Living Life and Writing About It

Life and Stories

Yikes, I’ve let too much time slip past since my last entry again! Seems like when I’m doing things worth writing about I get too busy to write. And when I have time to write it’s because I’m not out doing anything worth writing about. Didn’t Sartre say something along those lines? (one quick Google search later):

For the most trivial event to become an adventure, all you have to do is start telling about it. This is what deceives people: a man is always a teller of stories, he lives surrounded by his stories and the stories of others, he sees everything which happens to him through these stories; and he tries to live his life as if it were a story he was telling. But you have to choose: live or tell…While you live, nothing happens…but when you tell about life, everything changes.
–Jean-Paul Sartre ,Nausea, 1938

That about sums it up. When I’m busy living, there’s nothing new here on my home page. One has to wonder what Sartre would have thought of weblogs.


Having spent some time hacking on mod_virgule, I’d have to agree with Raph’s comment about scalability issues. I don’t see any reason the trust metric algorithms themselves couldn’t be scaled up to a site the size of Slashdot if needed. Any slowness on Advogato is just due to file I/O from the particular XML setup. And now that mod_virgule is seeing active development again, I’m sure any performance issues with the XML will be addressed before long.


I’ve been spending the weekends lately playing with some new lenses I picked up on eBay. After a bit of practice, I’ve managed to get some decent shots of a variety of birds. One of these days I’m going to get around to putting some photo galleries up here on my web site. My latest toys are a set of extension tubes for macrophotography. With spring on the way, I’ll probably be out trying to get some interesting shots of insects and the like. Getting the extension tubes proved to be my one bad experience in more than a year of buying and selling on eBay. I was a little hesitant to bid at first due to some negative comments the seller had (speaking of trust metrics – eBay badly needs a real trust metric system!). Anyway, I bid and won the tubes, sent a check (which was immediately deposited), and then heard nothing for weeks. I emailed the guy to find out what the hold up was and got an email saying the item had “just been shipped priority mail”. After another week I started getting various random excuse ranging from family problems to lost passwords. Eventually, he stopped replying to my email altogether. Then the guy’s eBay account was mysteriously closed. I contacted some other people who had bought stuff from him and discovered they too had paid but not received anything.

At this point I contacted eBay and they recommended filing a mail fraud complaint. They also provided the phone number the seller had given for his eBay account. I called the number only to find it belonged to a relative of the seller. They gave me another number and told me in somewhat more colorful language that they had nothing to do with the guy and didn’t think very highly of him. So I called the number they gave me, talked to someone who claimed to be the daughter of the seller, and was promised that I would be contacted shortly. I explained that this was my last effort and that if nothing happened, I would probably follow eBay’s recommendation of pursuing a fraud complaint. Four days later a package arrived with my extension tubes. In the future I’ll probably follow my instinct more closely and hopefully avoid sellers like this one.

Music and Pneumatic Launch Vehicles

I think I’ve finally got the last of the zlib double-free fixes installed on all our Linux and Solaris boxes here. I had much more fun last night. Susan and I went to the Clandestine performance at Poor David’s Pub. They sounded great as always.

Today’s mail included another issue of .NET magazine. Yick. Why do they keep sending this Microsoft crap to me? Oh well, it went straight into the recycle bin (and I quickly washed my hands after touching the evil document)! :-)

Meanwhile, our fight against spam moves ever onward. Even though we’re rejecting over 500 spams a day, the number ending up in my mailbox continues to grow (40 per day the last few days). Processing the spam (IPs to ORDB, cc to, nastygrams to senders) sucks up about half an hour of my time each day. I’m working on filter for my mail client that will forward the remaining spams to a Perl script so I can automate this as well.

One last thing. I ran across a really cool technical report in the January issue of NASA Tech Briefs (also available online if you don’t mind the free registration). A NASA researcher looking for alternative launch technologies ran across some information on the old pneumatic subway train that was proposed for New York in 1870 by Alfred Ely Beach. After researching the concept a bit, he’s proposing building a pneumatic launch system that would consist of a 6km tube with a 9m diameter. It would take 4 hours to charge the tube to a pressure of 200 kPa after which it could accelerate a 700,000kg reusable launch vehicle to 270 m/sec (the speed needed to fire up the SCRAM engines on the launch vehicle). Similar lauch systems have been proposed before using mag-lev technology but this thing could be built for a fraction of the cost using off-the-shelf hardware. Pretty neat.

Where do they get those Dr. Evil Suits?

Susan and I attended the Symphony this weekend. Nothing really amazing to report. Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 in D major, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor (I loathe piano concertos…), and Haydn’s Symphony No. 101 in D major. Jesús López-Cobos was guest conductor. Like many conductors he dressed like a James Bond villain. Where do they get those cool Dr. Evil suits? I want one of those.

We seem to be staying busy at the office so far this month. We’ve picked up a few new hosting customers. One of our new sites was previously hosted on an IIS box so I enjoyed reporting the URL to Netcraft – that’s one less IIS site and one more Apache site on next months survey.

Slowly Going Green

Wahoo! It took two months but we finally got our letter from the Green Mountain Energy Company saying they had started processing our transfer to them from TXU as the source for our electricity. You may recall from a previous news item that the recent deregulation in Texas has allowed us choose to between traditional pollution-generating electricity and pollution-free electricity. 100% of the electricity from Green Mountain Energy is from wind generation rather than the usual coal/gas/nuke sources common in TX. According to the letter, we’re still some weeks away from completing the process but I’m looking forward to my last bill from TXU.