Monday, March 31, 2008

Recursive Blog Entry - Pale Albino Edition

Email funnies - now in blog form.

Brian: Between clown Eucharist and that stations of the cross thing, for the life of me I can’t see a compelling reason why I should go back [ to the Episcopal church ]

TJIC: the Catholic church has a lot going for it. Doctrinally, pretty darn close to what the Episcopal Church was a while back, long history, plausible claim to correctness… OK, my bylaws-mandated dose of propaganda has been delivered…

Brian: Roman Catholic agit-prop received - you can tell your albino Jesuit handler that you done good for the day.

I'd be lying if I said that paying a call on the local parish to see what is what isn't tempting. My sister converted years ago, when I attended chapel in the Marines [1] it was the Roman Catholic mass not the Protestant service. Plus all the cool kids are Catholic!

[1] Which wasn't very often, granted.

Down the Barrel of a Gun

When he wrote
And I don't mean to toot my own horn, but the original size of this photo makes a real incredible wallpaper. Put it up and see if you get reactions from co-workers/family. Go ahead, I double-dog dare ya!

He wasn't kidding. It looks awesome on my big CRT at work.

Things in Zimbabwe are bad

Things in Zimbabwe are bad.

How bad are they?

Things are so bad in Zimbabwe that the ruling party can't even rig an election.

A PC - 1950's style

A modern relay computer.

Sure it's clunky to program and can't run Windows but when an EMP bomb scrags all the electronics in North America, guess who is going to be the only guy with a working computer?

Your mouse and your CRT and your hard drive won't be worth much then, will they Sparky? Ah ha ha ha!


S4C's favorite radical-conservative is heard from ..
I returned last night from a one day trip to Bethlehem, PA. to speak at annual dinner of LEPOCO which was celebrating its 42nd year of peace work in the former steel town.

Upon arriving at the airport I was taken for a quick drive by the old steel works which has long been closed and is rusting and crumbling like other ancient ruins of industry across the nation.

They started their work in 1965. That's when the steel industry in the area started to tank.

Coincidence? I don't think so. We need to awaken the proles that their hard earned blue collar jobs have been stolen with the assistance of the very people that claim to protect them! Fruits come to the gardeners that remain steadfast in nurturing the plants in the garden and those people have been very, very steadfast indeed. It's morning in America and we need to wake up and smell the coffee. Up and at 'em America!

Is it as funny when the indoctrinated look like you?
Is it as cool, as kitschy, as righteous?
Is it as easy to scream “Revolution now!”
if you knew you’d have to give up some of your shit?
Is Mao still a genius when he tells you that your bougie urban
intellectual ass needs to stop reading books and go out into the fields to work?
Did Mao experiment on your family that to make a better world?
Did you know that communism is not theoretical for everyone?

Kelly Tsai - 'Little Red Books'

[1] Nothing in this post is meant to be taken seriously. Except the parts that are.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

sqlite3 - commiting to the memory bank

How-To write data to a sqlite database.

natasha:~/rails/azure/db briandunbar$ sqlite3 development.sqlite3 "select * from stuff";
natasha:~/rails/azure/db briandunbar$ sqlite3 development.sqlite3 "insert into stuff (title,description) values ('chair','four legs');"
natasha:~/rails/azure/db briandunbar$ sqlite3 development.sqlite3 "select * from stuff";
1|chair|four legs

A sqlite db file named development.sqlite3.
This database has two columns 'title' and 'description'.
That one has nothing else to do on a gloomy afternoon.

Data is written.
Cockatoo looks at you funny when you chuckle madly.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Little Dee

Plus it was neat when things went 'boom' ..

See Little Dee by Chris Baldwin for all your humor needs.

Spring is Here

Spring at S4C.

* The trampoline is up. [1]

* This morning ...

Older Monkey tapped on my window


OM: The frog [2] didn't make it - I found him floating in the pond.

Ah. Where is it?

OM: On the bench.

Well, can you .. bury it?

Five minutes pass. Then from the kitchen I hear ...

Older Sister: Oh my Gawd what the heck is wrong with you! Take that back outside! Ew, that is gross!

OM: Hahahhhaha okay now I'll bury it.

Kids are cool.

[1] I'd take credit for it but Older Monkey asked if he could. Confident he'd need help I went outside and ... done. Kids are amazing and they grow up way too fast.

[2] We have a pond. It's not deep enough for the fish to survive the winter so around September they come inside the house. Last summer we acquired a small frog for the pond but he refused to be caught. We hoped for the best ...


If you could conserve your way to prosperity

Haiti would be rich.

Spiritual consultations


Though Wright and Obama do not often talk one-on-one often, the senator does check with his pastor before making any bold political moves.

How is this different from consulting with a Astrologer?

if you're not careful, you might learn something before it's done - cat and screen

cat makes line numbers

natasha:~/foo briandunbar$ cat foosrt
natasha:~/foo briandunbar$ sort -n foosrt | cat -n
1 3
2 10
3 30
4 46
5 52

You can put the hostname in screen. Here I've got it in the status line

natasha:~ briandunbar$ cat .screenrc | grep caption
caption always "%{wB} %H %{kk} %{gB} %n %t %{kb}| %{wb}%W %= %{kk} %{wB} %D %Y.%m.%d %C %A "

Which looks like this ..

Subject Line Tip O' the Hat

Friday, March 28, 2008

Rack Screw Recommendation

A man who knows his screws.
Most common relay racks for holding electronic equipment have mounting holes in the uprights tapped for 10-32 screws (although there are exceptions). In many places people use whatever sort of screw is available - round head, pan head, binder head and others. As a result of years of experiences, I am now recommending that the preferred screw for holding equipment in racks be the Bud Industries part number 7346 screw.

Boom, done, no argument.

And he's probably right.

Saving so you don't have to eat kibble

It appears that the Obamas are not investing seriously in their retirement ...
Where does Obama Invest His Money?

