March 2004 full listing

31. March, 2004 - late and lame

I’m just starting to put this together about an hour after I’m usually done. I spent the early morning trying to catch up on email with only partial success. I’ve got a full day of work ahead of me, and I just don’t think I’m going to find much to link to today. Sorry for the lameness. I’d feel worse about it if I wasn’t busy putting out so many fires just now.

30. March, 2004 - life getting in the way of blogging
29. March, 2004 - back to it

I’m back. I spent the weekend up in Toronto, aka YYZ, aka T.O., aka Accordion City. I needed to get away from a bunch of things around home, and while it was far from the perfect time to leave, it was exactly the perfect time to leave, if you get what I’m saying.

The quick summary is that on Thursday, I went up the CN Tower (and saw about the only sunshine the entire time I was in Toronto — there was a five-minute time in there when I had good views before the clouds covered everything up again), and then out for a lovely evening with Joey, Eldon, and Eldon’s flexible objectivist lust-object. Friday saw me taking a vacation from my vacation. I walked to the Royal Ontario Museum, and then the combination of being tired from the walk and seeing the huge crowd of school-children entering the museum made me decide to bag that and take the subway back to the hotel for a nap. About the only thing of note on Friday was heading to the Distillery District, which isn’t all that exciting in the middle of a dreary afternoon. Saturday, I went to the museum for real, some shopping on Queen St. W., Cory’s book signing at Bakka Books, the Toronto blogger gathering at ¿C’est What? followed by a number of other bars with Joey. Sunday I was hungover and flying home.

Thanks to Joey for a good time in Accordion City, and I’ll be posting pictures and more details once I’ve finished catching up on everything around here. Based on the list of things I’m staring at right now, it feels like that might be next winter. I got away from things, but that didn’t stop them from existing. At least I feel better about life for now.

25. March, 2004 - break time

I've been pretty grumpy around here lately and have decided it's time for a break. I’m going to take a long weekend away from blogging beginning just after I save this. I’ll probably be back with something on Monday to start out the work-week again, but don’t expect to see anything here until then. That way when I break down and post something, you can be happily surprised.

24. March, 2004 - fuck spam

I’m feeling a little cranky this morning. I woke up to over sixty emails since 10 pm last night, of which six were good, and four were automated notices I expect to get every night. The other fifty-some were either spam, bounces from spams that had forged my address in their reply-to, or notices about spam having overflowed a mailbox for one of my clients (for whom I forward mail), because her webmail-box on one of those free servers has filled up with spam, so I’ve got nowhere to forward the mail to anymore. I’ve had to shut that forwarding off for now.

It makes me wonder if we’ve become too civilized or too complacent. I was talking with another friend over the weekend, and we were trying to figure out why it is that Alan Ralsky is still able to send spam. I don’t condone murder or capital punishment, but there are people out there who are a bit unbalanced. Hell, some guy killed a rock star to get attention and another whack-job tried to kill Reagan to impress a movie star. I find it hard to believe that there’s not some nut who’s so pissed off about spam he wouldn’t make a trip to Michigan. If Ralsky lived in my neighborhood, I’d think awfully hard about at least cutting his phone line.

I’ll keep trying technological solutions though. I keep tweaking SpamAssassin, and am looking into other answers (more on that below). I’m also thinking of switching email clients to one that supports IMAP so I can flag spam on my client machine, and get that information (easily) propagated back to my server so it can do better filtering in the future. But it’s going to take a while to get any solution in place, and meanwhile I have to deal with over ¾ of my mail being spam. Ugh.

23. March, 2004 - miscellany
22. March, 2004 - much politics
21. March, 2004 - Get Out of My Namespace

Noontime update at the end of the day…

Update: noon

It’s been a busy morning for me. I’ve needed to get a number of little things done around the house for quite a while, and I attacked them with a vengeance this morning. The initial plan had been to go up to my mom’s house for lunch today, but after heading up there both Monday and Friday of last week, we decided I should stay home and catch up around here. Anyway, here’s the list. It’s only noon, but I feel like I’ve already gotten a full day’s worth of work done around here.

