Monday, December 27, 2004

Geeky Friday: Google's magic

Ika pointed me at an article on Google's infrastructure. They have more than 2,000 PCs in each of 30+ clusters (2,000 x 30 = 60,000 computers), they index about 40TB of data each day and their custom file system has a block size of 64MB (block size is usually around 2KB on a desktop machine).

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Please wait...

Andrew Grumet comments on a witty "Please wait" message on MIT's map server ("Please wait, it's still faster than you could draw it"). What he didn't mention (or perhaps didn't discover) is that there are 20+ other fun messages including:
Please wait...
  • while the satellite moves into position
  • the server is powered by a lemon and two electrodes
  • while a large vendor in Seattle takes over the world
  • a few bits tried to escape but we caught them
and two references to "The Wizard of Oz" and one reference to "The Matrix".

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The World's Longest Alphabetical Email Address

A free email account with 6 MB of storage and an annoyingly long domain name. "It is so long that... people cannot remember your address, some webforms are unable to read your email address " and more. Abc... Whatever - The World's Longest Alphabetical Email Address

Friday, December 17, 2004

Geeky Friday: XLiveCD

XLiveCD - run X and ssh from a CD on a windows machine. It's based on Cygwin, but you don't have to install it on your hard drive.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Automatic jump to http

From this page, I was trying to follow the "Home Page" link and I just learned two more trivial facts:
  1. If you type in a word into Firefox's address bar (or a domain name it can't find, it does a google search and redirects to the first result.
  2. The first result for "http" is Microsoft's web site. Try it here
Why would be #1 for "http"? Why would any site be near the top other than sites which define the technical details of the hypertext transfer protocol (such as -- the fourth hit in the "http" search)?

Monday, December 13, 2004

"Advanced" browser technology

In my usual link-to-a-link-to-a-link manner, I found out that my favorite browser supports both Netscape's <blink> and IE's <marquee> tags. Ack!

If you nest them, you have blinking text in a scrolling marquee. (I think it's worth noting that I am deliberately not demonstrating this here so that I don't lose readers.)

Friday, December 10, 2004

Geeky Friday: Languages for Interactive Fiction

Last year, I wrote about rediscovering interactive fiction games. Now I learned a little more about how these are created. Programming for IF presents the programmer with the benefit of having a very specific application and the challenge of managing all the rooms, objects, non-player characters and so forth. An article by Liza Daly, "Choosing a Language for Interactive Fiction", highlights the two most popular languages.

I have the mindset that likes to learn programming languages in order to learn new ways of approaching problems, unfortunately, I'm also of the lifestyle that doesn't afford much time to do this. I'll add this to my long list of things to do in the vague "someday".

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Table Saw Finger Saver

Heard a story on "All Things Considered" last night about a safety device to kill a table saw if it touches flesh. The story is summarized at, but the highlight is the demonstration video (available on that page Real or Windows Media formats).

Friday, December 03, 2004

Geeky Friday: SMS, tcl, Python

Here's a new regular feature, "Geeky Friday". I'll queue up my posts on techie subjects for publication on Fridays. These will be only of interest to the techies out there. They'll probably only be comprehensible to them as well.

Maybe it's not good form to start "Geeky Friday" with a six year old article. Nonetheless, here's an article by Frank Stajano discussing a information retrieval system implemented using SMS. Stajano also discusses why he chose to use Python despite his previous experience with tcl and [incr tcl]. The bottom line "I prefer Python because its standard library is a gold mine."

Six years later, I believe this is still true. I'm much more familiar with tcl, but when I compare the list of modules in the tcl standard library and those in python's standard library I begin to understand why Stajano feels this way.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Warmer than Washington

We're spending this week in sunny, warm Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. at a beach hotel near the cruise ship port. We saw the Dawn Princess depart around sunset this evening. It's monstrous. It can hold 1,950 guests and it's 856 ft. long -- a search at The Skyscraper Page shows only 65 buildings in the world that are taller than 856 ft.

