This Space for Rent

Aug 31, 2004

Oh, I get it now.

The sudden sharp drop in John Kerry's poll numbers looked really suspicious when they rolled in, and I was suspicious of exactly how the polls were done, but I wasn't really certain which party had been cooking the figures. I thought that if it was the Evil Party, that Karl Rove had gotten cocky (again and misjudged the release of the polls, because even taking into account poll followers following polls would show John Kerry going up in popularity again, during the Necropublican "convention" in NYC, which would have been the kiss of death for the Coward-in-Chief's election campaign.

A bunch of followup polls from Evil Party-affiliated polling organizations, all of which, surprise! showed John Kerry down 10! 20! 30! (okay, maybe I exaggerate a little) points, made me think that perhaps this was the case, but, still, having this happen before the Necropublican "convention" opens a big PR disaster.

Today, I read reports that various flying monkeys were discussing just exactly when the Coward-in-Chief won the election. Okay, that clinches it; Karl thinks the electorate is wishy-washy and by fabricating momentum he can actually roll enough battleground states over to the Evil Party, because 60-odd days from now everyone will remember two weeks of really odd polls, followed by a week of the Necropublicans dragging around the bodies of the poor bastards that died in WTC 1 & 2 almost three years ago.

And if Maximum Leader Genius wins (or, more likely "wins") the election, that will be the last you hear of WTC 1 & 2 for a loooong time, at least until Osama bin Laden is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for fucking over the Democratic Party (WTC 1 & 2? This is supposed to be a happy occasion. Let's not argue about who killed who.)

Against the Republican slander machine (pt 5)

How nice. Lie about John Kerry and get a $40 million grant for a company that hired you as a lobbyist.

But isn’t the Hezbollah candidate just like that?

The Maggot Hammer has found what he thinks may be the ideal candidate for President. But, when I look at his qualifications, I don't see much of anything he's got that the Coward-in-Chief doesn't.

Mel has got acting experience, even if he's not all that good at it, but that's about all I can think of that he's got over Maximum Leader Genius. And the Jesus Chainsaw Massacre is, I'm sure, a fine bit of propaganda, but it doesn't hold a candle to the massed power of the delusional beliefs that back the B*sh junta. I think, frere hammer, that when it comes time to embrace the dark side you should pick the true Hezbollah candidate and shun weak imitations.

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Hezbollah convention highlights

Gay-Bashing Lies Lies Lies Lies Two-Minute-Hate Lies Lies Lies Flip-Flops Lies Lies.

God's Own Party ? Jesus Christ is spinning in his grave.

A survey only a sycophant can love

Now it's the Keystone Kops version of 1984:

I knew there was a reason I didn't take MSNBC seriously.

Aug 30, 2004

It’s a boondoggle, but every lining has a silver cloud around it

The expensive and annoying North Macadam (aka Vote the bums out!) project is underway, and the new OHSU (aka Give us our development or we'll move to Hillsboro!) office building is being built while the shipyard attempts to continue along as if nothing was happening.

Personally, I would have preferred to see OHSU move to Washington County while Columbia Sportswear moved to this (ex-)industrial park, but it's kind of fun to see the construction as my bus goes over the Ross Island bridge.

And since I'm riding the bus, I can actually take this picture without risking a traffic accident.

Aug 29, 2004

Accidental Art

The moon was full, and orangy as it rose. Julie and I tried to take a bunch of pictures of it (none of them actually came out; to take pictures of things a few light-seconds away, we really need to get a telephoto lens.) One of the pictures that Julie took ended up being really blurry because she started to put down the camera while the shutter was still open, so the cheapo consumer digital camera photo shoot didn't turn out to be a waste after all.

EPT #187

This NW5 has been sitting out of service ever since we've been doing our visits to the Eng!s (™ Silas) down in Milwaukie. It's sitting on one of the warehouse sidings coupled to an ex-Espee slug, which has also been sitting out of service since we've started visiting.

I believe that this is the (ex-)GN NW5 that's shown on page 60 of Kalmbach's (out of print?) Model Railroader Cyclopedia -- Volume 2 (Diesel Locomotives). It's certainly one of the ex-GN NW5s (the BN paint is a dead giveaway about who owned it before it became an EPT engine), and there's certainly no reason for EPT to renumber it to a different GN number than it used to be when it came out of LaGrange in the 1950s.

The stack is capped, so it hasn't been completely abandoned.

Trivial project of the day (August edition)

Last month, I bought three chairs at a garage sale and reupholstered one of them. I finally got around to doing the other two (because I needed to do a birthday present for my little brother Stephen) this morning.

The bears helped, of course.

Aug 28, 2004

Best-laid plans gone astray

The reason I've got this weblog is because Julie wanted one, but I was unwilling to pile all the, um, crap that the popular weblog programs carry around with them (p*rl and p*th*n are fine languages, I'm sure, but p*rl is deep in the throes of being converted from a utility language into the programming language equivalent of Emacs, but in a more unreadable language, and p*th*n started out as the programming equivalent of Emacs. Most of the weblog programs out there are written in one or two of those languages. And to make matters worse those languages embed databases -- usually relational databases -- to do the routine book-keeping that you need for a BBS system), so I had to write my own. There wasn't any particularly good way to test it aside from actually eating my own dogfood aside from setting up a weblog for myself and posting to it.

So. I wrote the software, set up the weblog, and started posting. 5 months (and 200+ posts) later, the experimental weblog is full, but the reason why I wrote it is seeing much less traffic.

And it's still not documented.

Aug 27, 2004

Great A, Little A, it must be Hood to Coast day

Against the Republican slander machine (pt 4)

Let's talk a minute about John Kerry and George Bush, and I know them both. And I'm not name dropping, saying I know them both. See I got...I got a young man named George W. Bush into the National Guard when I was the Lt. Governor of Texas, and I'm not necessarily proud of that. But, But I did it, and I got a lot of other people into the National Guard because I thought that's what people should do when you're in office and you helped a lot of rich people. And I walked to the Vietnam Memorial wall the other day and I looked at the names of the people that died in Vietnam, and I became more ashamed of myself than I've ever been because it's the worst thing I did was help a lot of wealthy supporters, and a lot of people who had family names of importance get into the National Guard.

