August 2001 Archives

treading water
Okay, the new design has been mostly finished off. I actually did some cross-/browser|platform/ testing this time, too, so things should look less crappy than in the recent Barney incarnation. Still lots of little tune-up things to do; I need to start a list of those…

Thanks for all the feedback on the Mac question; it’s been really helpful. Now I just have to summarize responses into a coherent message for my friend. I’ll be mailing everybody back eventually, but I wanted to say thanks publicly as well (and the points are being calculated as we speak!)

The link drought is going to continue around here for one more day, however — I’ve got to get caught up on email a bit, and I need to keep plugging away at a certain bit of writing that a certain pair of people are looking forward to seeing. But I’ll be back tomorrow with some real links, (hopefully) some more infrastructure improvements around the old e-homestead (is that hyphenated?), and a request for help with a sociological dilemma.


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but still here…
Got some time in on the new design this weekend, but didn’t quite get it finished — and then work rose up and kicked my ass yesterday. But I’m struggling back, like always…

Only one link for you today, and you’ve probably seen it elsewhere: the new Beloit College Mindset List is out. Like I said, linked to hell and gone, but I couldn’t let this pass by without comment:

In the minds of the class of 2004,

We have always been able to reproduce DNA in the laboratory.

Insert requisite comment about how old I’m getting here…

I should be back in full force by tomorrow, or the day after that at the latest…

gonna be a good day!
Nothing like a good night’s sleep followed by a Friday at work (with a highly defined and ultra-priority goal, no less!) to get your weekend off to a good start. Yeah baby.

What the hell is wrong with /. this morning, anyway?

information, please
If anybody out there with a knowledge of Mac hardware has a spare moment or two, I could use a favor. I’ve got this friend, see, and he’s getting ready to purchase his first computer. He’s a bit nervous about the amount of cash he’s plunking down, and wants to make sure that he does (and buys) the Right Thing. He’s a Mac person, and he’s turned to me for advice. Now, I used to be a Mac person, but that was a while ago, and I haven’t really been following the Mac hardware scene that closely, and so I’m worried about giving him bad advice.

So I’m appealing to my ultra-knowledgeable reading audience — help me out here. If you were going to buy a Mac today, and were looking at the “faster” and “fastest” options in the G4 desktop line, which one would you choose, and why? What’s the difference between the two models, and is the more expensive one worth the extra scratch? Replies to, and thanks in advance.

Hey, cool, I got some points from Lyn. Sympathy points, but points none the less. I think I’ll start giving out points too — I’ll just steal take inspiration from Isomorphisms. Okay, expect a more detailed setup later, but for right now, points are being given out for answers to the Mac question, above.

From this entry of Rick’s, one could infer that I’m not nice. Damn, I guess the mask is slipping again…where’s that spirit gum…

shout outs
Happy belated birthday to Dr. Hal. Man, I still get a little shiver down my back every time I see the string “Lyndon, Kansas” on a web site that’s not mine. (Hal and I grew up in the same small Kansas town, about 20 years apart.)

one for the ‘rents
This one is for my parents — well, more specifically, for my Dad, who I think will get a kick out of this: the Perry Home Cook Book, “By the Ladies of Perry, Kansas, and Vicinity, 1920”.

Link via Larkfarm, which I also think Dad would get a kick out of.

software round up
I’ve got several things I’m checking out, to recommend for or against, but the Penguin heads in the audience might be interested to know that Opera has a new beta that recognizes Netscape plugins. Also seems to be a bit zippier overall, if that’s possible. Two big thumbs and a slowly shrinking swelled ear up for Opera under Linux.

work inappropriate
Well, probably, anyway. But, hell, it’s Friday, so here ya go: Nude beer labels. One day, I’d like to curate a museum exhibit entitled “Stuff that we tried to get guys to buy by putting nekkid wimmin on it”. Hey, it’s a goal, okay?

mozilla versus the worm
Code Red has nailed Netscape. I’m at over 1000 distinct scans and counting on my little dialup connection here. Actually, I’m not even really counting at this point; I just keep checking logs as more of a reflex action than out of any real desire to know how bad things have gotten.

I can name that DNA in…10 bases!
Some Belgian scientists claim to have found a 534 base pair chunk of DNA in GM soy bean plants that doesn’t have any good matches in the DNA databases. That’s funny, I didn’t realize that a full sequence of soy bean had been placed in the public databases — and that’s pretty much the only way I can see that these scientists could rule out the obvious alternative explanation, which is that the DNA chunk in question naturally occurs only in soy bean plants. Points to anybody who wants to track down the article (which is in today’s issue of the powerhouse European Journal of Food Research Technology) and send me a synopsis.

