This Space for Rent

Jan 31, 2006

On sorting

I've been working with computers for about 30 years(!) now, and there's one thing that always strikes me as a bit odd about the computer world. No matter what job you're looking for, you will invariably be interviewed by at least one person who has got sorting on their mind.

It's very odd, particularly when you're one of the people on the interviewer side of the table and one of your fellow cow orkers starts quizzing the prospective PFY about sort times. You can almost read the but I thought this was a systems admin job??? thought sweep across their face as they're asked how to sort something, and as they wrestle with the temptation to pull their concealed copy of Sorting and Searching, then do the computer science version of going postal (admittedly, being Knuthed to death isn't likely to make the 6pm news, but it's still a grim horrible way to go.)

If there's anything that's been documented into oblivion in the computer world, sorting is it. I'm surprised that "RTFM!" isn't the universal response to the "blah blah blah sort?" question; I know that I'd recommend hiring anyone who had the nerve to say that instead of simply trying to remember years-old computer science questions.

Jan 30, 2006

I’m just going to pretend that it wasn’t raining cats and dogs this morning

Perhaps some flower pictures will bring the sun out some time when I'm not sitting in the little cube farm downtown?

Jan 29, 2006

There’s no such thing as bad publicity? Well, sortof, but in a bad way.

In the grand tradition of internet time wasters, there's an eliza-style "mental health exam" out on geocities, and, for the yuks of it, I decided that I would waste the time I'd usually spend either cleaning up the basement (I did, however, clean up the last filth-filled puddle from the last sewer not sewering incident; this time I actually made it into the basement to see the elegant little geyser from the drain, and got to wade in and wedge a temporary drain plug into the torrent) or, I dunno, updating annotations, magicfilter (which still has a couple of bugs outstanding against it, mainly in the somewhat funky m4 code that it uses to generate filter chains), or Mastodon Linux, which needs a pretty serious facelift now that the entire freaking free software community has lunged over to the newer and more broken C99 (editors note: This is not C)-compliant gccs, filling out the little "exam" and posting about it.

The results? Out of a score of from 0 to grab-your-shotgun-and-head-for-the-watertower, I got 477, or, as the handy javascript popup said:

OVER 300 POINTS: This score indicates a major life crisis and is highly predictive (80%) of serious physical illness within the next 2 years.

Who knew that owning a house and taking vacations could be so stressful? I would think that having the B*sh junta in power and having to fight with desktop linux would be stressful, but they didn't even ask any questions about that.

(via tild~)

Jan 28, 2006

Trolley picture of the day

513 and 514 doze outside at the Lovejoy carbarn on a rainy Saturday (28-Jan-206). We were following 007 (blue/red) down Lovejoy, and I took this picture through the side window of the Prius as we drove past the carbarn.

Jan 27, 2006

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Since they don't have spinnerets, Dust Mites need to rent a summer web for their weekend getaways.

On ad-free weblogs

The author of the weblog Utopian Hell, which I started reading sometime around the time I got annotations to the point where I could actually leave it unattended at the end of the month (and come back the next day) has been a fairly reliable writer on the subject of why ads are not a good plan for a weblog. Intellectually I've always liked that argument, but have never really been warm enough to it to make the sort of statement that she's made on her weblog, because I mainly read political weblogs and it's somewhat obvious when a writer has gotten coopted, because their writing changes fairly quickly thereafter, and my reaction to that is to just drop the weblog and go elsewhere for my daily dose of political frustration.

However, thanks to the people at blogads, that may have changed. They went out and found a handful -- 25 people to be precise -- of lefty/social North American weblog authors and did a gapingvoid on them by giving them a fully-paid week-long junket in Amsterdam. Needless to say, this has started to attract some attention (and, yes, that second link is to an Evil Party website), not all of it favorable. It's certainly not at the Abramoff/Delay/Norquist level of pay-for-legislation, and it is, at least superficially, the logical next step of the weblog -> advertising on weblogs progression that has happened everywhere (and would probably happen to me if TSFR got popular enough to overflow the pipe it's on right now.) But there's something that bothers me about it, and it took a while to figure out.

When gapingvoid did their wine marketing campaign, they gave away cases of wine to a bunch of weblogs, no strings attached, under the clever assumption that when given a gift horse, people will enthusiastically talk about the gift. And it worked, to the tune of doubling the winery's sales. But I don't read about wine or spirits online, so it seemed like nothing more than a very clever advertising trick.

So why does the Amsterdam junket seem different?

I was talking with the best about it this morning, and she pointed out that all of the weblogs that involved with this junket were run by young and socially active people, so that when they just spontaneously started talking about their wonderful trip to Amsterdam it would just naturally make Amsterdam more attractive to the young and socially active readership (determined, naturally, by online polling) of their weblogs. And then I started to think "if they can be bought by a junket here, what's to say that anything else they write isn't also because of a party political contribution on behalf of the Silly party?. The best pointed out that one of the fun things about reading the social weblogs is that the authors are just real people talking about their lives, and that it's not the same when you read an article by someone who is doing it as their job.

And that by tying this sort of "giveaway" into blogads, they're also doing a sort of "you can be like the kool kids!" marketing to get blogads onto more weblogs, the vast majority of which won't ever ever be the kool kids.

It's not very appealing to read a weblog and wonder if you're reading an article or a paid editorial ad. At least the people who sold out to the Amsterdam junket are being forced to wear the blogads banner of shame for a year month, so I will not forget that I'm reading a author who can be bought.

But, for me, it made some things easier; I hadn't used the ad-free weblog banner because it felt like self-promotion, but now it seems like a promise that my commentary is coming from me and not my attempts to make a million on the information superhighway. So there it is, and there it will stay. If someone makes me the weblog offer I cannot refuse (wads of money or a junket, as long as I put the banner up on the weblog for a period of time), I'll just shut TSFR down and then they can have their banner, I'll have their money, and people won't have to worry about me being the conduit for some nasty marketing organization.

Update 30-Jan-2006: corrected and linked to the Monty Python reference.

(h/t to Suburban Guerilla for the news about the junket.)

1 comment

Hall of idiots (Stupid Party edition)

Note that Joe Leiberman is not in the hall of idiots this time.

Biden (Pl-DE)
"I see no reason why a filibuster would work"
Byrd (D-WV), Johnson (D-SD), Nelson (D-NE)
Don't care if a candidate for the Supreme Court lies to Congress.
Conrad (D-ND)
"I feel more favorably disposed toward him" and, as a special bonus quote to show how much he cares about a candidate for the Supreme Court lying to Congress "He represented to me he does not have a view of an unchecked executive"
Landrieu (D-LA)
Cowed by the threat of having the Evil Party withhold reconstruction funding for Louisiana
Salazar (D-CO)
Cowed by threats from the christopath James Dobson.

Time to start making phone calls. None of them are my senators, but it might be worthwhile to make time in my schedule to make calls to the minority leader and the DNC suggesting that if the Democrats can't filibuster the bagman of the week, they aren't a suitable recipient of my campaign contributions.