-- former Texas Lt. Governor Ben Barnes, via joshua micah marshall [edited]



After the Marines went charging in, the results are that

  • Muqtata Al Sadr is a free man.
  • His private army is still basically intact.
  • Ali Sistani demonstrated that he can raise several hundred thousand people to march on a shrine and free it from the infidel (that would be the United States, in case you're wondering)
  • The citizens of Vichy Iraq hate the United States even more than they did last month.

So, what was the fucking point of this whole exercise? To kill a bunch of Marines so the Necropublicans can drag their bloody bodies through the streets of New York? To see what sort of stupidity the United States can do in Vietnam mk 2 while the Cheez Whiz veterans for truth are lying about Vietnam mk 1? The Coward-in-Chief getting revenge for being beat up by a bunch of Marines while he was deserting his pretend national guard unit?

Aug 26, 2004

Using the new camera

I'm carrying the camera I bought with me so that I can get interesting pictures on the way to and from work. And by "interesting", I mean "railroad", and by carrying this camera I've managed to successfully scare off all the trains from the vicinity of Milwaukie and Powell.

Today, I spotted one of Tri-Met's hybrid busses while waiting for either the Milwaukie Shuttle, the #70, or the Sellwood shuttle.

And then the sky was so pretty I had to take at least one picture of it, too.

Against the Republican slander machine (pt 3)

It's not as new and exciting as making up lies about a war 30 years ago, but we are currently involved in at a couple of wars. One of them is for a reason (remember WTC1 & WTC2? If so, good, you're doing better than the Coward in Chief), and it's costing the USA approximately $.45, and the other one was a stupid revenge whackjob that Maximum Leader Genius has totally botched, at great cost in life and money. How much money?

When the Cheez Whiz veterans for Truth crank out another lie, think about what they're trying to distract you from thinking about.

Spot the non-Unix IT department (chapter 2)

My BOFH-help request seems to have been shunted onto the desk of either a very canny BOFH or onto the desk of an extremely PFY. I've gotten further mail from the IT department today, telling me that "You need to use the Microsoft Proxy Server™, because It Is Corporate Policy™!" (Cheez Whiz Veterans for Truth ploy #1; repeat the obvious), "You need to reinstall the (Windows-only) Microsoft Firewall Client™!" in response to my request for a proxy server for Unix, and "oh, I don't know anything about tunnels, so you'll have to talk to somebody else".

BOFH? Extremely PFY? Since I left my lart at home, I'm not going to go up there and find out. If it's a BOFH, the Unix machine is already wiped, and if it's a PFY, they don't know what machine(s) I use.

Spot the non-Unix IT department

When I got into work this morning, I noticed that the the web browser I actually use wasn't talking to the outside world, while the one that doesn't let me block popups and flash crap was. After some investigation, I found out that not only was the web browser not talking to the outside world, but neither was ftp or ssh. Off went a message to the BOFHs, asking "did you reconfigure the firewall?" and explaining, with 8x10 photos with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back, that I wasn't able to get to the outside world without going through the proxy server and, in any case, ssh and ftp weren't working (I even mentioned the never-to-be-used-on-a-public-network T-word [telnet]).

After about 10 minutes, I got back a message saying "why, yes, we were having firewall problems, so you need to set up IE to use a proxy server, and if that doesn't work, well, you need to reboot your windows machine." I thanked them, then mentioned that I don't actually use IE and the web browser proxy server fix (which I wasn't using on icewombat, thus the mysterious refusal to talk to the outside world) doesn't really help for using browsers on our Un*x boxes, and really doesn't help for ftp and/or ssh, and that I didn't think that rebooting my Windows box would make much difference.

About two minutes ago, I got a reply (a phone call) about it, and, well, there aren't that many Unix people in the nest of BOFHs. To be precise, there is one, and he's in the middle of trying to recover from the nasty power failure that blew away the entire building backbone (but not any of the non-ups-connected workstations in the Unix group) and all of the settings on the firewall boxes. Hopefully now that the single Unix person knows about ssh not working anymore, that will be fixed.

I suppose it's not too surprising that there should be almost no Unix administrators in the BOFH hive, because we've only got about 200 Unix boxes in the building and they just run by themselves. The fragile workstations with the fragile (but pretty) operating systems on them, on the other hand, take up most of the IT budget and sanity score.

I'll just sit here and twitch until my connections to the outside world come back again.

Aug 25, 2004

Ugly color games

I've got new glasses, and I suspect that they're misadjusted, because when I look at large white regions on the screen, my head begins to hurt. That's a good excuse to start messing with the .css for tsfr, don't you think?

I've preserved the original .css, so when I'm done playing around I might put everything back to what it used to look like.

Hooray for the third circuit court of appeals!

Brian Leiter reports that the US third circuit court has ruled against Pennsylvania's attempt to mandate state-sponsored idolatry. As someone who, as best as I can remember, has never pledged allegiance to any flag (if I'm going to pledge allegiance to anything, it'd be the constitution of the United States, and only if not ordered to), I'm pleased to see that there are still people in the judicial branch that have actually read the constitution of this country.

The Pennsylvania law was extra subversive, too, because it gave religious schools an out, and thus established a lovely little escape clause from secular law for the theocrats.

Now someone should go after the nasty little moment of (nudge nudge wink wink) silence laws.

Aug 24, 2004

Perhaps their advertising agency doesn’t use email?

Now that's a country nobody in Oregon has ever heard of.

Aug 23, 2004

Correct me if I’m wrong, but …

Isn't France the oldest ally the United State of America has? What the fuck do the fascists think that they're going to prove by this ongoing attack on France and everything that might possibly be related to France just so the Coward-in-Chief can get revenge for the horrible slight of France not believing the pack of lies he tried to tell the world in preparation for Operation Inigo Montoya?

The GOP already has the xenophobic yahoo vote, so it's not as if it's going to get them any more traction domestically (shoot, the ongoing voter fraud they're pulling is going to get them many more "votes" than catering to inbred twits).

We're the United States of America, and we have no moral compass or respect for our friends! is not the sort of reputation I want to precede me when I'm presenting my passport for approval in the every-shrinking circle of nations where I'd feel safe enough to trainspot in.

Morons. Evil morons. And that goes double for the mouthbreathing pseudo-conservatives who enable them.

