July 2001 Archives

pre-salted tomatoes
Actually, that title is a bit of a misnomer — because the salt ends up in the leaves, not the fruits — but nevertheless, genetically modified, salt-resistant tomato plants are pretty cool.

push @todo , $task;
I’ve been running the squid caching proxy for a while now with few problems, but I bet I could tweak things a bit better if I read the O’Reilly Network article on Installing and Configuring Squid.

push @books_to_buy , $book
Looks like there’s a new book out covering GNU Emacs and XEmacs. Just to reiterate the genehack.org policy, you send it in, it gets reviewed — sooner or later.

Speaking of which, my long overdue review of O’Reilly’s Developing Bioinformatics Computer Skills has been sent off to the appropriate people; look for a preview here once I get around to throwing it up somewhere.

more personal meandering than you can shake a stick at
Grrr…once again, I’m up far too late. At least I’m planning on working from the friendly confines of the home office tomorrow — that should make life a bit better. Maybe I’ll sneak in some blogging as well &mdash I’ve still got over 80 links in the hopper.

When we were down in DC this weekend, Lor and I had dinner at the Brickskeller, where the food is just okay, but the beer selection is excellent. One of the beers I had is one of my personal favorites, the Arrogant Bastard Ale:

i, on the other hand, _am_ worthy

things i’ve learned blogging
Thing One: the best way to ensure that you’ll update your blog religiously is to post something saying “i’m really busy so i don’t know if i’ll have time to post much.”

Thing Two: the best way to ensure that you’ll fail to update for multiple days in a row is to post something saying “i’m going to post something everyday, no matter how minor.”

Thing Three: above all, taunt not the BLOG GOD, for s/he is a capricious trickster, and likes nothing more than fucking yer shit up.

my weekend
So, yeah, anyway, I’m back; I’ve got tons of stuff to post, but I have to get up in about 4.5 hours to go to work, so most of it is going to have to wait.

You will therefore have to be content with one shout-out link: Congrats to RB and JJG! May you never run low on links or love.

On a personal wedding-related note, Laura and I went into DC this weekend to goof off and celebrate our eighth anniversary last week. (I think it’s probably a good sign that we have more fun hanging out and wandering around with each other than we do in most “structured” activities.) Anyway, we saw flowers and computers, ducks and giant erasers:

chinese rose in smithsonian gardens cray 1 at air and space museum duck in the ellipse giant typewriter eraser, what else?

(Thumbnails linked to full-size images; each about 200 kb.)

surgical strike
I’m going to try to go with the “post at least one thing every day” plan and see if I can keep a trickle of things going on here…

Today’s link is a RISKS digest posting that reports that USPS workers have been encouraged, since 1997, to report “suspicious” activity to law enforcement officials. Evidently, training videos emphasized that it was better to report things that turned out to be trivial, rather than take the risk of not reporting something that was significant. Or, in other words, Mailman Matt is supposed to assume that you’re guilty until proven innocent — exactly the attitude I want in the people handling my mail.

I’m starting to run out of really decent pictures from the trip; here’s an ocotillo that I found not too far from Dave’s old apartment. It looked like somebody had been watering it not too infrequently:

    make fences out of dried ocotillo shoots

Oh, and thanks for all the anniversary well wishes…


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happy anniversary to us…
Eight years ago today I got married to my “better two-thirds”, as I often refer to her. Best decision I ever made. 8^)= If you’d like, drop her or me a line and say congrats.

dealing with the tech support in your life
This is a phrase that I’m quoting here, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to have call to use it at some future point: “I’m going to seem very hostile to you until we establish a relationship that involves you listening to me.” Rest of the article worth a read as well…

free dmitry!
So, Adobe backed down. Not that they had too much to lose at this point; it lets them look good and ends up making the EFF look bad in the long run… I wasn’t able to make the protest in DC, but Jonathan of killyourtv.com did — pictures available on his site.

bobbing for pr0n
This is kind of interesting… if you go to http://communities.msn.com/_Secure/. (the trailing ‘/.’ is important, far as I can tell), you might get a picture that appears to be randomly picked from somewhere on the communities.msn.com site. Or you might get nothing, in which case, reload and try again.

I found the link in this Reg story, which details how it was discovered.

Two avenues of exploitation^Wuse suggest themselves to me — first, the stats geek in me thinks it would be interesting to cobble up some Perl to sample that picture database a few thousand times, then categorize the results, in terms of porn/non-porn, etc. You could even break out different kinds of porn — het, homo, child, etc, and get a decent feeling for whats out there, at least on one fairly large public storage site.

The other thing that suggests itself is some sort of drinking game — the possibilities are really endless. Predict if the picture is going to be porn or not (works best over a dial-up link, of course). Another possibility is to see how many porn pictures you can get in a row, or how many non-porn. Loser or winner drinks, depending on what you’re trying to do; bonus points if you get really drunk, take some porn snaps yourself, and then get them to load in a later game.

Finally, a word of warning: there’s some seriously odd stuff out there. Unless you’ve got an office door, or you work in an extremely liberal location, loading that page up at work is probably a bad idea.