Ryan Ellis of the American Shareholders Association has examined the Obama returns for calendar years 2001 to 2006 and found that, in all of those years, the couple reported a mere $1,188 in dividends in 2006 and another $2,754 in dividends in 2005. In the previous years, they reported no dividends of any kind.

Given all this, Mr. Ellis asks why the Senator is so “hell-bent on pursuing punitive taxes on capital that would wreck America’s retirement savings?” His answer: Perhaps it’s “because, by and large, he doesn’t have any skin in the game.”

Wait ... he's a lawyer, six years my senior, with essentially no retirement savings?

He's not hell-bent on punitive taxes for it's own sake - he's auditioning for a job with a cushy retirement plan and perks out the wazoo and pretty much a rock-solid guarantee of work after his term is over.

Most people, in a competitive job interview for a coveted billet, will naturally say things that the interviewers want to hear.

He's pursuing the American Dream! Gob'less America.



Under the 'you fix it once, you own it' ethos ... I own a report application and server.

The application is so poorly documented that it appears that I've been running OracleAS on this host for going on a year now - but the report tool is really using OracleAS on yet another host so the only thing the server must do is run the application.

It's a little like having a heater running full blast in the basement, venting to a room that no longer exists so there is this farging pipe hanging out of the house venting a blast of warm air into the chill of the Wisconsin winter.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Clarke Event

Protected Static wrote ...
Larry Sessions, a columnist for Earth & Sky, has suggested in his blog that the gamma-ray event whose radiation reached us a few hours before Arthur C. Clarke died, and which occurred 7.5 billion years ago, be named the Clarke Event. The outburst, which produced enough visible light to render it a naked eye object across half the universe, is officially designated GRB 080319B. What more fitting tribute to Clarke than to associate his name with the greatest bang since the big one?
The Clarke Event. I like it.

I second the motion and move that the measure be sent to the floor for immediate consideration.

And by 'sent to the floor' I mean everyone start referring to it that way as if it's the most obvious thing in the world.

Which it is.

Unclear on the concept

This guy

Who was the person who called Steve Martin a Guinuess. He is far From it. He holds the worst comedy act in history. What an idiot this guy is. The King Tutt thing and the Ex-cuse me Thing, had to be the most stupid comedy sketches. Threr are Comic that deserve praize, Like Robbin Williams, I just feel Steve Martin runs around praizing himself and waiting for people to agree with him. "The Jerk" pretty much somes it up. He is one.

falls firmly into the 'doesn't get it' category.


I got this many visitors in the last week, by people using dial-up;

Visits - % visits
39 - 1.98%

Who are you people? Why dial-up? Do you like your current provider? What would it take to make you switch?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

All kinds of awesome - OS X Edition

Assume you have OS X. Open terminal and type this in, press return.

/System/Library/Frameworks/ScreenSaver.framework/Versions/A/Resources/ -background

Your screensaver is now running as background.


.. and a Con broke out

Brin, Niven and Pournelle [1] showed up for a government panel and a Con broke out.

“Do you know how politically incorrect you are?” Pournelle asked (Niven).

“I know it may not be possible to use this solution, but it does work,” Niven replied.

“My guess is we won’t need quite so many paid agents of the state to do that for us, which means maybe we can try being a republic instead of an incompetent empire,” he (Pournelle) said, then railed against the Transportation Security Administration for treating passengers like “subjects” rather than “citizens.”

The 45-minute panel discussion quickly deteriorated as federal, local and state homeland security officials, and at least one congressional aid, attempted to ask questions, which were largely ignored.

Instead the writers used their time to pontificate on a variety of tangentially related topics, including their past roles advising the government, predictions in their stories that have come to pass, the demise of the paperback book market, and low-cost launch into space.

David Brin, keeping on the topic of empowering citizens with mobile phone technology, delivered a self-described “rant” on the lack of funds being spent to support citizen reservists to back up the military, homeland security officials and first responders in times of crisis.

“It is impossible for you to succeed without us!” he shouted at the assembled officials, while banging his fist on the table and at one point jumping off his chair to wave a mobile phone in their faces

I love it.

[1] And twenty-one others.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008


When a reply to a comment on a post turns into a long reply .. it's not time to edit, it's time to make it a post!

Sorry... It hit a nerve. In St. Louis, I worked for a woman-owned/minority-owned IT firm. We worked as a subcontractor a lot, and it was taken for granted by the White programmers we subcontracted to that I was a good programmer, while my Black coworker (who was a better programmer than I) had to prove himself continually.

I ran into that when I contracted at the Resolution Trust Corp.

Bruce was the desktop guy. Bruce was good at his job, very professional.

Bruce was also black, a big guy and worked out with weights. His weekend job as a bouncer paid about as much as he was making at RTC.

As do we all from time to time, Bruce had problems to deal with. Where a skinny dude like me can express frustration aloud, when Bruce did it was threatening, or at least that was what we were told by the folks running RTC.

That was weird, to me. I'd just spent eight years in the Marines - guys like Bruce were an asset. The Marines liked physically fit, whip-smart guys. Guys like that got the schools, the meritorious promotions, the interesting jobs.

Guys like Bruce were in the technical fields and made rank and were the go-to people.

Eventually, RTC folded into the FDIC, our contract was assumed. Bruce didn't make the jump with us - he found a better opportunity [1] and was giving serious thought to getting out of IT and doing the bouncer gig full time.

Which sucked - I'd rather have a dozen guys like Bruce working with me than some of the other guys on that crew. [2]

[1] RTC's desktop support needs were minimal and non-taxing - 99% of the desktops were PCs with the hard drive ripped out, booting from floppy and running menu driven from the Banyan Vines servers - all the action was happening on the LAN side. The FDIC was about messed up eleven ways from Sunday and had all kinds of issues and problems on the desktop side - they really needed Bruce there.

[2] They were good guys and gals on that contract [3] but one guy ... he was good but only within the narrow confines of what he knew; give him a problem where he had to think and he was lost.