Cheese Whiz Veterans For Truth (Portland chapter)

Today, we got a nasty little flyer in the mail, that, as best as I can tell from the slime dripping off it, is a Republican-style attack on Tom Potter. Now, I wasn't really in the mood to vote for Jim Francesconi in the first place (the whole city council went past its sell-by date about a year ago, and I'd no sooner vote for any of them than I'd vote for the Coward-in-Chief this november), but I also wasn't in the mood to donate money to the Potter campaign.

Wasn't is the operative word; Would $50 to the Potter campaign be a good starting point, Mr. Francesconi, or would you prefer that I give your opponent more?

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Aug 22, 2004

Camping, in the rain

After setting the tent up at home, we went out to Oxbow Park this weekend to set it up in the woods in a group camping expedition of people from Russell's playschool. It rained, of course. But, before we went to bed, Silas decided to romp a while in the tent.

It was still raining today, so the encampment decided to pack up early and head for the IHOP at 242nd and Stark for breakfast. Of course, that IHOP had gone belly up, so there were no pancakes for us. There were eggs to scramble up at home (and bacon, and blueberry slump), so that's where we went for breakfast.

Aug 21, 2004

Against the Republican slander machine (pt 2)

Remember the 2000 election?

Link from Atrios

They probably think this is good customer service

A couple of months ago, I bought a little motherboard on ebay, and, as eventually happens to just about anybody who participates in auctions, I got ripped off. I did the usual routine of complaining, first to the seller (who blew me off, of course) with ebay (who sent me a note saying that they wanted to protect my buying experience and they'd be certain to investigate the issue. This, of course, is the last I've heard from ebay about this matter), with p*yp*l, who blew me off by saying hey, you got a package! It's not our problem! Why don't you just fuck off and die!, and finally with my outdated old technology credit card company Citibank, who, being a bunch of old fuddy-duddies who don't get the bold and exciting new! internet! world!, actually appeared to want to do something about the ripoff.

This morning I saw a piece of mail in my inbox from p*yp*l, whining bitterly about how unfair it is that I should run to my credit card company without trying to work it out with p*yp*l first (presumably because the bank doesn't love me, but just wants a nasty old financial relationship instead.)

Ho. Ho. Ho.

If p*yp*l wants me to work with them instead of with my bank, a good first step would be to stop sending me email that says don't bother to respond, we never read your mail.

Aug 20, 2004

Incomplete project of the week

I'm trying to put a tile tabletop on the railroad table, but I made the mistake of putting it down after I glued the tiles down and before I added mortar and a nice frame.

It's difficult to finish a project when the bears keep using the work in progress.

Aug 19, 2004

Given my druthers, I’d rather use the post office

I bought a camera from Amazon, and they shipped it to Portland via Vichy Iraq (I can't tell from the postcode whether it was sorted in the package center in Najaf or Basra).

At least it was still sealed when I got it, and the A60 didn't disintegrate when I pulled it out of the packaging. (Unlike a computer I shipped a few years ago, which arrived with the metal case bent as if someone had kicked it out of the delivery van.

That’s a, um, interesting redefinition of the GPL

The Register has a story about IBM suing SCO (as part of their long-running contract dispute-cum-jihad over source code) because SCO is using GPLed code that came from IBM, and, apparently, IBM thinks that it can deny use of GPLed code to people they disapprove of.

I suspect that this is just part of the ongoing penis-waving between IBM and SCO, but the unintended consequences of IBM being able to retroactively change the terms of licensed code, particularly if that license is the thrice-damned GPL, would end up shovelling a whole boxcar full of spanners into the open source®™© marketplace. Why? Because it's not free (or, in the case of the GPL, "free") software if the copyright holder can then turn around and tell you that they were kidding and the published license terms don't apply to you.

I work for a company that uses Linux in commercial products, and not only that uses GPLed software from IBM in our commercial products, and the huge stinking liability cesspool that this lawsuit would open up would be the apocolypse. And, shoot, it wouldn't even stop there; ANY free software could be summarily yanked out from under your feet with this lawsuit as a precedent.

And the sad thing is that the anti-SCO flying monkeys are letting themselves be blinded by the irrelevant detail that it's SCO being gored, and not paying attention to at the very least one large anti-Linux company that's sitting on several billion dollars which could be paid to people who've released their work under the GPL, just to get possession of the copyright, which they could then use to attack people who already licensed copies of the code (just like what happened with the *gre game that someone put out on Usenet; St*v* J*cks*n got the copyright, and his flying monkeys have laid claim to all copies of the source, even source that predates his ownership of the copyright. And that's just with a game, not, say, code that might be part of the internals of the Linux operating system.) If IBM manages to successfully sue SCO because "it's our software and we can retroactively license it any way we want to", the open source®™© forces aren't going to be the people who laugh last.

Against the Republican slander machine

I'm glad that John Kerry's campaign hasn't been letting itself get sucked into he says/he says games against the dishonest scum that Maximum Leader Genius is winding up and sending out to just make shit up for the press. After all, the last time the Republican slander machine did a stunt like this (remember the military records "scandal"? You might not, because after the Republican slander machine worked themselves up into a frothing frenzy, John Kerry released his records, and, well, the Deserter in Chief doesn't look very good compared to someone who volunteered to go to the great imperial tarpit of the 1960s) they ended up getting it rammed right back into their faces at great speed.

The go away, you're bothering the adults swat that the Kerry campaign gave to the Republican slander machine is all the attention they're worth.

Aug 18, 2004

Oh, for heavens sakes. Stop teasing him and just award him the Hugo now.

My friend Charlie Stross appears to be getting another 15 minutes of fame with the release of his latest science fiction book. I'm not particularly up on modern science fiction, but the snippets I've read of his stuff are certainly at least as good as any of the hard SF I've ever read (I don't read much SF anymore; the last hard SF writer I read was Neal Stephenson, who wrote The Big U about 20 years ago and has been on a steady arc downwards since then) and he has the temerity to actually put a plot and maybe even character development into his writing.

Of course, you'd not figure this out from the reviews. Charlie's most recent book (Accelerando), if you read the review Bradford Delong linked to, is nothing more than E E Smith meets the J. Peterman catalog. It's possible, I guess, that Charlie could have been eaten by the Edinmumble pod people, but even without reading the book I'd bet that the reviewer merely did the traditional trick of warping the contents of the book to match his own impression of what the book should be like.