Friday, November 19, 2004

computing power in 1990 = (ungodly amount / 1000)

"By 2007 or 2010, we are going to have an ungodly amount of logic on a chip," Agarwal said. That's roughly 1,000 times the computing power a chip had in 1990.
From a Washington Post article demonstrating the precise arithmetic used by the Post's technology reporters.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Adding a "www" option to Diggler

Someday I intend to create a list of tools I find essential to help me be more productive in a windows or linux environment. Until that day, I'll start small. Last summer, I wrote about Mozilla Firefox and its extensions. One extension I particularly like is Diggler. "It adds a menu button next to the address bar with actions relevant to the current URL, for example to step out to the parent directory..." and more. This means that if you're visiting:
the diggler menu will have options for:
Clicking on these will take your browser immediately to the new location.1 Another way to get a sense of what this extension does it by looking at a screenshot.

Now, what if you're looking at or and you want to go to Diggler's menu doesn't offer this as an option. But, diggler is customizable in a way that geeks will appreciate. The rest of you can tune out now. Using regular expressions, you can do pattern substitution to add this usage.2

Adding a "www" option to Diggler
Open the options for Diggler, add a new user defined tool. For the regular expression, enter:
for the action, enter
1I use Yahoo as an example because its directory's URLs are nicely hierarchical -- Yahoo also happens to provide clear links to go to each of these higher levels. Not every site is so friendly.
2This won't work as expected with domains that have three significant chunks, e.g. with, you won't get, you'll get Adding an additional tool to handle such URLs is left as an exercise for the reader

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Scary election scenario

Did you know that in Bush v. Gore the Supreme Court wrote: "the individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote" in presidential elections? (Supreme Disenfranchisement)

And they're right. The U.S. Constitution does not say that individuals have the right to any say in the Presidential election. The scary scenario painted here is that the vote in some swing states gets so muddled that the state legislatures step in and just say "it's too complicated to sort out, just let us decide." -- and they have the right to do so.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Bulbous Bouffant

Earlier today, I heard "Bulbous Bouffant" on Flashback Alternatives (streaming 80s new wave and occasional comedy. I found a version online, but somebody put some weak animation in front of it. Follow the link, click on the big button labeled "Watch This Movie!!!" then ignore the graphics and enjoy the comedy of The Vestibules.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

I wish it was over

While I definitely know who I will vote for, I agree more with Ole Eichorn who says of the new Bin Laden tape, "Can't we simply condemn him and everything he represents, completely and totally, without making it a partisan issue?". Read his whole post, "I wish it was over".

Amen, brother Eichorn.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Cowboy Joke

A cowboy walks up to his cowboy friends with a dachshund on a leash. "What's with the dog?" asks one cowboy. "Well," says the first cowboy, "I finally gave in to that voice in my head saying 'get a long little doggie'."
  - from this week's email newsletter from A Prairie Home Companion .

I rarely get around to actually listening to the show, but I subscribe to the newsletter for the "Pretty Good Jokes" included each week.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

National Novel Writing Month

Here's an interesting idea, write a 175 page (55,000 word) novel in 30 days with motivation from National Novel Writing Month
Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. ... Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes.
And if you want to write as a weblog, check out Blogging Your Novel, Part One.

I don't think I'll have the time to commit to writing a novel this November, maybe next year.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Desktop searching

Of course the other big Google news is about the Google Desktop. I'm not going to try it yet as it doesn't index enough of the applications that I use. Dave Winer tried it and says that it slowed down his computer. I may try X1, which is better, according to the author of the Unofficial Google Weblog. And, if you act quickly (as I'm attempting to do), you might get X1 for free.

Google SMS

Another way to enjoy Google: Google SMS

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Free Tech Books Online

Here's a big list of links to free books on Java, Python, Linux, Windows, and more. This is "free" as in "free beer", not necessarily "free" as in "free speech" and certainly not "free" as my Eastern European friends sometimes define it. They also have an RSS feed for new additions.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Ig Nobel Prizes

This year's Ig Nobel prizes have been announced, but before you click through to read about herring fart communication and combover patents, load the movie on this page, preferably in a new window/tab so that you can read the following instructions:
You'll see is a group of people, some in black shirts, some in white shirts. The white team is passing a ball between them, the black team is passing a second ball. Your task is to count how many times the white team passed the ball.
When you've watch the video and have a count, you can read about what you just did in this New Scientist article or go to the full list of winners.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

House Votes to End Handgun Ban in D.C.

