This Space for Rent

May 31, 2007

Okay, so this might be the thing that kills the biofuel craze

Mexican farmers are replanting their agave fields with corn.

The people who waddle by in their big old SUVs (and I must say I'm impressed with their lack of short-term memory; when gas got up to US$3.45, the SUVs started to diminish, but now that it's gone down to US$3.30, all of the stupid SUVs are back on the road) probably don't give a damn about driving the orangutan to extinction, but when they realize that the price of real tequila will start to make single malt whisky prices look like the price of a case of Bud!, well, that might be enough to make them reconsider the error of their ways.

At least I can only hope so.

(via Bouphonia)

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Perhaps it’s time to switch over to a vegan diet?

The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease.

(--the International Herald-Tribune)

And why will they do this? Because if some little meatpackers test all of their animals for mad cow disease, that means that the large evil party supporting meatpackers might lose market share unless they tested all of their animals for mad cow disease as well. And that would reduce their profits, which would be bad.

After all, it's all fine and good to make empassioned speeches about the glory of the free market™, but the free market has the great whopping flaw of not guaranteeing the flow of money into Evil Party coffers. So when it comes down to letting someone do tests on their own cattle, or put labels on their milk saying it comes from cattle that haven't had a BGH chaser on their regular diet of antibiotics and plastic-laced feedstock, well, you can't allow that. After all, what does it matter if hoi polloi get infested with rogue prions? They aren't rich, and they don't count.

May 30, 2007

Eco-heh moment of the month

After about a year of furiously whittling down our power consumption, we've finally gotten our monthly power consumption down under 600kwh (566 this month, which is a good start.) And, amazingly enough, it looks like PGE (or Enron, or whoever owns the local power company these days) have not managed to put the price of power up more than about 2-3% over the last four years [I'm using ploticus to generate this graph, and it doesn't give me multiple-y scaling with the standard prefabs. For the longest time this stopped me from plotting power cost vs usage, but I went in and tweaked the powerbill graph generator this month so that it uses an awk preprocessor to scale things for me. And just in time for us to switch to renewable power, which will crank the cost per kwh up up up into near earth orbit. But I digress] contrary to my deeply held prejudices against parasitic holding companies with a known history of price fixing.

But anyway, if we can hold this level of consumption (to do this we'll probably have to replace the old hot water tank with solar water or a tankless unit, because the power consumption rises as the temperature lowers) we've reduced the cost of a full solar replacement from ~US$35000 down to ~US$20,000 (plus a couple of thousand dollars in tax credits. There are also Oregon rebates through the Energy Trust, but they'll only do rebates if you hire one of their approved installers, and from what I've seen of the prices the additional cost of the installer is pretty close to the rebate.

It almost makes it tempting to go back to the servers in the basement and replace the 3.5" hard disks (5@10 watts) with 2.5" disks (5@2 watts), but that doesn't pull the power consumption down enough to appreciably change the system sizing.

May 28, 2007

Bears in the woods

Russell and Silas take a break during our walk through Kelley Point Park this afternoon.

One volcano, two pictures (stratovolcano picture(s) of the day)

From the banks of the Columbia river at Kelley Point Park.

From the lower level of the Fremont Bridge.

Life on the River (#16)

A tugboat sails out of the mouth of the Willamette River

A lot of powerboats were out on the river when we were walking around Kelley Point Park, but not very many commercial boats. But we were still walking (well, the bears were running back and forth like ferrets on crack, but that's close enough to walking for them) along the beach when this tugboat chugged out of the Willamette, crossed the Columbia, and started attaching itself to a flock of barges that were anchored on the Washington side of the channel.

Engines that are not yellow

Because it was a sunny day, we went up to Kelley Point Park this afternoon for a short hike. Aside from the obvious advantage of getting out of the house before the bears reached critical mass, going up to North Portland gave us an opportunity to see engines belonging to a railroad that was not the Yellow Menace. There was a small handful of Cascade green BN/SF power scattered around the Port of Portland (as well as a cab/slug/cab set of Relco GP389s, which were too far away to see or photograph clearly,) and when we returned via Lombard, the St. John's bridge, and US30, another handful of Cascade green and pumpkin orange power in the BN/SF yard in northwest Portland when we were returning home for dinner.

The bears are still on their anti-railroad kick, so we didn't stop and photograph anything (if we'd spotted an electric locomotive, we would have stopped, but fortunately (for the bears) north american railroads are stupid and there's only about 6 miles of freight railroad under wire north of Santiago, Chile, and none of those miles are anywhere near Portland) and I had to take my photos as the Prius whizzed by at speed. Some of the photos I took would have turned out better if not for some large dark shadows (formerly insects, now nothing but a smear of chitin and other organic compounds) that interposed themselves between the locomotives and the camera.

I have decided that the font that the BNSF uses for their locomotives is the ugliest thing in modern railroading, particularly when it's part of a BNSF patch that's applied to the side of a Cascade green unit.

Memorial Day cute baby overload

Silas and Russell at Oaks Amusement Park this Sunday.

May 27, 2007

Railroad picture of the day

A train on the Oaks Amusement Park railway pretends that it's a side of the road trolley line instead of the little loop of track that it actually is.

He’s obviously a changeling

When *I* was seven, there was no way you could (a) drag me onto a roller coaster, (b) get me to enjoy the company of other children, or (c) be one of the most popular kids in his school. I'm not sure where Russell gets this fearlessness, but it's certainly not from me.

I blame the elves.

Trolley photo of the (yester)day

A trolley collides with photoshop

The family went downtown on Saturday to pick up a birthday present for one of Russell's friends. As we approached Finnegans, an airport bound SD600 passed us and pulled into the 11th & Salmon St station.

