPv6 addresses must be prefaced with "IPv6:".
For example,                    REJECT                   REJECT                REJECT
        Connect:TLD                             REJECT
        Connect:192.168.212                     REJECT
        Connect:IPv6:2002:c0a8:02c7             RELAY
        Connect:IPv6:2002:c0a8:51d2::23f4       REJECT

Notice anything … different … about the two?




I think I got it working (the reason I think I have it working is that I have no easy way of actually testing this crap! All my email (both work and personal) is checked on the respective email servers locally, using mutt since I find it faster that way. I don't use POP or IMAP. While POP is pretty easy to test using telnet, IMAP isn't. Toss in SMTP AUTH (which goes from difficult to downright impossible to test via telnet) and I'm practically forced to use some bloated piece of XXXX like Lookout Outlook. Or Thunderbird, which makes me pine for the days of checking my email as 1200 baud).

(Can you tell this stuff makes me rather cranky?)

My head es splode

One last bit of unfinished business from yesterday's switch installation—setting up Cacti to monitor the network usage.

But I should know better than to use a package manager to install required packages, but hey, I was a bit frazzled at this point.

I know that Cacti requires the use of RRDTool, and knowing that just doing the straightforward yum install rrd would never work, I did the next best thing:

[root@netmon ~]# yum search rrd
Searching Packages: 
Setting up repositories
update                    100% |=========================|  951 B    00:00     
base                      100% |=========================| 1.1 kB    00:00     
addons                    100% |=========================|  951 B    00:00     
extras                    100% |=========================| 1.1 kB    00:00     
Reading repository metadata in from local files

gpg-pubkey.None                          443e1821-421f218f      installed       
Matched from:
Version: rpm-4.3.3 (beecrypt-3.0.0)


[root@netmon ~]# 

What the—

Okay, try a more focused search:

[root@netmon ~]# yum search rrdtool
Searching Packages: 
Setting up repositories
Reading repository metadata in from local files
No Matches found
[root@netmon ~]# 

Why did I even bother with the package manager?

So it's off to manually track down dependencies.

About an hour later, I finally get around to installing Cacti 0.8.6h (yes yes, I know they're up to 0.8.6i but I had the 0.8.6h tarball handy). It goes pretty smoothly, except that it's not generating any graphs. I run the cron job by hand, and yes, it's polling data from the network devices. Everything else is running smoothly.

Just no pretty pictures of network usage.

A few hours of pointless activity go by (I even inlist the help of Wlofie to see if I may have overlooked something) when I check the instance of Cacti we're running at The Office against the one I installed. We're running 0.8.6g. I happen to have the tarball of that handy.

I install that.

It works. I get pretty pictures.

A blood vessel in my brain explodes.

I'm found lying in a pool of my own blood, dead.

Oh wait! This isn't for NaNoWriMo

Friday, November 03, 2006

This blog entry brought to you by the letter “X” and by the number “13”

I was planning on writing an entry for The Saltmine Chronicles about how one should keep their business related blog updated if they want people to actually keep coming back and then linking to it from here, but I never got a round to it today.

So instead, I'm writing an entry here outlining what I had planned to write, even though it's considered “bad form” to blog about not blogging but I don't care, because otherwise there wouldn't be an entry here (which may be preferable but it's my blog, gosh darn it, and I'll do what I want here).

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The only inspiring thing at an uninspired computer show

Bunny invited me along to a computer show at the War Memorial Auditorium in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida (and personally, I found the War Memorial Auditorium to be eerily reminiscent of Soviet style architecture—an uninspired box like construction painted in institutional shades—very ugly). The computer show itself was about as inspired as the building, which wasn't much.

Bunny did not find anything she wanted at the show, but amazingly enough, I did:

[Tripod designed by Doc Ock]

This small desk tripod designed by Dr. Octopus.

Back in August, I lost my small desk-top tripod. Actually, I didn't lose it as much as it fell apart while taking pictures of Connestee Falls. I had originally picked it up at Wal★Mart a few years ago and since August, I've been to a few looking to replace it, and apparently, no one makes that particular desk-top tripod anymore.

So when I saw these at the computer show, I was ecstatic. Even more so as they were $2.00 a pop, so I picked up a few.

And that's the only thing we found worthwhile there.

The Brothers Grimm

I saw The Brothers Grimm (directed by Terry Gilliam) with Bunny. It's an interesting take on the historical Grimm Brothers. In real life, they were academics who transcribed old German folk tales whereas in the film, they're con men who perform fake exorcisms to allay the German peasants (who in the film, are under French occupation) and to make money of course. Of course there's a town under a real magical curse, and they are forced to deal with the situation by the French government.

