Glowing Lizards and Libertarians

I ran across another odd eBay action: One dozen lizards that glow in the dark. Everyone loves glowing lizards. They’re educational and fun! But be careful – no tech support is provided. I wonder if these are anything like the stink lizards from Futurama?

Since I stumbled across the site meetup.com a while back and signed up for a few meetups. So far most have been cancelled due to less than five particpants. Two have actually happened but weren’t anything like I’d expected.

Last night was the second of the two; the Linux meetup. I had skipped the weekly DPRG get together to attend. I showed up and thought I was going to be the only person there for a while but after a half hour or so three other people showed up. Nobody had been to a linux meetup before and after introducing ourselves and agreeing that Linux was generally a good thing we were all at a bit of a loss as to the point of the meeting. I suggested that next time the North Texas Linux Users Group might be a better choice since they general have some sort of a plan for what goes on at their meetings. There was one suggestion that we play blackjack and one guy wanted to talk about video games. Fortunately another DPRG member showed up and brought along some robot hardware we’d been working on. We got the usual, “Robots? You mean like that battlebots show?”. We patiently explained that the “robots” on Robot Wars and Battlebots were just mechanical props (albeit very clever and expensive ones) being operated by remote control from off-camera and not real robots. We talked a bit about the applications of Linux for autonomous robotics so I guess it wasn’t a total wash-out as far as being a Linux meeting.

The first meetup, a week or so ago, was a Libertarian party meetup. A total of four people showed up. Three of them (including myself) were just curious and not actually members of the Libertarian party. The one person who claimed she was an actual libertarian said real libertarians would never join a political party, libertarian or otherwise. At some point in the past I vaguely identified libertarians with Robert Heinlein. I’m not sure where I got this idea but it seems entirely incorrect. After looking at the libertarian’s official platform and talking to the folks at the meetup, I’ve concluded they’re distinguisable from anarchists only by a slight Ann Randian self-importance and seeming lack of empathy for others. Ironically the one Heinlein idea that most resembles Libertarian ideals is Coventry.

Maybe the Dumpster diving or Zippy the Pinhead meetups will be more interesting. Hmmm…

Post-Christmas MIG Shopping

Another Christmas has come and gone. A few of us gathered at my sister Linda’s house and joined her family for Christmas day. The usual sorts of holiday activities occured – food, games, lots of talking, and helping the kiddos assemble a few toys. And we made some calls to those who couldn’t (or didn’t wish to) come.

We decided to take today and tomorrow off work as well. Today we visited a few of the antique malls on highway 80 near Forney and saw everything from an antique Russian MIG to a Jeanette Cube cup and saucer that Susan had actually been looking for. We brought the cup and saucer home with us but left the MIG – it had too many rivets.

I closed an eBay transaction today that has been pending for some time. I’ve been searching for a particular Canon FD macro lens for nearly a year. Earlier this month I finally found one in good condition and managed to nab it at the right price on eBay. Unfortunately, the seller was located in Guam which was hit by a major typhoon within hours of my winning the auction. After a few days the seller did manage to get an email through saying they had no power, no water, no public services of any kind (including mail), so no lens. This week, however, the seller made it to California and is shipping all his eBay stuff from there. So by this time next week I may finally have my new lens to play with.

Buying Camera Gear From eBay vs Camera Shows

Busy day. Spent the morning mowing and edging the yard. We had lunch in Grapevine on the way out to a camera show sponsored by one of our clients. There was some interesting stuff to see at the camera show including non-photography items like two light sabers and an old Star Trek type one phaser. For buying and selling lenses, though, I think I’ll stick with eBay. Better prices are part of it but another part is the trust-metric-like feedback system on eBay. I’d much rather buy a lens from someone with hundreds of positive feedback certs on eBay than from a total stranger at a camera show.

From the camera show we drove by the office briefly to look for an Ovenbird that made an appearance friday. No sign of it today, of course, since I had a camera with me. Then we drove over to the Cottonwood Arts Festival in Richardson. Lots of amazing art and craft items (and a few not so amazing things). There are a dozen or so “art” festivals in the DFW area each year but most of them have very little that one could really call art. The Cottonwood Art Festival is the one to go to if you want art. The Deep Ellum Arts Festival has a few interesting things and a lot of music. Most of the others can be skipped.

After a we got tired of wandering around looking at the art, we stopped to get some barbeque and consider further plans for the evening. We had Dallas Symphony tickets but, upon closer inspection, tonights performance turned out to be another blasted piano concerto (have I mentioned that I am not fond of piano concerti?). We decided to skip the symphony this week.

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.

mod_virgule

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.

Photography

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.

Flying Lizards and Other Music

I finally managed to obtain one of two out of print Flying Lizards CDs that I’ve been trying to get my hands on for while. I won an eBay auction for their first, self-titled CD last week and it arrived today. It’s the first time I’ve heard their stuff in years. Now if I can just find Top Ten, the other Flying Lizards CD I’ve been looking for.

Speaking of music, Susan and I attended the Saturday performance of the DSO. It was a very trimmed-down orchestra – really more of a chamber orchestra – playing a selection of Haydn symphonies and Gabrieli’s canzonas for brass. Both were enjoyable. Unfortunately, I’ve had to add the Gabrieli pieces to my CD shopping list. More CDs to hunt down!

Going to a Live Auction

Susan and I went to a computer auction saturday and picked up a few interesting odds and ends. Live auctions are strange; they can be really boring sometimes and a lot of fun other times. But eBay is a lot more convenient most of the time.

All the work with JSP and servlets that I’ve been doing for one of my clients lately has gotten me interested in using them myself. I’ve got a development box set up with Tomcat and have been fooling around with it for a few days. It actually looks like one could implement a portal site like Slashdot or Advogato pretty easily using Java servlets. I’ve found a really cool HTML template scripting language that seems much better than JSP, called WebMacro. It allows you to completely seperate the Java code from the HTML markup so the web designers don’t have to know programming and the programmers don’t have to do page design. There’s a nice article about some of the problems with JSP by the WebMacro author over at servlets.com.