This annoys me on many different levels. First, as a parent, I'm annoyed that Congress proposes making handguns (and semi-automatic weapons!) more available in my city. Second, as a DC resident, I'm annoyed that Congress still has the right to overturn local laws in DC and we don't even have voting representation. Lastly, as somebody who would like to see Congress actually doing meaningful work, I'm annoyed that the leadership in the House is putting effort into something they know won't pass in the Senate. As written in the article from the NY Times1:
With the November elections approaching, Republican leaders in the House have scheduled a series of votes on hot-button social issues that they hope will force Democrats into a difficult position at the polls, particularly in areas where support for gun rights is strong. On Thursday, lawmakers are expected to take up a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage; last week, they passed a bill that would prohibit the federal courts from hearing challenges to the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.
1Registration required, or borrow one from BugMeNot or see the article from Yahoo which doesn't require registration.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Article on arch

This one is strictly for the techies out there. has an interview with the creator of the GNU arch revision control system. In it he discusses what's wrong with CVS and subversion and why he feels arch is better. One salient point for me is his comment on the end result of some of CVS's faults:
Ultimately, most users seem to wind up using CVS in the most simple-minded way: as a hub via which multiple programmers can all hack on a single tree. They don't get much more out of it than that. That's fine, but that's like 10% of the version control problem. That people are using CVS that way suggests that the shortcomings of the tool are limiting how programmers organize their projects.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Pong - the real world version

Once again in the category of "I wish I had that sort of free time", Engadget points me at a Pongmechanik -- Pong implemented using all mechanical parts. Unlike the tablet-pc-in-a-boombox posted recently, at least this one shows some enterprising student(s) learning how electrical components like telephone relays work.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Wish I was this idle

Another case of somebody with too much spare time, this person has embedded a tablet PC in a boom box

Thursday, September 09, 2004

[title not posted by hblogger]

I've downloaded the trial version of hblogger - a blogging tool for PalmOS. [Posted with hblogger 2.0]
It's ok, but I'm not terribly impressed. I had to add the title of this post after the fact. Additionally, while I can save drafts on my handheld, it doesn't allow me to post them to blogger as drafts -- I often rework my posts a few times before I actually make it public. I've got two or three in the queue now.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Joel on Social Interface Design

Joel, of "Joel on Software", has a new article about usability -- or not just about usability, but about "social interface design". I think it boils down to a couple main points: (1) usability of the interface is important, but not super critical if you have a truly compelling product, (2) the way to make a compelling product is by gauging and tuning the way that it will help people interact with it and with each other. He gives an example of the latter in discussing how to handle a user who posts inappropriate material to a forum:
So a good social interface designer might say, let's not display an error message. Let's just pretend that the post about Viagra was accepted. Show it to the original poster, so he feels smug and moves on to the next inappropriate discussion group. But don't show it to anyone else.
This is similar to an idea Philip Greenspun had about how to handle troublesome users. If you simply ban them, they just re-register with a different name. Better, he suggested, was to throw some intentional delays into any request made by them. In the end, the user thinks there's a problem with the site because it's so slow and doesn't catch on that the mediocre performance is custom tailored. (I would give a reference to this, but I heard him describe it in a talk and it doesn't seem to be in written form on his site.)

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Olympic Observation

If you've been watching coverage of the Olympics in the USA (without skipping the commercials), you'll understand:
If some woman, walking down the street and singing to herself with a big grin on her face, reached into her purse and handed over an open soft drink, this bloggerette would definitely not drink it.
Posted by Judi Smith, Dave Barry's Research Department, on Dave Barry's Blog

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Cheap laptop stand

Laptop stand A long time ago, I wrote about an expensive laptop stand which raises the display to a reasonable eye-level and bemoaned its high price. At the time, I wasn't using a laptop for work on a regular basis, so I let it go.

Things have changed and I now use a laptop almost exclusively and I started looking again. The price for the Oyster hasn't dropped significantly, so I started surfing around. I found a reasonable substitute for AUS$35, but no American distributors. Finally, I found some wise person who pointed out that a quality book holder would probably do the job.

For around US$13, I got a copyholder, connected my external keyboard and mouse and voila!