It's by far not Terry Gilliam's best work, but it's not his worst either. It's an okay story, no real surprises either (but the computer graphic special effects will age quickly). It's an excuse for interesting characters to interact with each other.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Not surprisingly, this was made after Shaft

I got on this matial art kick a while ago and signed up for a bunch of kung-fu flicks at Netflix. I haven't mentioned any of the ones I've seen so far, because, hey—they're 70s kung-fu flicks—that's all you need to know.

But “Goyôkiba” (known as “Hanzo the Razor: Sword of Justice”) was just … just …

It wasn't a kung-fu film, since it's Japanese.

About the only thing I could compare it to is “Shaft,” right down to the funky 70s sound track and film style. But, not having seen “Shaft” I can't quite say if it was as exploitative as “Hanzo the Razor” was.

How exploitative?

The subtitle, “Sword of Justice?”

He uses two types of swords in this film—the sharp pointy type against male suspects, and a more … personal … personally … attached … one, against female suspects (when they … um … start begging for more, he stops and … um … then asks questions ahem).

And from the trailers on the DVD it looks like the two sequels are … um … similar in nature.

Oh my (just to let you know, you don't actually see anything, but it's heavily implied).

Monday, November 06, 2006

More photography of heavenly bodies

A few months ago Smirk was about to sell his Olympus C-5500 Zoom digital camera on eBay when I decided to buy it (price was right—about $100) for Spring, who had been wanting one for a long time.

It turns out that Spring didn't really like it—she preferred my digital camera. And looking over hers, I found it had many features I missed having in a digital camera—manual shutters, manual aperture, manual focus, higher resolution, better performance in low light, blah blah blah, that I preferred her camera.

So we traded.

[Loony over a digital camera]

Can you believe that's without a telescope? Just the Olympus C-5500 zoomed all the way out.

It's a nice camera.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Network slow? It might not be the network …

For the past two months or so I've been fighting a problem on one of our DNS resolvers—the server is still up, and from what I can tell, DNS is still up and running (it's one reason why I got monnet working oddly enough) but the system load shoots up and consequently it gets slower and slower to respond.

At first I thought it was slowing down due to logging every little lame server out there, so I dropped the logging down to only severe errors, and that didn't help one bit.

I've been having to go in and restart named every other day or so. I'm relunctant to set that up as a cron job, as that only masks the issue; it doesn't solve it.

Meanwhile, one of our clients has been experiencing some network “issues” since we reworked their network (to be fair, they were having issues before we reworked their network, hence our reworking their network) and even more puzzling, we haven't seen anything abnormal from our monitoring their network (although some close scrutiny did reveal that the wireless shot there is still a bit flaky, even though we re-aimed the shot—now we've set the routing to prefer the T-1 over the wireless).

We then received email about possible DNS issues, and they're using our DNS resolvers.


A non-responding DNS could be mistaken for a slow network, or a network that appears to have outtages (as the DNS queries take time to time out). Our problematic resolver could be causing them to have problems.

In describing the issue with Wlofie, it came to light that the problematic server only has 32M of RAM.


On a rather busy network.

The other resolver, the one not having an issue, has 128M of RAM.

I think I found the problem here (and honestly, it never occured to me to check memory on the box—sigh).

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

“We charge twice as much for half the service”

I think it says something when I would love to switch to the Monopolistic Power Company known as FPL because Lake Worth Utilites should properly be called Lake Worthless Utilities.

Update a few minutes later …

And it's not like I'm alone in this

Thursday, November 09, 2006

But I've always published by email …

"Sean Conner" <>
Doesn't your blogging software already do this?
Wed, 8 Nov 2006 09:16:34 -0500

I seem to remember you writing about how your stuff worked.


Yes, my blogging software already does this, and has since … oh … October of 2001 or thereabouts. But, unlike blogmailr (which is the service mentioned in the link above) I do not support the MetaWeblog API (so all this is is an email-MetaWeblog API gateway with some additional code to handle attachments, which is something else I don't support) since, at the time, it didn't exist (I think) nor have I any real need to support the MetaWeblog API.

I might have to write a bit about DiceWars strategy …

"Sean Conner" <>
Thu, 9 Nov 2006 03:11:21 -0500

Okay, what do I do when I'm ahead by quite a few territories, it's down to two players, and we both have 8 dice on all of our territories? If I'm not mistaken, it pretty much comes down to the luck of the roll, by then. I try not to leave any frontlines vulnerable, but honestly! I had four head-to-head confrontations, and I lost all four of them! Talk about crappy rolls! Is there anything else I can do except try? Or should I just keep ending my turns, see what my opponent can do?

bhr (Oh, nice, it's 3 a.m. and I'm playing Dicewars. Thanks ever so. 8-P

First I got addicted. Then Smirk. Now Bunny.

I wonder who's next?


Silver change III

Via The Mess That Greenspan Made comes a link to an interesting site noting the intrinsic metalic value of US coins. Now, I have old quarter (mostly silver) that's now worth quite a bit of money, but it's more than I expected.