[3] One of whom I have to thank for the job - thanks, Jay!

Young Mrs. Clinton

So .. in this shot

does Lisa bear a passing resemblance to Hillary Clinton?

Hyperbole - Air Force Style

SecDef Gates to Air Force: Please send most of your Predator drones to the Middle East.. Thanks, Guys!

The Air Force fussed back ...
Some officers said pressure from Gates resulted in one plan that could have taken the Air Force down a path similar to the German Luftwaffe, which cut back training in World War II to get more pilots in the air.

"That was the end of their air force," said Col. Chris Chambliss, commander of the Air Force's Predator wing.

I will allow that untrained air crews are not effective but I suspect the strategic bombing campaign, the Normandy landings and drive East into Germany, the drive West by the Red Army and shooting down an ass-load of fighter planes had more to do with shutting down the Luftwaffe than cutting back training hours did.

What he said - Episcopal Church Edition

For complicated reasons I walked out on the Episcopal Church a few years ago. I'm able to go back - I've moved out of state, the priest has been fired [1] so there might be a sort of 'ollie-olllie-oxen-free' thing going on. But I have not gone back. Matthew has part of the reason why ..

How many people have to leave before our leadership acknowledges that there is a problem? How small can the Episcopal Church get and remain viable? If there is no physical resurrection, no life after death, no real theology or ethics or even morality other than “God won't fix in a box” then what reason is there for the Episcopal Church?

The Baptists have better sermons, the Methodists have much better music, the Catholics have better liturgy, the Orthodox have greater solemnity, and the Presbyterians just know what's going to happen. And all of them have Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. So why be an Episcopalian? What do we have to offer that is valuable?

Between clown Eucharist and that stations of the cross thing, for the life of me I can't see a compelling reason why I should go back.

[1] and possibly had his collar revoked - one could hope so. Certainly his wife has divorced him for his shenanigans, why not the church?

Gunpowder and Lead

I do not hold with shooting people who got it coming. We've got laws and courts and they generally work pretty well.

There are always exceptions of course ...

County road 233, under my feet
Nothin' on this white rock but little ol' me
I've got two miles till, he makes bail
And if I'm right we're headed straight for hell.

Yet your average guy high on testosterone is more than capable of putting a woman into the hospital. Aggression, shock and upper body strength will have their way. Yup, the police are minutes away when seconds count.

His fist is big but my gun's bigger
He'll find out when I pull the trigger

Unless she's armed.

Click the link above for an an awesome video, set to Miranda Lambert's equally awesome 'Gunpowder and Lead'.

As Matthew noted the only think it lacks to make it the perfect country and western song is Momma and trains.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Get your MIT degree now while it still means something

A letter from Jerry Pournell's Chaos Manor.

WRT MIT, Hahvahd, Yale, et al opting to provide free tuition for the poor folks making under a hundred grand a year or thereabouts, I can foresee a very interesting if unintended consequence.

They are fiddling with ONE variable in a dynamic system -- apparently in the belief that OTHER variables will behave as constants.

What *I* expect is that the new regime will result in a massive *increase* in applications to these schools, because the previous tuition levels acted as a self-limiting mechanism. In other words, scads of students who *would* have applied -- and qualified -- did NOT apply, because they knew they could not afford the tuition, so why bother applying in the first place?

Now, though, with *that* out of the way, they will be buried in applications -- and the only way they'll be able to deal with this is via triage.

The only question is what they will use as triage criteria. I suspect they will be uber-PC about it, and amp-up the quotas -- "privileged classes" will be given "preferences" and "non-minority" students will be confronted by aa spectacular raising of the height-bar.

The first graduating class under this new system ought to be... interesting. A small number of VERY qualified graduates, and a LOT of "eased-through the system" kids who will expect to *continue* the "preferential ride" in the real world. (Of course, given current events, the "real world" will not likely be of a mind -- or ability -- to provide a "nurturing environment" to those who've become accustomed to it. Yes, interesting. That's the word for it. Interesting.)


As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly

Except .. they weren't turkeys. They were eggs. Plastic easter eggs. Dropped from a helicopter.

The idea behind the Cartersville EggDrop was to replace the old boring egg-hunt thing with a helicopter dropping 10k Easter eggs onto a small section of a football field. After the event a neighbor said to me after the egg hunt, this had to be an Easter egg hunt engineered by men with no women involved. I added that it was most likely ex-military men.

He's got a point.

The first sign of a plan gone wild revealed itself as we approached a fenced-in football field that already held about 5.000 crammed-in people. My first instinct was to turn and run, but I doubt that I could have explained my flight to the 5-year-old with a vice grip on his Easter basket . EggDrop ground zero was the 50 yard line, and it was surrounded by yellow event tape at a radius of about 20 yards. When the helicopter made its first pass, that yellow event tape was no match for the thousands of screaming kids who burst through to catch the falling plastic eggs. The real problem, though, was that the organizers had not expected that the first drop of around 700 eggs would pelt moms, dads, and unsuspecting eight-year-olds.

I would never ... never ... have expected that result.

At one point, I ran over to M-I [3]

They had a helicopter and a tank? That is all kinds of awesome. God Bless the South. [1]

and tried to explain to him that no parent is going to leave the field without the right wounded children, myself included. I further pleaded with him to radio the helicopter and ask them to hold off dropping any eggs until things could be sorted out. He informed me that he did not have radio contact with the helicopter.

Say 'hello' to my good buddy, Murphy!

As I pushed my way to the 48 yard line, I saw my two boys sitting on the ground crying. Meanwhile, goofy old Ray Liotta [2] in the helicopter was circling with another drop of about 700 more plastic eggs, which cascaded onto the field amidst rippling pops as the egg shells bouncing off every man, woman, and child.

It ended well - in that John escaped with his kids. I did some due diligence via Google and, sure 'nuff, there was a helicopter drop of eggs and there was a fair amount of chaos, confusion and general hurly-burly.

