It was only a matter of time - even tech companies are getting tired of marketing copy that reads like Latin, full of neologisms and obfuscations that leave you wondering what, exactly, a given company does or creates. It's one thing to have some nifty text that makes you stand out from the rest of the crowd, but at this point you really need a translator to figure out what the hell's going on anymore. Buzzwords have been overused and redefined so often, they really don't have meaning for anyone anymore.

Reading marketing copy reminds me a great deal of an exercise that Peter Carroll proposed in Liber Kaos - pick a word and say it over and over and over until you lose any sense of what that word really means. It teaches you to divorce the concept from the representation (the word or text). It's kind of creepy the first few times you do it.

Friday evening I drove down to Lyssa's to spend the last weekend before the semester with her, and wound up in a number of adventures, if I may wax juvenile for a moment. On the way down a cloudburst hit DC, and because her landlord had not cleaned the gutters, the water ran down through the gap between the inner and outer walls and collected on the floor, causing a minor flood. Lyssa got it cleaned up before I made it down to DC, however. The flooding, thankfully, was minor and required little time and effort to clean up. Dinner, in the form of sushi and Chinese food, had already arrived by the time I pulled in. Silicon Dragon and Mark arrived scant seconds after I got out of the car. We were planning on driving to the Black Cat in northwestern DC that night for the Depeche Mode Release Party (no, they weren't in concert, as cool as that would have been; three DJs did an all Depeche Mode night, covering the entire history of the band). Hasufin arrived shortly after we got settled in and I began to inhale sushi like there was no tomorrow (not having eaten since 1000 EST that day, my blood sugar had crashed and the only thing I could think of was getting tanked up).

The five of us piled into Silicon's car for the drive downtown, DM 101 on the stereo. The drive was amazingly short and direct, bringing us to the club in record time (for us). Hasufin, Lyssa, and I piled out of the car while Mark and Silicon drove around to locate parking within reasonable distance from the site, which is interesting if not entertaining when traffic is still coming fast and heavy at 2230 EST in downtown DC.

Once admitted to the club, we waited around downstairs for Silicon and Mark to arrive. I guess they spent more time than they'd planned looking for parking because we eventually ran into them upstairs on the dance floor, with DM's greatest hits coming through. They'd set up a projection screen on the stage to show videos and concert footage in lieu of an actual concert, which was a neat effect given the decor of the venue. We promptly headed for the front of the dancefloor and staked out space to cut a rug. Lyssa's bellydancing skills fit well with synthpop; Silicon dragon was all over the dance floor, carving a wide swath through people packed standing-room-only doing more than the 'white boy with beer bounce' so familiar to patrons of Pittsburgh nightclubs. After so long in the data center, I remembered how to move my limbs in such a way that I didn't accidentally hurt anyone and got my groove on.

Lyssa had spent the evening trying to get Rialian to join us at the club, whom she'd met earlier last week at a gather at his house. Aahh, Rialian: As tall as Mickey Finn, built like Jack Skellington, and able to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that you can do the 'YMCA' to any genre of music if only you try hard enough.

Around midnight Friday night, just as Personal Jesus started, Rialian walked in.

Most of the night was spent dancing and making people wonder who we were and why we had descended upon the club. We did retire for a time to the cafe' (you knew that a cafe' had to be involved, didn't you?) to sit and talk. And talk. And talk some more. And make everyone in the cafe wince in pain at Rialian's puns. And talk some more. And basically get to know one another. Lyssa had the privilege of visiting Rialian a few days ago, which I had to miss out on because I don't live in DC. But that's getting off topic.

Several bottles of black cherry soda and chocolate later, we were well on our way to planning the eventual downfall of the human race, by way of throwing a big party and trading mead recipes.

World domination 101 - "Do you really want the responsibility of controlling an entire planet?"

We finished the night on the dancefloor, the way every night should be capped off. The Blackcat was closing for the night and we had to figure out where to go next. The first thing to do was to find everyone.. Mark was missing.

As it turns out, Mark had met up with four young humans of the female sex and was exchanging contact information with all of them. Not wanting to get in our friend's way, we spoke hastily to the.Silicon.Dragon and determined that he would stay by Mark's side and give him a lift home (if need be); the rest of us thumbed a ride back to Lyssa's with Rialian. Hasufin had to be up for work in a few hours, so he left shortly after we returned home. Lyssa, Rialian, and I spent the next four hours talking about everything and anything and drinking most of a bottle of Hasufin's mysterious 'batch six mead'.

Lyssa and I slept until 1500 EST Saturday, then ventured out to find dinner, in the form of hot takeout from Whole Paycheque and Giant (the food from Giant wound up sucking, and was pitched shortly after sampling it). The evening was spent at Lyssa's, sitting around watching television and generally feeling disoriented because we woke up at an unusual point in our circadian cycles (i.e., in mid-afternoon instead of during the morning).

Sunday, we slept in again, to the tune of 1200 EST or therabouts. Lyssa made breakfast, and afterward we went back to bed to, yes, sleep for another few hours. This weekend wiped us out completely. We ran to the supermarket for groceries, and then I loaded everything back into my car for the trek back home.


I'm home, safe and sound.

I drove to DC this weekend to spend some time with Lyssa before her final semester of grad school began, and we wound up having a couple of adventures, almost from the get-go. I'll write about those tomorrow, however.

I pulled out of DC around 1800 EST, after loading the few things I'd brought into the car. A quick stop off for petrol and I was on the beltway headed in the general direction of Pennsylvania (by way of Boston).

I never said that the beltway made any sense. All I said was that the best way to travel on it is to put the hammer down and pray that you can find the exit you need before you get cut off by a convoy of tractor-trailers and minivans that think they've got the acceleration and fuel efficiency of a cyclone bike. This I managed with little difficulty; after some practise you learn how to drive like an asshole just enough to find the lane you need for the proper amount of time.

About twenty minutes from the border, it began to snow. Then it began to snow very hard. Then visibility plunged to +/-10 feet.

Navigating by the tail lights of the car in front of me, I managed to make it all the way to the Pennsylvania border, at which time I changed lanes to actually enter a state famous for forcing everyone driving on the highways (regardless of whether they are two-lane, three-lane, or four-lane highways) to drive in the rightmost lane most of the time... and slid headlong on a patch of ice. Thank the gods for antilock brakes, my car ground safely to a halt at the red light.

Six seconds later, my hearts and stomach caught up with me and resumed their customary locations within my anatomy,

The drive got even more hair-raising from there, mostly due to the blowing snow keeping visibility at a comfy +/- 10 feet with the highway covered with a nice mixture of ice crystals, snow, slush, and even liquid water. This not only obscured the lines painted on the asphalt, but it also made it next to impossible to change lanes without skidding laterally (which I did twice).

And now, an open letter to the dipshit driving the big rig who nearly ran me off the road:

Dear Dumbass:

Thank you so much for sneaking into my blind spot while we were driving towards Pittsburgh on I-76 west tonight. I really appreciate the way that you waited until the cab of your tractor was right next to my passenger's side window when you blew the horn loudly enough to deafen me for a good twenty miles. You could easily have waited another minute until you were ahead of me before attempting to cross into my lane without looking. When you decided to pretend that you were identifying yourself as a trucker on Coast to Coast AM five hours early, you scared the living hell out of me. When you began to turn left at the same time, you almost forced me into the concrete barrier separating the outbound and inbound lanes, which could easily have killed me. I sincerely hope that the next time you take to the open highway in your big rig you get pulled over by the police and arrested because your employer has you smuggling something highly felonious in the United States of America.

Sincerely yours,

The Doctor

Thankfully, by the time I reached the Allegheny County line, the snow had been reduced to a light dusting. The roads, while wet, were not treacherous in this area, and my return to the Garden fully uneventful.

I plan on paying the parking ticket I recieved in DC along with my gas bill tomorrow night. I forgot that, unlike Pittsburgh, metered parking does not become a free-for-all at 1700 EST, but at 2200 EST.

I'm haemorhhaging money this month.


Following hot on the heels of the winning of the X Prize (for the successful launch of the first commercial spaceflight) by Spaceship One, funded by Paul Allen, Jeff Bezos (of Amazon.com fame) is planning to construct a commercial spaceflight facility in western Texas. Bezos' company, called Blue Origin (has anyone else noticed that the names of new companies are starting to sound like those in Walter Jon Williams novels?) is constructing the facility to serve as a testing and operations centre for privately funded suborbital flights. Information is sketchy right now because Bezos and his backers are keeping most of the project a strictly controlled secret; there's an excellent chance that they'll be the first in this field, because they've got a jump on everyone else in this new field of endeavour. They're serious enough about it that they're talking to the FAA for clearance for test launches and the EPA to have environmental impact studies performed on their prospective launch site.

A couple of days ago, I sent senator Arlen Specter an e-mail pertaining to the possibility of one Alberto Gonzales to a position of White House council. This morning, my e-mail server sent back the following response: "Delivery to the following recipients failed: Arlen_Specter@specter.senate.gov"

I can't say that I'm very surprised by this. Whispering in a windstorm..


Well, it's the middle of January, and the expected high temperature today is supposed to be 60 degrees Farenheit. As I was was walking out the door this morning, it was easily warm enough to only have to wear a turtleneck to stay comfortable. It was about as warm last night, too, definitely warm enough to drive around with the windows down and the music up, just like early spring. The thing is, the temperature is expected to drop 40 degrees by sunset tonight, with snow predicted for the weekend.

There's a joke in Pittsburgh that if you don't like the weather, just wait ten minutes and it'll change, hopefully to something more to your liking. I didn't know that it could be quite so radical, though.

Last night was a good night to drive around, though. The wanderlust struck after dinner and I hopped into the car and headed for the open road. I hit the grocery store to pick up a few things and then, for the hell of it, drove to the mall to see what's been going on in the mundane world, the place of pastel coloured spring-line clothing and video games of every type and skill level, the better to spend hours sitting in front of the TV with. Things haven't really changed much - there weren't many people out last night, especially high school kids. Stores were empty and staff were always walking by to ask if I was looking for anything in particular. Hot Topic has a limited-edition release of the soundtrack to The Nightmare Before Christmas on vinyl. No, I didn't buy it, but I did note the existence of the two-record set. But that aside, it was a quiet evening, an excellent chance to do a little people watching and to see how things have changed.

They haven't changed radically.

Everyone who's ever taken a chemistry class has probably seen or done the experiement where you take a tiny chip of lithium or sodium and drop it into a petri dish of water to watch them explosively react. Of course, if you performed the experiment yourself, you were probably decked out in protective gear, including goggles and probably gloves, in case something went wrong (but nothing ever went wrong, did it?) In later days, if you kept up with chemistry in some form, someone's probably gotten the bright idea of acquiring an amount of one of those elements far larger than that allotted in the past with the intent of throwing it into a much larger volume of water to see what would happen. Someone did, and documented the escapade. A very large amount of metallic sodium was acquired from eBay (I wonder why they didn't spike the auction because it is a dangerous material) and a device was constructed that would safely drop large chunks of the metal into water. The article talks at great length about the dangers of doing stuff like this, among them the fact that the smoke generated by such an activity probably isn't smoke as we usually think of it but a mist of sodium compounds which probably won't play nicely with your mucus membranes or eyes, the great quantity of heat produced, and the unnerving predilection of chunks of sodium to jump great distances while reacting explosively. If you are even peripherally interested in hijinks like this, give it a look. Also give the QuickTime videos on the site a look, because they've very interesting.

As someone who's lost a few sets of eyebrows, please don't try this at home. It's just too dangerous.

Vlieger and Vandam have just released their line of stylish handbags and briefcases with a twist: Raised outlines of guns and knives, to make prospective muggers think twice about rolling you for your shiny things. There are also laptop bags that have outlines of groceries, in the hope of making it less likely that you'll have yours snatched.

Now ask yourself this: If you were a security guard or police officer and you spotted someone walking around and you saw what almost perfectly duplicates the outline of a Barette 9mm pistol on someone's handbag, what would you do?

If you said, "Accost them because they appear to be armed, as any good law enforcement officer would do," you're right.

I'd love to see someone try to get through an airport with one of these.

Frequent readers are no doubt aware of the problems I've been having with Dell Computers. In November of 2004 I ordered a new laptop computer, custom built, from them. Among the customisations I ordered was an extra 256MB of RAM. When I recieved Luel, he did not have the memory expansion installed or included. I contacted Dell Customer Support and asked that they send the memory module under separate cover. The order was cancelled a few days later. I then called them and asked why they cancelled the order. They didn't know, but they put another one through.

That other order was cancelled near the end of December 2004.

I called today and got the runaround for the better part of two hours before giving up. Thankfully, they're not going to charge me (it turns out that they didn't charge me to begin with - damn their un-itemised invoices (their invoices have everything I requested but each option doesn't have a separate price, so I really have no idea what I paid for and what I didn't)) but I'm sick and tired of dealing with them. I cancelled the order and told them off.

Ladies, gentlemen, lifeforms of all ages.. don't order from Dell. If you need to get customer support, you're just going to get the runaround. If you placed an order for a custom machine and something wasn't done or wasn't included in your order, chances are you're not going to get it. Take your business somewhere else.


My garbage disposal ate its first spoon today. Both appear to still be functional, but I'm not sure I want a spoon with those kind of gouges in them anywhere near the soft tissues of my mouth. They look a little too sharp for comfort.

No one is safe from compromise these days... even T-Mobile. Their network was compromised by a cracker for over a year before being captured during Operation Firewall in October of 2004. Nicholas Jacobson, age 21, was arrested for monitoring the e-mail sent from a cellphone/PDA owned by an operative of the US Secret Service, as well as copying and redistributing documents sent and read from agent Peter Cavicchia, reading and redistributing customer records (chock full of Social Security Numbers and addresses) and downloading photographs taken by the camera-phones of T-Mobile users. An informant in the underground reported Jacobson to the Secret Service when Jacobson posted to a number of web forums about what he was capable of doing (basically doing go-tos on people given their phone numbers). Because the Secret Service offered Jacobson a deal (leniency in exchange for becoming an informant) they're keeping word of this bust under wraps to avoid compromising their new tool. Undercover Secret Service agents made contact with Jacobson and offered him the use of an open proxy server which they'd rigged up to record all traffic passing through it to gather evidence.

Most of the parties burned by this security incident either refused comment or have not responded to interview requests.

Sysadmins take warning: Microsoft has retired Windows NT v4.0. No further patches or security updates are available. Also, premiere and pay-per-incident technical support have been discontinued. Time to get on the upgrade treadmill and drop another quarter or so of your IT budget.

Koji Kondo, called the Blindfolded Pianist has posted sheet music of all of the music from the Super Mario Brothers games on his website. Check this stuff out - it's wild.

System modders take note - now you can rice out your RAM. Corsair has developed what they are calling XMS XPERT memory modules, which have a fully programmable 10 character LED display attached to the edge facing away from the mainboard. By default the displays list memory speed, current running voltage, and temperature of each module in sequence, though other messages are possible. Each DIMM has a microcontroller chip on-board which controls the LCD displays. The modules are PC 3200 XL DDR (double data rate) and will be sold in kits of two 512MB DIMMS for a starting price of $449us. Expected street date: 1 February 2005.

Bruce Schneier has opened fire on school districts fingerprinting children to prevent kidnapping, and he's done so far better than I ever could. If you're concerned about this, or you just want to know how taking a kid's fingerprints is going to prevent them from being kidnapped (it won't, though it will make it easier to identify the body if it's ever found), read it.

An airplane with the registration number N379P has been spotted in the skies numerous times since 11 September 2001. The thing is, no one seems to know whose plane it really is. Speculation runs rampant. The name 'Leonard T. Bayard' has been connected to this registration number by way of Bayard Foreign Marketing, LLC, but that doesn't seem to help. Check out the links they've dug up and see for yourself.

Microbiology, it seems, just mibght be harmful to your health, though not for the usual reasons. Since late 2001 or early 2002, microbiologists all over the world, the real luminaries of the field, have been turning up dead. The number has recently reached 25, incidentally, but to get back to things, one or two every month or so are turning up dead - clubbed to death, shot in robberies, mugged but nothing has been taken, electrocuted, in one instance even apparently blown off of a highway by a passing truck, where he fell to his death. Rumours of this have been flying around since the get-go, wich I've been keeping an eye on, but I hadn't found any hard documentation at all on the matter. Dropping words into ears hasn't worked, either. I wonder why it took so long for this to make it to the newswires...

lspacing=0 cellpadding=2> You Are 28 Years Old
Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe. 13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world. 20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences. 30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more! 40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.
What Age Do You Act?

.mp3 files of the speakers at HOPE 2004 are now available on the web, thanks to the 2600 crew. Share and enjoy!


I completely forgot about the North Hills Pagan Discussion Group meeting last night. I'm so used to not being able to go out at night, it never even occured to me to go. Instead, I spent the night doing lifestyle maintenance, stuff like picking up the Garden a little, changing the water in the aquarium, and reading some stuff for work that I've been putting off for a while. My bad.

No nightmares last night.

That stuff aside, not much has been going on lately. Work's kept me busy so there hasn't been much going on to write about.

On the Net, nobody knows that you actually bought your #1 spot in the search engine results.. at least, nobody that hasn't done a little digging. Ken Lay, former CEO of Enron Oil, the company famous for screwing all of its employees when upper management sucked it dry with their private scams is paying off major search engines to make sure that his version of the Enron story gets top billing. Yahoo, Google, and America On-Line's internal search engine are being paid to the tune of several cents every click (times a few hundred thousand clicks...) to ensure that Web searches on various terms related to the Enron scandal return a link to a version of the events that make him not look like the bad guy, complete with articles that paint him as a decent human being, some legal documents he's filed in the past, and a few editorials.

Incidentally, Ken Lay is charged with eleven counts of securities and wire fraud, making false financial statements, artifically inflating earnings.. the exact charges may be read in < ahref="http://news.findlaw.com/cnn/docs/enron/usvlay70704ind.pdf">this .pdf file, which is the full list of charges against Lay.

You make the call.

Copyright law was originally meant, if I understand the documentation, to prevent people from taking someone else's work and calling it their own. When it was first developed, I really don't think that it was designed to prevent people from taking other people's stuff apart to see how it worked, or to see if there was anything hidden in it that could prove hazardous. The direction I'm going in with this is the trial of Guillaume Tena, who reverse engineered parts of Tegam Viguard and found a number of security vulnerabilities in it. Tena published what he found in 2002, and was promptly sued by Tegam, though the actual trial wasn't supposed to start until 2004 (it didn't actually start until 5 January 2005). Tegam is asking that Tena be given four months in jail and a total of €906k for fines and damages. I think they got angry because Tena discovered that by exploiting these vulnerabilities, it was possible to make the antivirus scanner not detect some viral code, which contradicts Tegam's claim that Viguard detects and removes 100% of all viruses.

Feel like looking at web-based securicams that no one's bothered to configure yet? Note: Some of these links might not be work-safe, and the legality of peeking through these cams is questionable at best. Use an anonymiser if you're worried.

Here's another collection of securicams that really need to be configured properly. The same caveats apply.

In a move that is probably surprising the detainees as much as everyone else in the world, four British citizens and an Australian detained at Guantanamo Bay will be released 'soon' (as in real soon now knowing how bureaucracy works), though a timeframe of two weeks has been given. One confirmed suspect will also be released during this time due to lack of evidence. The US controllers of the prison refused comment. Out of 550 detainees, only four have actually been charged with anything. The four have been incarcerated at the prison camp without being charged for the past three years.

The "don't report a miscarriage, go to jail" bill has been spiked. HB1677 has drawn a hell of a lot of fire from weblogs all over the Net, and Cosgrove pulled the bill before it could be made law.

Way to go, people.


This morning got off to a decent start, modulo having to backtrack a few times. Everything went smooth as silk up until I realised that I'd forgotten my pocket computer and cellphone. Because I was standing on the staircase of my apartment building, turning around could only be done in place. Somehow I got my umbrella caught in the staircase, which made me trip, which didn't knock me down the stairs but did result in my rapping my knee on one of the metal bars, which still smarts a little. That aside, everything's fine.

..and the dreams this morning. Ugh.

I hate heights. That is, in part, why I used to rock climb and why I still like going up on roofs - in the hope that one day I'll eventually burn my fear of heights away, and they won't bother me quite so much anymore. My dreams early this morning were full of walking through someone's opulent mansion, all highly polished marble, granite, and brass. There were two staircases, one narrow and one very, very narrow, little more than one foot square slabs of marble balanced on brass rods. I was with a group of people who were going down into the lower levels for some reason, and I got stuck with going down the really tiny staircase.. and then I froze from veritgo. Utterly unable to move, I was paralysed by visions of losing my balance, falling, and perhaps mercifully bashing my brains out after a few impacts with the steps. The dream seemed to go on for a good half-hour or so, even though it was probably only a few minutes of realtime. The worst part was that I kept jolting myself awake, my hearts hammering in my ears, then trying to go back to sleep.. only to re-enter the dream in exactly the same place I'd awakened from.

At least my dreams are fully thread-safe.

By 0700 EST I'd finally managed to rid myself of the nightmare and get a few more minutes of rest.