In doing some research, I realized I got the actual weights wrong back when I first calculated its worth.

Well then.

But, with pre-1982 pennies worth twice their value in copper alone, perhaps it's time to go through my penny collection …

Friday, November 10, 2006

It's still there

It's not dead, and I haven't forgotten about it—it's just been … busy at The Office. That's all.

“You want me to close the program? Sí”

It's D&D night, and I forgot to bring my laptop (we use kLoOge during game play). So Bob (the DM) lent me his laptop computer to use.

It runs Microsoft Windows.

So okay. I can deal.

I spend about an hour pounding on the machine to get it running semi-decently when all of a sudden half the message boxes pop up in Spanish.

Then back to English.

Then Spanglish.

“Do you really want to end the application? No


Saturday, November 11, 2006

“Office Space” Recut

Last year, Robert Ryang recut a trailer for “The Shining” to make it appear as a romantic comedy, which lead to a rash of recut trailers for various films placing them in different genres—Robert Ryang's work was the best of the lot.

Now comes this (and Mark should appreciate this)—“Office Space” Recut (link via Jason Kottke).

Sunday, November 12, 2006


I know that as of this day, I've hooked two more people on Dicewars. Muahahahahahahahaha!

Now … if I could only kick myself of the habit …

Son of a Witch

I just finished reading Son of a Witch, the sequel to Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, and overall I found it lacking.

The book follows Liir, who may or may not be the son of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, from moments after Dorothy kills the Witch (quite by accident) for the next ten years. At the start, he's unsure of everything—unsure if he's the son of the Witch, unsure what to do, uncertain about what he can do. And after following him for ten years in the aftermath of Dorothy's visit and the poltical upheavel it brings upon Oz, he's still unsure if he's the son of the Witch, unsure what to do, and unsure of what he can do.

I think what made Wicked work was the recasting of the Wicked Witch of the West as the heroine; we get to see her side of the story in a politicized Oz. And while Son of a Witch carries on that story after Elphaba dies, it doesn't feel as tied into the Oz mythos as the first one. It's too far from any characters we know from Oz.

It just didn't work for me.

Monday, November 13, 2006

“Lights! Camera! Action!”

I wonder if kids today realize how good they have it?

One of the many careers I was interested in as a kid was a film maker (along with my friend Hoade—we were both ga-ga over the likes of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg—they had such cool jobs) but back then, our only options were 8mm or Super-8. 50′ of 8mm film would give you 3′20″ of film (3 minutes, 20 seconds) whereas 50′ of Super-8 film got you 3′40″ (a additional 20 seconds) but the equipment for 8mm was easier to come by (as by that time, it was obsolete, and even Super-8 was fast headed towards obsolescence in the up-and-coming home video revolution of the 80s).

Oh, and I should mention—this was silent film.

You'd buy the film in 50′ canisters. Shoot it. Have it developed. Once back, you'd go through, cutting the film up and splicing it back together into your epic film masterpiece. And all of your budget (at least, back then) went into film and film processing, which wasn't cheap for a kid (each canister would set you back about $10—$30 bucks today). And given the shoot-to-edit ratio of about 2-to-1 (two feet of shot film to one foot of finished film—typical Hollywood rates are 3-to-1 or even 4-to-1) and you'll have to have very understanding parents to indulge in this hobby (and let's not get into the requirements for video editing, which requires even more specialized equipment).

Heck, in the early 90s, my friend Hoade and I tried a few times to make an actual film but the expenses got way out of hand.

But today?

Even a relatively cheap digital camera (like the one I have) can record video clips (I have enough memory to shoot about ten minutes worth). And my Mac mini came with video editing software (albeit basic editing software, still, it's something I can use).

And therefore, with video equipment and software that just about anyone can afford, you get some really innovative stuff going on (and a bunch of crap, but hey, the same can be said for network television only, you pay more for it).

So, with all this creativity going on, and an unfulfilled goal, I have been in the process of making a small video.

[Herr Direktor]

The above is just a small clip from the final results. And I'm finding that editing is still a time consuming process, but at least I'm not having to sweep up little bits of film afterwards.

And what follows is a transcript of the movie.


It's that accessibility thang.


[From behind a movie camera] And … action!


[Sitting at a work desk. Several seconds go by as he tries to remember his lines.] What was my line again?

[CUT to HERR DIREKTOR, who stops filming, and shakes his head at the incompetence of HERR ACTOR.]



Oh, and that camera? [CUT to CLOSE-UP of camera, then back to HERR COMMENTATOR] It's just a Hollywood prop. See? [CUT to CLOSE-UP of camera, and HERR COMMENTATOR opening the camera with his hand. CUT back to HERR COMMENTATOR] I mean it's a real camera but I wasn't really using it.

[CUT to CLOSE-UP of camera]


It looks good.



