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+ raelity bytes
+ paul e. [LJ]
+ Rain Graves
+ gnat [use Perl;]

Syndication feeds:
# RSS 1.0 format
# Atom 0.3 format

My other sites:
- Silicon Valley Scale Modelers
- Book page for Programming Web Services With Perl

Other journals I read:
= DJ Adams
= rebecca blood
= Tim Bray
= Margaret Cho
= Warren Ellis
= Neil Gaiman
= Rafael Garcia-Suarez
= John Gorenfeld
= Lawrence Lessig
= Michael McCracken
= Jeff Vogel
= Norm Walsh
= Wil Wheaton

My journal at use.perl.org:
· Restless
· RPC-XML-0.57.tar.gz uploaded to PAUSE
· RPC-XML-0.56.tar.gz uploaded to PAUSE
· RPC-XML-0.55.tar.gz uploaded to PAUSE
· Forgive Me, Bretheren Monks
· Extry Extry: Winer Leaves the RSS Advisory Board
· RPC::XML 0.54 Uploaded
· The Books of Perl
· Good Intentions Don't Equal Good Results
· Errata Tracking Page for PWSWP
· Image::Size 2.992 Uploaded
· Props to Portland PM
· Lightning Talks
· OSCON, Tuesday
· OSCON Plans Now Set

» Blogs that link here

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We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others. — Will Rogers

Change on the Horizon 2006.12.25.22:54

With the new year, I am planning to move my "social" blogging to my LiveJournal account (rjray.livejournal.com). Thus far, I've just been using it to enable my LJ-using friends to include me in filters they create for privacy. But it has a lot of features, as any die-hard LJ user will attest, and it just makes more sense to use them than to keep trying to hack Blosxom to add the same basic functionality as already exists. Perhaps one day I'll get around to writing a nifty, pluggable, slick package of my own. But for now, LJ will fill the space just fine.

This site is not going away, though, just changing in its focus. I will be making this domain a portal for the varied blogs I keep (most of which update far too rarely, an issue I'll probably set as part of my New Year's resolutions). Specifically, I will be aggregating all of these many and varied sources into this blog. So if you prefer to read from here, not only will you not miss anything, you'll be getting more than before. Well, you may actually miss some things, because LJ will allow me to create filters for friends which will allow me to write about things that are more personal, things that I currently don't write about here because I have no control over the readership. (I could add more Blosxom plugins or write my own, but that goes back to the previous argument about using LJ instead of reinventing it.) So, you may still miss things, but you wouldn't have seen them anyway so does that really count as missing them?

At present, I plan to be collecting the following here:

The last item is a podcast that I started back in May, but which I've only managed two installments. That's also on the resolutions list.

Should I (foolishly) add any other journalling to my pantheon, those too should get reflected here. When I make the switch-over, odds are that the others will initially show up here as a flood. In the case of the LJ, Java and podcast streams that won't be too bad; the LJ account has fewer than 15 posts in it at present, and neither of the Java or podcast blogs has yet reached double-digits. The Perl blog, though, I've been using for quite some time. Whatever the limit of entries it returns in an RSS feed, expect them all to land at once. These things, they happen.

And speaking of RSS (and/or Atom) feeds, if you use them then the one from here will just be that much more useful, since it will encapsulate the whole mess. Currently, there's a syndication channel on LJ that reads the RSS feed for this site. I'm hoping to have the current one removed so that I can re-create it under my ownership (the existing one was created by a friend, but as such my ability to monitor/control it is essentially nil). I may even go so far as to customize a feed specifically for LJ-based syndication (for those of you who read this via that channel, and might be thus interested). Otherwise those who are LJ users already and have me listed as a friend will end up seeing my LJ posts twice, which is not a good way to keep people interested and reading.

# [/thoughts]

First Day on the New Job 2006.12.12.07:41

Went well, very well. I felt very welcomed by everyone here, the people I met last month at the interview and people that were new to me. Any worries I may have had about whether I made the right choice, these were laid to rest today. I'm home.

# [/thoughts]

I Hope I Know What I'm Doing This Time 2006.12.09.07:36

In about, oh, 12 hours or so, I'll be hitting the road to return to California. This isn't what I had planned for December, back in May when I left. But then, nothing has really gone as planned these last 7 months or so.

