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

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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

On Airports, Inefficiency and Obvious Questions 2002.12.30.03:47

My flight leaving Oklahoma was delayed for 2 1/2 hours because of a technical problem that had to be fixed. This meant missing my Dallas connection to San Francisco, so they arranged for me to take a later connecting flight. But they neglected to change the routing information on my bags, so those were not moved from the first flight to the (new) connecting flight in time. I now await the next flight in from DFW, to see if they made that flight. If not, I go home and let American Airlines bring them to my door when they finally arrive.

One thing that I thought I noticed, but really hadn't sunk in, was that the agents at baggage check-in no longer ask you the series of questions about whether your luggage had been out of your control, whether someone had asked you to transport something for them, etc. I remember prepping for the usual quick answers to these, but hadn't really noticed that I had not been asked either at OKC or when I left San Francisco last Sunday. What made me realize this was overhearing two people talking, one of whom was explaining to the other that this practice had been dropped when the new government agency had taken over airport security.

Apparently, it finally occurred to someone that no one was going to actually admit that they had left their baggage unattended, or that they were carrying any mysterious packages. Better than never realizing this, I guess...

# [/misc]

Note to Self #1 2002.12.29.17:51

Going through airport security in a highly conservative location like Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, while wearing a shirt that reads, "One by one the penguins steal my sanity", will get you noticed.

Bet on it.

# [/misc]

Welcome to the South. Here're Your Smokes. 2002.12.29.05:24

I've been almost exactly a week in Oklahoma, now. My annual trip back for the holidays, to visit family and friends. But it's a trip I look forward to less and less each year, because the longer I live in California the less tolerance I have for breathing smoke.

Say what you will about the pervasiveness of California's anti-smoking laws. But you easily forget the difference it makes until you're in a place where not only do restaurants have a smoking section, often it's larger than the non-smoking section. And if a restaurant has a smoking section, they don't really have a non-smoking section, after all.

I wonder how much of it is cultural, because the influence is everywhere. Oklahoma isn't really the deep south, but it's far enough. And smoking is pretty much everywhere– I've seen more occurances of the "I Smoke and I Vote" bumper-sticker in the last week than I've seen in the previous year. An effort to get legislation to bar smoking in restaurants was killed, so the health department mandated that restaurants either declare themselves as all-smoking, all-non-smoking, or build an enclosed smoking area with its own ventilation. The state courts struck that down, after restaurant owners protested. And they protested having to go completely smoke-free, saying that it would drive them out of business (but it hasn't in California).

In truth, I suppose the main reason I find this so much of a bother is that my own dad, in whose house I'm staying, is a three-pack-a-day man. The smell permeates all the clothing I brought with me, as well as my leather jacket and hat. I'll be coughing and wheezing for about two weeks after I get home tomorrow. I brush my teeth every chance I get, but there is a lingering ashen taste in my mouth that stems from just breathing around here (not to mention when I go out to eat with my dad). The house that I grew up in has a grey haze in all the rooms. It is important to note that it was my grandparents' house when I was raised here, and it was always impeccably clean then. Now, it's dingy and dusty with wallpaper peeling from the walls and dishes on the counter and in the sink that have sat literally for years. It's as thought the condition of the house is a purposeful metaphor for the way things have changed in general since my grandmother's passing left the house to my dad.

# [/thoughts]

Going Home Again 2002.12.28.00:58

I just spent several hours driving in and around Norman, Oklahoma. This is the town that houses the University of Oklahoma, the school I went to and graduated from (in 1990).

By the way, this is no maudlin "you can never really go home again" sort of reflection. While I'm not thrilled at some of the changes that have come to the old alma mater, this was more of a cruise through memory lane than a journey of self-immolation by means of painful recollections. College may not have been the most fun four years of my life, but the good overall outweighed the bad, and most of the places I drove past held good memories. Old apartments I lived in, the comic book store I used to buy my weekly "fix" from. The music center where the marching band formed up on game days, and the dorms I used to live in. Mind you, they're currently building an extension on to the football stadium that just makes me shake my head is resignation, but football has always reigned king here, so I shouldn't be surprised.

One thing I've had fun with is identifying businesses that have thrived and those that have died in the years since I left. A little pizza delivery chain called "Pizza Shuttle" is still in business, despite the proliferation of Dominoes. But the indie record store I used to buy from is gone. The comic store is still there, but under a new name and new management. But there are two new ones in town, as well, a pleasant surprise. And the cut-rate grocery I used to shop at is closed up, with "for lease" signs in the windows. Almost certainly a victim of a new Wal-Mart "Supercenter" store a half-mile north on the same street.

You can always go home. You just can't always expect it to look just like it did 13 years ago.

# [/thoughts]

Wholly Unsettling 2002.12.19.23:07

Mass arrests of Muslims in LA

On the one hand, these are people who have living in the U.S. more or less illegally. But they are also people who have been (presumably) law-abiding, money-earning and tax-paying members of society. The part that is the most disturbing is that all of the people are those who had chosen to willingly come forth and cooperate with the new INS components of the legislation passed in the wake of 9/11. If this is their reward to playing by the rules, what are the odds that the next time people are asked to "cooperate", that they'll have any motivation whatsoever to do so?

# [/politics]

A Two Towers Kind of Tired 2002.12.18.12:15

I just got back from a 12:01AM showing of The Two Towers. I can barely stay awake to write this, but what good is gloating unless done at the appropriate time?

A fuller review will follow. You don't really need me to tell you that it's worth seeing, do you?

