Monday, June 30, 2008

Lithuania Bleg - revisted

I wrote
Anyone here speak or write Lithuanian? I've got a translation question.
Thanks to Chris Gerrib, Liudas Volodka, and Gintautas Kaminskas. Special runner-up thanks to Erica for having Lithuanian ancestors.

bash history hack

History in the bash shell is an awesome thing but .. dayum .. it saves everything. Do you really need every 'clear', 'ls' and 'exit'?

You know you don't.

With this you have a variable that suppresses duplicate commands, 'ls', 'clear' and the shell built-ins bg, fg, and exit:

# cat $HOME/.bash_profile | grep HISTIGNORE
export HISTIGNORE="&:ls:clear:[bf]g:exit"

Isn't that a slick bit of awesome? From 'Using Bash's History Effectively' by Jason Bechtel.

The Website is Down

Are you moving my mouse? That's awesome. How are you doing that?

It's remote desktop. What's your password?

Just the letter 'a'. Hey this is all my work, don't close all my windows! I need AOL.

You don't need AOL, we have a corporate OC3.

Can you carry over my hours?

It's pretty funny, if you're into chaos, confusion and chipmunk voices.


Pasty asked me if that's what I do all day.

Of course not.  We don't play games.  And we label our gear so Dorkus in the data center won't power off the wrong server.

All that really means is that the failures - when they happen - are even more awesome, unexpected and deadly than restarting the wrong server.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bird Call

A few things the bird has learned to 'say' since he arrived here a last fall.

He barks like a toy fox terrier.

Little Monkey and Pixie

He makes a quiet, long whistle like the tea kettle.

Tea kettle

Friday, June 27, 2008

Lithuania Bleg

Anyone here speak or write Lithuanian? I've got a translation question.

What? 3.13 million speakers worldwide - someone is going to know someone.

Shoot me an email at - and thanks!

Watch your back


He (Patton) rammed a submachine gun into the belly of a soldier collapsed from exhaustion on a North African beach, waking him suddenly to his explanation.
I know you're tired. We're all tired. That makes no difference. The next beach you land on will be defended by Germans. I don't want one of them coming up behind you and hitting you over the head with a sockful of shit.
That "sockful of shit" brought reality home more certainly than any other weapon he could have mentioned.

From 'The American Tradition' by John Greenway

From the always interesting Military Motivators.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

On Regular Expressions

Jeff Atwood loves him some regular expressions.
You may find it a little odd that a hack who grew up using a language with the ain't keyword would fall so head over heels in love with something as obtuse and arcane as regular expressions. I'm not sure how that works. But it does. Regular expressions rock.They should absolutely be a key part of every modern coder's toolkit.

Okay, fine. I've used regular expressions, but not a whole bunch. I'm not even a coder but I can use them for my job. I should really get down and dirty with them.

The above link led me to this

Used responsibly, regular expressions are a huge net positive. What seperates regex use from regex abuse? Take a gander at this 6.2kb monster for validating RFC822 email addresses:

(code block omitted to prevent explodey heads)

The author comments that [this] somewhat pushes the limits of what it is sensible to do with regular expressions, to which I respond: somewhat? This is a 6,343 character pattern. How many more characters does it take to reach the limit of sensibility? It's abusive. I pity the poor developer who has to troubleshoot this behemoth.

Me, I wonder at the mind that could produce something like that without clapping a grenade to the side of his head.

Whip it good

District of Columbia v. Heller (pdf) is providing moments of hilarity: Dumbass journalist on why rifles are good and handguns bad.

A handgun can be concealed easily, and it can be tossed down a sewer drain without attracting much notice. The barrel can be used to break a snitch's jaw. (There's no such thing as "rifle whipping.")

A butt stroke is part of bayonet drill.

1. You run up to the bad guy while screaming your ass off (presumably so the bad guy will think you are nuts) and carrying your rifle with, “fixed bayonet,” in front of you at a forty-five degree angle (the “on guard” position).

2. When you reach the bad guy, you swing your right foot towards him while simultaneously thrusting the butt of the rifle upward into the bottom of his chin (the goal being to knock his head off).

3. With the rifle now shoulder high (and if the bad guy is still standing), you cross your left leg in front of your right leg while thrusting the butt of the rifle horizontally and forward aiming at the bad guy’s face (this should definitely knock the bad guy down).

4. You now bring your right forward while slashing the bad guy with the bayonet aiming to cut a line from the right side of his throat to his left groin (by now, the bad guy had better be on his back).

5. You now bring your left leg forward while simultaneously thrusting the bayonet into the bad guy’s chest.

It's a heckuva cardio workout. I wonder if the folks at my gym would consider a class on Saturday involving bayonet dummies and M16s . . .

Dumbass then publishes a correction revealing he's tone deaf with respect to his own sense of humor.

Update, 4 p.m. EDT: At the request of several readers, I should clarify that while there's no such term as "rifle-whipping," it's fairly common to use rifle butts as a club. The term of art is the misleadingly pornographic phrase "butt stroking," the butt in this instance referring to the flat end of a rifle. It would be far preferable to call this activity "rifle-whipping," but that term has virtually no currency.

Because 'whip' has absolutely no sexual overtones whatsoever. Nope, and you're a perv if you think so.

