June 2005 Archives

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Actually, I think this deserves more than Quote of the Day — this is at least Quote of the Week, maybe of the month: Chris Lehmann in a Boston Phoenix article about the NYT’s recent series ‘Class Matters’:

Getting the New York Times to explain the real operation of social class in America is, at the end of the day, a lot like granting your parents exclusive license to explain sex to you: there are simply far too many conflicts that run far too deep to result in any reliable account of how the thing works.

Via this week’s Scanner.

Startlingly bad eminent domain decision from the Supremes today — David Chess has a perfect reaction:

Good news, comrades! The Supreme Court of the People today affirmed the power of local soviets to allocate the use of land in whatever way most effectively furthers the aims of the Revolution, handing a smarting defeat to those reactionary running dogs who would put “private property rights” over the collective will of the masses! Local soviets may now freely allocate land not only to the use of the Party itself, but also to those forward-looking corporations cooperatives that do so much of the hard work of Revolutionary Advancement.

I saw this WaPo goof last night — I was scanning RSS feeds, and did a double-take on “Rehnquist retires/dies”. Hit CNN for confirmation, saw nothing, and figured it was a gaff, but whooooboy, the pucker factor ever increased dramatically there for a second or two.

(You can experience the moment yourself via a Bloglines screenshot over at C|Net. See, this is why I’m still obscure after all this time — forgetting to get screen grabs of obvious stuff like this.

Now available over at First Draft.

Over at RasterWeb, Raster and I are getting our obscurity on, which makes it all the more ironic that I just noticed a referer log hit from this year-old listing of “the first 25 blogs” (scroll way down; it’s in a later section of a long essay). Based on my rapidly-fading memory of The Way Things Were, the list is reasonably accurate, depending on what you consider a “weblog” — a conversation that I’m not getting into anymore.

So, yeehaw for me! — I was apparently one of the first 25 weblogs ev-ah, baby. That and three bucks will get me my favorite coffee house beverage. (I’m trying to decide if this warrants revising my CV or not, actually…)

Kudos to Dave on the poster idea.

Our dear friends in Hollywood are trying to slip the Broadcast Flag back in as an amendment to the Senate Appropriations bill. See this BoingBoing post for details, and if you’re a resident of Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Washington, or Wisconsin, you should call your Senator ASAP to register your opinion — see the the BoingBoing post for phone numbers and a suggested script. I’m picking up the phone as soon as I put down this keyboard…


JS/UIX is an UN*X-like OS for standard web-browsers, written entirely in JavaScript (no plug-ins used). It comprises a virtual machine, shell, virtual file-system, process-management, and brings its own terminal with screen- and keyboard-mapping.

See, here’s the thing. I actually like Joel of Joel on Software. He writes well, he’s clearly thought a lot about the process of development and how it should work and the things that can go wrong while doing it, and he’s good at explaining that stuff. We’re using his company’s bugtracking product at work (yeah, even in the admin group we end up developing software, which means bug tracking, and all the bagage that comes with it), and I’m looking forward to seeing what he has the Project Aardvark interns churning out this summer.

That makes it all the more frustrating when he opens his yap to talk about sysadmin-type stuff and a bunch of utter crap falls out (scroll down to the “Network Load Balancing Works” section; they’re called “permalinks”, Joel, look into them). I mean, it’s nice that he’s figured out that you can have two web servers powering your site, and that one benefit of that is that you can upgrade one at a time, and then your web site stays up during the upgrade. (Nice in a “I would have thought the concept of ‘redundancy’ would have come up at Microsoft, but, hey, maybe this explains some things” sort of way, I mean.) But then he goes and says something stupid about the Windows software-based load balancer they’re using prefering to send the same users to the same part of the cluster “so stateful web applications still work even if the state is maintained on one computer.” That was the point at which the respect meter started its rapid leftward motion — a trend that was only intensified when he told me “If you have a hardware load balancer and that needs to be updated or rebooted or if it fails, you’re off the air.” At that point, I realized that the reason TheChild was staring at me wide-eyed was because I’d just yelled “that’s why you have two of them, just like the rest of your network stack, you #$#^@% idiot!” at my laptop.

Seriously, Joel, stick to the software. Leave the enterprise admin stuff to the enterprise admins.

