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A Salute To The Admiral

Like Spider Robinson, I was not only sad, but disappointed.

He thought, "well, maybe he'll get an exemption..."

No such luck. 13 years ago today, the Admiral, the grand master of science fiction, Robert A. Heinlein died at 81.

I never met him, never wrote to him, but with not much other help, the man taught me to think.

<hand salute>


Tuesday, May 8, 2001 @ 04:26 p.m. - Comment

The Forgotten Films

Documentaries can be some of the most informative, illuminating images ever committed to film

If anyone's watching...

Tuesday, May 8, 2001 @ 03:44 p.m. - Comment

The K-Mart Parking Lot Massacree

...with full orchestration and four part harmony...

and feeling.

Did you ever have that thing happen to you when you learned something? I hate when that happens.

I was trying to be an upstanding citizen, right? Ok, I was trying to be righteously indignant, since I don't get to do that much... :-}

So I was driving up 66th Street, headed off to a client's. Out in front of the K-Mart -- oh, excuse me: the "Big K-Mart" -- in the street, was a gray shopping cart. This one was on the edge of the street, unlike the one from last week that was perched in the middle of the fast lane, and almost wrecked 6 people (including me). But it was still out in the street.

So I pulled in, pulled over, got out, and rescued it.

I pulled it all the way up to the front of the store. I pulled over, and dragged the cart inside. And then, of course, was when the cart boy came inside and said

"Hey man; you're about to get a ticket!"

"Like, the cop is parked behind me?" Said it real snotty like, you understand.

"Yeah, man."

Aw, crap.

Which is a much more reserved way than I phrased it when I came out the door.

This was not the best idea.

"Whyn't you pull that thing out of this fire lane, and over there, so I can finish writing you up, eh? Now, kid."

I didn't feel too good about it.

But I pulled it over into the parking space, and Officer Obie told me he was gonna put me in the cell; he wanted my wallet and... oh, sorry. Wrong cop.

Suffice it to say that I got even stupider... right up until the time the officer said "...or I can tear up this warning I'm writing you, and write you a couple tickets, instead", and I went back over on the Group W bench and waited there like a good boy.

Once we had both gotten over jumpin' up and down yellin' "Kill! KILL! KIIILLLLL!!!!", the Sergeant came over, failed to pin a medal on me, and told me never to be seen parkin' my van in fire lanes in the vicinity again -- particularly not with the key in the ignition.

Then he told me the name of the manager of the K-Mart, and said "he's a stand-up guy. Just tell him what's wrong; he'll get it fixed."

Of course, he wasn't working that morning (would this have happened if he had been?), and the young punk assistant manager they dragged up to "help me" was worthless; looking at me as if I hadn't almost gotten myself hauled off to gaol because *he* couldn't keep his parking lot picked up.

It's ok; he doesn't have to answer to me; he has to answer to his boss. And he will; oh yes, he will...

Tuesday, May 8, 2001 @ 02:18 p.m. - Comment


to my three remaining regular readers; lots of things, including the incredibly frustrating, still broken keyboard on my laptop, have been keeping me from getting much written here lately.

Here's some filler...

I was chatting with a correspondent who will remain unnamed about Dave Winer (of and Frontier) fame, and some travails I'd had with by email a couple years back. The exchange follow; the quoted portion is me.

> In a series of rapidly degrading emails, (you could ask Tim O'Reilly
> about this; Dave's an equal-opportunity offender) he called me every
> kind of a motherfucker, and a couple I think he made up.
> A year later, he decided Linux was kind of cool...

And if you tried to point out to him that he, y'know, might possibly have
been rude to someone offering a suggestion, to better his business, he'd
launch into another vicious tirade.  And then he'd say how tired he is of
flames.  Then he'd damn the whole Open Source movement as hype.  Then turn
is whole company towards producing a Linux version.  Then tell his customers
that they can't get everything for free, that free stuff is the end of the
world, free is worth what it costs.  Then he'd say that anybody who pays for
a newspaper is an idiot, because, y'know, there's Scripting News.

