Jump to: navigation, search

The RSS feed for this page is here: RSS

<startFeed />

Google "Livermoribund"

Finally made it to Google. Interesting.


The state of being near death while in Livermore, CA.

I'm just kidding. I actually like Livermore as far as suburbs go. I only put this here because I finally made up a word that Google has not seen before.

--root 18:50, 17 December 2008 (PST)

flying close call

My second or third flight out my instructor and I had a much closer pass than this. I remember seeing the jet come from the right while my instructor was talking and point to the controls. As someone new to the speed of aircraft, one of the things that you have poor intuition with is how fast situations can change when objects can be traveling hundreds of miles per hour. I remember seeing a plane come from the right and thinking "is this normal?"... a few seconds later I thought, "it's a UPS jet. are we supposed to be this close?"... a quarter second later I open my mouth to alert my instructor to the situation. I got about as far as "Uhhh..." before he looked up and said "Woahhh!" and pushed the yolk in. I could see the pilot's face as he passed by. He appeared totally unaware of what was going on. I was over very fast. Later my instructor double-checked our position and altitude and said that there was no way that plane should have been in that airspace -- even if we had been a little too high.

--root 04:51, 15 December 2008 (PST)

my YouTube video habits revealed

My top 3 YouTube recommendations:

  • brutal motorcicle crash
  • Most Skips on a Pogo Stick in one Minute
  • Horny Dog Humping Cat

Of course, recommendations are based on previous viewing habits, but, I think all-knowing YouTube recommendation computer has missed a subtlety in my viewing habits that separates the puerile from the brilliant... or something.

--root 00:31, 12 December 2008 (PST)

good deed

I did my good deed for the week. I stopped by the Digg office at 2AM to pick up my laptop and when I came out there was a small car parked next to my motorcycle. A young woman and a young man were attempting to change a flat fire. I got on my bike and got ready to start it, but they were standing only 6 feet away. If it were me, strangers stopping to help would be more of a nuisance, but I would have felt like an dick if I didn't at least talk to them. In these situations my reticence to get involved is entirely due to my distaste for social interaction and not because I want to avoid someone else's problems. I watched a few moments and it seemed that things were not going smoothly. They appeared upbeat but frustrated. So I took a moment to recall some sort of pleasant greeting that one might give to a stranger in distress. I think, "Do you need help?" was what I came up with. They seemed happy for my offer. I examined their situation a little closer and it turned out they could not find the crank for the jack screw. I double-checked their car and I couldn't find it either, but I figured that we could turn the jack screw a turn at a time with the pliers or a screwdriver from my bike's tool pouch. It briefly cross my mind that this might be one of those situations where I would bend over to help jack up the car and be startled to find that that the tire iron was being pounded into the back of my skull. It seemed like a bad place to stage a mugging, plus I had leathers and a helmet on, so I figured it was safe enough. Naturally they were turned out to be very nice. They were young enough that the guy was worried the cops might stop and question them about their drinking. I felt bad for the guy because he never had to change a tire before, so I can imagine it would be stressful if your girlfriend was there watching and evaluating your progress. Of course, a girlfriend taught me how to drive a car, so every situation is different... Anyway, we made the jack work and they were on their way in a few minutes... Good luck David.

--root 06:05, 6 December 2008 (PST)

burnouts are bad for tires

Every time a video features donuts, drifting, or burnouts there will be someone who points out that this is bad for tires. Well, thank you, Mr. Obvious... If these driver cared about their tire longevity would they be doing donuts? Or have they have not figured the cause and effect? Maybe at the end of the month they review their bills and say, "Damn! Another bill for a new set of tires?! How come nobody else buys tires as often as me?".

Bah! This drives me nuts! If you find yourself wondering why someone would want to waste perfectly good tires then you are probably watching the wrong video.

--root 11:00, 5 December 2008 (PST)

what is the difference?

Tendency, propensity

predilection: predisposition toward a choice

--root 12:16, 29 November 2008 (PST)

Stupid computer...

A friend of mine got a used computer. Someone had previously set a BIOS password and the hard-drive would not boot so the machine was nearly useless. I needed to get into the BIOS to at least fix the date. Who puts a password on their BIOS? I had an old memory of shorting a jumper on motherboards to clear BIOS passwords on machines we had at an investment bank where I worked at in the mid-90's. But his was a more modern machine, the "HP Pavilion 724c"; although, for a computer, it was leaning towards decrepit at 5 years old. I went to Google and researched what people were saying about bypassing a BIOS password on a "Pavilion 724c". The news was not good. I found that some people tried to guess the password from lists of known factory passwords; others tried in vain to force the machine to forget the password by removing the BIOS battery; and I found various complicated instructions for booting the machine from a rescue disk and using a BIOS editor to crack the BIOS machine code to force it to ignore the password. Removing the battery has no effect on the BIOS memory and I thought typing in a long page full of known factory passwords seemed like it had a remote chance of success, so I choose the path of the complicated instructions. The first guides I found required booting from a 1.44 MB 3.5 inch floppy disk. Booting off a floppy disk meant DOS! I think I was still a virgin the last time I booted DOS; and while I was a late adopter of Windows 3.1, that was still a very long time ago. I found some crazy people that wrote their own Free DOS clone for download, but where to find 1.44 MB floppy disks? I had to go to the "Museum of 20th Century Computer Curiosities" in my closet to track down a 1.44 MB 3.5 inch floppy disk. I find a whole box of floppies and I even found a USB-floppy drive to use them! Then I had to relearn how to copy a DOS boot image onto a floppy disk -- from my Linux box. Sadly, as I prepared for the creation of the boot floppy disk I read a more stories discussing BIOS password removal and few of those stories ended happily. Plus I realized all the good BIOS hacking tools ran in Windows, not DOS. The DOS tools were crude and stank of desperation. The Windows tools were at least recently maintained by their programmers, whereas I wouldn't bet that many DOS programmers are still alive today -- few outside of a geriatric hospice at least... So all my work crafting a boot floppy and I ended up convincing myself I should give up and cut my losses, so I abandoned the "DOS Historical Preservation" project. That left me with links to some Windows tools and therefor the need to boot Windows. All those instructions assumed you still had Windows booting off the hard-disk on your machine. My friend's machine wouldn't even boot; it barely got past the BIOS screen before complaining about a missing NT Loader or some such crap. Perhaps this is why people still attempted the boot from a DOS floppy. I thought I could try installing Windows on a different machine and then swap hard-disks. But I didn't even have a copy of the Windows Install CD handy -- not even the museum had one. And if I did and I had gone through the trouble of installing Windows on a different machine, would my friend's locked BIOS let me boot from a hard-disk transplanted from another machine? With the BIOS locked, I couldn't even look at the BIOS boot options, but I was willing to bet that it would boot. Still, without a Windows Install CD the question was moot. Then I realized I didn't know if the BIOS was even configured to boot from a floppy disk. That crazy DOS boot floppy might not have even worked... I despaired at ever recovering my friend's machine. It was five years old and hardly worth the time I had already spent. I stared at the motherboard and noticed a jumper that said JPWD1. "J" is for jumper and "PWD" is common computer shorthand for "password". Then I remembered my original train of thought from before I had gotten distracted by the Internet and tales of BIOS hacking. I searched around the motherboard for a legend -- the designers often print legends that describe the function of jumpers and plugs... Halfway across the motherboard from "JPWD1" I found a tiny legend for the function of JPWD1:

