Friday, July 31, 2009

Common Computer Question

"how do I get a computer without all the crap that they usually install on them?"

Common question, with multiple answers.

Some of the vendors, as well as some retailers, offer crapware reduced (none are completely crap free) PCs. The specialized gaming vendors, and Apple all put minimal crap on their systems.

Personally I prefer buying OEM hardware, and my own OS and installing myself. You can buy OEM machines whole, or in parts (even laptops) from various vendors online; and get decent pricing on "system builders" OEM versions of windows.... Or you can install Linux, BSD, or Hackintosh the thing if you so choose(and I frequently do).

Of course, one of the advantages (if you want to call it that) of buying standard hardware, is that every major vendor PC (unless specifically ordered with linux or without an OS;and some vendors do allow you to do so) will come with a windows license. That means you can reinstall windows (on that machine only of course) as much as you want.

If you're stuck with a stock major vendor laptop (a common situation), and you don't already have an OEM windows install disk (everyone should keep a couple around), and don't want to download one off the net (completely legal as long as you have a license, but Microsoft doesn't like it, and there's always the risk of malware); contact the manufacturer and insist on a windows install disk, not just a factory restore disk (or at least a way to use the factory restore disk to install clean).

They may charge you $40 for it (they are allowed to charge a "reasonable fee" for media. Most have settled on something around $40) but vendors are required by the windows license to make a method of windows install (other than "factory restore") available to you.

Of course as I said, that may be an option on the factory restore disk; or it may be a hidden partition on the hard drive that you can burn a CD from, so don't wipe the drive until you're sure.

Once you have your install media, you can (and I think, generally should) wipe the thing, and reinstall clean. Before you do though, make sure you have the video, sound, wireless, ethernet, and mouse drivers, just in case. The latest couple versions of windows are pretty good about driver detection and installation, but by no means perfect.

Or you could just buy a Mac, or run Linux in the first place...

Cute Overload in Puppy Form

Today is Jayne's second birthday. We can't believe he's already two.

He's been moping around the house since Mac died in a semi-depressive funk. Of course, so have we.

On top of this I, Mel, experienced EXTREME baby envy. Oh-my-god-why-aren't-you-pregnant-now baby envy. My biological clock did not start ticking, it started throwing fireworks. This is in part due to daughter the younger starting kindergarten in another week, and part due to Jayne's entry into full doggy adulthood.

To say that God put me on this earth to be a mommy is a COMPLETE understatement. Not just a mommy; a caretaker, a nurturer, a person who helps things grow. I feel empty without something to baby and nurture.

So Jayne spent his week in a funk, and I spent my week in absolute longing for something warm and baby-like. We can't have a human baby yet, and we don't want to have a baby and a puppy in the household at the same time, and a puppy is kind of like a baby...

Chris is way too tolerant of our tendencies for his own good.

This is Zoe. She is a Rottweiler/Coonhound mix and approximately 8 weeks old.

I found her through a craigslist ad posted today, along with her 10 littermates. We looked at the entire litter and she was THE ONE. She came right up to us and investigated. When I picked her up she nuzzle into my hair and didn't want to be let go. I handed her to Chris and she hasn't left his presence since.

She's about 3 lbs and a nice reddish fawn. She's incredibly inquisitive, intelligent, and submissive. She's definitely not an Alpha, which is good because we have enough of those running around. She's also VERY cuddly, and likes to play this game called "groom Chris's beard". Best of all, she's very quiet and even-tempered, without being fearful (this dog and fear do NOT go together).

We were a little worried about how Jayne would take to her, but he handled the situation very well. He's not showing any jealousy, just curiosity in his new housemate. He's already trying to play with her. She's already figured out she's Beta so we don't have any of the usual jockeying for position and thus we have peace in the household.

Of course she's a little tired from the day's activities.

When I came home from grocery shopping I found Chris asleep and her curled up at his feet. I think we've made a good choice.


We have to cater for the wilder elements in our society

Scalzi tweets

@Scalzi:"It occurs to me I really don't know how to tell when blue cheese goes bad."

Does anyone? That would rather be the point of the thing wouldn't is.

It brings to mind Lenny Henrys (as Gareth Blackstock in "Chef!") classic rant on the subject.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lots to say, too damn tired to say it

It's been a rough few weeks in particular. The stress of work and life has been a bit much for the past few months. Hell, the last few years or so haven't exactly been a picnic.

I'm starting to get a little snippy with people, and my work efficiency is falling off.

I need a real honest to god vacation so bad, it aint even funny. The last real vacation I had (not a 4 day road trip, or long weekend. An honest to god rest and relaxation vacation) was...


Well I had a five day road trip in 2003 with a long weekend in Bryce canyon... But I'm not sure that qualifies...

The last real "more than 5 days not either working, looking for work, moving, driving, or visiting relatives" vacation I took was in 1997.

Yaknow how many days I took off TOTAL last year? Five, of which three were for the Gun Blogger Rendezvous

How about 2007? 2, and those were for the Gun Blogger Rendezvous as well.

2006? 7, but 4 of those were because I was so sick I couldn't stand, and two of them were on a road trip to Dallas.