And then his head would explode.

Given that programming is largely about well-organized logic -- A leads to B
leads to C -- I shudder to think what his code must look like:

    int opinion_Evolve(int* opinion_A,int* opinion_B)
        int opinion_Temp;

        opinion_Temp = *opinion_A;
        *opinion_A = *opinion_B;
        *opinion_B = *opinion_A;
        *opinion_A = opinion_Temp;
        *opinion_A = opinion_Temp;


It doesn't accomplish anything, but it sure burns cycles.

Thursday, May 3, 2001 @ 05:40 p.m. - Comment

Help me!...

Mr. Popeil!

Thursday, May 3, 2001 @ 05:39 p.m. - Comment

Special to the cute blonde...

in the tube top, in the minivan, heading to Home Depot. "Hi" to you too; damned shame you're half my age. :-)

Saturday, April 28, 2001 @ 07:51 p.m. - Comment

Looking for Mr. Goodserver

A client of mine is unhappy ... ok, let's call a spade a spade: *I'm* unhappy with their webhosting provider.

They move, including images, on the order of a gig a day, over something like 70 domain names. That seems enough traffic for a dedicated server, and I'm sure I can beat not only the customer service (which sucks with the current provider), but also the price, which is *way* up into the 'usage sensitive' territory, instead of the "only barely" that's more sane.

What's the current received wisdom on tier-1 hosting providers? I know about Pair and Highertech, and I know that there are a bunch hosted at AboveNet... but I'm professionally leary of California at the moment.

Suggestions welcomed.

Wednesday, April 11, 2001 @ 12:20 p.m. - Comment

I've been beezy....

To all 5 or 6 of you who care... :-)

I've been recovering from both having way too much work (and play) and also dumping almost an entire 20oz McDonald's orange into my laptop last week (a behavior pattern I recommend against, in the long run :-), and so I haven't gotten much written lately. There's another SportsTech piece coming for Top Of The Key (really, there is, Geoff :-), and I'm about to outline a book on filePro. Might even get written; who knows?

Tuesday, April 10, 2001 @ 05:13 p.m. - Comment


Bridget sure pissed me off in school today. What a bitch!

(Hi, Bridgie! :-)

Wednesday, April 4, 2001 @ 04:29 p.m. - Comment


Posted at Kuro5hin, once of the most powerful articles I've ever read about pleasure, and how it counterbalances violence, especially in child rearing.

If you read no other article on the web today, read this one.

Monday, April 2, 2001 @ 02:52 p.m. - Comment

Gratuitous linkage

My sister, who runs the ScottSite, a haven for everyone Scott Bakula inclined (well, probably excepting those people who keep hitting my site when searching for "Scott Bakula naked"... :-), was kind enough to put in a gratuitous link to my site (which no one appears to have actually *hit* yet :-), so here's her reciprocal link. Hi, Pam.

Oh, and Hi, Mom, too. :-)

Monday, April 2, 2001 @ 01:17 p.m. - Comment

Identity Theft

You know, everyone always looks at me funny when I refuse to give them my Social Security number for trivial reasons (reasons like "You've won 4 movie passes from our radio station -- give us your SSN, please" -- I give them 567-68-0515. It belongs to Richard Milhous Nixon. :-)

Well, if you don't understand either why that might bother me, read this piece in this week's RISKS digest about a guy who gave *his* to a video rental store, and all the fun he had...

Tuesday, March 27, 2001 @ 09:28 a.m. - Comment

New Article: EyeVision for TOTK

Well, time to do some writing again. This time, it's for a sports publication for which I used to edit, many moons ago: The Top Of The Key. Though the phrase comes from basketball, the site covers all of sport. My beat is Technology (now *there's* a big surprise), and the topic of this particular column (oooh... I'm a columnist, now!) is EyeVision, the new 3-D instant replay system created by CBS for this Super Bowl this past January.

Monday, March 26, 2001 @ 10:34 p.m. - Comment

In Progress: MIR Splashdown

After 15 years on orbit, the Russian MIR space station is in its final orbit, the Progress cargo ship attached to it having fired its final deorbit burn.