If I win the lottery, I'll try and bribe Charlie into redoing the Laura Ingalls Wilder books with a frontier family circa 2035. It would be worth it just to see the reviewers heads explode.


According to the New York Times, the latest round of stupidity in Iraq started when the Marines decided by themselves to go after Muqtada al-Sadr.

Huh? I thought that we had modern technology, like, um, radios (to say nothing of telephones, videoconferencing gear, talk programs, and the like) so that you could actually do something like maintain a chain of command from the people who were running the war down to the grunts who were actually fighting it. I know, it's like communism and stuff if you actually run the armed forces like armed forces, but if Maximum Leader Genius and his flying monkeys are just winding up the armed forces and letting them toddle off like extremely well-armed childrens toys that raises the level of incompetence to new and frightening levels.

I'd say "where are the court-martials", but this sounds like yet another case of the rot starting at the head and working its way down. And, in the grand tradition of the New! Improved! Now with extra added evil!™ Republican Party, the footsoldiers are the ones who end up dying while the country digs itself deeper into the tarpit.

Feh. Vote for John Kerry, because the country cannot survive another 4 years of Republican incompetence.

Aug 17, 2004

Why there are no diesels on the PV&T

Given that the vast bulk of the railroad lines in the United States are all dieselised, I need to make up an excuse for why my model railroad is still electrified as of the magic 1966 date that I chose. From what I've read, the prototype railroads either abandoned their electrifications because

  • The electrifications were for smoke abatement, and diesels don't smoke nearly as much as steam.
  • traffic patters changed and the electrified lines couldn't be used efficiently any more (The Norfolk & Western comes to mind here -- twice)
  • the power plants and overhead wire wore out and it was cheaper to put in diesels than to upgrade the facilities (the tale of every single interurban line that still exists, with the notable exceptions of the IATR and the CSS&SB)
  • Traffic levels increased to the point where the power supplies couldn't keep up (the CSS&SB).
  • Upper management thought that diesels were sexier than those boring old electric engines (the CMStP&P, though that railroad was so badly managed it could have been a million reasons)

I can easily explain why the PV&T electrified: The main lines from Portland to Montreal and Portland to Albany crossed several mountain ranges the hard way, thus requiring helpers in 6 locations Electification offered the chance to replace steam helpers with more reliable and cheaper to operate electric equipment. (the Canadian Northern electrification, which was local, and the BA&P electrification were good references for electrifying, and for a high voltage DC electrification).

So, why are the wires still up in the New Hampshire of my mind? There are three places where electrifications could have gone wrong; the traffic slowdown of the 1930s, the collapse of the permanent way after the second world war, and the collapse of aging power plants in the 1960s.

  1. On the PV&T, the great depression reduced traffic flows, but by the time the great depression happened the railroad was already mainly electrified, so it was cheaper to just keep running the electrics. (which didn't cost as much to run as steam engines, which was important for a railroad that cuts directly across mountain ranges.)
  2. WW2 put a heavy load on the PV&T, forcing the railroad to modernise its power plants. When the antitrust laws went into effect in the 1930s, the PV&T was using enough electric power so it was less trouble to hand their non-railroad electric power customers over to other power companies and devote the powerplants to railroad production. When the WW2 crunch came, the railroad was still in a DIY mindset and decided to modernise instead of throwing in the towel and buying power from the electric utilities. So, when the war was over, the PV&T found itself with an excess of power, modernised power plants, a lot of worn out steam engines, and overhead wire over 99% of the railroad.
  3. in the 1950s and 1960s, as the first generation of class A and class B engines aged, traffic in the Northeast fell off fast enough so that old engines could be stored and/or retired without needing replacements (see also the lease of class B engines to the CMStP&P.) The modernisation of the power plants during the second world war kept the cost of producing power down, so the PV&T could maintain a better cost per mile from electric engines than either Alco or GM could offer for their engines.
    The exception was on the LT&L and Montreal Terminal, which didn't have the electrified infrastructure. Those railroads were dieselised (except the Bangor-Augusta stub of the B&Q, which ended up being a long ways away from any PV&T diesel facility.)

Thus, in 1966, the PV&T found itself with fairly modern power plants, enough modern class B locomotives to run the railroad, and a large supply of spare parts from old retired class A and B locomotives to keep the modern locomotives running. The future doesn't look particularly shiny, because the Northeast is dying industrially, but enough bridge traffic comes out of Portland and Boston to keep the through lines running under wire.

By the 1970s, the Lincoln branch of the LW&C would be dieselised as a preamble to being spun off into the hands of a shortline (or abandonment) and most of the remaining rural New England branches would either be embargoed or simply ripped up. But by 1973, the CMStP&P would abandon its electrification, and the class B engines that were sent out west would return (along with a brace of class D engines purchased either for parts or to standardise the Portland to Montréal line with one class of engines.) But that's all in the future, and not an issue for the 1966 in my head.

Nothing beside remains.

This is the fundamental dynamic that the old order has not yet realized. We have already reached the end our leash. The old order trembles and is about to pass away, and Rome is already on the verge of its long tumultuous decline and fall. The day is not tomorrow, it is not a year from now, it is not a decade or a century from now - it is today. This is what our leaders and our populace cannot grasp. We not going to live further on borrowed time, we were already living on borruwed time and our historical debts are going to start being called due. Too long have people focused on the debt itself or on some absolute point of scarcity in oil reserves.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look upon my works ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

We have always been at peace with Oceania

From the MSNBC transcript of some right-wing talk show (they'll probably edit it, but it's there now; check down near the end of the transcript).

DOWD: I think it‘s just outrageous that Tom Harkin, a surrogate for the Kerry campaign, that would do it. Bill Clinton served the presidency with distinction without having served in Vietnam or in a war. Ronald Reagan served a presidency with distinction without having served a war or in a world war. And I think this name-calling is very unfortunate that has to happen in this environment.

MATTHEWS: Tad, your turn?

DEVINE: Well, first, Chris, I think we just made some history. We‘ve heard the Bush campaign say that Bill Clinton served the presidency with distinction. ...

Freepers! Bill Clinton is a good guy; pay no attention to the evil subversives who have planted anti-Clinton propaganda on your website!

Now this is encouraging.