Yesterday, I had lunch with that pastor I mentioned earlier. I mentioned that I was worried that at some hidden emotional level, I'd really chosen the job in California strictly for the money. That's a dangerous reason to take a job, because you can find yourself without any foundation if the going gets at all tough. But he pointed out that I'd already talked a lot about the friends I have there in the bay area, and that it seemed to him that there was more to this choice than just the difference in salary.

Either way, I wish I'd had the foresight to stay in California. I mean, Colorado has been beautiful, my friend that I've been staying with has been super, and I've met some interesting new people. But moving a second time within the year, that's going to be the opposite of fun. Trying to pick and choose what I can fit in the Saturn and what has to be left behind... and this is just in reference to the materials I've been using on a day-to-day basis. I'm not even counting the stuff that was intended all along to stay in storage while I was in London. I've been most of the day packing, and trying to sort things into "stay" and "go" boxes. The car will be pretty full, much more so than in 1997 when I only carried a suitcase and 4 boxes of books. For one thing, I learned that I need more than that to get by on.

I just hope I know what I'm doing, taking this route. I feel good, very good about the job itself. But part of me still feels like I took the easy way out, picked the safe option rather than challenge myself. But the pastor-guy was right in that a lot of it came down to missing my friends, a lot. I would be a hell of a wreck right now, emotionally (well, moreso than I probably already am), but for the people that are waiting to greet me when I get there. My life's suck-meter is reading pretty low right now, so I am definitely stopping short of any actual complaint. But complaint and self-doubt are two different things, and I still have plenty of the latter to go around.

See you guys pretty soon, now...

# [/thoughts]

California Here I Come. Again. 2006.11.19.20:31

After weighing some very nice competing offers, I've decided to return to California to take a job with a company in Palo Alto. It means delaying my desire to migrate to London (and I say "delay" in an effort to assure myself that I can try again as some future date), and turning down an opportunity to work on the guts of the Mozilla SpiderMonkey JavaScript engine.

But lest you think I'm complaining, what it also means is that I'm going to get to do some very interesting work in high-traffic management of news feeds (as in actual journalistic feeds, not just any yahoo with a blog and an RSS link on the sidebar), with some added potential for research into semantic web issues as they apply to content itself. It also means that I'll be returning to the bay area, where I have a pretty nice circle of friends, all of whom (that I've talked to thus far) are eager to welcome me back. So while London held a certain romantic mystery for me, I'm awfully lucky to be able to go back to a place where I have so many friends and where I know the lay of the land so well.

Exact details of transition, starting-date, etc. have not been worked out (I'm actually in London as I type this). I'm eager to start as soon as I can, but in practical terms that will probably still take a few weeks, as I have to get things together in Denver, establish where I'll be staying until I've banked enough money to get a new place (not looking forward to apartment hunting again), and wrap up some contracting committments that are still outstanding. Plus, this upcoming week is Thanksgiving, and I had planned on visiting family in Mesa, Arizona. So there are several days this week where nothing will really get done, either. Still, I expect to start not later than December 11th, unless the company has paperwork-ish issues that take longer than that to work through.

So if you're in the bay area and have missed me, I shall be back in mere weeks. If you haven't missed me, at least pretend like you did. I'm going to be having enough self-doubt over the decision I made in the initial 2-3 months, until I can get more or less settled, at least let me think you're sympathetic...

# [/misc]

"Hacking Democracy" Now Downloadable 2006.11.07.10:10

Full version of Hacking Democracy downloadable from Google.

If you don't get HBO, this is your chance to check it out and draw your own conclusions.

# [/politics]

Please Please Please 2006.11.07.09:07

For all our sakes, get out and vote tomorrow. I don't care who you vote for (well, that's not true, I do care– but it isn't my business so I'm not asking or offering my own suggestions), just do it.

I don't share the optimism that so many liberals seem to be riding on. I think there are plenty of ways this can go wrong (from my perspective of "right" and "wrong"). But it would be nice to have an actual reasonable turn-out for a midterm.