Realtime coverage is at CNN, of course; the network of record for the world.

Fox News is, of course, arguing politics. Morons.

15 minutes to the end.



Friday, March 23, 2001 @ 12:24 a.m. - Comment

Yeah, it's raining...

So what.

Tuesday, March 20, 2001 @ 12:06 p.m. - Comment

So, y'know...

I went by the mall today, to check at the Rat Shack and see if they'd stocked in the laser pointer I wanted to buy, and when I walked in, I said "hey, pretty lady..." to the woman behind the counter.

Her reply: "I know you ain't talkin to *me*...?"

You know, I think I'd rather deal with a girl who *knew* how pretty she was, dangerous as that is...

Happy St Pats; no, no fancy colored background; I'm about tired of the current layout, and I'm gonna finally break down and redo it this week. Submissions welcome.

Saturday, March 17, 2001 @ 01:09 a.m. - Comment

The World Is A Very Big Place

And there are maps of most of it. I'm considering buying a GPS receiver, and being both 1) annoyed at the quality of the maps available commercially and 2) a geek I'm looking deeply into digital cartography. A long piece to follow, but for now...

There's some *really* cool crap out here folks; past the edge of MapQuest. :-)

Wednesday, March 14, 2001 @ 12:34 a.m. - Comment

By way of documentation

Yeah, I know; the web ain't good enough..

Agenda Computing is going to try again this year to actually get their native Linux PDA, the VR-3, out the door. Might even happen.

And, when it does, a small amount of porting work to the Linux Palm emulator POSE ought to make it capable of running substantially *all* of the already available Palm apps, which should make life a touch easier. All that should be necessary, other than full-screen mode, will be hooking the API calls in the emulated Palm ROM and pointing them to the parallel calls in the Agenda's library, so that the programs can interoperate...

Monday, March 12, 2001 @ 12:31 p.m. - Comment

A while back

you may remember seeing a story here concerning a midwest mother who was thrown in jail because a clerk at a photo lab thought that a picture of her daughter -- whom she'd been taking pictures of all the time since she was a baby -- was child pornography since the girl was a) 10, and b) in the shower, using a spray hose.

Well, in a stunning show of sense, the federal district court for Nebraska upheld the firing of a Wal-Mart employee this week. Why? Because she reported a photo showing possible child abuse to the police...

without first consulting with her management. They fired her for failure to follow store policy. (The photo, BTW, was of an infant amongst a pile of marijuana leaves and high-denomination currency.) So, was there a problem?

Certainly. And the store management would likely have called the police anyway. But, we may hope that this is an exception to the legal maxim that "hard cases make bad law"... such power over people's lives should *not* rest in the individual hands of each photo printer in a little rinky-dink lab somewhere.

Monday, March 12, 2001 @ 09:56 a.m. - Comment

Special to Baylink -- In The Bag

My best friend, Alan, is one of those guys who throws your bags around when you fly somewhere. He, therefore, has a fairly intimate understanding of luggage, and such is the topic of his special today. Herewith, his tips for airline travellers about luggage.

Don't buy "designer" luggage because it looks good. You don't buy luggage because it looks good, you buy it to protect your stuff when you are travelling. If it's pretty but it breaks the first time you use it then it isn't worth the price of the designer label.

Don't cheap out on your luggage. If you look around on airline ramps you will find lots of pieces that have broken off of cheap luggage. Cheap luggage very often breaks, and it often breaks open, possibly spilling your stuff onto the ramp.

Hard cases are the best. I have in mind specifically Pelican, Zero-Halliburton, and Samsonite. Good names in luggage which build outstanding products. There are other good manufacturers of luggage, but the important thing is to get luggage which won't crush with 600 pounds of other luggage stacked on top of it.

If you like softside cases get ones that will protect your stuff from getting wet, because your luggage will spend some time outside waiting for planes, and airport ramps are often rainy or snowy places. We try to get your luggage covered as quickly as possible when inclement weather hits, but unless you're flying on an airliner where the luggage is loaded into containers indoors we're going to have to uncover it to load and unload it.

