Sunday, February 27, 2005

Insert Oz Reference Here

If you want an off-beat Aussie romantic comedy with various allusions to The Wizard of Oz, may I recommend Danny Deckchair (2003, PG-13). It's based on a true story, but the location has been moved to Australia. I'm not going to give you a long review, just note that if you want a few laughs and see this movie at the local store, rent it.

Ignore Ebert's ranting about plot inconsistencies. You'll know they exist, and you won't care.

Back Online

It had been building. For several days our cable modem had been dropping lights --you know, the four green lights on the modem -- suddenly two of them would go out, and another would just blink. No connection to the outside world. It happened enough so that I was finally able to convince my family that it was different from the usual loss of wireless signal from our 11b router, which is caused by microwaves, wireless landline phones, and interference from neighbors' wireless setups. But, eventually the Internet would always come back.

Until Friday night. Then, while we were watching the start of an epic Stargate arc, the modem went down. And wouldn't come up.

I did all the usual things. I turned the bloody thing off, on, off, on, ... Nothing. I stomped around. Nothing. I tightened every connection to the cable system in and out of the house -- TVs included. Still nothing. Finally, I removed all splitters from the line and had only the modem connected directly to the wire from the ground. Still nothing.

OK, sigh, call a neighbor. No outages in the neighborhood. sigh Call Comcast on Saturday morning. It only took about 20 key presses to speak to a human, who told me I had done everything she could see to from the phone and they'd send someone out on Sunday between 8am and 5pm. SIGH.

He got here about 3pm. Actually pretty nice. He was impressed that we have a Linux box, runs Mandrake himself. Knew how to query the modem from an xterm. (I suspect that this is unusual, but it was appreciated.)

But nothing worked -- until we connected the modem directly to the computer, without the router. This accidentally turned the modem over 180 degrees, i.e. upside down, at which point all four green lights came solidly on.

We then eventually realized that we hadn't tightened one connection -- the one inside the wall. Yes, it was loose, so he tightened in. Now I get a better signal than we've ever gotten before. Before he left, he even tightened the connection inside the plate to the upstairs TV, which had been giving us problems.

Of course, it may be that the modem was just reacting as all appliances do to the presence of repairmen -- start to work. In which case we have to get a new cable modem. But it's been running for several hours, and the power levels are still in the proper range, so we probably (knock wood) have things fixed.

Everyone at Comcast was friendly and helpful, except for the 8-5 thing. I know that friendly and helpful isn't the universal perception of a cable company, but they were good this time.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Fedora Core 3 Walkthrough

ioerror is running a series on Fedora Core 3:

  1. Installation
  2. First Boot, Updates and Security

And, of course, check out Working With Fedora Core 3

Checking Something

Nothing to see here. Really, nothing at all. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

Things Added

We (hey, I'm the editor, I can say we) added a couple of new things to the Blog this week.

First, if you go down to the bottom of the bar on the right you'll see:

Blogarama - The Blog Directory

a link to the Blogarama directory site. We applied for listing there today, and hope to be listed soon.

Second, over in the "Favorite Blogs" section, is a link to Falafel Sex, which isn't about sex, and is very funny. Unless, of course, you're a certain cartoon character. Enjoy it.

Third, a little envelope at the bottom of each entry. This allows you to mail the article to your friends and relatives. I'm not sure why you'd want to do this, but there you have it.

Fourth, a little pencil at the bottom of each entry. That's there to allow me to do quick edits, such as adding the third and fourth "new additions" to this post.

Snow Day

Yup, it's snowing in Washington. Which means everything shuts down. It started at 5:30 this morning, when loving children woke us up to inform the parents that school was canceled. To be fair, they have to get up that early, because the bus arrives at 6:31, and neither mom nor dad is going to drive them to school if they are late.

Looked outside. Not a flake of snow to be seen. Turn on the radio to WTOP. Yes, indeed, it's going to snow, 4-8 inches, with the peak at about 1:30, when the school buses start hearding children home. So, for once, our blessed school administrators have listened to the weather men. Usually they will wait until the roads are totally impassable before doing anything. Of course, if they do believe the weatherman, then likely as not there is no snow.