May 25, 2007

Not getting it, liberal style

Now that the Stupid Party has, once again, lived up to its name by completely buckling on the tiny part of the "more money for Halliburton!" bill that might require that the Coward in Chief either (a) shit or (b) get off the pot, many liberal weblogs (at least of the ones I read) are leaping up to say "look, this proves it! The Democrats are a pro-war party! Told you so!"

Umm, with all due respect, that's complete nonsense. The Democrats might be a pro-war party (there's certainly a large subset of the elected representatives who believe that the Democratic Party is on the side of the angels if it restricts the government torturers to one fingernail per hand,) or they might be an anti-war party, or they might be some sort of party that is not classifiable, but that's not relevant to their latest Chamberlain moment.

The thing is that in the end they are a political party, and like any other bureaucracy (Charlie Stross mentioned somewhere that he thought that corporations are the first example of a non-human intelligence. He's off by several thousand years; a corporation is merely a bureaucracy with legal rights, and whatever sentience a corporation has was already there when the bureacracy existed without legal support) a healthy political party wants to survive and prosper.

And to prosper, a political party needs to show that it can defeat other political parties. So the Democrats, even if they were an even more gung-ho "kill the gooks(tm) and package their intestines as organic sausage casings!" than the Evil Party, should be doing exactly what the Evil Party did when Bill Clinton was president and going into screaming conniption fits about The! Nerve! of the DEMOCRATS engaging in a horrible unjustified war. The inexplicable (but completely predictable) spectacle of the Stupid Party hooking the Coward in Chief on the same line that the Evil Party tried to use on Clinton, then giving up and letting the B*sh junta get out of the trap has nothing to do with any pro-war leanings of the party, but has everything to do with their inability to actually govern.

If the Democratic Party is pro-war, there are plenty of places where they can make their defense contractor friends wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice. Iraq is not the only sandbox in the playground, and a warmonger would not be disappointed if the USA quit Iraq on the spot and rotated the armed forces back into Afghanistan, where an additional 170k troops might actually be enough to force the Taliban into a surrender. Remember that the only reason the United States did the unprovoked aggressive war against Iraq was because Maximum Leader Genius had some sort of bizarre fetish for repeating Daddy's war. There's nothing in there for the Democrats, and sawing off the B*sh junta with pious cries of "oh, I don't know why the President DOESN'T SUPPORT THE TROOPS in Iraq. We keep passing bills that give TWICE AS MUCH money as B*sh asked for, but he keeps vetoing them. I guess he DOESN'T SUPPORT THE TROOPS and would rather LOSE THE WAR than properly fund it" would, even in these days when the mainstream media is controlled by Evil Party stooges, get a good reception with the 70-odd% of the American Public that would rather the USA get the fuck out of Dodge now. What's better here; wars without end, OR wars without end PLUS the ignoble defeat of the Evil Party?

A pro-war political party with even the slightest self-preservation instinct would choose option 1, because their first priority should be to crush their political opponents. The fact that the Democratic Party is incapable of realising this (and, yes, I am aware that some individual members of the Stupid Party opposed the Chamberlain revision of the war funding bill. But institutionally the party did not realise that letting the Evil Party founder on the rocks of the B*sh junta's stubborness) doesn't make them pro-war, it makes them STUPID, even in the context where I routinely call them the Stupid Party.

I'm sure that for some people it's comforting to believe that political parties are some sort of superhuman beings that never make mistakes (shoot, there are still people out there who are believe in stupid conspiracy theories about the destruction of the WTC,) but those people are fools. The Democratic Party doesn't habitually sabotage their own plans because they're some sort of implacable pro-war monolith; they continually sabotage their own plans because they're too stupid to plan more than 30 seconds ahead.

Late as usual, I see

My corporate masters let everyone out of work early this afternoon, and rather than going directly home, I decided that I'd take the #9 bus out to 21st St, then walk back down to 11th and take the #70 home. I didn't check the Amtrak schedules, but the northbound Coast Starlight is pretty reliably a couple of hours late coming into Portland, so I was hoping that I could have a couple of Twinkies before dinner.

You can't walk directly along the railroad from 21st down to 11th, but you can dodge back and forth across it by using the overpass at 15th St and the informal crossing at 14th. The afternoon fireworks started just as I crossed over to at 14th, when a southbound Yellow Menace freight started tootling for the crossings down by the river, then came scooting by as if it wasn't going to stop until it reached Eugene.

After #3806 shot by, all the signals went dark except for one yellow blinking northbound signal. It was 5pm by now, and the UP tries to clump trains so they don't block the mainline for too long during the rush hour, so I figured that something would be coming from the south pretty quickly. It probably wouldn't be a freight train, because if one was waiting it would have been stopped at 15th Ave waiting for clear signals north. And if it's not a freight, there aren't too many other choices for what it could be.

Sure enough, it wasn't very long before the crossing gates came down and a pair of twinkies shot by with the late-as-usual Coast Starlight, just before a bank of clouds covered the sun for the usual weekend ritual of gloom and cloudiness.

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Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

People bake gingerbread people, so Dust Mites need to bake gingerbread dust mites.

How I wasted my winter (a picture is worth about 10,000 pieces) pt. 2

It's only a model

In the laughably unrealistic backstory I've made for this lego spaceship, jump drives exist, as do ridiculously efficient nuclear rockets, but there is no magic gravity. This makes the spaceship look a bit unusual compared to the regular crop of lego spaceships. How unusual, you might ask? Let's take a tour of the ship and I'll show you:

(read more)


May 24, 2007

Trolley picture of the day

Astra#002 waits for a Beaverton bound train to clear the 12th and Morrison diamond.