I have 30 days of paid vacation time this year. It's August in two days. Yaknow how many days off I've taken off so far this year? 3, plus one for Jury Duty.

Yeah, I'm gonna be over my maximum carryover days this year, no doubt. They let me carry over five days, and in order to get down to that I'mna need to take a week at thanksgiving and two weeks at Christmas and New Years.

I'm just not generally a vacation sort of guy. The things I like to do are either competitive activities, things that almost kill you, or "absolutely nothing whatsoever". I haven't had the time or money for much of the first two in quite a while, and the third... Not hapnin so much lately.

So, the wife and I are actually going and taking a whole week plus a bit; and we're taking a real vacation, right around labor day.

We're going to the Gun Blogger Rendezvous IV in Reno from September 10th, through the 13th. Now that's fun, but that's not a vacation. But... We're driving up and back, since we don't want to deal with the hassle and risk of guns and airlines... and Reno is 60 miles from Tahoe....

So we decided to take the whole week before the GBR, and have a real vacation. On a lake. Actual deep water; which I grew up on, and lived on for more than half my life; and have been missing ever since I moved back to Arizona in 2003.

We managed to find a south Tahoe vacation rental cabin, in a small gated vacation community on the Nevada side, for considerably less than the cost of a hotel room (after the ridiculous -18% room tax alone- taxes and fees etc... about half the cost actually). I even managed to get a guy in their private marina rent me his boat for a couple days at WAY below regular rates (as in 80% below).

Can we afford it? Not really, no... but we'll make it work.

All up, we're getting five days of real vacation, with a house and a boat; at the off season rates plus discount (bad economy this year means fewer vacationers, means bigger discounts); for less than the cost of a hotel room in Tahoe alone would have been. Oh and no expensive hotel breakfasts and lunches... and we can eat in or out for dinner as we choose.

Now THAT, is a real vacation. Five weeks... can't wait.

Somehow, I don't think...

That the results of this encounter would be quite what one would want... or certainly what was in the video.

I'd say that the Brinks... uhhh Broadview... system would be about as effective in dealing with "The Ex", as say.. oh... a typical restraining order perhaps?

It's called A GUN. Get one. Learn how to use it. Mentally prepare yourself to do so. Refuse to be a victim.

As several people have pointed out in comments (I couldnt find it last night or would have posted it already), "Bethany" has a much better response to the situation:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Last Waltz

Yesterday, we put Mac down. One of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. I've been through it before, it never gets any easier.

It was the best thing to do. He was never going to quit his post, but he couldn't stand the duty any more. It was time for him to move on, while he still had his dignity.

The night before, we let him sleep with us in the bed the last time... He couldn't get up with us, I had to pick him up and carry him onto the bed.

The next day, he took a real walk for the first time in a long time... got to do his thing in new territory, sniff away and pull me around the place. I had to carry him into the car, but he was still strong once he didn't have to flex those joints too bad.

He had a good day... maybe a great day. He went out happy.

Here's our last pictures with him:

He was a happy, strong, smart, loyal, and loving dog. My home is less alive without him. I've never had a better friend. I miss him more than I can say.

And that is the last I'm going to say about this here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why I Stay on Blogspot

I was recently asked why I still stay on blogspot. It isn't from lack of knowledge, or opportunity. I admin 20 someodd other websites, and own several dozen domains.

It's because you can't DOS Google.

I get DOS'd a few times a year, and Google pretty much shrugs.

If I put my blog on my own hosting account, it'd hit bandwidth limits and get knocked offline a few times a year, causing me hassle and costing me money.

So, for now, I stay on Blogspot.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Losing family

Sometimes things work out like you hope, sometimes they don't.

This time, they won't be.

Tomorrow, after work, we're going to go have Mac put down.

The solution we worked out isn't going to happen. He started snapping at people for no reason, trying to defend himself against attacks that aren't there... It's time.

God I wish I didn't have to do it. I wish he could be young again... or at least not so old, or in so much pain.

The supplements kept him around and happy a whole year after we thought this was coming, so we're thankful for that. Every day with him has been a gift.

If you ever want proof that god loves us; he gave us dogs to be our companions.

Goddam....I'm crying as I write this... and I hav to work dammit...

I've had this conversation recently...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fucked up week


My mother had another stroke a few days ago. She's not doing well. She's got, maybe, a few weeks left; unless there's another miracle (frankly it's a miracle she's alive at all).

Thing is, she's been lying to my family about it for a long time, and now they're all shocked, and backlashing against me... and meanwhile my brother is in total denial...

Just a not good situation.

We thought we were going to have to put Mac down. I'm not going to get into it, but we've found anther solution, where hopefully he'll be happy until he finally goes.

I'm going to miss him like I can't tell you.This is the dog that helped me raise my kids right. I have never had a better dog in my life. No dog could ever replace him; at best they could stand beside him.

The wife wants a new puppy right away... I'm not going to do it until he passes. It wouldn't be right.

Yesterday, I got an eye infection. It seems that some dust with something I was allergic too blew into my eye. The left side of my face puffed up like a blowfish.