Today, however, everyone was right on. Right now (1 pm), we've got 3-4 inches on the ground, and it doesn't show signs of stopping.

Now the government has not shut down. All those Federal Employees slogged into work, faithfully spending your tax dollars. Well, except for those who to Liberal -- uh, make that "Unscheduled" Leave, taking a vacation day in exchange for not tying up traffic by trying to leave work now, as the Federal government is closing two hours early. Given the way Washington drives in snow, leaving work two hours early means that those who went in will get home only two hours later than usual.

We didn't seem to have a big runup to the storm. No panic buying of toilet paper and extra bottles of water. Maybe people had stocked up for the dud storm over the weekend, or maybe they just didn't think a late February storm would be that much bother. It shouldn't be, things are supposed to clear out tonight and we'll be starting to warm up again.

In the meantime, we'll stay right here a Blogger Central, tweaking the template and looking for things to post. Leave a comment below. You'll actually get a quick response today.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Searching for a Weapon of Mass Distruction

This is from this week's Onion, in case you wondered:

Bush Determined To Find Warehouse Where Ark Of Covenant Is Stored

WASHINGTON, DC—In a surprise press conference Monday, President Bush said he will not rest until the warehouse where the Ark of the Covenant, the vessel holding the original Ten Commandments, is located. "Nazis stole the Ark in 1936, but it was recovered by a single patriot, who braved gunfire, rolling boulders, and venomous snakes," Bush said, addressing the White House press corps. "Sadly, due to bureaucratic rigmarole, this powerful, historic relic was misplaced in a warehouse. Mark my words: We will find that warehouse." Bush added that, after they are strengthened by the power of the Ark, U.S. forces will seek out and destroy the sinister Temple of Doom.

Gmail Up and Running

And my new Gmail account is

Let's see how long it takes to fill up with spam.

Want an Gmail Account?

Once upon a time, in the far past, the Blogger Home Page offered Gmail accounts to good little Bloggers like me. I never took them up on the offer, and eventually it went away. Then, of course, I decided that I wanted a Gmail account. But none was to be had.

But now, Google's releasing a lot more email accounts. Thanks to the TourBus mailing list, I learned that is collecting donated gmail invites and distributing them to anyone who asks, first come, first served. Currently they have 332,260 to share. All they ask is that you donate excess invites you receive back to them.

And so I signed up. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Pitchers, Catchers, and Fans Report

I'm not going to comment on what is going on on ESPN right now. They will find a way out of this slump, or Bill Self will find himself a new job. You think what happened to Matt Doherty at Carolina was bad? Wait to see what happens if Self's old team faces Roy's new team in the NCAA championship, and KU is nowhere to be seen.

OK, enough. I'm not commenting. Really.

Back to the topic at hand: Whenever I'm in range of a major league club, I go to a few games a year. At KU I went to Royals games, when what is now Kauffman Stadium was brand new, and the Royals were an up and coming team. At IU we drove the 120+ miles to Cincinnati to see the end of the Big Red Machine. At Rutgers, I braved the D-train from Penn Station up to Yankee Stadium, even wearing a Royals hat, and surviving. (OK, I didn't wear a Royals hat in the bleacher seats, just in the main seating stadium.) When I'm in Boston in the summer I find a way to get into Fenway Park, even if it's in the Uecker section.

And for the last twenty years, I've made my way up to Balmer to see the Orioles, either in Memorial Stadium or Camden Yards. They only year I missed going to at least one game was when we were out of the country.

But now, I'm Peter Angelos's worst nightmare: I've bought a share of a 20-game ticket package to RFK to see the Washington Nationals.

It's an easy decision, really. For one thing, the Orioles have been mediocre for years. For another, I work in DC, so even though I live about 20 miles from both RFK and Camden, I pass by RFK every day on my way home. And finally, I want something I can be a part of from the ground up. That was the fun of being a Royals fan in the 70s -- here was a team in a city rejected by baseball, building itself up, overcoming the Yankees' ability to hire more expensive players (having a billionare owner helped), and actually beating the Yankees in 1980 and winning the series in 1985. Since then, of course, it's been all down hill, but there is always a chance of a future rise.

