October 2001 Archives

yes, this is cheesy
Just tossing something up here so that I can continue my streak — I blogged every day last week, and I’d like to see how long I can keep that going. I’ve got about 25 minutes before midnight, and I haven’t been on the web all day (hell, I haven’t read the paper yet!), so finding something worthwhile is pretty much not going to happen.

I can tell you that the Masquerading-Simple-HOWTO was of great utility to me today, as was the IP-Masquerading-HOWTO. As a consequence of the info I got out of those documents, this weblog entry is coming to you live from my couch. Whee!

Anyway, I’ve got to get back to trying to wrap my head around Michal’s billing code — catch you all tomorrow…

out of phase
When I started doing the bioinformatics thing, it was still looking a bit fringe-y (at least where I was at that point in time), but I was interested in doing more computationally oriented stuff, so I muddled ahead. Now that I’m planning on getting out of the bioinformatics thing (to do even more computationally oriented stuff), the bioinformatics thing is really getting hot:

Almost all companies say they’re having trouble finding people with expertise in bioinformatics, the use of computers to solve complex biological problems. The human genome’s mapping has ushered in a new era of genetic medicine, but to capitalize on this knowledge, researchers need to know how to use powerful computers to translate raw biological data into information useful for developing new therapies.

So the question is, am I ahead of the curve (because generally by the time something gets this “hot” in the mainstream media, it’s already over), or am I behind the curve (because I’m jumping to straight IT stuff just as it’s dying down)?

choice of weblog software still irrelevant, no film at eleven
So, Scoble noticed the rantlet the other day on the “weblogger user group” thing. He disagrees, he says that the software you use to create your weblog does matter. I say bullshit right back to him. I will agree that there is a certain level of familiarity with some sort of software that is a prerequisite to being a good weblogger, if only because you can’t write well if you’re fighting with your software. But that software doesn’t have to be a specialized “weblogging application”, like Manilla, or Blogger, or GrayMatter. I use XEmacs and an FTP client. Other people use Notepad, or BBEdit, or whatever they’re comfortable with, and produce well-written and well thought out pieces of writing. Having something that automatically puts in permalinks, or makes a pretty little calendar showing when you updated is flash — “illusion, and vanity” as I said before. And to the extent that the bells and whistles distract people from the real task at hand — the writing, the reading, and the communication that they represent — I stand foursquare against them.

The canonical historical example here is, I think, Mark Twain. He was one of the very first authors to champion the use of the newly-invented typewriter, but that’s not the reason he’s still read almost a hundred years after his death — he continues to be read, and continues to be relevant, because his content, his words, and the way they were put together, still communicates something of interest and value, something all of us webloggers would do well to emulate.

(Oh, and like Todd made me point out, I really wasn’t talking about weblogging requirements in general, but requirements for good weblogging.

minor meta
Still playing King Canute to the email tide, but will be caught up this weekend. Oh, and a big shout out to Fred. Good to see you back in action, man.

you keep your weed in there
We have a couple of scratching dingii for the cats, which are made from several pieces of corrugated cardboard set next to each other, on edge, in a slightly larger cardboard case. They love them. Anyway, Lor was just looking at the one in my office, which the cats have taken to chewing on (in addition to their scratching activities). It was a bit odd, because they were only chewing on one end — because, as Lor found out, there was a whole big bag of catnip stuck under that side of the cardboard. As soon as she pulled it out, the one cat went running off to find the other cat, and we imagining what they were saying to each other: “Run, man, they found our stash!”

Well, it was funny if you were here. Anyway, there’s now some catnip on the surface of the scratching dingus, and a pair of cats doing the “lie on your back and stare at the pretty colors” thing in my den. Have a good Friday…

naked jello @ 04 october 2001
apocalypse the third
Larry Wall has given us Apocalypse Three, the third installment of his series explaining the rationale behind the design decisions in the development of Perl 6. Most of these are going to make a lot more sense to me after I’ve coded in the language for about six months, I fear.

lfs pride
The Linux From Scratch crew has started a counter so that people running this “distribution” can register. I’m number 217. w00t!

minor meta
Still a bit far behind on email. Catching up, slowly. Feel free to add more to the queue.

Publick Liberty @ 03 october 2001
stuff to read
Counterpane’s (or, rather, Bruce Schneier’s) Crypto-gram newsletter is normally not something I would point out to “normal” people — it’s pretty much focused on things that are only of interest to the crypto-heads and comp-sec freaks out there.

The latest issue is different. It contains several articles about the 9/11 attacks, and each and every one of them is worth reading. Why? Because Schneier has spent a tremendous amount of time thinking about the best ways to secure computer systems, not only from outside network attacks, but also from attacks inside the network, and from actual physical attacks. He is, for all intents and purposes, a highly paid professional paranoid. So, when he says something like this:

Computer security experts have a lot of expertise that can be applied to the real world. First and foremost, we have well-developed senses of what security looks like. We can tell the difference between real security and snake oil. And the new airport security rules, put in place after September 11, look and smell a whole lot like snake oil.

he’s got the real world experience and clout, the chops, to back it up. Go now, read the whole thing.