That's why.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Cutting room floor

The clip I made yesterday, all 34 seconds of it, took perhaps an hour and a half to make, but that's including the time it took for me to film the all 18 bits that day (second day of filming).

The sample you saw required the cutting of four individual clips (raw footage: 73 seconds) into the 10 cuts shown and took about half an hour of actual editing time to create (about 1 minute editing time for each second of resulting footage) but I had a clear outline of what I wanted to do for that clip.

The rest of the video?

I'm making it up as I go along, unfortunately.

[I speak goodly English]

Outtakes … um … and for a good … um … reason.

I don't even have all the bits I wanted filmed yet (I'm only in The Office two days a week) and there's a strong tempation to reshoot a bunch of what I already have (oh, and a transcript? “Uh … uh right there. Blah! Take 37. Ahem. Yeah, right.”).

I wonder if I will ever finish this …

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

“How many words per day was that again?”

So, here it is, November 15th, which marks the halfway point of NaNoWriMo, and the expectation of having 25,000 words done by the end of the day.

My current count?

Let's see … la de da … carry the one … dum de dum … and I have a total word count of …


The Magic 8 Ball says: Outlook not so good.


A night at the carnival

[Carnival—American style]

“We have to go on the Ferris Wheel,” said Bunny. “We just have to.”

“Okay,” I said. It's one of the few rides I don't mind at carnivals. “Although it's pretty big.” I also have a fear of hights but it doesn't always manifest itself—it's a fear that is partially situational, but that, as Alton Brown would say, is another show).

The carnival itself was in the parking lot of a large strip mall along US-441 and Glades, in Boca Raton, Florida. There are few fields left empty here in Lower Sheol anymore, so I guess they set up where ever they can these days.

[Look at all the people] [Where do they all come from?] [You'll shoot your eye out, kid!]

It was rather slow by the time we showed up, near 9:00 pm. Whether it was due to the hour of the day, or the day of the week, I don't know. But there were hardly any lines to speak of. Bunny picked up the tickets and as we waited (there was one rider on the Ferris Wheel when we queued up) we bantered with the carney. The carnival is operated by a larger company that has several “units” out at any one time (one here in Boca Raton, another one in Ft. Lauderdale, and a few down in Miami) and that what we were looking at wasn't just a Ferris Wheel, but a huge Ferris Wheel, some 90′ tall.

A few minutes go by, and the wheel stops. We get into one of the gondolas, the wheel lurches forward a few cars, and a group get into another gondola; the carney explaining to the other group that the groups need to be spaced to keep the wheel in balance.

And we're off …

And it's clear by the time we peak over the top and are on the way down again that this isn't just a Ferris Wheel, but the Ferris Wheel. Vertigo kicked in and I just had to get off, but it took another three trips to get the carney's attention, and then me waving off Bunny as she tried to help (we were walking down a plank off the ride) but I really needed to get grounded, as in “standing on solid ground, now.”

[All the deep fried heart attack specials you could want]
[Time to make the funnel cake]

After calming down a few minutes, we headed off to the Funnel Cake booth. I'm neutral towards deep fried dough but Bunny loves the stuff [Update Friday, November 17th—Bunny wishes to let it be known that she loves funnel cakes and not just any old type of fried dough –Editor], so she got a funnel cake (she found it good but she's had better—I found it okay myself) and I got a soft-serve ice cream cone (I didn't get sick on the Ferris Wheel, I just couldn't take it).

[Back and forth, round and round …]

Next to the Ferris Wheel was this outrageous ride. Not only does it swing back and forth, but the end, where you sit, spins. I found it horribly disorienting just looking at the thing, but it was very pretty with all the lights. It looked like something you would find in Las Vegas. Or on the set of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

[Ohh … look at the pretty lights] [Close Encounters of the Third Kind] [Fling them all to outer space]

High Anxiety

About that Ferris Wheel ride

I have acrophobia (and not vertigo as I always thought, much to my surprise) but it doesn't always manifest itself. In fact, I've ridden Ferris Wheels before without problem, although I don't think I've ridden one quite as large as the one earlier tonight.

[“There's no place like ground …”]

It was not a pleasant experience.

As a young kid, I remember hanging out with my friend Duke and we would climb and walk along this fallen tree spanning a rather large hole in the ground (as a young kid, I would have sworn that the hole was 50′ deep but in reality it was probably not more than 10′ or so) without thought. We would also clamber up and down hills with a 70% grade or so (although at that point they cease to be hills and more like “cliffs” or “stupid kids—you'll fall and shoot your eye out on that cliff!”).

In high school, as part of Drama, I would set lights and to reach the FOHs I had to go outside the auditorium, enter the electrical breaker room, and climb up a vertical ladder. The only portion of the ladder you could see was at the bottom, in the electrical breaker room, where it went up past the ceiling. Once past the ceiling of that room, it was a) pitch black as there was no lighting, b) the ladder was surrounded by a steel cage and c) there were walls on two sides of the ladder (front and back). So not only were you cocooned on the way up, but the lack of light actually helped as you couldn't see anything, up or down. So the acrophobia never got a chance to kick in there.