I’ve got a lot of linkage in the queue, but no time to sift through it — wah. Hopefully things will improve as the week goes on. Anyway, here’s another picture from the recent trip:

baby toupee

That’s my new niece, using my chest as a nap pad. She’s still a bit light up top, so Grandma helpfully arranged my goatee to keep Cassidy’s head warm. This is one of those pictures that’s going to get trotted out repeatedly as she grows up, I think. 8^)=

I AM BACK. I AM ALSO HERE TO FUCK SHIT UP. At least that’s the current plan. I spent the last week helping my friend pack up his life and drive it cross-country. I travelled over 5000 miles, by car, plane, and Penske truck, covering thirteen states. Yesterday, my first full day home, in an attempt to bring my average miles per day stat down to a reasonable level, I didn’t leave the apartment all day.

Gratitious trip picture #1 — Dave driving through the strange wonderland that is Oklahoma

we're not in kansas yet, dave

Expect more in the coming days.

gone, for a bit
It won’t be as long this time — pinky swear — but I’ve got to leave you again for a bit. I’ve got this friend, see, and he helped Lor and I move from Tucson to DC. Now that he’s moving out of Tucson, I’m basically morally obligated to help him — but he’s a good friend, and I’d be helping him even if the quid pro quo element wasn’t present.

So, in about 10 hours, I get on a plane and go to Tucson. Monday morning, we load a fifteen-foot truck with all of Dave’s worldly possesions, saddle up, and commence to driving. If all goes well, I should be back sometime next weekend. I’m taking the new camera, so expect lots of obnoxious photos when I return.

Speaking of obnoxious photos, here’s what one of my cats would look like if he took way too much Spice:

kitties of dune


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back, for a bit
sigh And so the urge to post something, anything, wins out over the desire to write some software to make the posting easier. Not as if it really matters to the people reading this, after all — I could be typing this page into Emacs via Morse code for all that it matters to you, right? 8^)=

So, I’ll be back for a little bit — today’s postings, maybe one or two more this week, but then I leave Saturday for Tucson, where I’ll be helping a friend load up a truck that we’ll then drive to New Haven. So the real return will be in the last week of July, if you’d like to hold off coming back until I get my writing muscles worked back into shape.

new toy
As you might have guessed from the photo that used to be here, and the new little detail over there on the left, Lor and I bought a new camera recently. It’s a Sony Mavica MVC-FD92, and we’re quite happy with it. Expect to see inline pictures in the new and improved Genehack, like this:

you will OBEY me!

It’s also got several built in “effects”, like “negative”:


I think those are pretty cool, so you should expect some of that as well.

For a while now, I’ve been playing around with the idea of learning some Tex, and from what I hear, LaTeX is the way to go. I don’t have any real need for it; it’s just that I think markup languages are in general kind of cool, and it certainly couldn’t hurt to know it, as it seems like one of those things that could be very useful in the right set of circumstances.

I wasn’t however, willing to plunk down the forty or fifty bucks necessary to get a decent book on LaTeX, and the online guides I’ve found have either been mostly wrong, completely trivial, or both. That was the situation up until last week, when I noticed that a cow-orker had a copy of Leslie Lamport’s LaTeX: User’s Guide & Reference Manual, which I promptly borrowed. Tonight, on the Metro home, I finally got around to reading the first couple of chapters.

After a fairly lengthy discussion of the difference between “logical” markup and “WYSIWYG” style layout, Lamport finally starts explaining some of the basics of using a markup language. As one of the examples, he talks about using the emphasis tag, ‘\em’ and discusses how you need to use a special control sequence to generate an extra trailing space, depending on whether or not non-emphasized text appears on the same line following the emphasized text!

Why? Because the emphasized text will be rendered in italics, and so you might get the last slanted character overlapping the first non-slanted. This assumes, of course, that ‘\em’ text will always be displayed in italics, and means that if you decide for some reason to render it in boldface, you’re going to have extra spaces all over the place, but that’s okay, because these “logical” layout languages are so much better than WYSIWYG. Furrfu.

I think I’m over my desire to learn LaTeX.

elves and dwarves and hobbits, oh my!
With my reading for the trip home disposed of, I started to people-watch, basically out of a lack of anything else to do. I noticed a fellow passenger reading Cryptonomicon, and I started thinking about the dinner scene, where Randy maps the Tolkein-verse onto academentia. That reasoning actually applies pretty well to my current workplace as well — we’ve got a few Elves, with the rest of the workers being split fairly evenly across Half-Elves, Men, and Hobbits — with the exception of the systems group, who are mostly Dwarves.

Then I got to thinking about where I fit into this classification — I’m clearly not an Elf; I don’t have that otherworldly devotion to some esoteric topic. I hope I have enough clue that I’m not a Hobbit; the fact that cow-orkers seem to keep coming to me with various questions and problems sort of supports that idea. That also means I’m not a Dwarf, because if I was, I would be surly enough that they would be more cautious about approaching me. Am I merely a Man? That would be kind of boring.

Anyway, if you’ve got a spare minute, drop me a line and tell me where I fit in, or where you fit in, or that I’ve obviously gone totally daft in the last 7 weeks.

it’ll get better soon
I’ll try to actually have a link or two in the next update, lest Genehack turn into some sort of ego-stoking journal site, or something. 8^)=