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Altoid speakers

The winner of "McGyver contest" to find a creative use of Altoid tins produced mini speakers using materials I have. I'll have to try this. Found via Engadget and they quoted the original site in saying the sound from these is tinny. Ugh.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Extensions for Mozilla Firexfox

For those of you already using Mozilla or Mozilla Firefox instead of Microsoft's Internet Explorer, you should take a look at some of the extensions available. You can view the full list from the source. Or, start with two articles from -- the first gives an overview and the second is the author's response to all the email she received about favorite extensions overlooked in the first article.

For those of you who are still using Internet Explorer, please take a little time to read more about what Firefox has to offer and read how the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team recommends using an alternate browser to reduce exposure to IE vulnerabilities.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Which way to TiVo?

Every few months I think about getting TiVo. Sometimes it's when I forget to set my VCR for a regular episode of The West Wing, sometimes it's when I want to record something and don't want to take the time to hunt for a tape with available space (and then again when I am trying to find the tape to watch the recorded show). My primary interest is the convenience of the digital recorder itself, but I like the TiVo service's Wish List and Season Pass features, too.

I started thinking about this again recently with TiVo's announcement that they'll more easily support network connectivity. This is kind of nice in that I could stream music from PCs and do remote programming... but, I've also considered the DirecTV option which doesn't do the network stuff, but it's all in one convenient box. On the other hand, if I drop my current cable provider for the TV feed, I'll have to pay an extra $10/mo. for the cable modem.

I've started to explore these options by scanning the boards over at, but, like most very active forum sites, it's a little overwhelming for the casual reader*. Electrophobia's TiVo Wiring Guide proves that just about any setup will work -- I just need help deciding.

So, my TiVo-enabled friends, if you were to start today, what would you do? Standalone series 2 TiVo? DirecTiVo? Second-hand TiVo?

* When shopping for noise-reducing headphones I was astounded by the level of passion some people have for headphones over at I was astounded, but I shouldn't have been -- this is, after all, the internet.

Gmail update

Two of my earlier gripes about gmail have been fixed. When viewing a message there's now a "Add sender to contacts list" link and I've learned today that it is now possible to import addresses into gmail .

Marney & Costello

How things can go awry when trying to help a toddler perfect her language usage:
Me: Marney, do you remember who is coming to visit tomorrow?
Marney: What?
Me: No, who
Marney: I don't know.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Moleskine mania

While in Germany, I purchased a pocket Moleskine notebook. Thinking that this would be a good gift for somebody, I did a little searching and found that much like everything else these days, there's a weblog devoted to these notebooks.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Greetings from Germany

I'm writing this from a lovely place where I've been attending a conference with some high-falutin speakers. It's been quite interesting.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Fun with iTunes

A couple months ago, I wrote about using JuK and how "I've read rumors that it's similar to iTunes, but I have no experience with that". Well, I've been using Windows quite a bit lately, so I've installed iTunes (free download) and loaded my music into its library. It's pretty cool.

Down at the bottom of the main window it says: "1326 songs, 3.4 days, 4.36 GB" and yes, I own the CDs for all of these (or at least 1300 of them).

There's a "Party Shuffle" option. I've done no extra configuration on this, so it's shuffling through all my music. This produces interesting musical transitions such as this sequence:

  • A track from Mozart's Don Giovanni
  • "Born Under Punches" from the Talking Heads' Remain in Light
  • "Black and Blue" from Lyle Lovett's Pontiac
  • The opening number from Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods
  • "Roxanne'97-Puff Daddy Remix" from Sting's album 1997 - The Best Of Sting & The Police
  • "Purple Toupee" from They Might Be Giants' Lincoln (what kind of geek would I be without TMBG in my library?)
  • Variation 9 from Glenn Gould's recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations
That's fun for a while, but iTunes does make it easy to listen to more coherent playlists. I've created smart playlists for "Classic Rock" and other genres just by specifying the genre as the criteria. When I import another album in the genre, it's automatically added to the playlist. As I wrote with JuK, this is dependent on having good ID3 tags on the mp3 files. I used ID3-TagIT (freeware) to clean up some of my library. (This was especially important for some more recently ripped music since iTunes doesn't seem to recognize version 2.4 of ID3 tags and ID3-TagIT let me easily write version 2.3 instead.)