(via King of Zembla)


Supertrivial kernel hack of the day

Modern Linux kernels (and possibly ones as old as the 2.0.28 kernel I use with Mastodon Linux, but I wouldn't know because I don't load off initrds, so if you try to install the OS onto a machine that doesn't have a supported hard disk controller, it won't even get off the ground) have the almost completely desirable feature that if they load and then can't find a root filesystem, they immediately panic() with a fairly detailed error message. This is a good thing, with only one teeny problem, and that problem is that the machine calls panic() to shut itself off.

When the init process calls panic(), it pretty much locks up the machine. You can't do the 3 finger salute to reboot the machine, scrollback dies, and, most importantly, there's a kernel panic message on the screen, which tends to concentrate the mind in a distressing manner. In my career as a Linux programmer (since 1993) I've played through a little skit involving the kernel panic message more times than I care to think about:

"Something went wrong with the system! When we tried to boot up, it kernel panicked; you need to drop everything and find out what's wrong with the kernel!"
"What else did it say?"
"I don't know; it just kernel panicked!"
"Can I take a look at the machine?"
"Oh, no, we're too busy for that; we had to reboot the machine into other-OS to do our work."

And almost invariably, the reason for this kernel-panic is because the machine is trying to load off an nonfunctioning initrd, and when it can't load a root filesystem, it panics as you'd expect it would.

The messages on the console read something like:

scsi0:A:0:0: Tagged Queuing enabled.  Depth 32
(scsi0:A:6): 80.000MB/s transfers (40.000MHz, 16bit)
  Vendor: IBM       Model: DDS Gen5          Rev: A060
  Type:   Sequential-Access                  ANSI SCSI revision: 03
Module aic79xx loaded, with warnings
LVM version 1.0.8-2(26/05/2004) module loaded
Loading lvm-mod.o module
Warning: kernel-module version mismatch
        /lib/lvm-mod.o was compiled for kernel version 2.4.21-37.EL-2
        while this kernel is version 2.4.21-37.EL-3
Warning: loading /lib/lvm-mod.o will taint the kernel: forced load
  See for information about tainted modules
Module lvm-mod loaded, with warnings
Mounting /proc filesystem
Creating block devices
VFS: Cannot open root device "%s" or %s
Please append a correct "root=" boot option
Kernel panic: VFS: Unable to mount root fs on %s

But what the users see is something more like:

Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! 
Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! 
Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! 
Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! 
Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! 
Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! 
Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! 
Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! 
Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! 
Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! 

And thus it gets reported as just a kernel panic (because kernel programmers are apparently coding gods™ who can diagnose bugs with a swish-swish) which we are expected to be able to faithfully reproduce on our entirely different hardware, and, at least half the time, has lead to bugtracking database entries that escalate up to being very high priority (and boy, lemme tell you I'm happy I don't have that job anymore) issues that mean we have to drop everything to get them fixed.

We've been testing out some new hardware at my current job, and have been going through the kernel panic skit at regular (infrequent, but regular) intervals, and I finally snapped (patch vs. Linux 2.4.21):

--- linux/init/do_mounts.c~     2006-01-27 11:45:22.000000000 -0800
+++ linux/init/do_mounts.c      2006-01-27 12:27:28.000000000 -0800
@@ -376,12 +376,23 @@
                  Allow the user to distinguish between failed open
                  and bad superblock on root device.
-               printk ("VFS: Cannot open root device "%s" or %s\n",
-                       root_device_name, kdevname (ROOT_DEV));
-               printk ("Please append a correct "root=" boot option\n");
-               panic("VFS: Unable to mount root fs on %s",
-                       kdevname(ROOT_DEV));
+               break;
+       printk ("\n"
+               "********************************************\n"
+               "*              SYSTEM HALTED               *\n"
+               "********************************************\n");
+       if (root_device_name)
+           printk (" Cannot open root device "%s" or %s\n",
+                   root_device_name, kdevname (ROOT_DEV));
+       else
+           printk (" Cannot open root device on %s\n", kdevname(ROOT_DEV));
+       printk (" Please append a correct \"root=\" boot option\n");
+       printk ("\n********************************************\n");
+       while (1) schedule_timeout(MAX_SCHEDULE_TIMEOUT);
+       /* should _never_ happen */
        panic("VFS: Unable to mount root fs on %s", kdevname(ROOT_DEV));

This will hopefully kill multiple birds with one stone; not having the panic means that at least the users will report a different mysterious system error to us, plus because it's spinning on schedule_timeout, the three-finger-salute and the built-in linux scrollback features keep working, so on the rare occasions where I can actually get to the crashed machine before the users have gone away to do something else, I'll be able to scroll back towards the top of the kernel messages to start and figure out what went wrong.

Perhaps the novelty of the new error message will startle the users into paying attention to it.

Railroad picture of the day (outtakes from last fall)

*n**n p*c*f*c 3985 approaching 9th and Division

The clouds don't look quite the same when they're not drizzling down rain. The steam engine, on the other hand, wouldn't be any less attractive if it was being rained on. But it would probably be harder to take a good picture of it.


Jan 26, 2006

Railroad picture of the day (it’s a slow slow week version)

I found myself down at Union Station again, and took one picture from the pedestrian bridge before hurrying inside to try and clean out the computer equivalent of the Aegean Stables. The gloomy image is pretty typical for this week.

Jan 24, 2006

The Camel’s Nose

Canada, by riding

The Evil Party has taken a particular interest in getting the CPC, in all of their gay-hating majesty, into power. And, as the experience of the United States shows, once the camel has gotten its nose under the tentwall, it will try its damnest to get the rest of itself into the tent. I'm not a Canadian citizen, but I suspect that some unpleasant surprises will be coming down the road along with the all of the campaign promises that the CPC made during this campaign.


Compare and Contrast (pt 13; How can you tell that a Republican is lying?)

September 1, 2005 August 29, 2005

"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees"

--Maximum Leader Genius

"Any storm rated Category 4 or greater will likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching."

(--DHH report submitted to Mt. Doom at 1:47am)


-- NOAA advisory 25a, issued at midnight

(article on the DHH report from the New York Times,
via Body and Soul

Jan 22, 2006

The non-stop thrills of the urban lifestyle

Our tiny little backyard runs up against a drystone wall that separates our palatial estate (all 50x100 feet of it) from a parking lot and a acupuncture clinic. At the top of the wall, there is about 3 feet of pretty-much abandoned land before you run into the cheapo plywood wall of the acupuncture center. Since this is the Willamette valley, it rains a lot, and so that 3 feet has things growing in it, ranging from the usual crop of native vines through the usual crop of English Ivy (if not for the himalayan blackberries, it would be the kudzu of the northwest) to the occasional tree. Or trees. We've got a bunch of trees growing up there, ranging from a Persian Walnut that is slowly pushing the drystone wall into our back we-call-it-a-garden to a holly tree to a bunch of scraggly evergreens to a shrub elm which is helping the walnut tree bring down the wall.