  1. Reorganize office, including rotating desk by 90°
  2. Rewire outlet in office area so it’s grounded, only to discover I don’t need it after all
  3. Clean floor in office area
  4. Set up shelf in space freed up by rotating desk
  5. Set up networked laser printer on shelf
  6. Set up fax machine on shelf
  7. Set up color printer on shelf
  8. Set up Ethernet, FireWire and USB hubs on desk so I can get to my peripherals.
  9. Move computer under desk so the fan-noise won’t bother me so much.
  10. Set up server I bought on Friday (on shelf)
  11. Collect debugging information from the Cisco VPN box so I can email it to Tech Support on Monday morning
  12. Do laundry
  13. Haul out the rest of the carpet from the bedroom upstairs
  14. Fill bird feeder
  15. Sweep and mop floor in bedroom that no longer has carpet
  16. Haul out recycling that’s been building up
  17. Water plants
  18. Set up X-10 on a few lights around the house
  19. Pay bills

It looks like I’m about half finished with the list, which is a pretty good feeling as I take a break for lunch.

20. March, 2004 - spring

And that leads into some news on the hardware front. Yesterday afternoon I ran down to General Nanosystems and bought all the parts to make a new server out of a Shuttle SN41G2. It’s a sweet little box, and can even do TV-out. I plan on using it as a "tepid-swappable" server replacement. That is, it’ll be at home, on a separate network, but configured essesntially the same as the server that runs Dave’s Picks. Once I get all the software configured to my satisfaction, I’ll swap it into place for the existing server, and then upgrade that to newer software.

One of the things I find myself needing again is a cheap, small monitor to hook up to a computer like this while I’m doing OS installs. It doesn’t need to be much, since I just need 80×25 text-mode on a VGA-compatible monitor, and I used to have a 9" black-and-white monitor for that, but when I moved, I threw that away, rather than moving it. D’Oh! I could probably buy another for $25, but what I’d really like is a tiny (9″ or smaller) LCD monitor that I can use just long enough to install an OS from a CD that wouldn’t require much storage space for the other 11 months of the year when I don’t need it. Monochrome would be fine. The Datalux LMV10 looks like one possible solution, and they seem to be going for cheap enough on eBay, but if anyone out there has an idea of other solutions, I’d like to hear about ’em.

How is this related to Markdown? Well, I’m looking at installing some blogging software as part of the server-swap, and keep looking at various systems. I’ll probably try a few before actually making the new server live, but the current front-runners are textpattern and b2++. I need to determine how each works in a chrooted apache configuration before I decide for sure, but since I know that Movable Type can run chrooted, that gives me a fallback position.

19. March, 2004 - toys and such
18. March, 2004 - ooh, pictures
part of the carpet is gone
part of the carpet is gone

One of the projects I’ve been working on around home is getting “my bedroom” ready for me to move into it. It’s been a slow process, mostly because I had planned to have Home Depot put in new carpeting, but then discovered that there’s 9″ vinyl tile under the carpeting, which contains asbestos. That makes a new install more complicated, and I put it off. This week, I’ve started tearing out the old carpeting, and got about halfway done before the dust (no asbestos in that – it’s contained in the tile, as long as I don’t break up the tiles) became overpowering and then other things got in the way, but I figured I’d provide a photo to show the progress (or lack thereof).

I hope to get the rest of the carpeting torn out so I can have it ready for the trashman next Wednesday, and then clean things up and figure out what color paint, curtains, etc. I’m going to put in that room. I’m hoping to be able to set up my bedroom in there by Memorial Day, which means I need to sort out the colors and do some painting early in April, followed by carpeting later in April. That should leave me enough time for waffling on the decisions and the inevitable loss of motivation.

17. March, 2004 - Get drunk! Puke green!

Well, that’s what most people think of today (the green puke from drinking too many homemade Shamrock Shakes, no doubt). Me, I’m pretty sure I’m going to spend a quiet evening at home, perhaps sipping a bit of Powers. Between the lack of buses and some personal stuff going on this week that’s turning me into a complete stress-monkey, I just don’t feel like hanging out in a big crowd of festive drunks.

16. March, 2004 - up too early

I’m not sure why, but I was wide awake at 3am this morning. Ugh. Can’t even read the news on the web, because the local papers haven’t finished their big update for the day yet. Of course I normally spend an hour or two putting together the links for the day each morning, so there was time to go back, but I’ve gotta do something about my sleep schedule.