And once up at the FOHs, I was too busy setting lights to really think that the only thing keeping me from a fall of about 60′ was chicken wire.

At FAU I also worked on the stage crew for the auditorium, and while it was no biggie to go up in the catwalk system that extended out over the audience, and even work spotlights from a platform about 40′ up in the center of the audience, waiting an hour for my cue could get … interesting (“Hmmm … I wonder how I'd survive if those four bolts right there were to fall out … oook”).

I also used to hang out on the roof of various buildings with friends at FAU, and even climbed out through the observatory (on the top floor of the Science and Engineering Building) onto the roof (where one mistep meant a real nasty fall) but I could never work up the courage to go out onto the top of the Social Sciences Building (and when my friends did that, I had to physically lie down on the ground the acrophobia kicked in so hard).

But I'm fine in airplanes. In fact, I love window seats and I get a thrill when the plane takes off and lands (I love watching the ground fall away, and watching us descend to land—go figure).

I've also ridden in cable cars, but the last time I did that I was 11 or so. I had a chance a few years ago in Palm Springs, California but declined when I actually saw the grade (and I'm getting short of breath just reading the specs on the website—sheesh!).

Last year in Las Vegas, Hoade and I snuck up to the upper floors of the Luxor Hotel and on each level is a floor to ceiling window overlooking the interior of the hotel. I couldn't even get within 10′ of the window, and even Hoade was apprehensive at approaching to take pictures.

So yeah, having ridden Ferris Wheels before, I thought I could handle it.

Apparently, I could not.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

“The Jedi are extinct, their fire has gone out of the universe. You, my friend, are all that's left of their religion.”

Some recent musings on Star Wars (Losin' It (via Jason Kottke) and Wil Wheaton's Geek In Review: Han Shoots First (via … well, Wil Wheaton himself) has got me thinking thoughts of Star Wars myself and one of my central questions of Star Wars: Why do we believe Darth Vader when he tells Luke he's his father?

So we have this movie where the Bad Guys are telling the truth (apparently) and the Good Guys have lied (Obi-Wan, I'm looking at you!). What exactly is George Lucas trying to say here? (and here I was, ready to write this whole diatribe, when I found that I had already written it a few years ago—heh)

Name dropping

Spring and I were watching The Guru, a humorous and amusing, if predictable, little film about an Indian (dot, not feather) who comes to the United States to become a famous Hollywood actor and instead becomes a famous sex guru.

Anyway, we're watching the film.

“Hold on,” I said. “back that up!”

“What? Oh, okay,” she said. She rewound the film a bit.

“Yes,” I said, rewatching the previous shot. “I know that guy! That's Bobby Cannavale. We went to high school together.” Not only that, but we were both in Drama. I have a cool story about him, but if you want it, you'll have to ask …

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Aluminum Tree and Aesthetically Challenged Seasonal Ornament Museum & Research Center

There's a scene in A Charlie Brown Christmas where Charlie Brown and Linus are shopping for Christmas trees and all they find are these triangular metal trees. I always found that scene to be pretty surreal what with the extreme artificial nature of the artificial trees. The trees I was familiar with were made of green plastic needles embedded in a metal wire frame.

You know, real artificial trees, as opposed to the artificial artificial trees shown in the Charlie Brown Christmas special.


Anyway, the thought that there were ever artificial artificial Christmas trees never crossed my mind until I came across the Aluminum Tree and Aesthethically Challenged Seasonal Ornament Museum & Research Center.

Oh my.

It just wasn't a surreal moment made up by cartoonist Charles M. Schulz and animator Bill Melendez.

Oh wait! That's right! It was the 60s.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

“I mean, if they're stupid enough to buy it … ”

I sometimes think I'm in the wrong line of work.

Each week I read James Randi's weekly newsletter where he mentions the latest scams and fuzzy New Age thinking going on in the world, and some of the scams are just …

People believe and pay money for this stuff?

One of the many recent scams is this CD, DVD and LP demagnetizer.


It's a degausser for plastic discs.

Demagnetizing both sides of optical media before play results in a greater sense of power, dynamics, and resolution, with cleaner, blacker backgrounds and a larger, more stable soundstage, vivid tonal colors and deeper extension at both ends of the frequency range. Demagnetization also allows the delicacy, refinement and nuance of a performance to shine through, along with micro- and macro-dynamics you need to realize the full potential of music and movies.

“Blacker backgrounds?”

We're talking about sounds, right? Not paintings, right?

“Blacker backgrounds.”


And here's a demagnitizer that sells for $400.00! What a deal! $400.00 for “four patented electromagnetic beams that penetrate the disc during rotation; in addition to this the rotation speed has been increased for an even dispersion of the specialized beams. What this means is that you can expect far more hidden information to be retrieved. The patented processes ability to reduce the noise floor even further, allows you to enhance your listening pleasure to the extreme.”