It's nothing serious, but flushing out didn't get all of it so I've got to wait for it to weep out. I couldn't manage to fall asleep until 6am from the irritation, then when I woke up at 7:30 my eye was glued shut. The medication for the allergic reaction is reducing the swelling, but it's knocking me out too. I'v e spent half the day half knocked out.

I'm taking the rest of the damn week off.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Sugar free Hawaiian Punch doesn't suck.

It's not great, but it's better than most sugar free "fruit punch" out there.

Crystal Lights sugar free lemonades are pretty good as well. Their iced tea is mediocre.

Arizona sugar free iced tea mix is STRONG, but overly sweet. It needs added lemon juice.

That is all.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

It's always seemed ironic to me...

That "Eine Kleine, Nachtmusik", was actually great music to wake up to. Among my favorites in fact.

The "Secret" to good coffee...

Is that there is no secret.

I've written this before, but it's come up again recently so I thought I'd go over it one more time.

As far as I'm concerned there's no actual secret to good coffee; just chemistry, and learning how not to screw it up.

Good coffee is made with good water, in good properly roasted beans, at the right temperature, for the right amount of time. That's it.

Coffee is one of those things that's simple, though simple, doesn't necessarily mean easy.

Coffee beans are EXTREMELY sensitive to temperature, moisture, and PH. They have a lot of volatile organic compounds that react with these different elements. Too little, and you don't get the flavor out. Too much and you either burn the flavors out, or leech out flavors you don't want.

So, what exactly does good water, in good beans, for the right amount of time etc... mean?

Well, how about I share some tricks with you.
  1. Make your bean, roast, and grind, fit your brew, and brew method. There is no perfect bean, perfect roast, or perfect grind. Each type of coffee (everyone has something they like, or don't like) and each brewing method, requires a different roast and a different grind.

  2. Use filtered water, not distilled. Distilling water removes all the trace elements and dissolved solids that give it character and flavor, making it taste flat. Filtering gets rid of chlorine (which absolutely ruins coffee), sediments, and most of the excess mineral content; but leaves enough minerals for the water not to taste flat.

    If you must use distilled and it does taste flat; put a half teaspoon of sugar, a half teaspoon of salt, and a half teaspoon of baking soda in each gallon, and dissolve them thoroughly before brewing. That will "wake up" your water.

    Also, a TINY bit of vinegar, or lemon juice, in the water produces a slightly better cup of coffee. Call it a drop per cup. Lowering the PH just a bit helps in the extraction, and helps disperse the oils.

  3. A pinch of salt per cup added to the grounds makes a MUCH better cup. Again, it helps in extraction and dispersing the oils. It also acts to enhance your tastebuds perceptions of other flavors.

  4. The best results are with beans roasted 7 days or less before you brew. Some beans are great just after roasting and cooling (never grind while beans are still warm); some require anywhere from 12 hours to 5 days of resting before achieving peak flavor.

    There are local roasters almost everywhere these days, but it may not be convenient to use them. If you have to get prepackaged beans, make sure they are vacuum packed, and the roast date is no more than 6 months before you intend to use them.

    If, god forbid, you use preground coffee; you can significantly improve it by simply regrinding it for a few seconds just before brewing. It breaks up the surface of the grounds, allowing more essential oils to express. Obviously this only works with relatively coarse grounds (chock full'o'nuts and Yuban are quite coarse. Maxwell house is finer).

    In any event, you should grind just before you brew, or at most a few hours before (the night before to preprogram your machine for the morning let's say). Otherwise some of those volatile oils will evaporate off, leaving you with less flavor.

  5. Two level tablespoons of medium-fine grounds per 6oz water is ideal for any immersion brew (including automatic drip machines); but will produce a very strong and robust brew from all but the thinnest of coffees.

    Reduce the amount slightly to 2 tablespoons per 8oz for a slightly less strong brew; but don't reduce to below 1tblsp for every 6oz.

  6. If using an auto drip machine, pre wet the grounds with a spray mist of tepid or cold water before hand, and you'll get more even extraction.

  7. Never brew at above 208 degrees, or below 190 degrees Fahrenheit; unless you are cold brewing.

    Unfortunately the average coffee maker barely hits 190 degrees at the showerhead. You need a high end commercial machine, or a machine like a Technivorm, which will get the water to 205, but NOT to burn the coffee on the warming plate (actually, some Technivorms don't even have a warming plate).

    The best way to guarantee proper temperature water is with a french press, or a pour over filter; preferably decanted immediately after brewing (or brewing directly into) into your cup, or a thermal carafe.

  8. Never immersion brew for less than about 2.5 minutes, or more than about 4.5 minutes actual extraction time. You don't get the full flavor with less than 2 minutes immersion. After around 4 minutes at heat, the oils start to become unpleasant tasting, and more tannins are leeched out of the ground beans.

  9. If you're going to apply any kind of warming, make sure it's below 160 degrees, and for no more than 15 minutes after brewing. Any hotter, or longer, and the oils will start to go rancid.

  10. If you want good coffee from a noncommercial machine, run a bare water cycle through first; then when the machine is heat soaked, run a brew cycle. Never brew with hot water though, as it can contain more dissolved sediments that can ruin your coffee.