If you're using one of the New! Improved!™ electronic voting machines in California and you select the Spanish-language interface, your votes don't count.

Having fascists take over the United States is pretty annoying, but if we have a fascist government, can't we at least have one that isn't the Keystone Kops version of WW2 Italy?

Aug 16, 2004

Oh, oh.

On the backup server this morning...

ad6: READ command timeout tag=0 serv=0 - resetting
ata3: resetting devices .. done
ad6: READ command timeout tag=0 serv=0 - resetting
ata3: resetting devices .. done
ad6: timeout sending command=c8 s=80 e=00
ad6: error executing command - resetting
ata3: resetting devices ..
ad6: removed from configuration

Unlike the 40GB ibm deathstar drivers, this is a brand new hitachi 80gb drive.

And it gets better!

After I saw the error message, I attempted to umount -f the filesystem that was mounted on the offending media and it resulted in the machine completely locking up. I see that the reliability that I noticed on earlier FreeBSD releases is still there.

Schadenfreude – it’s not just for breakfast anymore!

It's just a press release, but it's still a lovely way to start the week.

Aug 15, 2004

Circumnavigating North America

A couple of months ago, my little brother decided to move from NYC to Portland, partially to help take care of my parents. A couple of weeks ago, he moved. 3000 miles in 56 hours. Which was insane.

But, it turned out that he hadn't brought everything out, so he decided to go back to bring everything out (because having a shipper do the work was too expensive); This time he took it easy and made it from Portland to NYC in 54 hours, where he loaded up the rest of his stuff and returned to Portland in 50 hours, 12 minutes.

The only time I tried to stay awake that long was when I was a teenager at a local gaming convention. After 40 hours, I became sicker than a dog and slept for a day and a half.

My brother is some sort of changling left by Speed Racer's elven friends. That's the only explanation that makes sense.

Beautiful Plumage

The warranty on this crappy deathstar expired seven months ago. 19 months before it smoked -- is that a record for one of these drives?

Aug 14, 2004

Big trolley vs. little trolley

Our friend Eduardo was visiting Portland from Vancouver, Canada, and we met him at Central Library. I had the camera handy, so I took the opportunity to take a couple of pictures of trains on the interurban line and the local streetcar line.

Camping at home

Occasionally, we go out camping, and up until now our camping supplies have been rented or borrowed. This year, the preschool that Russell attends is having a group campout at Oxbow Park, and rather than doing the traditional approach of renting a tent, borrowing a bunch of random camping things, and ending up being woefully unprepared for anything, we decided to do something radical and actually buy a bunch of stuff from REI.

We picked up the supplies on Friday, and were immediately hit with a massive advertising blitz from the bears, who thought it was vitally important that we set the tent up right now, no questions allowed.

We held off until Saturday. Notice how well the tent mixes with the craftsman-style design of the house and the new tabletop on the train table.

We took the tent down before we went to bed, because otherwise the cats would have felt obliged to pee all over it, just in case.

Aug 13, 2004

Death of Hardware (home)

One of the servers I've got at home is my designated backup server. It used to be full of 40gb IBM deathstar drives, but over time was migrated to 80gb drives (after 7 (of the 3 originally purchased) deathstars failed.) One 40gb drive was left in the box after drive #7 failed, and I fully expected that it would fail soon.

Sometime last week, the warranty on this drive expired (I think; it was already a replacement drive, so it should have fallen out of warranty at the same time as the warranty of drive#7 would have expired, modulo failure.)

Early last friday morning, the network died. Thinking that downbelow had gone south for the winter, I went downstairs to reboot it. Well, downbelow was happy, but the netgear switch was acting like a lightning storm and the console of the backup server had 3 complaints about disk resets on the 40gb drive. Rebooting the machine fixed the problem, and everything was happy, until...

Early saturday morning, the same thing happened. Same messages, same reboot, same solution, until...

Early monday morning, and then...

Tuesday afternoon, and then...

Wednesday evening (twice)

And then I turned the computer off, and decided that I could live without backups until I got the chance to put a new drive into the box. Unfortunately, the only other 40gb drives I own are deathstars, so this is only a short-term solution until I get some money and buy a drive that has a lower suckiness number.

Death of Hardware (work-related)

When I came into work yesterday morning, the screen of my workstation was a most unappealing shade of red. I wiggled the video cable, and the colors went back to normal. When I came into work today, the screen of my workstation was, again, a most unappealing shade of red, but this time wiggling the video cable was not enough. After a few hours of this, I sent email to the local den of BOFHs and switched to a different machine.

Oh, yeah, my corporate masters don't use roaming profiles. So even though I'm logging into their stupid windows domain, have to deal with their windows remote management programs poking away at the PC and ensuring the I don't have permissions to add new programs, and being saddled with not having root passwords, my user configuration is not stored away on a fileserver so that it will follow me from box to box.

So all of my settings, ssh private keys, and private programs (stored nicely in my own windows profile directories) just aren't there anymore.

But on the bright side, this means no Office XP 2003 Pro™, which means no pesky meeting requests popping up on the screen 4 weeks after the meeting was over (I don't use **tl**k unless I have to open some w*rd document a manager sends me [when they care enough to say "hi!" in 4mb or more], so when I do use it, I get this huge wad of old meeting notices), and no way of new viruses creeping into the w*rd documents I end up having to read, and, even better, I've got an excuse for not reading those documents, at least until the den of BOFH's get back to me sometime early in 2005.

Aug 12, 2004

He’s the cutest baby in the whole wide world

Riding the merrygoround down at Oaks Park, while wearing his eng! hat from Brooks.

Aug 11, 2004

Recycled art in Troutdale

I wish I had enough money to buy a couple of acres of land in Portland proper; if I did, I could set up a big old sculpture garden for things like this.

Another day, another stupid dog owner

Since today was another too damn hot™ day in Portland, the best, the bears, and I went out to McMenamins Edgefield for the Cracked Pots recycled art show. It was hot and the quality of the art ranged from the sublime to the most horrid sort of cheap trash, and it was particularly hot in the glassblowers shop, where Russell decided that he wanted to spend at least 45 minutes watching a couple of young women melt in the blast from the glass ovens.