SHORT Normal

Did I miss this in all my Internet searching? I looked back over my open pages and nobody mentioned a hardware jumper solution. There was nothing but tales of software disappointment. Yet in retrospect, a search for "CLR_PWD" found plenty of sites discussing how to use it to clear the BIOS password of HP and Compaq computers... At any rate, moments later I had the machine rebooted minus the password and I had regained full control over the BIOS.

Later I sent a text message to my friend, who had long since grown bored of watching me curse at his computer and therefore had abandoned me to find himself a drink. My friend is a polyglot and everything always sounds funnier in German, so I sent this:

"Pornographie Zugang Gerät wir haben!" -- Probably not correct. I am monolingual and had to trust Google Translate.
"Mit Mut und scharfen Stock."
"Hanschen klein ging alein in die weite Welt hinein..."

Google Translate didn't help me with his last response, but a regular Google search found that it was quote mentioned in Wikipedia, Hänschen klein. Interestingly, this folk song is used as the theme music of Sam Peckinpah's 1977 film, "Cross of Iron".

German English
Hänschen klein ging allein
In die weite Welt hinein.
Stock und Hut steht ihm gut,
Er ist wohlgemut.
Doch die Mutter weinet sehr,
hat ja nun kein Hänschen mehr.
Da besinnt sich das Kind,
kehrt nach Haus' geschwind.
Little Hans went alone
Right into the wide world.
Looking great with stick and hat
He was in good spirits.
But his mother cried so much,
For she no longer had little Hans.
Such, the child changes its mind,
Turning back home, swiftly.

--root 07:03, 25 November 2008 (PST)

Distance from a road in the United States

How far are you from the closest road? This is a very interesting USGS map:

   Distance to Nearest Road

--root 14:30, 23 November 2008 (PST)

Tax plans

I'm not a Democrat. I'm probably the most conservative person in all of San Francisco (which still makes me a Liberal Pinko Freak in many parts of the US). I'm registered "no party". An any rate, I think the following is a good illustration of how the tax plans would effect your tax bracket.

Republican vs. Democrat: Tax Plans

This may be a little moot in retrospect given that the Republicans in general had a bad day at the polls a few weeks ago.

--root 14:30, 23 November 2008 (PST)

Election night

An unfamiliar emotion stirred within me this evening. I'm somewhat inclined toward the notion that it is what I've heard people call optimism, but it's a bit early to tell. I would not want to rush into an unfounded and exaggerated claim for any benefits of these strange feelings of wellbeing. I found it's best not to speculate when time alone will reveal the facts that I can use to support a theory -- which at the moment I can only best describe as a "gut feeling" and is thus unreliable as predictive tool.

--root 23:51, 4 November 2008 (PST)

Google search tricks

This demonstrates looking for files in open directories indexed by Google. This example searches for yodeling songs:

intitle:index.of +"last modified" +"parent directory" +(mp3|wma|ogg) -htm -html -php -asp +"jodler"

--root 01:10, 3 November 2008 (PST)

The woman who taught me C

I found some old files in a forgotten corner of a disk. The files were pictures in some obsolete UNIX format. They were pictures of the woman to taught me C. She was the teacher for a night class I took at San Francisco State University. I can't remember how I got the pictures. They might have appeared as part of her signature in an email she sent me; although, the C class was a few years before I had an email account. I think I might have gotten in touch with her while I was in college. Her name was "Natalie Jafari". I couldn't find her name on Google... One detail of this story that is unrelated to decoding obsolete image formats is that I had a huge crush on Natalie. This was way back in 1989 -- almost 20 years! I was still a teenager. Talk about your nerd fantasies...

One file was ASCII encoded hex. Another file appeared to be the hex file converted to binary. I think many years ago I had tried unsuccessfully to decode the images. The `file` command could not identify the binary file. I guessed that it was a raw grayscale. With a little experimentation I was able to use ImageMagick to convert it.

mogrify -depth 8 -size 108x128 -flip gray:nat.pic natalie.png

Success! That gave me this image: Natalie Jafari Wow! Just how I remembered her!

One of the other files was ASCII encoded binary. At first I thought maybe XPM or PGM. A little search on keywords in the header showed that it was a FaceSaver file. It turns out that there is a command `fstopgm` that converts these files. I ended up with a 1-bit dithered image. The man page for `fstopgm` said that FaceSaver was an image format copyright of Metron Computerware Ltd. of Oakland, CA. It turns out that Metron is still around and they have a web page that gave history of FaceSaver:

The FaceSaver system captured portraits of the attendees at this and subsequent Usenix conferences. At the conferences themselves we produced neat little sheets of labels with the attendee's portrait, name and address. After the conference, the face database was used to prepare an attendee list, which came complete with the portraits. A database of portraits and contact information is set up at

I saw that FTP address and I thought, "That's funny... I wonder if is still around..." Ha! It was still online! After, little bit of digging and I found the source of the picture. That was the same FaceSaver picture that I had to begin with. And there is trail gets cold...