Six Weeks Stuck In Comcast Limbo

Like most Internet-dependent customers whose high-speed connection goes down, Apoorva Gandhi figured his service provider, Comcast, would have it up and running again soon after an interruption in March. Annoying as they are, occasional server crashes are a fact of life online and Gandhi knew that. But six weeks later, he was still waiting for Comcast to fix his connection.

That ain’t “Limbo”, kids — that’s at least an outer ring of Hell.

I’ve obviously been going to way too many confrontational meetings lately, because the first thing I thought of when I saw the recent ‘inhaled oxytocin inspires trust’ stories was “how long until we see inhaled oxytocin antagonists used as a negotiating tool?”. (The non-biologists in the crowd should see this page for a good overview of what an antagonist is in this context.)

Spent the morning pounding away on the ticketing system, doing the administrative stuff that seems to inevitably pile up. (And I’m happy to spend the couple hours a week it takes to keep the queue tidy, and give other people more time to do the actual work of helping the users.) Spent the afternoon in the usual meeting, which this week included a 45 minute session of me attempting to explain why we wouldn’t be putting 32bit libraries under /usr/lib/ on a 64bit machine. sigh

Home relatively early for some peace, quiet, and relaxation. TheWife and TheChild were down the pool, which probably helped. Ended up finishing the most recent book for our discussion group as a result.

On a totally unrelated note, the spam situation at home is completely out of control, due to a combination of some catchall mailboxes on my domains, spammer scum using said domains in spoofed From: lines, and some slackness in keeping my Bayesian dataset properly trained. Some time this weekend is going to have to be devoted to shifting things around so that I can go back to the blissful days of a clean inbox and a spam folder that bulged with real positives, not false ones.

As if more reasons were needed, Kevin Drum provides more fodder for the ‘hell no’ side in any “should we move to Texas?” discussion. (I lack the writing fu to condense out a pull-quotable synopsis; just go read the story.)

Nothing like kick-starting your day by catching the blame for problems that arose because of somebody else’s failure to execute properly. Ah well, it was only half the day shot, eh?

Afternoon blown on regular team meeting prep and then the meeting itself, followed up a meeting with a user to discuss server configuration, and then a big batch of mail catchup. Whee! This was my weekly “Late Night” (I’m trying to restrict myself to no more than one night a week of working late), and it actually turned out to be pretty productive. I managed to get past a block in my FTP log analysis scheme, and got things loading into a database layer. Now all that needs to be done is the visualization/display layer (which will hopefully be pretty easy), and then we should be good to go. Yay me.

QOTD, from Tom Limoncelli at Everything Sysadmin, in response to a Tiger upgrade offer from Apple:

Apple: But then you won’t enjoy the orgasmic delights of Tiger until Christmas! Me: No, I run a PRODUCTION SHOP. I can’t deploy Tiger until it has gone through internal testing and acceptance. I could buy one or two copies to do that, then buy the rest in December. You see, I’m not a pissant video shop full of arthouse goofballs that think 300G of disk space is “big”. I’m not a amateur musician that is impressed at the “Genius Bar” when someone can explain two different ways to “underline text in iWork pages”. We do real work with these machines and we have to have discipline about these things. I doubt we’ll actually deploy Tiger for a few months.

He also has some interesting math for anybody that bought into the recent “36 months of upgrades” plan that Apple was offering…

The upgrades to del.icio.us that were made over the weekend are teh r0xx0r, especially the auto-complete in the tag field when you’re adding new stuff. No more remembering if you used ‘readme’ or ‘read_me’! Of course, now I need to spend some time going through my existing stuff and rationalizing the tags…

At this weekend’s SIG-BEER I heard some interesting things about Linked In — anybody else out there using it and finding it valuable? If so, drop me a line and/or an invite…

What Monday is complete without an ad hoc meeting or two? Got mostly caught up, sorted out, and otherwise reloaded my mental state. And then it was time to come home.

One more office tweak in the evening, of the “done when there’s nothing more to remove” fashion. Ultimately ended up in bed relatively early; still suffering from the exertions of Sunday, I suspect.

Spent the morning getting the wireless access point working; finally had to resort to Google and some forum posts, but I got it figured out. Once that was in place, I started shifting computers down into the basement (the, ahhh, point of the access point was so that I could move several “server”-type boxes out of my office and into the basement without having to do an actual cable run from my second floor office). That got wrapped up just about in time for lunch.