Any fucker who will throw a kitten into the ocean three miles off of the coast of Clearwater, FL to drown or be eaten by the fish and gulls should be drawn and quartered.

Microsoft Internet Explorer has another vulnerability that can result in remote execution of code on a workstation that just views a malicious web page. Specifically, a hole in the cross-site scripting engine of MSIE allows a specially formatted web page to upload and execute a programme.

Firefox, people, Firefox.

This is a pretty cool idea - Sandisk has developed an SD card that has a USB v2.0 interface built into it. You can plug the module into your camera/phone/PDA and if you don't have a reader on a computer, you can open the case and plug it straight into a USB port, so you don't have to carry around a reader or a data cable. Keep your eyes open for this one on the consumer market, it looks pretty cool.

It's a bad idea to drink to excess. It's a bad idea to make an ass of yourself if you're drunk or sober. It's dangerous to piss people off if you pass out. Note: This site isn't work-safe. Read at your own risk.

If the ethics mavens don't pick up on this, something's wrong.. the Bush administration paid political columnist Armstrong Williams to write articles hyping the No Child Left Behind programme. Williams recently admitted to taking $240kus from the Bush administration in exchange for writing colums that painted the programme in a favourable light. It should be noted that there are a number of federal laws on the books meant to prevent taxpayers' money from being used to influence public opinion. It was stipulated in the deal that Armstrong also try to convince other columnists to write such articles, also.


The past two days have been on the harrowing side, to be sure. Last night I had to drive back to the old homestead to go through the last of my stuff that was in my old room so that renovations could begin. There was a lot of stuff piled up in the closet that I haven't looked at since I got here, a good ten years ago (nearly eleven). There were short stories that I didn't even remember writing in high school, keepsakes from as far back as grade school(!), stuff I brought back from any number of conventions that I stuffed in amongst the clothes and forgot about. There's a lot of stuff that can be thrown out; it's sheer cruft, stuff that's so old it's practically decaying. I also found a lot of stuff that I'd forgotten about, stuff that I actually packed up and brought back to the Garden with me. I found the Latin dictionary that I was using to learn the language when I was very, very small, a small cache of disappearing ink, all manner of trinkets from days gone by, old clothes, baseball caps.. I even found a real baseball bat, from the days when the Pittsburgh Pirates could actually win games, and the stadiums in Pittsburgh weren't the private scam of the administration (so let me get this straight.. the original stadium was not even paid off yet and they demolished it and constructed two new ones, which sent the city's economy into a nosedive). It'd old enough that Atari is listed as one of the sponsors of the game.

A lot of that stuff can safely be pitched, not because I don't want it but, as I said earlier, it's just decaying.

The short stories were from college and high school, and upon leafing through them I was mortified. I couldn't believe that I ever wrote stuff like that. It was, to put it mildly, tripe. The stuff I wrote later in college wasn't too bad, but...

Lyssa and I had a long discussion about htat last night after I returned to the Garden. She says that it's perfectly normal, and that the early work of a lot of people is bad. I'm still a little embarassed about it, though. A lot of them are the dreams of a high-school kid who really needed to get out and see the world, to be honest. I wound up doing just that, though, after I graduated from high school. Without a lot of things tying me down, I was able to go out and about. I went to parties and conventions, had some close scrapes, did a few things that I regret, did a lot more things that I don't regret, and learned a lot about life. I met some people I love, some people I detest, and a lot of people who fall somewhere in between those two poles. I got to see the world, which is the most important thing. When I have a chance, I still do. I go out and do stuff, which is really what I was dreaming about.

Sometimes I need a sledgehammer to get things through my head.

The stuff I found from grade school was the hardest to go through, though. Just touching some of those things brought back memories that I didn't know were inside me, many of which that I really wish had stayed buried. The emotions were palpable as I picked up lengths of paper, some with tempra paint smeared over them, others with hastily scrawled words. My hand stung as I looked at some of the things I found. There's a lot of pain in those things, pain and suffering. Events that I am not comfortable talking about, let alone thinking about are in there.

Flashbacks of those things came fast and furious - flashbacks indicitive of a brain that is conditioned to not let go.

I am not sure that I still want those things around.

The headache finally faded sometime Saturday morning.

After burning another couple of CDs to back up data from Leandra, and taking one final backup of everyone's home directories (anyone want to donate to the Network so I can get a DVD-RW drive?) I shut Leandra down and began installing the latest revision of Slackware. My experience with Debian GNU/Linux was, on the whole, a good one. My only complaint is that some of the systemware was very out of date (a href="http://www.xfree86.org/">XFree86 v4.1.0?! That was a serious downgrade, with corresponding 3D acceleration problems) and I was unable to compile more modern software packages on it. I didn't like having to download, compile, and install the latest revision of Python, for example, to run some of the utilities I find essential; I kept the Debian-native version of Python installed so some of Debian's natively built utilities would run, also. That kind of disparity I find highly annoying.

Slackware's gotten much better with included application. The packages are still gzipped-tarballs (.tgz) with some scripts inside them to facilitate installing and removing the package, and they're not as granular as, say, Fedora Core, but when you're building a personal system, it's not uncommon to install both the application and development packages at the same time; Slackware has both the apps and their develkits in the same package, to install at the same time. Six of one, a half-dozen of the other. The system initscripts have also changed such that services listening on the network interfaces don't necessarily start at boot time (when /etc/rc.d/rc.S and /etc/rc.d/rc.inet2 execute). Now they call other initscripts (for example, /etc/rc.d/rc.bind) if those scripts are marked as executable; otherwise the binaries just sit on the drive to be run whenever you need them. At installation time you're also given an opportunity to pick the services you want to run and the ones you don't (to re-use my example, if you install the BIND package so you have the host and nslookup utilities available, you don't necessarily have to be running the named daemon as well).

For those of you who are tired of compiling everything on a Slackware machine, check out slapt-get, which works just like Debian's APT (Advanced Packaging Tool). If you put into your /etc/slapt-get/slapt-getrc file the URLS of your favourite Slackware mirror and a mirror of linuxpackages.net, you'll have access to a large repository of Slackware packages, again, just like Debian. I've made a habit of using slapt-get to keep my boxes up to date, and it's seems to work very well. A problem I have run into is that sometimes the mirrors of Linuxpackages fall out of sync when new files are uploaded, and sometimes an app can't be installed automatically. I've taken to using lynx to download those packages to install them by hand, which isn't the best solution but one that should be kept in mind if you go this route. The other thing I've noticed is that sometimes slapt-get will notice third-party packages on another site and install them as updates when in fact they aren't. When I was updating Leandra slapt-get downloaded packages of x.org v6.8.1 because it thought they were upgrades (which they technically are), uninstalled the native x.org packages, and installed the new ones. I really didn't want this, and the v6.8.1 packages don't seem to be as stable as the native ones are. 3D acceleration is a little hairy, and I ran into some trouble when installing OpenOffice.org. If this isn't what you want (it isn't what I want; I'll be downgrading in the near future) add the string "x11-*" to the EXCLUDE line of /etc/slapt-get/slapt-getrc.

By 0200 EST this morning, everything was up and running once more, and Leandra is happy and healthy. I helped her get comfortable in her new systemware last night, and she hasn't had any complaints.


I'm glad that I walked around my car in the opposite direction yesterday after work - I discovered that I'd gotten a parking ticket on Wednesday. In Pittsburgh, parking tickets have a ten-day window in which they must be paid, or else the city will theoretically come after you for ignoring it. Since the city is in something of a budget crunch right now, they very well might decide to clamp down on people who don't get around to paying the $25us in a timely manner (they've been going through their backlog of tickets for the past year or so, much to the chagrin of many who work in semiurban areas of the city). Instead of tucking it under a windscreen wiper, they stuffed it down into the vent, where I didn't see it immediately.

Anyway, paying $25us for a parking ticket amounts to paying $5us per day for parking, which is still disgustingly cheap for Pittsburgh, where it isn't unusual to pay upwards of $20us per day for parking.

I also got my credit card bill paid last night (bastards think nothing of cutting you a 'Holiday concession' by only charging you $50us but then raising your rate the very next month a point or two) through their website, but I fail to see why a cash transfer from my bank to MBSA's coffers would take four days, which is conveniently (for them) a few days past the due date, which will no doubt result in a late charge next month, which screws me out of any chance to negotiate a lower interest rate. If I can pay my gas and electric bills online and have the payments credited within sixty minutes, why can't MBSA do the same thing?

I can see why loan sharks are so rare these days - the credit bureaus don't like competition.

Most folks who live in the US might not know that the Federal Communications Commission allows private citizens to broadcast at 100 milliwatts or below on the FM radio bands without requiring a commercial license, only some care to ensure that they're not interfering with anyone else (particularly emergency communications) or causing problems for the folks living around them (RF interference). Bruce Perens has been experimenting with this lately, and he's posted his results to his website for everyone to check out. He wanted to listen to net.radio around his house but the little FM transmitters that you can plug into your iPod's headphone jack don't have much range, so he picked up a tiny FM transmitter from eBay, dialed back the broadcast power a little, and discovered that he was able to cover his block without too much trouble. By connecting it to a decent broadcast antenna it would be possible to get much greater broadcast range out of this unit.

Something to consider messing around with, while it's still legal.

If you get roped into going into Starbucks some time, you'll find that their menu of beverages is vast, yet poorly documented. Someone's put together a field guide to Starbuck's coffees so you know exactly what you're getting. "misto" really means "cafe' au lait" and "americano" is their name for "espresso diluted to half strength", for example. This field guide also does a good job of defining exactly what all of the trendy coffee-like drinks are (what the hell is a "frappucino", anyway?) so you can discuss coffee drinks intelligently with people who spend just as much on coffee as they do on the rest of lunch.

Personally, I go with plain coffee, the house blend of wherever I happen to wind up for coffee. If I want something sweet, or something that has a lot of milk in it, I go for dried fruit or ice cream. Then again, that's just me.

I've heard something interesting on the winds about truck stops in the US and wireless networking (802.11 - either type 'b' or type 'g'). My source says that more and more truckstops, at least up and down the Eastern Seaboard, have open wireless access points running because truckers, who are doing more and more bookkeeping over the Net (travel logs, I'd presume) need them to keep their records up to date (and of course, check their e-mail; being on the road for weeks at a time has a way of cutting you off from the rest of the world). I haven't tried any of them yet (when travelling alone, I like to keep signs of expensive electronic equipment hidden for obvious reasons) but I am curious about doing so.

My source says that he's used them often in the past two weeks (he's been on the road pretty much the whole time, and they've been the only way he's been able to get on the Net) without fail.

Pardon my language, but what the flaming fuck?! Have a miscarriage in the state of Virginia, don't report it within 12 hours, be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor and wind up in jail for a year and/or a $1200us fine?!. Representative John Cosgrove has proposed this as bill hb1677. Because fetal death statistics are carefully tracked by the US government, they must be reported by doctors. The thing is, if you see a doctor (and if you're preganant and you start haemorhhaging you damn well better get to the emergency room), they're going to report it no matter what. This article makes it sound like you can miscarry at home and not be in any danger (bullshit) and safely not seek medical assistance (double bullshit). The article makes news of a poorly-aimed bill that really needs to be reworked but in a needlessly sensationalistic (and inaccurate) manner. As for this being an infringement of privacy, it probably isn't. The loss of a fetus is not a small matter, and must be addressed by a physician. This goes into your medical records. One of the reasons that these statistics are monitored is to keep track of potential environmental problems that may be the cause of large numbers of miscarriages in a particular geographic area (whether or not these problems will ever be addressed I do not intend to discuss at this time). Keep an eye on it, but take this write-up with a fairly hefty grain of salt.

These guys are on crack. I really don't think that the United States used a neutron bomb to clear out Kubaysaat Street. Neutron bombs require a conventional nuclear device to generate the energy to set them off. A conventional nuclear device does a hell of a lot of damage on its own. As much as I hate war and detest violence, this sounds like hysteria to drum up knee-jerk support.

I don't like being people trying to manipulate me. I don't like people trying to manipulate other people, either.

That's it. The next time I get an urge to write about a nuclear exchange I'm going to drug myself into a stupor to keep from doing so. I think I set something loose yesterday.


Today started off with a coffee maker mishap. The water in the tank, instead of boiling and going through the grounds just boiled and overflowed the counter top. Thankfully, I caught the malfunction before it went too far and flooded the entire countertop, and certainly before anything electrical was damaged by the pseudo-coffee. Some paper towels later and everything appears right as rain, though there isn't as much coffee as usual in there for everyone.

Depressing. That coffee's going in my barrel.

I feel compelled to write about something that's been going on over a number of mailing lists that I monitor. The whole "end of the world/final battle" thing is beginning to heat up again, with some people awaiting (anxiously, I think) another world war so that the human race will be obliterated, leaving only a select few to take over.

Folks.. that's bullshit.

First of all, nuclear war isn't all that likely at this point in history. Mutually assured destruction (the doctrine of "If you nuke us, we'll nuke you just before your bombs hit and we'll both be erased") pretty much assures that no one is going to push the button. Second, every continent on this planet has natural resources that the others cannot do without. If the US were nuked, the grainfields would be destroyed, or at least rendered unusable for the next few millennia. Because the United States ships grain overseas, this screws a sizable segment of the world's population. Now, please ask yourself: If you were a fairly big country, and you had the opportunity to destroy a large fraction of the grain that the peoples of the world needed to survive, don't you think that all of those countries who would be getting their starvation on would be leaning on you to no do it? Even if it meant that they ran to someone else and had them point a few at you just so they could eat?

You can't plan stuff like that without shaking up the power structure, and that power structure is going to react in such a way to prevent you from going through with it.

Second, such a war would mean the contamination of much of the world's water supply. Fallout goes into rivers, which go into the oceans, which would be carried by the transoceanic currents and distributed throughout the oceans (though probably not evenly; chaotic systems are neat like that). If this were to happen during this hypothetical war, this would poison the oceans, as well as killing off another big percentage of the world's food supply. Archipelagos and coastal nations would be crushed by this loss of ocean life. I'm not qualified to comment on how messing with transoceanic currents (remember - thermonuclear war implicitly means high temperatures, on the order of several thousand degrees Farenheit, which has the potential to change air and water currents through convection and sheer blast waves) would affect the oceans and the weather, so I will refrain from speculation on this point. I will, however, ask that you at least wonder about that for a little while.

As I mentioned before, there's going to be a lot of pressure from everyone else on the globe to not do something like this. War is bad for everyone, nuclear war moreso.

Third, intelligence networks these days are pretty complex, and the likelihood of a fifth column detonating a nuclear device or even a dirty bomb (a very powerful conventional explosive laced with radioactive material; the blast throws fallout around while not being a true nuclear detonation) with the end of making it look like one country just lobbed an ICBM at another country is small. If such a bomb were to go off.. well, that would just suck for obvious reasons. What I am driving at right now is that the leaders of the country which was just attacked would hopefully use their collective brain before their collective right index finger and consult their intelligence agencies and spooks and hopefully find out that no one sent an ICBM their way, but a bunch of folks with a mad-on and a bomb just made life interesting, in the sense of an ancient Chinese curse. Net result: No one lobbing nukes willy-nilly.

Fourth.. come on, people (you know who you are). Just because you think you're better than the rest of the human race by dint of who you are and/or what you are does not mean that you're immune to an overpressure wave, several thousand degrees Farenheit, and hard radiation. You're also quite vulnerable to a bullet fired from a gun of some kind, sharp objects inserted into many parts of your bodies, loss of blood, long falls, and just about anything else that would kill a 'normal human'. Get over yourselves. If there was such a war you'd not be next in line to inherit this planet, you'd probably be just as dead as everyone else.

Fifth, there have been people prophecying the End Times and The Final War for thousands of years, and none of them have been right. The end of the world has been slated to be in 2012 CE, 633 BCE, 1976 CE, 167 BCE, 2000 CE, 1000 CE, 53 CE... the list goes on and on. It's highly likely that you're not going to be right, either, so there's no sense in trying to stir people up.

That's not to say, however, that some wingnut out there won't get it in his or her head that they're obligated to make some prophecy come true and do their best to bring about the end of the world somehow. People are funny like that.

Some of you are NOT scions of lines of Celtic Pagans, you're following paths that were reconstructed from what people (both archeologists and neopagans) know of what things might have been like back then, but no one really knows. People that far back didn't leave written records, and the scholarship of many reconstructionists is spotty at best. If you've got some hidden knowledge about the way things were, by all means, please share it with the rest of the world. You'll revolutionise Celtic archeology, as well as comparative religion. I, for one, would love to learn how those languages were spoken and written (mostly so I could go over the scholarship of some of the texts I've come across to see exactly what was right and what wasn't).

There is no conspiracy keeping you from doing so. You'd go through hell proving it, to be sure, but I don't think there'd be any risk to your lives attempting to prove it.

Also, the Burning Times were not a pagan or neopagan hunt, they were the result of patriarchal societies trying to take land and wealth from people (women, in particular) that were seen as threats to power or may have deviated from religious dogma because they were midwives or herbalists. It wasn't even the Church that was behind it, but local communities acting on their own.

Do a little research, people, and be prepared to find stuff that you don't like.

Just when you thought it was safe to play video games, along comes the phenomenon of game mods, hacks for games that add or alter gameplay in certain ways. Think of them as adding your own easter eggs. The thing is that mods can go horribly wrong under certain circumstances, in the case of The Sims 2 spreading like viruses due to how the virtual environments are handled. Some mods that have been created for this game change the rules in fundamental ways, such as allowing a single cup of espresso to take care of all of a Sim's needs or changing how gravity works (Sims... in.. spaaaaaace!) The thing is, not everyone wants these mods installed, and there's no clear-cut way of removing the hacks once they're in place. Once a single house has been exposed to this functionality, the entire Sims neighborhood of a given copy of the game is altered. The Electronic Arts user forums are burning up with people asking for help.

I think that this is happening due to how objects are handled in the architecture of the game. In object-oriented design, the programmer develops a single prototypical object, which is then copied ('instantiated', technically) every time a copy of that object is needed someplace. If you change the prototype object, you change every instance of it throughout the code. So if you install, say, a hacked toaster that talks but doesn't want to actually make toast, you're installing a hacked prototype toaster, which then propagates throughout your game.

Some particularly savvy game modders have developed lists of mods and software that can scan copies of The Sims 2 for hacks and give the option to uninstall them, if that's what the user wants. Props, folks.

I think the polyamory patch is kind of neat, though.


Welcome to 2005 C.E., everyone. I realise that this is late in coming, but I've been unplugged for the past week or so (well, mostly) and away from the console. I'm back in Pittsburgh aftger a five-hour drive home and stop at the office to take care of some problems that were discovered early yesterday morning.

It never fails - go on vacation and all hell breaks loose.

The past few days were spent with Lyssa and Hasufin (who's crashing with Lys until he moves into his new flat in a couple of days) watching Fullmetal Alchemist (yes, my new addiction... I'll stop talking about it when I finish watching it), kicking around DC window shopping, and sitting around talking. At Rialian's suggestion, Lyssa and I checked out a new store near the University of Maryland. They didn't have much there, they'd only been in business for a month or two, but the two folks who run the place were very nice and went out of their way to talk to us. The store is called Spark of Spirit (9937 Rhode Island Avenue; College Park, MD 20740) and is spitting distance from Route 1. If you're in the area, stop in and say 'hi'.

Tell 'em the technomancers sent you.

We also stopped in at one of the more fun kinds of stores - a comic book shop that's basically a warehouse of comics, toys, and collectibles. It was just down the street from Spark of Spirit and is literally crammed floor to ceiling with stuff. If you look hard enough you'll find tapes of ancient wire-fu flicks the likes of which have not been seen since USA cancelled Kung Fu Theatre and trading cards which you've probably never heard of (Speed Racer, Menudo, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, to name just a few of the dozens that Lyssa and I came across), and collector's-only releases of stuff that hasn't been released on DVD yet, such as the pilot movie of The Six Million Dollar Man (yeah, yeah... I bought it). They don't have any current business cards but once I do have one I'll get them linked.

I was up early yesterday morning to try to get stuff down while I was down at Lyssa's, but the problem I mentioned earlier stopped me short. The three of us didn't get a start on the rest of the day until well after 1200 EST, when we drove out to Seven Seas for lunch.

Everything I've had thus far there is excellent. Get whatever you like.

I eventually got on the road about 1600 EST, and promptly got stuck in rush hour traffic on the highway. Four lane highways shouldn't be so jammed that they turn into parking lots, it just isn't right. I got into Pittsburgh around 2030 EST and the office a little after 2100 EST.

Crisis mostly averted.

In a move that makes me wonder exactly how much they had to drink over the New Year, the 109th United States Congress has made it more difficult to investigate ethics violations by members of Congress. Republicans say that this was done to ensure that everyone charged with ethics violations gets the full benefit of due process, the Democrats say that it was done to protect Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tx) from being brought up on more ethics violation charges (apparently, he's not a a very popular individual).

Will Eisner, rest in peace.