Also, if you use softside cases make sure they're packed mostly full. Softside cases that are not packed full will collapse under the weight of the luggage stacked on top of them.

Don't overpack your softside cases either. Softside cases are secured with zippers, which can split when put under too much stress. If you pack your bag until it is full to bursting... then don't be surprised when it does.

Beware of "expandobags" which have zippers to adust the bag's size to your needs. I haven't seen one of these yet that was not fully open to its maximum size. They're a good idea, but no good idea exists in a vacuum. I find them to be weaker than conventionally constructed luggage. And they usually don't have handles where they (read: we) need them.

If you really have to carry a lot of stuff then you'd be better off packing two smaller bags instead of one overstuffed one. If you're really carying a large lot of stuff then you'd be better off with another bag. Paying the extra bag charge would be better than having your stuff spilled on the ramp. In the worst case, if you really have a lot of stuff you can ask the airline to ship it as freight. They will do this for a nominal fee, and if it doesn't ship on the same airplane you fly then it will generally arive at your destination by the next day, if not on the next flight.

And now the issue of weight. If your bag is really heavy make sure the customer service agent tags it as heavy when you check it in. This will warn us on the ramp that we need to take extra care with that bag. The heavy tag will warn us to test the bag's weight before we just grab it and yank.

It also warns us that the bag would probably be better left on the bin floor instead of lifted into a stack. Rampers are quite prone to back and shoulder injuries. When we pull on a heavy bag and it pulls back that can hurt. As professionals we try to take as much care as we can with every bag, but if you pack baggage that is likely to beat us up, then we're likely to beat it up.

When it comes to handles, the more the better. The easier it is for us to get a hold of your luggage the less likely it is that we will beat up your luggage. One good trick is to put a strap around the middle of the case tightly enough to hold the case closed if it should pop open, but loosely enough that it can be grabbed by a gloved hand. I cannot stress enough the importance of handles. If I were a luggage designer I'd make sure my cases had a handle on every flat face, including the bottom.

If you like roller bags, and what serious traveller doesn't, make sure you get one for which the roller handle can be locked in the down position. Roller handles which pop up into the extended position when they shouldn't often get broken off.

If you use a "garment bag" -- you know, those bags that you put your clothing into and then fold in half -- make sure and get one which can be firmly secured into the folded position. Most of these bags also have a hook which is for hanging them in a closet. Make sure this hook can be secured firmly inside the bag when it is not in use. When these hooks come loose in the baggage handling process they can cause all sorts of mayhem. They get caught in machinery and jam it. They get caught on other bags. They get caught on the airplane. And when they get caught they usually break off. Sometimes when they break off they tear the bag, or they tear other bags.

Rampers have found all sorts of good uses for hooks that people have "donated" in this manner.

If your bag has a lot of zippers on it make sure they all get closed. Zippers which don't get secured catch on things and tear.

Do not put anything into a pocket which cannot be completely closed. Pockets which are secured with a single snap and do not have a flap are the worst offenders at this. Baggage Services usually has a large collection of small stuff which has fallen out of pockets such as this.

A lot of medicines, cellphone chargers, hair brushes, and various and sundry other small stuff can be found there. In the ramp office we have a large collection of toothpastes. Flotsam from these pockets is how we keep the maintenance department supplied with toothbrushes for parts cleaning. We figure once they've been on the ramp you really don't want to put them into your mouth again.

For you golfers out there, make sure and get a hard case for your clubs. Get one that not only has a handle in the middle, but also a handle on each end.

Finally, when you pack your colognes and perfumes make sure you pack them into something which will keep them closed and keep them from breaking before you put them into your bag. Same with anything aerosol. More than once I've gotten out of a bin smelling really Pretty. Even Beautiful.