I don't use the iTunes music store and I don't have an iPod to sync this with. It's just a nice way to play music through my computer (and through my new noise-cancelling headphones).

Sunday, June 13, 2004

News on web stats

Since my post last month about gmail, I've been getting more traffic from more different people. This lead to requests for gmail invitations. When I started asking how they found my site, most responded like this one:
While I'd like to say it was something noble or a bit more interesting, I found it by searching on google for "gmail invitation." Your website was buried on page 39 I believe but I clicked on a lot of the links. I know it sounds like "he's only interested in gmail" and while I'm tempted to say "I'm an avid fan of your blog and just saw the post!" I'll be honest and just say I found it while scouring google for gmail invitations.
In order to get more information, I've since signed up for a free web stats account with Now I know that Cognitive Overflow has been found via searches for "lord's prayer in l33t speak slashdot", "kyte database independence", "i need a lot of money how", and, of course, many for "gmail", "gmail invitation" and the like.

Finally, check out this article at to read about VisitorVille, a service which displays traffic information in a SimCity-like way. Pages are portrayed as buildings, with the more popular pages being larger buildings. Visitors are shown as people and those who are referred by Google are shown arriving via the Google bus.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Al-Qaeda Planning Attack

"Those terrorists don't scare me. At least not without the help of my government."
  --from the What do you think? feature in this week's edition of America's Finest News Source(tm)

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Cute things kids say

Our three year old has been enjoying the extra attention she's been getting with grandparents staying here to help us with the new baby. One recent morning Grandma got up with her and they had been playing in the basement by the time I came downstairs. I heard Marney shout up the stairs "I want juice!" Being the annoying sort of dad who is always trying to teach my kids, I responded "That's not a very nice way to ask. Can you ask more nicely?" Marney paused a moment as she considered her response before yelling "I want Grandma!"


Via Critical Section, see what a Mac SE running MacOS 7.0 (circa 1991) looked like -- but now it runs inside your browser!

Friday, May 14, 2004

New Arrival

Kevin Frederick Harris
Born May 12, 2004 9:07 am
8 lbs. 9 oz., 20" long

Monday, May 10, 2004

New look

Blogger has updated their interface and presented some new templates. I decided it was time for a change. Like it?

Gmail mini-review and an offer

Micro-review: It's definitely a beta product and there are some big things missing, but it has potential to be very cool.

As I posted recent, I'm pretty excited about being able to test Gmail, Google's free webmail client. Since my friends and family have other addresses for me, I changed my preferences at eBay and Parent Center to send news and alerts to my Gmail account so that I could start getting some messages.

Because I haven't had direct human interaction via Gmail, I haven't been able to take advantage of Gmail's "conversation" interface -- which rolls up messages in a threaded discussion into individual tabs -- the screenshots look nice on the help page (see item #2 on Gmail's Learn More page).

From what little I have done, I see definite room for improvement. What is there works well, but there are some significant features missing.

Before I can start using gmail on a more regular basis, I'll need more addresses in my gmail contact list. Gmail doesn't make this easy. I can export addresses from my Yahoo address book or from other email programs, but there is no facility for importing addresses into Gmail so I'm stuck. (A email from Gmail support says that address importing is in development now.)

Gmail does save addresses from messages composed within Gmail. It'd be nice to do this for incoming mail too, Yahoo has a "Add to Address Book" link next to the "From" line. Google should do at least this, but it'd be even better to have a "save addresses" link which would identify everything that looks like an email address in the body text or in any header.

Another significant issue is that Gmail's spam filter identified all the messages I received from ParentCenter as spam! I have subsequently clicked on each and suggested to Gmail that they aren't spam and I assume that Gmail's spam filter adapts with user input. The next message I receive from ParentCenter will tell me how well this works. (Update: It didn't work well. Email from Gmail support says that if I add the sender to my list of contacts, it won't be flagged as spam. But, as I mentioned above, it's not trivial to add a sender to my contacts.)

