clearing out the cobwebs >>> Wow — that break ended up being a bit longer than I expected. Apologies to you regulars who kept pounding on the server while I was gone. I’ll save the personal stuff until the end; that way the blog purists won’t have to sully themselves. 8^)=

are you sure you want to empty the trash, dave? >>> RPG hits the nail on the head with this one.

you talkin’ to me? >>> Is there any real demand for discussion features at Genehack? I’m thinking about gearing up to use BlogVoices, but I’m not going to dick around with it unless people really feel a need.

space bugs! >>> A research group is claiming to have recovered samples of a potentially extraterrestrial bacterium from the upper atmosphere. CNN has a story; ENN has one too. I’m cautious about this, primarily because the group’s announcement doesn’t have any real data to back up the claims. If they’re right, it’s huge, but I fear that eliminating all the other, more likely explanations is going to take quite a bit of work.

got linux? >>> This diary has some interesting things to say about learning to love and use Linux and about interpersonal dynamics in Open Source development. The only bad thing is the second part isn’t out yet…

watch your wallet >>> During my break, I got my parents set up with ‘net access (more ‘bout that later). My Dad was really hot to have a look at eBay; it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s bought something by now. Anyway, when I ran across this primer on eBay scams, I figured I should link it so he could read it. Now I just have to find out if he’s reading this…

Hail, Avatar! >>> Friday, I found Exult, an Ultima 7 engine that runs under Linux. That’s right, if you’ve got the data files (I got mine via the Ultima Collection), you can play Ultima 7 on your Linux box. Appears to work pretty well, too; I killed more time than I have to spare playing around with this this weekend. (Bonus points to the Exult developers for making Debian packages available!)

Word to the wise: there is a lame copy-protection scheme in U7 that requires you to answer questions about the latitude and longitude of places on the world map included with the game. When I hit it for the first time, I was stuck, because my legally purchased copy of the game lacked the lat. and long. lines on the map! (Thanks a bunch, Origin.) Google to the rescue — I found HRUMP, the High-Resolution Ultima Map Project, featuring hi-res scans of the cloth maps that came with the original releases of all the Ultima games.

work-related >>> Some of the people I work with at NCBI do molecular visualization stuff, so I’m sure this list of free visualization tools for *nix systems will be well received.

mail alternatives >>> Anybody out there using GMail or Perl Mail Client? I’ve been thinking about my ideal mail client again, and it still involves some form of SQL backend for my mail archive (currently ~80 MB and growing). Don’t have time to work on it right now, unfortunately, although I am keeping mail storage in mind with my current project (more about that later too).

small world >>> Until the recent news of his death, I hadn’t realized that the author of ping, the internet command-line tool I use second-most (after ssh) lived in the DC area. Mike Muuss is gone, but his web page lives on, for now.

long-term plans >>> Lewis Carroll’s Symbolic Logic has been on my ‘to read’ bookshelf since my sophomore year in college (‘bout ten years now). I’ve taken a crack or two at it, but never gotten all that far. On my next foray, however, I’ll have some help! Seriously, if anybody wants to start a book club (meatspace or net-based) around reading this sucker, I’m in.

wheels and the re-invention of >>> A while back, I talked about writing a ‘driver’ script to automate ripping and encoding MP3 files from CDs. I got a quick-and-dirty version working (and I’m still using it, matter of fact — have to remember to send those module patches back to the original author…), but I also recently ran across grip.e, which is a more completely generalized solution to the same problem.

read docs, then build >>> After months of kludgey syncs between my Visor and my Linux desktop, I finally read some documentation and realized my error (failing to include USB /proc filesystem support). Now I can hot-sync just like under the MacOS or Windows! gnome-pilot is pretty slick, too.

choppers >>> Pregnant women who are planning to nurse might not want to look at this picture. The rest of you go right on ahead.

DWW defense, take 2 >>> I’m participating in Day Without Weblogs again this year (must start gathering links!). I’m not going to get into the fray over whether it’s worthy or not, but I did want to correct a mis-understanding of Al’s. When he asked:

What would I accomplish by blacking my page for a day? Will I put us one step closer to a cure? Raise awareness or do anything to educate the public about the continuing scourge of HIV? Will it add a day to the life of any HIV patients?

It became apparent that he didn’t get the point of DWW. Al, we’re not turning our pages black, although I’m sure black will be a prominent design feature on 1 Dec. The point is to provide links to AIDS/HIV resources. I’ll quote Brad from the About DWW page:

The idea is a simple one: On December 1, replace your ordinary weblog or index page with a simple page like this (this is the page I put up on World AIDS Day last year), displaying the DW^2 symbol and providing links to websites that offer information about the AIDS pandemic and how to get involved.
Alternatively, leave your weblog in place, but display a DW^2 icon and pepper your weblog with AIDS education links.