# [/politics]

So, Why Did I Write in the First Place? 2006.11.07.03:08

So, yesterday I went to a church service for the first time in over 14 years. As I've written recently, I have a lot of crap rattling in my head. So I wrote to the pastor, seeing as I did in fact enjoy the service and the guy seems like a really genuine person, and, well, I found it really easy to be writing.

So now, I have a reply and I'm afraid to read it. After all, the guy might actually have something useful and/or helpful to say. Can't have that, now, can I?

# [/thoughts]

May I Leave the Country? Pretty Please? 2006.11.05.09:35

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (HSA) has proposed that all airlines, cruise lines-even fishing boats-be required to obtain clearance for each passenger they propose taking into or out of the United States.

This proposal would trump passports– whether you have one or not, you would still have to get a definitive "yes" from HSA to leave or re-enter. A non-answer would count as "no" until/unless clarified.

The article's author trips over Godwin's Law at the end, but there have been plenty of (other) regimes over the last 100 years that forbade their citizens from leaving without prior permission. And we don't want to be on that list with any of them.

May I please get a job overseas and get out of here, preferably before I have to rely on "permission" to move about freely?

# [/politics]

It Stops at My Skin 2006.11.04.09:06

I just got back (well, not just, as it's taken time for me to write and edit this) from seeing Shortbus, for the second time. I realized I hadn't reviewed it, and I will after I write this post. But for some reason, the movie leaves me highly emotional, so I want to get some thoughts written down before I dilute them with things like a movie review. They're diluted enough as it is, just from driving back home to the suburbs. Suburbs seem to have that sort of numbing effect on people, I've noticed.

I'll start off with a nice, bland disclaimer. Nothing in the whining-to-come should be interpreted as me feeling like I "identify" with some aspect of the movie. This is no tortured Emo kid's plea to be noticed and "understood". So if you think you'll find yourself smirking over any of this, you might want to just skip it. If you venture forth and end up smirking anyway, do me a favor and just move along. Don't send me e-mail tut-tuting my self-indulgent navel-gazing. Just don't.

I'll make it easier... I'll put in a cut-line to keep anyone from accidentally reading.


# [/thoughts]

A House of Worship is Not a Fortress 2006.11.04.00:01

Women acting as human shields aid escape of Palestinian militants

Okay, here's a little shift in perception for you. After establishing myself as mondo-Liberal (note the capital "L"), here's an opinion you'll probably consider to be inconsistent: the Israelis in this case should have levelled that mosque long before the women had arrived to act as shields.

I am no longer at all interested in or involved with any form of organized religion. I haven't since, hmmmm, around 1992 or so when I walked out in the middle of a Sunday-evening service when the preacher was using the pulpit to push a political, rather than spiritual, agenda. But I will say this: if you want to claim that your faith is basically peaceful notwithstanding a perceived need to fight for your own freedom, then you don't get to use your houses of worship as fortresses. If and when you do, you have defiled it and it is no longer sacred. I don't care if you are Christians holed up in a church, Jews in a synagogue or Muslims in a mosque. These 70+ gunmen were hiding in a mosque, counting on the reluctance of the IDF to seriously attack it out of concern over public perception. And to make it all the worse, they used, and I mean used, women as human shields to escape. And odds are pretty good that most of the stories we read in the media will focus more on the deaths of the two women, than on the fact that there were over 70 armed people using a house of worship as a bunker.

I'm not real fan of Israel these days. There was a time when I felt that they were just doing what they had to in order to survive as a nation and as a people. I think they've been over-stepping those bounds for a long time, now. But I have to side with them in this case, because the only thing about this situation that is more cowardly and base than hiding behind the walls of a mosque (what were the rest of the local Muslim populace supposed to use for worship, while they were doing this?), the only thing lower and more deserving of scorn, was putting out an appeal to women to come and risk being shot so that the "brave" fighting "men" of Hamas could skulk away.

That building should have been (and still could be) razed to the ground. And if I read about some weird separatist Christian sect using a church to hide weapons and/or armed persons in, I'll say the same. Ditto for temples. It's bad-enough when religion is used to justify violence in the first place, but when it's also used to protect cowardice, that's beyond the pale.