The big telecomm companies of the US are starting to feel threatened, also. Coming hot on the heels of the state government of Pennsylvania mediating the fights between a number of cities and Verizon, which tried to prevent those cities from installing their own broadband nets, more telecomm companies are beginning to throw their weight around. Bellsouth and Cox are actively preventing Layfayette, LA from installing a fibre-optic network that would provide voice, television, and data access to the city's 116k residents. Verizon's hands are tied in Pennsylvania until 2006. The hell of it is, the technology's there to run fibre to each and every house, but it's not being done because it's far more profitable to gouge consumers and try to squeeze out the mom-and-pop ISPs in each area.

Note: Probably not work safe. This is one of the coolest things I've seen in a while. A guy named Scott was burned over 85% of his body at age 15 when the mobile home he was in caught fire and underwent a series of skin grafts taken from remaining epidermal tissue on his chest. One of the grafts eventually grew into a third nipple on the back of his leg, which he has pierced. He went so far as to visit the offices of a radio call-in show to prove that he does in fact have this oddity.

I find this highly disturbing. When last I looked up the definition of the word education, I found among other senses of the word this: "An instructive or enlightening experience."

Life is not a simple thing. The world is a convoluted place and every experience carries a complex shading of light and dark, good and bad, beneficial and harmful. Education, both formal and that of a lifetime of experience, is the thing that lets you discern those nuances because your horizons are broadened through exposure to new experiences and ideas (in the best of all possible worlds, anyway). Things learned are the tools which you use to analyze other ideas. If you limit the concepts that you are exposed to, you limit your ability to navigate life. You can't cut away whole aspects of the world into which you were born without shortchanging yourself - life becomes a two-dimensional cartoon instead of a world full of depth and nuance and subtlty, a delight for the discriminating mind. If you are genuinely afraid that your values will be lost because your mind grows and becomes stronger due to grappling with weighty ideas and the words of genius of years gone by, then perhaps your core values are not quite as strong as you tell yourself. Education requires self-examination as well as reading book after book and ripping your hair out writing paper after paper, analysis after analysis. You can't learn something without your mind changing ever so slightly. Everything you learn changes how you process information. If something is true to you, then after twisting it and turning it and comparing it to other things and examining it from different points of view it will be no less strong nor important to you afterward than it was before. Using your innate intelligence is not a bad thing; you don't have it just so you can get on the right bus every morning. Intelligence is what separates us from animals. It's what has allowed the human race to create the world that we are part of.

You don't live in a microcosm which is your country, people. You are citizens of a world of several billion people, representatives of hundreds of thousands of cultures and bloodlines. You are part of a lush world, teeming with life and ideas, both old and new. Some you agree with, some you don't. That's a part of life. If you don't agree, then think about why you don't agree. If you do, think about why you do. Either way, by blindly accepting you really do yourself a disservice. The world isn't so complex as to cause you to lose your way or become trapped, it's complex because it's the ideal environment for information-processing lifeforms. You live, you learn, you go on. Using the brainpower you've got isn't something to be afraid of, people.

Just great. The mujahedeen are really pissed now.


I'm back in DC with Lyssa, with much having gone on. New Year's Eve at the doss of John and Lara went very well. John and Lara were there (of course) along with Bredmold, Lyssa, Pariah, and myself. We spent the day running around getting stuff necessary for the party that night (like cleaning supplies, stuff to cook with, and Lara, who had to work on the 31st). We visited Sam's Club to get supplies in bulk (like a dozen rolls of paper towels, which we paid for collectively and thus split up as evenly as possible). Lyssa undertook the task of cleaning the bathroom, an operation assisted by two gallons of bleach; I took to the kitchen to scrub the carbon from the enamel as best I could and wipe up the countertop. I made the mistake of doing the dishes by hand because I didn't realise that there was a perfectly workable dishwasher under the cabinets.

My bad.

Picking Lara up proved to be fairly easly to do, because most people were trying to get out of the city as opposed to trying to get into it (the Independence Day phenomenon). I drove because John was tripping on the bleach fumes that permeated the apartment pretty hard. Ten minutes of 4/60 air conditioning (four open windows, sixty miles per hour on the highway) and he was right as rain, thankfully. Lyssa fared much less well, given her asthma, but after some time in the fresh air and a nap and she was all right.

Afterward we headed back to my apartment to get ready, and pick up Pariah on the way to the party. When we finally arrived we made something of a smash entrance. Lyssa and Pariah headed back to the kitchen to start cooking (Lyssa made pizza for everyone, Pariah macaroni and cheese from scratch). I sat back to watch John play Katamari Damacy, which is one of the most surreal games ever made, especially for the PS2 (it has been described as "Your Playstation taking a hit of acid", if you've not yet been exposed to this strange game).

New Year's Eve was quiet and a good time. No crises. No problems. Just food, alcohol and good company. Lots of everything.

Lyssa and I slept in until noon or therabouts on New Year's Day. At some point we switched from the futon to John and Lara's bed (they had been awake since 1000 EST or so) to sleep another few hours, then lounged around until we finally got around to driving to the supermarket to pick up the ingredients for creamed chicken and meatloaf for dinner. We decided to have folks over for dinner that night, you see... Lupa stopped by for a visit but had to leave before lunch was ready. I really need to write down that recipe for creamed chicken...

Dinner that night was baked potatoes and meatloaf (the traditional ground beef/veal/pork mixture) and a soft cheese and crackers to open things up. John and Lara enjoyed it a great deal. More sitting around eating and talking was done that night.

Get the feeling that I enjoy that?


It's been a long weekend, everyone.

We're at John and Lara's apartment celebrating the remaining hours of 2004. Lyssa made pizzas. I made macaroni and cheese (from scratch). There is alcohol and munchies everywhere. Pariah's sitting on the footstool yelling about Lara wanting to reset the router because she'll lose her network connection. I'm hoping to get a game of some sort going soon.

The blueberry mead was excellent, Alexius. Thank you.

Pictures are forthcoming.

The new Cruxshadows album, Fortress In Flames, is quite good. I suggest picking it up if you like synthpop or new-school goth.

It's now 2330 EST. Gentlemen, ladies, and Dougs, start your stopwatches.

We also have no Lupa in the house.

I feel in the mood for retrospection.. 2004 has been a good year, all things considered. I've been out of school for a year now, something I never thought would happen without dropping out of college. I was staff at a convention (Tekkoshocon) for the first time. I've travelled cross-country repeatedly (Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and Rochester, NY), with more trips planned in the future. I found permanant employment after being a temp for better than fourteen months. I've considered marrying a woman for the first time in.. gods, three years? Two years? At any rate, it's something I'd pretty much given up on. Something like that. My body's put on weight for the first time in several years (which many people seem to like but drives me up the proverbial wall). I moved out of the house and into my first apartment. I'm getting ready (off and on) to take an exam for a certification. I got to do hardcore computer security work for the first time ever (and not just as part of being an admin). For the second time ever (the first was the BESM Lain campaign I ran in December of 2003), I got into an RPG campaign (yes, even though I have all of those books, I've only ever used four of them). I even started watching television this year (okay, so it was Iron Chef).

There's a lot of other stuff that I could write about but alcohol and a few NDAs are urging me to not say anything. With that, I'll move on.

I wonder what'll happen tonight. Lots that's safe, I hope.


Not much going on lately.. 2004's winding down, and everyone's getting ready for the new year, be it wrapping up things at work or getting the house ready for a celebration this weekend. I have been thinking about something that the.Silicon.Dragon mentioned while we were at dinner Monday night. As usual, we get into some pretty deep discussions on a variety of topics. One of the reasons that the 412 loves to get together is that we're all information junkies of one sort or another. If it's out there, chances are that at least one of us has either studied it, researched it, or written a whitepaper or a book about it (hi, Ferrett). Silicon asked me (between appetizers and the arrival of the main course) how I was able to remember so many different cases (mostly legal) and specific information about this-and-that. It's simple, really: I write it down.

Not always literally, though. The way my mind works, my memory stores visual and procedural information most readily. It's easier for me to recall watching a dance or using a drill press because a) I watched it happen and b) I watched myself go through the process (watching my hands move, looking at the controls, watching the drill bit raise and lower, observing the position of the object being drilled)). If I want to remember something, I go back into my memory field and re-watch it, and then describe what I see. Similiarly, if I want to memorise something, I either write it down somehow (in a notebook, such as my notes from school) or I think about writing it down (i.e., write it in a notebook inside my memory, engaging my motor centres in a simulation of copying something out verbatim by hand). That way, if I want to recall something (such as a legal case in New York City having to do with an AIDS activist being arrested for using marijuana so that he could keep food and a cocktail of anti-HIV compounds down), I go back and flip through a notebook and then read the text off of the page (in my memory field), just like a lawyer going to a bound volume of legal documentation on a bookshelf, consulting the index to find a case, turning to it, and reading it to someone sitting in the office.

I don't know if this works due to exactly how my mind processes information for long-term storage or if it can be taught. I know that there have been many different mnemonic methodologies taught over the years (such as the memory walk technique that dates back to ancient Greece, which was updated and published by Kevin Trudeau in the 1990's (he did a good job, incidentally)). The principles behind them are really quite simple: You build a set of artificial associations in your mind between things you know quite well (a blender) and a specific fact or set of facts (how DES works). Each key/plug is an icon for the facts attached to it, often with some sort of action to engage the motor centres of the brain for extra accuracy. To memorise something, you build another room inside an imaginary house or castle filled with objects that represent what you memorise. For example, to memorise a shopping list, you'd imagine a kitchen filled with objects and actions that are associated with what you need to buy (coffee pot:coffee:making coffee; faucet;bottled water:filling plastic bottles with water; counter with ants and crumbs all over it:paper towels:wiping up the crumbs and ants). To remember what you have to buy at the store, you'd stop for a moment and 'walk' to the next thing you need and 'perform the action' inside your mnemonic castle.

It takes a little practise and you have to actively train yourself to go through this process whenever you want to memorise something, but once you've got it down it becomes automatic.

What I do when I want to memorise something is that after every paragraph or every few minutes, I imagine a composition book in my lap and a pen in my hand, and I write imaginary notes in the notebook. It works something like this:

Here's a paragraph that I want to remember:

Humans have seen the last of the physical frontier on Earth. The existence of this frontier has been crucial in supporting the progressive notion of western civilization since the birth of Hobbesian modernism and American history. The western frontier provided an escape route from the combined powers of government and science for dissidents, outlaws, and rugged individualists of all stripes. In turn, the frontier provided the state with a goal to accomplish, a piece of nature to whip into submission. Now the people have nowhere to go and the state has nothing better to do than further restrict the people.

This is from an essay written in 1996 by Natan R. Doughty, by the bye.

I'd 'write' the following notes in a mental noteboook that I can review and read from later:

Yes, I know that this is poor note-taking style. This is just how I do it. If you've got a better method, use it.

To memorise something word for word, I write out the whole thing in longhand, taking time to make sure that I get it right, going back and double checking every few paragraphs. Yes, this takes time while reading; I find it works best with fiction. To memorise technical material, I couple it with speed reading techniques and paraphrasing the material as clearly as I can.

If I can do it, anyone can do it. I had to practise it; you'll have to practise it. It's one of the most helpful techniques to know in day to day life. But you have to work at it if you're going to make it useful to you; just knowing how it works doesn't help you if you never try to apply it.

I've noticed a few things about these methods: They force you to have a longer attention span than some people otherwise might. If you're the sort of person who flips from webpage to webpage, or compulsively scans magazines, this will probably drive you nuts for the first few days you work on it. To imprint the information in your memory you really have to immerse yourself in it. I don't know if this would help anyone with ADD to any extent, but if it does please let me know.

To really get the mnemonic castle technique down, you have to sit and really imagine the building that you store your memories in. Take a half-hour a day or so (maybe more if you feel comfortable with it) and imagine a single room every day - two or three new ones every week suffices. The rest of the days, just go on a walk through your castle and re-imagine everything, as if you're exploring it for the first time. The more you revisit memories, the stronger they become and the more readily you'll be able to recall the associated information.

Elwing says that she associates information in much the same was as the memory walk technique, only she uses physical objects in her environment as associative keys for information. She also says that she doesn't have any difficulty when those objects are not around her when she remembers things. She also says that things she writes down stick in her memory field quite well - there are school notes that she never had to study because the information was already imprinted.

Jerry Orbach, rest in peace.

Fans of the game Uplink by Introversion Software may be interesting in knowing that they are now selling a developer's kit for the game so you can write mods for it without having to reverse engineer the game's datafiles. It costs $44.95us.

Xine v1.0 is out. Rejoice.

People searching for the video recordings of the tsunami rolling in should seriously consider installing BitTorrent and using it to download them from this location: http://www.caffeine.nu/tsunami/tsunami-videos.torrent.

I would like to ask that all of my readers take some time out to donate to the Red Cross International Response Fund, which is organising relief efforts for survivors of the tsunami. Please use the following link: https://www.redcross.org/donate/donation-form.asp

In case anyone's curious, Alaska's permafrost is beginning to thaw. Permafrost, by definition, is supposed to be frozen solid permanantly, or at least it was when last I looked up the definition of the term. Buildings are beginning to sink noticably, pipelines are showing signs of metal fatigue (such as stress fractures and ruptures), and roads are buckling in some places. As the ice melts into water, the ground softens and the water runs off, resulting in the ground settling.

Food for thought.

Kurt Harland of InSoc has written a rebuttal to the VH-1 show of a few weeks ago (mirrored here, per instructions at the top of the page).

Kurt's got something to say, I'll let him say it.

The President of the United States is making plans for the Rapture?!

Why does this scare me?


Yesterday afternoon I got a page from Lupa - her neighbor, who seems to think that playing rap music at 110 dB is a polite thing to do, had finally gotten on her last nerve. Because she works night shift and was in dire need of sleep I headed back to the Garden to let her in. I keep my apartment warm, dark, and quiet during the day so she was able to curl up and fall asleep with little trouble. I headed back to work by way of the local bank to put the re-orders that I mentioned yesterday in, with all the hilarity that brought with it. By the time I got home Lupa was fast asleep in my bedroom.

I forgot, however, that I don't make much noise when I move, especially in my own living space, so when I tried to wake her up (as she'd asked me to) I wound up scaring the living hell out of her.


I can't say I blame her, really. If I woke up and someone was crouching next to my bed staring at it I'd probably freak out, too. I count myself lucky that she didn't go for my throat.

After we'd gotten that straightened out I got ready to head out to Sushi Tomo to meet up with the 412 crew for holiday dinner, which is something of a tradition for us. Silicon was there, as was Ogervation and Genetik. I brought the box of cookies I'd made for Silicon and Elwing (who was still in DC). We spent some time ragging on Seele, who wasn't able to attend because she's still travelling for the holiday season.

We wound up waiting better than an hour for service, partially because of the number of people in the restaurant, and partially due to the fact that it looked like we were waiting for two more people who weren't going to show. It took about as long for our appetizers to arrive and still longer for the actual sushi. We entertained ourselves and probably profoundly embarassed the staff while we waited. And waited. And waited.

After dinner we drove down to the local Dave and Buster's (to quote Dante of Angst Technologies, "It's a video arcade for adults.") to take over the Pump It Up machine. If you've never played Pump It Up Before, it's a variant of Dance Dance Revolution, only the pads are arranged on the diagonals of a square divided into nine sections (front left, front right, center, back left, back right) and not on the cardinal points (forward, backward, left, and right). Silicon and Genetik are amazing to watch, regularly breaking the one million point mark and usually lasting the entire four-song set. I've played DDR a few times in the past; I'm not very good at it. PIU baffled me completely. I just got used to DDR pads. Trying to play in engineer boots wasn't particularly easy, either. I spent more time watching them and wandering around playing the other games in the arcade, like the shooting gallery (where I started worrying people) and the old-school all-in-one machine (containing a large number of old arcade games, like Joust and Galaxian).

I'm getting old. I got smoked at Defender. Badly.

Before you can ship anything into the United States, it seems, you have to sign an oath stating that your shipment does not contain "obscene or immoral matter, nor any matter advocating or urging treason or insurrection against the United States of America".

Does anyone else find this strange?

There is a new HIV treatment undergoing study at the University of Paris and the Pernambuco Federal University of Recife, Brazil which is showing promise. A vaccine is synthesised from the strains of HIV in a given patient's bloodstream and the dendritic cells of their immune system (dendritic cells, in the context of the human immune system are cells that chew up antigens and present them to the rest of the immune system by placing copies of identifying segments of protein on the outer sides of their cell membranes) by loading the dendritic cells with the HIV particles (giving them a chance to do their job before the dendritic cells are deactivated by the virus' effects) and are re-infused into the patient. After just three vaccinations, the patients' T cells levels stopped dropping and the number of virus particles fell by 80%. After one year, eight of the eighteen patients registered a 90% drop in virus particle counts.

Definitely one to keep an eye on.

This just posted to the Homestead mailing list: The computer manufacturer Tulip has sold its subsidiary company Commodore to Yeahronimo Media Ventures, based out of the US for the cost of 24 million Euro. The deal, as it's written, has to be finalised no later then 2010.

Way to stall for time, guys.

Someone on Slashdot has Sisters of Mercy lyrics in their signature. I can die now.

Congratulations to Cosplay Kate, who is the featured cosplayer in the January 2005 edition of Newtype Magazine!


Another week at work. Well, portion of a week, anyway.

This was a weekend for wearing myself out. I think I spent an average of eight hours out of every day in the car driving from someplace to someplace else by way of the Pennsylvania highway system. The roads were almost devoid of other vehicles, so travel was swift; only sheer distance was the limiting factor. Saturday afternoon I drove out to Lyssa's parents' place for Christmas dinner (comma, 'amazingly large'), somehow completely screwing up plans for that night (dinner at my parents' place). All told, however, things went rather well for Christmas Day. Driving out to the old homestead was uneventful; Lyssa and I spent the evening hanging around with my folks talking and just spending time together.

I think that's what they mean by 'quality time'.

I really didn't get much in the way of stuff for Yule this year, and I'm okay with it. I got the gift that I really needed (my new laptop, Luel). Dataline got me two turtleneck sweaters and some gift cards (Giant Eagle and Sunoco), which she really didn't have to do but I am grateful for them. I plan on using the Sunoco card after work today to fill up on petrol. It's painfully cold outside today (and when did it snow??) and I don't like the idea of running out of gas on a day like today.

Dataline liked the DVDs I got her (Passion of the Christ and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation), which I'm happy about.

Lyssa's gifts arrived while she was up here, and she was very surprised at what I was able to find for her (to say nothing of the card in Japanese).

Saturday night we invited Lupa over to spend the evening. She was spending Christmas alone this year, so we thought that she'd like to spend some time with us. It wasn't anything very elaborate, we sat around brushing each other's hair (all of us love having our hair played with) and watching Utena and nibbling chocolate, but it was also something that all of us enjoyed. A few pictures were taken of that evening, which I hope I'll be able to finish editing (the colour balance of my camera is screwed, this we were able to agree upon) some time this week.

It's evenings like that which I treasure.

After driving out to Lyssa's parents' place yesterday morning (and another breakfast at the local diner) to drop her off for the trip back down south, I drove to the mall and picked up some more bath towels (which I just don't have many of) and some groceries (which cost far more than they're really worth; thank you, Giant Eagle, for bumping your prices up for the holiday season), I headed home to sleep. After putting the groceries away and picking the bedding up off of the floor, I curled up and slept for the next couple of hours. Around 1700 or 1800 EST, I shook off enough of the sleep to make dinner for myself (I bought a caesar salad and a Meditarranean wrap at Giant Eagle) and then didn't do much of anything because I was too tired.

I went to bed early last night and I think I've caught up on everything.

The hardware hacking group TCNiSO has published instructions for hacking the RCA 245 and 305, and Thomson 290 cable modems. You might want to mirror this page in case RCA decides to break out the DMCA and use it as a sledgehammer.

I keep forgetting that not everyone is working today, or even for the rest of the week. I walked a few blocks to the bank to order more cheques and a new banking card, only to stand in line for nearly 90 minutes because there were only two people on duty today. What should have been a lunchtime jaunt turned into an undertaking that should have been accompanied by a book and possibly a takeup lunch.

Everything's been straightened out, but sheesh...

Earlier in 2004 I stumbled across a most unusual body modification, cosmetic eye implants, much like the silicone nodules that some of the more exotic body modification fans have installed. The Body Modification Ezine is running an article about the quest of Rachael Larratt and Jen Savage to have one implanted. The pair flew to Amsterdam, one of the few countries which considers this sort of surgery legal and went in search of a clinic in late May of 2004. The Retina Total Eye Care facility in Driebergen was selected; it has a reputation for being a trustworthy place to have this procedure performed. The description of the procedure seems very much like going to the hospital to have a minor surgical procedure performed (it reminds me strongly of going to the neurologist to have an MRI performed, down to changing into a hospital gown when it does not seem necessary and having one's head and neck set in a brace to prevent movement). A small amount of liquid of some kind is injected between the layers of the eye's structure, a tiny incision is made, and the cosmetic chip is slid inside. Larratt commented that she wishes that she'd had an eyepatch because the slight assymetry in her eyes made it difficult for her to navigate for a few days following the implantation. There was some soreness as the local anesthetic wore off, and some reddening of the sclera due to surgical trauma. A week-long regimen of antibiotic drops aside, there was no aftercare. Cost for the whole procedure was roughly $900us.