# [/entertainment/movies]

Wind, Part 2 2002.12.17.01:32

Large-scale damage all over as I drove to work today. The power went out last night somewhere around 2:30 or so, based on the elapsed-time on the blinking clocks this morning. The outage must have been short, as none of the computers lost power (the UPS has about 20 minutes of juice, since there are two machines hooked up to it). Once in the office, though, it was clear that the damage wasn't just down in the south area. Numerous trees were partially or completely destroyed in and around the parking lot. The power had gone out here, as well, as all machines had re-booted themselves. File servers and such came back up in strange sequences, leaving some machines unable to connect to servers at their boot-time, since the servers in question were themselves still booting. We had problems with some production-level servers that had been jumbled by the power-cycle.

On the other hand, it puts the whole messy-apartment thing in perspective.

# [/misc]

And the Winds Come Sweeping Down 2002.12.16.08:06

As I type this, the wind here in Campbell is blowing strongly enough to rattle my patio doors, make the front door whine under the pressure, and scare the bejeesus out of my cats. I managed to be spared the power failures yesterday, but I'm really hoping to not have random debris delivered free-of-charge through any of my windows.

# [/misc]

Headlines #1 2002.12.14.01:32

Among the newsworthy things that got reported today:


# [/misc]

These Tricks Never Work 2002.12.12.09:41

But if you're so inclined to add your name to on-line petitions, I offer up this link to the Save Firefly petition. Fox TV is putting the show "on hiatus", due to low ratings. I myself would like to see the show given the chance to succeed that "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" have had.

# [/entertainment/tv]

Crackle Pop 2002.12.12.08:51

That's the sound my monitor started to make just last night.

"Crackle-pop" is fine for a breakfast cereal, but it's a damned unhealthy sound for a video monitor to be making, particularly when I'm trying to focus on Christmas shopping for friends and family.

For now, I can function by running most of my applications on the laptop, either directly or by SSH. But it is yet another unplanned expense (along with the recent brake work and camera repair) to have to work around.

# [/tech]

I Feel So Old 2002.12.08.07:40

Not even midnight, on a Saturday night, and I'm already headed for bed. Man, this makes me feel old.

today was a fairly busy day. Spent most of it at the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation, looking at and photographing museum displays. And I've been working hard on cleaning up a lot of my clutter and freeing up some space in my apartment lately. 6 hours of the former and 3-4 hours of the latter, and I'm beat.

Man, I feel old.

# [/thoughts]

Static Clings to Me 2002.12.01.08:54

There was one thing about coming to Colorado that I forget to take into account: dryness of the air, and the static that results from it.

It seems like anytime I move more than a few feet at a time, I pick up a charge. Reach for a doorknob, ZAP. Reach for my cellphone or PDA, ZAP. I shudder to think what I might accidentally do to this laptop, if I were to forget to ground myself, first.

# [/misc]

Genre Fiction and Writing for a Known Universe 2002.11.29.05:53

I just finished reading the trilogy of books by Jeanne Cavelos based on the Babylon 5 concept of the techno-mages. The trilogy, called "The Passing of the Techno-Mages", deals with the group that was briefly introduced in season two of B5, and focuses on the character of Galen who was introduced in the brief "Crusade" series. In the books, Galen is a new initiate into the order, and it deals with how the mages view the coming Shadow War, and their decision to not take any part in it. As far as fiction goes, the books are pretty decent. The pacing is good, and the plot is very compelling. The way the writer fills in the background and mythos of the techno-mages is very fascinating, and it serves to show just how under-utilized the Galen character was in "Crusade".

It also got me to thinking about the whole genre-fiction thing. I read a lot of it, it happens. I've read a lot of novels written for the White Wolf "World of Darkness" universe, specifically their Vampire: the Masquerade mythos. The techno-mage trilogy marks the second set of three I've read for the B5 universe– I read the trilogy by Gregory Keyes on the genesis, workings and eventually outcome of the Psi-Corps earlier this year. I've read some 16+ vampire books. I've also, in the past, read a select few Star Trek books and other similar stuff. Besides these, there's hundreds of book based on Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, even things like Battletech and D&D. I haven't read any of those (not even the Buffy stuff, though I'm a big fan). But if the audience weren't there, there wouldn't be so many of them.

Not all of the books I've read have been that great, and some outright stank. But I'm really drawn to them because of my interest in the source material. I'm a big fan of B5, and since learning the card game based on V:tM, I've been interested in most things related to it (without actually getting drawn in to the role-playing game itself). But it's no doubt a limited appeal, a limited audience for the books. And it makes me wonder what extra challenges the writers have to deal with, staying within the confines of the universe they're writing for.

# [/entertainment/books]

Shattering My Sense of Government Inefficiency 2002.11.27.03:04

I just went through check-in and security at San Francisco International in a whopping 10 minutes, give or take. To be fair, there wasn't a huge crowd, but that wasn't the real contributor to the speed.

I'm flying United Airlines, and when I arrived I found that e-ticket holders had an option of using self-check-in automated terminals. Using any credit card, you identify yourself to the terminal, and touch-screen-type the first few letters of your destination. You are then brought up the options of identifying how many pieces of baggage you're going to check, reviewing and changing your seat even, and finally printing your own boarding pass. All that is left is to actually hand over your baggage, have your photo ID verified and collect your baggage claim tickets. Whoom, you're ready to go. The process of security isn't that much different, but they just seemed more stream-lined in the processes. My laptop was still examined as a separate item, they still looked over my backpack more than once (I have a notepad/clipboard I keep meaning to take out, because the metal cross-spring looks funky on an X-ray), and so on. But they seemed more practiced an comfortable. No one appeared to be just going through the motions or even bored. Just... efficient.

Of course, I now have over an hour to kill before my flight even starts to board.