The Nationals also come from nowhere, since the last few years in Montreal and Puerto Rico were just playing out the string. It's a new beginning for what is essentially a new team, in the city that baseball forgot.

And I get to be a part of it.

HG2G Trailer, Take Two

Here's a better quality version of the Hitchhiker's Guide Trailer, from

(Click on the "QuickTime, Super Hi-Res" link under "Trailer")

More Blog Stats

This is part of an occasional series where I hit the next Blog link at the top of the page 100 times and categorize the results by the first comment that comes into my head. This time I hit the button 102 times. One of these was a repeat, and another was very bad HTML, so I counted exactly 100 blog entries.

The following categories are my own labels, and may not reflect the actual content of the blog, just what I saw on the first few screens. Don't ask me which blogs fit where, 'cause I didn't keep a list of links I hit. If you think I'm deriding your own blog, I'm probably not, I most likely didn't see it.

My Life: Stories, comments, notes, pictures, from ordinary people20
Non-English: Again, nothing wrong with this, I just can't classify them19
My Life, LiveJournal Version: broadened definition -- people who are, think, act like, or wanna be teenagers. Most of last time's Incomprehensible category falls in here13
One Post (within the last month): The optimists13
Advertising disguised as a blog: There are a surprising number of these. Many are essentially the same post repeated over and over. Does someone get money for signing up for one of these things? And who finds them, other than fans of random surfing? 6
Personal Sports, Hobbies, and Obsessions: running, knitting, church restoration, you name it 5
Photographs: one blogger, one digital camera 5
Promote a Cause: You've really, really got to help with this 3
Art -- Classical, Modern, Commercial 2
Interesting Things on the Web: smorgasbord of links. Dave Barry's Blog would fit here 1
The Law 1
Music 1
Middle East 1
Politics -- Mostly Conservative 1
Tech -- Hardware 1
Tech -- Software 1
One Post (more than a month old): Optimism didn't pan out 1
Politics -- Mostly Liberal 1
Pop Culture 2
Science Fiction -- TV and Movies 1
Singles Organizations 1
Sports 1

Void where prohibited. Taxes, tags, and ammunition extra. Offer may be different in certain states, consult your local web authority. No blogs were harmed in the making of this table.

Mmm! Video

Since Homer Simpson has now appeared on Stargate SG-1, it seems appropriate to highlight this appearance of Dan Castellaneta and Harry Shearer (Mr. Burns) on the Conan O'Brien Show.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Your SF Personality

Does your preference in Science Fiction tell anything about your personality? check kuro5shin to find out.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Maybe You Should Start Thinking About Panicing's home page is currently featuring the new trailer for the upcoming Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie, which premiers on April 29. Here's the direct link to the Flash version, which may or may not work:

First impressions:

  • Arthur and Ford: Great
  • Zaphod: Needs a better head
  • Trillian: ho-hum
  • Marvin: I'm not impressed. Really.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Every Washington driver's favorite radio station, WTOP, has a list of vanity license plates you'll never see on the road

Hint: These plates were banned because someone considered them offensive. WTOP lists some of the offending plates. Don't say I didn't warn you.

In Case You Were Wondering
What Game I Was Talking About Yesterday


Monday, February 14, 2005

Tough Loss

Double overtime, on the road. Maybe a bad call at the end, but I'm not sure the foul wouldn't have been on Langford. Oh, well, still in first place, still have number one seed in the regional, so not too bad a loss. Too bad it was against Bobby, though.

The Silliest Rule in Basketball

Since it just came up: It's too easy to call a time out in basketball. You should only be able to call time out when you have uncontested control of the ball. Not, as just happened, while you are falling out of bounds. This happened to be Tech getting the call, but KU, and every other team in the known universe, does it, too. It makes a travesty of the game. "Yes, he was flying into the third row, but he was able to call time out before he wiped out three fans, an usher, and the Cracker-Jack man." It's a silly rule, and should be changed.