While we appreciate your attempts to make the cargo holds smell better, the passengers you're flying with may have other ideas, so please keep your fragrances to yourselves.
-- Alan Petrillo

Thursday, March 8, 2001 @ 08:58 p.m. - Comment

Wow, but some of the searches get weird

Much of the traffic to this site is Googlers, who want to look at pictures of Miriam Gonzales in her altogether (a practice I wholeheartedly support :-), but are in too much of a hurry to *read* a little (to where I was pointing out that she was PMOM last month, and was on their website) (I wasn't impressed by the pictures; now she looks "just like any other playmate" ).

But sometimes, we get a weird one. Like "naked adult confederate women".

If they're naked, how can you tell they're confederates?

Thursday, March 8, 2001 @ 11:46 a.m. - Comment

Could we promote

Meredith Edwards to 30 so I can marry her?


Wednesday, March 7, 2001 @ 02:06 a.m. - Comment

You go, girl

I note that Deborah Branscum's excellent (read: opinionated and controversial :-) Buzz is now even more excellent; she appears to have taken my advice about posting entries in directly from MS Word, which was making her website a candidate for the DeMoronizer.

Tuesday, March 6, 2001 @ 11:44 a.m. - Comment

I like Dan Gillmor

I like him because he's a crusty opinionated bastard, and his opinions agree with mine. His column, this week, is on how the record companies want to screw you, and why Congress is letting them. Worth your time, as always.

Monday, March 5, 2001 @ 06:40 p.m. - Comment

I'm a sucker for ceremony

And, much as I hate to admit to it, Bush reads a good speech. And I don't think we've ever seen a former First Lady as honored as we do today, the dedication ceremonies for the only Naval vessel ever named after a living human being: CVN-76, the USS Ronald Reagan.

<hand salute>


Lee Greenwood was a nice touch, too.

I sing it better than he does, though... :-}

Sunday, March 4, 2001 @ 02:57 p.m. - Comment

Ogg Vorbis

That's the name of a new audio compression codec designed to compete with MP3. MP3, as I wrote in an article for Focus Magazine a couple months back, is *patented* -- you cannot even implement your own code to use the algorithms to compress music.

Ogg Vorbis, on the other hand, was designed, at least in part, precisely to be *unpatented*.

Even Richard M Stallman, the creator of the GNU General Public License, has come out in favor is a license *change* on the Ogg Vorbis code, *from* his own GPL, to the BSD license, which will make it *easier* for commercial endeavours to use and modify the OV codec without releasing their changes.


The answer, courtesy Linux Weekly News, where I stole the entire story from:

Ordinarily, if someone decides not to use a copylefted program because the license doesn't please him, that's his loss not ours. But if he rejects the Ogg/Vorbis code because of the license, and uses MP3 instead, then the problem rebounds on us--because his continued use of MP3 may help MP3 to become and stay entrenched.
[ Linkage to follow on this story in the morning; I didn't want to forget to write it. Anyone got a good clipboard utility for X/KDE? ]

Thursday, March 1, 2001 @ 02:13 a.m. - Comment

404: Page Not Found

Now go away and leave me alone.

No, really.

Saturday, February 24, 2001 @ 08:40 p.m. - Comment

Zero Tolerance

It's a pretty stupid idea, really.

As usual, Trox cuts to the heart of the matter.

Too harsh? Not enough? Just right?

I talked to the parents of some kids who were recently disciplined for various reasons. They agreed that their child deserved discipline. But they also felt the school system treats them like the parents of hardened criminals.

One is the mother of one of the Boca Ciega High School kids who made the news recently. A group of kids cut class, and some of them took photographs of each other undressed. Then they brought the pictures to school. Stupid. The cops wildly overreacted and charged the kids with felonies. Stupider.

Friday, February 23, 2001 @ 11:10 a.m. - Comment

The RPM Incident

If you use RedHat Linux, as I do, you've probably worked with RPM, the RedHat Package Manager. I upgraded my system to RPM 4 a while back, whereupon everything blew up spectacularly. :-{

The problem was that my old packages didn't carry over into the new RPM installation, which meant that I had to force in new stuff with --nodeps, since even the *system* packages that most things depend on weren't there.