Check this article out, if only for the pictures of Larratt's new hardware.

The thing I find most striking about this, given my favourite genre of literature, is that the clinic was in a small shopping mall. In cyberpunk stories (and the occasional game) it's not uncommon to read about characters strolling down to the mall to a surgical boutique and having some kind of cosmetic modification performed. This is it.


I'm back in Pittsburgh and dead fsck(1)ing tired. I'll write stuff tomorrow, and possibly post the pictures I'd taken if I remember to.

I'm not sure if I should be suspicious of this or not - John Kerry is planning to withdraw his concedence of the 2004 election. He's going to stand and fight it. Since rumours that Triad Systems, another manufactuer of electronic voting equipment, have gotten around that there was some funny stuff seen with respect to their gear (like people swapping parts out and leaving odd notes with obvious falsehoods ("These are the old voting results but tell everyone who asks that they're attendence records")).

I'm going to bed. Good night, everyone, and happy holidays. I'll give Morpheus your best.


Joyous Yule, everyone.

I've been mistaken for a female twice this morning by Lyssa's family.

Damn, I'm good.


Joyous Yule, everyone.

Well, today was a long one. The last day before the Christmas holiday is always hectic. Last minute things to do, places to go, and people to see. I got up early this morning to get ready and head out to Lyssa's homestead, where she's in town for the weekend. Even after a quick stop back home to get a package that I'd forgotten, I made it in good time (a little over an hour one way), only to find that Lyssa was still feeling poorly after finals. I did what I could, but only time and rest will really help. Shortly after arriving Lyssa and I drove down to Sheetz to get cash and then to the local diner (your classic small-down restaurant, complete with good, fast service, inexpensive food (calling it 'cheap' does it a great disservice), and lots of seating). For $13us we had two full meals, including soup and coffee. Fans of The West Wing will probably recognise the location in a heartbeat.

We spent the day sitting around talking and watching a bit of television, but neither of us were really feeling well. This past week wiped me out; I haven't really been sleeping well and the added stress of trying to get everything at work wrapped up has been wearing me down. I napped for a little while at Lyssa's but didn't really catch up on my rest. I left shortly after 1400 EST because I had a few more places to go before dinner with my parents tonight.

I called John and Lara to see if they were in, because were were going to exchange gifts tonight, and made plans to see them later in the afternoon. My first stop was actually a supermarket to pick up cold medication (in case I caught whatever Lyssa has) and thumbtacks for Dataline so she can finish hanging up decorations. Finding everything was easy; I still had to wait in line at the checkout for a good 45 minutes because everyone and their backup was buying enough food for two or three weeks (seeing two filled carts was not unusual at the store today). Caught without a book, I stood and read tabloids until I got to the cashier.

Most of my brain is booted back up at last after that harrowing experience.

John and Lara presented me with a pair of gifts, a home-made apple pie and cinnamon ice cream from Bayani, which I brought with me back to the homestead to share with my family. Both are amazingly good, and the time spent making them really shows.

We hung out and talked for a while, catching up on what's been going on and arranging plans for the New Year, but all too soon they had to head to Lara's family's place and I had to return to the homestead. We packed up our stuff and headed out around the same time.

The homestead is looking pretty good. Dataline put up lights outside and finished decorating the tree. I returned the (huge) cookie tin that I was storing my gift cookies in and the electric mixer, and then sat down for a cup of coffee to swap stories. I filled Dataline in on the Yule gathering earlier this week and then we set about making the place ready for Christmas dinner.

Unfortunately, the potato pierogi went bad, leaving us with only the cabbage filled pierogi for dinner. Plan B consisted of french fries, along with the traditional fried fish. I forgot how Christmas dinner tasted (it's easy to when it's only once a year) and everything that led up to my moving out earlier this year.

For the first time since I got here, it felt like family.

After dinner we sat around watching The Food Network in a cover of our old Saturday morning ritual. Just sitting there talking and laughing about everything. You have to laugh to keep from crying, after all.

As I mentioned earlier, I shared the pie and ice cream with everyone for dessert, which they raved over.

Before I left I helped Dataline set up the last of the decorations and found the Christmas wapping stuff under the stairs (it'd fallen behind everything else under there and had gone missing), then packed up and headed back to the Garden.

On a sour note, a North Carolina homeless shelter evicted a pregnant woman and her three sons after the uncle of her children paid them a visit. And no, I seriously doubt that the Christ would have thrown a preganant women and her children out on the street for any reason.


3.6 gigacalories of gingerbread goodness! Those wacky folks at Mediatinker have found one of the more unusual gingerbread sculptures of 2005, the guts of a computer done entirely in gingerbread, icing, and candy. Clearly visible are three expansion cards (video, network, and sound, I'm guessing from the image), RAM, the CPU and cooling rig, power regulation capacitors, and a few chips on the motherboard.

Yes, it's early. Yes, I'm on my first cup of coffee. I think it's kinda neat nonetheless.

Last night was a night to get stuff done. I did a little studying (as much as I could, anyway), put the ornaments on my tree (my Yule tree isn't going to be a Geekmas tree this year because all of the stuf I have that would fit on a tree is still at my old lab), washed the dishes from the hurried cooking I did a few days ago, and cleaned up the countertop a little. On the agenda for tonight is finishing cleaning and running the sweeper, cleaning the bathroom, picking up and putting away laundry (something I'm notoriously bad at) and wrapping the remainder of my Yule gifts. I gave Lupa her gift last night (volume one of Under the Glass Moon and two CDs, one from Lyssa and one from myself). I think we've addicted her to it...

That was about the extent of what I accomplished yesterday. It wasn't much but it was enough to put a dent in things.

Anime and manga fans are no doubt familiar with the phenomenon of mecha: Giant robots, often piloted by humans. They've been a dream of fans for years (who wouldn't like a vehicle that turns into a humanoid and is powerful enough to throw a minivan a block or two?); the US government has been researching their construction for a few years now, to see if they would really be feasible for deployment on the battlefield, but so far the research hasn't provided much for the $50mus they've put forth at it. 26-year old Carlos Owens has put $15kus of his own money into building an operational mecha and has shown more results than the think tanks that are tackling the same projects. The mecha Owens is constucting is an exoskeleton, basically a suit of armour that amplifies the strength of its wearer several thousand times by using a system of hydraulic actuators. Owens is a former heavy equipment mechanic in the US Army who has a taste for huge projects, and really has the hacker spirit. Nevermind the fact that the big boys can't make it work, he knows how to get results.

I'm impressed. Highly impressed. I'd love to see this in action.

Now here are some Barbie dolls that I wouldn't mind collecting. Especially the Latex Barbie.

Youre a wise Elf! Elves are fair and beautiful and
yet very wise. They are immortal but can dye
from a broken heart or die in a war. Elves are
respected and love peace and tranquility.

What Magical Creature are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

That's a switch.

Iris is going on tour again, and working on a third album.


The Yule celebration at House Pendragon was a hit, per usual. I got there much, much later than I'd intended, mostly due to a comedy of errors, but was there in time for the last of the food and a lot of sitting around talking and swapping stories. The evening went something like this:

I left work early yesterday (not too much so to have enough time, but a bit earlier than usual) to get to the store to ship out the last of my Yule gifts, which took a good half-hour or so, most of which was spent waiting for the guy behind the counter to print out the shipping labels and get them scanned in to the package management system. I'm still trying to figure out why that took so long - I suspect it's because the system the records are uploaded to was under heavy load due to so many shipping orders at this time of year, but I can't be sure. By the time I got back to the Garden it was 1800 EST. I threw my work stuff off and began putting together the casserole I was bringing to the party, only to discover that I needed an electric mixer to make the batter. I couldn't find my egg whisk (still can't), so my backup plan went out the window. I had to drive all the way back to my old Lab to borrow their mixer, then drive back to my flat. With the first layer of the casserole in the oven, I then found out that the can of what I thought had been cream of chicken soup was actually kidney beans. This necessitated another trip to the supermarket.

And another half hour of getting stuck in traffic. And another twenty minutes of standing in line. And two minutes of broken-field running at top speed through the packed aisles.

And the casserole was still in the oven, on "warm" but in the oven none the less.

By this time, it was going 1930 EST. I started putting together the filling for the casserole, assembled the whole shebang, and put it in the oven for a half hour, then went to get dressed and get gifts together for everyone.

Then Lupa called, wanting to borrow my digital camera.

That actually wasn't a problem, it gave the casserole a chance to cool so it could be transported safely.

Then I dashed out the door and discovered that 'lex had left a message in my voice mail asking where I was, if I was coming, and whether or not I was okay.

I still got there.

The house was packed with folks lounging around, finishing dinner and talking. The turkey, alas, had already been picked over pretty thoroughly, but there was still a lot of everything else, and all of it was good. The casserole didn't go over very well because everyone was full, but the folks who did try it said that it was quite good.

Oh, well. It happens.

A lot of jokes were made and pictures taken, and a lot of tales were swapped.

I got Alexius a bottle of spiced wine for Yule, and TJ and Andrea gift cards. Alexius got me a "Know your roots" t-shirt (with the NES controller on the front); TJ made me a "Home sweet apartment" cross-stitch in a frame (which I've put on my home entertainment centre); Diane gave me a scented candle and a small sachet of herbs.

Thank you, everyone.

The state of Illinois is going ahead with implementation of ICMHP, as I've mentioned in the past. All children up to the age of 18 in the state of Illinois will undergo mandatory mental health screenings and mandatory medication if they are determed to fall outside of 'normal' parameters. Expecting mothers will also undergo psychological evaluations up to one year after giving birth (to arrest occurrances of Munchausen by proxy, ostensibly). Standards of social and emotional development and stability will be added to the lists of academic development standards enforced by state law.

Does this sound to anyone else like forcing people into a single standardised state of existence, ala Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut? What if someone's eccentricities (for example, teaching oneself to write with either hand when they are perfectly capable of using only their dominant hand) are interpreted as symptoms of a mental disorder? There is also evidence that mental instabilities can lead to advances in science and art.

This scares me.


No bad dreams last night, thankfully. The snow is mostly gone and it's a lot less icy than I thought it was going to be, at least so far. It is, however, bitterly cold (13 degrees Farenheit when last I checked). Exposed fingers go numb within second, which makes using the prepaid pump at the gas station a painful experience at best.

The stuff happening at the US base in Cuba is still going on, and now some are claiming to be FBI agents when they're really military to cover it up. Interrogators at the Guantanamo Base are working over detainees with some pretty hefty techniques such as strobe lights (I wonder how many seizures they've had so far) and sleep deprivation (as someone who used to pull five and six days awake at a stretch, you don't get too much useful information after a few days - just read the variable names from my undergrad coding projects) but they're misrepresenting themselves to shift the blame (isn't falsely claiming to be an FBI agent a felony?). Other techniques, some bordering on the hazardous (lowering the air temperature of interrogation chambers to the point where hypothermia is possible, raising air temperatures to the point where heat exhaustion causes unconsciousness) are also reported to be in use at this time. Some even more gristly techniques, such as inserting lit cigarettes into prisoners' ears (I think I saw that in a Charles Bronson movie years and years ago) are also being applied.

Is it just me, or is compassion for people (whether or not you're fighting against them in some form or another) being steadily forced out of human consciousness? I thought the Geneva Convention was supposed to keep stuff like this from happening.

Interestingly, the United States of America ratified all but two protocols of the Geneva Convention.

Go, Jeri! (No registration required)

Thank you, Telerama, for disabling reception of e-mails destined for 'telerama.lm.com', which you have so faithfully supported for the past ten years and not telling anyone. Ninety-one e-mails have bounced in the past ten days and I haven't even realised it. Now I have to get back in the good graces of a number of mailing lists that I thought had only gone quiet for the weekend.

On the bright side, most of my spam is suffering the same fate.

Interestingly, they just sent out an e-mail to all of their customers talking about just this. Thanks, guys.

The cookies went over very well at work. I'm very pleased.


More bad dreams last night.

I think this one hit me around 0500 EST today. I got up and went through my daily routine, then laced on a pair of roller skates (old-school, four wheels on the corners, not in-line skates) (maybe I've been listening to too much InSoc lately), threw on my backpack and hat, and headed out the door to go to work one fine summer morning.

That right there should have been my clue that this was a dream.

Somehow, I made it all the way to work (the exact opposite direction of the way I go), someplace in the suburbs and on the other side of a very, very large hill (which would make anyone with three brain cells to hook together in series stop and say "I'm not skating down that") without killing myself and skipped up the stairs to go to work. I sat in the office of either a manager or a cow-orker for a couple of hours shooting the bull, as techies without anything to fix or break are wont to do until I realised that I had to get to class at Pitt. I further realised that I hadn't been to that class in over a month, and finals were fast approaching. I stood up to dash out the door, only to realise that I had been in such a rush to get to work that I'd skated the whole way there without any pants on, only a pair of dark blue boxer shorts.

Yes, the Doctor has officially had his first "go to work in your underwear dream."

I couldn't very well go to class in my underwear, not when I had the audacity to not even go to class all semester... a quick call to my folks' place with an RFP (request for pants) and a half hour later (and it really did feel like a half-hour subjectively, complete with pacing (well, skating back and forth), fretting, and wondering what my professor would say when I arrived). Dataline showed up with a pair of shorts and suitably clad I took off down the road in a vain attempt to get to the Pitt campus.

The dream scared me so thoroughly for some bizarre reason that I shook myself awake around 0535 EST (I make it a point to look at the clock whenever I wake up) and tossed and turned, all but tied up in my PJs for a good half-hour until I finally went to sleep again.

The time until I fell asleep again was filled with my addled brain trying to figure out what I was going to say to my professor and how I was going to handle going to class and working full-time. The dream was so vivid and hit so many buttons deep inside me that I actually thought that I had to go to class today and that the dream was about class.

The residual Oz Factor has finally faded.

Lupa, did you make Morpheus angry or something?

This is cute: Someone made a snow alien.

As much as I have problems with the war in Iraq, this is pure spin control: Donald Rumsfeld is getting hammered because he's using a machine to sign condolence letters to the families of soldiers killed in action. What the article doesn't tell you is that these machines are commonly used in the US Government for signing letters like this. The folks in government just don't have time every day to sign a few hundred to a few thousand letters every day and still get other stuff done (no jokes about nothing coming of all that work, please, those are understood). To that end, a few companies have developed machines that use ballpoint pens and a sort of stencil to copy signatures en masse.

I wonder who Rumsfeld pissed off....

There's a pretty poor article about Gregory Herns, who cracked a number of computers on NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre network a while back. Herns has been sentenced to six months in jail for compromising a number of systems while searching for enough disk space to store ripped movies, a common activity. NASA technicians spent months wiping and rebuilding each machine, which is understandable if you're actually doing any forensic analysis of the compromised computer systems. Assistant US Attorney Greg Nyhus described the situation as "not like firing up your Macintosh or Apple where you push a button and wait six minutes for the thing to boot."

It's a lot more complex than that, but it doesn't take months to boot a cracked Linux box back up. My record for setting up a Fedora Core 1 machine (from installation to fully locked down) is twenty minutes.

Patrick Volkerding is doing much better.

The snow was even worse this morning - there are at least three inches of snow on everything right now. It took me a half hour to warm the car up, sweep the snow off of the windscreens, headlamps, roof, and air intakes (on the front of the car), and chip the layer of ice off of the windscreens. The side windows are still frozen shut. The temperature's supposed to reach 40 degrees Farenheit tomorrow, but what worries me is the temperature plummeting after the snow has had a chance to melt. The prospect of navigating a sheet of ice to traverse the stairs of my apartment complex does not particularly appeal to me.

Congratulations to the First Child and Wya for the success of charmed.hu which is one of the top 100 most visited web sites in Hungary!


Strategy First, the game publisher that handled Uplink by Introversion has filed chapter 11, reporting a debt in excess of $5mus.

Obligations done, today's been one of those "Don't wanna, don't hafta" days. This morning after breakfast I was content to lounge around and read. And read. And read some more. And contemplate playing more Uplink, but only for a moment. Lupa stopped by briefly to check on things because she'd had a rough night, but later today she and I headed out to prowl the bookstores in the area for a while. We wandered for a few hours and found some interesting things, but not much to speak of. At least, Lupa didn't.

Fans of 1980's cartoons probably recall a fairly obscure series called Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, which has been described as having the best qualities of spaghetti westerns and space operas with a dose of four-colour morality thrown in. (trivia: Jerry Orbach did the voice of Zachary Fox). As we searched the DVD shelves at Borders for Wolf's Rain I stumbled across volume 2 of Galaxy Rangers on DVD, released by Koch Vision. Volume 1 is out on DVD, too. Needless to say, the volume I found went home with me this afternoon.

I also stumbled across the novelisation of the BBC's Doctor Who: Scream of the Shalka. That has been added to my library, also.

It's been snowing for much of today and hasn't let up yet. The ground is uniformly covered with a layer of fluffy white snow, and the sky was a pleasantly cool shade of grey. I can sit and watch the snow coming down for hours. There's something about driving through the snow that just pulls me outside without even thinking about it.

Come to think about it, I did have a rather strange dream last night. I was sitting in the Garden reading a book and watching the tiny white mouse that I was sharing the flat with run around on the floor near the walls. He was dodging in and out of boxes and over cables as mice are wont to do when they are trying to find the fastest exit out of an enclosed space. I soon discovered exactly why it was so hot to get out of the Garden - a spider the size of a softball methodically closing upon it, crawling first one way and then another until it was within striking range. Once it was within a foot or so of the dream-mouse, it poured the gas on and chased the mouse down behind a cardboard box. I heard a single shriek loud enough to make me jump and shake myself awake, still echoing in my ears as the spider pounced on the little mouse and sank its fangs into some part of it as deeply as they would go.

Last night it was brought to my attention that the latest revision of Clam Antivirus, which I run on Lucien to scan incoming and outgoing e-mail for viral content, had been updated to fix a potential problem (for the maintainers) involving checking for and downloading virus signature updates. Specifically, it was getting to the point where the sites containing the updates were being hammered flat by so many thousands of machines trying to get updates so often. If installations that ran automatic updates didn't clean up their collective act soon, those IP addresses would be banned utterly, meaning they'd be SOL in terms of keeping up to date.

Not wanting Lucien to be SOL I downloaded v0.80 of ClamAV last night, compiled it, and updated the installation on Lucien. And of course promptly broke e-mail reception for all of the domains on the Network. After downloading and installing the latest revision of Qmail Scanner (which sits between the mail transfer subsystem, the antivirus software, and the antispam software) in case things had changed inside ClamAV in such a way that it was no longer compatible with the older version, I thought I'd fixed it. Until I checked up on Lucien this evening to see why I had been recieving so little e-mail lately; his system logs were full of warning messages to the effect of "corrupt or unknown clamd scanner error or memory/resource/perms problem". After plugging that error into Google I found the glitch (clamd, the part of ClamAV that runs in the background) was not running with the access permissions of the rest of the scanning system. By editing the clamd.conf file and setting it to run as a user named 'qscand' the error messages seem to have stopped.

Here's hoping that things are back to normal by tomorrow morning.


More anomalies.

Goodbye, Crusher. Maybe we'll run into one another next time around.

It's been four years, and it's still hard to deal with.

Today's been one of those "gotta get stuff done" days. I packed up a total of six giftboxes of yummies, got two of them down to the post office to ship, made breakfast, went grocery shopping, did my laundry, made Cincinatti Chili for dinner, and prowled around looking for another ergonomic keyboard for work. I think I'll keep borrowing my boss' until I find one that isn't $50us.

Thank you again for the cocoa, First Child - it went well in the chili this evening.

Is anyone else starting to wonder when the last time this was done?

This is for the birds, people... a study released by Cornell University yesterday shows that 44% of the population of the United States (I'd like to see the numbers on that one - how big a sample did they take and how did they take it?) is all for removing the civil rights of Muslims living in America. Registering one's address with USgov.. monitoring the activities in mosques (this is being done to a number of religious groups right now, incidentally).. infiltration of civic organisations (COINTELPRO, anyone? (check out the FOIA documents if you don't believe it))... if they really wanted to piss off the Muslim population of this country, this is how to do it.

I Am TechGnosis
The God of Technology is a Trickster, that much is certain. Like all technology, you are brilliant, unpredictable, anti-social and prone to breaking down at the most inopportune moments. Just when those around you have you figured out, you change. You can be a hero when everything is working properly up inside that huge brain but let something go haywire with the code and you become dark and frightening. Like TechGnosis you're a new phenomenon in human history, and whether you are good or evil yet remains to be seen.
Which Trickster Are You?
Take the Trickster Test at www.isleofdreams.net.


