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April 30, 2006

There was a major car fire in the Castro on Thursday. I saw part of it, though the first car that caught on fire was hidden in a cloud of gray smoke; what I saw was the flaming gasoline flowing downhill in the gutter, igniting additional cars as it went. I also saw how quickly the police and fire department arrived and got to work, which was admirable, and I saw a few citizens running toward the fire with fire extinguishers and worried looks on their faces. Apparently local homeless eccentric Dane Johnsten was one of the citizen rescuers. We've definitely seen him in rant mode but he never quite seemed dangerous, and sometimes he's downright funny. In one case he yelled at people entering the subway during morning rush hour, berating them for forgetting to misspell "résumé" in order to get out of having to go to work. Sadly, the man he helped rescue died at the scene. The Bay Area Reporter also has the story.

I really don't want to hear anything more about the Duke rape case. I hope justice is served, whatever the truth actually is, but it's just not front page news. I've been trying to ignore it but it just keeps coming back up again, like bad clams. Can we just vote "no confidence" on the news media already? Yeah, so Karl Rove had to go back into court, but that's all we know. White guy in suit walks into courthouse. Can we get video of that? Oh that's so much more informative.

It's like a sports arena that no one is allowed into until the game is over and the score is known, so everybody just sits outside and jabbers about what they think will happen, who's on 'roids, who's going to be traded, who's too old to play. Four hours of pregame later, the real game is over and because all possibilities have already been talked to death, everybody shrugs at the actual outcome and goes home. Except it lasts three months or more in the news world, and every channel has people arguing about it all day and night as though they have any idea what they're talking about. In the end we're just tired of hearing about it and annoyed at every party involved.

Contrast that with another story that's also nobody's business, but about which there is no debate and almost no speculation, and therefore much less news coverage, and no Greco-Roman pundit wrestling match on the telly. Stefan Eriksson was finally charged after being arrested for 'being too shady'. (Both links via Tero.) Nice cake!

Debate is important, but is disagreement itself the only thing that interests us anymore?

Lifehacker: Video demonstration: How to keep your band-aid on all day.

Paul Thurott: Windows Vista February 2006 CTP (Build 5308/5342) Review, Part 5: Where Vista Fails makes me wonder if Vista is going to end up being anything other than XP service pack 3. Hopefully the Server version will have something a little more appealing. Not that it matters; we'll all be forced to upgrade sooner or later anyway. But I'd be just as happy using Win2K with up to date security patches as some new fangled translucent GUI nonsense with accelerated DirectX for gamers.

April 25, 2006

We flew to Philadelphia this weekend to visit Kim's family at her cousin Gary's new house in New Jersey. The flight was good (online check-in 24h ahead of departure = good seats), got upgraded from an econo box rental car to a Mazda 6 that handled the rainy weather nicely, and we didn't get lost or anything. The visit was a lot of fun too; we seldom get a chance to spend any substantial amount of time with just the folks from our generation without the parental agenda getting in the way, so this was really nice. We left Gary's house and met some friends in Philly at Gianna's Grille and then headed out. And that's when I realized that at some point I had caught a head cold somehow. Ugh.

Monday, which was supposed to be the day when I caught up for missing classes on Friday, was awful. I didn't go, and I slept pretty much all day. I had a fever over over 100 degrees and I wasn't able to do my usual "medicate and work through it" routine. Nope. So I basically slept all day, getting up a couple of times to eat and rehydrate. I woke up at a few minutes after midnight feeling much better. Go fever go!

On Wednesday, Kim was in a bicycle accident with a car. That intersection really is badly designed and I hope they fix it, with more than paint.

April 15, 2006

Kim took some pictures at a musical performance I was in on Wednesday, at Rogue Ales, for a friend's birthday party. He's the one in the birthday hat, playing guitar. There's also a short (1 minute) video clip from the performance.

