This Space for Rent

Apr 29, 2006

How we spent our Saturday

Why, yes, we did go to the Llewellyn auction. Why do you ask?

Apr 28, 2006

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Dust Mite cuddles up with our new cat Mavis.


Railroad picture of the day (second try)

Well, when I took the previous RR picture of the day, I really thought that would be the last chance I'd have to take a picture of an Eng! today. But, no sooner had I arrived home and shovelled this picture off the camera than the best informed me that

  1. we had a US$35 gift certificate from Old Wives' Tales, and
  2. It was friday, damnit, so
  3. we were going there for dinner.

So we piled into the car and drove up to OWT, passing the previous Eng!s, ate dinner, then turned around and drove back towards home. At Division & 11th, our way was blocked by the train in scene 7, which was heading north and blocking the 11th street crossing, so we detoured east on Division to 20th, then south to Powell, then west to....

... hello? There were two Amtrak twinkies sitting on the 17th St overpass. We turned around as soon as we could, and pulled off by the side of 17th just as they hooted and started pushing their train back northwards. We parked the car, took a couple of quick pictures, and watched the train slowly vanish between a couple of buildings.

We sat there and waited, discussing whether or not the train was going to be coming back or not, and decided that it probably was just before we heard a chorus of hoots as it crossed 11th or 9th or 7th street.

I got out of the car and tried to find an uncluttered spot to take a few pictures from, and then we all heard the twinkies accelerating towards us as fast as they could go.

Popping around the corner

Uncluttered is a relative term.


Railroad picture of the day

One big problem with the Union©™® Pacific©®™'s big wavy flag emblem is that when the locomotive gets dirty, the flag starts to look like those poor bedraggled flags you used to see on cars in late 2002, after the WTC had ceased to be a national tragedy and had become just another political football; the attention of the nation may have moved on, but the flags just stayed there, getting more tattered and soiled as time went on.

This picture was taken through the window of the #70 bus as it carried me home from work tonight; since it was sunny, the Pentax was able to focus in on the side of the Eng! and keep the focus there even though a fast-moving stop sign was sweeping in from the south.

Sold down the river

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has delivered what two Liberal predecessors could not: a truce in the five-year softwood lumber dispute with the United States that will buy peace for nearly a decade.

Canada and the United States agreed yesterday to a seven-year deal -- with the option of renewing for two more -- that ends one of this nation's costliest trade wars and returns $4-billion (U.S.) in U.S.-collected duties to Canadian firms.

The United States collected US$5 billion in illegal duties, and gets to keep US$1 billion for its troubles. Mind you, this comes after six or seven rounds of NAFTA arbitrators ruling that the United States must not charge a tariff, and that the United States must return all of the US$5 billion in illegal duties.

Also, yesterday the United States formally filed a challenge to a recent NAFTA ruling that ordered it to cut the major portion of the duties to zero

But at least Canadian lumbermen can send all the lumber they want to the United States now, without fear of tariffs or other restrictions?

Under the complex arrangement, Canada can ship as much lumber as it wants to the United States. But if the price falls below $355 per thousand board feet (the current price is about $370), the different regions of Canada have to make a choice. They can pay a sliding export tax that rises as high as 15 per cent as lumber prices fall, or pay a smaller charge and face a regional quota. Canada would collect the export tax.

So that would mean "it's tariff time in the OK corral?" But at least there will be no quotas!

Canada's share of the U.S. lumber market will be capped at the current 34 per cent, broken down regionally, based on 2004-05 exports.

Umm, er, ahem. Nice weather we're having, isn't it?

But, anyway, once you've ignored the continued existance of tariffs (but these are collected by the neoTory govermnent instead of the United States, so that makes all the difference) and quotas, there certainly won't be any other surprises with this agreement, will there?

A clause in the tentative softwood deal between Canada and the United States is being called a deal-breaker by elements of the B.C. forest industry because of fears it impinges on Canadian sovereignty.

he clause commits the agreement signatories to take no actions that would undermine the agreement or offset export restrictions.

But sources said it could require provincial governments to submit policy changes to U.S. officials - for instance revising timber prices in the B.C. Interior, where companies are rushing to harvest stands of beetle-infested trees.

Sources said the issue was not discussed in the feverish negotiations that took place this week leading up to Thursday's agreement. But the written deal submitted Thursday raised a red flag.

I guess if you've lived in a cave on the dark side of the moon for the past 225 years something like this might come as a surprise, but in the Real World this is just another manifestation of the traditional respect that the United States has for, um, everyone else. But I'm sure there's already a seat reserved on the Carlyle board, so someone will make out like a bandit for selling his country down the river.

(links via My Blahg, pogge, and comments from an article posted on Cathie from Canada)

1 comment

Submitted without comment.

Dennis Hastert (E-Il) abandons a hydrogen car for the security of his SUV after being driven away from a news conference discussing high gas prices.

(story and photo via the Associated Press)

Apr 27, 2006

L'Ancien Régime

The multimillion- dollar lobbying effort to repeal the federal estate tax has been aggressively led by 18 super-wealthy families, according to a report released today by Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy at a press conference in Washington, D.C. The report details for the first time the vast money, influence and deceptive marketing techniques behind the rhetoric in the campaign to repeal the tax.

It reveals how 18 families worth a total of $185.5 billion have financed and coordinated a 10-year effort to repeal the estate tax, a move that would collectively net them a windfall of $71.6 billion.

(via Common Dreams Newswire)

This sounds familiar. I can't place it, but it reminds me of something...

...By international standards, the United States has an unusually low level of intergenerational mobility: our parents’ income is highly predictive of our incomes as adults. Intergenerational mobility in the United States is lower than in France, Germany, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Norway and Denmark. Among high-income countries for which comparable estimates are available, only the United Kingdom had a lower rate of mobility than the United States....