(And yes, I know that the use of a credit card for ID is more than a little iffy, but between the e-ticket and the frequent-flyer account that already tags me the cat is pretty much out of the bag anyway.)

# [/misc]

Duel Reviews: <a href="http://us.imdb.com/Details?0280665">Femme Fatale</a> and <a href="http://us.imdb.com/Details?0246460">Die Another Day</a> 2002.11.23.09:42

This was an odd movie day, even for me. Not one, but two films in the theatre, not even limited to DVD.

Die Another Day was a team outing for lunch at work. This is good, because I would probably have paid full price for it otherwise, Bond-fan that I am. And it isn't worth $8.75. That's too bad, because I thought The World is Not Enough to be one of the best offerings since Sean Connery hung up the dinner jacket. The biggest problems with this installment are pacing, and some area where attention to the FX was sorely lacking. There's a para-surfing scene that is just wretching in the CGI rendering. The movie drags through non-action parts, and goes almost too quickly on the action sequences, leaving you with a disoriented sense. Plus, everyone is jumping on the "bullet motion" camera bandwagon, and we just don't need it with Bond. He's already cool enough. Halle Berry is wasted as Jinx, and I hope that the rumors of there being spin-off movies for her character are just rumors. She can do so much better.

Keeping with the "it could have been much better" theme, I went to see Femme Fatale this evening. I admit it: I went to ogle Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, and watch her be really, really bad. And if that is what you want, you'll be happy. Again, pacing was the enemy, and you never really felt like Stamos' character could really pull off passing as French and fooling a savvy politician who wrangles the Ambassadorship to France. It just seems like he would know better. But this movie is all about the eye-candy and it delivers as promised. One I should definately have either seen as a matinee, or waited for video. Nothing would be lost in the transistion to the small screen, and you'll have the option of pausing and re-playing the steamy parts.

# [/entertainment/movies]

Not Very Good at This 2002.11.22.20:12

5 days since my last journal entry. This is generally what would happen in the past, when trying to keep a "traditional" journal. A burst of energy and activity at first, followed by a lull, then eventually I'd just quit writing entirely. I'm hoping to break that cycle with this one, though.

It does beg the question, however, as to what role a journal like this should play. Some of the writers who's journals I read keep them light, just using them as a forum for sharing interesting URLs and the occassional life update. Others, like Doc Searls, tend more to issues with the occassional glimpse into a personal life. And some I know of are intensely personal, written for the writer's own benefit first and foremost, and if others find something they can use in there, that's OK too.

I'm not a very open person, so I don't know where I'll eventually end up feeling comfortable. I do note that as I write this, almost a third of my entries are entertainment-related, owing to my love of movies and books. And very little is actually about me, or should I say, about me.

# [/misc]

Another Present from Red Hat 2002.11.17.12:38

I'm currently converting all my MP3 files to Ogg Vorbis format, not because I want to be particularly correct about things, but because the new version of XMMS that Red Hat 8 installed won't play MP3 files. Another decision they chose to make for me, on my behalf. Thank you so very much.

# [/tech]

Petition to Withdraw from the Human Race 2002.11.17.12:31

Respectfully submitted.

I either have no sense for judging the sincerity and trustworthiness of my friends, or I just have no sense of how to be part of society. And hours of watching TV (another third of "24") nor comfort food until I'm sick has made any difference.

I have no right to complain, really. So I won't.

I'm pretty sure it's just me. It's like that humorous take on the Inspirations series of posters, this one called "Dysfunction":

The common element in all your failed relationships is you.

And that is totally, completely true. It's me. All me, me me me.

If you're reading this and you think I'm talking about you, I can almost promise that I'm not. Don't read anything into it that isn't here in plain text. Seriously.

# [/misc]

Mystery of the Batteries Solved 2002.11.16.11:13

It seems my voltage converter was the problem. Back in the U.S., where I can feed the recharger clean, unfiltered 110AC, it seems to work just fine. Batteries charged using it lasted the full model club meeting this evening.

# [/tech]

I Feel So Dirty 2002.11.12.18:01

I laughed when I saw that Starbuck's shops were popping up in London, thinking that they probably wouldn't be able to compete with the existing café culture here. And of course, I don't even go into Starbuck's at home, I'm certainly not doing so here.

I'm in the Starbuck's on Old Broad St., near Liverpool St. station. Why oh why am I in the lair of corporate conformity?

They're currently doing a trial-run of providing wireless network access with T-Mobile. It's free, and they even have power outlets to plug my laptop into. That's why.

But I'm only drinking a juice. I don't even like coffee, anyway.

# [/misc]

Well Bugger it All 2002.11.12.17:46

I'm determined not to let the last day or so ruin my trip. But suffice to say that this hasn't been as wide-eyed and magical as my first trip to London was.

My problems with the digital camera and its batteries persisted. Then when we got to the RAF Duxford air museum, I found that something had caused corrosion in the battery compartment of my 35mm camera's flash. It was completely unusuable. On top of that, something must have jarred the lens assembly, as it wouldn't focus properly unless the zoom lens was completely inward, at the closest range. So all my indoor photography had to be done with the digital, but I was going through batteries so fast that I had to use the 35mm outside. Then I had to play focusing games.

When I got to my hotel, I found that despite having booked online with a credit card, I was expected to pay at the time, and pay in cash no less. So I had to go find a cashpoint (ATM) and get the funds. Then I found that my room was on the 4th floor, which in English English means the fifth floor. The ground floor is called exactly that, and the next floor up is where the numbering starts. Then I find that they have no elevator, so I have to schlep my baggage up the stairs. And stairs in London are really fucking narrow. And steep. But I made it, rested up a bit, and went out for a bite of dinner and a wander.