Via Faisal: Mediocrity Begins at Home. This was in response to my ceaseless bitchin' about how frail Linux is, even with apt-get foo, if you try and get it to do anything interesting. Here's a combo that I don't think is too much to ask, but it doesn't work: Ubuntu's latest server release for amd64, plus Xen, plus ReiserFS. Doesn't work. Ubuntu 5.10 server for amd64 installed quite easily, and that was nice. But the patched Xen kernel is so new (2.6.12) that it apparently uses udev, not devfs, and if you don't know what that means, good for you, you have a life. (Me, I wasted some time reading some forum posts by some confused people, the answers to which were mostly "maybe it's..." and the original person responding to that saying "no, that didn't fix it.") Making a bootable filesystem image using mkinitrd is required so that the ReiserFS module can be loaded by the Xen kernel, because for some reason they didn't include it in their kernel image even though ReiserFS is the original journaling filesystem in Linux 2.4.1, five years ago. But I guess they don't think it's important...? Sadly, mkinitrd doesn't know about the fact that devfs is now considered passe and udev is the new hotness, so mkinitrd makes an initrd.img that the Xen-supplied 2.6.12 (and the later 2.6.16) kernel can't boot off of, and it kernel panics. So I ran out of time playing with this and gave up for now. Lame. Of course the Real Man's way to get this working is to compile your own kernel with the Xen patches and/or install yaird which supposedly will do the right thing about udev, and of course that isn't available from the Ubuntu folks in Breezy Badger but rather in Dapper, whatever the hell that is. So I'd have to compile that myself or maybe play with apt.conf and sources.list. Or maybe I can downgrade to Xen 2.x and see if that works. Or maybe I can give up on ReiserFS on Xen dom0 and use ext3 instead. Whee. Are you bored yet? I am.

I just want an amd64 kernel, RAID 1, ReiserFS, VMWare, and maybe some kind of paravirtualization support that's faster than VMWare. I don't think this is unusual; in fact I suspect that aside from the many "lookie what I can get to run Linux on" legacy boxes out there, this is kind of a mainstream server configuration these days. But, I can't have it without spending a silly amount of time playing with it to get it working just right, and worse, the way to get it to work involves building my own kernel which means I'll have to keep doing that every time I update the kernel. Ugh. I'm about ready for an XServe or Win2K3 server or maybe Solaris 10. Hell, I'd even try FreeBSD again if I thought it would help. I'm definitely tired of the "Linux Answer" that keeps coming back to "oh yeah everybody wants that feature so we'll make you recompile the kernel in order to get it. You... you are smart enough to build your own kernel, aren't you...?" No, I'm smart enough to know that I have better things to do than to patch and build an operating system just to get a server set up properly.

Funny: Who knew that PC fans needed a goofy Flash ad to explain their technical advances? You will know the l33t g4m3r by his tastefully illuminated mousepad. Via Kim: romance novel covers, reimagined.

April 11, 2006

You've probably seen the Monty Python sketch called How Not to be Seen. If not, or if you want to see it again, here it is. If you buy a couple of exotic supercars and then flee the country and take them with you, maybe you oughtta lay low, to avoid been seen? Well, not if you're Stefan Eriksson, the L.A. Enzo crash guy. Detectives say that he was behind on the payments for the Enzo he wrecked, a second Enzo, and a Mercedes, all of which he had taken with him to the U.S., making him guilty of grand theft.

I found a bunch of Flash movies showing how vintage keyboard instruments work. Cool!

From Shawn: The Old Negro Space Program (a Ken Burns parody).

April 6, 2006

Lazyweb, solve this problem: I want a list of the highest rated albums from my iTunes library. I could probably code this up in an hour, or three, but I'd rather not have to bother, plus I have some more ideas that would take longer. I want a way to easily shove the current track name and info to an arbitrary web app (maybe a web service that I have to write, or a "when each track begins" callback) that can do something cool like put a link on my weblog that goes to or Amazon or something like that. If I'm roaming and I have no internet access, I don't want iTunes to freak out with a spinning beach ball or the equivalent while it waits for the connection attempt to time out. It'd be nice to be able to run a few different reports against the iTunes library data (beyond the obvious "sort by" stuff in iTunes already) too.