I'm a little bit concerned that she might read this page someday and be disturbed. Let any concerned parties rest assured that I my acts of pointless biographical research is not all all unusual for me.

--root 21:47, 31 October 2008 (PDT)

MTV finally gets in the game

This is unexpected. MTV just released a free music video site. You don't often see an old school media company do something that makes sense. There's some good stuff on this site. It's not quite as big as it could be, but it's worth a look:

--root 10:07, 29 October 2008 (PDT)

Harry "The Hipster" Gibson

I've been getting a little obsessed by Harry "The Hipster" Gibson. I found a few old videos on YouTube. He sort of reminds one of Don Knots or Martin Short except that he's cool. That's a hard mix to pull off. I love his facial expressions:

--root 13:45, 27 October 2008 (PDT)


The sight of seeing 'V-twin' all over a Ducati article personally sickens me so much that I want to claw my eyes out. Go to Google Translate and translate 'bicilindrico a L' from Italian to English. Hint: you don't get 'V-twin' from our Googelian masters.

--root 11:16, 25 October 2008 (PDT)

Rescue disk

I often use an Ubuntu CD as a rescue disk, but it usually lacks some tools that I need such as a reasonable full copy of Vim, nmap, sshd, forensic tools, etc. So I often end up installing these and hoping that the RAM disk is big enough to hold what I need. So I thought I should make my own CD. It turns out that there is a good tutorial on making your own Ubuntu-based Live CD here:

The author of that page also created a tool to make this easier:

There is another source for making Live CDs from existing systems:

This goes into detail on how this tool works:

I found an interesting tools live CD here:

--root 00:41, 22 October 2008 (PDT)


I'm a cultural retard, so I had no idea who KanYe West is, but I like his blog: And his music grows on me too...

--root 00:41, 22 October 2008 (PDT) is an interesting site. It's a free online money manager. I suppose it's like Quicken; although, I've never used Quicken... The most alarming thing is that wants your bank login userid and password so they can download all your financial information. This seemed to be about the most absurd demand I've ever seen from a free service web site. Naturally, the first thing any savvy internet user suspects is that is some sort of phishing site. But I did some checking of this company and they appear to be legit and their service did intrigue me. What I did was login to my bank account and change my password to a throwaway password. I then setup with that password and let it download my account information. Finally, I went back to my bank account and reset the password so couldn't get back in. I think it is already a leap of faith to give some stranger a copy of all my financial transactions. It's quite another thing to give them the keys and give them permission to help themselves back into my accounts whenever they feel like it. They claim they have read-only access to your accounts. I don't know how they could assure that. During the 10 minutes they had a valid password to my bank account. With all the information I gave them they could have logged in and requested an online payment. What would prevent them from doing that? At any rate, that was reason enough to change my password after I was done using I don't think they can easily build up user trust without some sort of way to use the system with manual uploads. I would much prefer to simply send Mint CSV files or spreadsheets that I download myself from my bank. If I like their service and I trust them, then I might give them access to my checking account.

At any rate, I played with for a bit and it looks useful. I'm going to check it out again next month.

Oddly, one of the minor boosts of confidence that isn't a phishing scam was their domain name. A four letter, common word .com domain name is not easy to come by.

--root 00:41, 22 October 2008 (PDT)

missing features

  1. No path to earning user trust. They have a mighty big barrier to entry. I'm sure a huge percentage of their market would never use Mint even if they do eventually become an established and trusted name. I know plenty of people that refuse to use PayPal.
  2. There is no way to manually request that download more than the last 30 days. To build up a history you have to keep using the service for months. But it is difficult to evaluate the service with only 30 days of history to analyze.
  3. There is no way to manually import CSV or QBIF files. This would seem to be a must-have feature. This would also help people like me to evaluate the service before giving out the keys to my bank account.
  4. It often cannot categorize certain repeating transactions. You can go in and set the category manually. They make this easy, but it does not update all the other transactions of the same amount and to the same payee. It seems like a simple feature to make the system "learn" how to categorize an unknown transaction.
  5. The system should have an option to NOT store userid and password for accounts. I don't mind typing these in each time I want to sync. It would make me feel better knowing that the keys to my bank are not stored in someone's database somewhere. In fact, I wouldn't use the system any other way. I will do this password changing trick once or twice more, but after that I'm not going to waste my time.

--root 19:19, 8 October 2008 (PDT)

Mirage Image Viewer

I've always been on the lookout for a lightweight and fast image viewer, but I've never managed to find a decent one until now. The ancient `xv` is a non-starter. It annoys me that PIL still makes external calls to `xv`. I mean `xv` isn't even open source! All the image viewers for Gnome or KDE are slow to start and take a lot of memory. Pictures should just flash open as quickly as I can hit Enter or double-click on them. The Mirage Image Viewer does this. Mirage hits the sweet spot of small, fast, and simple while having every feature that seems essential at the moment I'm thinking of it.


It lacks two features that are important to me. First, is that it does not update its directory listing if new files are created by another process. Second, is that it will not update the currently displayed image if another process modifies it. The two features are related. This sort of feature is usually implemented by monitoring the listing directory for updates with gamin/inotify and monitoring the currently displayed file with gamin or a poll. The second feature may see like a useless feature but it comes in very handy when working on programs that generate images. It's very nice to edit and run the program from inside the editor and have the resulting image updated automatically in a separate window. Of course, the program you run should not overwrite the existing file. It should create a new, temp file and then rename it when done. Otherwise, the image viewer might see changes to the file when it is only half finished and then display a broken image.

Before Mirage I wrote my own, but it lacked many details I considered crucial such as automatic scaling to fit the screen. The main feature my image viewer had was the automatic refresh of the currently displayed image.