(via The Center for American Progress)

It's right on the tip of my tongue...

"Qu'ils mangent de la brioche"

(Jean-Jacques Rousseau)

Oh, right...

Actions may have unexpected consequences.

Apr 26, 2006

It’s through the lookingglass time..

... here at Chateau Chaos, because I find myself sympathising with a member of the Evil Party in one of the periodic Evil Party vs Stupid Party hissyfits. In this case, the Evil Party member I'm sympathising with is the odious Jeff Gannon (a second-string Evil Party mouthpiece who got a lot of attention last year when he was the White House designated fluff questioner at the pretend press conferences the White House holds. His performances were, as to be expected from an Evil Party apparachnik, pretty appalling -- his, um, "questions" to the press secretary were along the line of "don't you agree that it's horrible that all the Democrats beat their wives?" -- but his other job [prostitute] was what made him, briefly, into the world's greatest lefty chewtoy before he withdrew from (or his masters yanked him out of) the press pool and went on to a less visible job.) Mr. Gannon ended up being put onto an Equality Forum panel about weblogs as the token self-loathing gay Republican in the middle of a sea of centrist and lefty commentators.

Some of these commentators saw Mr. Gannon's name, remembered how fun it was that he was the lefty chewtoy of the week, and wanted to do an encore performance. Equality Forum (and presumably Mr. Gannon) said no. The lefties insisted that they be allowed to treat Mr. Gannon as a chewtoy. Equality Forum said no.

Then the lefty commentators took their toys and went home. And expected the world to sympathise with them.

I'm sorry, but I can't do it. I've seen Mr. Gannon on various media panels (the one I most remember is when Ana Marie Cox verbally eviscerated him without even raising a sweat) and he's really his own worst enemy without having a bunch of lefties batting the chewtoy around. It's boring to watch chewtoys get batted around, and Equality Forum is being perfectly reasonable by saying no and insisting that the lefties actually discuss things that might be of interest to someone other than the A list lefty weblog community.

So it's the apocolypse. I'm expecting to see the giant meteors and alien invasion before the end of the week.

Apr 25, 2006

Why is that elephant in the room?

If you want to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and therefore improve our national security situation, you can't do it if you're a Republican because you are too wedded to the oil companies. We have two oilmen in the white house. The logical follow-up from that is $3 a gallon gasoline. There is no accident. It is a cause and effect. A cause and effect. How dare the president of the United States make a speech today in April, many, many, many months after the american people have had to undergo the cost of home heating oil. A woman told me she almost fainted when she received her home heating bill over this Winter. And when so many people making the minimum wage, which hasn't been raised in eight years, which has a very low purchasing power have to go out and buy gasoline at these prices? Where have you been, Wr. president? The middle class squeeze is on, competition in our country is affected by the price of energy and of oil and all of a sudden you take a trip outside of Washington, see the fact that the public is outraged about this, come home and make a speech, let's see that matched in your budget, let's see that matched in your policy, let's see that matched in and you're separating yourselves yourself from your patron, big oil, cut yourself off from that anvil holding your party down and this country down, instead of coming to Washington and throwing your Republican colleagues under the wheels of the train, which they mightily deserve for being a rubber stamp for your obscene, corrupt policy of ripping off the american people.

--Rep. Nancy Pelosi, in a speech today (transcript via Atrios)

Apr 24, 2006

Not the best time to discover a change in company policy

My corporate masters have, apparently, changed certain policies about when you're supposed to be at work. This is not normally a problem; the new policies are "core hours" of 9am to 3pm (with, presumably, a couple of hours tacked to one side or another of these hours to bring my non-hourly-in-theory workweek up to 40 hours a week), and, contrary to what you may have heard about programmers, the starting time is close to the time that I've been going in in the mornings (my previous working hours were defined as "late"; my previous CMs didn't mind if I got in as late as 10am, and even let me occasionally work from home for the start of the day if I had some sort of project underway, but I still managed to get there around 9am most of the time for the standard 9-5 schedule).

But, alas, my corporate masters decided that the most efficient way to tell me of this new policy was to inform me when they told me the results of my review. As in "we're giving you a bad review because you're not adhering to the (never-before-mentioned, hurray!) core hours."

Huh. Now that's certainly an interesting way to manage programmers. It's stupid, but it's interesting, in the sort of way that crossing the beams counts as interesting.

So, is there anyone out there (preferably here, but I'm not picky) who's looking for an open source/linux programmer who's got more experience than he knows what to do with about building and maintaining Unix distributions? Send mail to orc­@­www­.­tsfr­.­org -- I have it on good authority that I'm not ordinarily (quite so much of) a grumpy sociopath, and the miserable state of the US healthcare system means I can't stay in recovery for as long as I'd like (if it wasn't for the pathetic US healthcare system, I could actually retire from full-time employment and become a part-time consultant, but, alas, I still need to work.)


Apr 23, 2006

Trolley picture of the day

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March Fourth! at Sellwood Park, Portland, On Earth Day 2006

March Fourth! was playing at Sellwood Park as part of the Earth Day celebrations there. It was raining last year, but that didn't stop us from seeing them, so this year's bright sunniness wasn't going to stop us either:

The extra added sunniness made it a little harder to get good pictures, but I got a few pictures anyway.