On our way back to the car, we started to hear a dog barking desperately in the parking lot. As we were packing up the bears, we looked around to see if we could see where the dogs were (it was, as I may have mentioned, hot -- 97° -- and sunny, or approximately 175° inside the cars.) We weren't sure where the dogs were, so we decided we'd tell one of the McMenamins staff that there was a dog barking. As we started the car, we saw one walking across the parking lot, so we called out to him that we'd heard a dog barking and were worried about it. He replied that that's what he was looking for, and as we finished pulling out of our space Julie said that he'd found the dogs -- in a car -- and seemed to be talking to them. So we circled around to ask if he needed any help and he said, no, that they hadn't been able to find the owners and were going to call 911 instead.

And, by happy coincidence, the Troutdale animal control people were just across the street. We didn't see the conclusion of the whole sordid affair, but I'm hoping it ended with the Troutdale PD using the jaws of life on the car, then billing the criminally stupid owners for wear and tear on their disaster recovery equipment.

Aug 10, 2004

Windows XP product activation can bite me.

Last year I did a big reoutfit of Love Makes A Family's network (and web site, but that's a different kettle), including upgrading all the different versions of Microsoft Office to Office XP. I even put a copy of office XP on the computer in the library at home, so I could rip things out of Microsoft Word documents and convert them into text for use on the website. During the year, I did a few upgrades to the computer in the library, including replacing the PCMCIA wireless card with a usb dongle, and then replacing that with a 54mbit Microsoft MN-730 card. Today, we fired up Office XP and discovered, to our intense dismay, that the fucking product activation code had decided that the Microsoft card was Too Many Changes and we'd have to load up the Office XP CD and tell it our license key all over again.

Guess where the Office XP CD is? Right. Down in Portland Union Station, in the media folder in the Love Makes a Family office. At 10:45pm, hopping on a bus and going down to the LMAF office to get the CD is not an option. If the stupid program had just asked for the license key, it would not be a problem because, well, I was the system administrator and I had it. But I'm not about to willy-nilly make copies of the installation CDs (even though I have the legal right to) just so I can deal with Office going completely stupid.

In the words of the unelected junta that controls the United States, fuck it; I uninstalled Office XP on the spot and replaced it with OpenOffice, 90 second loading time, p*th*n, and all. If I'm going to have a slow stupid office suite (and, boy, OpenOffice fills that category well; having to manually set up file associations for .rtf files is one of those special things that I hope, but not seriously, that I'll never have to do again. Irfanview sets up the associations automatically, and didn't have an army of paid programmers working on it, so why can't OpenOffice? I guess that would make it easy to use, and we can't have that!) I'm going to pick one that doesn't have some offensive copy-protect scheme embedded in it, even if I don't have to pay for the one that doesn't have the copy protect.


Aug 09, 2004

Faster! Faster! Faster! Or maybe not.

Last week, I snapped and ordered faster networking gear for the home network; a Linksys WAP54G and a couple of (now discontinued, so cheap) Microsoft 802.11g pci cards.

One of the nice things about the WAP54G is that it's a little Linux computer, "just" like the ones I worked on for McAfee, Exit, and my current employer (well, aside from only being one processor and not having 12ghz and 8gb of core, but other than that they're exactly the same) so it's possible to reflash the firmware with one that allows shell access. One of the unnice things about the WAP54G is that it's somewhat difficult to configure with Windows; they ship it with a nice little Windows setup tool (which, as far as I can tell, just tries to launch a browser, but I'm not sure, because ...) which crashes on every Windows machine (3 Windows 2000 boxes, 1 Windows 98 box) I've tried it on. Fortunately, I was able to dig around the Linksys website and find a support page that mentioned an (incorrect, but at least on the same subnet) IP address that the box can be reached at.

The people at Linksys built their Linux kernel to respond to broadcast pings, so I could flood ping the network and get it to ping back, and, after a few missteps (and discovering that their webpages use javascript to validate input, thus ensuring that I can't use w3m to manage it, but had to hand-configure one of the windows boxes onto the 192.168 network to change faster-than-thou so it used DHCP to pick up an (on my network) address, everything was up, running, and no faster than before.

I knew that I'd have to reposition the router so that it's a lot closer to the machines upstairs. It would have been nice to get a bit better bandwidth, though :-(

I'll buy a mess of ethernet cable and run another line up from the basement, and hopefully ithat will do the trick.

Aug 08, 2004


We went down to Brooks this weekend so the bears could get their allowance of miniature railroads, trolleys, and steam.

On the way down, we saw a Portland and Western train going over the Oregon Electric bridge over the Willamette River (no pictures; I didn't have the camera out, and by the time I'd gotten it, we were over the bridge and far far away. Perhaps that's a good reason to get a scanner, unless Maximum Leader Genius and his flying monkeys have made that illegal.)

It's amazing just how exhausting a weekend can be when there are about a zillion mechanical things you have to keep your children out of, so they won't be folded, spindled, and mutilated. At least in the trolley museum there are opportunities for the bears to get their hands dirty without either killing themselves or the equipment.

And on the way back, we saw yet another Oregon Pacific diesel engine in Canby.

Hair Stylist

Russell, to Silas, while taking a bath: «Do you want your hair to be curls or standing up on end or waggoning like a girl's?»

Waggoning ?

Mountain Railway

Last night, Russell decided that he just had to build a mountain railway, so that Th*m*as could get special climbing wheels and climb up to the top station.

Well, here it is.

Aug 07, 2004

Urban sprawl

This afternoon, I went out to Washington County with the best and the bears to the Cooper Mountain Wines vinyards that sit southwest of Beaverton.

It's a beautiful vinyard, located up near the top of a hill facing out towards the coast range over some of the better wine country in Oregon. Unfortunately, it's inside the urban growth boundary (and recently, too, judging from the frantic construction going on around it), so it's in the process of being subdivided into large expensive ($320 thousand and up, according to the billboard, for what I think are 200x200) lots. I don't know how much land they have at this vinyard, but if they've got 60 acres that's US$20 million dollars.

And, of course, the construction is huge houses that cost so much money that they couldn't afford to hire an architect with any taste.

The billboard says that these big ugly houses are going to be in the vinyards, but I'll bet that the vinyard will be gone within 5 years (barring a renewed collapse of the Oregon Economy.) It's going to be just like the collapse of the Los Angeles orange industry, writ small.