The walnut tree is conveniently twined around the telephone wires, so if I cut it down it will cut off all phone service to southeast Portland, but the elm tree isn't. Or wasn't. I've been looking at a bunch of Stickley houseplans, and as part of his harping on the sort of suburban lifestyle that has almost singlehandedled created global warming he points out that you can use natual logs to make rustic porches, furniture, and whatnot. To use natural logs for this, you need to have wood that doesn't grow bent, and, conveniently enough (for me, if not for the scrub elm), elm trees love to grow in nice straight lines.

So, instead of staying inside and reading about Canadian politics (it's now D-day to see if the Tories and the BQ can get together to dissolve Canada into a bunch of squabbling and very tasty to the imperialist superpower to the south city-states), I spent the afternoon sawing down the elm bush, then trimming the downed limbs into logs suitable for building houses and withes suitable for weaving into rustic furniture. After all, there's not anything I can do about the latest Canadian experiment with self-immolation, no matter how much I'd like to be there and voting with extreme prejudice against Harper and the rest of his GOP-loving ilk, but I can slow down the inevitable tree-caused collapse of the waterlogged back wall.

And now I've got about 120 linear feet of elm logs, in sizes ranging from 6" diameter down to 2", and about 50 feet of withes, both waiting for me to go out and strip the bark off them so they can be used for house/furniture parts.

(And to unwind, I washed about 400 Legos that we found at SCRAP yesterday. One of these decades some of those pieces may become a computer case, but before I do that I have to pry them out of the hands of the bears, which, if my experience is any indication, will happen when I'm about 120 years old.)

Jan 21, 2006

Important Pharmaceutical Breakthrough!

Panexa, by MERD

(via Canadian Cynic)

Jan 20, 2006

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Baby you can drive my car
Dust Mite takes Russell's connex car for a spin.

Being rich makes you stupid

Susan Orlean's ugly house.  (Picture from the New York Times)

When you look at the bloated monstrosity that is Susan Orlean's "weekend house", it's so much of a target of opportunity that it's hard to get started. But the one thing that struck me is that after jet-setting all around the country (including hiring a private seaplane to go and look at houses in the Seattle area), then spending US$1.7 million dollars to have Bill Gates's architect design you a summer house, you'd sort of want to have something that doesn't look like a glass-sheathed warehouse?

This makes the US$500,000 "bargain" house the New York Times gushingly reviewed a month ago seem like it is really a bargain (and it certainly makes it look attractive; one of the things that Susan Orlean and her (senior executive in an evil HMO) husband said they wanted was "Frank Lloyd Wright", and if by "prairie school" they meant "flat roof and no personality", well, their architect gave them exactly what they wanted.)

And it's all windows, too. Their heating bill, even if it's weekends-only, must be about the same as my mortgage. But to look on the bright side, they probably don't even notice the US$64/trip gasoline costs when they drive the old H2 down to the farmer's market in NYC.

I'd think that if you were looking for a Frank Lloyd Wright sort of building, you might do better off talking to Wright's architecture firm. Some of his later buildings have the same sort of cold inhuman precision as this one, but at least even in his dotage the man had a sense of style.

It's houses like this that make me want to give up my computer career and become an architect or homebuilder. They probably spent US$300,000 on the architectural design, and it looks like something you would assemble out of glass unit blocks. Surely I could design a better looking and more human-scaled house for that sort of money, and I could probably even afford to hire someone to come out and gold-plate the whole thing and still spend less than US$1.7 million.

(link via (indirectly) Atrios)


Jan 19, 2006

New Code!

But this code isn't by me; Guy Baconniere has written a couple of patches for my plugh program. One patch just modifies the code so that it will compile on Debian 3.1, and the other one is a somewhat more involved patch that moves command options around to be more compatable with the options provided to getty on Debian, plus uses login -f to log the user in instead of doing it by hand.

I've not yet merged either of these patches into my version of plugh, but I've looked at them and don't see any gaping security holes beyond the ones that came with my original code, so I'm publishing them now under the assumption that I'm flaky and may not integrate them for a long time.


Sometime earlier today, Al Jazeera played a tape from Osama bin Laden promising his usual round of threats against the Great Satan. In the grand scheme of things, you might think that someone who runs an organization that has done multiple attacks against the United States would be considered a threat? Like, say, a threat worth putting up the pretend Homeland Security threat level from "yellow", where it's been ever since John Kerry gave up in the morning hours of November 3rd last year?

Umm, nope. It's still yellow. And if you look at the Department of Homeland Hysteria's web page, you'll not see one single word about our dear friend in the mideastern outback. Nope. What you will see is the DHH promising goverment payola to good friends of the B*sh junta, the DHH doing a little bit of campaigning for Scalito, and other sorts of bureaucratic space-filler that's only slightly above the level of lorem ipsum.

After all, why should the DHH bother their pretty little heads about death threats from Osama? There are no US elections coming up for several months, and you don't want to roll out the new product too far in advance, because then people will get jaded and might not be quite so hysterical when they're going to the polls.


Jan 18, 2006

Unreasonable search and seizure, anyone?

Feds want Google search records, says the headline in the San Jose Mercury News. Why? The B*sh junta claims that they're trying to resurrect an anti-child-porn law (struck down two years ago by the pre-bagman Supreme Court, so you can get some idea of what regard Maximum Leader Genius holds for the laws that allegedly govern the United States of America), and Google, to their credit, have been telling the feds to get stuffed ever since they started trying to troll Google for searches (they want a cool million web addresses and all the search records from any one week period.)

Hands up if you were actually surprised by this stunt. Remember this is the illegal junta that is unconstitutionally spying on US citizens just because they can; what do you bet that Yahoo and MSN have had similar attempts for wholesale search and seizure done to them?

Railroad pictures of the day

[Portland Union Station enjoys the sunny winter weather] [Two Amtrak F69s peek under the trainshed at Portland Union Station]

A few years ago, I was a systems administrator for a Portland-area nonprofit, and I set up an internal network for them that had some, um, interesting compromises; this nonprofit, as nonprofits often are, is perpetually short of money, and one of the ways that it saved money on its network was to piggyback off the internet connection of another local nonprofit. This other nonprofit didn't have a permanent system administrator, and worse yet there wasn't any sort of formal agreement on how the network connection was attached, so basically at any time the network connection could go *poof* in a puff of logic when someone who didn't realize that it was serving two organizations went in and, um, fixed it.

Eventually this situation cleared up, and both nonprofits shared the network connection with minimal fuss for 3-4 years. A couple of weeks ago, I got a phone call from someone at the nonprofit I adminned for (doing work for a nonprofit is somewhat like checking into the Hotel California) saying that "Oh, we moved the server and now the network won't work." I asked to make certain that there were no other changes, and was assured that no, everything was the same except that the server had been moved, so I said that as soon as I got over my winter cold I'd come down and try to fix it.