When we were on the way to a (spectacularly unsuccessful) dentist's appointment this morning, I caught Red-Blue waiting at 12th and Morrison while a Beaverton-bound train rattled across the diamond and yard throat as it headed up the hill towards the Tualatin Mountain tunnels and points west.

Railroad picture(s) of the day

UP4265 and some friends haul a freight north out of Brooklyn Yard

Yesterday (wednesday,) I needed to go by the Seven Corners New Seasons to get some drugs, so I did a combined New Seasons/People's Co-op run to get drugs and dried fruit for snacks (I've gone on a fairly extensive rework of my diet; I've switched it to mainly fruits, veg, and grains and written off candy and prepared food. It makes it more difficult to program when I'm tired, but the side effect of dropping from a 36+ inch to a 32 inch waist, skimming over three stone off my weight, and dropping my blood pressure about 15% makes it worthwhile. But it requires frequent visits to the grocery store to keep the house properly stocked with food I'm willing to eat.) As I was walking to the stores, I heard a small symphony of locomotive horns as the evening Amtrak train and at least one Yellow Menace freight went by, so I didn't think I'd actually see anything interesting.

But as I walked back to the #70 bus stop that's right next to the 11th St railroad crossing, a set of Yellow Menace engines ran light down into Brooklyn Yard, then, almost immediately after that a long freight pulled out and headed north towards Albina yard and, possibly, points north.

I took a bunch of pictures of the set of light engines and the northbound freight (the best of them are at the bottom of this post), but a whole bunch of the pictures of the oncoming freight were enhanced by greenish light ghosts that, as far as I can figure, were caused by the light from the engine headlights reflecting off something inside the camera and being bounced back onto the filter and reflected back to the film, but flipped vertically and skewed off to the side of the frame.

Perhaps the Yellow Menace is trimming crew costs by hiring Casper the Friendly Ghost?

UP4982 runs light down to Brooklyn Yard   UP 4265, et al.

The two nonghosty pictures aren't quite so interesting from the "spoiled film" point of view.

The Toonerville bridge at Brooklyn Yard (repost)

the toonerville bridge

If you're visiting from Dogcaught and are wondering why I call it the Toonerville bridge, wonder no more. The left hand side of the bridge is pretty spectacularly flimsy, because the deck is 2x8s laid longitudinally across beams on six foot centers. If you're up on top of that bridge when a freight comes screaming through at 45mph, it's a, um, experience.

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Dollars and cents, confederate-style

My weblog is worth $2,394,815.25.
How much is your weblog worth?

(-- inspired by James Nicoll's post about Dane Carlson's more-serious valuator.)

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Oh, Democrats, you are so mercifully free of the ravages of intellect (pt 2)

Democrats said they did not relish the prospect of leaving Washington for a Memorial Day break — the second recess since the financing fight began — and leaving themselves vulnerable to White House attacks that they were again on vacation while the troops were wanting. That criticism seemed more politically threatening to them than the anger Democrats knew they would draw from the left by bowing to Mr. Bush.

(--via the New York Times)

The B*sh junta is about as popular as Satan. And the Stupid Party doesn't have the moral fibre to fight against the White House on the big issue that returned them to the majority in the House and the Senate?

Christ, it's 1992 all over again. This is the exact same stunt that the Democrats pulled when Bill Clinton got into office; they imploded into a squabbling mass of schoolchildren and were picked off in the 1994 midterms by the most corrupt political party in the history of the United States.

Are they intentionally going for a repeat of 1994, or are they just too damn stupid to realize that some of their supporters might actually remember back as far as November 2006?

(-- NYTimes article via Talking Points Memo)

Remember the days when only Congress could declare war?

The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert "black" operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on

(--the ABC blotter)

Those days were always more mythical than otherwise, but this sort of peckerheaded stupidity (let's go to war against ANOTHER ONE OF OUR OIL SUPPLIERS!) makes me curse the day that Congress let a president start a war on his own say-so.

After all, there's nothing that says "superpower" like starting a third war while you're losing two other wars against states that have the firepower of Sandy, Oregon. And Iran, unlike the beaten into a pulp ruin that was Iraq, is a state that's got a functional military that can project itself very easily into the Persian Gulf and, if need be, across the Persian Gulf and into the personal property of some of the B*sh junta's close friends and relations.

Perhaps a motion to impeach would be in order, eh? Oh, right, that motion would have to come from the Democrats, and the Stupid Party doesn't do rash things like impeaching a filthy traitor.

May 23, 2007

Oh, bother!

Of the last five times pell has mysteriously crashed (after ~200 day uptimes, too,) four of those times have been AFTER working hours, and usually after the bus schedules have gone to the nightly long-interval night schedules.

Like tonight. Ugh. So it's time to march down to the colo facility and give the stupid computer the three-finger kiss of life, and maybe it will come back and give me a system again.

Update: Well, that didn't go too well. It's never a good sign when, in the middle of doing a disk copy, I end up deleting the /home partition.

At least I've got nightly backups. Too bad they're on the other end of a 256k DSL line.

Oh, Democrats, you are so mercifully free of the ravages of intellect.

You know, if the grand plan was to make absolutely certain that I clamp my pocketbook closed and reach for my shotgun to chase them off my land the next time the Stupid Party came around begging for campaign donations, this is an *excellent* way to implement it. Here you've got a perfect way to make the Coward in Chief beat the Evil Party to death with the club of his own obstinacy (Gosh, we keep trying to fund the troops even more than the B*sh Junta wants to, but for some bizarre reason Maximum Leader Genius just doesn't want to support the troops!,) but, in the grand tradition that lost you the House in 1994, the White House in 2000, and the Senate in 2002, you're just dropping it on the floor?