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Apr 22, 2006

Earth Day 2006 – Russell in the meditation maze

Earth Day 2006 – Go By Train

As part of the Portland Earth Day celebrations, Portland Traction put on some special trains to carry passengers from the Ochoco St shops over to the foot of the bluff that the Earth Day celebrations were being held on. The earthy-crunchy hook here was apparently that they'd filled the SW1500 with biodiesel (1202, as it turns out, is going to be assigned to the Canby branch of the vast Oregon Pacific railway empire; the new working Eng! is currently working out of Canby while the 1202 is having its break-in period here in Portland) even though it didn't have the traditional explosion in a deep fryer exhaust smell when we were riding the train.

It was a shockingly clear and sunny day today, and my Pentax was very very happy with the state of the world. I'd bought a new 1gb memory card this morning (340 images worth of lightly compressed jpegs) and by the time the return train got back to Milwaukie the thing was completely full.

The trains we rode on were pretty empty, so we got to ride in the cupola of the passenger car both ways. It was a terrific way to ride a part of Portland Traction that I had not ridden before (the furthest south I'd ever been before was down to Spokane street when we rode the 4449 from Spokane street to East Portland yard and back.)

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Earth Day preview

Oregon Pacific SW1500 #1202 sits in the Milwaukie industrial park, ready to push the 1pm train down to Oaks Park for Earth Day.

Apr 21, 2006

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

A healthy bedtime snack for the bears, consisting of apples, cheese, cookies, and Dust Mite.

Tonight, I will sit down on the bus, then laugh and laugh and laugh.

US$75/barrel, baby!

I've come to the conclusion that my ability to act on predicting the future is pretty well useless (not buying gold when it started charging up towards the current US$640/ounce, not buying that extra property when we bought our house, not buying wads of RH stock when it was down around US$1.00, etc etc etc), but I am glad that the one instance where we did buy sensibly (we bought a house ON A BUSLINE into downtown, instead of some horrid suburban plot where it's a two-hour busride to anything. Oh, and we also bought a Prius) means that we're somewhat insulated from the more-­ridiculous-­by-­the-­minute price of gasoline.

It's probably time to start buying land in the city, just in case.

(via Atrios)

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Dispatches from the department of “you don’t get out much, do you?”

This is the logo of a new British Special Forces group that's being formed. The Special Forces Support Group, based in Wales, appears to be a rapid deployment version of the special forces, which can be picked up and shipped off to Iran around the world when Tony Bliar wants to make nice with Maximum Leader Genius some counter-terrorism emergency comes up. A good plan, and it's certainly closer to the proper way of dealing with terrorists (police action, not military action) than the now traditional foot-in-mouth military methods that the B*sh junta use.

It's a pity that the insignia designers that the MOD hired appear to be either ignorant or illiterate, because this spiffy new insignia reminds me of a certain other insignia that just might not be the sort of thing that you'd want people to think of when the SFSG comes knocking at their door.


(via the BBC)

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Apr 20, 2006

Railroad picture of the day

We got stuck at the 11th and (just south of)Division light when an afternoon transfer freight came through. I grabbed the camera, bolted from the car, and got this (indifferent) picture of the Eng!s. Ah, well, it's better than nothing, and I'm pleased that I can take a picture almost directly into the sun and have it not completely wash out.

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The Longest Cat In The World

Our new cat, MavisLeo, dozes on the sofa. Pay no attention to the snake pillow.


New Code!

Postoffice version 1.3 has now officially been released, with support for sendmail filters ("milters") fully implemented and installed on some production machines.

Since Pell is running a fairly elderly version of Linux, it doesn't have support for pthreads, which the client side of the sendmail libmilter requires. So it has to use an inet-domain socket to talk to milters on a different machine, which, because it's running the milters for pell might as well be running a miltered version of postoffice as well.

As an aside, it's really a pain in the ass to get some of the existing milters to run. The milter for clamav, aside from having the annoying feature of advertising "yoohoo! I'm clamav! I'm the one who detected that virus!", also has some fairly bizarre sendmail dependencies. On the FreeBSD box I hand-built it on, it wants to look up a sendmail hostname before it will run. This FreeBSD box doesn't run sendmail (obviously), so the whole thing falls over in a whining heap (I can fix it by simply disabling tcp wrappers, but that opens up many new opportunities for denial-of-service-attacks, so I needed to fix that at the same time I stopped the milter from doing the free advertising for clamav. But that was the easy milter to install. I was also planning on installing Spamassassin to weed out the stupid nigerian 419 spams which are pretty much the only sort of spam people get on Pell anymore, but the FreeBSD box that I've designated as the milter box? It's got Perl 5.0005, and Spamassassin (and the scary scary SCARY list of prerequisites it requires) won't even say BOO unless you've got Perl 5.0006 (and, from reading the documentation, it really REALLY wants Perl 5.6.) Perl (and it's bastard stepbrother Python) are the program equivalent of kudzu; once you give them a foothold on your system they will rapidly fill the machine up with random modules.

It's fortunate that Perl is a paragon of the Open Source®™© world and doesn't pay much attention to backwards compatability. couldn't install any of the 99e99 dependencies, because some new perl modules couldn't be found anywhere on the system.

But that means I don't have a particularly good anti419 filter yet :-( and that the spiffy new sendmail filter code will benefit other people before it benefits me.


Apr 18, 2006

Ah, Nigeria, your enlightened view of civil liberties constantly inspires me.

Know someone gay? Invited to their wedding? Go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect US$TWO MILLION DOLLARS.

That's pretty spiffy. It's not Iran or America's glorious Imperial prize next door, but it's pretty close in the unforgivable thuggishness Olympics that pious conservatives around the world are competing in. It's the sort of thing that the religious right in the United States can only fantasize about today, which, I guess, goes to prove that even in the sort of distressing slide towards Nazi-style totalitarianism that the USA is currently undergoing that things can get much worse.