Today the cold was better enough so that I decided to run down to fix the server. The server turned out to be fine -- it was balanced on the top of a file cabinet, and it didn't have a monitor plugged in, but other than that it was fine. The network connection, on the other hand, had been completely reprovisioned and our connection to the outside world was sitting inside a little Linksys firewall/router/switch box, which was cheerfully refusing to route any of our traffic and, furthermore, was refusing to offer dhcp connections so I couldn't even get the server to talk to this Brave New Network.

So, since I'd already eaten my lunch hour up to get there and see that "nothing" was not quite nothing, I had to bail and flee for work after suggesting that we bail on the shared network connection (I said "let me know when it comes in and I'll reattach the server" as I bolted for the door), and here's where the railroad picture comes in. This nonprofit is at Union Station, so I managed to get a couple of pictures of the station and Amtrak before I walked over to the bus stop for the 20 minute bus ride across downtown.

Jan 17, 2006

What I’m reading

I'm trying to kill two birds with one stone by reading through a collection of Gustav Stickley's house plans from about 100 years ago. The first bird is, of course, the earthy-crunchy cottage, and the second bird is undoing some of the more appalling modifications that were done to the big yellow house.

It's interesting to see how little some things have changed. Stickley didn't have the two-bathrooms-for-every-bedroom disease (except for one "california-style" design that looks vaguely Greene & Greene-ish; that house has 4 bedrooms and 3 full bathrooms, plus a toilet on the ground floor), but he did have the classic (upper-class) American obsession that the only proper place to live was either in the suburbs or out in the country (where someone else gets to reap the unintended consequences of your commuting habits.) But one thing has changed; look at some of the house article titles and try to imagine them in a modern architecture or design magazine:

  • A Small Cottage That Is Comfortable, Attractive, and Inexpensive.
  • A Plain House that Will Last for Generations and Need but Few Repairs.
  • A Cottage of Cement or Stone that Is Conveniently Arranged for a Small Family.
  • A Small Shingled House that Shows Many Interesting Structural Features.
  • A Roomy, Inviting Farmhouse, Designed for Pleasant Home Life in the Country.
  • Two Inexpensive but Charming Cottages for Women Who Want Their Own Homes.

The nice thing about these house plans is that many of them are only slightly larger than the earthy-crunchy cottage, and they may actually make better use of the space they take up. And it's a bonus that the magazine was _not_ laid out with Microsoft Word or Adobe Framemaker; all one font, hand-hinted, with photos and plans peppering the article. The only real problem with them is that, for some odd reason, none of the floorplans actually have the footprint measurements listed, so you get to try and piece them out by adding room dimensions together.


Jan 16, 2006

Annoying software bug of the day!

When I edit an article, the reindexing procedure isn't redoing the rss feed, so anyone who's using the rss feed to pick up articles gets the original version of the article no matter how much I "fix" it up later.

A Time to Break Silence

A speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York City.

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." And that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

(read more)

1 comment

Jan 15, 2006

A Seven-point plan for an Exit Strategy in Iraq

Proposed by Howard Roberts (copied from his original post at sevenpointman; no editing was done except to put in html markup).
  1. A timetable for the complete withdrawal of American and British forces must be announced.

    I envision the following procedure, but suitable fine-tuning can be applied by all the people involved.

    1. A ceasefire should be offered by the Occupying side to representatives of both the Sunni insurgency and the Shiite community. These representatives would be guaranteed safe passage, to any meetings. The individual insurgency groups would designate who would attend. At this meeting a written document declaring a one-month ceasefire, witnessed by a United Nations authority, will be fashioned and eventually signed. This document will be released in full, to all Iraqi newspapers, the foreign press, and the Internet.

    2. US and British command will make public its withdrawal, within sixth-months of 80 % of their troops.

    3. Every month, a team of United Nations observers will verify the effectiveness of the ceasefire. All incidences on both sides will be reported.

    4. Combined representative armed forces of both the Occupying nations and the insurgency organizations that agreed to the cease fire will protect the Iraqi people from actions by terrorist cells.

    5. Combined representative armed forces from both the Occupying nations and the insurgency organizations will begin creating a new military and police force. Those who served, with out extenuating circumstances, in the previous Iraqi military or police, will be given the first option to serve.

    6. After the second month of the ceasefire, and thereafter, in increments of 10-20% ,a total of 80% will be withdrawn, to enclaves in Qatar and Bahrain. The governments of these countries will work out a temporary land-lease housing arrangement for these troops. During the time the troops will be in these countries they will not stand down, and can be re-activated in the theater, if both the chain of the command still in Iraq, the newly formed Iraqi military, the leaders of the insurgency, and two international ombudsman (one from the Arab League, One from the United Nations), as a majority, deem it necessary.

    7. One-half of those troops in enclaves will leave three-months after they arrive, for the United States or other locations, not including Iraq.

    8. The other half of the troops in enclaves will leave after six-months.

    9. The remaining 20 % of the Occupying troops will, during this six month interval, be used as peace-keepers, and will work with all the designated organizations, to aid in reconstruction and nation-building.

    10. After four months they will be moved to enclaves in the above mentioned countries. They will remain, still active, for two month, until their return to the States, Britain and the other involved nations.

  2. At the beginning of this period the United States will file a letter with the Secretary General of the Security Council of the United Nations, making null and void all written and proscribed orders by the CPA, under R. Paul Bremer. This will be announced and duly noted.

  3. At the beginning of this period all contracts signed by foreign countries will be considered in abeyance until a system of fair bidding, by both Iraqi and foreign countries, will be implemented ,by an interim Productivity and Investment Board, chosen from pertinent sectors of the Iraqi economy. Local representatives of the 18 provinces of Iraq will put this board together, in local elections.

  4. At the beginning of this period, the United Nations will declare that Iraq is a sovereign state again, and will be forming a Union of 18 autonomous regions. Each region will, with the help of international experts, and local bureaucrats, do a census as a first step toward the creation of a municipal government for all 18 provinces. After the census, a voting roll will be completed. Any group that gets a list of 15% of the names on this census will be able to nominate a slate of representatives. When all the parties have chosen their slates, a period of one-month will be allowed for campaigning. Then in a popular election the group with the most votes will represent that province. When the voters choose a slate, they will also be asked to choose five individual members of any of the slates. The individuals who have the five highest vote counts will represent a National government. This whole process, in every province, will be watched by international observers as well as the local bureaucrats.

    During this process of local elections, a central governing board, made up of United Nations, election governing experts, insurgency organizations, US and British peacekeepers, and Arab league representatives, will assume the temporary duties of administering Baghdad, and the central duties of governing.

    When the ninety representatives are elected they will assume the legislative duties of Iraq for two years.

    Within three months the parties that have at least 15% of the representatives will nominate candidates for President and Prime Minister.

    A national wide election for these offices will be held within three months from their nomination.

    The President and the Vice President and the Prime Minister will choose their cabinet, after the election.