The 1980's had lots of things going for it: The advent of personal computing, the heyday of the BBS scene, new-wave music, high school flicks, cyberpunk sci-fi was new and edgy... but it also had the pall of the cold war hanging over it like a battleship dropped from low earth orbit. As kids, we didn't know if the Russians were going to lob a couple of megatonne nuke-bearing ICBMs at the US of A and make a couple of major cities glow in the dark for the next few centuries. To that end, the US government began to research anti-missle technology, to prevent such a strike from taking place. All sorts of news articles and fluff pieces were written and shown on PBS (public broadcasting) to hype the benefits of it.. and tell us about the dangers of it if the Wrong People(tm) beat us to it. There was just one thing about the Strategic Defense Initive (the so-called Star Wars programme):

It was an utter flop.

Cost overruns ran into the billions of dollars and nothing workable really came of it but some nifty articles in Popular Mechanics and Omni Magazine. The programme was dropped and forgotten, an embarassment to the US.

As much as I'm fascinated by the 1980's, I really don't see why anyone would want to revisit a lot of it; SDI is pretty high on that list. And yet, George W. Bush has thrown his support behind SDI v2.. even though the first tests were, as before, completely screw-ups. The projected deadline of this system being up and running before the end of 2004 is rapidly approaching, but there are no signs of success anytime soon. Successful tests in the lab and simulations do not count - it's what you can make work in the field, two miles above the ground when your surveillance satellite constellation has detected and verified a launch and your lifespan has shrunk from decades to mere hours (if that).

It seems like everything these days is being wired to monitor who's using what and what they look like. EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Centre has discovered that US Postal Service self-serve stations photograph their users and retain the images for a period of thirty days. Take a look at the .pdf file lined at the top of that page for the full details of what they've managed to dig up with the Freedom of Information Act.


The powers that be might be scared to death of peer-to-peer networking technologies, but when you get right down to it you can't kill an idea once it's loose without killing everyone. Take, for example, a peer-to-peer app written in only 15 lines of code by Ed Felton. Felton's code was written so that only a small network of systems could be sharing files with one another, but the principles are the same. The algorithms used here could easily be adapted to construct much larger shared networks with much more in the way of functionality.

This reminds me a lot of the folks who were competing to see who could write the RSA encryption algorithm in the fewest lines of Perl code.

Way to go, Firefox! If you get the 16 December 2004 issue of the New York Times, you'll find the full-sized two-page Get Firefox ad on pages A24 and A25.

The FAA and FCC are collaborating in allowing wireless access to communications grids from flights en route. Wireless network access is probably going to be the first service offered, with cellphone connectivity coming second (it's the latter that is burning up the airwaves with people calling to complain, and I can't say I blame them - I don't want to listen to people gabbing on the phone while I'm on the plane, either). The people are demanding connectivity while they're on planes; enough of them, it appears, that the normally stubborn federal agencies are seriously considering bowing to their requests. The biggest thing keeping the major carriers from going through with it is the cost per plane (projected at $500kus, probably for RF shielding of avionics and the cost of repeaters, which are definitely not cheap).

Brian Salcedo, one of the three guys who cracked the network of the Lowe's Home Improvement chain of stores has been sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty. Salcedo and two accomplices rode into the network of a franchise in Michigan and infiltrated the company's corporate network, whereupon they installed a programme that was meant to capture credit card information as it passed through the network for processing.

Daniel J. Bernstein, computer security advocate and college professor, infamous for his opinions of software licensing, creator of too many software packages to count, has done it again. Bernstein taught a courst at UIC called UNIX security holes, in which techniques to find and fix programmatic vulnerabilities were taught. In the course, the source code to a number of open source projects was analysed; the final involves finding heretofore unannounced bugs in code. Here is the directory of what they found. Sadly, most of the class is expected to fail due to how hard the course was.

R.U.Serius, former member of the crew behind the now defunct glossy magazine Mondo 2000 has done it again: The columns he's edited this month deal with life extension and keeping your mind going. I've been paging through them, and there's a lot of good information in there. Transhumanists and folks interested in keeping their minds going as long as organically possible (you know who you are) might want to take notes.

In other news, George W. Bush has announced that plans are in place to disable the global positioning system satellite constellation in the event of an emergency. The GPS satnet is used by hundreds if not thousands of people and vehicles to keep track of where they are on the face of the planet (with less accuracy than before because the continual state of war the US is in has forced the reactivation of the function of the satellites which screws with the accuracy of the computed coordinates for civilian recievers; what they don't seem to realise is that when you're talking about using GPS to guide a nuclear warhead, you don't need accuracy down to the meter but to the half-kilometer or so) and is essential for navigation. There are also plans in place for procedures that would disable access of 'other parties' to the GPS constellations of the United States and other countries (such as the Galileo project planned by the European Union). Incidentally, the 'selective availability' function of GPS has been reenabled, to the contrary of the article. Just after 9/11, I spent some time experimenting with my own GPS unit and compared the coordinates of my old Lab to those I'd taken a few months before (after buying the unit) and they were off.

I'm really getting angry with Dell Computers.

I ordered my new laptop from them a few weeks ago, and modulo some problems with the first unit they'd sent me, everything's been running smoothly with Luel since then. However, part of my purchase order was a memory expansion - an extra 256MB of RAM, bringing him up to 768MB. For some reason, I have yet to discover why because every time I call I get stuck on hold for better than an hour before their phone system hangs up on me for tying up an incoming line, they not only never sent the memory expansion, but they cancelled the order for it without telling me. I've got the purchase order sitting next to me, and checking their purchasing system shows that yes, the order was cancelled before it could be completed, but this doesn't tell me why it was cancelled. I paid for the memory upgrade; I haven't gotten what I paid for; I demand what I paid for.

What's it going to take to get their attention?

For those of you looking at buying from Dell in the near future, watch your backs. This behaviour is unacceptible. If you do buy something from them, get on their backs the day you place your order and make sure they don't gyp you.

Or better yet, just don't buy from them.

After one hour and thirteen minutes, I finally got through to a human being. After being forwarded from customer support to customer support, they took another ten minutes to search their records to see why my order had been cancelled. Of course, no one gave a reason for this. Another purchase order was placed for me, again free of charge. The memory module is supposed to ship in three to five business days, and will be overnighted to me.

I'm not holding a whole lot of hope that this is going to happen.

Don't buy equipment from Dell, people. This is unacceptible. No one should have to go through this just to get what they paid for.

Schizoid:Very High
Schizotypal:Very High

-- Personality Disorder Test - Take It! --


On 19 February 2005 in Chicago, IL, the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra and the CPO Festival Choir will put on a performance of parts of the Final Fantasy soundtracks. The wildly popular Final Fantasy video games by Square/Enix are renowned for their ear catching musical scores and soundtrack CDs regularly sell out whenever they are offered to consumers. This will be the second live performance of those tracks in the United States (the first was in Los Angeles a number of years ago, which was well attended), and they are expected to sell out in short order once word gets around (the first was in Los Angeles a number of years ago, which was well attended).

BitTorrent afficionados take note: The MPAA is aware of the existence of BitTorrent and will begin filing lawsuits against people who operate trackers offering pirated movies. You might want to consider taking extra precautions, no matter what you download.

That goes for you fansubbers, too.

Apple has done it again - they have manufactured a very limited edition (only 2000 units) Neon Genesis Evangelion iPod at Bandai's request. The case of this particular iPod has the NERV logo laser-etched on it, a slipcase that suggests a plugsuit, and special earcup headphones with the NERV insignia on them (different from the iPod's characteristic high-performance earbuds). The LCD display features the NERV insignia, also. You might not be able to read Bandai's press release but the images shown are in all probability indicitive of the limited-edition unit.

As long as it doesn't flip out and start eating my cellphone, I think it's pretty safe to use.

The ultimate in pince nez glasses: Lenses that attach to a nasal bridge piercing. This is actually kind of cool... the only thing is that they have to be screwed by hand onto the barbell with a jeweler's screwdriver by someone else.

If you keep an eye on the mainstream media you've probably heard about the suicide of Gary Webb, the man who broke the story back in the early 1990's of the US CIA funding the Contras of Nicaragua to assist them in combatting the Sandinista regeime. Webb was found dead of a pair of gunshot wounds to the head; his death was officially ruled a suicide.

CAN you shoot yourself twice in the head with a revolver?

In equally strange news, they're talking about renaming the San Francisco Bay Bridge to honour Emperor Joshua Norton the first. Emperor Norton the first was known throughout San Francisco in the late 1800's as something of an odd bird who issued his own currency (which was accepted by everyone in the city), walking around in a uniform, carrying a sabre, and single-handedly halting a riot in Chinatown by standing between the warring factions and reciting the Lord's Prayer aloud.

I'm all for it.

Lyssa put me on to this a few months ago, and I've been watching it fro the sidelines (because I really do not know what I'd write in the application letter that's deep and intelligent). Writer Shelly Jackson is writing a living story called Skin; it is called this because the words of the story are tattooed on the skins of human beings. This is the only form in which the story will be published; only the Words (what the people who have one and only one word of the story inked on their bodies) will know what the complete text is. Right now, Ms. Jackson is up to 1800 people out of 2095, spread all across the globe. The Words are encouraged to get to know one another, using the text of the story as a sort of web of contact. Ms. Jackson has vowed to attend the funeral of each of her story's Words.

Lyssa has thrown her hat into the ring; I'm still wondering what, exactly, I could say that would get Ms. Jackson's attention and possibly an invitation to become one of her Words. I love the idea of becoming part of a story (gods know, I'm barely a real person myself) but is that enough? Is it a noble enough sentiment to be chosen?

I somehow doubt it.

Amtrak has begun randomly checking the identification of passengers to ensure that the passenger's ID matches the name on their ticket.

Please note that I did not say "passenger's name matches the name on their ticket." Fake IDs are still pretty easy to get hold of these days.

Your Christmas is Most Like: The Nightmare Before Christmas
Christmas was not a big deal for you growing up... And you're still trying to figure out what it all means.
What Movie Is Your Christmas Most Like?

In Gloucester, England the laws prohibiting the sale of hallucinogenic mushrooms have been turned on their ears. During the trial of Dennis Mardle and Colin Evans, it's come out that the laws that lead to their winding up in court are so ambiguous that they're all but unsable. Mardle and Evans were arrested for cultivating certain strains of hallucinogenic mushrooms and selling them while fresh, i.e., shortly after being harvested. The law states that psilocybin and psilocin (the active ingredients of so-called 'magic mushrooms') are illegal, but giving away freshly picked mushrooms isn't. This is looking more and more like a case of splitting hairs and adhering to the letter of the law and not necessarily the spirit.

I wonder what herr McKenna would think of this.


For whatever reason this morning I slept in an extra half hour to clear my head. I think I overextended myself a little last night, and needed that much more time to recuperate. In truth, I was surprised that I'd let myself get that extra rest. Odd. By the time I was dressed and packing lunch, however, it slowly dawned on me that there were about two inches of snow on the ground outside, and it was still snowing. A quick peek through the curtains and the front door confirmed it. I couldn't resist taking a couple of photographs of the season's first snowfall.

Cleaning my car off, however, was another matter. I had to borrow a brush from one of my neighbors to clear off the windows. Thankfully I keep an ice scraper in the car, so I was able to get the scale ice off of the windscreen and free the windshield wipers. Before I forgot, I drove to the local K-Mart to get a new brush/scraper, a four mile trip that took nearly a half-hour because the roads were not plowed. Ice scrapers are not readily visible at K-Mart, so a search of the automtoive department was required. The trip to work itself was a particular joy - a five mile jaunt downtown took over forty minutes - most of a soundtrack. I've been at work less than twenty minutes now.

Last night, rather than drive my sound equipment back to my old Lab to get it out of the apartment, I decided to get a jump on baking gifts for everyone. I picked out a couple of recipes and sat down to make honey bars. A few years ago Blackcat gave me a number of litres of her grandfather's clover honey as a gift and I've been using it to cook with. The recipe in question calls for a good half-cup of honey, a little more or a little less depending on how sweet you like things.

The bars turned out quite well for the first time I've ever made them.

In the country of Australia, law enforcement is now permitted to use spyware to collect evidence in the course of an ongoing investigation. Police forces can now get a warrant issued to place a suspect under surveillance and possibly place monitoring devices or software on the premises.

Encryption über alles, everyone.

Here's something that you're not likely to see again anytime soon: Someone has spent a lot of time and money assembling the Ono-Sendai of Commodores. He started with a stock Commodore-128 computer (8-bit Commodore, 128kb of RAM, et al) and hacked the hell out of it to not only make it look pretty, but faster, more easily repairable, and much more flexible. The numeric keypad familiar to PC users is present, and modified to work with the system in C-64 mode as well as the native C-128 mode (you can switch between them, as the original C-128 was capable of doing). Blue LEDs have been set into the case to show what speed the CPU is running at (the normal 1MHz or the aftermarket 2MHz). To accomodate the new functionality the RF shielding's been beefed up inside, to keep stray fields from interfering with other devices in the surrounding area. There are other power connectors inside the case to allow peripherals to draw power from the system's wiring and not additional power supplies (the wall warts that Commodore gear was famous for having). Two SID chips have been installed, the usual one and a second that can be triggered with a toggle switch that throws the machine into stereo mode (you can plug a commodity pair of PC speakers into the unit and each SID chip will play one of the speakers, if you let it). Because they are piggybacked, they're drawing the same signals from the CPU, and operate in parallel. The keyboard's been completely overhauled, and the case itself has been painted gold and then lacquered a number of times for durability.

My word... I've got the urge to set one of these badboys up with a head mounted display and see if he'll attach a guitar strap to it. This machine gives me geek wood.

Today, however, was touch and go.

My bills come in one-week waves, which when you think about it fits into a two-week pay cycle nicely (get paid every two weeks, pay two weeks worth of bills). I've been waiting for this week so I could get everything paid up and sent off before the Yule mail jam keeps anything not in a bright Christmas card envelope from getting stuck in the back of a mail truck for an indeterminable amount of time.

Until I discovered that we get paid monthly at medSage. Uh-oh.

If I'd paid my bills today, that would leave me with just enough money for a tank of gas until the end of December. Ungood.

I went to my boss today to ask for an advance on my monthly salary. I hate asking for special treatment of any kind, even if there's absolutely no way that I can make it through without some kind of arrangement. But I did so.

The advance on my salary was granted and is waiting in the bank. My bills are paid and ready to mail tomorrow morning. I can make it until the end of the year without any difficulty, now.


If They want you out, They will go to whatever lengths are necessary to get you out.


Another week, another week closer to Yule.

I didn't realise when I woke up this morning how cold it was outside - two layers of clothing isn't enough today, though it's not bone-chillingly cold. I was surprised to note that it was snowing very lightly this morning, not enough to actually coat anything but you definitely know it's there. The sky is grey and heavy with moisture todday, a perfect day for this time of year. I don't know what it is about this time of year. It's no too bright, so it's easy on the eyes. I walk outside and I feel comfortable - right at home.

So I don't get out much.

For dinner last night I made General T'sao's Chicken, using the Iron Chef sauce instead of making my own (because my recipe for the sauce makes a half-gallon), and I have to admit that it's not too bad. It's tasty and sharp, but not too spicy and has a good consistency. I would suggest not stir-frying vegetables with the chicken when you add it, or if you do turn the heat up to boil off some more of the water before you add it to keep it from being thinned by the moisture. Serve it with steamed rice for the full effect (I'm going to use a little less water in my steamer than usual to make it a bit more sticky in the future, though).

I think this stuff is worth it.



The Solstice Social got off to a rough start last night, but wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was going to turn out. Unlike the last party I did, there was a real PA system, supplied by Malachai, which meant that there would be no fighting with the sound system and no unnecessary delays. Or so I thought. Malachai set his PA rig up with no trouble as I assembled the turntable (I did not want to chance using the second, older turntable which betrayed me at the Samhain gathering), CD players, tape deck (yes, I dug into the archive and found the audiocassette singles of songs from years gone by), and interface for Luel. It was during the PUC (power up check) that I discovered that the mixer was unresponsive.

No self-test. No power reading. Dead.

I don't know if it was the power supply for the mixer (which is as old as the mixer itself, and required meatball electronic surgery to repair at Samhain) or if the mixer had finally given up the ghost after being packed up yesterday, left in the car (because I really didn't feel like hauling all of my gear up to the Garden, only to bring it back down that evening), and hauled in to the Friends Meeting House for the party. What I do know was that the mixer built into Malachi's amplifier had enough channels for all of my equipment, and saved the night.

In the thirteen years I've been spinning I've been using the same mixer, and I've had to repair it more times than I can remember. I bought it at Radio Shack back when they still included schematics with their equipment, and I think if I'd saved up all of the money that I've spent to date on new components, wire, and solder I could have bought one of these.

On the whole, I think I did a pretty good job last night at the party. I was in the lower part of the ground floor, which makes a pretty decent dance floor if there are enough people in attendence to fill it. Unfortunately, everyone else, the food, and the attractions for everyone were upstairs, in the proper of the Friends Meeting House. Very few people came down to listen to the music or dance, but afterward a few people separately took me aside and commented that everyone upstairs could indeed hear the music and were dancing.

I feel a lot better about that.

The set wasn't much to talk about - I covered quite a few genres, trying to have something for everyone. I am, however, proud of the mix I put together for one couple who wanted a slowdance. While I was caught without any slow music ready (why do these requests always come in 20 seconds before the currently playing track is over??) I did mix together Dead Can Dance, a record of environmental sounds (the one I grabbed was the seashore), and Alchemy by Drum Club, which they seemed to enjoy. I mixed that out to Inama Nushif from the Children of Dune soundtrack (which sounds eerie when you play ocean spray over it - the contexts are completely wrong), but I don't think that anyone picked up on that.

I also encountered a lot of difficulty trying to mount Alexius' .mp3 player on Luel. The .mp3 player in question was manufactured by Samsung, and is essentially a brick of 128MB of compact flash memory embedded in a little chunk of plastic with a small joystick to operate the UI and the tendency to shut itself down if it's been paused for longer than five minutes. The device has a small adaptor (which I found at the computer show this morning) to connect it to a USB port to transfer files. I tried earlier this year on our way to New York City for HOPE 2004, but wasn't able to do so. Last night I was able to get Luel to recognise the unit for what it was, but wasn't able to mount it.

I've been doing a lot of geeking on the v2.6.9 kernel's USB subsystem lately and I think I've got a handle on how it works.

In a nutshell, if you compile everything that can possibly be plugged into a USB interface as a module (which you should, so the drivers can be loaded and unloaded as required automatically), you should be good to go. On the Dell Inspiron 700m, not only should you compile the EHCI module (which runs the native USB interface) but you should also turn on the modules for the OHCI USB chipset. The way the USB subsystem on the 700m works, the former is used for the high-speed USB v2.0 chipset, but the latter is required for the secondary chipset, which the low-speed USB v1.1 chips need. This will allow you to use older USB hardware, such as most USB keys. Secondly, in the block device drivers of the kernel configs, there is an option for low-speed USB block devices, "for USB keys" (which creates a module called ub.ko). Do not enable it.

If you do turn it on, your Inspiron will detect the USB key/Compact Flash card/.mp3 player and hand it off ot the UB module, which will promptly do nothing with it.

What you have to do is leave that module turned off. Enable SCSI support as a module, followed by SCSI disk, generic, and CD-ROM support (just to be safe, you never know when you'll need them). Also turn on the "probe all SCSI LUNs" option, so the partition tables on the storage units will be read properly. Compile all of these as modules. If the ub.ko module still exists in your /lib/modules/2.6.9 directory structure, erase it. Recompile and reboot.

Henceforth, whenever you plug a USB storage device in, it will be detected properly and appear as a SCSI disk drive (/dev/sdXY, where X is [a-z] and Y is [1-15]. It can then be mounted and accessed like any other disk partition.

I figured this out this afternoon after returning from the computer show, where I met up with 'lex, Diane, and a friend of theirs who was pricing out a new laptop computer. We tried to help him as best we could, but when you get right down to it, it's really not a good idea to buy a laptop from a computer show. We've pointed him in the direction of a Dell laptop, but that's really about it. While we were there, I picked up a pair of PS/2-to-USB adaptors, so I could plug a full-sized keyboard (hopefully an ergonomic keyboard) into Luel, along with an S-video cable (for plugging Luel into home entertainment systems to play videos and games) and a Logitech USB trackball (to save my wrists at work). The PS/2-to-USB converter doesn't work well with my IBM clicky keyboard of doom, unfortunately, so I'm going to ask my boss to buy me a real one (as previously offered). The trackball "just worked" - x.org by default looks at /dev/input/mice, which is the aggregate input from all mice/trackballs/touchpads on the system, so it smoothly picked up the presence of the trackball and ran with it.

We stopped briefly at a diner for coffee but scrubbed the idea because there was going to be a 20 minute wait, and everyone had places to go today. I left the crew to go grocery shopping, then returned to the Garden to put everything away and then geek out.

I've found another reference to the changes made by the Intelligence Reform Bill on 9 December 2004. Interesting stuff.

img src="http://images.quizilla.com/B/BlackStrength/1102574753_resLiberty.jpg" border="0" alt="Confused Vampire">
You are a Confused Vampire. You dont know if you
want to be a vamp or not. Or if it is a
blessing or a curse. You arent like other
vampires. You dont kill just for the hell of
it, and black isnt your color.