(cheery international news from 365gay, via The Stranger)

Apr 17, 2006

To meme the impossible meme

Dave at the Galloping Beaver has decided to fling a hot potato over to me in the form of a "name five wierd habits" list request.

Well, aside from the small detail that I think that it's everybody else who's wierd, not me, here are five habits of mine that people might think are wierd.

  1. I don't drive. I don't even have a drivers license, but rely on the kindness of strangers (usually in the form of tri-met bus and trolley drivers, and occasionally taxi drivers) to get to and from work.
  2. I don't like to call people on the telephone.
  3. I want to build myself a house. I don't want to hire other people to do it (well, aside from excavating a basement and installing the roof) but I want to do it myself. In my copious spare time.
  4. I want to move to Canada, even though Mini-Me has mistaken the Cliff's Notes version of the Evil Party "How to get rich while destroying a country" textbook for the real thing.
  5. The best thinks that my wanting the bears to call me by my given name is wierd. "Very sixties" is the exact phrase she used, but that's close enough to "wierd" these days.

To pass the hot potato around, I'll fling it at

  • The best.
  • My friend Ed, who hot potatoed me last year.
  • Ditto for my friend Ali, who didn't hot potato me, but has a life, thus some spare time.
  • The Gazetteer, who has already been hot potatoed, but keeps (foolishly?) commenting on posts and has thus made himself a target.
  • Aand, finally, Ricky at Bottle of Blog, who gets the ultimate indignity of being handed a hot potato by a geeky z-list webppfft.

    1 comment

The engineer at work

Silas shows off one of his 'yeens.

Trolley picture of the day

I went out to the land of the horribly depressing cube farms this afternoon for a OS development strategy meeting (yippee!) which, aside from reminding me that there are offices that make my depressing 60s-era office look like the inside of the Louvre, gave me a good opportunity to ride on (and, for a change, photograph) trolleys. The only trolley I managed to see was my eastbound train, so I took a bunch of pictures of it while hoping that the sun wouldn't spoil all of the photos.

And then it took me another hour to get home, thanks mainly to the ultra-slow ride from 18th & Jefferson to Pioneer Courthouse Square, and then the ultra-slow ride from 6th and Salmon down past the Portland Motor Speedway (Arthur street, where it twists and turns along the highway and past the ADP/OHSU offices at 1st & Arthur) and up to the Ross Island Bridge. Perhaps if Multnomah County can secede from Oregon then they will have enough money to be able to build a proper subway through downtown instead of the rather pathetic scheme of putting a trolley line down the transit mall (a transparent way of getting federal money to build the transit mall, with the excuse of "oh, no, we're building a new trolley line!" to get the federal dollars) that Portland is going to be stuck with.

Apr 16, 2006

Green with envy

The good news is that someone in my family just bought a em64-mini. The bad news is that it wasn't me; my mother, after several years of fooling around with Windows boxes, starting with one that I handbuilt for her, but which only had 256mb of core (This was not enough for the handful of PC games and utilities she uses. This was a detail that these programs just couldn't STFU about, either, so every time they started they'd whine, R*dh*t-style, about there Not Being Enough Memory(tm) to run before they went ahead and, um, ran) through a bunch of increasingly disfunctional eMachine boxes bought through suburban chain stores (staffed by people who didn't give a damn that the hardware they were selling didn't work, and who would happily tell her to go to the other side of the Portland metro area to return the stupid box for "service"), finally went in to one of the local Apple stores and plunked down US$800 for a mini.

The powerPC minis were teh sexxy, but the em64t minis are even better. I am officially green with jealousy, even though I prefer the windows UI to the Mac UI and find navigating around a Mac to be an endless stream of very pretty and seamlessly engineered frustrations.

I'm not going to go out and buy one myself, because our money situation is too tight to think about it, but if I win the lottery the US$800 won't cut into my finances very much (and if I won the lottery, I could go out and buy some pieces myself and build a mini-sized handbuilt PC that runs Mastodon instead. So it's time to buy another lottery ticket.

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It’s the little things in life that give the most pleasure.

I'm the #1 google result for how outsourcing works.

When did Portland Traction get a SW1500?

It's been a couple of months since I went past the Eng!s in the industrial park at the north end of Milwaukie, so it was a bit of a surprise to drive past this freshly painted SW1500 in Oregon Pacific colo(u)rs. The old working engine was around, but there was no sign of the new working engine, so is it possible that it failed and 1202 is the replacement for it?


Apr 15, 2006

Portland, Oregon. Home of the wierdest weather in North America

This afternoon, the clouds parted, the sun came out, and it stopped raining.

At least it stopped raining in front of our house. When we looked out into our backyard, the rain was still pouring down, with the dividing line between rain and no rain being approximately the back wall of the kitchen.

There are many things I don't like about Oregon, but the weather is not one of them. A typical Portland spring day brings the sort of surreal feeling that would otherwise require attending a Mount Doom "press conference" or twenty.

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New Code! (fsvo “new”)

vpasswd 0.2, which I announced last year, but forgot to actually publish, has been officially glued into my source code page, and is now finally published and available to people who don't want to play "hunt through my weblog" for a link to the page.

New Code!

postoffice has been rolled up to version 1.3.pre3, because I've made a few modifications to the way sendmail filters are processed, I've added some sanity checking to, and I fixed a bug with wildcard aliases inside virtual domains (* to a local user causes an alias loop, which is not what I intended.)

The new sendmail filter features are not yet documented, which is about the only thing keeping me from officially rolling up to version 1.3, but as for now 1.3.pre3 is the most up to date postoffice there is.

Apr 14, 2006

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Dust Mite visits with the good citizens of Lilliput.

Apr 13, 2006

Pentagon planners are [..] contemplating tactical nuclear devices.