Calling it 'art' is lame: smashing the butt end of a seven pound rifle into a fellow's jaw and face is a violent act; the goal is to kill the guy. Done right he's on the ground with a fucking knife in his gut. Done slightly wrong he's got the knife stuck in his ribs. Then the attacker has to wiggle it around to get it out, which makes things really gross. By this time the guy on the ground is also doing a lot of screaming and bleeding and so forth, which would add a really disturbing tone to the proceedings.

My instructor said it would be easier at that point to discharge a round in his chest. Which would, yes, free the rifle. It would also make an incredible mess.

Yes, we all wondered why, if we had a round in the chamber, we were screwing around with a bayonet. I don't recall that he had a good answer for that.

Where were we? Oh yes - Energy Dome!

Also - Whip It!


Thursday, June 26, 2008


Nick Szabo is a fascinating writer.

How contracts became 'money'.

In the middle of the Darby century came the important decision of Miller v. Race. Surprisingly, no copy of this case is to be found online save in the syllabus of Professor Gregory Maggs. So with his permission I've appended his edited version of the case (with some additional very minor edits of my own) below.

Cmmodities (might) be turning into money.
We may be seeing only the first stages of a switch from floating currencies, which may be proving to be unworkable, to commodity-backed currencies. Floating currencies were and are a great historical experiment, and there is no guarantee that such experiments will work out in the long run. By serving monetary functions such as stores of value and hedges against currency-denominated debt, commodity index ETFs and ETNs are starting to serve as monetary substitutes.

The Google Defense

What is sexually explicit material?

That's tricky - it's a great big ol' diverse country. What's merely tacky in San Francisco (lotsa average looking nekkid people at the link - you have been warned)is going to get you a ticket, jail and rode out on a rail in my home town.

Community standards is the answer. Thanks to a creative lawyer, Google may be changing the way we define those standards.

In a novel approach, the defense in an obscenity trial in Florida plans to use publicly accessible Google search data to try to persuade jurors that their neighbors have broader interests than they might have thought.

In the trial of a pornographic Web site operator, the defense plans to show that residents of Pensacola are more likely to use Google to search for terms like “orgy” than for “apple pie” or “watermelon.” The publicly accessible data is vague in that it does not specify how many people are searching for the terms, just their relative popularity over time. But the defense lawyer, Lawrence Walters, is arguing that the evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that interest in the sexual subjects exceeds that of more mainstream topics — and that by extension, the sexual material distributed by his client is not outside the norm.

Well that's about - pardon my simplicity - damned dumb. People do a lot of stuff in private they'd rather not see in the community - that's why they do it inside.

Une voix de l'homme un

About the Irish no vote to the Lisbon Treaty ...

“The fight for Europe is not over, Europe has powerful enemies with deep pockets, as we have seen during the Irish referendum. They come not from Europe, but from the other side of the Atlantic.”

“The role of the American neo-conservatives in the Irish referendum was very important,” he went on, to applause.

That pesky 'one man, one vote' thing is really chaffing Monsieur Jouyet it seems.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Out, damn'd spot!

Why ... what's this? It's a server that has had it's RAM upgraded from 4GB to 8GB.

Stats at one day view.

Stats at the three day view.

The vertical gray line is the period the server was down. Note the vast improvement across the board after the installation. Yes, you can't see the gray 'outage' bar in the bottom graphic - but you can tell where it is by the way the Evil Red colors fall off the cliff.

It's the simple things, done well and in a timely fashion in the broad light of day that make the job a fun one.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More Dog

Not our dog, but our shepherd exhibits the same motherly mother instinct to the cat.

Download is not for download

Fitzgerald was wrong. The rich are like you and me: In 2003 Bil Gates had serious issues and wrote a long-ish email to his staff about it.

Windows update, the way Windows stacks garbage under the Add/Remove Software dialog,the utter failure that is the search function at,[1] Mr. Gates had the same usability experience that the rest of us poor saps have.

So I gave up and sent mail to Amir saying - where is this Moviemaker download? Does it exist?

So they told me that using the download page to download something was not something they anticipated.

Rockin'. I especially liked this comment from anonymous

The Steve Jobs version:

"If the MovieMaker download site isn't working by tomorrow at 6 am I will come down there at 6:01 am an choke the living ___ out of all of you."

Sometimes, brevity is enough.

[1] Someone has probably clued Bill in that the optimal way to find what you're looking for at is to use Google.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008



Chuck is blowing off a little steam
I hate this job; toc bitch, S-3, Operations Officer, whatever you want to call it. I've done it everywhere from Kuwait to Kosovo and all points in between. It's a job where the boss is never happy with you, and the people who actually need your products never get them in a timely manner because a font is wrong, or a slide isn't formatted properly. Worse still, the end users never provide good feedback to tell you when your products help, how to improve to better help them, or when you are 90 degrees off true.

Lesse - I spent half my time in the service working for various '6 shops that share the same woes Chuck writes about: when the coms are bad, no one is happy. When the coms are good and the bits are flying to and fro, you're just doing your job.

For that matter, I've been a system admin for over a dozen years after I left the service - same issue. Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment - but there are compensations.

Organizations that depend on the web will die if their site crashes and they don’t recover. The longer the outage, the worse the damage often is. The same kind of Operations culture is required to effectively respond to, recover from, and prevent outages.