Which Kind of Vampire are You? (Females)
brought to you by Quizilla

I took the most accurate villain personality test

created by:
The Arch Villainess Gracie

I took the most accurate villain personality test

created by:
The Arch Villainess Gracie

Nothing like being the last one suspected...


I don't know how accurate this is, but someone's going around saying that the Department of Homeland Security has taken as its own the regulartion of birth certificates and drivers licenses. The laws changed due to a rider on the Intelligence Reform Bill passed recently. The new laws take effect in 2005. Newborns will be issued SSNs when they are born, and those numbers will be added to the birth certificate. Biometric data, in the form of DNA information (I guess they've got DNA sequencing down pat nowadays) will also be part of the birth certificate. It is said that children will not permitted to enroll in school or take part in Federal assistance programmes without having such a valid certificate verified by the DHS. Drivers' licenses will also be required to hold biometric information pertaining to their bearer.

Something that makes me doubt the veracity of this story is its mention that the Supreme Court has stated that the authorities have the right to demand the identification of citizens at any time for any reason at all. They do not have this right; you are under no obligation to show your ID to law enforcement. There have been a number of court cases in the past that have upheld this; grep my memory logs for those references.

As for how I feel about it... I made my choice years ago. Give me liberty; safety is never assured in life.


Not enough sleep last night. After talking on the phone with Lyssa I had a lot to think about, and spent a good two or three hours pondering everything. I don't know if I'm any closer to a solution, but it hasn't changed my fundamental opinion yet; i.e., I know what I know, but I'm still skeptical of the whole thing... including myself.

I don't know. There is always more information.

Early today OPEC decided to cut oil production by one million barrels in an attempt to slow down the fall of oil prices. If this resolution is actually implemented (there is a difference beween deciding on it and actually going through with it, apparently), the ten members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Companies that are held to production quotas would each cut their production by one million barrels, totalling to a ten million barrel daily reduction. This is being planned in response to a projected overabundance of petroleum in the global market in the second quarter of 2005, which would bring with it a 25% price cut per barrel (to date, the peak price per barrel is recorded as $55us/barrel).

Something bothers me about this, though. If they're afraid of oil prices falling, and they want to cut the amount of oil in the open market to keep prices high... why am I paying $2.20us per gallon for the cheap gas?

ZDnet UK has an article about virus coders, spammers, and black hats in collusion. Instead of exploits coming out in weeks, it says, they'll come out in mere hours. Viruses and bots are already sweeping the Net, creating botnets on the order of thousands of unique hosts in just days (less, in the case of some vulnerabilities). The thing about Kaspersky's 'prediction', however, is that this is already happening. Black hats, the truly hardcore ones, can and do write exploit code in a matter of hours; the key is finding exploits in the first place. Usually they sit on the exploit for a while and get some use out of it; the grey hats often post this code to a few mailing lists, while black hats tend to trade code. What the article doesn't explain is that there is often a gap between the security community finding out about a 0-day exploit and when the exploit is first created. The gap has lessened quite a bit since the 'good old days' because IDSes are beginning to be deployed more widely, and there are, in fact, more clueful admins out there keeping an eye open but there is still a gap.

When a machine is compromised and detected as such, if the organisation is competant the system is analysed and the point of intrusion hopefully detected. If it's a brand-new vulnerability, the 0-day exploit is exposed (the admin or incident response folks often sanitise the incident report and post it to the larger forums, and often report the vulnerability to the project or vendor). At this time, more folks find out about the vulnerability, and it's usually at this point that the worms start coming out. It's nifty to release your work into the Net but it's also unsubtle; that kind of network traffic always raises eyebrows. The hardcore crackers, the ones that give admins nightmares, are the ones that want to get the most use out of what they discover; self-replicating code often follows later.

Just because you don't read about it on Bugtraq or full-disclosure does not mean that it's not out there... and not being used to quietly own your boxes.

NetBSD v2.0 is out now, and the project's done it again. Five more platforms have been added to the list, bringing to total to 54. Native thread support and SMP (symmetric multiprocessor support) for a number of platforms have been released along with better Linux emulation (for third-party binaries, such as Sun's Java development and runtime kits), kernel events, and nonexecutable status for stacks and heaps. This is just a short overview of the list - check out the changelog for the full monty.

Santa? Saint Nicholas? Greath C'thul'hu? Who can tell?

I wonder how many other whales are out there that sing around 52 Hz. This one is made out to be an anomaly in the article...

John Perry Barlow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation is beginning to draw some notice for what he's been doing.. on his way back from the Burning Man festival last year he had a run in with the TSA that left him handcuffed in a detainment cell, and later the San Mateo jail. It's only now that he's felt safe enough to make it public; the powers that be are not fond of stores like these, and repercussions may be felt in the future as a result. He is mounting a Constitutional defense based upon the fourth amendment. Read the article, Mr. Barlow does a far better job of explaining things than I can.

Bev Harris and Blackbox Voting have gotten wind of the story that's been going around about rigged voting in Florida but they've got some valid reasons as to why the story might be jetwash. First, the story was written in such a way that it meanders around, instead of getting right to the point and staying there. A lot of other stories were cited but nothing hard was worked into the article in question. Clint Curtis, the man supposedly interviewed, never stated how he got the programme onto the machines doing the actual vote counting (which would be a site security breach). Second, the software used in Florida has changed in several areas since 2000, when he first was supposed to have written his utility. No evidence was given, not even a design spec or an early revision of the source code. The article also had some anomalies insofar as how easy it would be to detect the utility in question - if it's running you'll probably see it in the process list. While processes can be hidden easily with a few API calls on a Windows machine, it's much more difficult on a UNIX box without hacking the running kernel image somehow, which isn't easy unless you know exactly what you're dealing with (such kernel modules are well known on Linux boxes, slightly more difficult to find for Solaris machines, slightly more difficult to find for *BSD machines, I've never heard of any for SCO machines but they're probably out there). Writing portable application-level code is easy; writing kernel modules to compromise process and filesystem listings is inherently platform-specific.

Lots and lots of inconsistencies...

That's not all, though - Bev's been busy running down the poll tapes, the printouts of the vote tallies from each site in Florida. Or trying to. The poll tapes are supposed to be on the public record - they're signed by the site's officials and after confirmation, are supposed to be made available to anyone who asks for them. She found them being thrown in the trash, destined for destruction. The ones that she and her colleagues were able to rescue showed discrepancies from the published 'official' figures.

Check this out, cats and kitties. Something smells like a burned motherboard.

Open Eyes
Solid Ground
Take the Quiz and build your portrait!

Wow. It even looks like me.

Which Colossal Death Robot Are You?
Brought to you by Rum and Monkey

This is the only reason your planet still exists.

Dead Can Dance are going on tour in 2005!

Are Terrorists(tm) really using lasers to attack planes?

In the immortal words of the Principia Discordia, "Don't look at me, man, I didn't do it."

Well, I balanced my chequebook, and it doesn't look good.

When I went down to visit Lyssa for Samhain I left my receipts down there by accident (for groceries, fuel, and dinner), so I forgot to write down those expenses. When I reconciled my chequebook with my bank statement I discovered that I was down several hundred dollars.

I think I'm going to be baking for everyone this year. This kicks my plans squarely in the crotch. I'm getting paid in a few days but I've got a few more bills to pay first, and I don't know what I'll have left after that. Enough to get through, I hope.

To everyone expecting something from their Amazon wishlist or dinner or a CD or something like that, I sincerely apologise. I don't think I'll be able to buy them this year.

I hate my lives.


Proteus and Eris are doing much better. They've adapted to not having the pump going in record time (turning it off was the right idea) and they're merrily swimming around, eating, and blowing bubbles at the top of the tank. I might get the third betta before the year's out at this rate.

Last night a subprocess went off in the back of my mind, reminding me that there isn't much time left before Yule and that I'd best start getting gifts together. Thus reminded, I ventured out into the pre-holiday madness that is McKnight Road to see what I could find. First off, I had to hit Borders to get a book on Apache Tomcat, the Java servlet framework for web services (if you don't know what this means, count yourself lucky - it's not easy, especially if you know jack about Java, like me). I found the SAMS book, Tomcat Kickstart, which assumes that you either know very little about system administration in general (not me) or that you know how to develop but don't have much experience with Java (that's me). I'm going to start going through it some time today, in parallel with my Learning Java book in all likelihood.

Once again, I'm going to be doing a lot of cooking for Yule this year, so I hit the local supermarket to get ingredients. At the end of it I was shocked to discover that I'd spent about $23us and change on a basket full of stuff. It just goes to show how much the markup is for buying prepared food. You can buy a box of cookies for $7us, or you can spend $15us on flour, sugar, eggs, what have you and make a few dozen cookies in a couple of hours.

It appears that the term "fair and balanced" has been added to the newspeak lexicon after reading this news article. Everyone's favourite television news programme, Fox News, has been talking about an elementary school in Cupertino, CA that banned the Declaration of Independence because the document talks about G/god. There's just one thing:

Fox News is lying.

The Stevens Creek Elementary School did not such thing.

Steve Williams, the instructor at the school involved in this situation, has not been pushing religion on any of his charges. Moreover, other teachers in the school are doing much the same thing. The school administration has reviewed the subject matter and has not found conflicts of interest anywhere. This whole mess started out when Williams passed out some handouts that, it is said, crossed the line from instruction to evangelism, and parents complained. The school began reviewing his handouts before they were distributed, and it has not happened since. The handouts included certain excerpts from the Declaration and George W. Bush's Day of Prayer proclamation. Fox News took the story and distorted it.

There's going tobe a Babylon-5 theatrical movie, written by JMS, of course. Titled thus far The Memory of Shadows, the movie covers an unknown force rediscovering and unleashing long-lost Shadow technology.

Something I'm definitely looking forward to...

You are a Grisette (Amanita vaginata) Most of your relatives are poisonous, but not you.
You may not look like much at first glance, but
your excellent taste and constricted volva make
you quite popular... in France.

What Kind of Fungus Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla


NyQuil did it again - this time I tok it later in the evening but passed out by 2300 EST. I think it was the sheer effort of staying awake that was messing with my mind Monday night and not so much the drugs in the cough syrup. Last night I didn't really fight to stay awake or coherent and went to bed early. Once more, I slept like a rock, modulo my circadian clock waking me up at 0600 EST for a moment or two, what I think is a holdover from working at the County.

I think it's time to stop taking NyQuil and stick to DayQuil, which gets me through the day nicely. My head's not been stuffed up, the fever's long gone, but the nasal drip only hits near the end of the day, when I think my body has finished metabolising the compounds in the cough syrup. I can handle that without too much trouble.

It's time to start working on Yule gifts. Normally, I start at the end of November, but since changing jobs I have to be careful with how much money I spend, at least until I enter the salary cycle fully. With a little creative accounting I think I can pull it off, but I have to be very, very careful. I'm going to be baking a lot for gifts this year, but there are a few people for whom I'll be buying things. It's the first week of December, however, so the rush is on. I think I'm going to be doing a lot of net.shopping, with a few forays to get raw ingredients and the odd gizmo for folks. I'm going to start tonight, after I balance my chequebook and write up a list of things to pick up. I've got a few ideas, but that's it.

I was listening to Pittsburgh's designated talk radio station on my way to work this morning (104.7 FM, which I keep tuned for late nights because it's the only station that rebroadcasts Coast to Coast AM clearly around here) and I was listening to Jim Quinn rant about the lawsuits that American Airlines are being smacked with by irate passengers who were worked over by TSA (the US Transportation Security Agency) security operatives and are consequently striking back. I'm of two minds about this whole situation... one part of me says that, because there were only certain people of $ETHNIC_GROUP being detained and searched, that TSA security was in fact doing its job. They look for certain people and do their jobs, i.e. checking them out to make sure nothing shady is going on. The other part of me says that there is also a hell of a lot of unfair stuff going on because of the same people: Homophobia, religious prejudice, and outright hatred are guiding who gets searched and what happens to them by these same people. It's not right. I'm worried about the same thing happening to me, in fact; that's why I refuse to fly.

I really don't know what I think about this. The US is lawsuit-crazy, this is a given. But there are so many documented abuses of the system that was forced into place like a bag on the side of a C compiler, I don't know where the lines are drawn.

No matter what, Big Brother is watching. Even if you haven't done anything.

Microsoft is releasing service pack 1 for Windows Server 2003, and once again they're playing catch-up with every other OS on the planet. They've added a cleaner user interface for enabling and disabling system services, something that is long overdue. It's interesting that they now force newly installed servers to run Automatic Update before any network services will even start (normally, that's the first thing done after installation). Forcing firewall protection and nonexecutable stack segments and text (code)-bearing memory pages has been standard on other OSes for at least two years now. As for stronger default permissions... it's about time, guys. You did a good job on XP Pro insofar as the filesystem, how about propagating it to other OSes like 2K? Why should 2k3 have all the fun? And now, at long last, Outlook (Look Out?) now gives the option to not display HTML e-mail as HTML, but as text. Like every other mail client out there.

The download tips the scales at 316 MB.

In other news, service pack 5 for Windows 2000, which was expected to contain many security updates has been cancelled. The patches were supposed to bring 2000 closer in terms of security features to XP (heh) and XP Pro but it's said that users will find it easier to install them in the course of one of the monthly patch-bundles.

Because it's the season, I've put together a wishlist.


Last night wound up being a bit more entertaining than I'd expected. Feeling poorly after work last night, I stopped off at the drugstore to pick up some medicine and then headed back to the Garden for a good nght's rest. After dinner I took the usual 30ml dose of NyQuil and sat down to read. Thirty minutes later, I was dozing off and feeling like I was going to drop over right where I stood. I think I caught an hour's worth of sleep when pounding on the front door pulled me from my cold medication-induced coma. Lupa stopped over to talk last night, and I was tripped out of my cranium on the witches' brew immortalised by Dennis Leary on stage. We wound up sitting and watching the bettas for a while, at which time I realised that bettas, while known for their colourful finnage, do not normally leave trails behind them.

Yes, I am quite certain that it was cold medication that I took.

I think it was a combination of exhaustion, cold medication, and a fever that was making my visual processing wetware malfunction. Either that, or I need new drivers.

After Lupa left I slept for another hour or two, checked my e-mail (sort of), and then spoke to Lyssa for a while. I barely remember last night; I certainly don't remember Lupa leaving.

I hate it when I lose time like that. It's scary, to not be able to account for what you've done or what's happened. I just passed out and slept for most of the evening. I wound up going to bed early, also, and slept pretty solidly until 0715 EST this morning.

I feel good right now; my fever's gone, and my head's clear. My sinuses do not feel like they've been filled with spray insulation, and the constant drip is gone, too.

Congratulations to my boss, J-H- on the birth of a 7 pound, seven ounce baby girl yesterday.

Parody is one thing but this is just disturbing. Japanese pop star Otsuka Ai's latest album features her face on the cover splattered with strawberry jam ala bukkake. (I don't know if this is work safe or not; if in doubt, assume it's not.) If you don't know what the term means you can probably figure it out from the image, but it's really best if you don't.

I'm not sure if it's a fairly disgusting gimmick to sell albums or if it's someone's idea of a joke.

In other news, Patrick Volkerding of Slackware fame is still in bad shape. Wading through the medical industry has been less than productive for him, even though he is showing signs of pulmonary complications. He's running a constant fever, has night sweats, and is showing sighs of pericardial thickening (the membrane around his heart is thickening in response to infection). If anybody's got any mojo to spare right now, I could sure use some help. A lot of folks are in a bad way right now, and I might overextend myself a little tonight.

Anybody got a fusion reactor I could borrow?

Got my first parking ticket today for stealing space a few blocks from work. Net cost: $25.00us. Lots cheaper than getting an official parking permit.

Oh, well. I knew my luck had to run out sometime.

Okay, let me get this straight: Someone can claim to have been paid to write vote-rigging software, and it doesn't even get twigged by the media? One Clint Curtis, former coder at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre, signed an affadavit stating that Florida representative Tom Feeny approached him with a request to write a programme that would control the voting results tabulated by electronic voting machines. The software was originally written in Visual Basic 5 but the final programme was to be written in such a way to be portable across several different flavours of UNIX (which makes me wonder if this story isn't a fabrication; in my experience, prototypes aren't written in VB, only entire projects are; it also doesn't make sense to have to rewrite the entire thing in a different language for a different platform when you can write it once and write it properly), which vote tabulation is said to be done on. Curtis also claimed that he knew that Feeney was implementing plans to limit the number and type of voters in Florida so as to rig the electoral results. The story only gets more lurid from there, and I suggest that you take a look at it and ask yourself how plausible it sounds. I've found a few oddities in the story, personally, enough that I'm going to start doing a little digging.


I got in around 2330 EST last night, after taking off shortly after 1900 EST yesterday. Saturday night, Lyssa and I drove out to Elwing's house, some distance away for her holiday party. The directions that the.Silicon.Dragon gave us were fine up to a point, though "veer to the right and take the arcing turn to the left" and "the highway splits - go left" are two different things entirely. The latter would have been much more helpful given the area we were in. On that, I will say no more.

Lyssa had slept most of the afternoon, as she was utterly exhausted from the past week, and it was affecting her immune system as well as her general well being. I let her sleep that day to catch up on her rest while I checked my e-mail and did some writing. Lyssa slept solidly until 1700 EST or so, then dozed a little after I woke her up. We got on the road around 1800 EST, and arrived around 2000 EST, because the DC beltway was reduced to a parking lot at the halfway point. We were stuck in that traffic for the better part of an hour; no one seems to know exactly what was going on there.

By the time we arrived the party was in full swing, the food was only half gone (thank you, Elwing, for saving some for us), and the nosepaint was flowing freely (which neither of us could partake of). Some of us stopped downstairs to watch the picsub of the radio play that the original voice actors of Evangelion did after the series wrapped (think the cut-scenes from the Phantasy Star series - the text on the screen serves as the translation of the sound), which was incredibly funny. Check out your favourite peer to peer network or BitTorrent for a copy. Some time after that, someone suggested a game of poker when everyone started getting tired of DDR (when the party's been going since mid-afternoon, it's easy to get tired of). Because I never get to play, I figured "What the hell" and threw a pair of singles into the pot for chips.

I like playing cards. I don't get to, however, so I never got any good at them. People don't like playing with newbies, however so I never get to play. Nice chicken and egg problem, no?

While I didn't get my butt handed to me I was in a fair amount of trouble by the end of the first hand. Lyssa jumped in to take over, and much to my surprise she'd more than doubled my stacks of chips inside of five hands. I learned a lot watching her play that night. The biggest problem was that when someone suggested playing poker, I immediately thought that it was going to be five-card stud, not Texas hold 'em (a variant of the game that I'd never played before, only vaguely heard of). I sat down thinking that I understood what was going on, only to be caught completely by surprise.

Lyssa, on the other hand, knew exactly what was going on, and was very familiar with the strategies needed for poker (how a game based upon the permutations of a fifty-two card deck, ideally arranged with a high degree of entropy (in the cryptographic sense) can have strategy at all still boggles my mind). She held out until the very end of the game, when time and sleepiness called for all or nothing and we were near the last to be eliminated.

We wound up leaving around 0100 EST. Lyssa did everything she could to keep me awake on the drive home - I was falling asleep by the time we left, and was fighting to stay conscious. By the time we returned, I crashed hard on the couch and didn't even make it until the late showing of Fullmetal Alchemist on Cartoon Network. We went to bed, and woke up over eleven hours later. Both of us were wiped out. We took Sunday easy, having a light lunch and laying around the apartment. We did go out to dinner that evening, then hit the supermarket so I could stock up on food for this week. I left early that evening, and got home shortly before midnight local time.

I caught Lyssa's cold.

They're making a movie version of ID Software's DOOM?? Someone posted a production report over the weekend.

Maybe it'll be as good as Resident Evil was (okay, okay... so I liked it)...

It isn't as if anyone will listen, but they finally admitted: The US fucked up. The US ocucpation of Iraq has only strengthened the position of al-Quaida in particular and radical Islam in general. Democracy has not been brought to Islamic societies, only hatred and chaos.

Meanwhile, an actual threat has been detected, and they're not doing anything about it. China has just perfected its first nuke sub, capable of firing ICBMs. It is due to be launched some time in the next few months.

Hail Eris! All Hail Discordia!


The trip down to DC last night went much more rapidly than expected, and was rather uneventful. I made it down there before midnight for once, something that hasn't happened in many months. Around 2300 EST I pulled into the driveway and offloaded everything. I wound up heading to the local drugstore to pick some stuff for Lyssa but by and large we had a relaxing evening, sitting around and not doing much of anything. We tried to make a late supper last night on the stove but somehow the power to the electric range and microwave managed to go out, leaving us not in the cold, but without hot food. By picking the microwave up and relocating it, we brought it closer to a working power outlet and had hot stollen for dessert.

This morning we found the fusebox for the kitchen (in an entirely different place than the main one (in the garage)) and determined that the old-style cartridge fuses had blown. A quick trip to Home Depot this morning brought us to replacement, which worked fine when installed.

Mental note: Never run the range and microwave at the same time.

Breakfast this morning was simple: Eight-grain-three-seed bread from Zingerman's, peppercorn cream cheese, raisins, and scrambled eggs made in a ceramic bowl in the microwave. I'm kind of surprised at how the eggs turned out, but they hit the spot.