  5. All debts accrued by Iraq will be rescheduled to begin payment, on the principal after one year, and on the interest after two years. If Iraq is able to handle another loan during this period she should be given a grace period of two years, from the taking of the loan, to comply with any structural adjustments.

  6. The United States and the United Kingdom shall pay Iraq reparations for its invasion in the total of 120 billion dollars over a period of twenty years for damages to its infrastructure. This money can be defrayed as investment, if the return does not exceed 6.5 %.

  7. During beginning period Saddam Hussein and any other prisoners who are deemed by a Council of Iraqi Judges, elected by the National representative body, as having committed crimes will be put up for trial.

    The trial of Saddam Hussein will be before seven judges, chosen from this Council of Judges.

    One judge, one jury, again chosen by this Council, will try all other prisoners.

    All defendants will have the right to present any evidence they want, and to choose freely their own lawyers.

(hat tip to L-girl at we move to canada)

1 comment

Things you don’t expect to see in your backyard

"There's a red-tailed hawk sitting on the walnut tree!"

I guess that the Willamette valley is red-tailed hawk territory, but I didn't expect that I'd see one in our 30x25 back yard. Unfortunately it flew away before I could run into the library and grab my camera.

Jan 14, 2006

Well, that was fast.

It's exactly how they did it during rehearsal.

(AP photo via Think Progress)

Best Blonde Joke Yet (quick version)

Sure, you can spend all day looking for the actual joke, but that's a waste of time: Here's the executive summary.


I just had these documents show up in my mailbox, and it appears that not only was Nigeria planning to sell yellowcake to Iraq, but they were also planning to sell yellowcake to Iran, and Osama bin Laden was involved in the negotiations!

I thought at first that this had to be a fake. After all, why would some anonymous tipster send me copies of important documents like this? But when I looked at the fonts, it was obviously not a forgery, since as we all know you couldn't do character replacements like this with a mechanical typewriter, and if the liberals had done any replacements they would have done it with crayon. So, the only other explanation is that these documents are the real thing: proof that Iran is cooperating with Nigeria, Osama bin Laden, and the trilateral commission to develop a nuclear deterrent with which to attack Israel.

America's course is clear. We must not allow this sort of shocking transgression against the laws and customs of the Pax Americana to continue! We must attack Syria immediately!

1 comment

Jan 13, 2006

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

One of these days the restless ghost of René Magritte will rise from his grave and hunt me down, but until then, he will remain an inspiration for my not-quite-perfect photoshop GIMP skills.

It’s the worlds smallest violin, and it’s playing My Heart Bleeds for You.

In Oregon, the food safety laws have said, for quite a long time now, that if you want to drink unpasteurised milk, you need to have your own dairy herd. This terrible misuse of government police powers (Men! With guns! Forcing you to BOIL YOUR MILK!) for no reason other than to protect people against E. Coli, Listeria, and Salmonella, has enraged a large community of raw milk drinkers who feel that the government should not prohibit them from feeding pathogens to their children.

A while back (a year ago? Two?) some enterprising raw milk dairies thought they'd found a way around the oppressive state regulations by shipping raw milk into the state, but labelling it "DOG OR CAT FOOD ONLY" (nudge, nudge, wink, wink! know what I mean?) This happy state of affairs went on for some time, with the (wink!) pet food being shipped into the state in large (large for this sort of wifty cult food) quantities, until a dozen unenlightened people had the temerity to come down with E. Coli poisoning, at which point the evil state said "oh, and the ban on raw milk? It applies to pet food too. Take it off the shelves and don't sell it here."

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth followed, as many people realized that they their pets would have to maintain their own dairy herds to keep drinking the raw milk.

Today, one of the raw milk dairies got into the act, writing an impassioned letter to the Portland Clackamas Tribune about how mean the state of Oregon was being to all of those poor people who would not drink that horrible pasteurized milk, and how the milk is perfectly safe and if people drink pasteurized milk, well, it's because the mean government is trying to destroy their immune systems.

The letter talks about people. Not cats. Not dogs. people. 12 column inches of indignant letter, and what it comes down to is that this dairy is indignant because the government is not turning a blind eye to their deliberate lawbreaking. Poor babies.

This is the world's smallest violin -> . <- And it's playing just for you.


Oh, so that’s where it came from.

From the book Ranch House Style (okay, I laughed too, but there are people out there who think that ranch houses are the ultimate lifestyle), proof that none of the people who designed the modern ranch-house ever had children: the liberation that comes with open-plan living, the casual feel of easy kitchen access, then comfort of ... children near at hand.

The Big Yellow House is a craftsman style house, so many of the features that ripened to their full rotting glory in ranch houses are there. "Open-plan living" and "easy kitchen access", with children around, translates to "toys everywhere"; even with dedicated play areas, the bears can take advantage of our open-plan downstairs to evenly cover 900 square feet with toy parts in what seems like a matter of seconds. And our house at least takes a bow towards the traditional house design by having standard bungalow-style half walls separating the dining room from the living room from the entryway (the kitchen is separated by a hall and a doorway, but that's not enough.)

And children near at hand ? Is there a good trick to accomplish this, aside from puberty? Even with 4 stories and 3600 square feet (too damn many square feet if you ask me), it's sometimes a good trick if we can get the bears to get more than 10 feet away from us.

At least I now realize where some of the more tacky misfeatures of modern building design come from? Cathedral ceilings, in their full tacky glory? Well, they may have started with the humble log cabin and claim shanty, but they managed to attach themselves limpetlike to the American sense of style with ranch houses. Big empty rooms with high ceilings, where your belongings just slosh back and forth like a slow-moving tide? Ranch houses. Wall-to-wall shag carpeting, which will soak up 50 years of spills before they're removed by your retching heirs? Ranch houses.

.... okay, maybe I was joking about the last. But the evolution of modern design was pretty severely side-tracked when the traditional Indian bungalow was redesigned by people who had fallen in love with spanish/mexican ranches, but didn't quite get what they were.

It certainly explains why I'm so insistant on a house having multiple floors, because if it's got multiple floors, it's not a ranch house.

Jan 12, 2006

Moving to Canada may have gotten a whole bunch cheaper…

In an attempt to shore up support among immigrant communities, Paul Martin has said the Canadian government will kill the (CAD975) immigration landing fee. If that happens, it would be a nice delayed christmas holiday present, because it would reduce the cost of immigration down to the point where I could start doing the paperwork (at least as soon as the US government sends me a new passport, which should be Real Soon Now because they've cashed the check (obUK: cheque) after sitting on the application for a month or so) right now and write off the CAD2000 in fees and payments and fees and payments to petty cash.

It's unfortunate that so many people, including the best, don't want to live in a place with proper seasons, but insist on living where it is more or less snow free, because there is one other Canadian city that has both trolleybusses and trolleys (even if they call them LRT cars).

(immigration fee info via Life Without Borders)

Trolley picture of the day (the weekly reminder that it’s not always been cold and cloudy in Portland)

A Bombardier/BN car leads a southbound Yellow Line (Interstate/Downtown) train across Russell Street.