In the war between parents and the Southeast Portland Railway Society…

The forces of order always lose.

More on Terror! Alert!™s

Juliusblog has annotated the pollkatz chart so it shows Beloved Leader's approval rating crossindexed with Terror! Alert!™s. At this rate, by the time the election rolls around, the newsflashes for _Terror! Alert!™s will be interrupting one another in their attempts to boost those poll rating up over 50%.

I look forward to the animated video footage showing Maximum Leader Genius single-handedly defeating Osama and his boys, Iraq, Iran, and the massed might of both the WW2 German and Soviet armies.

Aug 06, 2004

Does this count as giving comfort to the enemy?

So, if Juan Cole is right, part of the reason for the pretend terror alert was due to the capture of an Al Qaeda agent a few weeks ago, one who turned out to be a double agent who was actually working for the United States against Osama and his boys?


So, in Beloved Leader's book, the propaganda effort against John Kerry is more important than the even the pro forma war against a bunch of barking fundamentalists who managed to kill 3500 people in (damn close to) a single blow.

«It is indeed my opinion now that evil is never radical, that it is only extreme, and that it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension. It can overgrow and lay waste the whole world precisely because it spreads like a fungus on the surface. It is thought-defying, as I said, because thought tries to reach some depth, to go to roots, and the moment it concerns itself with evil, it is frustrated because there is nothing. That is its banality
--Hannah, Arendt, The Jew as Pariah - Jewish Identity and Politics in the Modern Age.

Navigation bars?

The latest round of task avoidance on annotations is adding in the little navigation bar that all the other weblog software has. This is a bit of a fever hack; to have the <next|pref> navigation bar, I need to be able to pick out the title lines of the next and prev post. I could root through all the surrounding directories and pick up the needed information from message.ctl, but that takes a bunch of runtime computation, so what I did instead was to stuff the url tail and the title into a new index.db file up at the bbsdir level, and then have the posting and reindexing software seatch through that for particular urls and the next and previous line in the file.

No documentation yet, but horrible kludgy features!

I need to think about how to set up for extra-fancy navigation. The way I've got it now it just puts a bar up at the top of each post, like

« title · title »
article body

but I also want to be able to put the title bar down below, or, in an extra fancy way, split it to be


(preferrably without having to use a t*bl*, of course; I'm only using a table here because it's simple for me to lay it out.

And, of course, the one thing I did forget is that I need to rebuild the previous article after I post a new one, because otherwise the navigation bar on that article won't point at the newly written one. Perhaps I'll fix that kludge after dinner.

Aug 05, 2004

Did we blow it?

35 years ago (give or take a couple of weeks) the USA put people on the nearest planet. Sure, it was a publicity stunt, but it was a really good publicity stunt.

These days, I dunno. We can spend a couple of hundred billion dollars (and several tens of thousands of lives, but in the eyes of our overlords they don't count, being meaningless civilians and soldiers) doing a stupid little revenge war, but spending even a tenth that on getting off this rock before our overlords manage to collapse the ecosystem doesn't seem to be worth the paper the speech is written on.

Somehow, seeing good copies of these picture feels like the saddest thing in the world; that once upon a time we could get an occupied phonebooth 1.2 lightseconds out and back, and now the various space agencies have to scrabble for money to get, well, anything.

Why John Kerry should be the president of the United States

Had I been reading to children and had my top aide whisper in my ear that America is under attack, I would have told those kids very nicely and politely that the president of the United States has something that he needs to attend to.

-John Kerry


I had a link to a msnbc article mentioning this, but, to my not-at-all-surprise, that article has been revised to showcase the accomplishments of Beloved Leader, with the Kerry commentary pushed _wayyy_ to the bottom. When I find the original AP url, I'll link to that.

A picture taken early this year when we were driving along Columbia Boulevard

We were driving west, but were stopped by a Union Pacific (R-NE) train going from Albina Yard to the long narrow parking lot along the Columbia River.

Fortunately for us, it didn't reach the parking lot until after it cleared Columbia Boulevard.

Aug 04, 2004

C99 isn’t C. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not C.

  • // does not start a comment in C.
  • If you can't implicitly declare a function at the point where you call it, it's not C.
  • Ditto for implicitly declaring a variable type; In the C programming language, static foo declares the static int variable foo. If the compiler doesn't allow this, it's not C.
  • Designated initializers?
  • Intermixed declarations and statements?
  • Runtime evaluation of sizeof()??? You're on crack.

Perhaps the X industries orbital anvil delivery system can be reprogrammed to do orbital delivery of K&R 1 to these people who are trying to convert C into Pascal.

Aug 03, 2004

Kids' Night (part 4) – eXtreme Babysitting!

We didn't need the Portland Fire Department, and it's possible we'll get the house cleaned up before the next round of eXtreme Babysitting.

Kids' Night (part 3)

Kids' Night (part 2)

Kids' night (part 1 of many)

Bears and Eng!s

About three decades ago, I bought a bit of O scale track, a static display steam switch engine (an 0-8-0), and a couple of german prototype diesel switchers from AHM. Since I didn't know what to do with them, I didn't actually use them for anything, but instead left them in storage until this summer, when I pulled them out so that the bears could play with them.

I let Russell play with the diesel switcher on the vain hope that it would not disintegrate. That didn't turn out to be the case; about 8 hours after I took these pictures, he'd managed to mangle the siderods (cheap plastic) and pop one of the wheels off the switcher. The Buddy-L tank engine, on the other hand, is a little more robust, even though #1 gauge equipment doesn't fit too well on O scale track.

Clearcase, now that’s a version control system made for avoiding

I'm working on a project with the linux kernel that comes with RHEL3. I need to rip out and port in a different version of the qlogic fiber channel driver, because the one that ships with RHEL3 doesn't seem to work in some fairly important ways, like, um, if you put two fiber channel adapters into a box for redundancy, the driver in RHEL3 cheerfully detects them as two separate adapters (good) talking to two different fiber channel disk arrays (bad) that, by happy coincidence, are the exact same size (really bad). Not a good plan if you actually want to, um ,use the offending (single) fiber channel disk array.

So, build a big old patch that strips the morass of drivers in RHEL3 out and replaces it with the driver we want to use. Then check it into clearcase. The project lives out on a branch, so we need to label the patches so they don't end up going somewhere else.