The next annoyance is that I must click "Show External Images" every time I open a message with graphics. While having this as an option is a nice security feature, it'd be nice for Gmail to remember which messages I've already approved. Better yet would be an option such as "Always show external images from this sender". Since the main email I receive on this address now is HTML formatted newsletters and alerts, this is quite noticeable.

One final word on all of these gripes - gmail is still a beta product. I'm willing to bet that most of these missing features will eventually be implemented. Google's history has shown that they tend just do things the Right Way. Even more than that, they'll probably do something more. Gmail has shown innovative new ways of handling things like replies to replies to replies (show clickable tabs for each reply).

The Offer: Sound interesting? Want to try Gmail yourself? A new link has appeared on Gmail: Invite a friend to join Gmail. It looks like I can invite two people at this time. If you'd like to try Gmail, send email to my gmail account explaining why you should receive one of my two invitations. I don't want bribes, I want good reasons such as:

  • "I'll be a great beta tester for Google."
  • "I helped you solve a major problem on some project when we worked together."
  • "I'm your wife and I'm going to deliver your baby in a few days."
  • "If I sign up early with Gmail, I might be able to get"
I'm the sole judge of this. If my wife truly wants an account early, that'll probably bear some weight, but the second invitation will still be up for grabs.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Cicadas and Prime Numbers

The cicadas are coming. The map shown has Washington on the edge of the "Brood X" area. I was around during the Brood X's last visit in 1987 and remember that they were everywhere. If Washington is on the edge, I can only imagine what the heart of the area will be like.

The Economist has a science article about the current brood which discusses with a model that suggests

that prime-numbered lifecycles could help cicadas avoid damaging “resonances” with the two- and three-year population fluctuations of their predators... over a 200-year period, average predator populations during hypothetical outbreaks of 14- and 15-year cicadas would be up to 2% higher than during outbreaks of 13- and 17-year cicadas. That may not sound like much, but it is enough to drive natural selection towards a prime-numbered life-cycle.

Health update

The pain is now basically gone, but I'm still experiencing some fatigue. The visit to the doctor on Monday confirmed that I was suffering side effects of the lumbar puncture. I'll still take it easy over the weekend and hope to be at full strength by Monday.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Health, cont'd

Every doctor, nurse, and paramedic at the hospital on Wednesday night asked me to rate the pain of my headache on a scale of 1 to 10. When I got in, it was around 7, it dropped to about a 3 after the percocet kicked in. As the resident was prepping me for the spinal tap, I turned the tables and asked how much the procedure would hurt. He assured me that I would feel no pain, just pressure. He was right.

What he wasn't entirely clear about was the lingering effects over the subsequent days. He mentioned that I'd be in some pain and by Saturday I was pleasantly surprised that I felt (and still feel) no pain around the spot where the procedure was done. Some time later on Saturday, it occurred to me that since the headaches and neck aches I was experiencing weren't identical to the initial nasty headache, maybe it was related to the extraction of cerebrospinal fluid. Discussions ensued and a google search for "lumbar puncture neck pain" found this description of the procedure with these notes about side effects:

You may experience side effects caused by the removal of some of your cerebrospinal fluid. The most common side effect is a headache that persists for several hours or up to several days. Symptoms that may accompany a headache include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or tightness in the shoulders, base of the neck, or lower back.
(emphasis added) A doctor in my neighborhood confirmed that this sort of headache can last four days (or more!). As of Monday morning, I can remain upright for about an hour and a half before I need to rest my neck again. I see my doctor later today. We'll see what he recommends.

Saturday, May 01, 2004


It's Saturday morning and this is the first I've been online since Wednesday afternoon. Around 4:00 pm on Wednesday I started getting a headache which grew in intensity and was soon joined by cold sweat and blurred vision. I tried to leave my office, but couldn't imagine getting onto the Metro or into a cab to get home; I just wanted to lie down. I returned to my office, closed the door and did just that.

I phoned my wife and she started driving downtown to pick me up. She also called a co-worker and asked him to check in on me. He came into my office and apparently I looked lousy enough that he called an ambulance. The appearance of two building security staff, four paramedics, and a stretcher made certain that everybody in the office knew that something was going on.