Honestly, you don't have to be so fussy. Just remember brew about 2tblsp per cup, of a medium ground coffee, at between 190 and 208 degrees, for between 2.5 and 4.5 minutes, using filtered water.

The rest, that's optional, or to compensate for problems, or to really get that last bit of flavor etc... etc... Just plain good coffee, that's simple.

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Don't shine that in my eyes bro"

So, my healthcare savings account finally has enough in it over and above our health care deductible (we have a high deductible plan with HSA. I think it's the best deal going), that I can get my eyes done.

This is something I've been wanting for years, and Uncle Sam is giving me the opportunity to pay for it using pre-tax income, which reduced my tax burden by about $600 this year. So it's like a twofer.

My insurance plan has a 20% discount with one of the laser mills, but I'm not interested in going there.

I want either custom wavefront Epi-LASIK or LASEK; Both because I have large pupils, and because I'm a pilot and the FAA prefers suface procedures rather than full flap procedures like LASIK. It is rare, but sometimes the flap can become dislodged, and in general, the FAA frowns on such thing.

At this point, the FAA, Air Force, Navy, and JSOC all say that Epi-LASIK and LASEK are the way to go; so that's where I'm going with it.

So far I've talked with three doctors, and had three different quotes, of $1600, $1800, and $1900 per eye; before any discount I may or may not get.

I'm hoping to do it early next month, so my eyes will be as completely healed up as possible before the Gun Blogger Rendezvous. Of course, with the surface ablative surgeries (LASEK and Epi-LASIK vs. LASIK) you can still take up to six months for your vision to stabilize (LASIK usually stabilizes in 1-3 weeks); but generally you're 99% done by 6 weeks.

So, anybody know anyone good in the valley? I've talked with Schwartz, Hale, and some other guy whose name escapes me at the moment.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It's been a day, part two

I was a mite bit peeved yesterday... schedules like this are why:

It scrolls off the screen, there 4 more meetings after that, through til 6pm... from 6am... and every day this week has been like that.

Oh and meanwhile, in my copious free time, I've been analyzing 19,000 servers across 5 datacenters; to decommission, virtualize, consolidate, move, or continue operations without change.

We're talking about two full years worth of work for several hundred people, and something like a half a billion dollars in direct expenditure.

It was originally supposed to be a 4 week job to analyze. Then, last Tuesday, my bosses boss said that we needed the data by this Friday (tomorrow).

I said I could possibly do it in under two weeks; but that the data I had was pretty bad so there was a lot of fudge factor; and that I couldn't even do it at all without data updated to today (my last updated dataset was a few months old).

I didn't get the updated and slightly (very slightly) cleaned up data until this past Monday (I was supposed to have it last Tuesday). Then another (related) group calls me up this Tuesday afternoon and says "Your bosses boss told us you were doing this. We have to present rough numbers from your analysis, to the COO, on Thursday".

Aaaargh.... To the COO. Great.

Remember that calendar picture up above? Remember how I said every day this week (and most other weeks recently) had been like that?

So I spent several hours last night working on the analysis, then got up at 5:30, and spent another two and a half hours, so I could get the final numbers out this morning before 8am. Oh and I had two meeting before 8, starting at 6... (the joys of spanning 12 time zones, and having team members in four of them).

... and I have a completely full and a half days worth of scheduled meetings... The last few of which I am going to cancel, because I don't get overtime, and I need a damn nap.

Oh and I'm not complaining too hard. This is literally why they pay me the big bucks. I get paid a rather large amount of money to put up with this crap. 12 hour days, I don't get paid for though.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

It's been a fucking day...

...and by all indications, will continue to be a fucking day.

In the middle of a fucking week.

In the middle of a fucking month.

In the middle of a fucking year.

... At least the decade hasn't been a total fucking loss.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The REAL story behind "going green"

Random Musings from My Past

I miss Brighams.

Most of you will have no idea what I'm talking about; unless you grew up in Boston, or lived there for an length of time anyway.

Brigham's was (maybe still is, I dunno... lessee... ayup, still is but they got bought out by Hood... as in the makers of Hoodsies) a small local ice cream maker, and ice cream and diner food restaurant chain in New England. They've been around roughly forever... forever being 1914.

There's a very similar, but much bigger, regional chain called Friendly's (based out of Wilbraham I think? supposedly where H.P Lovecraft based Dunwhich on); which is great, but not as good as Brigham's. Of course, there are 500 Friendlys and only 25 Brighams, so maybe the world disagrees with me.

Brigham's is where I got my very first ice cream; or at least the first one that I remember, and almost certainly my first real sundae. There was one just about a mile and a half from my grandparents house, and about three quarters of a mile from where I mostly grew up (I moved around a lot, but ended up coming back to the same place four times).

It's where I had my first out of the house birthday party. It's where I had my first date. It's where I celebrated my first kiss.

For a while, my mother delivered newspapers. My brother and I would deliver them with her, early mornings starting around 4:30 and finishing up around 7. On Saturdays, when we were done, she would sometimes take us to Brighams for breakfast.

Actually, Brigham's is where I had my very first cup of coffee. My mother hated the stuff (still does), and we never had it in the house; but it came with breakfast for free. She let me try it thinking I was going to hate it, and I've loved it ever since.