# [/politics]

"Oh my gosh, do you know what this means?" 2006.11.03.08:23

I'm fifteen minutes from the end of the HBO documentary, Hacking Democracy. And I'm having a reaction I have not yet had to any political issue before: I'm weeping.

Most of you who know me know that I am an unashamedly big-"L" liberal. And my reactions to the elections since 2000 have been pretty much all negative. I've responded with anger, disbelief, outrage and no small amount of profanity. But before tonight, I hadn't outright wept before.

In Tallahassee, Florida, on December 13th of 2005, several people from the Florida Election Commission and the organization Black Box Voting, are taking part in an exercise they're calling "The Hursti Hack". Finnish security expert Harri Hursti has claimed that the Diebold tally machines (the machines that scan the optical-recognition ballots) can be hacked in an effectively "hands-off" manner by attacking the memory cards that the machines use. Diebold officials had denied Hursti's originally written report. The report included the revelation that the memory cards contained not only data files for vote tallies, but an executable program. By hacking this program on a sample memory card, Hursti believed he could alter the votes as they were being tallied, obviating the need for trying to hack the central tabulation machines. After all, if the memory cards themselves have altered the data, your work is done for the day.

They set it up like this: Hursti is kept out of the room. He has no input in which of the scores of tally machines will actually be chosen for use. One is chosen by drawing it's number from a bowl. A test ballot is used, that has just one yes-or-no question: Can the votes on this Diebold system be hacked using the memory card? Hursti and Dr. Hugh Thompson, another security expert who had come to the conclusion that the Diebold machines could not be trusted, will vote "yes". Six others, including Leon County supervisor of elections Ion Sancho, will vote "no". After the machine is selected and placed on the table, Sancho fetches the memory card from Hursti in the other room. It is plugged in, the machine switched on, and the boot-up print-out spools from the box. We watch as all eight ballots are fed into the machine, followed by the special marker-sheet that instructs the machine to stop accepting new ballots and print the tape with the vote tally.

Final tally: seven votes "yes", a single vote "no".

Susan Pynchon, Director of the group Florida Fair Elections Coalition, utters the sentence that titles this post:

Oh my gosh, do you know what this means?

I do, Susan. I know what it means. It means the only reason I don't feel like I wasted my time voting in 2004, is because the state of California had already booted the Diebold machines out of the precincts, and offered a back-handed smack to Diebold in the process. OK, it was just one model, and Diebold got out of the suit with a laughable $2.6M settlement. But since it's already past, I'll have to settle for what reassurance I can scrounge together.

But this also means that I won't be the least bit surprised if I wake up November 8th to hear that a "surprising Republican voter turnout" is credited with them retaining control of both houses of congress.

I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.

– Waldon O'Dell, then-CEO of Diebold, in an August 13, 2003 fund-raising letter to Ohio Republicans

# [/politics]

Oh, THAT Liberal Media 2006.10.28.00:50
# [/politics]

WTF? 2006.10.26.06:00
# [/news]

The Decemberists - The Crane Wife 2006.10.25.08:10

This is another one I first heard about on NPR. It's very different from My Brightest Diamond, and in a lot of ways it's more my style. There's no really easy basis of comarison, though, so I'll stick to the merits of this one on its own.

Again, I know next to nothing about this group. The first time I even heard their name was the NPR review of this album. The review included snippets from two of the songs– "The Island" and "Sons & Daughters"– that are probably the two strongest tracks on the disc. The latter, in fact, is my personal favorite. I have yet to tire of it, and I have no idea how many times I've played and re-played it. This isn't to say that the rest of the album is weak, though. Like my last review, this is an album that has a quasi-concept feel to it, in that it plays very well from start to finish as if it were a whole musical piece in 10 segments. The other track highlighted in the review, "The Island", is itself a three-movement piece (the NPR review excerpted from the second section). And the title track, "The Crane Wife", is in three parts that are divided oddly: Part 3 opens the album, and parts 1 & 2 make up the next-to-last track. Other noteworthy tracks include "Shankill Butchers" and "Yankee Bayonet".