Jan 11, 2006

New Code!

For lack of an actual working program that can post articles via xml, I've had to reinvent the wheel a couple of times. I did one for work, because I first needed to build a program to automatically post to a weblog at work, and then I had to do it again because my corporate masters, not surprisingly, don't want to give away all of the code I write for them (This is not as much of a "of course!" as you'd think, because I worked on pretty much exclusively GPLed code at work and we have to give that away) and I wanted to be able to compose posts to TSFR offline.

Thus Atompost (version 001), which is written mainly in C++ (as a change from my usual routine of writing code only in The One True Language), then linked together like a C program. A C++ purist would not approve, but it works for me(tm).


The joy of living in an old house

Is multiplied tenfold when you go down into the basement and see that, without any provocation via someone emptying the bathtub or flushing the toilet 30 times in quick succession, or running a super-heavy wash, that there's an inch of disgusting water covering about a quarter of the basement floor. Part of that quarter of the basement floor was part of the 1000 or so square feet of the house we don't actually use for anything except for junk storage, but the rest of it included my tile stockpile, so now I've got to disinfect a few dozen tiles and restack several hundred others that had the boxes they were sitting in disintegrate out from under them.

I like to pretend that I'm handy, but the huge pile of things that are going wrong with our house drive me to the point of despair, particularly when repairing some of them involve temporarily relocating several tons of hardwoods , tile, pretty colored glass, and computers.


Jan 10, 2006

New Code!

Annotations has been pushed up to version; this release isn't because of any new features (except for another run at some annoying problems with comments resetting the post page), but because I managed to forget to put rewrite.c into version control, which left me with a release that didn't actually build.

This would have been a much more embarrassing mishap if I actually had a user base. Fortunately(?) I don't, so the only loss is that I don't have a proper version control history for rewrite.c. But it's still a "whoops!" moment at Chateau Chaos.

Jan 09, 2006

Supertrivial project of the day

This is a tiny canvas-covered table that I built so the bears could have a table to roll out slabs on. It's cloth-covered so they can have a fighting chance of prying clay slabs off if they forget to roll them out on one of the canvas scraps I provided for that purpose.

This is an all-scrap table. The tabletop is a chunk of MDF from SCRAP, covered with a piece of heavy canvas (also from SCRAP). Two of the table legs are from pallets, one is from the kitchem and one is from the deck, and the apron is slats from yet another pallet. The only new things in it are the deck screws I used to bolt the whole thing together.

Total time to make? About 45 minutes, with a day gap 35 minutes into the project because the bears lost interest in being downstairs while I was hammering and sawing away (what, no guillotine?)

Why I don’t trust “centrist” Democrats

They never fight.

Look, it's pretty simple. The bagman of the day thinks that women are simply mobile uterus warmers who don't have the rights that humans (you know, the ones with white penises) have, believes in the divine right of kings (as long as they are members of the Evil Party), oh, and has repeatedly lied to congress, the press, and basically everyone outside of the dominionist circles that are trying to get him onto the supreme court. And what do the centrists say? "Oh, no use fighting him, we need to save our energy for something more important."

And in this case, more important is, apparently, not opposing the appointment of this bagman so that more Democrats can be elected, and as soon as the Democrats control both houses of congress and the white house, then everything will be different™. Of course, if the Democrats are perceived as just rolling over on everything that the Evil Party proposes (and this is exactly why the Evil Party keeps trying to single out stupid Democrats to go along with their malign plans), then they aren't going to be considered a good alternative to the Evil Party, and people who would otherwise vote for them will just stay home and hope that the police state won't sweep them up and toss them into the deathcamps.

If the plan is to elect progressive Democrats, be progressive. Part of being progressive is to stand up, take the goddamn doormat off your back, and tell the Evil Party to stuff their unqualified appointees and stupid laws.


This post is illegal.

From title 47, chapter 5, subchapter II, part 1, as amended by HR 3402 Sec. 113.

§ 223. Obscene or harassing telephone calls in the District of Columbia or in interstate or foreign communications

(a) Prohibited acts generally
(1) in interstate or foreign communications—
(C) makes a telephone call or utilizes a telecommunications device, whether or not conversation or communication ensues, without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person at the called number or who receives the communications;
(h) Definitions
For purposes of this section—
(1) The use of the term “telecommunications device” in this section—
(A) shall not impose new obligations on broadcasting station licensees and cable operators covered by obscenity and indecency provisions elsewhere in this chapter;
(B) does not include an interactive computer service;
(C) in the case of subparagraph (C) of subsection (a)(1), includes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet (as such term is defined in section 1104 of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (47 U.S.C. 151 note)).'.

So, if I claim that the revised part of 47.5.II.1 is an attempt at showboating, and that Arlen Specter, et al, are scumsucking idiots for wedging it into the law, that could possibly annoy some member of the Evil Party, and thus (tah dah) it's a crime because I don't sign my posts with the name on my papers?

Given that annoying people is one of the top 10 reasons for using the net (the #1 reason is, of course, porn), this revision to title 47 is likely to have annoying consequences of its own, in the form of flocks of SLAPP's flying majestically against the moonlit sky.

(via Declan McCullagh)

Jan 08, 2006

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

Showing that it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good, the philosophically horrible movie version of TLTW&TW (obSluggyFreelance: The Bug, The Witch, and The Robot) has dragged me off my butt and gotten me to reread The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. It's still terrifically good, even though some of the shortcomings of the writing are more apparent to my 45-year-old sensibilities (the last time I read the Chronicles of Narnia was probably when I was a teenager, and I was a much bigger science fiction fan then than I am now.) C.S. Lewis certainly ended the book with a pretty hamfished slab of christian propaganda, didn't he? Look, it's a LAMB, capitalized so you know it's a supposed to be Jesus wearing false glasses and mustache! And it's his FATHER's kingdom. Aaand it turned out to be so forgettable that it was a complete surprise to go 245 pages into the book and crash headlong into the "oops, I was too busy writing my fantasy story to keep up on the christianity, so we'll wrap up the story with a little sermon" conclusion.

The whole business of Eustace turning into a dragon, then having to shed his skin and be baptised by Jesus-With-A-Rocking-Hairdo before he could be restored (or, if you're going to be snide, "born again") to his human form, now that's good christian propaganda; I suspect that if I was a christian I could find many other cases where subtle references to the New Testament were wedged into Dawn Treader, and it really makes me regret the clumsy Deus ex Deo at the end.

I need to read through the rest of the first six books; The Last Battle left a sour taste in my mouth that survives almost 30 years after reading that book, and if the christian allegory was enough to discourage a 15 year old agnostic, it would be infuriating for a 45 year old republican socialist.

I do wonder what the Chronicles of Narnia would have been like if C.S. Lewis had chosen a more realistic Jesus-With-A-Rocking-Hairdo? I suspect it would not have been so good; without having Mr. Nosy Parker Jesus show up occasionally to yell at characters, glower at characters, or walk impressively around in the middle background, many of the moral choices and arguments would have had to be worked out by the characters themselves, and that would slow down the pace of the book.