At the local comic shoppe on our way home I found the first trade paperback of Real Life Comics and discovered that the tankoubon of The Adolescence of Utena is out. It parallels the storyline of the movie quite well, but is much more understandable, even for hardcore fans. You won't walk away from it wondering if Saito Chiho and David Lynch went out for coffee one rainy afternoon.

Lyssa's a little under the weather right now - she's starting to feel run down, and we're both afraid that she's getting sick. She can't afford to get sick right now, not so close to finals. I'm a little concerned about this. I have been getting fluids into her since I arrived, and I brought Day-quil with me just in case. She's napping right now. I'm hoping that it's just exhaustion and not something worse. Just to be safe, I'm doing much the same thing to keep from coming down with anything.

Anybody up for a road trip to Harrisburg?

You scored as Drunk Cat. Put down the bottle, Cheech. Sign up for some AA classes and drink a glass of water. Bars are ok once in a while, but you shouldn't be sleeping at them.

Drunk Cat


Pissed at the World Cat


Nerd Cat


Ninja Cat


Derranged Cat


Couch Potato Cat


Love Machine Cat


Which Absurd Cat are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

Ironic, no?


A few days ago, I started worrying about Proteus, one of my bettas. He spent a lot of time lurking at the bottom of the tank, not really swimming around, not eating, and barely moving anything. I figured that he was under stress from adapting to new surroundings. Technically, that's true, though I read at Betta Talk (an excellent site for betta owners, both new and old, if you can get past the kids' IM-speak, anyway) that bettas don't do well in environments with a lot of noise or water movement, namely, those with submerged filters. I had a filter/aerator set up in the tank and Proteus lives in the compartment that the filter is in, so after talking to Lyssa for a while I put two and two together and unplugged the pump. The noise, bubbles, and water currents stopped. Two days later, Proteus is swimming around more, actually going to the surface to take food after it's dropped in, and generally looking a lot happier.

My other Dell laptop was shipped out last night.. at 2145 EST. The DHL guy didn't arrive until then for some reason, though his supervisor did call to let me know that he was running late but would still be there. A few minutes of scribbling and scanning barcodes with a hand-held unit (which had a nifty LED laser-based scanner) and my other machine is off to Dell to be tested, fixed, and sold as a refurbished unit.

Now I'm just waiting for Luel's memory module to come in.

I'm in the process of transferring files over to Luel from Kabuki-sama at this time. I've got the two of them hooked up to a 10baseT hub at work (it's better than nothing) and I'm making liberal use of tar and SSH to get everything copied. Right now I'm moving the .mp3's over (because I need them to spin when I'm on a gig). They take up the lion's share of the disk space.

What a struggle.

I figured out why Luel was reading three network interfaces instead of two - ethernet-over-IEEE1394 (Firewire) was enabled. I commented that out, and it's gone, meaning no more conflicts. X only runs with the new input interface and not the original /dev/psaux drivers. What a freaking struggle.

I need to find some way of enabling DMA support on Luel's drives - after transferring all those files over, he all but locked up trying to read the archive off of the drive, uncompress it, and write the files back out to the drive. DMA would make this task much, much easier in the future. The load incurred by doing so also screws with the audio chipset, causing it to hang every few seconds. Much to my surprise, the ACPI support in kernel v2.6.9 worked perfectly - the basic options were all turned on by default, and there are no conflicts anywhere. Closing the lid puts Luel into hibernate mode, opening the lid brings him back up successfully (peripherals don't mind, either), waiting ten minutes or so lets him go into hibernate mode normally, and the backlight is even sane. In hibernate mode, the LCD shuts off entirely while on battery; on power, the LCD shuts off but the backlight stays on.

Low-latency my butt. More hacking this weekend.

As much as I love it, Slackware isn't ready for Joe Sixpack's desktop.


I got a phone call last night from Dataline - my replacement laptop was FedEx'd in earlier that day. Once I'd recovered from my shock (I'd expected it to come in next week, due to the holiday rush) I drove John home (because he'd dropped his car off at the mechanic down the street from me), then drove to the old homefront. First off I installed the USB modem that Dataline bought so she could get connectivity back, a task which went much more smoothly than expected and set up her old Telerama account for dialup. Once we'd gotten that working, I picked up a few more things from around the house (such as my other box of highlighters and a headphone-to-RCA adaptor cable for laptop-to-stereo music), picked up the box, and headed back to the Garden.

The ride home was filled with much trepidation and worry. Would it work? Would I have to ship back two laptops?

It booted up properly several times in a row and multiple times today. Time to do the happy dance and then set about installing Slackware Linux.

Initial install went smoothly - as Slackware is wont to do, the first one I did (last week) was a little iffy, but this time there were no problems. Because I'd burned the necessary extras to CD-RW disk (latest revision of the v2.6 kernel, slapt-get Slackpack, and source code for the wireless driver), I was able to start compiling a new kernel in no time flat. It's taken a few tries to get everything set properly (if you select the driver for your IDE chipset, for example, you also have to select the driver for the "Generic IDE driver", otherwise the kernel won't be able to mount the root partition at boot time - what the hell?) but I'm just making a few tweaks right now. slapt-get downloaded and installed the updates without any trouble, and much more rapidly than at home. I'm going to try the wireless drivers soon, and then it's time to configure X.

I did discover something weird about v2.6.9 - less, and a few other utilities don't work right. I found a FAQ on the less (it's a system utility used for viewing files one page at a time) website that says that there's a quirk in the v2.6.9 kernel insofar as less is concerned. I'm removing the package in question (udev) to try running without it. If it works properly, I'll stick with it, otherwise I'll have to reinstall it and perhaps downgrade a revision.


Removing the udev package worked. less is working. It appears that you can get along without it if you're only using the standard /dev device nodes on your system.

Once I've got everything working, I'll write it up and post it to this website, and then submit it to linux-laptop.net for everyone else.

I found something out last night which made me reel. A few months ago I made reference to Scott, an old friend of mine who'd been shipped to Iraq. I only mentioned his name in passing. Scott has been a friend of my biological family for years - he helped take care of me when I was very, very small, and later as we both grew up was something of a brother-figure, down to the adolescent teasing and goofing around that can make a youngster angry and frustrated, but isn't all that unusual for close friends. I don't know what the capacity he was serving in while he was in Iraq; no one I've spoken to seem to know. Maybe he can't talk about what he did.

Their next door neighbor did talk to him, though. Scott's in a wheelchair; here's paralysed from the waist down, probably for life.

I don't know what happened. Dataline says that she heard something about a fall of some kind while he was on duty.


The fourth amendment may protect you from unreasonable search and seizure, but it doesn't stop the police from shaving your body if they think hair can be used as evidence against you. You might want to keep this firmly in mind if you're the sort to speak your mind to Johnny Law.

What Type of Villain are You?


Earlier this morning I was awakened not by my alarm clock going off but by the warning siren on my UPS - power failure. Since then, the electrical grid in my area has been spotty, blinking off one other time and browning out so many times that I lost count. The wind's practically throwing itself against everything not tied down and trying to tear it away. On the drive to work I watched the lids of dumpsters go flying and signs hanging from cables crossing streets breaking loose and blowing away. The fire escape at work is making ominious rattling and thrumming noises down around a low-low b-flat to b-natural and cables everywhere are whipping around like jumpropes. On the drive in, I watched cars and lightly loaded trucks blowing in the wind and shimmying from side to side on the highway.

Not a pleasant thing to note when you're driving alongside a moving van and it's looming ever closer to the car, despite the best efforts of its driver.

I just heard from Genetik that the rain in his area has turned to snow. I did note a few raindrops on the way in, but nothing to really write home about.

The superstructure of my building is now making a slightly disturbing rattling sound. Upon investigation, I've discovered that it was the counterweight blowing in the wind and knocking against the metal bars that keep it from blowing around too much and causing damage. This knocking is causing the bars to resonate, which is being amplified by the facade of the building. It makes a neat sound, but it isn't what I want to hear when I want to feel safe.

I just talked to a guy I work with - power's out down the street. I'm told that it's common for this area.

I just heard from a friend who works for Dell - they didn't actually double charge my account for the replacement laptop. They put a second purchase order in for inventory purposes, but didn't actually levy a charge for it. I just checked my account balance and confirmed that they didn't charge for it.

Ordinarily I don't fret like this, but I paid my bills last night, and I'm much more concerned about keeping my apartment and my gas turned on then I am about a laptop computer.

Anyway, it's all good.

Lately I've been fighting with Debian's prepackaged Apache webserver with SSL setup, and it's been giving me nothing short of a metaphorical migrane. Because the SSL certificate (which handles encryption and decryption on behalf of the server) expires once per year, when that cert is no longer good Apache's SSL functionality up and dies. I was able to regenerate the certificate a few times (using the /usr/bin/ssl-certificate utility) but Apache still kept failing. After backing up the httpd.conf file I uninstalled and reinstalled the package and restarted. It worked fine. Then I put the old config file back in place, and the problems came back. On a hunch I deleted two of the virtual hosts that I'd been experimenting with (read: fighting to get working but failing miserably; when I want directories to not have any HTML pages, only indices, I can't bloody do it) and restarted, and lo and behold it works again.

I haven't the slightest idea what I did wrong on those vhosts because I did a cut-and-paste from the template configuration that I use for the rest of them (once I got one running and running well, I made it a template to reuse later to save time) and then made the necessary changes for the new hosts. I really do not have time to play around with it right now - I deleted the vhosts and went on with life.

They're not virtual sites that anyone has used yet, they were for projects that I'm still developing on the sidelines. You're not missing anything.

Too many projects, too little time.

Anyone who connects a machine to the Net these days is just asking for trouble if they haven't taken even the most minimal precautions, such as enabling the firewalling software built into just about every sane OS these days (and Windows). An experiment performed by the company Avantgarde of San Francisco, CA showed that your average Windows machine is compromised and added to a botnet within four minutes of being connected to the Net. At one time, the background noise of the net consisted of portscans sweeping entire class B and C networks, the odd ping or traceroute, and search engines' crawlers trawling IP addresses searching for web servers to index and add to their databases. Nowadays there are utilities out there that scan blocks of IP addresses for vulnerable machines, which are quickly compromised by known exploits and taken over or infected with bots, which then connect to IRC nets to recieve instructions. There are also hundreds, if not thousands of worms out there that scan IP addresses looking for new systems to infect. Once turned loose they're pretty much out there for good, because there's always just one admin who doesn't apply patches... Six systems, four running variants of Windows, one Mac, and one Linux machine were connected to the Net without the benefit of protection and carefully observed.

Attack attempts were noted almost immediately. It is not as if intruders were sitting there specifically waiting for them to come on line; in all probability, they were hit by scanners (autorooters) that just happened to touch on their address block at that particular time. The exploits used to own the honeypots were well known and really should have been patched by the manufacturer of the machines before being shipped (it doesn't take much to update your master box and then take a new disk image... to be fair, pressing that disk image to several thousand machines (and burning several thousand auto-restoration CDs would be prohibitive). By this, I include the MS 03-026 RPC vulnerability exploited by the Blaster worm that was first sighted last bloody year.

What would the owned systems have done if this wasn't a test? Maybe they would have joined a DDoS botnet. Maybe they would have become spam zombies. Maybe they would have quietly joined an IRC network to await instructions. Maybe they would have begun scanning other blocks of IP addresses to continue propagating.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: RTFM. Windows firewall comes with help files. Read them. Most Linux distros come with a preconfigured firewall. Turn it on. If you don't want to have to go to your local guru to get your box fixed because it was cracked by a utility that anyone with three neurons to connect in series can find on Google, sit down and do a little work to educate yourself. Computers aren't plug and play - they're complex tools that often have a pretty user interface. Just because you can't see something running doesn't mean that it can't bite you in the ass when you least expect it, like the LSASS service on Windows XP.

Computers weren't designed to replace your brain, they were designed to work with it, expanding what you can do and how much information you can process. Do a little work on your own - it's not like I'm asking you to understand how NTFS5 works or anything, just basic procedures. And if you're on a broadband connection, for gods' sake turn on Automatic Update to download patches so that your machine won't be cracked using the exploit du jour.


I just checked out the Dell order update page - my replacement laptop has already been assembled and tested, and it's being boxed up right now. I just hope that they're not charging me a second time for the laptop, like it says on the invoice... I paid for two years of free service, and the machine was a DOA to begin with. If I've got to pay for a replacement unit when I never even had a chance to use the first one (because the backlight was flaky), I'm going to be pissed.

Kabuki's CD-ROM drive just gave up the ghost. Thankfully I got the USB CD-RW drive working yesterday, so I can mount disks using it.

Come on, Dell...

Proof of concept anything is always interesting to see - especially the use of human stem cells allowing a paraloyzed woman to walk once more. At the Chosun University of South Korea, doctors transplanted stem cells from the umbilical cord of a human child (many have said this before me, so I'll only say it once and then move on: You don't need to dissect embryos to get stem cells, you can get them from the afterbirth!) into the spine of a woman who had been confined to a wheelchair for the past 19 years on 12 October 2004. Just a few weeks later, she is walking without human or mechanical assistance.

Food for thought, isn't it? I've been poking around a little and I've found a few other news stories. Understandably, there is some skepticism about the test results - the scientific method demands skepticism until the experiment can be replicated by others. I really doubt that it'll be done in the US right now, however, due to laws and medical testing restrictions keeping stem cell research from progressing. There is supposedly video footage of the patient walking around, but I haven't been able to track it down yet; also, that's not quite conclusive proof without something to back it up. Anyone can get up and walk around on video, but to claim that it was the result of surgery would require medical records and experimental transcripts to back it up.

But if it pans out... think of the benefit to the human race.

In other news, I hope everyone weathered National Buy Nothing Day safely, and I have to ask how many of you who did go out and buy stuff checked out the mall cops, or even if you saw any. The reason I'm asking is because I came across an interesting article this afternoon: Mall guards are being trained in counterterrorism tactics. Fears of suicide bombers in malls ala Israel are prompting law enforcement agencies to offer training to private security. The cost of the courses varies a bit (the price quoted was $1300us, though that's probably only for that one state) but more and more people are paying to attend.


Even more interesting, Tom Ridge has resigned from his position as homeland security advisor to the White House. He's the seventh member of Bush's cabinet to resign, joining John Ashcroft, Don Evans, Colin Powell, Ann Veneman, Spencer Abreham, and Rod Paige.

Is this the album signed by the former members of InSoc for the VH-1 debacle? The by-line states that it is ("Proceeds go to benefit the VH1 Save The Music Foundation") but I don't know for sure.

Edward Elric

Which Fullmetal Alchemist Character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla


The SCO website's been compromised - it looks as if all your code are belong to SCO (local copy of the image file here in case they fix it before anyone else gets to see it).

It's been a slow day, so far. I've been fighting with USB support in the Linux kernel. It's easy to make it modular, though it's tricky to get hotplugging working properly, or at least I've found it is after you've upgraded your kernel once or twice. I've noticed that the filename of at least one module has changed in the two revisions since the last one I had working, which invalidated my configuration. This is really getting on my nerves; more and more, if you do anything at all to your machine, which was the point of Linux, I thought, something breaks. Things weren't like this way back when, but then again USB support was a dream, and not much else.

There are two possible ways of hotplugging, though there are probably more that I'm just not conversant in, the hotplug system (which can also handle PCI hotplugging and PCMCIA) and the usbmgr system, which only handles USB. One of these days I'm going to sit down and read through the docs to see how they work, because their configurations are probably going to have to be updated as the systemware is updated.

After hacking around for a while and making liberal use of the modprobe utility (which installs the module you tell it to, after computing what other modules it depends on and loading them appropriately), I think the problem lies in the module configuration: Dependencies should be set up automatically, but they aren't. That's the problem. The usbmgr system should be doing its job but isn't; I had to go in and edit some files to get it squared away. It was loading the modules by hand, however, that brought the CD-RW drive to life (and will probably be behind getting the USB key working).

I like Debian. I like Slackware more. This is where Fedora Core really came through, though - I didn't have to go through this drek.

I'm seriously considering setting up my new laptop using FC3, so I won't have to go through this again. It's downright annoying.

It's not safe to keep up on security tools no matter how you cut it, because they can be used for checking your own security, or for compromising someone else's. Case in point - Fyodor's nmap, the portscanner to end all portscanners. It's so useful, it can now interrogate the ports it finds to determine what is running and what revision it might be. It's so useful a tool that nmap scans are part of the background noise of the Net. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is attempting to get hold of the webserver logs of insecure.org because they want to see who's been downloading nmap. So far, Fyodor's been able to stonewall them for a number of reasons, but it's only a matter of time before they find a way to get them. This year, he's recieved six subpoenas for access information, a massive jump from none in years past. It is possible that an intruder downloaded a copy of the nmap source code direct from his or her home machine, or perhaps from the compromised machine, so the records would technically be evidence, though it is still a matter of the privacy of everyone else versus the court case.

Personally, I'm going to let the courts handle that one, though I will be keeping an eye on it.

New Zealand's Parliament is trying to decide if evidence acquired by compromising computer systems will be admissible as evidence. Current thinking is that so-called 'vigilante hacker' evidence will indeed be allowed in court due to its usefulness, because it would be considered information provided by an informant, which is always a grey area in criminal law. Legal precedents in NZ hold that while it would be illegal for the NZ government to crack a system for evidence, it has been allowed that information provided by a third party would be, and will remain so for the forseeable future. Another precedent holds that evidence provided by a computer technician which brings someone up on charges is admissible, and it is not considered a violation of privacy (the case in question regards child porn found on the hard drive of a man who brought his system in for repairs, because the hard drive was failing).

It's long been rumoured that the government, Big Brother, aliens, or some other organisation has been monitoring parts of the Net to keep track of what people are doing. IRC and chat rooms are the most commonly reported means of communication that are under surveillance. Recently, documents have surfaced that state that the CIA is funding research into monitoring the Net. Maybe they just started, maybe this has been going on for a while. Regardless, your conversations on these nets should be considered compromised, if you're plotting revolution or setting up a date with your SO. Specifically, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York state is developing software to monitor these communications and gather information that can be used to profile the participants. The research programme has been going on for a year now, and the fruits of its labour will be brought on-line early in 2005. This sounds a lot to me like they wrote a packet sniffer, not unlike all of the others. The proposal states that some number of major IRC servers will be monitored by the software, but not which ones. It is known, however, that Undernet was monitored for some period of time. Read the article and check out the papers linked from it; I haven't copied the links because I want to preserve the context of the story.

SSL, TLS, and especiall SILC are your friends. When in doubt, encrypt it.

If you've never heard of an EMACS extension called 'spook', it's a short eLISP programme that generates sentences filled with words that are likely to attract the attention of Big Brother (though it predates Project ECHELON by at least fifteen years), such as "cocaine nuclear weapon explosive assassination". The idea behind it is to flood the sniffers with so much garbage that they can't reliably detect anything. I wonder how long it'll be before IRC bots are doing the exact same thing...


Well, the weekend's almost over, and it's time to clean up and recuperate from the Thanksgiving festivities. The dishes are done and the laundry's almost finished. Both tasks are long overdue, unfortunately.

I woke up early Thursday morning to drive out to the homestead of Lyssa's family for the Thanksgiving holiday. Lyssa had gotten in around midnight that day, and was expecting the day to be long and not as kind as one would ordinarily expect from the company of family. Oddly, the highways were all but empty (I suspect because most everyone had travelled the night before) so I made it out to the middle of nowhere in a little under two hours, fine time indeed. When I pulled into the driveway I was concerned that I was too early in arriving and that I'd wake people up when I walked in, but lo and behold the entire family was up and around and busily taking care of business. The side dishes were prepared and resting and the turkey was almost ready to put in the oven for a five to six hour bake. The airwaves were filled with movie marathons of various kinds, and for some reason not much of anything was happening. Once the turkey was in and we'd eaten more than enough of the dried fruit platter (an addiction that I nurse carefully) we did a lot of sitting around, trying to get everything that Lyssa's brother's dog had carried off to gnaw on away before she could swallow it (the dog has a history of swallowing inorganic objects, thus requiring a vet's intervention), and wondering what there was to do. Indiana Jones movies and the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy Thanksgiving Marathon (which was pretty good, but I didn't feel comfortable watching it around Lyssa's family; they think I'm a "nice, good boy" and I don't want to disabuse them of the notion) only goes so far for mental stimulation. Lyssa and I left to go to the store early that afternoon to get some much-needed supplies, and discovered that it was a bad idea to go out Thanksgiving Day without coats because it began to snow shortly after we left.

By the time dinner was ready, you wouldn't have known that it had been snowing off and on all afternoon, unless you had to scape the ice from the windscreen of your car.

Later that afternoon we coaxed Lyssa's brother into playing Lunch\ Money with us, which if you've never played it, is a card game about school bullies shaking each other down for lunch money. It can be screamingly funny to play, and once we got the rules down we had a good time kicking the stuffing out of each other.