While this seems obvious for many people with years of experience working on the web, it is a significant and often difficult shift for those in the mainstream. This seems particularly true for executives who think of Web Operations as an extension of corporate IT. This gap becomes especially painful when people accustomed to traditional “command-and-control” management styles and models try to apply it to this new type of organization.

The CEO cannot shout or fire the website back up. The CFO cannot account, control, or audit the website back up and the Chief Counsel cannot sue it back to life. The CMO, if there is one, and their entire marketing & PR team will not spin a website back online. The CIO or CTO probably can’t recover the site either, at least not very quickly. The fate of the company frequently and acutely rests in the hands of engineers who do Web Operations.

No, not fire-fighting - putting out fires is the least rewarding aspect of the job. Barring acts-of-God, most fire-fighting happens because someone took their eye of the ball, ignored the warning lighs, failed to tighten a nut. All fire-fighting gets you is grumpy and tired and you snap at your kids in the morning when you finally get home.

Naw - it's the simple things, done well and in a timely fashion in the broad light of day that make the job a fun one.

That and I'm not sitting in the woods for the summer a thousand miles from hearth and home dealing with fug heads.

Things I learned today

Things I learned at work today:

1. The reason you properly rack and secure equipment is to prevent gear from falling out the rack and breaking into ten-thousand pieces on the floor.

Broken Blue !

Also, when stuff falls from the top space of the rack it makes a heckuva bang.

2. I'm now the proud owner of an Enterprise Integration server. Whatever in the heck that is. Something to do with shoving data from one database to another.

And also .. puppy

Not ours - but isn't she cute?

Handsome flying machine


A Marine AV-8B Harrier takes off from the runway as it leaves for a mission out of Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Colonel Jack D. Ripper

So ... we've got this guy.

He's a Colonel in the Air Force. He's the CO of an Air Force base. More than 2,000 hours in the F-15E and F-111D. He's been The Man at a fighter squadron. Spent a year at the Naval War College. Been on a staff position for Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. And so on.

No one can know the mind of another. However, this is the biography of a man who has his stuff wired together. He's about the last guy you'd expect to call - on a Sunday, no less - a guy who bosses a middlin' important peace organization.

And if he'd call, you'd hardly expect him to launch into a Strangelovian Fit.

I tried explaining to him that I have a lifetime of experience listening to people in the military say that we should ramp up Pentagon spending. He was not in a mood to listen.

Instead the Colonel's voice escalated, similar to his desire to see the military budget take ascendancy over social progress in America. "I can see that you are not one who should be involved in deciding on our nation's priorities," he yelled at me. Then he hung up.

Gen. Jack D. Ripper
"Damn peacenik Hippies ...."

Sounds like a bunch of horse apples to me. It's so pat, so perfect, so exactly what a stereotypical war fighter is in all those cheesy Hollywood films. I suspect ...
  • Colonel Suminsby has lost his mind - he's probably mumbling about bodily essences in his office.
  • Bruce is making shit up.
  • Bruce has been prank called and doesn't realize it.

That's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Yes We Can

Cart before horse, chickens before hatching - Barack Obama whomps up a seal before the nomination.
The seal's also got a terrifically impressive motto in Latin -- "Vero Possumus" -- which means "The possum speaks truthily."

Obama seal

No, just kidding. It actually means "Truly we're able," which translates as "Si se puede," which translates as "Yes, we can." Obama is clearly copying George W. Bush's Texas gubernatorial reelection motto from 1998.

All respect to the LA Times, more people know it as part of the catch phrase used by this fellow:

"Can we fix it?" "Yes we can!"

I'm pretty sure Team Obama didn't have Bob Builder in mind. I sure hope they didn't.

Wedding pictures

Katy Gardner of Charizma Photography took some marvelous pictures of James and Sarah's wedding. Here are a few that no one is likely to see - who wants to see pictures of a boy in a tux poking at fish with a stick?

We're ordering prints of course.

Jasmie and Lydia
Lydia and Jasmine - flower girls.

Girl at the pond
It was a lovely spring day.

Pond, Jasmine and Lydia
Jasmine and Lydia - when it's boring in the house you can always watch fish.


Nixie with her pig ball - who will play with me?
The Dog.

Charlie - an Umbrella Cockatoo
He's not cute, but he is loud.

Lunch - PBJ.

Cian with his fish poking stick
He's not really poking the fish.  What he's doing is poking at the fish to get them to come out from under their rock.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I'll bet it was a heckuva ride

Like Owen, I didn't know a snowmobile could do that.
A 31-year-old Grafton man is angry about receiving $1,000 in fines for using his snowmobile like a Jet-Ski, speeding across the flooded Milwaukee River.

No video? Darn it.
A police incident report says Jay A. Seaver acknowledged speeding, saying he had to go about 75 mph to get across the river without sinking.

So he was really moving along.  I looked at Flickr and lo and behold .. pictures!

Channel Hopping

The combination of 'snow mobile' 'open water' and 'crash helmet' is a big hunk of awesome.