I’m really, really starting to dislike our Attorney General. His relentless scare-mongering tactics in trying to drum up support for his omnibus wishlist of proposed laws are a large part of that.

And who the hell came up with the name “PATRIOT act”, anyway? It’s got the vaguely menacing and yet cheesy air of something from a fictional totalitarian regime. It’s like those signs from PsiCorps headquarters in Babylon 5 — “Obey.” shudder

There’s a Weblogger User Group starting up out on the Left Coast which has been getting a bit of linkage here and there. Every time I see the name, it sets my teeth on edge — what the fsck is a “weblog user”? To me, the way you “use” a “weblog” is by reading it — so, maybe, this group is for people who read weblogs, or something? No, from all appearances, it’s for people who write weblogs. So why not call it “Weblog Writers Group”, or “Weblogger Group”?

Because apparently the people behind it have the idea that you need some sort of specialized software to be able to have a weblog. (I’m basing that statement on things on the above linked page — stuff like “This will be a vendor-neutral group”.) Listen closely, kids, because I’m only gonna say this several million times until each and every one of you gets it into that lump equidistant from your two shoulders: The software you use to create your weblog is ir-fucking-relevant! The content of that weblog is what matters! If you’re going to start a weblog, the only essential tools to have are a brain and an opinion. Everything else — Manilla, Blogger, Radio Userland, Emacs, software flavor of the month #79 — that’s all illusion, and vanity, and distraction from the real by-damn deal, which is writing and linking and thinking and communicating.

So if you want to get together with other people who write weblogs and geek out a bit, for Ghu’s sake, don’t call it a “weblogger user group”, because while you may be a “weblog user” — that is, a weblog reader — you’re getting together because you’re all weblog writers. And while you may talk about the tools you use, at the end of the night, the important thing is that you’ve all got brains, and opinions, and you’re all trying to use them to write and link and think and communicate.

Thank you; that is all.

(Oh — weblogs-social-dc is a group of DCmetro area webloggers who get together at somewhat random intervals to geek out for a bit. Details on the mailing list, which you should join if so inclined. And what software you use don’t friggin’ matter, long as you buy a round when it’s your turn.)

eli’s coming @ 02 october 2001
today’s title…
…will make sense to the Sports Night fans in the house. I’ve been feeling like that a lot lately.

(Those of you that aren’t Sports Night fans should become so, and then you too will be enlightened.)

hometown news
Part of the downtown area of my hometown burned down last week. Keep in mind that the downtown in question is only about 5 blocks long, and this pretty much wipes out one side of one block — 10% of the downtown is gone. My brother is in the volunteer fire department, but I don’t know if he worked this fire or not.

christmas is on the way
And it’s never too early to be shopping for gifts for those special people in your life. For instance, I’d like to buy this auction item for the guy in the cube next to me — the one who does a very convincing Loud Harold imitation. I’d get him a card, too, one that would read “shut the fsck up! it’s an open plan office and people are trying to work, you idiot!”

I love life in cube-ville. No, really. Okay, not.

for the C coders in the house
First, Intel recently made their optimizing C++ compiler free for non-commercial use. That’s pretty cool. Some testing we did at work suggests that the code produced by this compiler runs faster than that produced by g++ 2.95.x. (Disclaimers: for the app being tested, at a particular moon phase, grain of salt, yadda yadda yadda.)

Second, this Linux Gazette article on code optimization with GCC might prove useful for some stuff I’m doing at work, so I should remember to read it later.

more stuff to read. yay.
Looks like the unstoppable ORA machine is about to bring forth another bioinformatics book. At first glance, this one looks more like what I wanted the other ORA bioinfo book to be like. But, man, zebrafish on the cover? When is the lowly Saccharomyces going to get some props?

mumble meta mumble
Okay, off to work for me. I’m going to make a real effort to at post at least one thing every day for a week. We shall see how much actually gets put up, given that I am teaching a course, learning Python to help out Sabren, doing my normal job, doing about a quarter of the job I’ll be (officially) starting soon, and keeping up with my normal information flow.

Boy, that looks like a lot, when I write it all out like that.

Anyway, just to let you know, mail replies may be a bit delayed, and I’d love any pointers to info about Perl programmers learning Python (it’s just starting to make a bit of sense, frighteningly enough), as well as anything else you’d like to share.

Oh, and since weblogs.com appears to be going titsup.com, I’ll once again plug the genehack-update mailing list. Join up and get a brief message whenever I update this page (and remember to send out the email, of course). Other special offers will not follow. Void when prohibited. May be habit forming. Will not stain. Suitable for all ages. Fnord.