September 2003 Archives

Nothing starts the work week off better than staggering off to the salt mines with that half blind murderous rage, half it’s-just-all-totally-fuxx0red-so-why-bother feeling in the pit of your queasy, rumbling, half-hungover, no-time-for-breakfast-i’ll-just-have-a-snickers-at-work stomach, so the crack GeneHack staff has carefully crafted a set of links specially selected to take you to your Happy Place. (Actually, that’s all a lie; these are just the largest crap nuggets I happened to run across in my morning’s travels around the web. And they probably won’t make you happy. Rage is good too, though.)

  • Down in good ole Texas, the book burners “concerned citizens” are crawling out from under their rocks, just in time for Banned Book Week.
  • The IEEE is trying to develop some standards for electronic voting machines, which is all-in-all probably a Good Thing. Unfortunately, it sounds like the process has been totally hijacked by the electronic voting machine makers and for some strange reason, they don’t particularly want to have a strong electronic voting machine standard in place. (Hmm, I wonder why?) The EFF is trying to do something about it. Look, people, when a Russian newspaper is telling us that our evoting-machine-based election system is totally fucked in the hands of unscrupulous and corrupt people with their own questionable agenda, things have gotten just a bit out of hand.</understatement>
  • The White House is actively undermining the EPA’s global warming research, and may have gone as far as helping a conservative, oil-industry funded lobby group to sue the government over another climate study.
  • A legally married Canadian couple was recently denied entry to the US, because they weren’t willing to fill out individual customs forms, instead insisting on filling out the joint “family” form. Since the couple consists of two gay men, they were blocked from entering, apparently on the basis of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. (Thank you, Clinton administration!)
  • Budget airline JetBlue gave a defense contractor the personal info for over five million of its customers, violating its own privacy policy. The data were apparently used in a DHS-sponsored study into airline passenger profiling.
  • Several hundred thousand houses in my immediate vicinity are still without electricity in the wake of last week’s hurricane. I heard a electric company (NoVEC, to be specific) talking head doing a “we’re doing our best” bit on a local talk station, and a caller phoned in and asked a very good question: Why is it that anytime there’s a significant storm, we see widespread and often lengthy power outages, but phone service is rarely, if ever, interrupted by the weather? Since the two services are transmitted via the same methods (cables on poles and cables in the ground), you’d naively expect about the same number of weather-related outages, wouldn’t you? Mr. Talking Head didn’t have an answer (“I don’t work for the phone company” was the best he could do, as I recall), but if anybody out there knows anything, I’d love to hear it.
  • And there’s yet another worm crawling around on MicroSoft systems, and bugging the hell out of the rest of us. This one depends on a TWO-GODDAM-YEAR-OLD INTERNET EXPLORER HOLE! Come on, people, it’s not that hard: open up Internet Explorer and go to windowsupdate.microsoft.com. Follow the instructions, and just install whateverthehell it tells you to install. Do it once a week, once a month — hell, doing it ONCE A YEAR would have prevented the current infestation from spreading. Now, if you’d asked me last week, I would have said that a two-year-old completely-unpatched Microsoft system wouldn’t be able to stay up long enough to send a 2000 line email. I’m unpleasantly surprised to find that I’m wrong. Patch those boxes or get ‘em off the net. Thank you.

In the headlong rush to death, devastation, and utter living Hell for each and every one of you represented by the above collection of material (yes, I’m in an especially perky mood this morning, thanks), there is one tiny glint of sunshine: it appears that VeriSign might yet get its ass handed to it over the whole SiteFinder fiasco. Here’s hoping it becomes so.

Uh, sorry ‘bout that. I really did mean to be back here not too long after writing the previous entry, but then I got a message reminding me that I started teaching the next day, which disrupted my schedule a bit, and then there was the small matter of a hurricane, and well, here we are, not quite a week later.

So, the bookmark bin is one week bigger (getting out of control, truth be told), and I’ve made time in my schedule to update here, and yet I’ve been procrastinating all day, avoiding the blog. My current procrastination tactic, of course, is trying to figure out why I’m procrastinating. Never put off today what you can delay dealing with until tomorrow, and all that.

After pondering for a bit, there are a couple of reasons why I haven’t been in here as much as in the part. Part of it is just a cyclical low in my blogdrive, something that’s happened periodically for the five years I’ve been doing this. (Yep, Genehack was five this August.) Part of it is that it feels like I don’t have the time to spend writing lengthy, well-reasoned posts — and part of that is a dissatisfaction with the ‘quickie’ mode that I’ve adopted recently, more than anything else. A goodly part of it is a cyclical high in my unhappiness with MovableType; that tool and I just don’t fit each other very well. I feel like the only thing I have to show for my year of trying to fit into the MT harness are these annoying saddle sores. I’ve got some notes towards a tool that would mix some WikiNature into my blog workflow (Not A New Idea, by any means); maybe I’ll try to convert those into something intelligible in a subsequent entry. I’m thinking I might get more excited about doing stuff around here if I just went off in the woods for a while (metaphorically speaking) and built some new tools more suited to my work style. (The alternative? Quit whinging and just fix the comment template already…)

So, realistically, what’s going to happen? Work isn’t going to dip below 50 hours a week any time soon. I’m teaching until the middle of next month. At the best of times, I probably average 10 hours a week “free” time, which works out to two or three periods of time big enough and quiet enough to get real coding work done. I’ve got a Wiki codebase that I’ve been hacking on, which provides a starting point. What I’m thinking about doing isn’t that difficult; even with the limited time budget, I should be able to have something up and running by the beginning of November, right?

Right.

I’d meant to finally dump the load of crap I’ve accumulated in the last two weeks in here this morning (actually, I’d meant to do it last night…), but I ended up fighting a balky kernel recompile instead. (Lesson of the day: make mrproper is the big hammer to reach for when other things fail.) So I’ll just leave you with a pointer to Die Puny Humans, where Warren Ellis is doing something pretty cool:

It’s Monday. You are not just an anonymous signal shooting through a network of lines and beams. Let the world know you’re there, and that the internet is made out of people.

More later, assuming I survive work.