If you do participate, you will be raising awareness (or at least trying). Raising awareness might just lead to some AIDS/HIV patients living longer, or even to some researcher having the critical insights that lead to a new treatment, or even a cure. I think it’s especially important for bloggers with biomedical backgrounds to participate, because we often wander into areas of the web that non-biomed people don’t get into, and we can explain some of the more technical aspects of those areas in more easily understandable language.

Anyway, that’s my justification, and my call for participation.

audio knowledge >>> At work tomorrow, I’ll hopefully get time to listen to the Larry Wall interview from the Paula Gordon show.

the rest of the story >>> Every year, the President pardons a turkey or two, ‘round Thanksgiving time, and sends them off to live out their natural lives at some sort of turkey old age home. Ever wonder what it’s like at the Presidential Turkey Rest Home? A Washington Post writer investigated, and found out that things might not be as you think…

food phear >>> Also from this weekend’s Post, Tacogate: There Is Barely A Kernel of Truth presents a take on the StarLink corn controversy that’s rather different than others I’ve seen. I’m not sure I buy the part about minimal allergy concerns due to a lack of exposure, but then again, I’m not an immunologist, either.

random thought >>> Found scribbled in my notes from a work presentation of about two weeks ago:

Watching a PowerPoint presentation that consists entirely of web browser screenshots is like showering with your socks on

I mean, come on! The machine’s got a fargin’ web browser, doesn’t it? Why not just show us the damn site in the damn browser? Even if it’s not stable enough for that, you could at least make some fake pages more quickly that you can make a PowerPoint slide show, right?

irony of the day >>> Tonight I was eating a bit of dinner and watching the movie Hackers on the Sci-Fi channel (hey, the pickings were slim; what can I say?). They returned from a commercial break with “We now return you to Hackers, presented by Cisco Systems, powering today’s Internet”. I almost spewed my Spaghettios, I was laughing so hard.

I have to say, though, whoever did that screenplay got quite a few things right about geek culture and hacking. Clearly, somebody did their homework. Unfortunately, somebody (else?) got about twice as many things wrong, but…

and now, the personal info-dump >>> Okay, that’s all the external stuff — all you blog purists can leave now; you lot who are interested in the details of my life gather round.

After we got the news last week about my grandfather’s passing, Lor and I quickly got some plane tickets to Kansas City (via the financial assistance of good ole Mom and Dad; thanks!). We had a bit of trouble there, due to a lost FedEx package, but a three-way call between Lor, our travel agent (Lor’s sister-in-law Leigh), and US Air cleared that up. I went out to JC Penny’s about 9 pm Saturday night, and discovered that walking into the menswear department and announcing “I need a suit. Now.” isn’t as satisfying as you might think.

Sunday, we flew to KCI via Pittsburg. Despite the impending holiday, things went smoothly. Met people from my mom’s family (grandparents, aunt, cousins) at the airport, and had a visit with them at the grandparents’ house while waiting for Mom and Dad. After that, traveled to the nursing home to pick up people from Dad’s side of the family (other grandmother, aunt, cousin) and went to the visitation at the funeral home. After that wrapped up, we drove the 1.5 hours back to my hometown, Lyndon, and collapsed into bed.

Monday morning we got up and made the 1.5 hour drive back for the funeral proper. The church service went okay, but I was less than impressed with the minister. I had the honor of being a pallbearer, which involved much less organization than I expected (it was sort of a just-in-time system). The graveside service was rather chilly. My cousin read a moving eulogy that had rendered everyone in attendance a bit weepy. Following the funeral, we made the 1.5 hour trip back to Lyndon, had a nap, had some dinner, and then got piss-drunk (well, at least I got piss-drunk) with friends and family. Sort of a Midwestern Protestant wake, if you will.

Tuesday, I got my parents’ newly purchased computer (running Windows Me Harder!) connected to the ‘net and caught up with email and the web. We flew back on Wednesday on a direct flight from KCI to National — flight was a bit more packed than the two on the way out, but still not too bad, considering it was the day before Thanksgiving.

Thursday, we did Thanksgiving over at Lyn and Steve’s place — quite delicious, and quite fun. The rest of the weekend, I played catch-up of various kinds, until Sunday, when I played hooky and hacked on some BOP code (yes, the BOP project lives!)

And now it’s about an hour past the time when I intended to be in bed; I fear tomorrow is going to be a very long day indeed. Hopefully I’ll get time for another update in a day or two…

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