Dinner was passable, but I should have known better than to wander. For one thing, my feet were already heinously sore from all the walking at the show and at Duxford earlier that day. But I wanted to wander SOHO again, since it had been so, well, vibrant last time. What happened was, I ended up getting conned by a very slick pair of street-hustlers who led me to believe I was getting a ticket to a sold-out show. Through that con and some good sleight of hand, I ended up out of about £60 ($120). The worst part isn't the money, though that part did hurt. The pisser is that I should have known better, and even ignored some red-flags early on in the conversation that I should have paid more attention to.

Then, to just crown the evening, as I was walking to the bus to get back to my hotel, a blister on one of my feet broke. So now I'm hobbling along, it's well past midnight (hence the bus, rather than the tube), I'm out a notably amount of money, and then it hits me...

I have to climb five flights of stairs when I get to the hotel.

# [/misc]

The Lovely Countryside 2002.11.11.20:05

The B&B we've stayed in here in Telford is lovely. It's very, well, English:

Of course, the centerpiece of English civilization (Oops– I mean civilisation) is the pub. And there are about three of them within walking distance of the B&B. The one my friends prefer is called "The Bird in Hand", and it's the farthest of the three. But last night we decided to check out the one next door to it, called "Robin Hood". What a night we were in for.

First of all, it was their monthly musician's jam night. Your typical amateur folk music gathering. One guy on guitar and banjo, and older one on fiddle, and a woman with a flute and accordian, who also occassionally sang. But later on, two guys came over and specifically invited the five of us to come over and join them. They were so intrigued by the large-ish group of Californians, that they started fishing around for American songs to sing. While the rendition of "Blowin' in the Wind" was pretty good, "All Along the Watchtower" was just plain painful.

One character, called Rich, was definately what they would call a "nutter" in local parlance. Dude was flakier than pastry wrapping on the Cornish Pasty I tried. Of course, our friend Mike is just as bad, and the two hit it off famously. When we left at 9:00 or so, pleading our early morning as reason for the early night, Mike stayed. We later found that he left 2 hours (and 2 more pints) later.

In an unusual move for me, I decided to get into the spirit of things by having a pint of Guiness, my first. Not too bad, but I think most beer is an acquired taste. And if I haven't acquired the taste by now, I probably never will.

# [/misc]

Must Be My Magnetic Personality 2002.11.10.14:30

Local time: About 2:30, Sunday the 10th

I'm having a shit time with batteries on this trip. Yesterday, trying to use the laptop without any A/C available, I dropped to 40% battery within about 15 minutes. From about 8:00 this morning until just now (2:20 PM) opening up the laptop and plugging it in here at the show, I had drained off 7% or so of the battery just sitting in my backpack suspended. I have three sets of NiMH rechargable batteries for my digital camera, but none of the three sets have lasted more than 10-12 pictures. One set doesn't seem to work at all. I bought a set of plain alkalines this morning, and have thus far today gotten more play from them than I have from the three rechargeable sets combined.

# [/tech]

Around the Floor in Telford 2002.11.09.15:57

I'm here at the IPMS/UK Nationals in Telford. It's a very different kind of modeling show than what we generally see in the U.S., especially where the competition part of the show is concerned.

The show here fills two of three halls at the Telford International Centre (Telford is in Shropshire, near the Welsh border, for those who are interested). Overall, it is roughly twice the floorspace of the largest IPMS/USA National conventions I've been to. But it isn't just a matter of simple square-footage. There are a lot of differences that are regardless of size, that say a lot about the different hobby cultures.

In the U.S., the conventions are about two things: the model contest itself, and vendors selling products. The contest area is usually half the total floorspace. There are no displays outside of competition, except for a few things on vendor tables intended to illustrate their offerings.

In contrast, the show here is much more about display and exhibition than competition or sales. There are more vendors here than you'll find at a U.S. show, but they take up just over half of the space. The contest is about 10% of the space. The remaining space is taken up by club and SIG (Special Interest Group) displays, plus a few non-sales-oriented exhibits by big-name manufacturers like Revell and Tamiya, or displays by groups that aren't necessarily modeling-oriented, like the Aviation Heritage Society.

That's an interesting set of numbers to look at: the show is twice as large, but the competition part is just 20% the size of the U.S. event. Instead, there are a lot of displays here that just aren't present at the U.S. show. Most of the models that are in the competition here are really, really good. It's not a matter of lack of skilled entries, but just a different focus for the show itself. Less about winning, more about socializing.

# [/hobby]

Aircraft Enthusiasts Cleared 2002.11.07.08:34

Planespotters cleared of espionage

This is a relief. I do this anytime I travel. Mostly, I go for museums, but any chance to take pix of the real thing I go for, especially military stuff.

# [/hobby]

Hours From Departure 2002.11.07.08:21

Within about 16 hours, I'll be en route to London, England. I'm going for the IPMS/UK National Convention in Telford, Shropshire. I'll also get to take in a few air museums, and I'll be kicking around London itself for Monday night and all of Tuesday.

One really cool thing is that the good folks at London.pm, the London Perl User's Group, have called an "emergency meeting" for that Tuesday night. A pub gathering more or less in my honor (and because they'll do anything for another night out drinking), which will be a great way to finish up the trip.

Journal writing will be sporadic, since I don't know what kind of access I'll have. I plan on doing some net.stumbling, but no guarantee I'll find a useful signal.

# [/misc]

Bugger 2002.11.06.10:28

CNN Projects GOP to Win Senate, Hold House

This just depresses the living hell out of me. If I don't return from England, this will be why.