Hey, I like this points thing. Maybe I’ll make them redeemable for valuable prizes, or something. Hey, Genehack merchandise — yeah, baby, I’m all about the merchandise. And the points.

womyn born womyn
Yesterday’s Washington Post had an interesting article about the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, which has been running annually for over 25 years. The beginning part of the article is sort of fluffy, but towards the end, it starts to get into some interesting disputes that occurred a few years ago when transgendered people started trying to attend the festival. Apparently the policy on attendees is “womyn born womyn”, which (near as I can tell) means that female to male trannies are okay, while male to female trannies are verboten.

Leaving aside any issues about the overall workability of this sort of sex/gender-based segregation, that seems to me like a really odd place to draw the line. Anyway, a good read; I’ll be curious to see if Debra or Dan have any insight to add.

off to work…
Yep, it’s that time again. Hopefully I’ll have some time to touch up the design this weekend, but no promises — it’s looking like I’ve got a fairly full slate. I’ll leave you with a picture of Flora that I grabbed this morning:

flora loves shoes! - click for full size 80 kb jpg

Do other people’s cats have this strange habit of going to sleep with their heads in or on shoes, or is this a unique Flora-ism?

ear update
Thanks for the email with suggestions about my ear problem, especially the one from Al where he performed that essential nursing duty, saying “you’re screwed; suck it up and tough it out” in a much nicer way that I ever could.

trust us, it’s safe…
Attention people of Georgia: the United States Army wants you to know that the nuclear weapon it left lying around your coastline 45-odd years ago is perfectly safe.
Link via Signal vs. Noise

Hey, it could happen…
Linux Activists Turn Violent, Go On Rampage.

Sure, it seems implausible now, but did you really think you’d ever see Steve Ballmer jumping around on stage like a monkey?

Please hire this man
Look, every office needs the Crazy Person — you know, that one person that’s just a wee bit erratic or slightly off-kilter, and who gives the impression that they’re trying really, really hard to just hold everything together. Those of you who have seen Office Space know what I’m talking about — I’m talking about Milton. (The “Well, I could burn down the building” guy.)

Anyway, if your current working environment has a vacancy in the Crazy Person slot, you might want to consider giving Joseph E. Evans a shot at filling that position. (Warning: big download behind that link; people on slow links should exercise caution.)

time to go to work!
At least for me, that is. Hopefully I’ll finally get around to fixing some of the worst problems with the layout this weekend. Of course, I have a book that I need to read by Saturday (which I haven’t even picked up yet…), as well as several other things, so we’ll see. Have a good Thursday, y’all….

Sorry for the break in posting here. Monday morning, as I was headed down to my car to go to work, I got stung on the ear by a bee. In case you were wondering, no, this isn’t a particularly good way to start your Monday morning. Anyway, over the course of the day, my ear swelled more and more, and I ended up working from home Tuesday — at least theoretically. Actually, I was pretty much unconscious most of the day, due to the Benedryl I had taken in an attempt to reduce the swelling.

The drugs didn’t do much good; applying ice to the area is helping a bit, but the swelling seems to come back when I remove the ice. I think a big part of this is that the tissue in the ear isn’t terribly well vascularized, so it’s taking a long time for the excess fluid to drain. If anybody out there has any suggestions for ways to accelerate the process, please drop me a line at

In the meantime, things might get a bit quiet here, as it’s hard to web surf while you’re holding an ice pack to the side of your skull…

purple <p> eater
Alright, alright, I had some design blockage issues, okay? This was what finally came out after hours and hours of grunting and straining. There are lots of things that I don’t particularly like about it, but I really should have been in bed about an hour ago, so it’s going to have to do, for at least a couple of days.

Actually, I don’t hate it; it just needs a lot more work. And maybe a new color scheme, cuz that purple is going to get on my nerves toot sweet.

Oh, and the cross-browser testing has been, shall shall we say, minimal. Any problems, etc., drop a line to, like normal. And, yes, I’m talking to you — I didn’t realize so many people were having trouble with the old design…

I have some links, but I think I’m going to play it safe and hit the sack — I need to get up early tomorrow and write some Perl stuff for a class I’m doing…more later tomorrow, hopefully.


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stem cell hullabaloo
Well, Bush has finally made a decision. I have to say, I’m a bit surprised that the administration went for this sort of “satisfy no-one” compromise position — I was betting on a hard-line “stem cells are wrong” approach. Oh, and just so you don’t get the wrong impression — I am pretty annoyed with the compromise, I’m just too disgusted to get into the particulars at the moment.

code red killah
Okay, ‘killah’ may be inappropriate. ‘Reportah’ just didn’t have that same hardcore edge to it…

Earlier this week, I mentioned getting some Code Red II probes from a server (about a day before the big “Microsoft has Code Red” media storm); today’s Big Name catch is a box. Code Red II probes since Sunday: 278. (FWIW, I’m a dialup connection with a dynamic IP.)

first amendment firestorm
Molly Ivins has a good column this week, describing a pair of recent egregious First Amendment violations. The first one, involving an investigative reporter jailed after a secret hearing, is particularly disturbing.
(Link via yet another web log.)