As I asked Wlofie the other day, “Is it morally wrong to separate a fool from his money?”

Is it?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

“Just gotta have a little faith … ”

I remember as a kid watching David Copperfield making the Statue of Liberty disappear and always wondering how he managed to do that. It was only years later when my friend Hoade told me how he did it (okay okay, here's the Straight Dope).

Well, that feeling of wonderment came back when I saw Criss Angel walking on water, across a crowded swiming pool at a Las Vegas casino. It's an amazing trick, however he managed to do it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

“I mean, really stupid … ”

The theory of LRL operation is to transmit a signal into the ground that will excite the distant buried target. A “signal line” is established between the transmitter and the target, and the dowsing rods are used to detect and track the signal line. Because the receiving half of the VR-800 is just a pair of simple dowsing rods, it stands to reason that the transmitter half somehow justifies the suggested retail price of $1995. Let's start with a look at the transmit box.

Geotech— LRLs—Reports—VR-800

I forgot to link to this page detailing the inner workings of some questionable devices I mentioned on Saturday. I got so sidetracked on the audiophile scams that I totally neglected the whole long range location devices.

What's neat about that site is it goes into quite a bit of detail of just how shady these things are, and how they work (or rather, don't).

It's just amazing that people fall for this type of stuff.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Perhaps Spring is right, we should tell our customers to use Gmail because we no longer support email

So much for a quiet day at the office.

A little background: a while ago I set things up so that all the email that the various programs send out, on all the servers we have, gets funneled into a single account, which is then forwarded to me for review: output from cron, the mailscanner software, bounces, etc.

Yes, it generates a large amount of email, but mostly it's stuff I can quickly scan and dump as all I'm really doing is looking for anything out of the ordinary. Except for the bounce or non-deliverable messages, bitching about the inability to send emails to non-existant accounts across the internet (XXXXXXX spammers) and for those, I funnel those into a single folder (using procmail) which I then delete on a daily basis (why don't I just delete them as I get them? There is the rare occasion when I need to check those messages and because of that, it's easier to just delete them manually than recofiguring the email client when I need to actually search for those messages).

So it was surprising to find such messages in my default inbox. More surprising was the sheer number: over a thousand.

And not only in my default inbox, but in just about every incoming email folder. Hundreds. Thousands. Jamming up my email.

Checking the procmail log file, I found thousands of instances of:

procmail: Error while writing to "in-mailerdaemon"
procmail: Truncated file to former size
procmail: Error while writing to "in-mailerdaemon"
procmail: Truncated file to former size

Hmmm …

The folder itself was 51,200,000 bytes in size. Inside were nearly 6,000 messages, all the bitching about the same thing:

   ----- The following addresses had permanent fatal errors -----
    (reason: 554 5.4.6 Too many hops)
    (reason: 554 5.4.6 Too many hops)

   ----- Transcript of session follows -----
554 5.4.6 Too many hops 26 (25 max): from <root@XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX> 

which was trying to inform me that it couldn't deliver the following email message:

CRITICAL:Current disk space consumption has reached a critical limit.
Sat, 18 Nov 2006 04:23:27 -0500
Not scanned: please contact your Internet E-Mail Service Provider for details, Not scanned: please contact your Internet E-Mail Service Provider for details, Not scanned: please contact your Internet E-Mail Service Provider for details, Not scanned: please contact your Internet E-Mail Service Provider for details, Not scanned: please contact your Internet E-Mail Service Provider for details, Not scanned: please contact your Internet E-Mail Service Provider for details, Not scanned: please contact your Internet E-Mail Service Provider for details, Not scanned: please contact your Internet E-Mail Service Provider for details, Not scanned: please contact your Internet E-Mail Service Provider for details, Not scanned: please contact your Internet E-Mail Service Provider for details
Please contact the ISP for more information

What's even funnier is that this is a customer of one of our resellers. Even funnier is that the site in question has been suspended for non-payment.


So I delete the overflowing inbox, and the incoming email starts flowing properly again, and I start investigating the problem further.

A few hours go by, and I start finding bounce messages in the wrong inboxes. Same error. And the folder is again 51,200,000 bytes in size.

Gee, guess I found some internal procmail limit or bug or something.

In the meanwhile, I find out that not only does the site belong to one of our resellers, and has been suspended, it has also moved servers!


And the mail is originating from the original server, bouncing around the new server and after bouncing around too many times, bounces towards me.

Now, have I mentioned I hate control panels?

Yup, they show up here, because the makers of Insipid have modified sendmail to handle their method of virtual servers and the command I'm used to using to check mail queues, mailq, is broken. So I have to track down where on God's Green Server they stuck the outgoing email queue and clean it up on two servers.