Ok, then. So even when the Democratic Party wins big in the midterm elections, I should expect that the hoisting on their own petard instinct will remain in force? If I'd not already stomped off in a snit over the torture bill (not repealed yet) or the continued lack of concern over the destruction of New Orleans, Louisiana (the amount of concern coming out of the Democratic Party since the election has been, um, not exactly awe-inspiring,) this would be another point where I throw up my hands and scream OH, FUCK IT ALL! before stomping off in a snit.

When I pull the lever for the SPUSA candidates, I know they won't win, but right now it certainly looks like if I pull the lever for the Democratic candidates they won't win either. Sure, the nicely suited body that made all the promises about getting out of an unprovoked preemptive invasion of a innocent third-world country will win, but as soon as the last vote is tallied they'll bring out the pods and put in another cowardly lion.

If the result are not different, there's no reason for me to vote strategically. I don't know if this is the sort of lesson the Democratic Party needs to teach, but that's certainly what they're teaching. And I am not mollified by the minimum wage increase and (piddly) hurricane relief funding riders that were nailed onto this sellout bill.

May 22, 2007

Railroad picture(s) of the day

An Alco and two EMDs

Due to various sicknesses, I didn't get the chance to get up to Seattle for the excursions that SP #4449 and Yellow Menace #844 ran this last weekend. And due to being sicker than a dog today, I didn't get the chance to run up to North Portland this afternoon to watch 4449 & 844 roll into town. But I did get the chance to convince the best to drive up there this evening to take a look (the bears, on the other hand, needed to be dragged out of the house because they've developed a bizarre dislike of railroads) at the offending eng. I brought my camera along, and (when not chasing the bears around) managed to get a couple of pictures of this ancient Alco product.

UP844 and a polarizing filter

Unlike 99% of the railfans out there, I prefer to have some humans in the frame when I'm taking pictures. But I was experimenting with my circularly polarized filter, and to my intense surprise I ended up with a picture or two that was just the Eng! with no spectators wandering around. So, for a change, here's a traditional (if very closely cropped thanks to a 50mm prime lense) 3/4ths view of a steam locomotive.

How I wasted my winter (a picture is worth about 10,000 pieces)

I have no life, SF lego style

If you try to make a realistic spaceship (and by "realistic", I mean "realistic aside from the propulsion units and artificial intelligence " because, as far as I know, sentient computers and the battlestar galactica-style jump drive do not actually exist) in lego minifig scale, it's, um, a much bigger project than you'd think. I'm not sure exactly how many legos were pulled into it, but I'd not be at all surprised if it was around 10,000.

This ship, which is a little survey ship along the lines of the HMS Beagle, carries a crew of about 60 (51 humanoid, 8 robots, and the ship ai), just barely crams the required crew quarters into a two story space that's 110 studs x 40 studs wide (the big spire on the top of this ship is actually the bowsprit, because if you don't have magic gravity you need to use the engines to make a floor.)

I'd taken a bunch of pictures of it this weekend, but none of them (except the one you see here) actually turned out. And this one only turned out far enough to see the tiny little minifigs peering up at the ship and down from one of the airlocks.

1 comment

Railroad picture of the day

The Zooliner on a rainy day

This weekend, when every other trainspotter in the Pacific Northwest was up in Seattle taking pictures of the Yellow Menace #844, the best, the bears and I stayed in town because Silas was feeling sickly. On sunday, he was feeling unsickly enough so that we could go up to the Zoo for some lego show (a plan that turned out to be a really bad idea, because the skies opened up as soon as we went out the door, and it drizzled nastily until the minute when we returned home. As a result, both Silas and I were sick today.) We got to the Zoo fairly late in the afternoon, and as we were walking down into the main part of the zoo I looked down to the railroad tracks and saw the Zooliner trudging wearily towards us.

It's not a big old steam engine, or even a little new steam engine, but it is a locomotive, so I had to take a picture of it as it scooted under the bridge we were standing on.

May 18, 2007

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Dust Mite hides on the office desk
The elusive Dust Mite photographed in its natural habitat.

May 17, 2007

Security Theatre

It's a significant security risk. You can catch malicious links from it (even though the malicious link report was almost six months ago), you can download software from it, and there may be some nudie pictures there.

In any case, it's a serious threat, and my corporate masters are going to drop livejournal into the netnanny "you can't get there from here" content firewall.

In two weeks.

When my corporate masters decided that being able to use outbound ssh was a security risk, they didn't bother to send out a notice. They just blocked all traffic on the spot and didn't say anything until the employees started to howl about it, at which point they fabricated an excuse and sent out a piece of mail saying "we blocked this traffic because it's a security threat."

But I guess it wasn't a serious threat, because if it was they'd be running around saying "we're going to block this traffic Real Soon Now™, so you'd better watch out!!!"

Now, if it was me and I found a serious security threat (like the time I realized that hackers had completely infiltrated the Columbia University network and were harvesting passwords to get onto my network [and from my network into other domains, including ones that ended in .mil,) I'd block access to that security threat immediately, inform my manager, and only then send out a general bulletin that said why I did it.

I was not the most loved network administrator at that job, but by g-d the network was secure. There was none of this stupid strutting about boasting "we're going to make the network safe by restricting access to a single weblog hosting company, but we're not going to do it just yet. So go ahead and download those 3v1l links, software, and nudie pictures for the next couple of weeks, okay?"