In which I think I'm funny

# cheat into_the_code
Gone is the calm, mathematical world. The clear, clean methedrine high is
over. The whole endeavor has become a struggle against disorder. A battle of
wills. A testing of endurance. Requirements muddle up; changes are needed
immediately. Meanwhile, no one has changed the system deadline. The
programmer, who needs clarity, who must talk all day to a machine that demands
declarations, hunkers down into a low-grade annoyance. It is here that the
stereotype of the programmer, sitting in a dim room, growling from behind Coke
cans, has its origins. The disorder of the desk, the floor; the yellow post-it
notes everywhere; the white boards covered with scrawl: all this is the
outward manifestation of the messiness of human thought. The messiness cannot
go into the program; it piles up around the programmer.

Soon the programmer has no choice but to retreat into some private interior
space, closer to the machine, where things can be accomplished. The machine
begins to seem friendlier than the analysts, the users, the managers. The
real-world reflection of the program -- who cares anymore? Guide an X-ray
machine or target a missile; print a budget or a dossier; run a city subway or
a disk-drive read/write arm: it all begins to blur. The system has crossed the
membrane -- the great filter of logic, instruction by instruction -- where it
has been cleansed of its linkages to actual human life.

The goal now is not whatever all the analysts first set out to do; the goal
becomes the creation of the system itself. Any ethics or morals or second
thoughts, any questions or muddles or exceptions, all dissolve into a junky
Nike-mind: Just do it. If I just sit here and code, you think, I can make
something run. When the humans come back to talk changes, I can just run the
program. Show them: Here. Look at this. See? This is not just talk. This runs.
Whatever you might say, whatever the consequences, all you have are words and
what I have is this, this thing I've built, this operational system. Talk all
you want, but this thing here: it works.

From "Close to the Machine" by Ellen Ullman.

Close to the Machine: Technopilia and Its Discontents


Things that make you go hmm - The Environment

Things that make you go 'hmm'.

Originally, the idea was to look at how much energy it takes to make and use a styrofoam cup versus a ceramic mug - especially once washing costs over the lifetime of the mug have been factored in. After doing some research, however, I found that at least two similar studies have already been done - first in 1994 and again in 2007. Shocking as it is to some environmentalists, both studies found that styrofoam cups use less energy over their 1-use lifetime than ceramic cups do over their 500 - 3000 use lifetime.

You can, of course, simply not wash your ceramic mug [1] but this is probably sub-optimal in the setting Joseph is working in (facilities management) so .. washing is going to be a factor.

Somehow we've got it stuck on our collective brain-housing group that disposable must always equal bad.

With disposables you know they're clean

[1] I had a staff sergeant instructor at COBOL school who had a precious ceramic mug. The mug had a horde of fornicating cartoon cows. He never washed the cup - claimed it washed all the taste out, and that coffee would kill any bacteria that accumulated overnight.

One of his fellow instructors played a horrible practical joke - they washed his cup. He was seriously out of sorts for the rest of the week - and by 'out of sorts' I mean fits of irrational anger that only nicotine addicts going cold turkey know about.

This was my first clue that people in IT have some serious quirks.

Friday, June 20, 2008

High gas prices - damn this economy

Red State Update: Gas Prices
Just relax - Congress .. is .. on .. the .. job. Hell, Democrats in Congress want to make a damn windmill car, the Republicans in there want to run cars on the pelts of endangered species, by the time they get finished trying to fix all this mess windshield wiper fluid will cost more than gas does today.

They can never take away our freedom. Except when they can.

Reading Scottish history up to a certain point makes you slap your hand to your forehead because every time anybody went and finally secured themselves the Scottish throne, somebody else wanted it. Whoever that was usually went to the English monarch looking for help, which that dude would gladly give, in exchange for allegiance. Welp, there goes the neighborhood.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I've got some great kids

I'm blessed. For Father's Day ..

My oldest daughter watched the Monkeys so my wife and I could 'steel away' for two nights in scenic Door County.

My other daughter presented me with three coupons for lawn mowing 'without complaining or whining': Awesome.

The Monkeys gave me this picture [1] on a t-shirt.

[1] The deal here is that the Milwaukee Zoo has a troop of bonobos. The Monkeys were thrilled to discover that one of them was named Brian.
A psychiatric advisor provided help for Brian early on, suggesting that he get more one-on-one contact with other bonobos rather than try to integrate with the whole group. That strategy has worked, and Brian, now 15, can relate with several bonobos at a time.
A chimpanzee who would prefer to minimize his social interaction - that's my kind of primate. So they call me a bonobo (the word just rolls around in your mouth) and they're monkeys.

Rails Authentication

You need authentication for applications. Just gotta have it. Even utterly harmless internal applications that will never-ever-never see the internet need - in these benighted ages of Sarbanes-Oxley - authentication because if you don't some auditor about ten days out of college is going to gig you for it.


Sure, laugh. Until you're doing the carpet dance explaining why you suck.

After whacking my skull against the problem for a few days getting basic authentication turns out to be .. easy.

The environment

$ ruby -v
ruby 1.8.6 (2008-03-03 patchlevel 114) [i686-darwin8.11.1]
$ rails -v
Rails 2.1.0

This is restful_authentication. I don't know what that really is but all the cool kids seem to think it's the cat's pajamas.

Install plugin in the directory where your code lives.

script/plugin install

Generate that puppy

script/generate authenticated user sessions

Migrate that sucker

rake db:migrate

Make it available to all your controllers - put this in ./app/controllers/application.rb

include AuthenticatedSystem



Find your way to http://localhost:3000/users/new, add a user.