The sound reminds me a lot of XTC, with the vocalist coming across a little like Edward Ka-Spel of the Legendary Pink Dots. "Shankill Butchers" really reminded me of some of the simpler accoustic LPD material I've heard in the past. Musically, the group is very tight and clearly very comfortable playing together. There's a moderate progressive vibe running through the album, with some of the songs being a good distance from the "safe" 4/4 beat. I've listened to this one straight through, end-to-end, at least a dozen times since I got it last Saturday. Highly recommended.

The Decemberists - The Crane Wife

# amazon () [/entertainment/music]

Distress Starts Setting In 2006.10.25.07:39

It's starting to look less and less likely that I'll ever see London from the perspective of a resident. The job I was supposed to move there for, fell through some time ago. I've been looking for a new one by means of the recruiter who initially set me up, but it's been moving extremely slowly. At the same time, I've been looking back in the bay area, and that's moving much more quickly.

As far as conflicts go, I have no real room to be complaining. There are so many people out there with problems more serious and facing consequences more severe. "Oh no! I might have to live in California again!" Geez. Still, I'm laying awake at nights trying not to actually break into tears. I've wanted to spend time in Europe for ages, and I fell in love with London in 2000. I really thought I had shit together for this, but it's been one mis-step after another. Not all of them have been mine, but I can't blame them all on other people, either. The more I think about not living in London, the more depressed I become. It's affecting my ability to do the work I currently have, and I'm sure it affects my demeanor when I interview. I've been doing mostly OK in the interview department (I'll be in the bay area around the 8th of November to do a full-day interview with $EMERGING_INTERNET_STARTUP, to be named later when I can talk about them here), but there have been several that should have gone without a hitch but were instead train-wrecks.

To make matters worse, I feel bad about feeling bad about it. I have so many friends in the bay that I've missed terribly. When I came back to Denver, it was supposed to be for only a few weeks. Maybe a month. But I also saw myself as re-basing here, with the plan of coming back to here after finishing my great European Adventure. But instead, the time here has driven home how much I had finally put down roots in the bay, and begun to feel like I belonged. So it seems almost as though I should be elated at the prospect of moving back. And I am happy to know that if/when London does fall through, I can so easily go back to the bay and pick up where I left off. (Mostly, that is. I don't relish trying to find an apartment out there after giving up my way-below-market-rate digs in Campbell.)

Tons of people would kill if my problem was their worst dilemma. But I am still distraught over it, and don't know how this is going to eventually pan out. I prefer things to be more stable and predictable than this. I wanted to be in London, already.

# [/thoughts]

Who Am I:
Randy J. Ray
Software Engineer


Buy my book!

Programming Web Services with Perl

I've also contributed three chapters to:

Computer Science & Perl Programming

Category quick-links:


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Reading and Re-reading
· The Annotated Thursday: G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Would Be Thursday, G.K. Chesterton, Martin Gardner
· The Feeling Good Handbook, David D. Burns
· Organizing From the Inside Out, Julie Morgenstern
· XML Schema, Eric Van Der Vlist
· BEEP: The Definitive Guide, Marshall T. Rose

High in the queue
· Silk, Caitlin R. Kiernan
· Coldheart Canyon, Clive Barker
· Idoru, William Gibson
· Shared Source CLI Essentials, David Stutz, Ted Neward, Geoff Shilling

Recently finished
· Planetary Vol. 3: Leaving the 20th Century, Warren Ellis, et al

Recommended favorites
· The Cowboy Wally Show, Kyle Baker
· Lost Souls, Poppy Z. Brite
· The Alienist, Caleb Carr
· Quarantine, Greg Egan
· The Authority: Relentless, Warren Ellis et al.
· Planetary: All Over the World and Other..., Warren Ellis et al.
· American Gods, Neil Gaiman
· Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
· Neuromancer, William Gibson
· A Philosophical Investigation, Philip Kerr
· Say You Want a Revolution (The Invisibles, Book 1), Grant Morrison et al
· You Are Worthless: Depressing Nuggets of..., Oswald T. Pratt and Scott Dickers
· Cryptonomicon, Neil Stephenson
· Rising Stars : Born In Fire (Vol. 1), J. Michael Straczynski

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