---Root 12:30, 29 September 2008 (PDT)

Eyelid Surgery


The reason I appear to have that sexy leer is because my eyelid was swollen due to a "chalazion" also known as meibomian gland lipogranuloma, This is a cyst in the eyelid that is caused by inflammation of a blocked meibomian gland. It is not to be confused with a stye. I suffer from chalazion outbreaks every few years. Like most hideous diseases there is a genetic predisposition. They are most likely triggered by the imprudent quantities of cheese that I consume. They usually go away with only topical treatment. Unfortunately, this can take several months. On one occasion I has two chalazion in the same eyelid that lasted well over 6 months and actually interfered with my vision. These finally necessitated surgical removal. In contests where the objective is to see whose surgical tales can most quickly sicken a social gathering I found that descriptions of eyelid surgery often bests the competition. Yes, the story of someone's liver biopsy may be filled with pain and terror, but most people don't even know where their liver is, much less empathize with what it might feel like to have a needle poked into it. But a story that starts with the anesthetic injections into the eyelid will loose most of your audience before you even get to the actual meat of the procedure which involves grabbing the eyelid with several pairs of pliers and flipping it inside-out so that it can be sliced open from the inside to expose the cheese-filled tumor and scrapped out with a tiny spoon. Even when you try to assure your audience that the entire procedure is mostly painless they don't want to hear more details nor do they want to see the photographs you had taken of the procedure. I concede that videos of Lasik surgery of the cornea beats eyelid surgery...

The horror of eyelid surgery notwithstanding, I still eat cheese.

--Root 02:30, 29 September 2008 (PDT)


I recently noticed these acronyms for the first time:

"Someone Who Isn't Me"
"Someone Who Isn't You"

SWIM is false coy ways of asking an embarrassing question where the asking party wants to imply that they are not asking for themselves. SWIY is how someone might refer to the SWIM subject in response.

--Root 13:47, 19 September 2008 (PDT)


My interest in religion is mostly detached from any interest in spirituality. I like to read about them in the same way that I like to read about Corvidae or the history of video games... But, if I had to choose, what religious would I follow? I think Jainist (Svetambara) or maybe Hindu.

--Root 12:09, 19 September 2008 (PDT)

made-up word

My new made-up word is 'exactish'. The definition of 'exactish' is left up to the imagination of the reader. It would likely appeal to engineers. I'm afraid to Google for it because every time I come up with something clever I find that someone else has already thought of it.

--Root 17:32, 16 September 2008 (PDT)

cat stealth-shit

One Friday many years ago, I brought my cat to work and she crawled under a co-worker's desk behind a box where she proceeded to take a crap while my co-worker was at lunch. Perhaps the cat shit had cooled before he got back because he did not immediately notice the smell. Then he went home for the weekend. Over the weekend the cat shit dried out and fossilized. Weeks went by until one day he came by my desk to ask me to come identify an object under his desk. I looked and was puzzled: Why would he have an old, dried out cat shit under his desk? It took me a few seconds to make the connection. Who brings their cat to work? Nobody brings a cat to work. Plenty bring their dogs, but nobody brings their cat. I'm the only one who brings their cat to work, so I had to take the rap for my cat's evil deed and we had a good laugh. My co-worker said he had been going CRAZY because only every once in a while would he catch a whiff of something bad, but he couldn't tell where it was coming from. As soon as he started looking for the source of the smell it would disappear. He wondered if it was just his imagination. He was considering to ask to have his desk moved or contact building maintenance to see if a rodent had died in the ceiling. WEEKS, this went on for. WEEKS! It was particularly funny because he was a neat freak. Everyone said that my cat had picked the perfect desk to take a dump. … so the moral is that even little smells can make you crazy and you shouldn't bring those smells to work.

--Root 16:47, 10 September 2008 (PDT)

Google AdSense

If you're using a ad-blocker, the Google ad banner is that blank strip to the left of this text ;-)

About a year ago I added Google AdSense to my site. Why? I did it mostly out of curiosity and I figured it would be useful experience since I work tangentially to the web marketing world where revenue is driven entirely by advertising. I really was not doing this to optimize ad revenue, so I tried to place it in a place that would get in the reader's way. Most of this site is for my own use as a notebook and I didn't want to make the site too annoying even for me to use. I also had no delusions that my site would ever attracted many readers and the type of readers this site might attract certainly are not the type who are likely to click on banner ads... So getting my hands on my share of the Google money stash was certainly not my motivation for the ads.

The twist to this story is that visitors to my site do click on my ads. I wonder why and I wonder about the demographics of my site's visitors. Who are they? Why are they here? Why do they click on my ads? Can I do anything to encourage them to click more often? ... And so now I find myself alarmed that I am actually spending time thinking about a subject that has always been near the top of my list of boring conversation topics.

I don't make a huge amount here, but more than I had first expected. Lately I average $1 a day. The money I get when a reader clicks on an ad is almost enough to pay for my site's hosting; although, to be honest, I tend to think more in terms of how many clicks it takes to earn a pint of beer -- another reason, perhaps, why I have not yet become fabulously wealthy on this whole Internet thing.

--Root 17:39, 7 September 2008 (PDT)

Why is Apple still doing the PC guy versus Mac guy commercials?

Everyone loves the PC guy. He's a goofy dork, but you still like hanging out with him. He's like Toby, the liberated nerd, from American Splendor. Sure, he's borderline autistic and he doesn't always "get it", but you still love the guy. Apple gets advertising points only for making the PC look useless, but you still end up with warm feelings about the PC guy. On the other hand, they shoot themselves in the foot with their idea of the Mac guy -- The Mac guy is a hipster douche bag. You just want to punch him in the face. You don't care how good a job he does. You just hate him.

--Root 13:32, 7 September 2008 (PDT)

"It depends on what the meaning of the words 'is' is."

It's been a decade, but everyone remembers this quote, right?

"It depends on what the meaning of the words 'is' is." --Bill Clinton, during his 1998 grand jury testimony on the Monica Lewinsky affair.

I wonder if he was actually referring to Immanuel Kant' refutation of the ontological proof of God's existence:

"The proposition 'God is almighty', contains two concepts, each having its object, namely, God and almightiness. The small word is, is not an additional predicate, but only serves to put the predicate in relation to the subject. --Kant, "Critique of Pure Reason".

It's a joke. And for the record, I hate philosophy (or rather, I hate Philisophers).