Add these to ./config/routes.rb

map.logout '/logout', :controller => 'sessions', :action => 'destroy'
map.login '/login', :controller => 'sessions', :action => 'new'

Now you have

If you have a navigation bar, create links to the pages.

See this handy-dandy tutorial for the details about what you're doing and why.

Next .. I get to make all this work with Active Directory.

Oh Noes!

Naw - it won't be that bad.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Eleven Years

Eleven years ago last Friday she did me the honor of becoming my wife.

It's been awesome and great and married life Mark II has in every sense exceeded all expectations that I had.

We slipped away on Friday [1] for the weekend in Door County. That, too, exceeded expectations - but it might also have been the company.

6/14/08 - Egg Harbor, Wisconsin at sunset.

[1] Eleven year gifts are steel. Our gift to each other was to steal away ...

script to grab data from a database

Travis shares a nifty method for cron jobs to grab data from a database at run time.

In the cron file I replace

30 10 2 * * $HOME/bin/ -sendmailto tjic


30 10 2 * * $HOME/bin/

and in the script (Ruby), I replace

puts "output" # write to stdout

with something like

ActionMailer.send_mail("fromaddr", Person.find(:all, :conditions => "email_bit_foobar = 1").join(","), "subject line", "body")

Blogged here so I'll remember it in a few weeks when I need it.

This might seem awkward but if you've got Ruby on your server it's no more awkward than using PERL. The database thing might be another problem. Except that with sqlite your database is a file and those can be mounted from an NFS drive. Or can you replicate a sqlite file from a central repository?

cheat bash

$ cheat bash
!! - Last command
!foo - Run most recent command starting with 'foo...' (ex. !ps, !mysqladmin)
!foo:p - Print command that !foo would run, and add it as the latest to
command history
!$ - Last 'word' of last command ('/path/to/file' in the command 'ls -lAFh
/path/to/file', '-uroot' in 'mysql -uroot')
!$:p - Print word that !$ would substitute
!* - All but first word of last command ('-lAFh /path/to/file' in the command
'ls -lAFh /path/to/file', '-uroot' in 'mysql -uroot')
!*:p - Print words that !* would substitute

More at the link.

Cheat? Whazzat? A RubyGem which
puts Ruby-centric cheat sheets right into your terminal. The inaugural blog entry is here.

Cheat sheets are basically wiki pages accessible from the command line.

If this doesn't make you go 'hmm' then further explanation is useless.

Joe Bob says "Check it out."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Megamissions and How To Get To Space

Two interesting papers from Jerry Pournelle. The former is the standard 'seize the high ground' jazz; if you're not convinced this is important then you're not reading history or you have a severe case of wishful thinking.

The latter describes X Projects, and is longer.

Megamissions and Space Power
A Lecture Presented at the United States Air Force War College
Jerry E. Pournelle, Ph.D.
March 20, 1994

Spacepower today is similar to airpower in 1920: within 20 years space supremacy will be a decisive element of military victory on land or sea. The power that has access to space and can deny access to its enemy will have an advantage at least as great as air supremacy or sea supremacy.

How To Get To Space
Jerry E. Pournelle, Ph.D.

Whose Job Is It?

We have institutions for nearly everything now, but we have lost the institutional means of long range planning. Who looks after our grandchildren? Surely not the politicians, who can hardly think past the next election, and are generally content to put problems off to be solved when the politician is safely out of office.

We no longer have great families planning for the future because we don’t have continuity of wealth: for good or ill, there is no entailment of property, and while there is talk of abolishing death taxes, they have pretty well done their egalitarian work; and perhaps this is a good thing. Good or ill, few think about the next generation and fewer try to do anything about it, because they have little confidence of continuity of their positions and fortunes.

The corporations are useless. The discounted value of a dollar in thirty years is effectively zero. A corporation that invested significantly in research with a thirty-year payoff would be involved in a hostile takeover not long afterwards.

That leaves government.

But Government Always Mucks Things Up

It isn’t strictly true that government always mucks things up, but it’s often enough so. A, if not the, major purpose of government is to extract money from non-government and use it to hire and pay government employees. This guarantees that government will always expand; and there inevitably comes a point at which the addition of people to a project has a negative impact. Almost all long-standing government agencies and projects have people who are worse than merely useless, they are in the way; and the more conscientious they are about earning their pay the more they tend to get in the gears and bring progress to a halt

If building a space-faring civilization were easy it would have already been done.

It's always about the money

Steve Perry on Daniel Keys Moran's blog ..

And one of the funniest ever stories in SF came from his daughter, Astrid [1]. She was taking a science fiction class and there was a quiz question: Why did Robert A. Heinlein write Stranger in a Strange Land?

She answered "For the money."

Teacher marked it wrong, she went up to see him. "Why did you mark this wrong?"

Teacher laughed. "Why did you answer it that way?"

She said, "Because he was at my house talking to my dad and I asked him why he wrote it and that's what he said ..."

The Money Bin of Scrooge McDuck (Dagobert Duck)
Greed .. is good.

[1] Poul Anderson's daughter. C'mon, keep up.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Battlestar Galactica - Revelations (minor spoilage)

About the Fourth Season, Episode 10 'Revelations' [1] .... sucks to be them. Oh, the look on Adama's face at the end of that episode!