Many of my friends think I'm too reactionary about the GOP and the president. I look at this, and see a war-mongering simpleton who's only real constraint thus far has been the resistence he gets from the Senate. Now we have a senate that will be more likely (I feel) to give him all the go-ahead he wants. The worst part will be the committee changes. They'll have the chance to take back things like the Judicial Oversight committee. We'll see all the far-right judicial candidates now, and I expect most of them will get their appointments. Don't expect to see anything more than a slap on the hands to the happy-go-lucky campers at Enron and WorldCom. They might not have gotten more than that anyway, but the chances of real recriminations are even lower, now.

As are my hopes for the short-term future.

# [/politics]

It All Started With the Giant Rabbits 2002.11.06.10:16

As most in the U.S. should have known, today (well, yesterday, to be pedantic) was election day. A lot of key Senate seats were up for grabs, all of the House (as always), and several governor positions. On top of all this was the usual mix of state and local elections, ballot initiatives, etc. Only this year, I talked myself out of voting.

I think my voter apathy can be traced back to the 1976 campaign year. I was 8 years old, and I and my 6-year-old brother had talked our parents into letting us stay up to watch one of those "nature gone horriby wrong" horror films, one about giant rabbits (whose title I can't remember). I remember it was on pretty late, so it must not have been a school night (and ergo not the actual election day that year). Anyway, something political pre-empted our movie feature. We tried our damnedest to stay awake, hoping that the movie would still show. We fell asleep in front of the TV. Some aspect of politics was more important than our movie about giant rabbits terrorizing the countryside.

I obviously still have issues with this.

So, I didn't vote after all, despite telling several people that I would. If the issues I considered important don't pass, I'll have to accept that I didn't do my part. I couldn't motivate myself to vote for Gray Davis as our governor, even though I sincerely believe Bill Simon would be much worse. And none of the third-party candidates have enough clues between them to start a fire, much less run California. Oh well. I suppose I'll go check CNN and see what I've missed so far.

# [/politics]

Time-Wasters I Don't Complain About 2002.11.05.09:25

I've recently added a new TV show to my weekly allotment. That show is the Fox real-time drama, 24.

I avoided it all of last season, because the time-slot was kind of inconvenient, and because I wasn't sure about the hype. But I watched the season premiere last week, then watched it again tonight. It's some pretty damned impressive TV. Because of this new-found fascination, I went and rented the first of the three pairs of DVDs for last season (it comes as a set of six discs, two per case). 8 hours of the first season (6 to be honest, since there aren't any commercials), a ration that should have lasted me until tomorrow, at least I rented these on Saturday, and I finished them on Saturday. And if I weren't heading off to England this Thursday, I'd have already gone in search of the second pair.

I'm pretty picky about my TV-watching, I don't channel-flip anymore (on rare occassion, at least). But this is definately worth tuning in to again.

# [/entertainment/tv]

DVD Review: <a href="http://us.imdb.com/Details?0291341">Mean Machine</a> 2002.10.30.00:37

Think The Longest Yard, only with soccer instead. Well, to the English and the Europeans (and most of the rest of the non-U.S.A. world) that is football. Which is fitting, since it's a mostly-English cast, and set in an English prison.

No sense wasting space with plot summary, either of the above links can give you that. The cast is very heavy on faces familiar from the two Guy Ritchie London-gangster films, especially star Vinnie Jones (who's had some limited success in Hollywood stuff like Swordfish and Gone in 60 Seconds). The movie has plenty of (British) humor, lots of good dialogue, and is very true to its original material, even keeping some scenes identical in pacing and blocking.

A fun two hours or so, with some decent demonstrations of Jones' football skill. Makes me want to pull out my copy of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

# [/entertainment/movies]

Tuesday is Head-Shrinky Day 2002.10.30.00:37

Like a staggeringly-large number of Americans, I'm currently in therapy. Unfortunately, my exact and specific goals are not very well-defined at this point. In the general, nebulous sense I want to stop my procrastination, or at least significantly reduce it. Beyond that, there are a lot of other issues of varying degrees of severity and importance (some of which I may even write about in a future installment). But for now, I'd be happy to kick this habit of pissing away whole evenings and/or weekends.

Today, right at the very end, something slipped out that has been bothering me ever since, like when I pick up a few loose grains of cat-litter on my sock, and they proceed to irritate the sole of my foot in the shoe the rest of the day. You're probably quite familiar with the feeling.

We'd been talking about a close friend of mine, and some conflicts I'd had not some much with, as related to, her. As time was winding down, shrink says, "Let's get back to Randy for the last few minutes." Without even thinking about it ahead of time, I just chuckled and said, "Why? There isn't any 'Randy' to get back to. Haven't you figured that out yet? All I am is my reactions to others."

I wish I hadn't said that, because now I can't quit trying to figure out just what I meant by it, or where it came from. Grrr.

# [/thoughts]

Movie Review: <a href="http://us.imdb.com/Details?0298130">The Ring</a> 2002.10.27.09:59

Went to see this on a lark, as I had time to kill and the theatre showing it is walking distance from the apartment. Plus, I'd heard lots of good things about it (and the guys at Penny Arcade seemed to like it). And hey, I've had a soft-spot for Naomi Watts since she was in Tankgirl.

The premise comes from an urban legend. I think. Or the urban legend was started by people who read the original Japanese story. Something like that. Anyway. The movie opens with these two high school girls having a sleep-over, and one is telling the other about "the tape". "The tape", in this case, is a mysterious video tape that, when watched, causes the death of the viewer exactly seven days later. One of the girls has seen it, and is starting to take the threat seriously as the 7-day mark is mere minutes away. Well, as has already been told in previews and other reviews, she dies. And at the exact same time, the other 3 teens who watched it with her also die.