The house I mostly lived in growing up, the trolley went right by the end of my street, and I could hop it for a quarter (or most often for free. Eventually they stopped trying to collect fares) and be dropped off just over the river and railroad tracks, and walk a couple hundred yards into the ghetto (yes, I was literally on "the right side of the tracks", and the stores were on "the wrong side of the tracks") to go get an ice cream, or a really good burger.

For years, Brighams were owned by Star Market, so they would co-locate them in a lot of places. Star Market mostly had locations in bad neighborhoods, so Brigham's were mostly located in bad neighborhoods... and the complete opposite, shopping malls...

The nearest Friendlys was like 7 miles away, in Randolph; and while there was a bus that went by it, it wasn't exactly convenient. Plus it was more expensive, and I liked Brighams more.

Brigham's is also where I bought my first ice cream on my own.

At the time, we were actually living IN Mattapan, in a three decker on Groveland st. owned by a family friend, and living on welfare and food stamps(I recently found my mothers old welfare ID card actually, in a box of old photos). The Brighams was just around the corner... maybe 1/4 mile away, on River street.

As it happened, my younger brother and I were the only white kids in the neighborhood (a couple funny stories about that I may tell some other time). We sometimes got into a bit of trouble; but not too much.

I was only 7, and my brother 5; and some of the slightly older black kids gave us a hard time (we certainly couldn't take our bikes out with an adult there or they'd have been stolen immediately. It happened twice to my brother anyway) ; but even at 7 I was already bigger than most other kids, and I'd already been into jujitsu for two years (yes, I really was 5 when I started).

So my mother... I believe I've mentioned before that she wasn't exactly the greatest mom? Well, she was... let's just say very herbally mellow... and my brother really started whining about having an ice cream. So she gave us $2.10 and told me to walk my brother over to Brighams and get us both ice creams (medium cones were $1 at the time, plus %5 Massachusetts sales tax).

Here's me, this oversized 7 year old, walking through the ghetto, with my undersized 5 year old brother, just sauntering down to get us ice cream.

Predictably, we got surrounded by a couple of older black kids (by older I mean like 10-12, maybe 4 or 5 of them, I don't really remember exactly) on stolen bikes (they always seemed to steal girls bikes for some reason.. probably their older brothers stole them and kept the good boys bikes and gave the girls bikes to their little brothers...) and they started hassling us for the money.

My brother started crying, scared they were going to beat us up. Well, I wasn't having any of that.

I grabbed the bike of the one with the biggest mouth and jereked it right out from under him, then I pushed the one next to him down on top. Another one tried to punch me but I hit him hard in the face. They all started blubbering, and ran off.

So there we were, strutting down the road, kings of the block; and we got our ice cream dammit. First time I ever went to the store by myself.

'course, those kids older brothers (13-14) came by later, and could have hurt me bad; but when they saw I was only 7 they laughed at their little brothers.

They did have the smallest of the older kids bloody my face up, but I punched him in the stomach a few times, and he went down. Tore my shirt though.

Mostly they didn't bother me much after that, though they did steal my brothers bike twice. Once I got it back by beating up the kid who stole it, once we never did find it.

But we damn well got those ice creams. They were good too.

Man, I miss Brigham's.

(yeah yeah... I get the similarity. It wasn't particularly intentional, though I have certainly read it. Not exactly madeleines... but then again I LIKE ice cream cones, and I'm not a big fan of madeleines)

Random Acts of Poetry

"To Lucasta, going to the wars"

Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind,
That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
To war and arms I fly.

True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.

Yet this inconstancy is such
As thou too shalt adore;
I could not love thee, Dear, so much,
Loved I not Honour more.

--Richard Lovelace

"The Second Coming"

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

-- William Butler Yeats

Monday, July 13, 2009

100 Books

It's memetastic!

I saw this one on facebook, and thought I'd play.

The meme says:

"The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?"

But it's BS. There is nothing of the sort related to the BBC, except a 100 most popular book list, which doesn't look much like this list.

Anyway, it should be interesting.


Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read. Tag other book nerds.

  1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen -X-
  2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien -X-
  3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte -X-
  4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling -X- (actually 7 books)
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee -X-
  6. The Bible -X-
  7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte -X-
  8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell -X-
  9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman -X- (actually 3 books)
  10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens -X-

    10 for 10

  11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott -X-
  12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy -X-
  13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller -X-
  14. Complete Works of Shakespeare -X- (poems and plays, not really books but OK)
  15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier -X-
  16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien -X-
  17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
  18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger -X-
  19. The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger -X-
  20. Middlemarch - George Eliot - (seen the miniseries, but never read the book)

    18 for 20

  21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell -X-
  22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald -X-
  23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens -X-
  24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy -X-
  25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams -X-
  26. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky -X-
  27. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck -X-
  28. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll -X-
  29. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame -X-
  30. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy -X-

    28 for 30

  31. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens -X-
  32. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis -X-
  33. Emma - Jane Austen -X-
  34. Persuasion - Jane Austen
  35. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis -X-
  36. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hossein -1/2X- (I started it, didn't like it and put it down)
  37. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
  38. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
  39. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne -X-
  40. Animal Farm - George Orwell -X-