Here’s another link to a news story about the jailed journalist, found while clearing my queue.

i fancy a kilt
Unfortunately, SWMBO declined to purchase me the nice green khaki original.

I started looking at kilts because I followed a link from Rebecca’s Pocket that was captioned “I would so like the workman in black”, which I thought was a bit odd to hear, coming from a newlywed and all. It took a couple of minutes at the kilt page to realize she was talking about a style of kilt, and not a man (a workman) wearing something black.

That was probably more than you wanted to know about my thought processes, however.

whole lotta haiku goin’ on
This is pretty cool — Headline Haikus, based on today’s headline news stories. The cool part is that the haiku are generated automatically by a syllable-counting Perl program.

new work day rising
Yah! The queue is down to below 80 items! And many of those are older news stories whose time has really passed, so it should start to get really fast now. Of course, when I run out of stuff, I’m going to actually have to work for links again…

Okay, I’m off for work; hope y’all have a good Friday. Don’t expect any content updates over the weekend, but you will be seeing some design tweakage.

blog them
I’m really getting to like this blogging in the morning thing. I’ve got a definite deadline, because I have to get ready to go to work, but the coffee’s just starting to kick in, and I’ve found some stuff from my morning email/news/websurf rounds — it’s really the best time of the day. <smirk />

hurt them
Clearly, a US$1.5 million dollar fine isn’t big enough. The point of these fines was to provide incentive to Verizon, to make them do the right thing. This has manifestly not happened. Ergo, the fines need to increase — I’d suggest doubling them with each incident. And, um, what happens to that money, and the US$40 million that SBC has already coughed up?

fire them
So, what’s the process for getting rid of an FBI chief? La Reg is reporting that easily available evidence shows that newly-appointed FBI leader Robert Mueller lied to Congress in his confirmation hearing. Nice way to start restoring that tarnished FBI image I keep hearing about. And, what do those Congressional research staff people do, anyway? They don’t seem to dig too deeply into the backgrounds of candidates for FBI chief positions.

smack them
If ever there was a euphemism for logging, “forest thinning” would have to be it. I’ll buy that fire control is at least part of the reason this is being done, but I think the question that really counts is the one that isn’t even asked in the article — what happens to the trees after they’re felled? If they are sold or processed, who profits? (It really pretty much always reduces to “who profits?”, doesn’t it?)

drink them
Hey, good news — you can be certified as a minister in the Beer Church! I am.

work them
Okay, there’s a south-bound Metro train in my near future — I’ll catch you here tomorrow. Oh, special note to those having issues with the layout here (specifically, the main text here butting into the sidebar text over there) — it’ll get fixed this weekend. Pinky swear.

Cisco earnings down 99 percent. From around 16 cents/share same period last year to about 2 cents/share this year.

While we here at Genehack would never condone vandalism or any sort of violence against public property, it was kinda hard not to smile a tight little smile when reading about the, ahem, vigorous critical response to a recently installed Ten Commandments monument that lives on some public property in South Bend.

fun work time-killer
Well, for me at least — grepping the discussion following the Slashdot ASN.1 will be the saviour of XML article for any mention of GenBank or NCBI. Any bets on whether they come up, and what mod level they’ll be at if they do?

picky eaters need not apply
If you squick easily, you might want to put this link off until after lunch: The 8 Worst Convenience Foods — featuring “Armour Pork Brains in Milk Gravy”. Since that’s only number 6, you might be able to get some idea of how bad it gets by number 1…

cool tools
Stuff I’m linking to because I want to remember to download and build it:

small victories — very small
Some judicious culling has reduced the queue to a mere 89 entries — the lowest it’s been in months. Whoo! And now off to work…

permanent stopgaps
Man, I really need to either come up with a new design to replace what was supposed to be a temporary one, or fix some of the nastier aspects of this one — now all I need is a spare day or two. If anybody has the power, inserting those between today and tomorrow would be just great, thanks much.

life imitates onion
(Okay, it’s an Air Force base instead of a National Park; it’s still pretty damn close.)

are you perl enough?
Those BioPerl kids are looking for a few good scripts. Help ‘em out if you can, eh?

Big Brother MicroSoft is watching…
[Microsoft is] also helping to deploy powerful surveillance services that can identify illegal distribution of Microsoft® Reader eBooks across the Internet, and report findings to publishers.