This draws in the attention of the girl's aunt (Watts), a reported for a Seattle-area newspaper. Her sister (the victim's mother) asks her to try and find out what happened. She traces the tape back to a remote vacation cabin, and and watches it herself. When it finishes, the phone rings and a little girl's voice says, "seven days". At first, she doesn't believe it, and is looking for some other cause. But then things start to happen, her ex-boyfriend sees it and starts to have things happen, and then her small son sees it, making solving the mystery much more important.

The movie is very well-paced, and relies on suspense over shock to deliver the frights. Things twist where you expect them to turn, and step left when you are expecting them to go right. You won't see the bigger twists coming, more than likely, and it may even succeed in tricking you as to how things are going to end. The way in which the various parts fall together is very creative.

This is easily one of the better films I've seen this year. All the main characters play their parts well. Almost all are unknowns, save for Watts herself who's starting to be a known entity since last year's Mulholland Dr. The child actor playing her son is at least as good as Haley Joel Osment was in The Sixth Sense. The editing may seem a little MTV-like in places, but it suits the mood when it happens. And the rest of it is just appropriately dark and gloomy.

Well worth your money.

# [/entertainment/movies]

Pax Richard Harris 2002.10.25.23:12


A fine performer, who among other things helped thaw my anti-Harry Potter layer of ice. Travel well, good King Arthur.

# [/entertainment/movies]

From the Id, #1 2002.10.25.21:16

A couple of funny links of very questionable morality, partly so I can share with you all and partly so I can have a more permanent record of the URLs:

This is an actual historical stained-glass:

Talk Dirty to Me!

# [/funny]

Eyes Wide Open 2002.10.25.02:57

I've been having a lot of problems with insomnia lately. And to be honest, it isn't really lately that this has been happening. I stopped to think about it this morning as I hurried to get dressed and get to work (later than I had meant to be leaving, of course). I've been saying that my insomia has been acting up "for weeks now". But I've been saying, "for weeks now" for a month or so, now.

So I've been trying to figure out what might have been a likely trigger for this. Mind, I've never slept that well at all. But the insomnia will ebb and flow over time. For about 6-8 weeks now, it's been at high tide. I can only think of two really large-scale events that have happened in the window of time I'm looking at: starting my current job at Tellme, and finishing my book for O'Reilly. As it happens, either of these could be what's messing with my head.

I took this job knowing ahead of time that it would be a serious cut in pay over what I had been making at Red Hat. But I had been unemployed for about three months at the time, and the market out here is still pretty dicey. It was this job or one at Oracle. Oracle offered me $5K/year more, but the commute would have been about 25 miles longer, and the environment much less accomodating. This seemed like a good thing at the time, but my first task assignment was to take over a project in Java, a language I'd never written commercial-grade code in. To add to it, about 4 weeks in I was told that they weren't happy with my productivity thus far. Most of that time had been spent trying to get up to speed on Java while also getting familiar with the (badly-written) code. So there's pressure here, pressure that I don't feel I should have to suffer under.

Alternatively, I have to admit that I found myself somewhat listless and adrift after finishing the book. I had been so focused and driven towards finishing it for the last few months, that when it was done I felt kind of disoriented, like being woken up from sleepwalking. Technically, it's not done, in the sense that I just finished editing the first round of galley proofs this past weekend, and will have to do that once more before it actually goes to the publishers. But after 8 months of being so focused, it isn't as easy to channel that energy elsewhere. Not as easy as I had expected it to be, at least.

And on top of it all, I fully expect to lay awake tonight, as well.

# [/thoughts]

JPB on GWB 2002.10.25.00:29

By way of Doc Searls, I saw this piece by John Perry Barlow.

I listened to Barlow speak years ago, at either a USENIX conference or one of the early open source events (can't quite remember). He's an interesting one, founding member of the EFF, rancher, former lyricist for the Greatful Dead. And he's a very engaging speaker.

And very much a capital-L Liberal, so be warned before reading.

# [/politics]

Another Soul to the Dark Side 2002.10.24.00:45

While following a twisting trail of links between LJ users' entries, I found myself reading about how Arianna Huffington has shifted her political thinking. I find this very interesting, as she was one of the less-shrill, less-vitriolic voices on the Right when I watched her point/counterpoint segments with Al Franken on Dennis Miller's HBO show.

Now she's got some really good things to say about both the insipid "the joint I bought helped kill a Columbian family" anti-drug ads and the over-consumerism of the SUV society. Read it here.

# [/politics]

Hitting Snooze, Pushing Pause 2002.10.23.22:33

I procrastinate. I mean, I put things off as if putting things off were an Olympic sport and I was training for the gold. I hit the snooze button on my (multiple) alarm clock(s) each morning repeatedly. I look at things that need doing (taking the trash out, picking up trash and clutter) and just choose not to do them. That's not quite it— I do get those things done, just usually it happens later than I mean for it to.

This dogs me in a lot of ways. I don't spend as much time on my hobbies as I truly want to. I have a lot of ideas for software that I've never pursued. I want to exercise more, work out more often, but manage to convince myself that I don't have the time. I do have the time, I just don't use it wisely.

Time seems to drain away from me, without my knowing exactly what has happened to it. Much like my money often does, I guess. I can't point to any one or two big expenditures, yet I'm often broke in the days leading up to payday. And with time, I can't point to things I recall spending time on, I just don't seem to get anything done. In the past week, I've gone to a party and gone to a movie. Oh, and I went to dinner with friends on Sunday. But that barely accounts for the free time I've (supposedly) had. Some of the time is lost on playing games. Less of it is used for TV than used to be (I only watch about 8 hours a week with any regularity). But it slips away.