High off the morning’s success, and buoyed by lunch, I decided that I would forge ahead and try to re-organize my office. This was probably a bit of an over-reach — it was almost midnight by the time I finally got everything arranged, plugged back in, turned back on, and sorted back out. At the end of it all, collapsed gratefully into bed, ready for the work week to start so that I could relax a bit…

Did our part for the economy today: morning started with a visit to Ikea to look at beds for TheChild (no bed was purchased, but other stuff was), followed by a BestBuy visit — ostensibly to get a wireless access point, but also resulting in a new receiver for the back room stereo set up.

After a spot of lunch, it was back home, where it was nap time for some, and put stuff together time for me. Built the Ikea stuff, and got the receiver integrated into the stack and working. Considered digging into the access point thing as well, but decided to leave that for tomorrow.

SIG-BEER in the evening, which was entertaining per usual.

Grind, grind, oh wait it’s Friday afternoon…

Grind, grind, grind.

Long head-down Mr.-Nose-meet-Mr.-Grindstone day.

Day slid by in a post-long-weekend daze of mail catchup and “whaddya do this weekend?” stories.

01 June 2005: only 17 hits for the phrase ‘nationalize google’. (Hits in Google, that is.)

Occasionally, you see something that makes you think “I should really get around to setting up that anonymous gateway into the work mailing list system”. Programmers Need To Learn Statistics Or I Will Kill Them All was the latest thing to flip that bit for me.

Dan tagged me earlier today, so…

Total number of books I’ve owned: My OCD must be acting up, because I decided the most accurate way to answer this one was to try to get a current count and extrapolate from there. So, currently, there are at least 1150 books in our house — not counting TheChild’s story/board books (of which there are easily a hundred or more), and not counting the stuff that’s in the garage awaiting donation and/or give-away. Of those, about 250 are in my “to read” queue (a not quite completely disjoint set are in TheWife’s “to read” queue), and about 200 are trade paperback collections of comics — I mention that because I suspect some people wouldn’t count those as “real” books. Since I’ve had several cross-country moves, as well as a period in gradual school where I was heavily into used books to support my fiction habit, I’d estimate my lifetime total somewhere in between 2 and 4 times our current load.

(Trees hate my damn guts.)

Last book I bought: Impulse purchase, this past Friday: ORA’s Javascript and DHTML Cookbook. Interestingly, Buzz Aldrin and Wendell Minor were in that very bookstore signing Reaching For The Moon; I decided the line was too long. If I’d known I was going to be writing this entry, I might have decided differently…

Last book I read: Currently reading several:

  • Learning Perl, 3rd edition; one of the texts for the class I now may not be teaching this summer
  • Higher Order Perl, to stretch my brain back out after the Llama,
  • The Star Fraction, for our book group meeting the weekend after this upcoming one. (This is a half-fib: I’ve already read the book once, and haven’t actually cracked it again — yet. But it’s sitting right here, and I’m going to start once I post this.)

Last book I finished: I finished two on Sunday: Learning GNU Emacs, 3rd. ed. and Randal Schwartz’s Perls of Wisdom. I’d stalled out on both of these, so I took some time Sunday and pushed on through to the end of both.

Five books that mean a lot to me: In no particular order:

  • House, Tracy Kidder — This was a text in a class that TheWife and I had together in college, before we even really knew each other. Special because of that connection as well as because of the interesting content.
  • Microserfs, Douglas Coupland — I read this in gradual school, right as my dissatisfaction with what I was doing was starting to really peak. In some ways, this was like a John Hughes movie of all the cool stuff it seemed like I was missing out on. Also has the best description of geek motivation — the 1.0 imperative — evah.
  • The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Robert A. Heinlein — There’s lots of Heinlein I could have picked, but this is my stone-cold favorite.
  • Learning Perl, 2nd edition, Randal Schwarz et al. — The book mostly directly responsible for where I am today, in a professional sense.
  • Transmetropolitan, Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson — The modern gonzo comic and essential guide to understanding today’s media culture. I’d pick a favorite volume out of the eleven, but it would just change tomorrow, so what’s the point?

Five people Id like to see to do this as well: I’d have picked Lyn too, but Dan beat me to it, so I’ll spread the joy a bit:

The plan was for this to be a productive day. Instead, I slept in for a bit, grabbed some lunch with the family, dinked away the afternoon, and then finally managed to wrestle a bit of work out of the jaws of procrastination after dinner.