The solution is documented as an attachment to a RedHet BugZilla bug, long since closed. It worked on my machine, I'm pleased to say; hope it helps you, too.

Thursday, February 22, 2001 @ 11:52 a.m. - Comment

Ooooh, I love this stuff

A guy named Brian Springer has cut a documentary about the 92 presidential campaigns... using footage from TV news backhaul feeds. You can download the entire thing from here.

Ain't the internet great?

Wednesday, February 21, 2001 @ 11:56 a.m. - Comment

Bloom County fans

will want to take in this interview (in two parts) with cartoonist Berkeley Breathed. Missing from public life since the demise of Outland, the cartoonist was tracked down, and, more graciously than actually seems indicated, consented to give the two up and coming web cartoonists some actually rather good answers to the actually rather good questions they asked him.

I do take issue with just one thing, though:

Chris & Scott: Is there a chance that you would return to drawing a daily comic strip and would you consider doing it for the net instead of newspapers? In our opinion, it's a much better venue for the art.

Breathed: True, better display. But as the disciples of net entertainment are finding out... they can't compete with the audiences we used to have. I had a daily readership of 50 to 70 million around the world. It's a different world. I can't get excited about the fragmentation. More voices are not necessarily better than fewer.

Oh, humility is nice and all...

but you know what? isn't lacking any for hits. If Berke did a regular strip for a site, it *would* pull.

Special to Scott and Chris: put the damn invu on a separate page, so our links don't all break next week, guys.

Wednesday, February 21, 2001 @ 11:25 a.m. - Comment

I've figured out why I like country music...

*that's* where all the attractive, large-breasted singers ended up.


Wednesday, February 21, 2001 @ 02:38 a.m. - Comment


Phil Vassar co-wrote it. That explains it.

The song is "Live It Up", the freshman hit from country boy-band Marshall Dyllon (that is the correct speling, BTW, but I'll spell it Marshal Dylon and Dylan, too, so the people who can't spell don't get left out of the search engines. :-}

They're the first act out of the gate at Kenny Rogers' new label, Dreamcatcher, and they're actually damned good. Course, all they have to do is sing... well, ok, and dance around on bar tops with pretty girls.

Their problem is going to be "what do we release next"...

Wednesday, February 21, 2001 @ 02:08 a.m. - Comment

Nice to know I'm not the only one...

Courtesy of Signal v. Noise, proof that I'm not the only one who would overreact to getting kissed by Rebecca Romijn-Stamos: Conan O'Brien loses it. And I do mean loses it. [2.5Mb MPG]

Tuesday, February 20, 2001 @ 12:33 p.m. - Comment

Microsoft Waffles

on the Alchin Maneuver, as Dan Gillmor reports.

Gee, now; *here's* a surprise.

Tuesday, February 20, 2001 @ 11:15 a.m. - Comment

If at first you don't succeed..

roll over and try again.

Monday, February 19, 2001 @ 08:54 p.m. - Comment

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This site is hosted by Pitas, but they have no control over what I say. If you don't like something I said, don't even *think* of suing them or I'll blow up your house. ;-)

If you're down here it's because you decided you wanted to link to me. Wow. Cool. Thanks. :-)

I use Phil Greenspun's clicktracking system to keep track of my traffic, and I like to use it on inbound links too, when possible; it's interesting to know where the traffic comes from, and theCounter isn't quite as spiffy as I'd like. If you could use the following link code to link to me, I'd appreciate it:

Link Text

just copy the link and make up a YOURTAG that's somewhat descriptive. Thanks again for your trouble...

Um, d'oh! Wes Felter points out that it would be nice if the link pointed to *me*... Fixed.

And for those people who think I'm trying to be subversive with the status line crap, it's merely functional: *I* like to be able to see the URL, too. If anyone has suggestions on the (I think insoluble) 'making the link change color if you saw it somewhere else' problem, I'd love to hear them.

No, it's not.

Google finally spidered me a while back... but it's not really up to dealing with weblogs; it doesn't check often enough. The Freefind searchbox at the top of this page spiders me almost every day; retry your search there, if you're still motivated enough. :-)