  1. The military scientists, engineers and war geeks have it all wrong. It really doesn't take much effort to make a tactical nuclear device. In fact, it's actually a rather straightforward two-step process:

    1. Take one nuclear weapon with the destructive power of as many Hiroshima bombs as you like.
    2. Add the word "tactical" to the description.

    --tristero, writing at Hullabaloo

  2. All of us were looking up the sky, pointing out the aircraft. Then the teachers came out from the school building and the class leaders gave the command to fall in. Our faces were all shifted from the direction of the sky to that of the platform. That was the moment when the blast came. And then the tremendous noise came and we were left in the dark. I couldn't see anything at the moment of explosion just like in this picture. We had been blown by the blast. Of course, I couldn't realize this until the darkness disappeared. I was actually blown about 10 m. My friends were all marked down on the ground by the blast just like this. Everything collapsed for as far as I could see. I felt the city of Hiroshima had disappeared all of a sudden. Then I looked at myself and found my clothes had turned into rags due to the heat. I was probably burned at the back of the head, on my back, on both arms and both legs. My skin was peeling and hanging like this. Automatically I began to walk heading west because that was the direction of my home. After a while, I noticed somebody calling my name. I looked around and found a friend of mine who lived in my town and was studying at the same school. His name was Yamamoto. He was badly burnt just like myself. We walked toward the river. And on the way we saw many victims. I saw a man whose skin was completely peeled off the upper half of his body and a woman whose eye balls were sticking out. Her whole baby was bleeding. A mother and her baby were lying with a skin completely peeled off. We desperately made a way crawling. And finally we reached the river bank. At the same moment, a fire broke out. We made a narrow escape from the fire. If we had been slower by even one second, we would have been killed by the fire. Fire was blowing into the sky becoming 4 or even 5m high. There was a small wooden bridge left, which had not been destroyed by the blast. I went over to the other side of the river using that bridge. But Yamamoto was not with me any more. He was lost somewhere. I remember I crossed the river by myself and on the other side, I purged myself into the water three times. The heat was tremendous . And I felt like my body was burning all over. For my burning body the cold water of the river was as precious as the treasure. Then I left the river, and I walked along the railroad tracks in the direction of my home. On the way, I ran into an another friend of mine, Tokujiro Hatta. I wondered why the soles of his feet were badly burnt. It was unthinkable to get burned there. But it was undeniable fact the soles were peeling and red muscle was exposed. Even I myself was terribly burnt, I could not go home ignoring him. I made him crawl using his arms and knees. Next, I made him stand on his heels and I supported him. We walked heading toward my home repeating the two methods. When we were resting because we were so exhausted, I found my grandfather's brother and his wife, in other words, great uncle and great aunt, coming toward us. That was quite coincidence. As you know, we have a proverb about meeting Buddha in Hell. My encounter with my relatives at that time was just like that. They seem to be the Buddha to me wandering in the living hell.

    --Akihiro Takahashi, describing his encounter with a tactical nuclear device

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Quote of the day

The House [of Representatives] is like some big herd of barely qualified cats

--someone claiming to be a Mount Doom insider, via Daily Kos

Apr 12, 2006

Weapons-Grade Stupidity

``Natanz was constructed to house 50,000 centrifuges,'' Stephen Rademaker, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, told reporters today in Moscow. ``Using those 50,000 centrifuges they could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in 16 days.''

--Sebastian Alison, Bloomberg

If you follow the bouncing ball, you'll see that Stephen Rademaker works for a fellow called Robert Joseph. One of Mr. Joseph's job responsibilities a few years ago was to threaten the CIA into backing the known-fraudulent "yellowcake" memos that the B*sh junta used as one of their excuses for our unprovoked invasion of Iraq in 2003.

At this rate, I'm sure that some new yellowcake memos are not too far down the pike. Perhaps these ones will be written in crayon?

(follow-the-dots provided by Talking Points Memo)

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Your Government At Work (Evil Party edition)

People are still finding bodies from the destruction of New Orleans, which is to be expected, because New Orleans is quite a large city and the government didn't have enough money to do an exhausive search after doing the necessary payoffs to well connected friends of the B*sh junta. But there are still some surprises (surprises not in the "oh, I didn't think of that!" category, but in the "well, yes, Hannah Arendt was absolutely correct" category) coming out of the bayou. Like this one:

And finding a body is just the first step. Of the 14 bodies found since mid-February, none have been definitively identified and released for burial, partly because FEMA closed a $17 million morgue built to handle the dead from Hurricane Katrina. The morgue was used for eight weeks, and agency officials said there was no longer enough volume to justify keeping it open.

FEMA declined to allow the New Orleans coroner, whose own office and morgue were ruined in the storm, to continue to use the autopsy site.

Unidentified bodies are being stored in Baton Rouge. Stored seventy miles away from New Orleans. In a truck.

FEMA declined to allow the New Orleans coroner, whose own office and morgue were ruined in the storm, to continue to use the autopsy site.

In a truck.

Arendt's thesis was that people who carry out unspeakable crimes [...] may not be crazy fanatics at all, but rather ordinary individuals who simply accept the premises of their state and participate in any ongoing enterprise with the energy of good bureaucrats.

--Edward S. Herman

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Apr 11, 2006

The traditional waste of time (pt 2)

One sign that it's getting closer to summer is that I'm spending more time working on the summer camp plans. I don't expect that I'll get the silly thing finished this summer (unless I quit my job and resign myself to being eaten alive by health insurance costs), but I'm still making jabs at making better houseplans.