I don't want to have to install and configure a whole bunch of needy infrastructure (canonical unconvincing endorsement: "I've used it on at least one zero-design zero-QA project that I actually finished and had multiple users play with, and I have not yet noticed any data loss or corruption!") to get this working. That means that SqlTunes and iTunes Stats probably won't work, unless all that crud can be buried so that I never have to think about it. If I have to write down a root password and make users and install a driver and worry about transaction logs and dumps and backups for this tool, its architecture sucks. Also, I have a Mac so the other thing called SqlTunes won't work for me, though the source and some of the explanation on that page would be handy to anyone undertaking this project. Oh yeah, and no AppleScript. No way. I don't want to have do any programming ideally, but if I have to, let's try Perl or PHP or Java or a shell script or something mainstream like that. Scriptable applications are super cool but AppleScript the language blows. So, if anybody knows of something that actually does this (as opposed to little bits that let me write it all myself) please let me know and I'll blog it and probably use it right away.

I've had a Discover card for years and I don't really use it much except when they do strange things like offering me months and months of a big pile of free money (in the form of balance transfer with 0% interest for 6-8 months and then a low APR after that). The higher the interest rate of my money market account, the more appealing a six month interest free loan with a teeny amount of paperwork and a $50 balance transfer fee is. It's like a $100 rebate form from Best Buy or one of those cheesy rebate happy retailers, except you can send it in and get paid without actually buying anything. All you have to do is hold onto a few thousand dollars of theirs, and then give it back in a few months. It's easy, and no Nigerian royalty is involved.

Lately they haven't been doing that much, preferring to offer me a roughly 3-4% APR, which isn't appealing at all. I usually stick these offers in a drawer just in case meteors strike the earth (or whatever) and I need all my emergency savings plus tons of cash advances and balance transfers all at once, damn the interest rates. Not likely, but I already have the drawer, so why not? Anyway, the most recent one was pretty outrageous: prime + 12.99% (currently 20.49%) plus a 3% cash advance transaction fee (minimum fee $50, no maximum). No grace period. Sneaky bastards jack up their rates to loan shark levels, right at tax time. That's cold, man. Cold.

April 5, 2006

Yes, it's tax time. Enter Schedule C assets (huh?, enter business expenses, opt for section 179 depreciation, wheeeeeeee! Rinse, lather, repeat. Again. And again. And again. Finally, almost ready to file, let's do the state stuff. Ottoman Turkish Empire Settlement Payments...? Here's the explanation.

Unlike the Matrix, the Meatrix 2 is much better than the first.

Via Faisal: The Vista saga: an opinion.

Ugh, unexpected cell phone bill explosion: $112.91 on the latest bill. Kim and I have been on the next to cheapest Sprint plan ($44.99 + $5 for data service on my Treo, plus about $14 in taxes and fees) for a couple of years, before which she had no phone and so I was paying a bit less. But now I'm working for a new client who's in Sausalito (so calls are local long distance) and hers is in Berkeley (also local long distance), we're using a lot more cell phone minutes to get the same-price long distance than before. I used to have an hour long weekly conference call on an 800 line that I used our land line to dial into, but now all my calls are on my cell phone. So now we're way over our anytime minutes. It turns out that in order to change plans we have to commit to another 2 years. The early cancellation fee is $150 per phone which is heinous. So we decided to think about it for a bit. But really, we're not unhappy with anything other than the lock-in itself. The plan pricing is pretty fair, the bills and web site are decent, the data service is reasonably fast (though not industry leading) and the digital coverage including data service is excellent. So, we did it. I'm kind of freaked at paying something like $92 a month ($74.99 minus 5% renewal discount, plus taxes and fees) but I s'pose this is a cost of doing business.

More fun than you might think: Falling Georgie.