    34 for 40 (I won't count the half)

  41. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown -X-
  42. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  43. A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
  44. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
  45. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery -X-
  46. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy -X- (required reading. I hate Hardy)
  47. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood -X-
  48. Lord of the Flies - William Golding -X-
  49. Atonement - Ian McEwan
  50. Life of Pi - Yann Martel

    39 for 50

  51. Dune - Frank Herbert -X-
  52. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
  53. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen -X-
  54. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
  55. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  56. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens -X-
  57. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley -X-
  58. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon
  59. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez -1/2X- (dropped it)
  60. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck -X-

    44 for 60

  61. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov -X-
  62. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
  63. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold -X- (overrated, but still good)
  64. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas -X- (one of the greatest books of all time)
  65. On The Road - Jack Kerouac -X-
  66. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy -X- (again, required. I hate Hardy)
  67. Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding -X-
  68. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
  69. Moby Dick - Herman Melville -X-
  70. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens -X-

    52 for 70

  71. Dracula - Bram Stoker -X-
  72. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett -X-
  73. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson -X-
  74. Ulysses - James Joyce -X-
  75. The Inferno – Dante -X-
  76. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
  77. Germinal - Emile Zola
  78. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray -X-
  79. Possession - AS Byatt
  80. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens -X-

    59 out of 80

  81. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
  82. The Color Purple - Alice Walker -X- (required reading. Crap. Worse than beloved)
  83. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
  84. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert -X-
  85. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
  86. Charlotte’s Web - EB White -X-
  87. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom -X-
  88. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -X-
  89. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
  90. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad -X-

    65 out of 90

  91. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery -X- (I love Saint-Exupery)
  92. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
  93. Watership Down - Richard Adams -X-
  94. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole -X- (good, but overrated)
  95. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
  96. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas -X- (one of my favorite books ever)
  97. Hamlet - William Shakespeare -X-
  98. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl -X-
  99. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo -X-
Total: 72 out of 99

Not sure why they listed 32 and 36 separately, or 14 and 97... plus there are a half dozen different versions of the list out there.; and for some reason what would have been 16 is missing so it's only 99.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

You don't get to decide that sir

(note: this video is from 2007, but the enabling legislation for the proposal is currently before congress)

My father has the same name as I do. He has been on the no fly list, because he is a convicted felon, drug smuggler, murderer, and was once associated with the IRA. He had to sue to have his name removed from the list.

I have had firearms transactions held up because of this. I have been held for "additional security screening" because of this.

I have every right to firearms, and that list is an unconstitutional infringement on peoples rights to freedom of travel, nevermind using it to restrict peoples access to firearms.

You know what that list actually is? It's names. Just names. Including the names of congressmen, and law enforcement officers, and thousands of other innocent people who HAVE been stopped for no good reason.

No probable cause. No process for putting people on the list. No process for taking them off the list. Thus far, the only disclosures about the list, or removals from the list have been at the direct intervention of federal judges, cabinet secretaries, and members of congress.

No, you don't get to decide that sir. You do not have that right. You WILL NOT have that right.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Civic Duty

So I've been really busy the last couple days, because tomorrow and possibly Friday (and possibly more but I hope not) I'll be out for jury duty.

Seriously, there is no lawyer on the planet that will want me on a jury... unless it's someone who defended themselves with a firearm; and then the prosecutors would get rid of me so fast my head would spin.

So I expect I wont be out past Friday.

Importantly though I will have no net access at all 'til after 5 tomorrow. No writing to be done over here.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The universal and inevitable consequence of "social democracy"

The Grand Unified Theory of Contact Numbers

So, Mel and I just got our invites to Google Voice, which used to be grand central.

Google Voice is a service that allows you to have one single number that people can call you on, and that you can call them back on; that will ring any phone number you want it to, on any schedule you want it ti; screen your calls and take your voicemail (and transcribe and email it to you); and in general act as a single point of contact for you.

Oh, and it's free.

Now, that may not seem like a big deal to someone who has say, just a mobile phone, or just a mobile and a landline.

That person would not be me.

I have a home land line, a work landline, two mobile phones (home and work), and two voip lines. Oh and that doesn't include Mels mobile, or work line.

I used to have a similar service called Webley, and I loved it. In fact I was once of their first customers. I found out about them because I set up their firewalls, and I stayed a customer until they stopped offering their service to individuals (they were eventually bought out and now you can get that service for your corporate voicemail, but not as an individual).

Google voice also has a feature the others don't: It can ring any phone you happen to be at, and then connect you to any number in your address book with the click of a web button; again, for free.

Of course, I already have free (actually very low cost because I pay for premium services from them) VOIP from skype; but this is an additional service that gives you a lot of extra flexibility aside from what skype gives you.

And of course, if you have a skype-in number (I do) you can add it to the pool, and schedule it like any other number.

The downside? Google gets yet more of your data.

Honestly, Google has so much of my data already, I'm not too worried about the rest. I trust Google more than I trust AT&T or QWest, who already have that data anyway.