We still don't know who the Fifth Cylon is.

Grace Park (Boomer) on Battlestar Galactica
A picture of Grace Park is always appropriate.

I'm just gassing but .. the fifth Cylon is Galactica herself.

Cylons are more advanced that anyone thought before the 12 Colonies were nuked. Skin jobs took the Colonials by complete surprise, and we seem to have had them around for at least 30 years.

Battlestar Galactica
Savior or Threat?

I submit that the Cylons were more advanced during the war than was commonly thought - skinjobs, perhaps, certainly other advanced weapons and technologies, like the Nazi superweapons - really advanced stuff that didn't quite reach the stage of doing them a bit of good. The skinjobs as deep cover agents - maybe they were able to own themselves a Colonial ship?

This Whole Cylon Occupation Thing is Starting to Piss Us Off
The worst part is .. Centurions like to channel surf.

And then when it was all over and humanity won by the skin of their teeth,the Fleet put that information under deep Need to Know and Hope That Doesn't Come Back to Bite Us.

Fast forward twenty years. Their sleeper agents are now senior officers in the fleet - they're getting ready to retire. A beached XO or Admiral isn't in a position to help or hurt anyone. And the last of the battlestars that fought in the war is being scrapped .. the Cylons have to act now or their deep-cover agents and owned machinery are gone.

Use it or loose it. Nuke 'm from orbit - it's the only way to be sure.

I love the smell of burning cities in the morning. It smells like .. victory.

This would not seem possible - Galactica has surely been in the yard for refit and SLEP: it's improbable that there is a Hybrid sitting in a bathtub behind a bulkhead.

But there was Starbuck's Viper that was gone over 'bolt by bolt' and it still could detect a beacon no other ship could. There is something goofy about electronics in the Galactica universe - if a fighter's electronics can see stuff that no one else can .. naw.

So .. I'm wrong. But as a theory I like it very much.

[1] Link to the Television Without Pity recaplet - and many spoilers there.

Tech Support - always a source of merry fun

Me: Help me, help me, the application [1] restarted but the file viewer part didn't. My users can't use the viewer it crashes with a horrible error. Save me, Oracle!

Them: Golly. Nobody can view the files?

Me: Yup - it's a real pickle.

Them: Send me screen shots of the error message, your File Manager Configuration Page and we'll get right on that!

Me: You got it.

Days pass ....

Me; Hey, about that problem?

Them: Hunh? Oh ... yeah! Hey, I was looking at those screen shots. It's 'cause you're using Safari and the security model is different and never mind the part where you showed me the log files and the system errors and said "it's affecting everyone". Here is a tech note to read on how to fix the problem you don't have.

[1] So .. how you lik'n the tech support riffs? Getting old? 'Cause now that our BOM vendor is owned by Oracle, there's going to be a lot more of this and I can see it will get old, very quickly.

Dresden Codak - worth your time

"We can give you anything you want, save relevance."

Just .. wow. Dresden Codak started off as just another web comic. Then it veered into a serious graphic novel:

Gradually, however, it has become a full-fledged graphic novel. Unique in uncountable details of art and presentation, but more unique than I think even its author realizes in its actual material. Dresden Codak Presents: Hob is a hard SF graphic novel about transhumanism, from a transhumanist perspective. Not the edges of transhumanism, the aftereffects or scottish-accented folks off on a distant hill, but the thing itself.

So .. yes. Worth your time.

Scottish-accented folks .. wonder who he could be talking about?

Transhumanist Babe


define: intellectual

An intellectual is a person who uses his or her intellect to work, study, reflect, speculate on, or ask and answer questions with regard to a variety of different ideas.

I know intellectuals.

And what about Mr. McCain?
Disaster. Who started this rumor that he was a war hero? Where does that come from, aside from himself? About his suffering in the prison war camp?

Everyone knows he was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. That’s what he tells us.

Why would you doubt him?
He’s a graduate of Annapolis. I know a lot of the Annapolis breed. Remember, I’m West Point, where I was born. My father went there.

So what does that have to do with the U.S. Naval Academy down in Annapolis?
The service universities keep track of each other, that’s all. They have views about each other. And they are very aware of social class and eventually money, since they usually marry it.

You, Mr. Gore, are no intellectual.

Bonus points for the snotty class-warfare reference! And also .. conspiracy!

Sunday, June 15, 2008


I may be obsessive about details.

I had a dream yesterday where I received a gift. The gift was a toy from the Power Rangers / Transformers / Autobots realm - starts off as one thing, transforms into another, sports various beam and projectile launching technologies.

I was going over all of the fiddly details with the lady who gave me the gift: how the crew compartment would get squashed by the transform, the weapons all pointed forward in fixed mounts so to shoot off-axis you'd have to rotate the entire vehicle ... in the end we agreed this wasn't a serious fighting vehicle and had to be a command and control version.

The presenter was Kathleen Dunn .. and she was driving an SUV.

Jim Webb for VP

Fred on why Jim Webb should be Obama's vice president.
If you hang out with people in the Veterans of Foreign wars or American Legion or Disabled American Veterans (I’m a member of all three) you find that they are not nearly as robotically Republican and warlike as they are often painted. They are often intelligent and think about things. But they want a candidate who is Like Them. They can spot a slick phony and if you run with one you aren’t doing yourself a favor.