15. March, 2004 - *poof*

Well, I had a bunch of linkage ready to go about 6am this morning when the editor I use every morning “Unexpectedly Quit” as I was trying to save, sending all the linkage off into a cloud of electrons. Admittedly, it’s pre-beta software at the moment, but it’s generally been stable, so I didn’t worry about using it. But my schedule for yesterday and today have been completely trashed about four times in the past 24 hours, I’m feeling generally frazzled, and I just don’t have the energy to go back and try and recreate things. Sorry about that.

Software bugs like that are understandable, but they can be a gumption trap of the first order. I understand how bugs happen (I’ve written plenty of them myself), but on a morning like this, it’s just too much for me to go back and start over. If you submitted something (and at least one of you did), please send it in again, and I’ll try to get to it tomrorow.

The biggest news item was that the uprising in Iran has led to the resignation of the member of parliament for Fereydunkenar. More here and here.

14. March, 2004 - breaking news from Iran?

I took some time yesterday to deal with infrastructure here on Dave’s Picks. If I can find time to do more today, I might actually get migrated to having each post be an individual archive item. There’s nothing especially hard about it, but my current plan is that they would all be file-based (rather than living in a database), and I’m not sure what the performance hit of something like that would be. It’ll be an interesting experiment. But the goal is to be able to hook up comments to individual items. At the rate things happen around here, it’ll probably be 2006 before I’m done, but to those of you who’ve mentioned wanting comments, I can at least say I’m working on it. The big thing that might stand in my way is that I’m also thinking of making an RSS feed just for transit-strike-related news.

13. March, 2004 - this and that
12. March, 2004 - workin’ for the weekend

Transit strike links and commentary are at the end today.

The big problem here is one that the rest of the country will be facing, too. With retirement age set at 65, boomers are going to be retiring soon (within the next ten years). That means that there are going to be a lot of retirees. When the average life-expectancy was closer to 70, you’d have sixteen working people for every retired person, and that’s a level of taxation that people can live with (about 2 percent). It also means that the amount of money needed for retirees is relatively small, since the average retiree isn’t going to be alive that much longer.

But as that ratio of working to non-working people shifts (today it’s 3.3 people working for every retiree, and will be 2 to 1 by 2020), the burden on those who are still working becomes heavier. This got a lot of press a few years back when people were talking about the Social Security Crisis. Social Security paid more than $450 billion in benefits last year, with a tax-rate of 12.4 percent. That’s about 1⁄8 of your salary that’s currently going to pay retiree benefits. If nothing is done, Social Security and Medicare will be almost ¾ of the federal budget by 2060. See CATO’s quick facts for more.

Beyond there being more retirees, they’re living longer. In order to self-fund your retirement, which you’ll need to plan for if you assume the system will break down, you need set more money aside while you’re working. Or if you’re counting on your employer taking care of your retirement, as the bus drivers are, your employer needs to set aside that additional money, and the sooner you start, the better your chance of getting enough put away.

And in his ham-handed way, that’s the problem that Peter Bell (and Tim Pawlenty) is trying to deal with. If they promise to maintain the drivers’ health benefits at current levels, it will mean some additional cost now, but the big additional costs are coming down the road, and something has to be done. Again, using numbers for Social Security, dealing with the shortfall today costs about an additional two percent (bumping the tax rate to around 15% from the current 12.4), but if put off until 2075 it would require a jump to over 20% *. Now this isn’t talking about the costs to the Metro Council, since their numbers are going to correspond more to medical expenses, rather than just retirement, but I think that makes the problem worse than using the number for Social Security, rather than better.

Just to make it clear, I think the Met Council needs to move on their position a bit. Shutting down the buses isn’t an acceptable solution. But they also need to take a long, hard look at the costs of offering benefits to retirees, and figure out some way to pay for those. If the state government (their major source of funding) doesn’t give them the money, they have to cut costs, and that’s what they’re trying to do. I don’t have the answer to the problem, and that’s part of why I think this will be a long strike.

11. March, 2004 - more strike stuff

Some quick links to strike-related news, and then some more regular kinds of links. A hybrid like this seems a good solution.