Now if they would just let me port numbers to them, and offer 800 service, I can drop my virtual PBX provider entirely.

Monday, July 06, 2009

It's called Rent Seeking

Sadly, this is actually how many defense projects get funded.


Robert McNamara died today. His epitaph should be just one word:


Plain and simple, hubris. Bloody hubris.

A man was so sure that his fundamental concept was correct, that he would not accept any evidence to the contrary; even when that evidence was dead soldiers.

When your theory doesn't match the evidence, you don't ignore the evidence, you change the theory. Only he didn't.

He absolutely refused to even consider that he and his whiz kids were wrong. That people who actually had experience fighting and running wars, might have something useful to contribute to the conversation about say, running a war.

He was a great believer in metrics; and like so many others he confused metrics and methods with actual accomplishments.

He was a great believer in technology; but had no concept of how technology fit into tactical or strategic equations. How technology always came down to one thing: boots on the ground.

I don't even think he understood the difference between metrics and missions. The difference between technology, and tactics.

And so, America suffered.

So we never lost a battle, but we lost a war.

So 60,000 men died. Stupidly thrown away by politicians and statisticians playing at toy soldiers. Writing their numbers down in their copybooks, and declaring "I won", when some imaginary measurement was reached.


Perhaps god will forgive you.

History won't.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Hackers interpret idiotic government restrictions as damage ...

...and route around them

By the by, for those who don't get the reference, it's a paraphrase of a quote from John Gilmore - "The internet interprets censorship as damage, and routes around it"

Seriously, I was talking about Carlin...

But apparently this post:

Has made me the 8th highest search result in google for "Worlds Biggest Cocksucker"...

I mean, I'm flattered and all... but I wish it was at least for a post about Clinton.

This just warms the heart

Sadly true, Funny as hell...

and a perfect illustration of why I'm a Minarchist, not a conservative.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

It's a rare thing...

But I am genuinely, severely, angry; and it's because of something at work.

Normally I don't let things bother me that way; but this one really got to me.

Obviously I can't talk about it in great detail, but suffice it to say I'm fine, he's fine, and we're both going to remain employed.

I do want to talk about it in some very general ways, as an illustration of inappropriate conflict resolution.

Someone who I generally have a good relationship with is under a lot of pressure. We have a critical project, on an emergency basis, with a very short deadline.

Unfortunately, not particularly uncommon; but this issue involves us being sued for an enormous amount of money.

This person has been directed to make sure the project isn't held up by our organization (not my team in particular, the organization of our SVP as a whole. He is on a different team from me, but we both report up to the same SVP and CIO).

His directive is to insulate our group from liability and clear the project out as quickly as possible. Mine is to provide a solution for the project that meets the requirements set for us by the judge. We both need to keep the legal and technical side separate.

So, perhaps you understand the degree of pressure here.

We have been having problems finalizing the design and costing, because we have several conflicting sets of requirements, several conflicting statements, and conflicting diagrams etc...

Today, we had a meeting with them to specifically discuss only the specific questions and issues we need to complete the design and sizing. Prior to the call, I discussed what we needed to know with the person I'm in conflict with, who I would be asking, what I would be asking, how I would be asking it, and how we would keep the legal side separate from the technical side.

There's the setup.

While we were on the call, I began asking questions about how data would be exchanged between systems. The person I'm in conflict with immediately interrupted and stated that I didn't need to ask that question.

Well yes, actually, I did. I attempted to explain what we needed to know and why, and he cut me off and said that I needed to focus on delivering the solution.

I again attempted to explain what we needed to know and why, and he kept insisting that we didn't need to know this, and couldn't ask these questions.

He was saying this, in front of the customer we're delivering the project for.

After several times back and forth, futilely attempting to get this person to listen to me, he said "If you can't stop asking these questions, you can't be on this call".

Well... never mind that this is my job, it was my call, and my project... Ok, that's secondary to the issue...

I responded, "All right... I'm going to hang up now, and we're going to talk about this later".

Ok, now, first of all this person is not in my management chain, he is my peer. Second, even if he were not, that isn't his job. He is effectively customer relationship and account manager for our internal customers (we call them enterprise planners). It is MY job to analyze business needs, develop, and deliver solutions. It is HIS job to manage projects, budgets, timelines etc... I manage the technical side of the relationship, he manages the business side.

But really, I'm not one to stand on titles and roles. That bit doesn't bother me so much.

Honestly, I think he panicked when he didn't understand exactly what I was asking, or perhaps how I was asking it; because he was paranoid about encroaching on the legal side, and had tunnel vision on just clearing the project out.

That bothers me.

This panic caused him to behave towards me in an inappropriate and unprofessional way. He shut off his input processing, stopped listening and reasoning, and simply reacted.

That saddens and irritates me, but what happened next is really why I'm angry.

He called me up immediately after the call, and apologized for HOW he did what he did, but he still believed it was necessary. He STILL wasn't listening. I then very quietly, and calmly explained to him again (as I had before we ever got on the call) why we needed to get that information, how we needed to get it, how what I was asking WASN'T doing what he was afraid it was etc...

And he didn't listen at all. He is sorry he behaved inappropriately, but he still thinks it was necessary. Meanwhile, one of the guys I lead was asking the same questions, making sure we got the answers we needed to complete the project.