--Root 13:12, 3 September 2008 (PDT)

The problem

The problem with most wiki's, blogs, forums, bulletin boards, and virtually any web site software that supports comments and feedback is that so many of them do not support a good form of <pre> tags for inserting raw, preformatted text. Even ones that claim to have some tag for this will still do all kinds of evil escaping of characters in the raw test. This invariably messes up formatting (bad for code) or strips out critical characters (bad for HTML and Apache conf files).

--Root 17:51, 7 August 2008 (PDT)

Bad Omen

This is disturbing and shameful for more than one reason. I was trying to sign-up for the LinuxWorld Expo. For about an hour their web site was crashed with this error:

Microsoft JScript runtime  error '800a138f'

'brandGlobalXML.selectSingleNode(...)' is null or not an object

/live/template1.asp, line 42 

So LinuxWorld is running IIS and is built with Microsoft ASP -- and it crashed. OK, I'm sure they outsourced it or something and maybe they didn't screen their vendor, but I bet this wouldn't happen to MacWorld.

--Root 13:03, 6 August 2008 (PDT)


Apparently taking apart vacuums is an old joke -- "Don't go off and start taking apart vacuum cleaners!" Well, sure enough, a half-hour later I found myself taking apart my Roomba vacuum. It had been running for only a few minutes when it stopped and started beeping. A spinning brush had become jammed with hair and would not run... So I'm there thinking about what I had just been told, but the vacuum wouldn't work! I HAD to do it! I had to take it apart and remove hair from all the wheels and gears. It was so funny I had to write him back to tell him the news.

--Root 14:17, 13 July 2008 (PDT)

grep I hardly know

I learned yesterday that you can grep simultaneously for two patterns at once without using extended regex sytax (--extended-regexp). Instead you can use multiple -e options. Each -e specifies a separate expression to match and `grep` will match each expression individually -- like an "or" subpattern.

For example the following greps for "ssh" in a `ps` listing, but also includes the column header which would otherwise be lost if you only grepped for "ssh":

# ps axwwo pid,ppid,etime,euser,cmd | grep -i -e ^\\s*PID -e ssh
 5167     1  5-21:11:30 root     /usr/sbin/sshd
 6339  6291  5-21:11:06 noah     /usr/bin/ssh-agent x-session-manager
18562     1  4-01:16:17 noah     xterm -e ssh noah@web10
18563 18562  4-01:16:17 noah     ssh noah@web10

This is quivalent to:

# ps axwwo pid,ppid,etime,euser,cmd | grep -i --extended-regexp ^\\s*PID\|ssh

The first form using multiple -e options makes it easier to add on extra patterns without having to append it to an existing extended regex pattern. This makes it easy to make a nice 'psg' alias (ps grep):

alias psg='ps axwwo pid,ppid,pcpu,pmem,stat,etime,euser,cmd | grep -i -e ^\\s*PID -e '

--Root 13:48, 29 July 2008 (PDT)

Damn cron!

If you have a cron script in /etc/cron.d cron will throw it out of the queue if the permissions are not to its liking. Cron will not reload the script if you fix the permissions. You have to touch the file so that cron will reload it. Cron looks at only changes in time for loading cron scripts.

--Root 19:15, 21 July 2008 (PDT)

Stan's Network versus Noah's Network

Stan runs his network like a fascist police state behind a Berlin firewall that crushes the spirit of TCP/IP packets. Stan often finds himself locked either outsize or inside of his network during one of many revolts by the oppressed packets. Stan uses OpenBSD PF.

Noah's network is run like a Hippie commune of free-love, drum circles and consciousness raising drugs. On occasion some packets wander out and reach their destination. Sometimes they send back postcards with poems written on the back. Sometimes gangs of biker packets roar up and steal all the good drugs. But there is no hate in Noah's network because all packets are created equal and sometimes bad packets are just ones we haven't made love to yet. Noah uses Linux iptables.

--Root 00:38, 18 July 2008 (PDT)

Effeminate slip...

Last night at Final Final bar with Armand and April: I was absent-mindedly running my fingers through my long, flowing hair when April looked at me and said, "Did you just flip your hair?".

--Root 19:21, 16 July 2008 (PDT)

Verisign FAIL

After a long complicated process to renew an Apache cert I hit submit and get this error message: "We are unable to continue with this enrollment for the following reason: errors.ecas.30e9". Failure #1: uninformative error message of the worst sort. The page had a support link that said, "Chat with Us. An Agent is standing by." Clicking opened a popup form. I typed my plea for help into the form and hit submit where I get a message says "Your message has been sent". Then the popup window closes by itself. I tried again with the Chat link using IE instead of Firefox. Same result, but before the popup closed I noticed that the popup URL was Failure #2: if there are no online agents then don't show the Chat link and don't pretend the message was sent. I tried calling humans on the phone and it turns out that all of Verisign customer service is closed after 6:00 PM PST. Failure #3: Support closes? This is the biggest certificate authority in the world? Haven't they heard of outsourcing?

--Root 18:39, 16 July 2008 (PDT)


I wiped out on my bike on top of Bernal hill on Wednesday. I was going uphill and turning right onto a cross-street when I hit a pile of gravel in the intersection. My handguards were awsome! Despite the weight I will put them on any new bike I ever get. I've had these Acerbis for less than a month and they have already saved me lots of grief in two spills. Not only do the guards protect your hands, but they also protect your controls and they act as bar-end sliders.

--Root 11:24, 27 June 2008 (PDT)




--Root 11:46, 20 June 2008 (PDT)

Mind Blown

--Root 00:47, 13 June 2008 (PDT)

William Stout Architectural Bookstore

This was an awesome bookstore. It's theme is architecture related books, but that's too narrow a theme. Think of every fine art, design, photography, travel or architecture book you've ever seen and it's here. I like books with pictures. This place is almost overwhelming.

804 Montgomery st., San Francisco, CA 94133

--Root 17:44, 31 May 2008 (PDT)




--Root 15:28, 22 May 2008 (PDT)


I guess if I had to choose, I'd be part of the Lumpenproletariat; although, I'm probably really part of the Petit-bourgeoisie. I've got to do something about that.

--Root 16:23, 13 May 2008 (PDT)


Well... I have no soul, so I guess there is nothing to loose except my self-respect and there's a few claims against that.