This one is another one of the huge (6x9 meters, or 20x30 feet) camp-or-real-house plans, but I've moved the staircase to the center of a wall so I can wrap the downstairs around the stairwell and make room for a little study/nook/Stickley-style fireplace cubby™ (the current plan shows a fireplace on the right wall, but as you can probably guess these non-structural fireplaces can be, and are, extremely mobile.) This one also implements one of the Holy Grails of modern house design -- a ridiculously large bathroom (well, at least according to my standards; the bathroom we have at home is 2x3 meters, and which includes a 2x.5 meter dead space next to the door), which I've drawn out as split into two rooms; one with a toilet, and one with a shower and a tub. People still have to go upstairs to use the bathroom, but this plan is still arranged so you can use the toilet while someone is having sex in the bathtub.

I sacrifice the large extra room by having a larger bathroom, but note that this larger bathroom is stacked on top of the kitchen so all the plumbing gets to stay in one tidy stack instead of being spread all over the house. And the little bumpout in the walls around the kitchen and bathroom are not actually bumpouts, but the places where I've sacrificed strawbale insulation in favor of more conventional non-rotting synthetic insulation. I don't expect that there will be regular floods in either of the kitchen or the bathroom, but it's been my experience that bathrooms get to be fairly humid, and I don't want to experiment with having the strawbale walls wicking that humidity out of the house.

The cross sections of this house are, if anything, even more boring than the other 6x9 meter house plan. The ground floor will have a heavy bearing beam running left to right about 2.5 meters from the staircase wall, and I'll rest joists on top of those running from top to bottom. I'll probably not even bother to plaster the ceiling on the ground floor, but use pretty enough wood so that it can remain exposed, then build the floor of the upper story (obUS: second floor. ObUK: first floor?) out of some finish-grade wood panelling lying face down (at least something that's moderately weatherproof, so my heirs won't have to worry about it delaminating and coming down around their ears) with a layer of bamboo flooring on top of that.

The kitchen and bathroom will be done a little differently. The kitchen is going to have a finished ceiling so I can work the plumbing out into the bathroom fixtures without having cast-iron pipes looming above the kitchen stove, and I'm planning on tiling or cementing (most likely tiling; I've been accumulating floor tiles and have almost enough to do both floors in the elegant magpie on speed style that I'm known for) both floors so that they'll be (a) waterproof (with floor drains) and (b) can have radiant heating coils embedded in the floors.

I have had to sacrifice the split staircase (one leg going down into the basement, one leg going down into the main room) to fit it into the center of the house. I'm not sure how much of a sacrifice this will be.

Some of the site-specific things that will need to be worked out are whether to do a porch or to provide an outside entrance to the basement. If the house was going to be a place to live after emigrating to Canada a camphouse for long summer vacations (my father was a university professor, so we got to take a month-long vacation at his family's summer camp in Maine every summer. Working a more conventional 9-5 job sucks, but perhaps I'll win the lottery one of these days) I'd want to build at separate workshop for all of us to do projects in, and if the climate was bad enough I'd probably have to build some sort of garage for the obPrius.

New Code!

Postoffice has been rolled up to version 1.3.pre2 with the addition of support for sendmail filters attached to tcp sockets (via filter=host:port) and with a fairly large rework of the internals of runq so that outgoing connections will eventually time out if the remote server decides to teergrube the runq process.

It's still a pre release because I've not had a chance to test (or document) the milter support on Pell, but now that I support tcp sockets I should be able to set up a milter battery on some machine that's got a working pthreads library and point Pell at it.

The 1.3.pre? releases are another milestone for postoffice; the program (and supporting utilities) is now > 10,000 lines of code. I'm not sure if this is a good or a bad thing yet.

Apr 10, 2006

Frontiers of modern architecture.

Treehugger magazine (an online magazine that attempts to combine modern design and earthy-crunchiness, and sometimes even succeeds) has some editors with a pretty severe case of prefab house lust. One design which has been mentioned a few times is a mobile home that's designed as more of a house than a trailer, and is supposed to be much more earthy-crunchy than a conventional house because it's built in a factory (sort of like a larger version of the Tumbleweed houses) and it's easy to recycle and manage the construction waste there.

It's not the prettiest modern design out there, but once you get past the awkward outside it's nicely arranged inside (except for the sleeping area, which is in a little tiny loft inside the sheetmetal wart on the roof, but that's just a matter of personal preference; a lot of people appear to like sleeping in a cabinet) and I could almost see it being a nice choice for a lot of people, except for one teeny tiny problem: This 340 square foot mobile home costs US$125,000, or ~US$368/square foot. That's, um, kind of expensive. By square foot, it's not much more expensive than the Tumbleweed houses (the prices of which have shot up substantially since the first time I looked into them), but it's still more expensive than the equivalent stick-built house, and it's much more expensive than the more conventional manufactured housing unit that you can buy new or used anywhere in North America.

And it doesn't include the price of land, either. If I decided I really really wanted this house design of my own and I wanted to live in the city of Portland Oregon, I could put down US$125,000 (plus shipping!) for the house, US$160,000 for a 50x100 lot (there's a lot near Powell and 10th that's US$160,000 for a nominal 50x100, but that 100ft includes two street frontages, so it's probably more like 50x80 usable), and US$6-10,000 for a concrete pad and utilities. Grand total, for 340 square feet (not including city permits and shipping) of US$295,000 ? When I could buy a stick-built house of approximately 10 times that size for US$299,000?

I might be able to claw back US$100,000 by splitting the lot in half and having a developer build a narrow house on the other half of the lot (I've thought about buying some lots on Portland and building a pair of 20x30 houses on the lot, except that for some strange reason people want to have garages, and that tends to eat up the entire lot if you can't tuck the garages under the houses) but that's still an awful lot of money for a very small house.