In order to maintain karmic balance, I have to link to something from now — this seems appropriate…

Marylaine on free lunches. Spot on.

save for a future monday
The next time you have an absolutely crap day, pull out or; two collections of sysadmin horror stories from the glory days of Usenet. (Links snarfed from the SDM, natch.)

it almost makes sense now…
Also scarfed from within the bloody walls of the Scary Devil Monastery, this terribly useful primer on how cricket is played. After reading this, I almost wouldn’t mind spending an hour or two watching a game of cricket.

is this what they mean by crypto-anarchy?
Two links for the leftist/anti-globalization/crypto freaks in the crowd…

First off, it looks like the police in Genoa weren’t very nice to the people protesting the G8 summit. I think this is the point where Lyn says something like ‘AMIIS’.

Second, October 21, 2001 is Jam Echelon Day. Please mark your (hopefully suitably encrypted in case of loss or theft) PDA or other calendaring device of choice.

code red
While the death penalty for people who don’t patch their poxy Microsoft servers might strike some as too extreme, I think we can all agree that at the very least, the responsible parties should be banned from any sort of ‘net use for the next five years or so. I mean, if it was a fair punishment for Kevin Mitnick… has a bunch of info, including graphs of the spread of the worm over time, and info on the newer, nastier, root-shell equiped Code Red II.

Oh, and I wanted to share that I got not one, but four of the ~75 CRII probes I’ve seen on my home box (which is attached to the net via a plain, old-fashioned dialup PPP connection) since Sunday morning were from a server. Have I mentioned what a great idea Passport is seeming like these days?

two steps back, two steps forward
Well, I didn’t make any real progress on the queue, but I did manage to pull enough out that I kept it from growing any. Maybe I need to start working from the other end (it’s currently functioning more like a stack than a queue), since I’m sure a bunch of the other stuff is bound for the bit-bucket rather than the blog bin…

Congrats to Hal — err, I mean, Dr. Rager on his thesis defense. Sounds like it went really, really well — getting in “the zone” as you give the talk is always a good sign.

And I hope Kevin’s situation gets sorted out quickly; I’m starting to jones for some Absurd Notions.

Finally, Genehack now appears on ScreenShotStart, for what ever that’s worth.

watching the watchers
Something to pull out the next time somebody gives you the classic “well, if you’re not doing anything wrong, you don’t have to worry” response when you’re ranting about the coming (or is it here already?) surveillance state: a three-part series from the Detroit Free Press on police abuse of a state-wide database: [part 1] [part 2] [part 3]. Part 3, which details how a cop stalked a woman after first coming to her house to take a complaint, is easily the most chilling and “it could happen to me”-esque of the three.

wait, here’s an idea…
On reading this article about bioinformatics, three thoughts immediately sprang to mind:

  1. How ya gonna have an article about bioinformatics in DC and not mention NCBI? That’s just wrong.
  2. The time has clearly come to have a trendy abbreviation for ‘bioinformatics’. I’m thinking ‘B12S’, which will give us all lots of jokes involving dropping the ‘12’ — this will be useful when we have to give talks to non-B12S people. (Wow! See how easily that rolled out!)
  3. The time has come to think about certification. The hype machine is just starting to gear up, the requisite hand-wringing about “not enough qualified people” is starting up, and there are all these unemployed dot-commers around looking to be re-purposed. Sure, it’s a bit early in the curve, but this looks like an example of “first player owns the field” to me. Proposals about how to realize this vision to (If you have trouble mailing to that address, try dropping the ‘12’.)

book review
Better late than never, I’ve put up my review of O’Reilly’s recent Developing Bioinformatics Computer Skills.

didn’t we already do this?!
Last week, Vice President Cheney ‘declined’ to turn over documents detailing what happened in those closed door energy sessions. When, when, when are they going to realize that doing something like this looks strangely like a cover-up — which only makes people wonder what they’re trying to hide?

that’s all for now…
Whew! That last bit got me below 100 items in the in-queue, so I think I’ll stop now, and go to work. See y’all later…

busy busy cool toys busy busy
grrr I seem to keep having that “drop off the face of the web” problem. I tell ya, this whole “work” thing is more damn trouble…

Anyway, I did get to see a cool toy demoed the other day. If anybody out there is thinking about deploying some of the “blade-based” ultra-dense server stuff when Intel and various OEMs get their act together, save yourself some time and just call RLX Technologies now. They’ve got some great products based on Transmeta’s Crusoe chip, 24 CPUs per 3U space, which works out to some insanely large number per standard rack. The best part, though, is that somebody, some very very bright boy or girl, has carefully thought about management, updating, single points of failure, and all that good stuff.

So now we’re testing out a loaner system to see if we can fit it into our current infrastructure and where. Whoo.

all bad, all the time
I swear, I’m gonna quit getting on the web of a morning — I keep seeing these damn depressing things which put me in a crappy mood for the rest of the day. Today’s was the latest Cringley, where he speculates about Microsoft embracing and extending TCP/IP. Don’t read it pre-coffee, at the very least.