Dinner at Lyssa's family's place was nothing short of impressive - the turkey was done to perfection, the salad was one of those seven-layer dealies, the stuffing was lightly spiced, and cranberry sauce was replaced with a cranberry gelatin confection with crushed walnuts, among other refinements. I was most impressed.

My new laptop has to be sent back to Dell - the backlight isn't working. Dell, to their credit, is going to send me a new one, and I'm supposed to ship the old one back in the same box, completely free of charge.

That's nice of them, don't get me wrong. I wonder how long Kabuki is going to hold out.

The drive home was uneventful, though difficult due to the poor weather and lack of light. Lyssa and I arrived at the Garden shortly after 1900 EST and crashed for a couple of hours. Later in the evening, we headed out in search of dessert and chance to stretch our legs. After driving to two restaurants and finding them closed for the holiday, as well as visiting a supermarket to find munchies (another dead end), we found two things of note in my area: A van full of high school kids parked for one reason or another behind a restaurant (whatever floats their boats - use your imagination) and the only restaurant open in the area, a Denny's near the highway.

Not bad for driving around for an hour.

Friday morning we got up late. The tryptophan finally caught up to us and we took advantage of the day to sleep in and recuperate. Lyssa had to work on a paper for this week, so I went to lunch with some of the 412 locals who were back in town alone. Per usual, we visited our favourite sushi restaurant, Sushi Tomo, and caught up on what's been going on in life and how things are turning out. In between bites of tofu and sushi we cracked jokes and pondered life. After four pots of green tea, tongues were loosened and we groused about the direction the world is going in. The fish was fresh and perfectly prepared, as usual at Sushi Tomo. Of course, figuring out how to split the cheque up took another hour or so, and after that we hit the usual cafe' in Squill (we seem to have a lot of 'usual' places...) for more coffee and camaraderie. I ran into my boss at the cafe', much to my surprise.

I wonder where all those pictures went...?

Friday evening, Lyssa and I met up with Alexius and Diane at TGI Friday's at the Waterfront for a late dinner (try most anything from the Jack Daniel's menu, you won't be sorry) and later with Ysidro for the late showing of The Incredibles. I think we ordered most of the chicken in the restaurant and cleaned them out of the JD sauces. The chicken finger appetizers looked and tasted enough like General T'sao's Chicken that I forgot where I was a few times, and found myself wondering where my chopsticks had gone off to... The Incredibles was a fantastic movie. I had not heard anything about it in the previous days and weeks, and as I am wont to do, went in cold. Pixar has done it again; I'm especially taken with their fabric texturing, which has really matured in the past two years. The plot of the movie was paced just right for kids, yet there was enough stuff in it that would keep older folks from getting bored. I was taken with the idea of superheroes trying to adapt to a mundane lifestyle, and the problems it can cause. It reminded me a lot of Alan Moore's Watchmen in that regard. I also liked the idea of supers going to pot and having to reclaim who and what they are.

Oh, and the bad guy's minions coming up with a drinking game for their boss' antics left me doubled over gasping.

Go see it.

Lyssa and I also found the time to watch the first couple of episodes of >Full Metal Alchemist, which she's been taping off of Cartoon Network lately. I'm told that the episodes are out of sequence and it's dubbed, but it's a pretty good dub, and well drawn on top of that. The fan-stuff is just starting to appear on eBay, so the prices are reasonable (though shipping will bite you because a lot of it will be coming from Hong Kong) right now, and will be until everyone and their backup wants to cosplay as the Elric brothers.

The basic costumes are pretty easy; I'm drawing up an Edward Elric costume, and I think I can put it together out of found stuff primarily: Jeans and the shirt are easy to acquire, and the shirt won't take too much work to bring up to scratch (just some white piping on the edges and down the front). Engineer boots are easy to find. Unless you're going all out or dressing as one of the ripped clothing variants of Edward, making prosthetic coverings for the right arm and left leg won't have to be done; finding a pair of white cloth gloves is easy.

I don't plan on going quite that far, though the idea does appeal to me.

Costuming as Alfonse, on the other hand, would pose a challenge. Making what amounts to a suit of armour is a nontrivial project, though I've seen people do it in the past.

Anyway, enough blithering about FMA. From what I've seen of it, it's a good series.

Lyssa finished one of her papers on Friday. We slept in again, and joined John and Lara in Squill for lunch at a Kosher deli just off of the main street called Kazansky's Deli. The cheese blintzes and noodle kugel are tasty, and the sandwich called The Big Skyler is nothing short of amazing - try 'em all out if you're in the area.

Lyssa and I spent most of the day at the Hillman Library at Pitt photocopying books for her paper because the United Postal Service screwed up her order; Lyssa ordered a rare book to work on another paper and had it sent to my apartment. UPS, apparently, does not deliver to apartment complexes (since when??) and has her book at the local office for pickup. Which does her no good at all.

So we photocopied the book from the Hillman Library.

We stopped off at the Caliban Book Store afterward and browsed the stacks of rare and old books, and marvelled at the hardbound first editions (!) of L. Frank Baum's Oz novels. All of them. Every last one, in remarkably good condition.


We also stopped off at Phantom Comics to see what had come in (my subscriptions aren't in yet, though) and picked up some more beads at the bead shoppe to finish Lyssa's clock key necklace. On the way back that night we stopped at the local mall to pick up some needed supplies and brose the pet store.

Yep.. last night I bought a pair of bettas, named Proteus and Eris. Proteus is an iridescent blue/purple/green male, and Eris is a bright, iridescent red male betta. Lys and I spent a good two hours nosing around the store, and lamenting the conditions the animals live in.

Petland isn't renowned for the state of its charges. They have a reputation, I am told, for dealing with puppy mills, with all of the health problems for dogs from these places associated with them. The hermit crabs are in a sorry state, much more so than the last time I looked in on them. I even found a dead one laying in the bottom of the tank, which doesn't give me much faith in them. Lyssa says that I rescued the two bettas from Petland; after seeing more of the animals there, I'm inclined to agree. By the time we got home I'd picked up a filter, pump, tubing, and colour-fixing food on top of everything else. Lyssa and I put the bettas into wineglasses to get them out of the shipping bags, which bought me enough time to clean and set up the tank. The glass dividers are in place, and I put blue and clear glass beads in the bottom of each partition. We filled the tank up with water and purifier and let the pump run for a while, which also let the temperature of the water in each wineglass and the tank equalise. While the tank settled and the fish got used to the Garden, Lyssa and I met up with Lupa and Jim and went in search of food. Again.

I ate out way too many times this weekend. I need money for gifts, and I'm having problems with my self image on top of that right now. But enough.

We eventually drove to Applebee's, up on McKnight Road. The appetizer platter was large enough for all of us, and the food quite tasty, if a bit on the expensive side.

Dining with friends is a unique social activity: Just about anything can come up in conversation, and usually does. It's a way to connect with people and learn more about who they are and where they came from. We spent a lot of time talking, more explaining where we came from.

Eventually, we dropped Lupa and Jim off and headed downtown to hit Club Chemistry for 80's Night. Which wasn't 80's Night. Which sucked, in fact.

The dance floor was packed full of the beer-and-bounce-up-and-down crowd, there was beer spilled all over the floor, making footing treacherous, there was so little room to move that I couldn't raise a hand without touching part of someone's body that I didn't intend, and the music sure as hell wasn't 80's. I don't know what it was, but it wasn't worth the money I paid to get in.

Lyssa and I left early. As we got back to the car, we rolled the windows down in the middle of the rain and cranked the stereo up as we drove through the streets of downtown Pittsburgh. "This is what we paid to listen to," we groused, "not that shite in the club."

Good music is lost on this city.

"We only play mainstream 1980's," indeed.

You are Alice
You are Alice

The heroine of the Wonderland tales, you are filled
with curiosity and random inquiry.

What Alice in Wonderland Character Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Ironic, that.

The Declatation of Independence was banned in a public school in Los Angeles, California, because it mentions God.

Big deal. You want to get God out of public schools, stop giving tests. I find it more scary that a document fundamental to the United States of America was banned for any reason. The Declaration of Independence is a large amount of the context behind the formation of this country and the way things are the way they are, and the citizens of this country should have at least a basic understanding of it.

And Williams... they didn't ban it because you're a Christian. You're in the majority, remember?

You can tell your kids not to talk to strangers all you want, but strangers will be talking to your kids very soon, and you can't stop them. The US Senate approved an omnibus appropriations bill last week that gives $20mus to fund mental health screening of children, adults, and pregnant women throughout the school system. Another $20mus was approved by the House earlier. Representatives aren't trying to kill this programme but they are trying to force parental consent wording into the structure of the bill. The bill mandates block funding, which pretty much assures that it'll be used for just this. States recieving this funding are expected to make these mental health assessments mandatory for all school-age children.


I think someone's compromised the Target online ordering database. Apparently, you can buy marijuana from Target's website for $25.25us.


I drove out to the homefront last night to pick up my laptop. Dataline's been trying to get back on line since I left, though her efforts were hampered by not having a LAN to connect through. Attempts to dial out were foiled by the lack of a modem. Most of my system components are still stored in the basement of my old Lab, so a quick trip out there revealed two modems, both 33.6kpbs, one internal, one external. Neither one worked on her machine, though. I spent about two hours trying various configurations to get them recognised by Windows but neither one came up and both hooked COM:2 IRQ 4, even though I'd re-set them to other configurations. I think they've been in storage for so long after such heavy use that they just gave up the ghost due to component rot or something equally quirky. She's going out today to get a new external modem (USB, I hope) so she can dial up. I have to get the dialup numbers for her, come to think of it...

My laptop, when booted up, had a few problems. The backlight on the screen didn't power up, so we couldn't see any of what was going on. That's just slightly annoying. It seemed to work just fine after I got it back to the Garden, however, so maybe it was afraid of the house. However, Dell did stiff me on RAM: I ordered and paid for 768MB but only recieved 512MB. I spoke to Dell Customer Support this morning, and after sending them a copy of the receipt they e-mailed to me, they've agreed to ship a 256 MB DIMM to complete my order. I can install it myself without any difficulty, so that'll wrap things up neatly.

After work today bossman took everyone in the office out for a cold one to celebrate Thanksgiving and surviving the members of the board of directors who came in to the office today to check everything out. That in itself was painless and largely transparent to everyday operations. We had some problems accessing the network of our ASP (Application Services Provider) but there isn't anything that we can do about that, it's a fact of life that sometimes networks get bogged down. Anyway, there's a bar not too far away that we wandered over to after work for a cold one and munchies.

Mega munchies. A nacho platter is enough for three. The calamari I ordered was just enough for me, though it could have been fried a bit more. Squid and Guiness is a good combination. Because I knew that I'd have to sit there for a while to get my legs back (tolerance? what tolerance?) I ordered dinner, if only to buy myself time to sober up. Truth be told, I just didn't feel like cooking tonight, so the crab cake sandwich hit the spot.

Excellent food. Thanks, Bill!

I've been playing with my new laptop just about all evening. It took me a while just to get everything configured, meaning an upgrade to v2.6.9 of the Linux kernel but thankfully I've got a spindle of CD-RW disks laying around. I discovered that the integrated network interface on the Dell Inspiron 700m may be easily configured with the B44 driver (check your kernel configs for further information) but once it's in, you're golden. I'm jacked in on my new deck while slapt-get (like Debian's APT utility, only for Slackware (yes, I went home)) downloads security patches. I'm not sure why the less utility doesn't work (it keeps ABENDing with return code 256), nor why xterm doesn't work, but I'm going to mess around with it a little more to figure it out. To my utter surprise the IPW2200 open source drivers built properly and work perfectly - the 802.11g module integrated into my deck runs perfectly, even with WEP. I haven't tried WPA yet, so I'll report on that later. And for some reason, SSH isn't letting me log into Leandra the way I normally do. I really have to look into that one.

There are some tricks that you have to pull to get the screen running at the full 1280x800 but I'm still sorting stuff out, so that is going to have to wait until I can actually open an Xterm and probe the system.

I think he wants to be named Luel.


Last night I spent most of the evening doing consulting for friends of Dataline. They've got a small network set up for the family jumped off of a wireless router, pretty standard stuff for a SOHO setup these days. Unfortunately, large quantities of spyware are also standard these days. I got a call Sunday afternoon asking for help because Gina's machine was running so slowly that she couldn't get anything done. I drove down there after dinner last night and opened taskmgr.exe to see what was going on. Thankfully I was able to look up every process running on the machine in a reasonable amount of time. As I went through the process table I killed a good five or six running executables by hand, just to be safe. Two of them presented me with a "Robin Hood and Friar Tuck" situation, but I was able to take advantage of the system lag to kill both processes inside of a second before they could restart each other (which happened twice before I figured out what was going on). Thankfully none of the spyware (or the virus infection) were boobytrapped to kill the machine if they were killed. That done, I updated the spyware scanners and antivirus software, then rebooted into single user mode to run a thorough scan. Spybot picked up 77 distinct files; Ad-Aware detected 493 (many of which were registry keys, though it did pick up a few IE browser extensions that Spybot missed). Symantec didn't detect the virus (for the lives of me I don't remember which was it was) with the latest definitions, which leads me to wonder if maybe it wasn't disk-resident after infection.

I've got to go back, so I'll check then.

The WAP is messed up, too - the DHCP server somehow was disabled, which makes it impossible for the other systems to pick up leases. Without the access credentials for the unit, I couldn't fix that last night.

Again, I'll be going back later.

Hardcopy might not be dead yet, but it certainly is becoming easier to trace. A number of the major printer manufacturers have been rigging their printers to surreptitiously print the makes and serial numbers of their printers on every page they print in minuscule yellow dots on yellow backgrounds, ostensibly for anticounterfitting purposes. I can see this being used to trace back, for example, anonymous letters (yes, they have legitimate uses, such as whistleblowing) to where they were printed out (which could be bad if you sent in the warranty card). It is said that it is not possible to disable this functionality because it's built into the laser itself (well, it's on a chip that's part of the laser assembly) but you know that people are going to try. I think they'll keep their results close to their chests, though.

This is kind of odd.. in the late 1990's, reports came flooding in from Phoenix, AZ about strange aerial activity spotted by thousands of people. No one really figured out what was going on; no hard evidence was found; the US military was less than helpful in discerning what was going on. The official explanation was that magnesium flares were being tested, but that didn't explain why everyone was reporting seeing some kind of solid structure between the lights, or why the lights always moved in perfect synch and didn't drive in the air currents. Folks have been debating this for literally years on end. Now reports are beginning to flood in once again, only from all over the country. These odd craft have been spotted in other countries as well; military craft were scrambled but were ineffective. It appears that another wave of sightings is beginning.

Life is never boring when your eyes are open.

Well, we know how Clearchannel feels.


Kabuki-sama gave me a hell of a scare this morning: I thought I botched her kernel upgrade when the PCMCIA network card I normally use refused to come up. I fiddled with it for about a half-hour, even going so far as to hack her PCMCIA configs a little to exclude some memory regions and disconnect the USB hardware. Eventually, I powered her completely down, jumped into BIOS for a moment, then booted her back up - the card's working now.

Her functional eccentricities are starting to stand in the way of getting work done. I hope my new laptop comes in soon.

The last thing I expected to hear was Jello Biafra on the radio this morning. For whatever reason, I had Pittsburgh's talk radio station on (normally only to catch Coast to Coast AM late at night) and they played Love Me, I'm A Liberal as bumper music (right after Politically Correct Christmas, of course).

Yes, many of the city's talk radio shows are snarky and highly political. No surprise, there.

BMEzine strikes again: HTML code as a back piece. Lowmagnet says that it's not valid HTML code because the <align> tag is depricated in the HTML v4.0 spec. It's also been said that this guy needs his <head> shaved...

The EFF has been busy lately - they're suing to have the court order behind the Indymedia server confiscation unsealed. If you hadn't heard the furor a few weeks ago, the FBI pulled some strings to get some of Indymedia's web servers seized by government agents (grep this memory log file for 'Indymedia' for more details). The records and court documentation were sealed by the US government; interestingly enough, the US Attorney's office in San Antonio, TX is countersuing to block the EFF's brief, stating that the seizure was part of an 'ongoing criminal terrorism investivation' and that the MLAT (Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty - the US government makes deals with foreign governments to enforce US laws in other countries in exchange for other concessions; check out these search results for more information on MLATs) involved is more important than Indymedia's rights as an organisation.

This is one to keep an eye on, everyone. The Feds can waltz in and confiscate the hardware a website is running on if they don't like the content of the site, and thanks to the USA PATRIOT Act any and all records of the op can be sealed, so you might not ever know why they took the machines, drives, and data. Just think about what might happen if you write an unpopular opinion of the current regeime in your weblog and someone takes offense at it...

In a move which may set an uncomfortable legal precedent, a federal judge in Las Angeles, CA has dismissed charges against someone who used a hardware keylogged to spy on his employer, stating that such devices do not violate federal wiretapping laws. One Larry Ropp of California was busted for using a Key Katcher (a device that sits between the keyboard plug and PS/2 jack on the computer and records all of the keystrokes types) to spy on his employers (the Bristol West Insurance Group) because he was gathering information on certain anticonsumer practises that his employers were engaged in. A grand jury indicted Ropp in March of 2003 for his whistleblowing efforts. His indictment was thrown out because the data wasn't transmitted over a network, it was held in a RAM chip inside the keyboard tap, so it wasn't wiretapping (so their reasoning goes).

The uncomfortable precedent? Spying on people with keyloggers could be construed as legal in the future, for any (bullshit) reason.

Always peek between your keyboard and computer to see what might be in-line.

You know... now that I think about it, what's to stop the eavesdropped from accessing the keylogger and wiping the contents of the device?

My laptop's in! I'm picking it up tomorrow night.

You Are Mashed Potatoes
Oridnary, comforting, and more than a little predictable You're the glue that holds everyone together.
What Part of Thanksgiving Are You?


Transgenic chimaerae at 0053 EST.

What a weekend.

One thing I absolutely hate is not being able to keep straight when things are supposed to happen. An old friend of mine is supposed to be in town for a couple of days, and per our pact from years and years ago, we always go out to dinner and then hang out all night (it's my turn).. but when the hell is he going to be here? This weekend? Next weekend? Last weekend? When?!?

I guess it's my own dumb fault for not keeping on top of stuff like this. I should know better - hell, I should be putting this stuff in my pocket computer. That's what it's for, right?

I spent most of yesterday at Bredmold's place with the rest of the Fading Suns crew gaming. Evil Minion Overlord has been running a FS game for a few months now, averaging one session a month in a different location. Between having to find the place each time and stuff going on, I haven't been able to make every session. Generally, they're announced a couple of days in advance, whenver a location can be found for the game.

However, I also wound up missing Taja and Andrea v2.0's birthdays yesterday because I didn't find out about it until after I got home and sat down to read their Livejournals.

And I ate too much junkfood yesterday.

I hate my life.

And I ate too much junk yesterday.

I did manage to get some hacking done on Kabuki-sama last night, though. I upgraded her kernel to v2.4.28, and discovered that the USB LCD panel drivers don't play nicely with her display. After I pulled them out and recompiled she started working normally. I'm going to be doing some experimenting with USB devices and multiple mice at work this week (because using an external keyboard and the touchpad at the same time is a little awkward).

The entire day pretty much wiped me out. I got home shortly before 0000 EST today, did the dishes (at long last), and sat down to check my e-mail. My body crashed a little after 0200 EST from exhaustion.

This morning was not too different from yesterday, save that I did some grocery shopping and picked some books out of my library that I think I'll need at work soon. I spent some time building a Windows machine for Lyssa, who'll be in town later this week and will need a machine to do her homework on. I had to run out and get another BIOS battery for it because it kept losing its configuration and eventually refused to boot up at all. Installing and patching Windows, however, took even longer than troubleshooting and going back to the store, total.

I wonder what rent down there would be like... and do they get DSL?

Think you have nothing to worry about? The Electronic Frontier Foundation got their hands on a copy of the USA PATRIOT 2 Act (The PATRIOT Act Strikes Back - I say this only partially in jest) and dissected it. Scary stuff in there. Surveillance becomes easier to perform. Everyone questioned about someone is under a gag order - they can't talk about the fact that they were questioned about someone, and they certainly can't tell the person they were questioned about. Administrative subpoenas may be issued without court approval to get information from third parties, such as libraries, ISPs, doctors, or other people about people. Law enforcement will have unlimited and unmonitored access to people's credit histories (when it's damn difficult to get hold of your own, no less - I've been waiting six months for my requests to be processed, and no amount of badgering has accelerated the process). Use of crypto is a felony worth five years in prison (you just knew that I was going to get pissed about that...) if it's used in the course of committing a felony (and PATRIOT II adds fifteen new felonies to the list, incidentally). Use crypto to talk to someone who's up on one of these charges? Guess what - you're in hot water, too. Suspects may have DNA samples taken and stored indefinitely. Religious groups and gathering places may be monitored at any time for any reason and any length of time (which is already happening; the same holds for peaceful protest groups. Search warrants will be made available for nonviolent crimes of many kinds.

Take the time to sit and read through this, folks. This runs counter to the very concepts upon which the United States were founded. This involves you, whether or not you've done anything. Read through it for yourself and see. Don't take my word for it.