May 16, 2007

Scary scary rsync

A few years ago at work, I sped up the tediously long process of doing a full system build by replacing a 1.2gb nfs copy with rsync, which had the expected result of cutting down the copy time from about 75 minutes down to 10 minutes (it could be faster, but the network at work is perpetually congested and each rsync takes about 5 seconds to initialize the connection before zooming along.) This was nice in that it sped a system build up to the point where I could do repeated builds of our distribution during a day (3 hours is too long, 70 minutes is still too long, but it's enough less too long so I can actually go back and fix something that let the smoke out the first time.)

My cow orkers were impressed. But did they start using rsync? No, they did not. One of them built a spiffy little copy-via-nfs script that pulls things over the wire at a very very slow speed, but didn't bother to do the three lines worth of change to convert that slothful nfs copy with a somewhat less slothful rsync. And why weren't they using rsync? Because it was (and this is a company that enthusiastically leaps onto passing trainwrecks like PHP, C#, relational databases (for storing tiny accounting files that had happily lived in btree databases for the past 35 years), p*rl, p*th*n, and the like) new, untested, and dangerous.


So, every night a whole bunch of system builds kick off. In the first 5 hours, I build three different Linux distributions, and in the next 7 hours a half dozen small software packages are built, each separated by 45 minutes in case one of the nfs mounts goes to hell.

And it's a three line change to one copy-me-now script.

Kill me now.

May 15, 2007

So, how evil do you have to be … ?

... to make John Ashcroft look like the good guy? Thanks to the B*sh junta, this is no longer an question.

It's like a clown car of pure evil; every time you think that they couldn't fit that much depravity into Mount Doom on the Potomac, another turd comes plopping out from the White House door. It's pretty spectacular, in that sort of "we're all DOOOMED!!" way that is all too familiar to anyone who's had to suffer through the hamfisted Maximum Leader Genius regime.

At least the United States doesn't have the shame of knowing their electorate looked at the exploding wreck of a different country and decided that, yes, it would be a wonderful idea to elect a gang of crooks who have no policies except to follow the United States into the rocks.

(Thinkprogress link via the mightygodking)

Compare and Contrast (why invent a new blood libel when the old ones work so well? edition)

Blood libel, courtesy of Mean Mr Mustache
Blood libel, courtesy of the Investor's Business Daily

It's pretty amazing. 83 years and there's really no difference between the two. Sure, the Nazi version actually goes out of its way to draw the soldiers as, um, soldiers while the Evil Party version draws the soldier as some sort of overweight shlub, but you've to to understand that they're marketing this sort of sleazy propaganda to the 101st fighting keyboarders, who will identify with the Dolchstoßlegende if the victim looks like they do. (As for the soldiers, it's common knowledge that the Evil Party doesn't give a fuck about them, so insulting one of the finest fighting forces [or at least what used to be one of the finest fighting forces; I don't know how ready the army or marines are for anything now that a large chunk of them have been dumped into Iraq without adequate provisions or leadership] on the planet by drawing them as if they were a bunch of fat bloggers is pretty much par for the course. It's the price of empire, American style; if you're a rich friend of the junta, you'll get glory and gold beyond your wildest dreams, and if you're not you'll get the opportunity to die miserably while the rich friends of the junta make money selling tickets to the show.)

The Nazis had one thing going for their propaganda that the Evil Party does not; The Nazis, unlike the Evil Party, didn't wage the war that they made up a Dolchstoßlegende about. As for the Evil Party? It's their war through and through, and the dolchstoss they're talking about is the perfidious congressional attempt to provide more money than the Coward in Chief asked for in the first place. A good propagandist might be able to dig their way out from under this, but a good propagandist would STFU about the war until it was safely lost and gone from the headlines.

(via Mark Kleiman)

May 13, 2007

The mother’s day proclamation

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

(--Julia Ward Howe, via The Gazetteer)

May 11, 2007

Friday (lack of) Dust Mite Blogging

Dust Mite has vanished.  Again.
Where's Dust Mite? Your guess is as good as mine.

1 comment

Invasion of the sky jellyfish

I'm a sky jellyfish and I'm ok
A cloud tries its best to become a thundercloud. 17th & 99e, noon, 10-May-2007.

Railroad pictures of the day

UP5636, et al­ UP3975 & friend

When I walked out of work today, I saw a #19 bus go flying by my bus stop. So I caught the next bus -- a #9 -- across the Ross Island bridge and walked down to the #70 stop by the railroad tracks to catch that bus home. By happy coincidence, no sooner had I reached the bus stop than the crossbucks started doing their happy train dance and Yellow Menace #5636 -- and *14* other Yellow Menace engines -- came blasting through from the south.

Now, the City of Portland becomes quite unhappy when major streets are blocked during rush hour, so the Yellow Menace usually tries to bunch trains up when they have to move them then, and today was not one of the exceptions. No sooner had #5636 cleared the crossing when I started to hear a locomotive whistle coming from the north, and very soon afterwards #3975 (and an ex-C&NW eng) came barrelling across the crossing from the north.

And when that train cleared, there was the #70 bus, so I hopped on it and went home.

May 10, 2007

Idiot conspiracy-theory leftists

I'm not talking about the wide world of WTC conspiracy theory (at least this time) today. No, today I'm talking about the The Nation, which appears to be coming down off their post 9/11 journalism high and reverting back to their old conspiracy-laden selves with the publication of a Wall Street Journal-style pack of lies by that gasbag Alexander Cockburn, who, when he realized that one of the kludges that's been proposed to deal with global warming is to build lots of (loathed by stupid liberals since the experimental reactor at the UofC went critical for the first time) nuclear reactors, decided that it was better to leap on the conservative bandwagon and become a climate change denialist.