  • Check out the directory.
  • mkelem the patch (which promptly vanishes off the branch)
  • mklabel the patch to get it back
  • check in it.

Why look, the patch is of zero size.

  • check the directory back in.
  • move the label on the directory so it points to the version that's got this stupid patch

Why look, the patch is STILL of zero size.

  • Check the patch out.
  • populate it with the contents of the patch (again)
  • check the patch in
  • move the label on the patch so it points to this version.

The patch has contents.

Do a build, realize that I misdid the twinky Linux CONFIG_blahblahblah_QLA2?00 labels.

  • Check the patch out
  • Fix the CONFIG_blahblahblah_QLA2?00 labels.
  • Check the patch in
  • move the label on the patch so it points to this version

Do a build, which fails. Look at the patch, see that the changes have mysteriously disappeared.

  • check the patch out.
  • yup, those changes aren't there.
  • so populate the damned patch again with the actual patch
  • fix the CONFIG_blahblahblah_QLA2?00 labels again.
  • Check the patch in.
  • move the label on the patch so it points to this version
  • start screaming about how clearcase sucks.

I don't think that screaming about how clearcase sucks is really an optional thing anymore. Thank G-d I've got an older version of bitkeeper at home so that anything I do by myself doesn't involve days of fighting with a version control system that's maliciously pigheaded.

1 comment

Well, it is a toy, but it’s harder than it looks

My brother gave me a little router bench for my birthday, so I've been trying to learn how to make fingerjoints so that I can build drawers into chests of drawers and desks.

It's harder than it looks, and it doesn't look easy. My experiments have gone from doing it freehand by clamping boards to a faceplace and manually adjusting it sideways (didn't work) to a couple of revisions of this fingerjointing tool.

This tool is simply a piece of wood cut in half, with a 12 inch long threaded rod pulling a nut attached to a flange attached to a faceplate which I can clamp the sacrificial pieces of wood to. The threaded rod is so I can (allegedly) pull the faceplate sideways by a fixed amount per turns of the screw. I discovered that this works better when the faceplace fits snugly against the sliding base. The sliding base is attached to the el-cheapo pusher that came with the router table (the second mistake-- when I get the chance I'm going to cut a piece of wood to fit the pusher channel and screw it into place) and I just grab both sides of the baseplate and shove it back and forth.

The plan is, of course, to make fingerjoints without any fuss, and I want to make fingerjoints because they're really really strong. Plus, if I can get this tool to work properly, I can also use it for other sorts of joints and avoid the pesky problem of having to hand-cut part of them.

The wingnut I'm using to turn the threaded rod is probably not the best thing to use, but it's not as kludgy as the countersunk nut that pulls the faceplate sideways (and, because it's countersunk, it pops right on out if you accidentally push the plate ahead of the screw) so it will be replaced as soon as I can verify that I can make the tool work as advertised.

Aug 02, 2004



Old age setting in, or just the result of too many years of reading Usenet?

Politics? In Terror Alert!™s? Inconceivable!


  1. Maximum Leader Genius had his flying monkeys announce in a press release that there was Going! To! Be! A! Terror! Attack! Any! Day! Now! (and, for a change, listing some actual targets instead of frantically handwaving and shouting Osama bin Laden! Osama bin Laden! like some sort of upper class escapee from the insane asylum)
  2. Howard Dean made comments about how funny it was that these Terror! Alert!™s only happened at times when things were politically bad for Maximum Leader Genius (like the thursday announcement of the Sunday capture of an Al Qaeda bigwig, just in time to try and override John Kerry's acceptance speech at the Democratic convention). Funnily enough, this Terror! Alert!™ happened about the same time a few polls came out saying that John Kerry got a bump of about 10 points post-convention.
  3. Yet more flying monkeys went into shrieking tizzies that Howard Dean was suspecting the worst of Beloved Leader.
  4. A day later, the teeny details come out that this Terror! Alert!™ was based on evidence three or four years old. And that, um, there wasn't any evidence that any of the activities described in these documents (that, in case you were wondering, predated the destruction of the World Trade Center) was currently underway.

But that's okay. The SCLM (™ Atrios, et al.) managed to gin up a poll that showed that the presidental candidate who didn't go AWOL lost ground after the Democratic convention, so I guess the Terror! Alert!™ is safely over.

I don't really expect that the SCLM will ever bother to apologise to Howard Dean, either. They've not apologised for any of their other smears, so why would they break their winning streak now?

Aug 01, 2004

Have you ever noticed that computers have approximately a million cables?

After several years of having the horrible mess of cables under the library computer desk collect dust, cat fur, cat vomit, and crumbs, I snapped and put in a cable tray. I didn't have anything to make a cable raceway out of, but it's good enough to have the 4(!) wall warts, the power strip, and around 30,000 of the cables up off the floor.

And this is a computer that takes as much advantage of USB as it can, and which uses a wireless network attachment to the rest of the house. My servers, on the other hand, just have 5 cables coming out of them; keyboard, mouse, video, network, and power, so of course they've had their cables roped up and out of the way for years now.

Why we can never clean up the library.

Today, I cleaned up most of the library floor at around 10:20am.

Well, that didn't last very long.

New Code!

Annotations 1.0 has been released. This is the code that drives this weblog and many others (and by many others, I mean 1 other weblog.) I wrote it because Julie wanted to set up a weblog, and I didn't particularly like the bulk of the published offerings (which seemed to be primarily perl and p*th*n offerings; I have to deal with p*th*n at work and with the few mailman mailing lists I maintain, so there's no way I'm going to deal with it with code I use for fun.)

Annotations is written in ANSI C (or the closest approximation that GCC will allow), and by using configure I've managed to make it portable enough to build on Mastodon Linux and FreeBSD (though I haven't tried to compile it there since June 2004.) It avoids using a database by relying on web server authentication (I use it with thttpd, and I think it could be made to work with some of the more popular free web servers -- I was unable to make it work with Apache, but I didn't try very hard.)

1.0 doesn't have a few of the bells and whistles that you might expect from a piece of software. In particular, it misses the creeping feature known as documentation, so unless your name is David Parsons, you might have trouble getting it to work.

(pretend that there's a blink tag flashing WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! here.)


Obéir c'est trahir, Désobéir c'est servir


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