(Webb) is Like Them (and like me). He is very heartland, Scots-Irish, and did not grow up drinking designer water. He saw a lot of heavy combat as a Marine in Viet Nam. People know it because they have read his book, Fields of Fire, which he actually wrote.
Fields of Fire is an excellent book.
He would be a splendid counterweight to McCain. On his war record, McCain is not a phony like Bush, Kerry, and Hillary the Sniper Dodger, but neither is Webb. I doubt that there exists a VFW post that would not be delighted to have him speak. If Hillary or Kerry came within telephone distance, they would probably put up concertina wire. Rich brats don’t play well in Legion halls.

Now, the Democrats are traditionally terrified of seeming Soft on Defense, and sometimes think they need to do something stupid but ferocious, so as not be come up a quart low on their virility dipstick. Webb, to put it mildly, in not vulnerable on this issue. He would provide an excuse for adult behavior.

I know Jim slightly, from days when I was on the military beat and he was Secretary of the Navy. In person he is not recognizable as a politician, which in any event for most of his life he wasn’t. No swagger, no show, no slime, not full of himself. If you talk, he listens. He isn’t always looking over your shoulder for a better name-tag. As best I can tell, he is incorruptible. This is a novel approach in politics, but I think the country can stand it. It’s worth the risk.

My own reasons for liking him? He resigned as SecNav after refusing to agree to a smaller fleet, and he insisted that Al Gray become Commandant of the Marine Corps.

I don't know about force requirements for the Navy in 1988 - but I had the feeling then that more was better. I do know that General Gray was the finest CMC we ever had.

Jim Webb

Saturday, June 14, 2008

System Halted - a poem

Sure it's a poem ..

<> !*''#
%*<> ~#4

The poem can only be appreciated by reading it aloud, to wit:

Waka waka bang splat tick tick hash,
Caret quote back-tick dollar dollar dash,
Bang splat equal at dollar under-score,
Percent splat waka waka tilde number four,
Ampersand bracket bracket dot dot slash,
Vertical-bar curly-bracket comma comma CRASH.

Thanks to PS for pointing me to the source of the poem - I'd had it around for a while but never knew where it came from.

Friday, June 13, 2008

It's good to know a foreign language

Everyone in 'IT' who is technical should read this: ASCII Pronunciation Rules for Programmers.


So the next time a programmer walks up to you and says, "oh, it's easy! Just type wax bang at hash buck grapes circumflex and splat wane", you'll know what they mean.

Than and it's cool being able to pronounce characters that most people - if they notice them at all - tend to sort of skid over them if they encounter them on paper.

More than ... heresy!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Seasonal Lake

I'm just going to declare my basement a seasonal lake and be done with it.

I'm not really bitching - plenty of people up here have it worse. And many many people south of us have it a whole lot worse.

But I'd much rather have the water outside my basement than inside.

Google .. thou hast forsaken me

I've got Tomcat and jvue. Jvue cranks up, but the file viewer .. just doesn't work. It throws this error to the user:

com.cimmetry.core.VueRemoteException: No available DocServer

No hits on google.

My name is Robert Neville. I am a survivor living in New York City. I am broadcasting on all AM frequencies. I will be at the South Street Seaport everyday at mid-day, when the sun is highest in the sky. If you are out there... if anyone is out there... I can provide food, I can provide shelter, I can provide security. If there's anybody out there... anybody... please. You are not alone.

I refuse to believe I'm the only person in the world who has ever gotten it to fail this way.  But it feels mighty lonely in here ...

Earth, from the Moon

In The Desert - Stephen Crane

In The Desert - Stephen Crane

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter – bitter”, he answered,
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.”

When I read this I had a twang in the ol' brain housing group: I've read that before.

Likely in high school, where the motto is "We'll pound literature into their pointy heads even though they will have no idea what it's really about." You can tell people about Big Ideas and that's a good thing - but unless they have some depth to their character - some experience - they won't really get what you're going on about.

I know that I, at least, had no idea what in the hell Crane was going on about when I was fifteen. I've knocked around a bit since then, seen the creature, chomping away and really getting into it. Yum, yum.

I may have - now and again - been that creature.

Yum, yum!

brooklyn summer by Kelly Tsai

brooklyn summer  
(for Adia)

by Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai

adia sez’ no brooklyn summer is
gonna buy her a house, she’s walked
down these streets in her breezy dresses
with her power jewelry on

she’s brought men to the honey pot
and led them to dip their fingers in
until dawn, as the dj spins the cuts
on the horizon over fort greene park

smoke of grilled meat and mango incense rising,
capoeiristas kick their heels in the dust. no indoors exists,
no fluorescents. cars park on tree-lined streets,
courage swollen in the hearts of every girl, every boy

in search of sweat
and a slow wind
before the end of the night

adia sez’ no brooklyn summer is gonna buy
her a house - but this summer, i don’t want
a house, not now, maybe not ever

i just want to feel his hands on my hips, basslines
strumming the air like the wicked wings of city birds,
i want to feel the crash of thunder and laughter
leaping in my very throat.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Early evening support of Really Critical Application

Early evening support of Really Critical Application ..


Oh boy. That is not the sound a database application server should make. Granted the noise is in my head - logged errors and failed web pages don't make noise, more is the pity. Click - click ....