I particularly liked the pompous (and either ignorant or deliberately deceptive) handwaving contained in the statement "It’s a notorious inconvenience for the Greenhousers that data also show CO2 concentrations from the Eocene period, 20 million years before Henry Ford trundled out his first Model T, 300 to 400 percent higher than current concentrations." Well, first of all that wasn't 20 million years ago; by 20 million years ago, the co2 levels had already dropped like a stone and reglaciation was well in progress. Go back 45 million years, when the co2 levels were that high and the earth was warm enough so that the poles were basically ice-free, which would seem to indicate that, yes indeed, co2 levels are tied to the greenhouse effect (which we already know, because if co2 didn't produce a greenhouse effect, the earth would be a huge iceball with a narrow ice-free band around the equator.)

The rest of this pack of lies isn't any better sourced, but pointing at the Eocene maximum and saying "ha! there was a lot of co2 around, so nothing is our fault" at a time when Alaska was tropical is classic 9-11 style denialist bullshit.

I don't buy a subscription to pay for tripe like this. When The New Republic became a bunch of genocidal neocons, I dropped my subscription like a hot potato. If The Nation is going to cater to climate denialists ("we like to drive around in SUVs, so that means that there's no such thing as anthropogenic co2 warming!!!!") I'll be more than happy to file them in the same circular bin as the rest of the kooks.

(The argument of "yes, there's co2 warming but it's not our fault!!" is so laughably wrong that I'm not even going to talk about it. Try realclimate if you want to play that particular game of whack-a-mole.)

May 09, 2007

New Code!

Postoffice has been pushed up to version 1.3.8c with the addition of MacOS 10 support, courtesy of my friend Andras Salamon, who deserted the Linux world a few years back for the seductive embrace of a version of Unix that's got a working user interface.

Other than OS_DARWIN support, there are no new features in this release, but it's still worth a new version of the code.

May 08, 2007

Don’t tear down those walls


I want to, and intend to, convert our garage into something else. I was originally thinking a granny flat (or, in the wonderfully klunky portland-speak, an Auxiliary Dwelling Unit™,) but have since waffled towards converting it into a little shop/office (shop on the ground floor, office on the top floor.) Either of these conversions require either (a) hiring an architect to do the plans (not so much for the plans, because I've got a large stack of strength of materials notes & constructions books, but for navigating the zoning maze) or (b) digging through the city zoning code by myself.

Digging through the city zoning code is cheaper than hiring someone else to do it, and it's more in keeping with my plan to build a house before I die. The city code is, um, fairly daunting in the various requirements for building structures in the R2.5ad zoning area I live in, and it doesn't take much reading to realize that the existing structure doesn't even come close to meeting current zoning (the current zoning requires a 3 foot setback from the side and back of the property for a new garage that does not contain anything that could be used to make it a livable structure. My garage, which was built 99 years ago -- well before zoning was anything more than a twinkle in the eyes of the city fathers -- so doesn't meet these setbacks it's not funny. The only thing that sets it back on the side is the roof overhanging by 2 feet. And on the back of the lot it appears to be set back by about -4 inches [at least that's how much it appears to overhang the commercial building that's immediately to the northwest of our lot.]) Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for the City of Portland's zoning plans (normally I wouldn't mind having to set the silly building back from the edges of the lot, but we've got a cinder block building immediately to the northeast which comes right up to the edge of the lot, and immediately to the west of our lot is a 6 foot drystone concrete wall, 3 feet of walkway, and another 12 foot tall sheer unwindowed wooden commercial building. We wouldn't exactly spoil the ambiance of the neighborhood if I extended the damned garage up to the property line and put a concrete wall up against the drystone wall to keep debris from falling in between the wall and the garage,) legal buildings that predate zoning don't have to be made compliant with many of the zoning laws when they are modified.

It's not an open invitation to hang out my "I'm a libertarian! Fuck you all!" freak flag and put up a vertical lard rendering plant; there are some zoning requirements that are still there to keep ones neighbors from accidentally lighting your house on fire and running you over with their cars, so I'm stuck with not being able to raise any wall (modulo gable facade) past 10 feet (the existing garage is about 9 feet from sill to the bottom of the gable; 10+ feet if you go down to the exiting concrete floor) and the city /really really/ wants you to echo the architecture of the main building when you modify the outbuilding, but as long as I convert the garage into a greenhouse, artist studio, guest house, accessory dwelling unit, storage building, wood shed, covered deck, covered porch, or covered recreational structure I'm officially within code.

As long as I don't tear it down. Sure, the code claims that I can reconstruct a garage within the footprint of the old structure even if it doesn't conform to code, but the language isn't really emphatic enough to encourage me. And I don't have an architect's license I can wave around and sputter indignantly about when the planning commission claims that I have to cut the eaves off and remove the roof before they'll let me rebuild. And even if they did, the walls are more than 10 feet up to the gable.

So my original plan of converting the structure into a full two-story structure may not work. If I leave the gable dimensions the same as they are right now, I've got 16~17 feet from slab to roof peak, or, if I put a 7'6" ceiling on the ground floor (that's a little higher than my basement ceiling, and I'd be perfectly happy to work down there if I could get all of my supplies off the floor and away from the periodic floods), enough room for an 11' wide room up above.

There's still the teeny detail of the brutally savaged front, the rotted out back, the rotten SW corner (when we regraded that corner of the yard [by taking out 25 wheelbarrow loads of topsoil and dumping it into where the driveway used to be before I converted it to concrete rubble] Russell amused himself by wedging his shovel into the wall until I noticed and mentioned that the best would be unhappy if the garage collapsed and squashed us flat. There's really nothing left in that corner, and I'm afraid the back of the building is being kept up purely by the structural strength of the plywood that was attached when it rotted out the first time,) and the cracked foundation, all of which will have to be redone from scratch before I'm happy with the structural integrity of the building.