--Root 15:24, 13 May 2008 (PDT)

Star Trek: Phase II New Voyages

Holy Shit! I like to be a nerd, but even I didn't think that "Star Trek Phase II - New Voyages" would be this good. I only saw one episode (episode 3 with George Takei), but the writing was really so good! I mean, the episode had a great straight-forward sci-fi plot, but there was nuance to it. Man, I just watched episode 3 with George Takei (playing himself 30 year older) and if this episode doesn't make you cry then you don't love Star Trek and YOU ARE A BAD PERSON... It was really good. Granted the acting was... well... the acting wasn't great (maybe not even as bad as the original if that is possible), but just it like the original show something intangible made up for it. The actors may not have been terrific, but you felt like they really wanted to be playing their roles and they were trying to make their characters fit into the Star Trek universe. It took me probably a good half of the show before I could accept the new actors as Kirk, Spock, and Bones -- and even though no actor could ever be the same... Maybe it's like a Dr. Who phenomena where it takes a while, but you eventually accept the new actor in their role... But the story was really good and overcame the cognitive disconnect. It helped that they had the original George Takei to tie it into the old series... Really, the writing is what made this show work. I'm really fucking impressed.

OK, so go here Star Trek: Phase II

--Root 00:08, 7 May 2008 (PDT)

public, private, and protected variables

Python doesn't have 'em. Nobody says they're a bad idea, but they add syntax without much benefit. I used to do a lot of C++ and before that C. Never once in my entire career have I seen a bug result from someone poking around with internal state variables that they shouldn't be using. I never seen this problem in the Python world either, so visibility/access restrictions aren't solving a big problem. I look for ways to prevent real errors -- resource leaks; incorrect logic; misunderstanding the requirements. The Python philosophy is that you can discourage clients from using certain variables, but there is no pressing reason to have the language enforce this requirement.

--Root 14:44, 5 May 2008 (PDT)

Caption Contest: Squirrel and Noah

Squirrels love nuts s.jpg

  • Squirrels Love Nuts
  • Mmmm... Hantavirus!
  • Squirrel Nut Zipper
  • "Weasels Ripped My Flesh"

--Root 18:56, 30 April 2008 (PDT)

The Motorcycle Syndrome

Am J Psychiatry 126:1588-1595
ARMAND M. NICHOLI II M.D. Department of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

The author presents findings of an in-depth study of nine accident-prone
motorcyclists and outlines a previously undescribed syndrome in an attempt to
elucidate the psychological causes of the rapidly rising rate of motorcycle
accidents and deaths. Examining the reasons why the motorcycle is particularly
dangerous to these patients, the author explores the specific ego defect common
to them, their adaptive and defensive use of the cycle, the cycle's symbolic
meaning, and the unconscious conflicts it reactivates. He also suggests that
this syndrome gives clues to understanding accident-prone drivers of other
motor vehicles.

--Root 18:16, 21 April 2008 (PDT)

Don't follow the leader into every turn

Holy fuck, Armand is fast. Beautiful ride up to twin peaks. Inspiration to push myself. Nothing like getting jolted out of bed for some motorcycle riding... Man! I use less than 25% of my bike.

I have mixed feelings about this...

But I love squirrels... Squirrel bottle.jpg

--Root 11:55, 18 April 2008 (PDT)

Unicode and UTF-8

I had been using iso-8859-15 as the fileencoding in my Python projects. I only started using this because I got into some trouble with Unicode characters that I had cut-and-pasted from somewhere else. That fixed my problems for a while until I encountered Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt). After a little research I realized that UTF-8 is probably the best encoding to use in most applications. For more info see Unicode.

Python apps:

#!/usr/bin/env python
# vim: set fileencoding=utf-8 :

HTML docs:

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8" />

That pretty much fixed all my problems. Now I have all new Python and HTML documents automatically set UTF-8 in the header. I use a template system in Vim that gives me a nice default document stub when I start editing a blank document of type PY or HTML. I put these UTF-8 settings in the header of my templates.

--Root 00:59, 17 April 2008 (PDT)

I like it with a matte finish

It's difficult to polish a knife blade on a buffing wheel without with catching on the wheel and getting yanked out of your hand; severing all the tendons; and flinging the blade into your eye socket. From now on I don't think I need to have a mirror finish on my pocket knife.

--Root 17:09, 15 April 2008 (PDT)

Ah, Good times! Good times...

OK, It's annoying already. Can we stop saying this now?

--Root 10:16, 15 April 2008 (PDT)

Yosemite Squirrels

I went to Yosemite for a friend's birthday. They tell you not to feed the animals, but the squirrels are living right in the village. They are practically city squirrels. I don't care. I fed them anyways. I had one come right in my room and sit on my knee. I gave it unsalted peanuts in the shell... It's called squirrelmania and I had it bad. People kept asking, "What's with all the interest in the squirrels?" -- What's wrong with these people? I mean, come on! The squirrels were all running around doing cute things like digging in the dirt and hopping off trees and fighting with each other... We sat outside in the Sun at a cafe drinking wine. Everyone was chatting pleasantly, but there were like squirrels everywhere. They kept leaping around in the background distracting me with their antics. I didn't understand how everyone could not be distracted by all the scampering squirrel shenanigans. I kept interrupting and pointing, saying "Oh! Look at that one!"... I'm going to turn into one of those old men that feeds the squirrels in the park.

--Root 10:03, 15 April 2008 (PDT)


I just donated money to the Inkscape project. This is by far, one of the best open source graphic tool projects. It's very sharp and well done. The user interface for editing vector nodes is very intuitive and powerful. Illustrator's UI for editing lines is just brain damaged. I will grant that Illustrator may have a million more features and be more powerful for the extremes of drawing complexity, but I think a lot of professional graphic artists could probably get a lot more millage out of Inkscape.

--Root 13:25, 14 April 2008 (PDT)

Screw you and your blog

Back in my day we didn't use blogs. We used ".finger" and ".plan" files. You would "finger" someone to see what they were up to. The good ol' days...

--Root 10:19, 9 April 2008 (PDT)

Tennyson Lee, engineer of the large

A Tennyson engineering project is never small -- they use at least twice the power that send mortals running in fear that an alien invasion force has landed.