[1] I mean this sincerely.
[2] Not really Ray Liotta - but that would have been a nice touch. John bypassed the obvious 'Turkeys Away' reference and compared the situation to 'Operation Dumbo Drop'
[3] On further review this isn't really a tank - I have no idea what he's talking about. But a tank would have been cool.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Book bleg

I - and about ten others - were employee of the month, last month [1]. My reward is a $25 dollar gift certificate at Amazon.

Now .. what do I get?

Agile Web Development with Rails, 2nd Edition.

The Rails Way (Addison-Wesley Professional Ruby Series).

Advanced Rails.

Deploying Rails Applications: A Step-by-Step Guide.

The Stone Canal.[2]

[1] Yes, go me. I rock. In all due modestly, however, my participation in the event that resulted in this award was minimal and unimportant.

[2] Tossed in as a small joke - a used copy for $1.35 is a no-brainer. How is it that I've read (and re-read) the rest of the books in the Fall sequence but not that one?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

the Litany Against Being Transported Into An Alternate Universe

The Litany Against Being Transported Into An Alternate Universe:

If I'm going to be happy anywhere,
Or achieve greatness anywhere,
Or learn true secrets anywhere,
Or save the world anywhere,
Or feel strongly anywhere,
Or help people anywhere,
I may as well do it in reality.

From Overcoming Bias.

Art by Michael Whelan for Larry Niven's Integral Trees.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A long delayed reply

Ben wrote a long post where, first he said that irk him and then he attacked a broad army of Conservative straw people. At first I was confused - who are these people he attacks with such vigor? Then I realized ... that's me.

Well, then.

We're compelled to defend our ideology with zeal and anger, and to do our best not to really listen to our opponents lest their ideas sow any doubt in our minds.

Speak for yourself. If you don't listen to other people, if you don't have a conversation, you learn nothing.

Me, I defend my ideas with humor and good fellowship; life's too short to be pissy.

As for ideology, I have tried hard to not have one. True ideologues are bores at parties [1] and no fun to be around.

What do I believe in? I believe that if you work hard and catch some lucky breaks you can get ahead. I believe that the prepared man makes his own luck. I believe in the power of love. I believe that the government is best when it governs least. I believe in solutions that work, above all else. Keep your powder dry. I believe that puppies are cute and smell pretty darn good.

Frannie's Puppies
Don't you want to pick them up and tickle their little bellies?

The rest of Ben's post is worth skimming; if only so you can see what I'm talking about. I have tried, and failed to come up with responses to his points; he's aiming his arrows at conservative straw men. I lack the imagination to twist my perspective around to properly answer.

But of course all this thinking about how we need to change and improve things is hard to do. Maybe only people under 30 have the energy for it, and then they convert to conservatism later in life out of sheer exhaustion.

Or I'm just a tired old man. Ya, that's it. Hit the ol' nail on the head, Ben.

[1] Anyone who has been cornered by an Open Source zealot at a party knows exactly what I mean.


Oh, the LiveJournal strike.

This is a strike.


So is this.

Strike Workers

See these guys? They're striking. In Poland. In 1982. They could have died doing this, crushed under tank treads.


This the Homestead Strike. It ended in a battle (with real guns!) between goons and strikers.

Homestead strike

Not writing content in yorur LiveJournal blog for a day is not a strike - it's getting all pissy and moany because the guys that own the servers are changing things and you don't like it.

T.R. Fehrenbach - A few presidents made a difference

What does my favorite historian and pundit have to say about the current election?

Every four years, we're told that "this election" is vital; we can either change the world or terrible things will happen if the other side wins.

If you believe this, I suspect you are either very young or a fool.

Me, I'm a (Samuel) Johnsonian, believing in regulating imagination by reality and instead of thinking how things may be, seeing them as they are. In short, what is, is.

Like most thinking Republicans and the smarter sort of Democrats, when my candidate lost, I found the best revenge was making money. Fact is, most of us do better when our side is out of office because we are not distracted by politics.

Amen. Let's just elect someone and get back to doing what matters.

Speaking of that, it's time to go make dinner.

Screen is the awesome

And what good is screen? You can make it do all kinds of awesomeness. Like this.

That's all from a terminal session. Don't ask me what his .screenrc looks like - I grabbed the screen pic hours ago and I can't for the life of me divine in my history folder where I got it from.

Probably way more information than I want flooding my eyeballs. But my, ain't that impressive?


Duh - the pic came from this thread.
Screen with heavily customized hardstatus
(hostname/pop3 total/packet loss + ping avg/storage array space/free mem+swap/1min CPU load/clock)

and splits, running mildly customized IRSSI in the bottom and a wide variety of fun stuff up top. htop's in the topside - favorite top replacement so far.

My hardstatus info is mainly provided by self-written scripts using awk/sed/xargs to mangle data from stuff like 'free' and 'df'.



That's Switzerland?

I was expected something a little more .. European? Dr. No's ski chalet? A castle perhaps. This is John Walker's house - he cashed out of AutoDesk and retired.

That house could be anywhere - heck it looks like a house that could be up in the Dells.

screen follies

Looking into the mysteries of screen [1] I ran across this ..
In X-windows world screen inspired several minimalist windows managers that is usually bungled with linux mini-distributions.
Sure it's a typo. But I am not fully convinced that it is.

[1] Specifically, I wanted to modify the status screen to include the host name I was on. This appears [2] to be More Bother than I wanted to get into, so we'll just leave 'hostname' in the prompt where it belongs.

[2] For a number of reasons to arcane to get into here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Dreaming in Pun

I made a pun, in my dreams.

We were in Iowa, at a race track. Somehow Little Monkey and I became covered in a foul, nauseous mess.

Well, says I, I guess you know [1] we're in De-puke Iowa!

I love this cartoon.

I don't recall feeling grossed out during the dream and it was miles and miles better than one I had last week where I was faced with a 'Road Warrioresque' thug and all I had was a pistol scavenged from an emergency kit.