But I will have to do this before the building collapses and I have to convince the City of Portland that I'm just rebuilding it on the old foundation.

May 05, 2007

Saturday photo dump

The south end of downtown Portland

We went to the Llewellyn School auction this evening, and I didn't want to lug the Pentax along with me (my purse is fairly large and awkward, and I didn't want to spend the evening knocking it into people. I should sew myself a smaller purse that's just big enough for a camera and a spare lens, but that involves more spare time than I've got these days) so I grabbed the bests Nikon point and shoot and carried that in my pocket. I didn't see any Portland Traction trains, but I took a couple of minutes at dusk to go out and try to get a few pictures of downtown (like this one.)

It's nice to have a point and shoot, but I'd rather carry my Pentax.

Well, to look on the bright side we won’t have to pay so much to heat the house

The Guardian has gotten hold of a copy of the newest IPCC report, and it's almost hilariously armaggeddonish. The IPCC report (and remember, this report has been watered down at the insistance of major industrial states that still, at this late hour, believe that they can make global warming go away just by closing their eyes and screaming "We can't HEAR you!!!") says that we might not have any more than eight years to start reducing CO2 emissions if we want to keep the temperature rise to stay at 2°C or less, otherwise the earth will be warming up to 6°C in the next 93 years.

Eight years to beat sense into the heads of all the industrial powers on this planet?

Could I have a pony to go along with that hideously optimistic timeline? It won't make up for the inevitable runaway global warming, but at least it will give us a way to get around town without driving a carbon fountain.

Portland is a miserable place to be when it gets up over 32°C (last year, we had a week and a half of 32-40° weather. The house kept us cool for a while, but eventually soaked up enough heat so it was an oven day and night, and the formerly temperate climate here has spoiled us.) If global warming ends up increasing the temperatures here by 6°C, not only will we lose the Mount Hood glaciers (and our water supply for a large chunk of the year), we'll (or our children) will end up with several months where the weather goes up above 32°

And we're in the north. I can't imagine what will happen in the southern USA, or what will happen to farming in the Midwest (or, as is more likely, in southern China, which appears to be where a large chunk of our foodstuffs [and plastics, often mixed together for our convenience] are coming from these days. Everything else has been outsourced to China, so why not food?) when the arable zone pushes up into western Canada (which, if they're lucky, won't have been given to the US as a mark of fealty by the US-worshipping Conservative Party) and leaves the USA with a large inland desert where it used to produce ridiculously large harvests before the water and the climate went away.

But, to look on the bright side, at least we might not have to buy 500 gallons of heating oil to keep this poorly insulated and increasingly decrepit house warm during "winter."

May 04, 2007

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Dust Mite on the Sofa with a Blanket

I'd set up to do the friday photo shoot, but after one picture the camera batteries informed me that, uh uh, they weren't going to do any more picture-taking until they had their weekly shot of 120vac. But isn't Dust Mite an elegant sight draped over the arm of the sofa?

I [heart] James Nicoll

In a surprising twist, Hawk and Susan murder Spenser early on in the book.

'I thought he'd never fucking shut up about fine wines and his goddamned running shoes' snarled Susan, as she dumped more dirt on Spenser's still moving body.

The TV movie adaptation, which reportedly consists of 90 minutes of Avery Brooks beating Robert Urich with a crow-bar, will be broadcast in October 2007.

The DMCA, helping to define the phrase “too stupid to breathe”

What is 0x09f911029d74e35bd84156c5635688c1 - 1?  I can't tell you, because that would be wrong.

Why would it be wrong? Because 2651255777597891530203773180280340928*5 is one of the super top secret encryption keys for the almost-as-secure-as-tissue-paper Blu-Ray encryption scheme and if you know it you, um, know a large integer number that can be used (and by "used", I mean that after you get a copy of the decoder and the supporting infrastruction for ripping the cd, then you can plug in the super top secret key and maybe be able to read the cd to get the content) to get access to the content that's stored on that Blu-Ray cd you just purchased. In the old days, that would have been a lesson that if you're going to have a trade secret you'd better have it be a trade secret that's not trivially simple to crack. But these days you don't need to have good encryption schemes, because US law now includes the DMCA, which lets you harass people who have broken (or who have seen) your laughably simple "encryption" (and, as a result, ensure that nobody except the professional content pirates -- the people who make a living distributing bootleg videos -- will be able to view the movies they purchased unless they view them on an officially registered player But, yes, we are talking about the recording industry, which is as stupid as it is mean and paranoid.)

And if 66281394439947288255094329507008523.2*200 is illegal, that most likely means that its factors are illegal.

2? Illegal.

4? Illegal.

5? Illegal.

Let's count! 1-©-3-©-©-6-7-©-9-©!

It's the dream of every schoolboy who's just discovered copyright. I can't wait for the DMCA takedown notices to every grade school in North America.

May 03, 2007

I left Earth three times. I found no place else to go. Please take care of Spaceship Earth.

Wally Schirra, 1923-2007
requiescat in pace

It may have been hailing, but that wasn’t going to stop me.

UP 4616 on a rainy day

I had to walk over to the Seven Corners New Seasons yesterday to do some emergency shopping, and it started to rain about the time I started heading back to Milwaukie and Powell to catch the #19 or #70 bus. So there I was, scuttling along with the hail pelting down on me, when I heard the rumble of an approaching Eng!.

I couldn't resist, so I put down the groceries, pulled out the Pentax, and took a few pictures as Yellow Menace #4616 came scuttling by. Sure, it's a pretty awful picture, but it fit the weather.