I Hate

Being forced to not watch double overtime games.

The Movies

Waiting for Overtime to be, well, over. As I said once before, I don't do well watching KU games. Unfortunately, Loud Mouth Dick can still be heard across the house.

Anyway, I see that I've listed a bunch of movies in my Blogger Profile. Let's review why they made the list. Note that they aren't in order of preference:

  • Casablanca -- best movie ever. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy twits Nazis, boy gets girl, boy shoots Nazi, gives up girl for the greater good.
  • The Maltese Falcon -- best detective story every written. Or maybe I just like Bogart.
  • Star Wars -- best SF/Fantasy movies. The only ones I'll watch over, 30 years later.
  • Star Trek II-IV -- these best captured the spirit of the series, and formed a coherent story arc.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark -- just a fun story.
  • Lord of the Rings -- very good adaptation of the novels.
  • Hoosiers -- I went to grad school in Indiana. I played basketball for a small high school, not in Indiana.
  • Breaking Away -- in 6 years at IU, this was the only Little 500 I every saw.
  • It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World -- the funniest cast of actors ever assembled.
  • Cat Ballou -- OK, it's a parody, but it's still the best Western ever.

Silly Stat

As KU-Bobby (I can call him that, I was at IU in '76) goes to overtime -- ESPN blurbs "KU is 7-0 in games decided by 7 points or less". HELLO, at the moment KU is 20-1, and the 1 was a blowout. So THEY HAVE TO BE 7-0 in games decided by 7 points or less. Duh.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

And I Should Mention

That I found out about the fortune files mentioned in the last two messages by looking at Dag Wieers Apt/Yum RPM repository. Many useful files not found in the regular Fedora Core repositories, and, as you might guess, you can install via yum.

More Fortunes has Calvin and Hobbes and Futurama files.


Remember the fortune program? Now it's available in Fedora Core Extras so you don't have to roll your own RPM. But you may want an additional list of quotes. has a wide set of fortunes, including Discworld, Hitchhiker's Guide, X Files, and Forrest Gump. Comes complete with instructions and the index files.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Firefox: Adding Search Engines to the Search Bar

One of the great things about Mozilla Firefox is the search box that appears along side the address box. By default, you can search Google, Yahoo,, Creative Commons, and Amazon. Below those is an option to "Add Search Engines". Click that, and you get to a page which lets you add more engines.

Except that it doesn't work for a standard installation, since the default directory for the search plugins is $firefoxhome/searchplugins, where $firefoxhome is the directory holding the Firefox installation. Usually that's owned by root, and you don't want to allow an ordinary user to write to root. Apparently a future version of Firefox will allow you to put the search plugins into your ~/.mozilla directory, but not yet. The bug report above has a patch that implements this feature, but you'll have to recompile the source code to make it work. In the meantime, to add search engines to the bar, go nicely ask your system administrator to do it. If you're the SA this may be a problem, but you'll just have to trust yourself. If you have sudo privileges you can also run Firefox with the

$ sudo firefox

command, add the search engines you want, and quite Firefox. Needless to say, you don't want to run Firefox as root or via sudo for more than the minute it takes to add the search engines.

Blogger Improvements

Apparently, the comments system for Blogger has been improved. Now you don't need a Blogger account to leave comments. So y'all start leaving comments, hear?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Riding The Bus

No, not Jerome Bettis. The Internet Tourbus has spent years giving tips about where to go and what to see on the Web. Today's issue (which will be in the archives at some point) has two articles of note:

  • A link to Dave Taylor's explanation of Really Simple Syndication (RSS) and RSS Aggregators. Learn what the little orange "XML" box is for.
  • The Bus's own Bob Rankin's Guide to Linux. The Bus mostly caters to the Windows crowd, but apparently Rankin uses Linux. Smart guy. There's even some hints about using Perl in here. Just glancing at the table of contents (and the reviews of the print version) it seems to be RPM oriented, i.e., best for the RedHat/Fedora/Mandrake crowd. I'll post more when I know more.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Ultimate PowerPointTM Presentation

From The Onion

Couldn't Resist

Yes, of course, the new version of ical compiles and runs on Fedora Core 3.