My wife arrived at my office about the same time I got into the ambulance. The paramedics checked my vitals (ok) and gave me an IV (to treat apparent dehydration) and we rode the six blocks to the ER. Between the fluid injection and some prescription pain killers, I was soon feeling better, but still a little weak. I got a CAT scan on my head to make sure there wasn't any bleeding or other serious issue there and I got a spinal tap to make sure that I didn't have meningitis -- both negative, thankfully.

I checked out of the ER after about six hours with the good news that nothing serious was wrong with me and the bad news that it was still unclear just what happened. The doctor's diagnosis on the discharge form was "Headache; Atypical migraine".

Two days later and I've got prescriptions for pain and migraines but neither helps much. I feel pretty good when I'm lying down. But if I'm sitting up or standing for more than a half hour or so, my head starts aching and I get a little dizzy. The general consensus seems to be that this is stress related and that I need to find a better way to handle my stress. I don't dispute that.

Meanwhile, members of my family having been helping paint a room in our house and doing other things as we prepare for the birth of our second child in less than three weeks. Yes, my wife has been helping me through all of this while 8 1/2 months pregnant. We've had a couple friends who have heard through friends that we were in the hospital on Wednesday and naturally they've assumed that my wife had pregnancy complications or early labor! Sorry folks, it just her stressed husband getting something out of his system -- hopefully I'll be fully recovered in time to help with the new baby.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Will this marriage last?

I'm not sure, but I think I may know the couple planning this wedding.

Fear not the Google.

A few Google and Gmail related items: first, "Read My Mail, Please. The silly privacy fears about Google's e-mail service." from Slate. This author echoes my feelings about the hoopla over Google scanning my email to give me better ads (not to mention 1GB mail storage). Next, a blog post discussing what 1GB of mail storage per user might actually cost Google and a high-level view of how Google is positioning Gmail and its other services.

Lastly, as an "active Blogger user", I now have a gmail account! My account is my first initial followed by my last name -- send me something, give me something to search, let's see what ads I get. I've just now signed up, so it'll be a bit before I have anything to report.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Bye-bye xmms

I recently upgraded to KDE 3.2 (by way of Mandrake 10) and have started using the Juk audio player. Its playlist UI is much better than xmms (I've read rumors that it's similar to iTunes, but I have no experience with that). Just tell it where your music is and it builds a big list of all of your tracks.

It is, necessarily, dependent on reliable ID3 tags. It has a built in tag editor that works pretty well for individual files, but lacks some features for bulk editing. For example, a bunch of my albums had no track numbers in the tags (although the file names included the track number). Juk had no easy way to set the track number for all. After a little searching on alternate tag editors, I've been very happy with EasyTAG -- fortunately also available as Mandrake 10 package.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Interesting branding decisions

Another great contest (registration req'd?) from the Washington Post's Style Invitational, "in which we asked for things that an existing brand name would be bad for". Such as:
  • Wachovia is a good name for a bank but a bad name for a cemetery.
  • BP is a good name for a gas company but a bad name for a honey company.
  • Nordic Track is a good name for exercise equipment but a bad name for an affirmative action program.
  • Snickers is a good name for a candy bar but a bad name for a support group.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Stable sessions

I'd heard about the screen command before, but I didn't really grok it until I read a recent article at I knew that it enables multiple virtual terminals across a single telnet/ssh connection. That's nice, but I do the same thing when I open an ssh connection, launch emacs, then spawn multiple shells within emacs. The nifty thing about screen is that it decouples the telnet/ssh connection from the virtual terminals. Examples of how this can be useful include:
  • I can start a big nasty update in an Oracle sqlplus session shortly before I leave work, go home, reconnect to the screen session, monitor and commit from the same sqlplus session.
  • If I'm on an ssh connection that is apt to disconnect because of noisy phone lines or a weak wireless connection, I can continue where I left off every time I reconnect.
If you are an emacs user and don't already know about emacs' ability to save sessions, you're missing out. It won't preserve any shells or other processes running within emacs, but it will restore the "buffers, major modes, buffer positions, and so on that the previous Emacs session had." Never to be outdone by emacs, it seems that vim can also save session information.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

No viruses under linux?

While searching for details on running some windows program under Wine in linux, I discovered that the Wine devotees are testing just about everything which runs under windows.