--Root 10:14, 9 April 2008 (PDT)


What do you call a Japanese restaurant run by all Chinese? We call our local lunch spot the "Chapanese place". I thought it was funny. I've forgotten the real name of the place. It's also staffed almost entirely by high school girls (OK, probably college age, but they look like high-school age to me). The food is so-so, but we keep going back. I go often enough that I don't even have to order. The waitresses that know me just bring me the usual.

--15:27, 8 April 2008 (PDT)

Sugar by any other name

Bah! I'm annoyed at all the "health foods" that use "Evaporated Cane Juice" as a euphemism for SUGAR (sucrose)... Cane Juice -- Fie! Don't insult my intelligence with your healthy mumbo jumbo... See, that's how they make table sugar -- they take Cane Juice and then evaporate it. Presto! Sugar becomes evaporated cane juice.

--Root 15:39, 7 April 2008 (PDT)

Paul Robertson Brain Damage

Friend of mine turned me on to this PAUL ROBERTSON video "Kings of Power 4 Billion %" -- It's an anime and side-scroller-shooter-game inspired music video -- not normally my kind of thing, but this video is awesome. Can't decide if this makes me want to do drugs or if this makes them unnecessary.

--Root 09:23, 7 April 2008 (PDT)


I went to the San Francisco Motorcycle Club yesterday (April 3, 2008) to check it out and to return an extension cord to one of the members. Seems like a nice group. I'm going to come back to go on a few of their rides. ... The club house was cool.

--Root 12:48, 4 April 2008 (PDT)

Your forum sucks

I hate your stupid forum web site with its absurd password policy such as minimum 8 chars, mixed case, and a non-alpha character. It's a freakin' FORUM not my bank account! You'll be lucky if I ever come back to the site, much less remember the stupid password. The "My IBM registration" is like this. This is just so you can view their Developer Works tutorials. It's lame that they even make you register just to view web content.

--Root 12:45, 4 April 2008 (PDT)

Resist the Windows Tranny!

Trying to convince a friend to make the leap from from Windows to Ubuntu. Over IM I wrote, "Free yourself from the Windows tranny!". Er... I meant "tyranny". The Y makes a big difference -- Oh, there's a nice double entendre too.

--Root 10:10, 31 March 2008 (PDT)

LinkedIn Recommendation

A friend of mine asked me to write a LinkedIn recommendation for him. I wrote this:

Stan was well behaved under my tutelage. He was an asset to the team.
I cannot comment on the events that took place after I 
resigned from the company and left Stan to his own devices. 
I was told that he took up with a bad crowd and took to using Ruby.

In my defense: #1, He didn't take the whole LinkedIn thing seriously to begin with and #2, It was all true!

Of course, I changed it to something more professional when he got serious and started to whine about it.

--Root 11:27, 18 March 2008 (PDT)


Sometimes people mistake me for a Goth because I dress in all black. This distresses me. I have no interest in anything Goth. Dressing in all black is an engineering decision. It's not a statement. Well, maybe it is an engineering statement.

I dress in all black for a number of reasons:

  • Mainly it's because I ride a motorcycle every day and I wear a black jacket and black boots. Any time I try to wear a shirt color other than black the bottom of the shirt pokes out from my jacket producing a colorful fringe. It looks silly. It looks like a Tutu. OK, so that's not so much of a good engineer's argument... That a fashion reason.
  • I don't instantly ruin black clothes if I get grease on them. I get grease on my pants or shirt and least once a week.
  • I don't have to separate any of my laundry. Everything is the same color. It all goes in the same wash. It's perfect uniformity.
  • It's super easy to dye black clothes back to black when they get a little old and gray looking. This also covers stains that show up on gray. Every couple months I dump in some black dye in the wash. All the stains are forgotten.
  • This also solves the awkward gift problem. Sometimes my favorite aunt will send me a shirt for x-mas that is nice and comfy, but is some color or pattern that I wouldn't know what to do with (what is plaid for?). I just dump it in the black dye and the problem is solved... I love my aunt.
  • I don't have to decide what to wear in the morning. All my t-shirts, underwear, and socks are exactly the same. I don't even allow different types of socks in my wardrobe. They are all black Thorlo brand. This way I don't even have to match my socks.
  • Black looks good at night. I can be very under dressed in my Carhartts by day, but still walk into a nice restaurant at night after work.
  • Black isn't that hot in the Sun. People whine too much. Besides, I like it hot. It's good for your skin. I work better in the heat.

--Root 15:37, 27 February 2008 (PST)

Texas drive notes

I ate bull balls. Rocky Mountain Oysters they call them here. They weren't bad, but not something I would recommend or go out of my way for again. They were sort of like kidneys (but milder). Taste was fresh, bland with a very faint kidney-like reek in the background. Texture was soft, but a little spongy -- similar to sweetbreads. This feast took place at the New Mexico/Texas border of El Paso. We were actually just on the New Mexico side.

Some roads in Texas have 80 MPH speed limits.

--Root 12:55, 25 February 2008 (PST)

Don't Mess with Texas

I got pulled over by a Texas State Trooper in Pecos county. The speed limit on I-10 is 80 MPH in Texas. But they seriously don't want you to go over 80. I was doing 85 (by cruise control). The trooper let me off with a friendly warning. But in Texas they have Warning tickets. He actually printed one out with all my info on it. I'm not sure, but I suspect this is so they can track you if you get pulled over again. The second time they won't let you off. At least that's my suspicion.

--Root 12:22, 25 February 2008 (PST)

Free Beer Day!!!

I've hit my first official "Free Beer Day" from Google AdSense. I made $4.61 on my web site today so far -- enough to buy a cheap domestic beer and still leave a tip! Usually I make like 10 cents a day from Google AdSense. But $4.61 is real money! So now the dirty feeling of putting advertising on my site is starting to go away. I have a lot of Open Source software I give away. Now my software is not only free as in free speech but it's also free as in free beer!

I'm a simple man with simple needs.


Motorcycle Roadhouses

I was thinking it would be cool to have a Wiki of motorcycle roadhouses. This guy beat me to it:

--Root 15:53, 14 February 2008 (PST)

Aerostitch Tours

I like long distance riding. I wonder if these tours are any good: But will they let me go even if I don't own an Aerostitch jacket? I got Aerostitch pants -- they're great -- but their jackets are fugly.