Well, it makes a nice statement house. Unfortunately, the statement I'd reading is "I've got too much money!", just like the statement that so many other so-called innovative modern house designs make.

What would I do differently? Good question. I'd probably not bother to hide the fact that it's a mobile home, and I'd try to duplicate the construction techniques that the non-earthy-crunch manufactured home builders use, with the exception of lining up suppliers who are more ecologically sound. And, come to think of it, I'd probably be tempted to use a real modular design; split the house up into a kitchen/dining module and a living/sleeping/toilet module which could be coupled together in different ways.

Or I'd just buy a used mobile home (they look like they sell for about US$25,000) and have it retrofitted in a modern style. A new mobile home, no matter how earthy-crunchily it was built, will still eat up more resources than an already existing structure, particularly if any of the retrofitting you do is with recycled materials.

1 comment

Apr 09, 2006

Le ancien régime est arrivé

The US Supreme Court has decided not to rule on the B*sh junta's habit of issuing lettres de cachet for political purposes, and has, by its inaction, given the seal of approval for yet another round of seizing dictatorial powers for fun and profit! Needless to say, both bagmen joined with Scalia and Thomas to decide not to review Maximum Leader Genius's (successful) attempt to abrogate the constitution of the United States.

That's six USSC justices that will need to be impeached and removed from office after the revolution comes.

(letter de cachet reference via Le Colonel Chabert)

1 comment

Apr 08, 2006

Rogue state? If you’re American, you’re soaking in it.

Saber-rattling, or the weapons-grade stupidity we've come to expect from the B*sh junta?

One of the military’s initial option plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites.

--Seymour Hersh, writing in The New Yorker

Now, if there are any sane (fsvo "sane") people left at Mount Doom on the Potomac, you'd have to believe that it's just saber rattling, because dropping nukes on Iran will pretty much guarantee that no oil will be coming out of Iraq , Iran, Kuwait, or Saudi Arabia in the near future. But since this is the Coward in Chief -- a man who redefines the phrase "bubble boy" -- we're talking about, it's quite possible that the Air Force is busily moving a couple of dozen nuclear weapons over to the Near East even as we speak.

The New Yorker article mentions that the EU is "rattled" at the perception that the American Imperium is going to be nuking Iran in time for the midterm elections, but, since the EU isn't really that used to being a superpower yet, it's too busy trying to make nice with the barking lunatics who run the United States. The UK, as befitting their new status as lapdogs, are running around trying to find an excuse -- any excuse -- to resume their now-traditional position of brown nose up against Imperial buttocks, so there's not likely to be any sense coming out of them.

If I was running the EU or Russia, I'd trump the whole thing by telling the United States that I'd given Iran a dozen nuclear devices, and that the USA would just have to sit down with the Iranian government and negotiate about their nuclear program now. Sure, it would trump the American Imperium's grand plan of replacing all the governments (except Israel) in the Near east with fundamentalist dictatorships and Somali-style anarchy, but the American Imperium and Iran have a lot of things in common (both governments hate women, birth control, and gays) so I'm sure that once you get past the initial pleasantries about Great Satans and Evil Empires, they'd get along famously.


Apr 07, 2006

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™ – New Cats edition

After the tubular cat got cancer and died last year, I didn't really want to get another short-lived pet, but would rather just live with our old, stupid, and shy NYC kitty. I was outvoted, and after a while the best managed to convince me that since the bears really really really wanted more cats we should go and look at some cats.

So, we went out and looked at some cats, with the expected results:

Leo the striped cougar mini.

Blanche comes over to terrorize Dust Mite.


I guess nobody uses telnet anymore

... because it appears that there's a huge honking bug in login(1) on recent versions (recent being "since r*dh*t 8.0 was released) of Linux, where it doesn't bother to recycle old utmp entries, and thus utmp -- the file that records the people currently logged in -- grows without bound when a systems integrator who uses telnet (and thus login(1)) does a performance test of telnet sessions.

Questions like "why is /var/run/utmp 10mb long?" are not likely to bring out the best in me, particularly since utmp has been around for AT LEAST 30 YEARS NOW and there's no reason why utmp handling should mysteriously break inside login. I look at glibc, and mutter darkly about Unix going malignant, and mutter more because, if my suspicions are correct, I'm going to have to pester r*dh*t, the maintainers of util-linux, and whoever the hell maintains gl*bc these days to accept patches that fix this wonderful behavior.


Apr 06, 2006

The traditional waste of time.

No, I've not totally forgotten the summer camp idea. I've been occupied with other things, but I keep coming back to planning. This is a somewhat huger version of the summercamp; it's 20x30, or a whopping 1200 square feet of strawbale-wrapped abode.

The downstairs still requires a little bit of planning; I'm sure there are some places where having a cavernous 20x30 room with a staircase up and down might be worthwhile, but for the camp to be useful we need such things as a kitchen, dining room, living room, and the sort of nooks and crannies that make the house more interesting.

20x30 doesn't do so well with a hipped roof, so I'm probably going to do back to my big pile of Stickley houseplans to see if I can find an attractive way to put a sheetmetal roof onto the structure. It might be worth something to face the front door to the south and put a porch with a large thermal mass out on that side. And the best stubbornly wants to have closets in the bedrooms, so I may have to tweak the second floor slightly to provide yet more closet space up there.

Annoying prepackaged software feature of the day

Now that I've got a milter interface in postoffice, I've been playing around with some of the prepackaged sendmail filters out there, and have discovered some really annoying packaging arrangements. The clamav milter rpm that you can get for r*dh*t linux is packaged annoyingly, in that the out of the box configuration sends "helpful" bounce messages to the (forged) From: address on a virus, but that feature can be worked around by simply hacking the rh-specific /etc/sysconfig/clamav-milter.conf (or whatever it's called) file. But even after fixing that so that it doesn't attempt to do bounce messages, but just drops a fat chance, bucko! on the virus daemon, it does it in a way that reveals just a little bit too much information.