Jan 07, 2006

Railroad picture of the day

Southbound Coast Starlight going through East Portland

To try and make the best of a cloudy rainy day, we went up to SCRAP this afternoon to further stock up on project materials. When we were coming back, I realized that we were pacing (and slowly gaining on) a southbound Coast Starlight. Since we were going faster than it, we were able to get ahead and turn down a side street to wait for the train to show up, and about 10 seconds after we pulled up to the crossing the train went whooshing through, led by three GE twinkies.

This time around I had the Pentax on manual focus, so it didn't have to spend valuable time trying to determine what I was focussing on (the Pentax is a very nice little SLR, but it does not like trying to autofocus in low light situations, and a rainy Portland afternoon certainly qualifies as a low light situation.)

Jan 06, 2006

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Silas and Dust Mite were goofing around at the dinner table tonight, just in time for Friday Dust Mite Blogging™.

Jan 05, 2006

The sweet sound of an evil plan running aground.

I'll start by stating one thing: I'm certain that Jack Abramoff has contributed money to a Democratic senator or two. He's a Republican, after all, and his main motivations are to become powerful, loot the country, and leave it a smoking ruin, and the Democratic Party is a font of congresspeople who are eager to slit their own throats over the illusion of a "bipartisan" encounter with the Evil Party.

But, be that as it may, it's fairly interesting that of the hundreds of payoffs that Abramoff has personally made, not one of them went to a Democrat. And for that you can thank the so-called "K street project" that Abramoff, Delay, and Grover Norquist made up to ensure that all the other lobbying firms would become obedient vassals of the Evil Party. Because if you're going to be putting the hammer down on a lobbying firm for being polite to a Democrat, you can't have the lobbying firm that designed the plan handing money to the Tom Daschle reelection fund (no, I'm not claiming that Jack Abramoff contributed money to Tom Daschle's campaign. He should have, but these are Republicans and revenge is one thing that cannot resist, even if it means that a milquetoast like Tom Daschle gets turfed out and replaced by someone like Harry Reid) unless you really want to be laughed at.

So, when the Evil Plan™ founders under the weight of too much corruption too soon (hiring design contractors who just happen to be Mafia hitmen and who just happen to assassinate a former competitor who's been having slanging matches with you may have just been an unlucky set of coincidences, but it's a really stupid set of unlucky coincidences that can't help but attract unwelcome attention from the sort of people who are difficult to bribe), all you're left with is a paper trail showing hundreds of thousands (possibly even millions) of dollars going directly to Evil Party members starting with Maximum Leader Genius and working on down to the local dogcatcher on the take, and maybe a dozen or so contributions to Democrats that come from a company that does business with a foundation that paid off one of your PACs for services rendered.

And then it looks like what David Brooks said (Times Select link, so it costs money. Sorry!): "That's a great G.O.P. talking point: some Democrats are so sleazy, they get involved with the likes of us."

Great plan, Jack, Tom, and Grover. You were so eager to get into the henhouse that you didn't manage to replace all the farmers with foxes before you started looting. And King Genius might think that it's beneath his dignity to pardon the lot of you.


Special request movie department

It's the dancing cookie bar video!

My friend Francois has never seen Echo23's Domopers video, so I've mirrored it here for a while for him. Share and Enjoy™!

1 comment

Jan 04, 2006

Hypotheticals abounding.

Yesterday, I made a couple of snarky comments about some of the more unappealing aspects of the whole earthy-crunchy strawbale house culture, but since I've been making some changes to my weblog software, people couldn't comment. One person (I'll respect their privacy, so they will remain anonymous here) commented in email about the tradeoffs you might make, and posed a hypothetical question:

If someone offered you $1,000,000 a year to work a have-to-be-in-the-office-every-day job in Washougal (editors note: no mass transit, as far as I can tell), would you move there? Turn it down? What if it were a one-year contract?

US$1 million a year for a job in Washington is about US$600,000 after taxes if you live in Washington. It's about US$500,000 if you live in Oregon, which is a state that just last year passed an amendment to the constitution making me a second class citizen.

If I lived in Washington, that would give me an additional US$100,000 to put into buying a lot and putting up a Nebraska-style strawbale house (or, if it was a contract, renting an apartment for the year and then having a stack of money lying around so I could move somewhere where same-sex marriage is legal, then build a house at my leisure.)

When I was younger, I spent a lot of time living in Chicago, then NYC, then Los Angeles, but working halfway (or all the way) across the country. And I wasn't getting paid nearly US$1 million on any of those jobs, but I still rented apartments (or lived in residential hotels) near the jobsite, then either walked or took the city bus from the apartment to work (including one job in Spokane, Washington, where the bus took the long twisty path to go the 2 miles between the flat and where I worked.) I didn't have children then, but my sweetie had jobs in my nominal home city, so I ended up periodically commuting back and forth across the country to visit home from work.

I'm probably not a good person to ask about that hypothetical, because it's something I've repeatedly done. But in no point along this path did I feel particularly compelled to buy a house 30 miles out in the countryside, no matter how earthy-crunchy it might be. Sure, it's nice to be out in the wilderness™ and to commune with nature™, but I grew up in LaCrosse, Wisc, and that wore out my desire to live in towns and little cities.

Strawbale in the city? Sure. A nice quasi-craftsman house close to the El (or along a trolleybus line, I'm not picky) in Vancouver, yes please, I'll trade the 300 foot walk to the #19 bus stop for that. But you'll not find me living out in the country unless I can do that and walk to work.

New Code!

It's a new year, and time for a new version of Annotations, with new and improved bugs and, allegedly, some new features. doesn not have very many visible changes; the main change in this version is that I've redone the way that comments are stored from the traditional One Big File to a directory containing the comments in a combined data/control format. The hooks for moderated comments have been put in (but not deliberatedly enabled), and there's now a user-settable flag that governs whether comment email addresses are published or not (default: not.)

A couple of bugs were introduced, then deleted, and I've added (in what turns out to be a fairly hackish way) a procedure for doing article truncation on the homepage; if you put a <!more!> token into your article, the homepage will display above that token, then a --more-- (this text is user settable by the readmore= variable in weblog.conf) link to the whole article.

Finally, I tweaked the way that the weblog builds the index and post pages to show nrposts= posts, no matter how old they are.

Compare and Contrast (pt 12; How can you tell that a Republican is lying?)

More lies from the Evil Party: "Forty of forty five members of the Democrat Senate Caucus took money from Jack Abramoff."

Really? I don't think so...

(read more)


The United States has the most perfect health-care system in the whole wide world

Unless you don't have any money, then the hospital will just kill you. And, you know, I didn't hear anything about the Tirhas Habtegiris emergency care act, nor did I hear anything about Maximum Leader Genius flying to her bedside to sign the ruling to override the Texas "fuck you! you're poor!" medical neglect act.