--Root 15:46, 14 February 2008 (PST)


I saw a group of these old-school outlaw motorcycle guys ride past on the freeway once. This was the first time I saw or heard of them. I thought their jackets had about the best logo for a motorcycle club I've ever seen. The lead rider made a hand gesture to signify (I assume) "commence lane splitting" and they all broke side-by-side formation; lined up; and started splitting. Another time in Oregon I saw their patch sticker on a bulletin board in a motorcycle cafe. That's when I decided to look up the name, BoozeFighters Motorcycle Club. It seems that they are infamous. They seemed like good riders.

Here's someone else's story:

--Root 15:21, 7 February 2008 (PST)

Bathroom remodel

Three months of bathroom remodel and I still have no toilet. Kumiko freaked out last week -- not without some justification; although, much of her concern and the bills came as a surprise. I think my problem is that while this has all been happening I have had another place to live; shower; and poop. So, while I really would like to go back to my apartment, the remodel has been out of sight and out of mind. That's just the way my mind works. I have so many other pressing issues. At any rate, Kumiko dumped all the project management and bills in my lap. This is probably a good thing. Now I am much more involved in the project. Still, things are on hold until I can raise the last amount of cash to finish this all off. Everything in done except for installing the appliances and hooking them up to the plumbing. --Root 14:14, 7 February 2008 (PST)

I'm normally a safe and sane rider

Last night I was on my way to having dinner with Sandra and her brother's girlfriend, Lisa, from Texas. I decided to ride by BevMo to pick up a bottle of wine for dinner. On the way there I stopped hard at a red light and skidded the rear tire. It was a long slide. The rear was light and the front suspension was compressed. The light turned green just as I got to the crosswalk, so I dropped the front brake and twisted the throttle. The front suspension sprang back up and the front wheel came off the ground. I wheelied through the entire intersection. I could see under my front tire. Then there is that frightening yet amusing "scootch" feel of the front tire coming back down that reminds me of an airplane landing. Wheee!!! I meant to do that!

--Root 12:09, 27 January 2008 (PST)

MDB Tools Suite -- My God, it works!

MDB Tools Suite is open source (GPL) code that lets you dump data from Microsoft JET database files (Access MDB files). I didn't have much hope that it would work, but it worked flawlessly. It's available from RPM Forge and in the Ubuntu main package repository.

Get a list of tables in a database:

   mdb-tables database.mdb

Dump a table to CSV:

   mdb-export database.mdb table

--Root 13:49, 24 January 2008 (PST)

Bike Cover Stolen

Someone stole my motorcycle cover. It's not that easy to just flip it off. You have to go around and untug all the elastic bits. This happened in the parking lot of my office last night (I work late). Two suspects sprang to mind. There were a bunch of skate hooligans hanging out back last night. There are also several homeless camps nearby. I figure there is some respect between skaters and bikers, but they are kids, so... Also, there has been some respect between me and homeless camps. They never cause any trouble. So, now I have no evidence, but now I'm suspicious of everyone. Sucks to come out late at night from work to a wet bike. Plus I had to leave the bike out all night in the rain when I got home. --Root 13:08, 24 January 2008 (PST)

Female Babies

Of the half dozen or so babies I know being born lately, all but one are female. I asked a friend about this and all his friends have females children too. --Root 13:32, 23 January 2008 (PST)

Week in review

I spent most of the week sick. I'm still recovering. I was out for two days, but I could have taken off four days when I consider how sick and useless I felt at work. At least I'm not one of those bastards who will come to work no matter how sick they are. I hate those people.

I've managed to, yet again, delay the investigation of the mystery of the duplicate Nagios alerts. Actually, I did go over the config files. I looked at the obvious overlapping contact hours. I didn't see anything suspicious.

I am starting to actually suck at Windows. Answering some hapless user's pleas for help once a week is not enough to keep me sharp on the basics of Windows. The config and admin apps area spread all over the place.

AT$T Edge network has been down for the better part of a week on my iPhone. I hate AT&T. If I didn't love my iPhone I wouldn't use AT&T. Oddly enough, AT&T has good hold music -- light Jazz, but not elevator Jazz.

Finally got my Ducati Multistrada into the mechanic (bad weather had prevented me from getting in for nearly two weeks). We were afraid that a timing belt might have gone. That can totally destroy the engine. I was starting to question the wisdom of this expensive Italian machinery. It turns out that it was just a burnt out coil -- nothing major; easy to fix; and totally covered under warranty. I love my bike again.

w00t! Nick, my favorite retired mechanic, is going to come over tomorrow to help me with my '66 Beetle. For this I trade computer knowledge.

--Root 09:45, 19 January 2008 (PST)

Sick day

I've had a bad cold or flu the last couple days. It's been years since I've taken off sick. What to do when sick? Old school ASCII pr0n! Yes, it's been a good day to stay home and while sick. I also updated my MediaWiki Include extension: . --Root 14:39, 16 January 2008 (PST)

Tony Millionaire

So Tony Millianaire's Maakies is the greatest thing I somehow managed to overlook during the 1990's. I rediscovered Maakies a couple years ago and I was astounded that I wasn't already a fan. There drawings were somewhat familiar -- I'm sure I had seen the strip before in a newspaper, but I wasn't a fan yet. Why not?

Tony Millionaire now also illustrates a series of children's books. I bought many of the books even though I do not have any children. My favorite is Uncle Gabby. If you know Tony Millionaire's adult comic, Maakies, you might think that he would write an ironic children's book. This is not the case. Tony Millionaire has a soft side and it's beautiful. This book will be remembered as a peer amongst the likes the Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland. The drawings are astounding. The story is beautiful.

--Root 13:12, 15 January 2008 (PST)


Is this thing on? Hello?

--Root 01:28, 15 January 2008 (PST)

What hath God wrought?

.-- .... .- - 
.... .- - .... 
--. --- -.. 
.-- .-. --- ..- --. .... - ..--.. 

--Root 01:15, 15 January 2008 (PST)

First Item

Testing bringing up the system.

--Root 11:35, 9 January 2008 (PST)

<endFeed />