# [/thoughts]

Movie Review: <a href="http://us.imdb.com/Details?0310793">Bowling for Columbine</a> 2002.10.22.19:49

I don't plan on defending Michael Moore or his gentle way of making a point with the subtlety of a sledgehammer opening a soft-boiled egg. I've never sat all the way through one of his movies before. But I wanted to see this one, since I used to live near Littleton, CO.

The movie isn't as focused specifically on Columbine as one would guess from the title. The title itself is derived from the supposition that the two Columbine shooters had gone bowling in the early morning before launching on their rampage. The movie also points out that they were actually in a bowling class, a physical ed. elective, as the reason for the morning's entertainment. It also points out that the same day as the shootings, the U.S. embarked on it's single-largest one-day bombing campaign over Kosovo.

From there, the movie goes in a different direction than one would suspect. While it certainly focuses on the enthusiasm for guns that permeates American society, Moore focuses more closely on the culture of fear that seems to be just as prevalent. He looks to European countries to compare violent histories, and looks to Canada to compare gun-ownership numbers. There are an estimated 7 million guns in the 10 million homes in Canada. Considering the ratio of gun-ownership to the general population, the fact that Canada's gun-death numbers are so drastically lower than ours is nothing short of amazing.

Among the people Moore interviews are Columbine survivors and parents, townsfolk from Flint, MI, where a 6-year-old boy took a gun to school and shot a classmate, gun dealers, Michigan Militia, and Charleton Heston himself. He also speaks with Marilyn Manson, who was widely blamed for the actions of the Columbine shooters:

If you could talk to the parents at Columbine, what would you say?
Nothing. I'd listen. No one's done that yet.

There were laugh-out-loud moments in the movie, and some frighteningly sad ones. I recommend the movie, but with some reservations. It can be very emotionally heavy at times. But I think it's less preachy than his earlier films, and I think it makes some really valid points.

# [/entertainment/movies]

Shooting People to Better Society 2002.10.19.09:00

If I manage to see just one movie this weekend, I intend to see Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine. And when I do so, I'll be sure to review it here.

I'm not really that strong in my stance on guns. I think they're too prevalent, and too easy for the wrong people to get. But I know several people who are intelligent, capable, and able to own and maintain their firearms responsibly (this guy notwithstanding). But I just don't know that I believe it's a right to have one. Dunno. Not going to expound on this right now.

# [/politics]

I am Blizzard's Bitch 2002.10.17.09:24

I have come to realize and accept that I am pretty much powerless to resist the lure of a well-written game. In fact, my Windows machine on my home network pretty much exists to be a game platform. I told myself that I was going to use it to cross-develop web pages and test them on Internet Explorer (which I do), and that I would make it dual-boot into BeOS (which I did). But to be honest, about all it's done is play games. Diablo II, Civilization III, and now Warcraft III.

There are other games that I play from time to time. But the truth is, I like the simulations, and Blizzard has a good grip on that market. Thanks to Blizzard (the makers of Diablo, Warcraft, and other forms of PC-game-crack that I dare not bring into my home), I have a $500 game console, and I often find myself up until all hours.

Like tonight.

# [/entertainment/games]

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman 2002.10.17.07:04

I just finished this book last week, and I must say this is one of the best books I've read in years. I'd owned the book for a few months, and finally "forced" myself to start reading it. Once I started reading it, I seriously had to force myself to put it down each night. Many nights, I was up far too late reading "just one more chapter".

I first started reading Neil Gaiman with his excellent "Sandman" comic series done for DC Vertigo. Years later, I picked up what is still my absolute favorite book to this day: Good Omens (which he co-authored with Terry Pratchett). I've lost count of how many people I've loaned it to (and it's currently in someone else's hands even now).

Gaiman has a way of looking at humanity's pantheon of beliefs and worshipful figures that I can't really describe with any fairness. This was evident in Sandman, in which the old golden-age character became the basis for introducing the family of the Endless, seven siblings all with names that started with "D". This book is even better, in a lot of ways, to the magic he worked on the personas of Dream, Death, Delerium and the others.

In a simplified nutshell, the main character (Shadow, just a name, just an ordinary guy) is on his way home for his wife's funeral. He was let out of prison a few days early for the event, and the thought of returning to his wife was all that had kept him going for the three years on the inside. On a plane, in a funk, he meets a guy who calls himself "Wednesday" who knows way more about Shadow than he should, and who offers him a reasonable job being personal aid and bodyguard to the mysterious Mr. Wednesday. Soon Shadow, and the reader, is meeting personalities ranging from Czernobog to Kali from the pantheon of old gods, and meeting some damn unpleasant personalities from the pantheon of the new gods, who don't seem to want to share humanity with their forebears.

The book isn't science fiction at all, and while it qualifies as fantasy, it's not the swords-and-wizards-and-dragons kind of fantasy that you get from Tolkien or even Rowling. I have a hard time categorizing it, but I had no trouble at all enjoying it. All I can say is, get the book. Read the book. I predict you will enjoy the book.

# amazon () [/entertainment/books]

The Difference Between Knowing and <i>Knowing</i> 2002.10.11.09:02

I've lately been trying to learn to use a different brand of paints for some of my modeling work, in particular for figurines. It's a neat brand out of Spain called Vallejo, and what makes it different from my other paints (besides the color selection) is that it's an acrylic paint, rather than an enamel like most of my modeling paints, or oils like what I generally use on my figures.

My reasons for trying are two-fold; I want to be able to work more quickly, and acrylics dry much faster than oils. In addition, I can buy these much more conveniently, from my local hobby shop. For the oils the best I can hope for is Michael's having the color I need. Failing that, it's a local supplier that isn't open convenient hours, and failing that I have to mail-order. Plus, I would feel a lot less paranoid about taking my kit to work to dabble on during lunch, if I weren't worried that the oils were getting smeared by the jostling of the car.