But it's good that the United States doesn't have any nasty socialized medicine, because then "those people" would end up getting the same sort of healthcare that the upper classes get, and that's just not right.

1 comment

Jan 03, 2006

Embarrassing software bug of the day

When you're using integer wraparound to detect overflow for comments and you start by setting the sequence number to the # of comments that have already been posted, checking for sequence > 0 is a guaranteed recipe for mysterious failures.

All die. Oh the embarrassment.

Coal, or Ponies?

(via Americablog)

Oh, and another thing about energy-efficient houses

I was just wondering that if it's so important to have an energy efficient house and to save energy and to use renewables and to be earthy-crunchy so that you don't have to have a vendor ship supplies in from a long distance, why is it then so not important to site your house in the city where you work?

One thing that strikes me about strawbale houses is that the vast majority of them are built no closer to a city than a second-tier suburb, and when you see the pictures of the house sometimes you will even see the (big, energy-inefficient, and no, your " I [heart] biodiesel " bumpersticker doesn't help with that) truck that the owner/builders use to drive to and from their job in the city. And, you know, it's not as if using gasoline or biodiesel is any great paragon of energy efficiency or use of local resources; the resources you save by building an earthy-crunchy house that's made from locally available materials are then wasted by having to fill your car with Venezulean hydrocarbons for your 20 mile drive to and from work and the shops.

If you're going to be earthy-crunchy, be properly earthy-crunchy. Live near where you work. Do not underestimate the energy-efficiencies of living on a bus or trolley line, or of riding your bicycle down the Portland Traction trail to get to and from the dark satanic cube mills; even with the diesel oil pit that is the Big Yellow House, I suspect that I'm getting close to energy parity with the people who live in ultra-efficient strawbale houses waaaaay out in the country, but drive in to town every day so they can work in their office.

1 comment

I suspect that laughing out loud was not the reaction they were looking for

From Serious Straw Bale (Lacinski & Bergeron): "The biggest danger with gypsum plaster, in our opinion, is that it is so light and smooth that it takes some doing to not smooth all of the character out of the bale walls."

I'd say this is a feature unless you really want to live in something that looks like a whitewashed cave.

One of the really odd things about the whole strawbale community is that they've got a pretty serious case of modern design syndrome, in that it's not good enough to have a well-constructed house built with renewable materials, but you've got to flaunt your more-earthy-crunchy-than-thou attitudes, and things like usability need to take a backseat to the attitude. There are reasons for flat smooth walls -- you can easily hang pictures from them, they don't pick up dust bunnies, they are easy to clean -- and tossing this over in favor of some hypothetical character (irregular walls! It's either strawbale or a really bad plastering job! whoopee!) might have something to do with strawbale not becoming a really popular scavenging technology.

And, shoot, if you want your plaster walls to have character, all you need to do is wait 90 years and they'll have all the character you can eat. Just look at any conventional house, particularly one that has spent most of its life attempting to lunge into a river.

1 comment

Jan 02, 2006

The year in first sentences

When the year rolls over, the poor weblog gets terribly confused about the previous month and all the posts just *poof* go away to hide in the archive pages. Postoffice has been pushed up to version 1.1.4, which documents the new virtual host code, cleans up some of the internal logging, and relaxes a lot of the paranoia around MAIL FROM: when the from address is on a virtual host. Silas and his eyePod. The first thing to do when you get in to work is to drink lots of tea. Workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains! The state of Illinois is in the throes of passing a law that make it illegal to sell "violent" and sexually explicit videogames to minors, but conveniently leaves it up to the stores to determine which games are too violent or sexually explicit. An Act for the Union of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, and the Government thereof; and for Purposes connected therewith. My supertrivial carpentry project for the day today is a second workbench for the basement. "If enough water from Lake Pontchartrain topped the levee system along its south shore, the result would be apocalyptic." Google seems to have decided that picking images out of the actual page that they've come from is too much trouble. According to a front page story in the Clackamas Portland Tribune, the City of Portland is thinking of scrapping one of the nasty little property tax abatement programs which allows rich developers to make more buckets of money while forcing people who don't live in the beloved-by-the-damned-PDC trendy districts to pay for the civic services that are needed to support the new condominium towers. "People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true."

There’s a prototype for anything

The pretend history of my model railroad carefully doesn't talk much about the history, or accuracy, of the Termite part of the Parsons Vale's name, because I got that part of the name from an old Model Railroader article about a model logging railroad that included a (made up, or so I thought) Termite Timber Company. The railroad name has stuck like that for many years, despite occasional attempts to change the name, because Parsons Vale and Termite is a very good sounding railroad name, despite being obviously made up because nobody would ever use the name Termite in the real world.

Hmm. Maybe not.

Today, I built the bears a little Lego model of a Lombard Log Hauler, based on memories of pictures of them at my grandparent's summer camp in Maine (yes, my grandparents, who worked in the woolen mills in New Hampshire until the millowners relocated them to the less labour-friendly environment of the southeast, were well enough off to own a house and a summer camp, even if they had to build the summer camp by themselves.) I'd forgotten the actual name of the Lombard Log Haulers, but I knew that Clark's Trading Post had one, so after finding the name, I started doing image searches because Lombard Log Haulers are the cutest pieces of logging equipment in the world. And on the first page of a google search, there's a image labelled termite-Lombard-etc.

Apparently there is a prototype for anything, so matter how counterintuitive it might be.


Trolley picture of the day

A Riverfront (or Canal?) car and a St. Charles car pull into the Carrollton carbarn sometime in the late afternoon on a lazy summer day. If it weren't for the economy, the anti-gay hate laws, and the teeny detail that New Orleans was abandoned by the rest of the United States after hurricane Katrina, it would be difficult to find a better place to live than the blue house on the corner, where you could sit out on the porch in the evenings and watch a parade of 900s roll into the carbarn for the night.

(Compare to the aerial view of the Canal carbarn)

(Photo credit: Microsoft Maps)

Jan 01, 2006

Idle Hands are the Devil’s Playthings (2006 edition)

I don't just have floorplans. No, no, it's just not the same without a few architectural models to complete the "Orc has gone completely around the bend" scenario.

Postscript: The best asked "what colo(u)r should we paint it?", and after Russell made the expected reply of "Green!", I said that we'd paint it orange, so we'd have the Big Yellow House and the Little Orange House, and besides, if it's going to be a summer camp, we have to paint it orange so that the hunters won't shoot at it. My family thinks I'm wierd, but I don't really know why.


Trolley picture of the day

A Metro W2 trolley (obMelbourne: tram) makes its way along the waterfront on the now-closed tourist trolley line in Seattle, Washington some time before Nov 17th. Photo courtesy of Microsoft maps, which is much cooler than google in the aerial map department because their software doesn't require Windows, unlike google earth, which not only requires Microsoft Windows, but also requires versions of DirectX that are not available for the SGI 1600SW monitors we use at home. And the microsoft maps don't have "© Microsoft" stamped all over them, unlike the other maps.