And yet I'm still getting bounce messages from the server, dating back to Saturday!

It was then I realized that our Office Email goes through yet another server, a spam firewall appliance. And it probably has a huge backlog of messages headed my way. And unfortunately, there's no way to flush the outgoing queue, because we have no access, because it's an appliance.


So for now, I have the email directed towards the bit bucket. I just hope that for the next few days, I don't miss a really important message.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

How To Write A Fugue

Since Bunny is such the musical buff that she is, she might get a kick out of this instructional video: How to Write a Fugue, based on Brittney Spears'Oops I Did It Again.”

Not only is it an instructional video on constructing a fugue based on a pop song, the video itself is a fugue, and to understand that, you have to watch the video.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

And now for something completely retro

                        ,*^^^^              )
                     _+*                     ^**+_
       _+^^*+_    (     ,+*^ ^          \+_        )
      {       )  (    ,(    ,_+--+--,      ^)      ^\
     { (@)    } f   ,(  ,+-^ __*_*_  ^^\_   ^\       )
    {:;-/    (_+*-+^^^^^+*+*<_ _++_)_    )    )      /
   ( /  (    (        ,___    ^*+_+* )   <    <      \
    U _/     )    *--<  ) ^\-----++__)   )    )       )
     (      )  _(^)^^))  )  )\^^^^^))^*+/    /       /
   (      /  (_))_^)) )  )  ))^^^^^))^^^)__/     +^^
  (     ,/    (^))^))  )  ) ))^^^^^^^))^^)       _)
   *+__+*       (_))^)  ) ) ))^^^^^^))^^^^^)____*^
   \             \_)^)_)) ))^^^^^^^^^^))^^^^)
    (_             ^\__^^^^^^^^^^^^))^^^^^^^)
      ^\___            ^\__^^^^^^))^^^^^^^^)\\
              ___) >____) >___   ^\_\_\_\_\_\_\)
             ^^^//\\_^^//\\_^       ^(\_\_\_\)
               ^^^ ^^ ^^^ ^^

Gobble gobble.

Friday, November 24, 2006

For a black Friday, it's pretty sunny outside

Our Thanksgiving was a quiet affair, just us, no one else. It was quite nice and relaxing (and I played way too much Dicewars). We did have a bit of fun picking up a new (well, used) stove that involved moving a stove down stairs, lots of driving back and forth, and running out of gas but it actually sounds more amusing than it was. But how did we cook? The use of lots of electric cooking devices, including a rotisserie. I will, however, miss the flat top of our old stove.

Anyway, today is Black Friday. And there's no way I'm going shopping today. No way.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Dynamic DNS

Bunny has BellSouth as a DSL provider. They give her a dynamic IP address. A dynamic IP address makes it difficult for her to get back to her computer when she's at her office.

I know Wlofie uses DynDNS and he's used it for several years with no problems. So I figure I'd check it out and see if it could be used.

Looking around, it seems their clients assume the computer in question has the public IP address. Which in Bunny's case, isn't the case. Her DSL router has the public IP address.

Not to worry though—there's a Linux system at her house as well. But the Linux client isn't officially supported. Okay, but it appears to work anyway. But it's a Perl based client and call me a computer language bigot (“you computer language bigot!” thanks) but the idea of running a daemon written in Perl just doesn't sit well with me.

Besides, it too requires the computer in question to have the public IP address. Oh sure, you could configure the Linux client to use their CheckIP server, but when I tested it, I get the private IP address, not the public IP address (but see below for an update).

Great CheckIP server there, guys.

So I figure I'll roll my own. It doesn't look that hard actually. Have a simple client program connect to a DNS server I control. The server side can grab the public IP address from the actual connection, and if the appropriate bits are sent across the wire, the server will then update the IP address in the appropriate zone file and that's that.

And I'm definitely overengineering the program.

But then again, in college I was told by a professor to stop the overkill on my programs.

Update on Monday, November 27th, 2006

Seems I made a mistake when I tested the CheckIP page. It works fine unless you use a web proxy, which I do.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

“What color are your toxins?”

Are you dealing with chronic illness, fatigue or have you have chemotherapy or radiation treatment?

Detox footbaths will help!

You will witness the stunning cleansing process before your own eyes!

This process can simply be described as “sweat” in water!

What color are your toxins?

BBS™ Ionic Detoxification Footbaths

Man alive, what you can find out on the Intarweb these days. And these units are not cheap either! Just amazing that these people get away with such nonsense (I'm betting the detoxification footbaths work along the same principles as ear candles (scroll down the page—the actual bit about ear candles is near the end).

What's really funny is the disclaimer in this really itty-bitty font—the “product is not intended to treat … any medical condition … so no medical claims are made.”