10. March, 2004 - more on the strike

Yeah, I realize I’m talking an awful lot about the transit strike here in Minneapolis, and that may not wind everybody’s watch, but it’s interesting to me. Today is also the first day where I have a real need for the buses, since I’ve got a couple things I need to do where a bus would be quicker and cheaper than getting in the car and worrying about parking, but I’ll figure it out. No real choice, is there?

I also find myself thinking about the U of M’s transitway. Before that was built, I’d use the U’s inter-campus buses sometimes, since they stopped at a few places along Como Avenue. There were also a lot of students on Como who’d ride the bus to school. But now that they run along the transitway, the buses are less useful unless you’re already on one of the campuses. Of course the buses are there for students, rather than the general population, but I never really felt guilty about mooching a ride on the free shuttle when it fit my needs.

9. March, 2004 - freaky snow
8. March, 2004 - getting to work
7. March, 2004 - slow sunday

I started out thinking there wouldn’t be a lot of linkage today. Turns out I found something to say, it just took longer than usual.

6. March, 2004 - Bill Gates will save us
5. March, 2004 - more snow

Update 8:40 am Oof. I’ve finished the shovelling (for some value of finished). Y’know how I hurt my back two weeks ago? Well, it was still sore before I went out to shovel this morning. I think now I’m going to be completely out of commission for a while. Again, the problem is having to lift a shovelful of wet, heavy snow. And it’s made worse by the fact that my shovel has no way to keep it from twisting in my hands, so about half the time it just turns and all the snow dumps and I have to scoop it up a second time. Anyway, I’ve got an owie. And next time I’m out shopping, I’ll be looking for a new shovel, too.

I also noticed that there was enough snow sticking to the clotheslines that it was bending the poles inwards. I knew there were wimpy, but I didn’t think a few inches of snow on the clotheslines would bend them. So I chopped down the lines. I don’t think I want or need the clotheslines out there, but the one pole holds up the bird-feeder, and I’d hate to see that get dumped in the snow.

But Jim points out that Dan the One Man Band (who we saw on our vacation in Ireland) has a website. It’s kind of entertaining if you’ve got flash so you can see it all.

From here down was all written before 7:15am

A snowy morning
A snowy morning

I knew it was too early in the year to be looking at the grass in the back yard and thinking about raking it already. Nature answered with an inch of snow when I woke up and now it’s up to about two inches. Don’t know how much there will be total, but I’ll be out shovelling soon. The snow makes the trees in the back yard look real pretty though, so I had to take some pictures. First is the raw one right out of the camera (they’re both scaled down, since at full size, the sensor noise is pretty awful), and the second is “enhanced” by Photoshop’s “Auto Levels” command. I’m not sure which I like more, but I think the moody colors of the original are more striking.

the "enhanced" version
the "enhanced" version

Most of the pictures I present here are unmanipulated. I may do some cropping in iPhoto as I import them, but that’s about it. I generally don’t touch the color or anything. But I sometimes wonder if I should learn a little more Photoshop mojo so I can do more in the way of retouching. I don’t know for sure, but if you have a strong opinion about any of the photos you see here, let me know what you think. I suspect some of the pictures would look better manipulated, but I don’t know enough right now to do a good job of it, so I don’t even try. In any case, the first one is closer to what my eye saw, though without so much of a blue cast. The second is striking in a different way, mostly because of the unworldly colors that appear around the noise from the camera.

Finally, I’ve been playing with the drop-caps some more. They’re now a bit higher, as that makes Mozilla render them properly. In Safari, they should be 0.2em lower. I’m aware of the problem, but the only solution I see is to send out different CSS based on the browser, so I’m working on some code to do that. If you know of a cool CSS hack to change the height of the drop-caps (specifically, using the margin-top) between Safari and Mozilla, I’d appreciate any tips.

4. March, 2004 - the home front

No, I didn’t intentionally leave off the drop-caps yesterday. I just forgot to enable them. It turned out for the best though. The band listings at the bottom look Really Bad if I turn on the drop-caps.

Yesterday was a busy day for house-things. I hadn’t exactly planned it that way, but that’s how it worked out. It started in the morning with a call to St. Paul Plumbing. The shower they installed back in January had started to drip, and if I was to fix it myself, I’d void my warranty, so I put in the call for a plumber.