Before we talked the first time (before the call), it seems this person fixed in his head that I was going to ask inappropriate questions; and he was incapable of perceiving otherwise.

Flat out, I said to him "Look, I DO understand what the concerns are, and I agree with you that certain areas were off limits before the call when we were talking earlier. Do you not trust me to, once we were on the call, follow through with what I said? I'm an experienced professional, and an expert in this field, including the legal side of things. I know what to say, what not to, and when."

He said that yes, he respects me and trusts me but I needed not to do what I was doing.

The thing is, he really meant that... but his own panic, and need for control overwhelmed his reason to the point where he couldn't see the disconnect.

Not only that, but he has destroyed our credibility with our internal customer, and showed that protecting the group, was a higher priority than providing a successful solution.

And THAT, is why I'm angry right now.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Never going back, to my old school

So, they tore down my high school back in 2007... which is a shame really. It was a great old building with amazing architectural details, original moldings etc... (and they didn't even TRY to do any architectural salvage); but the real estate it was on was worth more to the town than the building was...

They had already moved the school to another building though. I was part of a class of 143, and there were about 700 kids total in the school. By 2004 when they moved iy, the school was over 1200 students, and the old building just couldn't accommodate them all. Plus they needed air conditioning (oh lord I remember how hot that place was in the late spring and summer), new wiring, new heating... It was just impractical to upgrade.

So, they took what was the middle school (about a mile away), tore part of it down, built the biggest possible school they cold fit up there, and made IT the high school. Then they moved the middle school into the high school. Finally, after they tore it down, they rebuilt a new middle school where the old high school was. You can see it out the drivers window of this video a few seconds into their drive. It just doesn't have the... presence, or grace, of the old building.

So anyway, my uncle sent me a link to the demolition video. He went to high school there, 13 years before I did. We had a lot of the same teachers in fact. Two of them actually made up a little song about him, and were still singing it when I, and my brother, went there; that's how memorable he was (and how odd those teachers were, but they were great teachers. Unfortunately both have passed on now).

Well, that got me to looking around the web for stuff about Milton High School, since I was already feeling nostalgic after last weeks facebook episode.

First thing was what I find to be an interesting, though poorly delivered, lecture on Miltons architectural history:

If you are interested in colonial period architectural, especially early federal style, and greek revival homes (though many have been renovated into a less ornate style); Milton is a bit of a wonderland. There are hundreds of remaining 18th and early 19th century homes still standing, and in good repair (and outrageous cost).

Then I went to the school districts pages, looking for some decent pics (and not finding them). As it turns out, a couple of the kids I went to high school with, now work there (one's a guidance counselor, two are teachers). Most of my teachers have retired or moved on, but there's still a few. My chorus director is still the school districts music director... she was great.

Then I found this little missive:

That's from a kid I went to school with as well, Corey Rodrigues, who's now a standup comedian. He was two years behind me, in my brothers class. I played football with his older brother Tuere (pronounced Tuh-Ray), and Corey was good friends with my brother Rob (as was John Jones, one of the first shout outs).

In his video, he namechecks about 30 people I also went to school with; mostly a year or two younger than me.

Corey is right, Jim Connelly absolutely cannot keep a secret to save his life. He's still one of the nicest guys I've ever met in my entire life.

"Gumby" (his real name is Jim) was one of my brothers best friends growing up. He's actually one of the idiots who burned my house down getting high up in my attic (they called my brother "wildebeest", Jim was Gumby, and their other idiot friend was "Stinky").

Lauren Hollien was definitely hot, though she and her brother Mark both look like elves. Seriously, Mark Hollien looks like Legolas, without the hair. Pointy ears and everything.

When I was growing up there, the town was very anti-business, and especially anti-chain business. They only allowed a few stores in two small commercial districts, and three little local markets or convenience stores, that had been there for literally decades.... The town still is anti-business actually, with some of the strictest zoning in the state.

One of those little markets was Tedeschis stores, (which used to be Curtis Compact stores which were actually founded in Milton, and grew into a chain after buying up two of the other little neighborhood stores the town had grandfathered in). Corey mentioned it in the video, because the one a few hundred yards from the high school was shoplifting central.

They used to be rabidly anti franchise; but that policy ended up actually harming the local businesses more than helping; except the yuppy/hippy/wholefoods/freetrade type places in Milton village. Corey mentions how they got stomped in his little rap.

Apparently they finally let a Dunkin Donuts and a Starbucks into east Milton (the "poorer" part of town, by which I mean the average house price is only $400,000 instead of $700,000 plus in the rest of town. The median home price is $600k, even after the crash. Here's the Zillow page on the town) after the local coffee shop burned down in '07.

My stepmother, who also grew up in Milton, actually used to work across the street [from the coffee shop] at a barber shop. In fact, that barbershop is where she met my dad (who is from Ireland, and never lived in Milton... odd coincidence); after he got out of prison when I was 18.

It was an odd experience, growing up poor in such a rich town... But in general a good one. I regret that my kids don't have a town where they can walk around, with actual trees and sidewalks... and some real sense of community and history.