The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

It might be worth the trouble if there were another zero in the number

So it turns out my Dad had two bank accounts—the one in California, and another one in Nevada. There were no issues getting the Nevada bank to cut a check for the whopping $100 remaining in the account (I'm rich! I'm rich I tell ya!), unlike the California bank. There was filling out the affidavit and the shenannigans required to get it notarized (I did not realize there were multiple levels of notarization—go figure) and sending it back along with the death certificate.

The California bank then sent the check via certified mail—we missed the initial delivery. Bunny can deal with the bureaucracy better than I, so when she went to the post office to pick it up, they couldn't find it. That was yesterday.

Today the post office called her to say they found the letter, so after work we went to pick it up and find out if all this trouble was worth the $45.71. We're in the car and I open up the letter.

“Wait! They didn't send the check! There's no check here!” I said, looking through a thick packet of papers.

“It's right here,” said Bunny, holding up a check. “How could you have missed it? It was right here in the envelope.”

“Oh cool!”

“But … it's made out to your Dad,” she said. “And they included a page from a loan made to somebody else …”

Passersby were amused to see me honking the car horn with my head.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Notes on an overheard conversation upon mail call

“Here you go. I've removed the real estate guide because I know you aren't interested.”

“But … it says ‘Real Estate Guide.’”

“No, it says the real estate guide is inside!

“… Oh, it does.”

“I swear, I don't know how you dress yourself.”

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Notes on an overheard phone conversation with a computer about a product that was just delivered

“We can send you updates and confirmations about our product and future products to your email address. Would you like to do this?”


“Okay then. We can send you a follow-up email about our product you just received.”

“What? I just said ‘no’ to your previous question about email!”

“Great! Expect to see a follow-up email real soon now.”

“No! No! N—”

“Do you have any more questions?”


“Okay then. Thank you for using our product. Good-bye.'


Thursday, February 20, 2020

A vote for Velma is a vote for anarchy

I came across this letter to the editor of the Transylvania Times that is just too good not to share.

A Vote For Anarchy

My name is Velma Owen. I'm an 84-year-old grandmother of seven. I've lived in Transylvania County my whole life, and I'm thinking about running a write-in campaign for president of the United States. I read letters in this paper all the time of people complaining about this politician or that politician, but I got a plan we could all get behind.

As president, I will disband the entire government. We all hate it anyway. Let's just get rid of it. My grandson thinks we need the government for the post office and roads, but he's voting for the socialist. Besides, the post office is useless since UPS came around, and I haven't cared much about the roads since I quit driving.

And don't get me started on taxes. Taxes are a load of bull. I could give the government my first born child and they'd still want the second and third. (They can take the fourth.) All that money out of my pocket, and for what? So some politician can write a law that gets me in trouble for driving my mower on Highway 64.

Anyway, if you're as sick of it as I am, then write-in Velma Owen in the general election in November. We'll close this government like it's the K-Mart.

Remember: A vote for Velma is a vote for anarchy.

Velma Owen
Lake Toxaway

There's not much else to add to this but, Vote Velma!

Friday, February 21, 2020

A random encounter with a 35 year old file format

I ended up at the art section of the Interactive Fiction Archive and I was curious as to the format of the .blb files. I downloaded one and much to my surprise, it was an IFF file. I haven't encountered an IFF file in the wild in over twenty years.

So it seems that a .blb is a blorb file, used to save resources for an interactive fiction game. Going further down the rabbit hole, it seems that compiled Erlang code is also stored as an IFF file, although it's a slightly modified version (Erlang uses 32-bit alignment while the IFF standand only mandates 16-bit alignment, which makes sense given IFF was defined in the mid-80s by Electronic Arts).

It's a bit of a shame that it wasn't used more often as it's not a bad file format, nor is it that complicated—the standard is less than 20 pages long, and a “parser” is about a page of code in any modern language today. But alas, the format never really caught on outside the Amiga community and it's hard to say why. Jerry Morrison, one of the creators of the format, lists maybe three reasons why in a retrospective but it's hard to say if those were the sole reasons, or if there were more. About the only modern format today that is somewhat based on IFF is the PNG format (it was probably more inspired by the IFF format, but it's not compatible with it).