The silver lining in the cloud

The cloud was that I went down to the dentist's office this morning for a checkup (the dentist marvelled at what good shape my teeth were in. I'd have been more impressed if this wasn't the introduction to "and you've got cavities on four molars, and it looks like this filling is disintegrating so I want to put a crown on, oh and there's this other tooth I'd like to put a crown on." Ugh.) The silver lining is that it gave me a chance to take *more trolley pictures*:

redblue in SD600 picture frame­ redblue pauses in front of a tree

On the way to the appointment, I raced red/blue from the Galleria down to the dentist's office, getting a couple of interesting pictures.

green/blue and the Mark Spencer hotel

The dentist's office was located between the northbound and southbound trolley lines, and was conveniently located 11 stories up. Just right to get an aerial photo of green/blue as it headed down towards the aerial tramway.

213 at the galleria stop

And on the way back to work, I got one good picture of a train stopping at the Galleria station.

May 02, 2007

The future’s so bright, I’ve gotta wear shades

polar ice is melting thrice as fast as predicted

Oh, we are so screwed. We already know how the US government will react to global warming -- if cities, even in reliably Evil Party supporting areas, get flooded, they'll simply be left to die -- and since the USA, even in the rapidly approaching sunset of its power, is still the standard Big Stick that people pretend to emulate, the rest of the world will cheerfully follow the American Imperium over the cliff.

We've landed on the moon. We're mapping Mars. We've landed spacecraft on Saturn's moons. We're detecting planets in orbit around distant stars. But we're not willing to take even the slightest step towards keeping this planet (which is, as of today, the only one we've got to live on) habitable.

(not that I'm any great paragon of efficiency as I sit in my too damn large house listening to my furnace pump co2 into the atmosphere. Sigh.)

(cheerful news via Panglossian Notes)

GNU Tentacleware

If I was king of the world, one of my absolute decrees would be that if you write an awk clone with *extra!* *added!* *features!*, you would not be able to call it awk. You could call it tentacleware-awk, if you wanted, or even the gagging penguin variant (gawk!), but not awk. That way, when someone wanted to use the tentacleware features, they'd have to call the program by its proper name.

Otherwise you'd end up with something like the r*dh*t mkinitrd program, which decided to start gagging on me this week because, for some bizarre reason, GNU awk (which was, of course, symlinked to awk) had decided that it wasn't going to accept the stupid gnu extensions when trying to pick apart a module list. If I ran mkinitrd by hand, everything was happy, but when it was run from deep inside a homemade "upgrade the system from a 2.4 kernel to a 2.6 kernel" script, it decided that it wouldn't be prudent to use those gnu extensions.

Snarl. If there's one thing worse than tentacleware (and you thought that Microsoft was the only one who did that sort of stuff, eh? Ho ho ho), it's tentacleware that decides pretty much at random where it's going to process the tentacleware extensions.

So I have to repackage mkinitrd, with a little patch to rename all calls to awk into calls to gawk.

And people wonder why I go to such trouble to keep GNUware out of Mastodon.


May 01, 2007

I tear my hair out so you don’t have to (aka Fun with computers)

I'm sure that someone else has already encountered this problem, because a lot of people use IBM servers, but when I looked online I didn't see any reasonable results for combinations of "x366", "rhel4", "panic", "double fault", and/or "Linux 2.6." So I'll relate my tale of woe in case someone else ends up sitting in front of a dead computer, wondering WTF is going on when their approved -by-IBM OS is dying during bootup on their spanking newish IBM x366.

What happened to me is that, after a couple of months of pasting the RHEL4u3 kernel onto the Linux distribution my corporate masters maintain (and a couple of months of having it load onto every IBM server I could get my hands on, which isn't very many because this is corporate American and it doesn't have to make sense as long as the government is Business Friendly(tm) [If the Soviet Union had been run as badly as the average US corporation, it wouldn't have taken 70 years to collapse under it's own weight.]) I handed a copy of it off to another group that was really really anxious to have a 2.6 kernel instead of the officially klunky 2.4 kernel we've been using up to now.

They upgraded their system to the 2.6 kernel, rebooted, and *wham*; dead server, bits rolling on the floor, and a panicky IT BROKE error report. Eventually, after a round or two of "what sort of machine?" requests, I discovered that they'd tried to install it on an IBM x366, which is modern enough to have some really bizarre interactions with the newer and more delicate versions of Linux out there.

Debugging this little feature was fun, because (a) every OS I could find that used a 2.6 kernel, from Redhat EL 4 to CentOS 4 (better for testing, because CentOS provides a "server CD" that you can use to install CentOS on a headless server; Redhat, even when you turn everything off, insists on installing every gui possible, and taking 4 CDs to do it) to really obscure mainline distributions like Knoppix, ended up with the same dead machine, and bits on the floor.

And in the end, it turned out to be a pretty trivial, if undocumented, fix. Apparently the x366 lets you set a processor mode in the bios, with two different settings (Special and Logical). And what's so special about special, you might ask? Well, if you're running a 2.4 kernel, there's nothing very special about it. But if you're running a 2.6 kernel, you get, for free, your dead servers and bits rolling on the floor.

If that isn't the desired behavior, change the processor setting to "logical" and the machine will boot up and act like a normal computer. (IBM has a web page that describes some things needed to make RHEL4 [and presumably other 2.6 kernels] stagger to life on an x366, but it doesn't say anything about special being really special.)

If you got here via a search engine, after watching your x366 fall over dead, you may consider yourself enlightened. And be thankful it's not an x3850 with a pci-X disk interface card that you're trying to install red hat onto.



Obéir c'est trahir, Désobéir c'est servir