Monday, March 01, 2004

The Junk Science of George W. Bush

[The Bush administration and right-wing allies] are engaged in a campaign to suppress science that is arguably unmatched in the Western world since the Inquisition. Sometimes, rather than suppress good science, they simply order up their own.
They're suppressing EPA reports on air quality around the World Trade Center site, replacing independent review panels with industry-selected panels and, in at least one case, let a company monitor itself:
The Bush Administration reacted to the frightening findings not by banning this dangerous chemical, as the European Union has, but by taking the studies away from EPA scientists and, in an unprecedented move, giving the chemical's manufacturer, Switzerland-based Syngenta, control over federal research. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Sherry Ford, a spokesperson for Syngenta, praised without irony the advantages of having the company monitor its own product. "This is one way we can ensure it's not presenting any risk to the environment."
Read The Junk Science of George W. Bush (which I found by way of AlterNet) and if you believe that scientists and science research should not be suppressed for political purposes, please share.

Monday, February 16, 2004

CSS Panic Guide

References, tutorials, white papers, examples on css usage over at CSS Panic Guide.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Where have you been?

Bork has a pointer to a site that will generate maps of where you've been in the US or in the world. Here's an image of the countries I've visited:

This is a little deceptive, since Hong Kong is the only part of China which I've visited and I did so a couple years before it reverted to China. Also, the site doesn't have options for French Polynesia or the Cook Islands. So, there are some small specs of red missing in the South Pacific.

Here's my image of state visits.

For most of these, I've done more than just pass through. For example, here's a map of states where I've attended weddings:

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Old McDonalds Had a Farm

A recent post at borklog got me surfing around Photoshop Phriday pages at I got stuck on the Awful Businesses list and, as the parent of a toddler, laughed out loud at this one. Oh, and my toddler really does sing the song "Old McDonalds had a farm".

Making monee from aukshuns

The New York Times has a humorous article about misspellings on ebay. One guy bought some pocket watch gears, advertised as "gers", for $2 and resold them for $200. I've added a saved search on eBay so that I'll get notified when somebody tries to sell an "IBM ThinPad".

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Not thinking too clearly

Here's a humorous story from Wired News. A conservative group put up an internet poll meant just for their members to present to Congress as an objective poll (which it would never be). Word of the poll got around to the rest of the internet and the results ended up just as lopsided as originally envisioned, but favoring the opposing view. What were they thinking? Why didn't they just make up the statistics in the first place? It would've been just as reliable and would've guaranteed the results they desired.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Addictive game alert

While listening to the State of the Union last night, I was looking at the games included with KDE and found kbounce. This appears to be a clone of a game called jezzball (15-yard penalty for excessive HTML tricks on that page). There are online java versions called BolaLoca and CatchBall. It's very addictive and my hand is cramping up from too much mouse use. You have been warned.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Presidential Jokes

Tomorrow is the Democratice Presidential Advisory Primary here in DC. It's not actually a primary because it is non-binding. There are two future steps in the process before DC's delegates are actually chosen. That's the first sad thing about this "vote".

Next, of the main Democratic Presidential candidates, only Howard Dean, Carole Moseley-Braun, Al Sharpton, and Dennis Kucinich are participating. This makes me wonder why the reminder post card sent by the party encourages us to "show your support for your favorite Democratic Candidate". Oh, and there's no accomodation for write-ins.

There is a bright side to all this. Apparently one candidate who is on the ballot is Vermin Supreme. His site is lots of fun and even makes Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich look mainstream. Mr. Supreme's main platform plank seems to be mandatory dental health, including "Dental commando squads or warrant less random no knock dental inspections. "

For a more serious look at what's wrong with this "vote", read an editorial from this week's Washington Post: "This Primary's a Joke. It Could've Been Great". It's so annoying that I'll probably just go and turn in a blank ballot.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

It's been nearly a month since my last post partly because of the holidays but mostly because I've been swamped at work. We're rolling out some new stuff on a new platform and we're utilizing teams in Bangalore, India and Tbilisi, Georgia.

Which leads me to today's link. I've often used time and to find the current time where some of my co-workers are. I even have this convenient bookmark.

But today, I discovered a page on this site which tells me that my daughter turns 1,000 days old on January 23 and other such useless information.