Anyway, what a pleasant surprise.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

This date on the blog, or stealing a feature I found on another blog

Kirk Israel has an interesting feature on this blog, the “thisday” link, which displays all the entries for a given day (and here is February 26TH in case you are reading this sometime in the future). It's a neat concept, and one I could certainly use. There have been times (usually on holidays) where I'd like to see what I've written so as not to repeat myself. So that usually involves opening up a bunch of tabs of, say, July 4TH (and as of writing this, that would be 14 tabs) but no longer! Now I (and you) can see what I've written for every Fourth of July holiday. All that's left is to generate links to the next and previous day, as well as maybe a link in the sidebar to all the entries for a given day.

While the feature was easy to add to the website, I have yet to do so for my gopher mirror. I'm still afraid my blog on Gopher is still a second class citizen. I still don't support linking to arbitrary portions of time with the gopher mirror, and I'm not sure if I will ever get around to it.

A journal doesn't really help if you never finish the entries

It's been fun going though some of my own entries with the new “this day” feature. One thing I've noticed is that I used to write way more entries in the past than I do now. Part of that may be the newness of online journaling. Another part might be there was less risk of repeating myself. Perhaps I hadn't run out of things to say? Who knows?

I did find a stash of unfinished entries from the time I started working at Negiyo when I checked out this day of October 13TH. At first, I was afraid the partial text was due to a bug, but no, the 13TH of October, 2000 really is a few sentence fragments, along with a whole bunch of other non-entries that month—I guess I never finished those. And that entry for October 30TH, 2000? It's not cut off—apparently I came across the source code for ITS. But I can't even remember what I wanted to say, much less where I stuffed said source code. And what was up with the security guard and the Bible? I want to know! I need closure!

Curse my younger self for not finishing these entries!

How I ended up with a month of non-entries

So how did I end up with a month of non-entries? Therein lies a tale …

While the first entry of my blog is dated Debtember 4TH, 1999, the software running the blog, mod_blog wasn't even started yet—maybe. The previous October and November I spent writing mod_litbook (the software behind The Electric King James Bible) which was the inspiration for how links work around here. I'm not sure if I started the software that Debtember or not, since I spent the rest of the month visiting Dad out in Palm Springs, California.

My first post about mod_blog appears to be on March 13TH, so sometime between Debtember of 1999 and March of 2000 is when I started coding mod_blog. But until mod_blog was ready, I was basically maintaining a bunch of static pages by hand. I then spent over a year and a half writing the software. Most of the time I spent trying to figure out how to generate the appropriate hyperlinks—I was trying to generate anchor links (<A HREF="#2000/10/15.1">) if the entry was on screen, otherwise a hyperlink (<A HREF="/2000/10/15.1">) if the entry wasn't on the screen, while at the same time trying to generate an on-page directory of entries currently being displayed—it was a real mess.

By early October of 2000, I had finalized the storage format for each entry. But that was also the month I started working at Negiyo and the first few weeks were pretty tough. I think I just forgot to go back and flesh out those entries. Besides, at that point, the blog wasn't on a public server and only a small select set of friends had the actual link to it.

It wasn't until October 23RD, 2001 that I finally had enough with the development and decided to go public with what I had. I didn't have the anchor links like I wanted (but that turned out to be a bad idea in the long term anyway), nor the directory of entries (and I still don't have an automatic list of past entries—the archive section I add to every month). Besides, I really wanted to make that synopsis of Atlas Shrugged public (yes, that's what finally prompted me to get mod_blog shipped), so I copied everything on the private server (including the month of non-entries) to the public server and the rest has been online ever since.

And that's how I ended up with a month of non-entries, and curiousity as to what “a wired Jamison” is all about.

Get off the lawn, my younger self!

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

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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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