And the damned thing didn't work - proving that automatics are not the weapon of choice for a survival kit. And it continued not to work as I applied immediate corrective action to the pistol. Until it finally did.

Bleh. Dreams like these I can do without.

[1] I of course mean no harm nor foul to the good citizens of Iowa.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Rule Number Eighteen

Chris Gerrib writes
In the process of writing yesterday's entry, I found the USMC Rules for Gunfighting. It's both true and amusing.
Thank God I never had to apply these to 'real life'.

Watch their hands. Hands kill.

Except that one, once. Kinda-sorta.

I was reasonably sure the guy wasn't armed and he was what he looked like he was, which was a yokel from town delivering a new ditch witch to contractors aboard base.

But, god-damn. When a uniformed Marine roars up in a government vehicle that vaguely resembles a police car, parks it so the motor block is between you and he, unsnaps his holster and yells 'show me your hands' you do not stand there with your paws in the pockets of your overalls going 'hunh?'

I did relish the look on his face when I un-holstered my M9 and chambered a round [1]. Hands were extracted and poked up in the air with gratifying speed.

For my enjoyment, even better was my next direction: to pick up the phone, mounted on a pole about two feet from his head, that had been ringing for five minutes.

If I'd been an ass I would have asked him to read the sign mounted above the phone:


Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

[1] Readers might be wondering if drawing a pistol was a tad extreme. To this I will answer that this was not the main gate at Camp Lejeune but a rather more secure facility - we weren't there to mess around.

An armchair grunt would also take issue with my not drawing the weapon as soon as I exited the vehicle. To this I can only say that it wasn't until I exited that vehicle that I observed he had his hands covered at which point the situation went from 'drive out there and tell the asshole to answer the phone' to 'potential use of deadly force'.


I had the opportunity to use Thin over the weekend.

Thin is a Ruby web server that glues together 3 of the best Ruby libraries in web history:

  • the Mongrel parser, the root of Mongrel speed and security
  • Event Machine, a network I/O library with extremely high scalability, performance and stability
  • Rack, a minimal interface between webservers and Ruby frameworks

Which makes it, with all humility, the most secure, stable, fast and extensible Ruby web server bundled in an easy to use gem for your own pleasure.

Or more simply the description on the Google Groups page.
Thin is the fastest Ruby web server ever built.
I ran it against some of the half-assed apps on my local machine. I've gotten used to seeing things load .. well not slow but not so zippy, either. Chalk it up to a dev environment and move on.

Except that using Thin these apps are very very quick. Greased lightening quick.

We'll see if this holds true if (when) I move any of this to a 'real' web server. Still, I am impressed.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Because things like this irritate other people

It seems [1] that when I write about things more elevated than unix, fart jokes and boobs it makes some people "unreasonably angry and defensive."

What the hell - I'm Scotch-Irish and my grandpa was from Liverpool - it's in my genes to make people feel that way. So in the spirit of being a pugnacious Celt ...

“Barack is one of the smartest people you will ever encounter who will deign to enter this messy thing called politics,” his wife said a few weeks ago.

I am not thrilled when pols tell me that I’m lucky they’re devoting the might of their considerable selves to public service.

Go out and create jobs and wealth if you’re so damn smart, you fargin’ hacks. I want my politicians unimportant, competent and drab. If they're smart they just get us into trouble.


[1] Yes I owe you a reply .. it's coming.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Kate Beaton

Kate Beaton is cool - a webcomic that features simple drawing and clever dialog will make me happy, always.

Plus with her 'History Project' you get a snappy Readers Digest crossed with Robot Chicken summary of history!

The North-West Rebellion
Lous Riel: What am I going to do? I have two fists, one is the will of the Lord and the other is miracles. Bam, Bam! That's what I'm going to do!

Gabriel Dumont: Miracles! God damn it we need bullets! Are you even fit to lead this thing?

Battle of Hastings
Harrold Godwinson: Men, today we fight for our country, our freedom! These Normans, they have nothing on us!

Solider 1: I dunno, don't they have the Papal flag?

Solider 2: And a cavalry.

Solider 3: They have arrows! Do we have arrows?

Solider 4: I have a shovel!

Via Dresden Codak - whose webcomic also makes me happy but trying to puzzle out the details in his art makes my poor brains hurt.

Stuff Happens - Simplicity

A thing I did not know this morning

Iguanas have three eyes.

We were at a pet expo today. Older Monkey gets all excited about critters with not enough fur, not enough legs etc so he was haunting the reptile table. While he was debating the wisdom of adopting a rat snake [1] I peered at an iguana the size of a Germen Shepherd and thought that, hunh, that thing on it's forehead looks like an eye.

And it is!
The two species of lizard within the genus Iguana possesses a dewlap, a row of spines running down their back to their tail, and a third eye on their head. This eye is known as the Parietal eye, which looks just like a pale scale on the top of their head.

The parietal eye is a part of the epithalamus, which can be divided into two major parts; the epiphysis (the pineal organ, or pineal gland if mostly endocrine) and the parietal organ (often called the parietal eye, or third eye if it is photoreceptive). It arises as an anterior evagination of the pineal organ or as a separate outgrowth of the roof of the diencephalon. In some species, it protrudes through the skull.[4] The parietal eye uses a different biochemical method of detecting light than rod cells or cone cells in a normal eye.[5


[1] It's home, in an aquarium tank, in his room. I'm not a huge fan of the thing but it's small and harmless, he spent his own money on it and it's not going to make messes on the floor so what the hey? Plus if it gets loose and lost in the house it can spend it's days in the basement killing rodents - it's a win-win!

Rorschach Test

I guess it's one of those funny ink-blot test kind of deals ...
As said by Alan Cooperman from The Washington Post: “Each picture in Armed America could be a pro-gun advertisement - or an anti-gun poster. That’s what makes the book so riveting.”
'Cause I see neither a pro-gun ad or an anti-gun poster; all I see is a variety of interesting tools.