Warning: Body Balance System™ is not recommended for pregnant or nursing mothers, persons with pacemakers, implanted organs, epilepsy or open wounds on the feet. Body Balance System™ is a product of Lifestream Medical Corporation. The product is not intended to treat or diagnose any medical condition but is provided for you in your own research about bioactive frequencies and the desire to eliminate toxins and heavy metals from the body. These devices are pending FDA approval, so no medical claims are made. Any BBS™ devices being sold are for experimental use only as a service to you and does NOT imply or can be construed as medical advice, diagnosis or a SELF-HELP prescription for any individual or any specific health condition.

BBS™ Ionic Detoxification Footbaths

Oh, why am I looking up detoxification footbaths? I'm not—it just came up in some information I was looking for and found it too amusing not to blog about it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Never again will I live in a place with Condo Commandos

The subdivision's rules say no signs, billboards or advertising are permitted without the consent of the architectural control committee.

Kearns [president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association —Editor] ordered the committee to require Jensen to remove the wreath, but members refused after concluding that it was merely a seasonal symbol that didn't say anything. Kearns fired all five committee members.

Via Wil Wheaton, Subdivisi on Bans 'Divisive' Wreath With Peace Sign

Boy, and I thought the Condo Commandos where I lived were bad …

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A request

"Sean 'Captain Napalm' Conner" <>
Tue, 28 Nov 2006 16:19:55 -0500

Hi honey. I was looking for Bicycle World's website, and tried to Google things like:

Lots of Yellow Pages listings, but no results for the actual website. I finally found the site by going to

and getting the link from there.

Most of the pages on their site don't have much for keywords or description; most don't mention Florida. But if you were to link to

do you think Google might pick up the result? That page actually has place names in it. The home page doesn't.

Working backwards, the only way I could find it was to Google for results directly from that URL. Heh.

Certainly I'll link to that page. But it's iffy if Google will index the page. It depends upon the sites robots.txt file, if there are any appropriate <META> tags on the page, and will Google spider a site that is most likely the output from a CGI program (that can have bad consequences—infinite loops, lost data, etc.).

But it can't hurt to try.

Today's issue

Nothing worse than trying to debug FTP issues in the presense of firewalls.

FTP is a really old protocol that due to the way it works, makes it difficult to support properly when there are firewalls at both the client side and the server side, primarily because by default, whenever the server wants to send data to the client, the server initiates a connection back to the client. Sure, there's passive mode, but that just means that the server tells the client to connect on a different (and usually blocked) port on the server for the data.

It's especially frustrating when these things suddenly stop working.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

“I'm sorry, but Donald Duck did it first.”

There is a famous story (among patent attorneys, at least) about a Donald Duck story being used as prior art against a patent. This concerned an invention in which sunken ships can be raised by pumping buoyant bodies into them, which eventually will provide sufficient upward lift to bring the ship back to the surface. In a 1949 Donald Duck story, titled The Sunken Yacht a ship is raised by stuffing it full of ping-pong balls. But whether the story was actually used by a patent office to refuse the patent application remains unclear.

Via news from me, The “Donald Duck as prior art” case

I think that's really neat, and even better, the story itself was written and drawn by my favorite Disney cartoonist Carl Barks.

I also remember him doing an Uncle Scrooge comic where the Ducks use old inner tubes to raise a riverboat (a charming story about Scrooge McDuck raising a riverboat to finish a riverboat race with a rival).

Heck, I remember another Carl Barks story which had a credible explaination for the Flying Dutchman myth. Heck, all the Carl Barks stories were great.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The changing of the seasons

Today is a very special day—it's the end of freaking Hurricane Season!


Only nine storms through October (the November stats haven't been released yet by the National Hurricane Center) and of those, five were hurricanes, and none hit the United States (and only one, Hurricane Ernesto, seems to have done any damage whatsoever).

All in all, it's been a quiet hurricane season, for which I am thankful.

And in other hurricane related news:

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has just released two updated statements on the state of science on tropical cyclones and climate change. The statements have been released today through the Instituto Meteorologico Nacional, San Jose, Costa Rica. Anyone referencing this post or the statements, please do acknowledge them as the source.

We are pleased that the WMO statements are 100% consistent with the views on this subject that we have been sharing over the past few years. In particular, it should now be completely unambiguous that those who are representing hurricane impacts as being related to greenhouse gas emissions, without acknowledging that this is not a widely shared perspective among scientists, are either cherry picking the relevant science or misrepresenting the community consensus. As a matter of policy, those interested in addressing the impacts of tropical cyclones on people and economies necessarily should be focued on adaptive responses. We have obviously made this case for a while, now there is no ambiguity.

Via Flares Into Darkness: Yet Another Really Great Blog, WMO Consensus Statement on Tropical Cyclones and Climate Change (emphasis added)

“And now for something completely different … ”

The Star Wars Saga as Presented by Three Guys in 30 minutes.

(Link via tryss)

Obligatory Picture

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

Obligatory Contact Info

Obligatory Feeds

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