I may be old fashioned, but I'd rather not have my AV solution broadcast the way it detected the virus, just in case J. Random virus-dork is analyzing bounces to see how they can make their squalid software more infectious.

On the other side of the verbosity argument, there's the milter for spamassassing, which blocks nigerian 419 spam with a simple Blocked by Spamassassin, which is perhaps a little too terse for my tastes. I'd like to see some indication about just what spamassassin thinks the spam is, like This appears to be a Nigerian 419 letter. We do not accept spam at this domain (well, the second sentence is something I'd love to add, but the first sentence should be easily determined by looking at the spamassassin scores (I have a sample piece of nigerian spam that comes in with a score of 11.8, and 10.5 of that is because spamassassin figured out that it was a nigerian 419 spam letter.)

The simple solution for me will be to simply rewrite spamass-milter and clamav-milter to be less or more verbose (and then if I build r*dh*t rpm packages, I can get rid of the dumb sendmail dependency; postoffice has already proven that you don't need sendmail to communicate with a sendmail milter, so I can toss that dependency out with the wash. But it would still be lovely if I could take advantage of someone else's code without having to rewrite it to suit my needs.


High Treason, evil party style

Remember Valerie Plame and how she was outed by the unfortunately-named "Scooter" Libby? And how, after a bit of world class foot-dragging, the B*sh junta finally allowed an investigation to take place?

Mr. Libby is said to have testified that "at first" he rebuffed Mr. Cheney's suggestion to release the information because the estimate was classified. However, according to the vice presidential aide, Mr. Cheney subsequently said he got permission for the release directly from Mr. Bush. "Defendant testified that the vice president later advised him that the president had authorized defendant to disclose the relevant portions of the NIE," the prosecution filing said.

(--Josh Gerstein, NY Sun)

Anyone surprised at this? I'm not; "a fish rots from the head" may be an old saying, but it has consistantly described the culture of corruption that oozes out of of the Evil Party.

Impeach the motherfucker. Impeach the motherfucker now.

(via Dan Froomkin, via Michael Froomkin)

Apr 05, 2006

New Code! (supertrivial version)

Magicfilter has been updated to version 2.3.h. Why? For some reason I'd managed to drop a second DEVICE line into the dj500 def file, which broke it. This release deletes that line (and hopefully unbreaks the dj500 support) and that's all it does.


New Code!

Postoffice has been pushed up to version 1.3.pre1. It's 1.3.pre1 because there is one fairly drastic feature change in it that is difficult for me to properly test on pell; I've added support for sendmail mail filters ("milters") so that people don't have to write their own mail filtration to wedge into --with-av.

telnet localhost smtp
Connected to localhost.localdomain (
Escape character is '^]'.
220 THE CURRENT TIME IS WED APR 5 14:12:38 2006
helo pell
mail from:<orc>
rcpt to:<orc>
begin 644 eicar

The committee, in this case, is composed of clamav-milter and spamass-milter, and the filters are passed into postoffice with the new filter= options in /etc/


The new milter code is enabled by configuring postoffice with --with-milter, which turns off the old --with-av virus scanning interface and replaces it with the milter interface.

(And you may wonder why I haven't been posting to TSFR; it's because of this code, which has eaten my brain and needed to be released before it turned me into a dessicated husk.)


It’s a Democrat with a backbone. Amazing.

"Gay and lesbian people in our country are fighting a mean-spirited movement to harm them and to discriminate against them," Feingold, D-Wis., said in a telephone interview. "I stand with them against that movement, and I'm proud to stand with them."

I would have said Evil instead of mean-spirited, but that's why I'm not a politician. In any case, if Feingold runs for President, he's got my vote, and I might even contribute money to his campaign.

(link via Atrios)

Apr 02, 2006

Don’t forget the chilllllldren

Russell and Silas waited in a nearby Coffee People while I went into the camera store to retrieve my Pentax (and drop off the Best's Nikon point-and-shoot, which fell onto the beach at Newport last weekend and immediately stopped focussing.) Despite my fondest delusions, cleaning does not make the slow glass on my Pentax any faster, so the photos are a little bit blurry.


Sunday photo dump

It took the camera store a whole day to clean the Pentax, so I needed to make up for it after getting the camera back.

After getting the camera back, we rode #511 from Pioneer Place up to the Galleria ...

... where we saw it reflected in the (empty, of course) Galleria shop windows.

When we walked around the corner towards the library, we saw Blue-Red stopped at the Salmon streetcar stop, as a SD600 rattled across the diamond on its trip out to the airport.

If you gave me the choice, I'd take the Skoda over the Porsche.

When driving towards home, we passed an ex-SP tunnel motor waiting to get into Brooklyn yard.

Apr 01, 2006

Trolley picture of the day

A Hillsboro-bound train crosses 4th Ave in downtown Portland.

When I bought my Pentax last year (on April 1st), I got a one year extended warranty on it. Nothing has broken on the camera (yet; the last two Canons we had died about 16 months after purchase, but they both died of E18 lens errors, and the nice thing about a SLR is that if a lens goes to hell, it can be replaced without discarding the camera body) but the one year extended warranty came with "we'll clean your camera once as part of the deal", and since the warranty ended today, I needed to get it cleaned today if I was going to do it at all.

So the camera shop has my *istDS, and I'm stuck at home with the emergency camera, but I got a few trolley pictures while on the way to the camera shop.