Except for the guy with the hairless cat.

It's not a cat, it's a kzin with a gland problem.

Those things are just wrong.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Lova Canal revisited

Everything I knew about Love Canal is wrong.

Granted that isn't much because I never really thought about it. I read the news, I figure I'm an informed citizen.

Here is 'Love Canal' as I knew it, in condensed form.

Unscrupulous Businessman to henchmen: Look! A handy canal where we can dump our chemicals! Ha ha - it's good to be a capitalist with no morals!

Henchmen: You said it, boss! Let 'er rip, boys!

Chemical dumping proceeds merrily. The dumping in question is not illegal exactly but it sure 'nuff is immoral and not done with full respect for quality control and other measures that one might expect.

Sometime later the land in question passes in an unspecified way from the business to the good hearted apple-cheeked citizens who build schools, buy houses and generally live the American Dream.

Citizens: Eek - there is goo in our front yard! And in the playgrounds! Aiiii!

Unscrupulous Businessman: (Whistles a merry tune while counting his bundle of money - think Scrooge McDuck in his money vault.)

Local Government: Well .. I'll be a monkey's uncle! We had no idea.

National Government: We'll save you ma'am, from the folly of short-sighted businessmen in the pursuit of the almighty dollar! Take THAT you fiend (POW) and that (KA-BLAM)!

Unscrupulous Businessman: Oh dear, if only I'd been more socially conscious and aware of the environment!

Citizens: Thanks God for the government, the righter of wrongs and the leveler of playing fields!

What really happened is more like this

Businessman to staff: Okay, we've got a canal for waste disposal, it's funded and maintained, meets EPA standards. It's not going to leak is it?

Staff: No way, Jose - you know how much we'd have to pay in fines? There is five feet of clay on top - we're set.

Businessman: Great, 'cause it's my head on the block if it does .. who's that?

Local Government: Boy - that sure is a pretty parcel of land you got there. A school would look really good on it, maybe some houses with nice suburban streets ...

Businessman: It's a waste dump! It's chock full of goo and poisons.

Local Government: ... and a playground for the tots, not to mention tax revenue for the city ...

Businessman: Here, let me dig a few holes and show you. (grabs a shovel, digs - green stuff floats to the top).

Local Government: Golly. That sure is smelly. We'll tamp it down with Play-Doh - it'll be fine.

Businessman: Well, I'm not going to sell it to you.

Local Government: Ho ho! I'll use eminent domain! You _must_ sell it.

Lawyer: Boss if they just _take_ it we're in a world of doo-doo. Since it's gone one way or another if we sell it and have them sign some paper saying that they know it's a festering toxic dump ..

Businessman: (visions of lawsuits and jail dancing in his head) Will that work?

Lawyer: It should - rule of law, remember? Got a better idea?

Local Government assumes title of the land, builds houses, school. Years pass.

Citizens: Eek - there is goo in our front yard! And in the playgrounds! Aiiii!

Local Government: Well .. I'll be a monkey's uncle! We had no idea.

National Government: We'll save you ma'am, from the folly of short-sighted businesemen in the pursuit of the almighty dollar! Take THAT you fiend (POW) and that (KA-BLAM)!

Businessman: What the heck is this? You're fining us millions of dollars after we _told_ those monkeys from the city it was a bad idea?

National Government: (Proudly poses as the righter of wrongs) And let that be a lesson, fiend!

Citizens: Thanks God for the government, the righter of wrongs and the leveler of playing fields!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

All online USENIX proceedings now free

Via email comes the news - all online USENIX proceedings now free
I'm delighted to report that USENIX, probably the most important technical
society at which I publish (and on whose board I serve), has taken a
long - overdue lead toward openly disseminating scientific research. Effective
immediately, all USENIX proceedings and papers will be freely available on the
USENIX web site as soon as they are published. (Previously, most of the
organization's proceedings required a member login for access for the first year
after their publication.) The proceedings are available at:


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Unclear on the concept

David Mamet is no longer a brain-dead liberal. The essay is worth the read, no matter what your orientation is [1]. This jumped at me.

As a child of the ’60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.

I do not know how Mamet feels about (say) health care. Given his stated former thinking, we can assume he is (or was) for more government involvement in the health care system, not less.

I do not understand this. You accept deep down in your soul that government is corrupt [2] - but you want more of it? And to put it in charge of your bodily functions?


[1] If you assume I'm a right-winger of some stripe .. well you're not wrong but you're not right, either. Left and Right have ideas and notions that make me itch.

[2] You gotta admit there is something to that.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Project Fiver

Passing it along; sign if you're of a mind to and pass the good word. Please note this is not my wife - it's done as a favor for fellow fen.

Many of you may know my wife, Melissa Kern (hazelrah1). She has helped out with the Tolkien and Young Adult Literature tracks for many years, in addition to helping plan the HP Yule Ball and (in)famous Pirate Party. She even appeared in a well-known DragonCon TV commercial. But she has received some grave news from her doctor.

Melissa has been diagnosed with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. It is a progressive, incurable disease that gradually paralyzes you. Average life expectancy is 3-5 years. In September, she marched with fellow Lord of the Rings fans in the annual DragonCon parade, but six months later, she needs my help walking, dressing and using stairs. We have a six year-old son in Kindergarten, and not sure how much he knows.

I wanted to do something for Melissa, to show her the impact that she's had on people, in the Lord of the Rings, Pirates, Harry Potter and Dragon*Con communities and beyond. To that end, I have put together a petition online. I call it "Project FIVER" (after her name on the community websites), and it is a petition to have New Line cast her as an extra in THE HOBBIT. We don't know the course her disease will take, so she worries that she won't be around to see the movies in theaters, so this was the next best thing. Even being a non-speaking crowd-hobbit in the background of one scene would still mean the world to her. It would be her reason to hang on.

If you wouldn't mind, please Go to and sign the petition.