Problem is, acrylics aren't anything like oils, and in a lot of ways they're harder to work with. With oils, the plus side of the long drying time is that I have a lot of working time with the pigment, to blend and shade as I like. Not so with acrylics. I have only a little bit of time, even when I use a medium that slows the drying time. (Then I have a matter of minutes, rather than seconds.) So I'm having a lot of trouble, and I almost gave up, thinking that my oil technique was just fine, and I'd go back to it. Problem is, I haven't worked on anything in so long, I've also gotten really rusty with the oils.

What really annoys me about this is that I know, on an intellectual level, what to do to get the results I want. I know what colors to mix, and what brushes to use for which areas of the figure. But knowing and knowing are two very different things. Truth is, my fleshtones look either jaundiced or like flash-burn victims. The surface of my painted areas are rife with brushmarks. It's frustrating, this knowing but not knowing.

Programming can be that way, a lot of the time. I've had to learn Java for my current job, but I haven't written anything significant with it. So while I know Java, I don't know Java. The code I write isn't as good as it could be. If I had the luxury of a learning process like I had for Perl or C, the code would look a lot better. And I could say the same thing for Lisp, C++, Tcl/Tk and a few other languages that I can write applications in, if absolutely needed, but in which I would have a hard time writing applications well.

Fortunately, I'm a patient person. As much as I want to give up, I can get myself to calm down and keep going. So I go now to take yet another stab at painting with these thrice-damned acrylics. Because I've seen photos of others' work, so I know good results can be had. And if so, I can get those results as well, eventually.

# [/thoughts]

My Hometown Would Knock Him Right Out 2002.10.10.06:36

I'm actually watching Comedy Central's "Insomniac with Dave Attell". I usually pass on it, but the TV remote is out of reach and I don't want to stop typing long enough to reach it, and besides "The Daily Show" is about to come on.

Basically, "Insomniac" is comedian Dave Attell trying his best to find something to do all night in whatever town he's gigging in. Tonight, it's Memphis. I've caught tail-ends of shows before (when switching on for "The Daily Show") in places like New Orleans and the like. But that's no real challenge– even I could manage to keep myself occupied all night in those places.

You want to impress me? Occupy yourself until the wee hours in any of these places:

  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • Gainesville, Texas
  • Apache Junction, Arizona
  • Anywhere other than Fargo, North Dakota
I mean, anyone can get through the night in Long Beach or San Diego. Try doing it in Turlock, Dave...

# [/entertainment]

I Am Become Mine Own Enemy 2002.10.08.10:42

Stopping for groceries on the way home, I did the sort of thoughtless thing that I silently (or even not-so-silently) curse others for doing: I went through the 15-item-limit checkout lane with 16 items. I didn't mean to do it; I rarely buy more than 9 things at a time (since I only cook for myself). But this time, a particular brand of canned chili that I really like (Stagg "Dynamite Hot" flavor) was on sale, 8 cans for $8. I ran through most of my stock of canned goods while unemployed. Not because I was that close to being destitute, but because I was highly focused on finishing THE BOOK, and I tended to eat at home to make the best use of my time. So the chance to re-stock was not one to be passed up. But it led to a cardinal sin (well, more of a bishophoric goof, to be fair).

It's not that I think what I did was a great affront to humanity in and of itself, and neither the checker nor the fellow behind me made any indication of my having caused them an inconvenience. No, the guilt to be confronted here is that of not living up to the standards I expect of others. I get annoyed by people who are insensitive and do this sort of thing, so I have a responsibility to not be that kind of person. On the one hand, I can see that perhaps people I've been annoyed with might not have consciously done this (though there have been a few times when it was clear from their conversation while waiting in line). But the real thing for me is to remember that if I'm going to have expectations of others that I consider reasonable, like not slowing the express line up with over-quota items, then it's only fair that I show the same consideration.

All that, and I ended up eating something entirely different for dinner, as well.

# amazon () [/misc]

More Easily Entertained with Age 2002.10.05.01:55

I'm far less critical of movies now than I was just 5-6 years ago. Movies remain my favorite form of entertainment, since reading is so often work-related more than for pleasure. Lately I've been reading more, but movies still hold a special place.

So it takes an especially bad movie for me to not enjoy at least some of it. Lately, I've seen more of those than I have really good movies. I was talked into seeing Goldmember by a friend, who has yet to apologize. I also recently managed to see Road to Perdition recently, though I wasn't as impressed as I expected to be. But I had really wanted to have the bad taste of the earlier stinkers washed clean, and it didn't quite accomplish that.

As a result, I've found myself becoming more of a DVD-watching shut-in sort of movie fan. I judge a movie less for whether I really want to spend the money to see it, than for whether it's important to see it on the big screen. Episode II was. Many more weren't.

# [/entertainment]

The Trick is to Keep Breathing 2002.10.04.02:25

I've resisted the whole "blog" movement for the longest time, for no small reason that the word "blog" drives me nuts. It ranks right up there with people who insist on pronouncing acronyms that really don't need to be made into words. Is "GUI" so taxing that it's worth calling it "gooey" just to shorten things by one syllable?

But that's a screed for a different time. A time perhaps when I create a special category for "rants".

For now, I'm owning up to being a joiner, a late-comer to the personal journal revolution. My main motivation was two-fold: I wanted someplace to talk about things that aren't related to Perl, and I came across this niftly little application that I'm using for the log. Special mention to Rael for the work on blosxom. We'll just see where it goes from here.

# [/misc]

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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30 31          

Apr May Jun
Jul Aug Sep
Oct Nov Dec

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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