My Wife Sent Me This

More ical

When we last left Sanjay Ghemawat's ical calendar program, I was trying to get it to run on a SUSE Linux machine, without much success. The problem seems to be the various versions of Tcl and Tk that are to be found in different implementations of Linux.

Fortunately, a new version, ical-2.3.1, is out. This site has bandwidth problems, though. Fortunately, I found John Heidmann's site, which has source RPMs for Fedora Core 2 and 3. After extracting the source, and looking closely at the spec file, I was able to get ical up and running on the SUSE machine, meaning that now I can get notified before every seminar.

Dare I try compling the Fedora Core 3 RPM on this machine? Not tonight, but maybe over the weekend.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Things I Forgot to Say about Superbowl ILX

Just a few:

  • In addition to missing the score by one point, I also said that Adam Vinatieri would kick the winning field goal. He did, though not at the end of a last-second drive.
  • Announcer Chris Collingsworth was down on the Patriots young cornerbacks during the Eagle's 3rd quarter touchdown drive. Something about them finally realizing that they were in the Superbowl, and that they had to cover Terrell Owens. Then on the next drive they stuffed the Eagles, and CC all mentioned was how well the corners were playing.
  • I didn't watch many of the commercials, but the series was funny. I didn't see GoDaddy's, but now they have a longer version on the web. You see almost as much there as on an episode of Desperate Housewives.

Digging into RPM files

RedHat based Linux systems, and others, use the RPM Package Manager (yes, it's recursive) to package files for the computer. RPMs can come in binary or source (SRPM) versions. We've covered how to compile an SRPM into an RPM. But what if we just want to get at the files in an RPM or SRPM file? Today I was trying to compile ical on a SUSE Linux machine. In order to do that, I had to pull the files out of an ical*.src.rpm file. But how?

Comes the Web to the rescue, in the form of a Bill Kearney article. I'll summarize it here:

Get the RPM or SRPM file to your computer. Then run the command:

rpm2cpio package.rpm | cpio -iv --make-directories

where package.rpm is the name of your file. The contents of the RPM file will be placed in the current directory.

I never did get ical to compile on SUSE. More on that later.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Vanity of Vanities

OK, it might not be as bad as The Preacher said, but I'm going to start an exercise in ego-boosting or self-humiliation. At the bottom of the right-hand bar you'll see a little box that says Site Meter, which will keep track of visits to this blog. At the moment the number on it is 1. That would be me. Clicking on the meter will give you some other stats about this blog.

It's sort of like the citation index we have to keep track of at work. I've got a number of publications, and every once in a while the powers that be want to know how many people reference them. And therefore we go to the Citation Index, which (for a fee) counts such things. The Site Meter performs a similar function for the blog.

I'm curious, really. Who reads this thing besides me and TK? Anybody? No one leaves comments. So this is a way of finding out.

So let me know, Blogizens, is anyone out there reading this?

Yup, a Dynasty

OK, I missed the score by one (24-21, not 23-21), and I didn't get the ending right, but the Pats did win. It was not a pretty game. The defense mostly dominated the first half, and and the second half had some nice drives by both sides.

Remember how it was said that McNabb wouldn't make the mistakes Rothlisberger made? McNabb made the mistakes, though.

Oh yes -- Freddy Mitchell? One catch, 11 yards. TO played fantastically, though, 122 yards on 9 catches.

And what about Philadelphia's time management? Down by ten with about 4 minutes left, they played like they had another quarter in the game. Even on the last possession, before the interception, they lost time on the clock when Westbrook caught a no-gain pass. That and the turnovers killed the Eagles.

Sorry Philly. You've still got chances, though. McNabb is yet young.

However, Brady is younger, and the Pats will have all their on-field weapons back next year as far as I know. They'll lose both coordinators, but the keep Belichick. I'd say they're odds-on favorites for next year's Superbowl. Yes, we do have a dynasty.

Historical Kansas Maps

I wasn't exactly looking for this, but here's a neat collection of Kansas maps before 1900 from Wichita State.