This petition has been going on in secret for a couple of weeks, and I just revealed it to her this weekend at her birthday party. Over 950 people have already signed it, and she was moved to tears. We have "Gone Public" with this now, so feel free to share the link with others openly.

Sign of the times

My daughter IM'd me and asked me to call her cell phone so she could find it.

Paying for conversation

I was pretty sure I wasn't going to comment on this but ... Wigderson drove me to it.
By the way, anyone check The Emperors Club receipts for a credit card charge from Mr. William Rodham?

Dude, that's harsh. Bill - whatever his other faults - oozes charisma. He never has to pay for it.

The flip side is that the soon-to-be former governor is the kind of uptight stick in the mud who has to pay for it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Where will this end?

I installed Lispbox [1] last week. Then I realized that I had Mongrel running because I was also fooling around with Ruby.

I'm forty, fooling around weird varieties of Unix, LISP, EMACS, programming languages .. my God where will this end?

[1] Because learning at least a little bit of LISP has long been a goal of mine.

A Good Find

I just know someone had a conversation like this ..

Dude. I was mooching around in a dumpster behind this, like, totally exclusive building on the West Side and I found this really slick little laptop, wrapped up in a bundle of papers and magazines and stuff. I wonder how it got there?


Avery Pennarun is going on about Git - Git is the next Unix.

When Unix pipes were invented, suddenly it was trivially easy to do something that used to be really hard: connect the output of one program to the input of the next. Pipes were the fundamental insight that shaped the face of Unix. Programs didn't have to be monolithic.

With git, we've invented a new world where revision history, checksums, and branches don't make your filesystem slower: they make it faster. They don't make your data bigger: they make it smaller. They don't risk your data integrity; they guarantee integrity. They don't centralize your data in a big database; they distribute it peer to peer.

Much like Unix itself, git's actual software doesn't matter; it's the file format, the concepts, that change everything.

Whether they're called git or not, some amazing things will come of this.

I do try to pay attention to people who know more than I do - while it's possible he's sipped some tasty Kool-Aid there might be something to it.

At the very least a new tool for my kit.


Ruby* - with apologies to Clapton and Gordon

Whats an admin do when he gets tired
Of writing shell scripts and some PERL?
I've been NMaping and watching procs much too long.
I've got to learn something new.

Ruby, you've got me on my knees.
Ruby, I'm begging, darling please.
Ruby, darling won't you ease my worried mind.

I tried to give th' PM consolation
When the .NET promise let him down.
Like a fool, I fell in love with OOP,
Turned my whole world upside down.


Let's make the best of the situation
Before I finally go insane.
Please don't say we'll never find a way
And tell me all my labor is in vain.


*Lyrics dismembered while watching JDE client install.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Good and dull beats exciting and stylish

“We got a mad crush on the lot of them. They were so stylish, so charming, and - at least in their public moments - so gracefully behaved… This may be the stupidest thing that has ever happened in a democracy. And it certainly shows an emptiness at the center of our idea of government, if not at the center of our lives. A desire to adore a head of state is a grim transgression against republicanism. It is worse than having a head of state who demands to be adored. It is worse even than the forced adoration of the state itself… There are some 230 million of us and we’d better start talking sense to ourselves soon. The President of the United States is our employee. The services he and his legislative cohorts contract for us are not gifts or benefices. We have to pay for every one of them, sometimes with our money, sometimes with our skins.

If we can remember this, we’ll get a good, dull Cincinnatus like Eisenhower or Coolidge. Our governance will be managed with quiet and economy. We’ll have no need to go looking for Kennedys to love. And no need to boil over with hatred for them later”

- From “Mordred Had a Point - Camelot Revisited” in “Give War a Chance”

Saturday, March 08, 2008


I had maintenance to perform on some systems at work. What was projected to take six hours took three and one-half.

If your attack is going too well, you're walking into an ambush.

There is that, yes. Here's trusting to luck!

Missing Spring

As winter drags on .. and on .. I start to miss Texas.

Taken shortly before we moved - that's 2 3/4 of an acre of backyard you're looking at.

I need to remind myself that in a few months it's going to be hot, humid and unbearable there.

Garfield without Garfield

Older Monkey was inspired by Garfield without Garfield and crafted some of his own.

Friday, March 07, 2008


Head for the hills and alert the!

The Military Industrial Complex War Machine and Marching Band Society is launching big red arrows of Doom across our fair land and doing Really Bad E-vil Scary (but Unspecified) Stuff.

It's so bad that Bruce didn't put in a 'wake up' or 'we better do something before it's too late' at the end of his post. This is seriously bad stuff, man.

Brain Reward

Erica closes a blog post out with ...

In closing, I would be remiss not to state that the use of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” ...

Good gravy I'd forgotten how depressing that song is. I need to go solve a problem and make my monkey-brain happy, now.


I realized - not for the first time - this morning how enjoyable it is to make stuff work. Make slot A fit into tab B and something goes yipee in my head. It's a good feeling - beats coffee for a buzz anyday.

I don't get this feeling from solving puzzles or word games - I hate doing those. I've never gotten that thrill from running a simulator or playing with gear in a lab - I just don't see the point. Oooo the simulator passes traffic from dummy host A to dummy host B ... thrill me. Not.

I only get a brain reward when I can pretend it's useful.

In which I demonstrate that I think better in the morning

Well snot that was easy.

I want to read data from a file and push it to the screen. How to do this was not obvious in Ruby/Rails, or at least it was not at midnight last night.

Read the book this a.m. and LO it's so obvious in retrospect and LO five minutes later it's working on my test server.


def contact
arr = IO.readlines("foo.txt")
@name = arr[0]
@email = arr[1]
@phone = arr[2]
@street = arr[3]
@geo = arr[4]


<%= @name %>
<%= @email %>
(and so on)

Duh. I share this not to show how cleaver I am but because I cannot believe how obvious it all is. Duh.