Next up was a visit from the UPS guy. He was dropping off the trash-can I’d mail-ordered. As I explained before, I couldn’t find one I liked locally, so I ended up having to mail-order it. It’s a little taller than I’d hoped, but that meant I had to figure out a different location for it in the kitchen, which I think turned out to be a good thing.

Then it was time to go digging through the boxes in the basement to find the original CD for some software I needed. I have it installed, but I needed to update it, and the updater would only work if the original CD was in the drive. Ugh. Effective copy-protection, I guess, but I ended up having to move about a dozen boxes to get to the one containing the original CDs for all my software. It’s about time to add “sort the boxes” to my to-do list. To be honest, it was probably time to do that a couple months ago, but I think it just became higher priority.

Then it was lunch time. I ended up cancelling my lunch-date with Tom the Tailor, since the plumber was due to arrive between noon and 2pm. I need Tom to repair a small hole I tore in the sleeve of my leather jacket on Sunday when the hook on the storm-door grabbed me as I was carrying in a box of stuff. I’ve since removed that hook, since it’s only useful for holding the door shut in high winds, and fixing the latch on the door seemed like a better solution.

Just after lunch, a client showed up to drop off a CD of new images for his web site. We talked for a while, and he commented on the big map I have hanging near my front door. He asked if it was for mapping out my political strategy in town, and I responded that it was more for bike-riding, and I probably wasn’t going to be getting into politics for another cycle at least. But it got me thinking about riding my trike again. More importantly, I need to take an afternoon to make sure it’s ridable. I also need to clean out the garage so I can get the trike in and out without having to move the car.

About 2pm, the plumber showed up. After deciding that the drip in the shower was coming out of the cold-water side, he tore into the faucet. No problem with the cold water. Instead it was the hot that was dripping, and there was a chunk of what looked like a fingernail stuck in the valve, causing the drip. I’m still a little baffled as to how a leaky hot-water valve was producing cold water coming out, and also how a chunk of fingernail got into my plumbing, but it’s all better now, so I’m not going to dwell on it.

Once the plumber had left, I stopped by Franks Nursery and bought a plant for the living room (I’m not positive, but I think this is the first indoor plant I’ve ever bought for myself), a garden hose, and some shovels and rakes and implements of destruction. The plant I got is an indoor palm of some variety or other, and only has two stalks at the moment, but looks as though it should fill in nicely over time. It’s a little over 4′ tall, which is nice, since I can put it directly on the floor, rather than needing to buy some kind of stand for it. I’ll need to buy a pot that looks better than the cheap plastic one it came in (with a red plastic plate left over from the housewarming party under it to catch any extra water), but I’m going to worry about that later. Cheap plastic is fine for now and I won’t feel as bad if I kill it before I get it repotted. Once I take that step, I’ll feel more responsible for the plant.

Somehow with all that other stuff going on, I managed to get a few hours of work done, too. I’m actually feeling pretty good again about the contract that’s taking the majority of my time at the moment. That’s a welcome change from a few weeks ago when I was feeling pretty discouraged.

3. March, 2004 - Well, there it is, then.
2. March, 2004 - caucus
1. March, 2004 - Who owns the Internet?

It’s March. It came in like a lamb this year. Last night I got to listen to the rain fall on my house for the first time since I bought it. More new sounds to get used to around here. The rain melted away almost all of the snow from my yard, except where I’d piled it up while shovelling the sidewalks. It’s a different-looking yard now, and while I’ve been thinking a little about spring, if we don’t get snow in the next day or two (and the weather forecast suggests we won’t), I’m probably going to get itchy to get started on some of the outdoor projects I have on my list. It’s not that I don’t still have things to do indoors, but my enthusiasm for them has waned, and maybe some decent weather outside will be the thing I need to start knocking items off the to-do list again. If nothing else, I need to go buy thinks like shovels and rakes and other implements of destruction. Hell, I’ve gotta find a lawnmower, too. Not immediately, but the bare lawn gives me the feeling I should start thinking about it soon.

Last Month
Copyright 2009, Dave Polaschek. Last updated on Mon, 15 Feb 2010 13:56:23.