BBC Five Live is blocked in the US for the duration of the game. "Contractual Obligations." It would have been fun hearing them try to explain American Football over the radio.

Another Sign of the Apocalypse (UK Version)

Not only does the BBC have extensive pre-game coverage of Superbowl IXL, tonight you'll be able to listen to the game on BBC5. The only thing missing is the commercials.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Dave Barry's Guide To Men

is going to be a Major Motion Picture. From the trailers, it looks like it's starring Dave himself.

Thanks to RToaCL for the link.

Does Anybody Really Know What Day It Is?

Over on Slashdot they're having a discussion of Sunbird, Mozilla's new stand alone calendar program. I downloaded it, tried it, and found:

It can't be programmed to accept the fact that the fourth Thursday of the eleventh month is a holiday.

It also can't figure out when Easter is, either, but I've given up on finding a calendar which will do that. emacs has calendars for every religion and culture known to man, but hey, put that in a modern calendar program? What do you want, anyway?

My favorite calendar program for X was called ical. No, not the ical you're thinking of, this is a different one. It was originally on Sanjay Ghemawat's page, but as you'll see, that page ain't there anymore. Fortunately, Tom Bennet has updated the old RedHat RPMs for ical, and released them to the public. I took the Fedora Core 2 SRPM and got it to install. Of course, first I had to install the tcl-devel and tk-devel packages, but that was easy, as they're in the original Fedora Core 3 installaton and so accessible via yum. Once I did that, the program worked just as I remembered it from old versions of RedHat.

If you need a relatively lightweight calendar program, don't mind that it's format isn't very compatible with anything else, and like the fact that it can figure out that the third Monday in February is President's Day (US), then try this version of ical.

Now could someone come up with a 100-year file of the dates of Easter and the related moveable feasts? You could start here. Or maybe pilfer the code from emacs.

The Story of My Life

Except, of course, that I'm a man, grew up near farms but never lived on one, and my wife can't drive a tractor, though she makes great dinners.

(And here are other Jeanne Marie Laskas columns from the Washington Post.)


Remember Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002? St. Louis vs. who, New England? This was supposed to be the game that made Mike Martz a Certified Offensive Genius. Things didn't quite turn out that way, did they?

Best Nike ad, ever, appeared the day after. Full page, just a swoosh, and the words:

That's Why They Play the Game

And now it's Bill Belichick's turn. However, I'm not going to bet against the Patriot's:

  • New England's defense has shown that they can play with anybody, at any tempo. Next to McNabb, Philly's best offense is likely to be a gimpy TO, and Brian Westbrook. This defense handled the Colts, smashed the Steelers.
  • If I've learned one thing over the last three years, it's never, ever bet against Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri in the last few minutes of a big game. They may need inexplicable and previously unknown rules, but they'll find a way to win.

Pats 23, Eagles 21. On a last second field goal.


Firefox Meltdown

So I fire up the computer this morning and click the Firefox button.


Wait some more

Open a terminal window, give the command
$ ps xawu | grep -i fire

nothing running.

Type firefox in the terminal window. Get back a prompt. $ echo status yields 255. This is Not Good. (You want to see a 0 here.) OTOH, at least I know something's wrong with Firefox, not some weird thing with the window manager or something else that's been updated.

Try again:

$ firefox
INTERNAL ERROR on Browser End: Expected a version > 5! Version = 4

System error?:: No such file or directory
$ echo $status

Very bad. No idea what it means. What to do? Panic seems a good option, but let's assume that it's not Firefox that's corrupted, rather something in my Firefox preferences, extensions, or whatnot. So try:

$ cd ~
$ mv .mozilla .mozilla_old
$ firefox

And wonder of wonders, Firefox runs. Of course, now I have to copy my bookmarks from ~/.mozilla_old to ~/.mozilla, and reinstall the extensions, but at least it's running.

It's possible to do things like this in Windows, but I find it much easier to figure out the local settings of a program under Unix -like operating systems. Of course, I don't know what went wrong here, but at least I got things back to work quickly.