A business opportunity

Remember - California is the future.
"Parents who lack teaching credentials cannot educate their children at home, according to a state appellate court ruling that is sending waves of fear through California's home schooling families." (Seema Mehta and Mitchell Landsberg, "Ruling seen as a threat to many home-schooling families", Los Angeles Times, Mar. 6.
I see opportunity here - selling teacher credentials at thirty bucks a pop. I'm sure the guys who run diploma mills are looking into it right now.

the lives of men by kelly zen-yie tsai

the lives of men
by kelly zen-yie tsai

britney spears
had a break-down
at the age of 25

dave chapelle dropped
his $50 million deal
and flew to Africa

the only ballers who seem
to be able to hang onto
their loot are the donald,
oprah, russell, jay-z, diddy

what happens in the
life of man?

dave chapelle said
for martin lawrence
to be waving his gun in
the street or mariah
carey to be taking
her clothes off in public

these people are strong, he said

a sick system
a sick system

while anna nicole smith's
photographs live on
forever plastered onto
glossy magazine pages
how long does it take for the ink
to smear off?

tabloid cover stories on $4000.00
cell-plumping facials,
$19,000.00 rehab clinics
placed right next to
paparazzi pics that
cry out captioned:
"they're just like us!"

winona ryder reaches
for a box of cereal
on the top shelf of
a grocery store

i wrote to a high school
student in florida this week
"never settle for success."

"there is a higher calling
for you and your work
than to be the hotness
wherever you are. never
fall short of your call
to impact the globe and
all of human history just
to satisfy your own ego."

i'm sure it was more
than he wanted to know.

it was probably
just my ego:

to want to be known
to want to be acknowledged
to want to be remembered
to be seen
to be heard
to be recognized

who knew that the flip side of this
is crucifixion so very early?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


In other nerdly news today I installed DragonFly-1.12.0 on my ancient desktop at work.

What was a slow and pesky desktop with XP is now a perky and lively beast; It's like seeing an old dog chasing butterflies in spring. The install was painless and quick. [1] The former is a credit to the guys who built DragonFlyBSD. The latter is - being honest - because the only thing I installed was the OS.

On the other hand, with BSD [2] you only need a little bit to have a working computer, after which you pick and choose the stuff you need.

[1] I spent more time downloading and buring the ISO to cd than I did installing the operating system.
[2] This applies to other UNIXs as well.

10 good UNIX usage habits

10 good UNIX usage habits
When you use a system often, you tend to fall into set usage patterns. Sometimes, you do not start the habit of doing things in the best possible way. Sometimes, you even pick up bad practices that lead to clutter and clumsiness. One of the best ways to correct such inadequacies is to conscientiously pick up good habits that counteract them. This article suggests 10 UNIX command-line habits worth picking up -- good habits that help you break many common usage foibles and make you more productive at the command line in the process. Each habit is described in more detail following the list of good habits.

I'm guilty of not letting grep count ..
Avoid piping a grep to wc -l in order to count the number of lines of output. The -c option to grep gives a count of lines that match the specified pattern and is generally faster than a pipe to wc
I had no idea grep could count. I may have at one point and simply fell into the habit of using wc to count the output.

Bad admin, no cookie.


What he said about Earth Hour
Instead of going one hour without electricity, this campaign would be much better if it was one day or one week. Of course, going a week without electricity would teach people the exact opposite lesson than the one that the organizers of Earth Hour want: that electricity and energy are good things that are required for tranquility, freedom and happiness to exist in the first place, and without them we would have nothing but Hobbesian misery of war against all.

Nice, but touched

The people who live in my state can be a little off ...
And above that is the roof, where he was having lunch one day in 1978 with a woman who worked as his assistant. Taking note of all the low-flying planes, she said it would be nice to make a sign welcoming everyone to Milwaukee. "You know what would even be better?" Gubin said.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Gary Gygax - RIP

And oh, the dice and hit-point jokes that will shower the land.

I never played D+D. I was such a dork in high school even the nerdly kids playing D+D shunned me.

I did start a D+D campaign - when I was twenty-four. Worked up a character and everything. Then the DM deployed to Saudi for Desert Shield so that kinda put a damper on the whole thing.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Good bye!

Earth's spin naturally causes a slight acceleration which had been accounted for. This is related to the relativistic frame-dragging effect. If a spacecraft like NEAR is given an extra anomalous velocity, it could mean that part of Earth is rotating much faster. The detailed calculations will take some time, but this anomaly may be another reason to suspect a Black Hole in Earth's core.

A .. what? A black hole?

Time To Move.

Nobody expects ..

NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is Transformative Leadership...Transformative Leadership and Equity and Social Justice...Equity and Social Justice and Transformative Leadership.... Our two weapons are Equity and Social Justice and Transformative Leadership...and Action.... Our three weapons are Equity and Social Justice, Transformative Leadership, and Action...and an almost fanatical devotion to Human Differences and Diversity.... Our Amongst our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as Equity and Social Justice, Transformative Leadership.... I'll come in again.

Get Help

Jon really needs to stop internalizing his anger.

Please get help - maybe a pet would ease your frustration?

Monday, March 03, 2008


JMD writes
Really hot, talented actress opens her mouth and ruins everything.
I'm conflicted.

On the one hand, she's crazy as a sack of squirrels.

Eastern Grey Squirrel in St James's Park, London
Who you callin' crazy?

On the other, she is hot.

A Good Year

On the gripping hand, I don't want a relationship, I just want to watch her on T.V. She's an actress, I could care less what her off-screen opinions are.

I say, bring on the crazy.

Cheap to make, but vulnerable to anti-tank dart guns

Panzerkampfwagen V Panther - Air Transportable variant.

More pictures, here.


Rating the weather

God [1] decided that we were getting all 'meh' about the snow and the ice and taking it all for granted.

So last night we got more snow. With wind. And a bit of sleet/rain because the temp cycled around the freezing point. And lightning!

Gotta say that lightning and snow is rather showy - I'll give it a four stars!

[1] or the gods, or mother mature or Gaia - take your pick.