Welcome to Really Big Software Company Support Site. Enter details of your problem. If you select 'Priority 1' you will be contacted within 30 minutes.

(Eleventy-dozen pages and many reams of data entry later)

The following Service Request has been created:
SR Number
Priority 1
SR Submitted Date 11-Jun-2008 17:47:09 GMT

This SR will be assigned to a support analyst during normal business hours in your country

As it turns out - they mean what they say. It wasn't GOING to be assigned until the next day, until I called and asked why no one had called me back within thirty minutes.

Man - I'm sure glad we paid for that support - imagine the suck if we didn't.

St. Thomas Giant Yacht

You don't get a one of these by providing a superlative customer support experience it seems.

Best Thing I read today, Federal Government Category

Best Thing I read today, Federal Government Category.

About the Senate's successful vote to privatize its failing restaurants:

Wizbang Blog: If the U.S. government can't even run a food service organization without driving it into the ground, how in the hell is it going to run our entire health care system?

See also, Washington D.C. Public Schools.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Kids Are Alright

High school teaching provides lesson in futility


The Kids Are Alright, [1] the teacher is screwed up.

It's sixth period, my first day teaching high school, and my regular Junior English class refuses to settle down. I give them a brief talk, amid the jostling and visiting (and the walking, and the love taps, and the food trading, and the vaulting over desks) about respect. I will respect them, I say, and they will respect me.

If you're standing in front of a classroom, talking, and there is visiting, walking, food trading and (god help us) vaulting over desks you've already lost the 'respect me' skirmish. You need to retire your forces behind a water barrier and build up your strength for a counterattack. [2]

I am, at not even 5 feet tall and 100 pounds, the tiny center of a group growing rowdier by the second.

I wonder why.

One girl throws her weight around, muttering up and down the aisles about her grades and "this teacher." The class is listening to me at the board, so I decide to ignore the behavior and go on with my lesson.

Cue ominous music.

Between the girl bully and the boy bully, I feel so bad that the next day I am reluctant to give back graded work to any students. So bad that, in consultation with my chairman, I do not record zeros for make-up work that the girl bully has clearly had a fellow student complete for her. I just can't take the grief.

An adult. Is bullied. By children. That's all you really have to read to know the rest: Melanie Hubbard is bummed and burnt out and emotionally drained.

She has no idea that about 98% of it is her own fault.

Yes, her fault. I've seen a nice-as-apple-pie 5'2 lady gain the respect of thugs, creeps and gang-bangers - the kind of kids that 'Welcome Back, Kotter' could only hint at.

They sat, they hushed, they respected.

You can school almost any kid, if you do it right.

Arnold was a stoner.

[1] How you lik'n the musical reference?
[2] I just finished reading 'A Bridge Too Far'. Awesome book but it will affect my power of metaphor composition for a while.

You can't ping a port

"You can't ping a port."

You just can't - 'ping' is ICMP and ports are a TCP thing.

If you want to make sure a port is open the correct thing to do is telnet to the port.

Technical bits aside ... 'you can't ping a port' is fun to say and brightens my day.

" the action is at the user interface level. "



Capitalism In A Nutshell


Sysadmin Stuff II - Cluster SSH

Cluster SSH - Cluster Admin via SSH

ClusterSSH controls a number of xterm windows via a single graphical console window to allow commands to be interactively run on multiple servers over an ssh connection.

How-to One.

How-To Two.

Sysadmin Stuff

SSH Speed-up - saves a couple of seconds per connection, in some circumstances. [1]

Two SSH-isms, including the method to remove a bad key from known_hosts without editing the file.

Gem uninstall - because sometimes you just have to start over.

To uninstall all gems do this

gem uninstall --a --ignore-dependencies .+

[1] untested

Friday, June 06, 2008


I might be going to Heck for this but ... Guinness makes for a tasty steak marinade.

Steak. It's what's for dinner.

Krep Head

Sweet Jeebus in a sidecar.

The cartoon above is the work of artist W. B. Park who lives in Altamonte Springs, Florida. Will Park is a friend of many years and his illustrations are throughout my book, Come Together Right Now. For years, while living and working in Orlando, Florida, I would regularly meet Will for lunch at various BBQ restaurants in the area and we’d sit and talk politics and try to make sense of our crazy country. Any leaflet or poster I needed artwork for he eagerly did.

You'll pardon my lack of manners but that cartoon - the thinking behind it - is a bunch of damned crap.

".. and with this Mars shot"

If the USAF was running the show that would be one thing. Last time I looked the organization that ran exploration was NASA, which is about a civilian organizations as you'll find.

".. our countries long history of military aggression, exploitation, dominance, and overkill."

Like JTF Sea Angel. 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake relief operations. Operation Provide Comfort. The Marshall Plan. Operation Restore Hope.

For krep-heads - mostly in the US - the phrase 'The Marines have landed' inspires dread. For millions of others it means that help is on the way, your rice is being airlifted, your logistics are going to be unfucked, your wells are going to be redug.

If what we were all about is exploitation, dominance and overkill we'd own Japan and Germany and we'd have Imperial outposts from the Antarctic to Vladivostok. We wouldn't just leave when the host country says 'go'. We would have nuked the Soviet Union and people like Bruce would know what real oppression is like.