Archive for December, 2008

Time for a new Wall Of Irony

December 31, 2008 5 comments

Here’s about three years of amusing clippings on the cabinet doors next to our fridge.  You can see the December ‘08 calendar on the fridge door. 

Recently we realized that new clippings weren’t going up on the wall because there wasn’t a lot of room. So today for a fresh start, we took all the clippings down. There’s lots of assorted weird stuff.  Here are some newspaper headlines, starting with a section devoted to our Governor, Rod Blagojevich:

  • High schoolers may be required to volunteer (With a pic of gov. bighair, who is apparently unclear on the concept of “volunteer”)
  • Governor to outline plan to attract nurses  (Maybe he’s been working out?)
  • Governor renews gun Battle  (Maybe he needs lessons from Dick Cheney)
  • General assembly gets into sewer fight (A better description of Illinois politics you will not find.  Maybe Obama only wanted to be president to get away from Illinois)

And some general-purpose amusing headlines:

  • Sting finds meth (Oh, please Sting, get help!  I love your records!)
  • Chicago Woman has Obama’s ear
  • Special guide: What to know before you vote (and on the line below…) Plus: can going bankrupt help?
  • Looking for meaning in life after TV
  • In this study, prayers aren’t the answer
  • Burger King’s new breakfast sandwich loaded with calories  (Sounds like an Onion headline)
  • Campus protects against Mad Cow (Capitalizing the ‘Mad Cow’ as if it were a proper noun conjures images of an attacking rock group or something
  • God told Paul Hill to whack a guy?  (Leonard Pitts, Jr. column about an abortion doctor killer)
  • Earth to planet Abstinence; send us your donuts (Pitts again, responding to James Dobson’s critcism of Colin Powell’s statement that we need comprehensive sex education.  On the planet where abstinence-only sex education works, do donuts make you lose weight?)

And then a few assorted weird labels:

  • Spinach is a documented SuperFood! (Popeye, pick up the white courtesy phone)
  • The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Past Life Regression  (What other kind of guide to past-life regression could there be?)
  • COCAINE TOOTHACHE DROPS, Instantaneous cure! (1885 patent medicine ad)

Lots of comics too – Brewster Rockit, 9 Chickweed Lane, Frazz, Boondocks, Doonesbury, Get Fuzzy.

Man, that wall looks empty now…

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Hot damn, I gots me some PhP!

December 30, 2008 5 comments

I’ve been trying to puzzle out how to set up Apache/PhP on my Linux machine, and I just got it working.  It was SO much easier to set up on a Windows machine, which reveals an important truth:

“User-friendly” means whatever you are familiar with.

I’m new to Linux, and so far I like it.  But it is a different neighborhood.  The main stumbling block has been figuring out Linux folder permissions and how to assign them.  The forums all say something like “Just use chmod ug -R +rw /var/www” as if that would make any sense to someone who’s been running windows systems for 15 years.  I got the permissions changed but clearly Linux permissions are a whole new dimension I must grok.

Feeling like an idiot is good for me as a computer support professional; it helps me build empathy with my customers.  But is is stressful.

Now I can start really screwing around with PhP.  I ran it years ago on a Windows/IIS server so hopefully a few of the old brain cells devoted to that memory will kick in as I study.  I’ve been presented with the need to understand it better and this break between semesters is an opportunity to do that.

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Don’t let go of your unhappiness…

December 29, 2008 1 comment

I never heard of Richard Rodriguez before, but after listening to this amazingly wide-ranging interview, I will be watching for articles by and interviews with him.  If you have an hour to spare, it’s a very thinkie-thing.

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Ubuntu Linux on the laptop

December 29, 2008 6 comments

You may not have gotten up this morning wondering; “What is Linux up to these days?”  But while we weren’t looking, it began seriously kicking windows’ ass.  Or at least Windows XP; my laptop doesn’t meet the minimum requirements for Vista.

My laptop is a tiny, tough little Lenovo X40, designed to run XP and survive hard use.  And it has done both: for almost four years it’s been bouncing around in my backpack as I bike all over Normal.  But a few months ago Windows began to drag so I erased the hard drive and reloaded it.  For a while, it ran OK, or so I thought.

That was because I didn’t have anything to compare it to.  Recently I installed Ubuntu Linux on it – the same OS that works so well on my desktop machine at home.  But the desktop has a dual-core processor, and my old laptop is just a P4 Centrino with 1.5 gigs of ram.  I set it up with a dual-boot configuration so it will run either Ubuntu or Windows depending what I’m working on.

Here’s what happened: when I run Ubuntu, the old laptop is lively – it does what I tell it to do, right away and without complaint.  But there is an unexpected side-effect: lately when I boot into Windows I find myself getting frustrated.  Another hourglass!  What is it doing?  Oh crap, it’s frozen again!  Arrrgh!

Not everyone has this experience – Les Jenkins over at SEB has had poor luck with Ubuntu, so your mileage may vary.  But he may be running different applications.  And Windows handles multimedia more smoothly than Ubuntu (and less smoothly than a Mac, from what I’ve seen.)

There certainly was a learning curve.  And there are still a lot of things I know how to do in Windows (system and network administration, mostly) that I don’t know how to do in Linux.  There are some applications for which I have not found perfect Linux equivalents.  My Linux wish list includes: Linux-native versions of XnView, Notepad++, and Picasa.

On the other hand, you don’t have to use the current incarnation of Open Office before you start to find Microsoft Office annoying.  Kinda like Linux and Windows.

Have you used Ubuntu?  What was your experience?  What’s on your wish list?

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Racist? Or not?

December 27, 2008 3 comments

Orac presents a very strange advertisement, in a foreign language, and asks; is the ad racist?  Go check it out and give your own opinion.

The interesting part to me is what others see in the ad that I completely missed (and some of which may be strictly in the eye of the beholder).

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Ice all gone

December 27, 2008 2 comments

Visual context of this image below the fold, along with some crude humor…

The ice has come and gone; today the temperature is sixty degrees f.  It’s breezy outside and spitting rain.  This kind of weather is dangerous, though, because of its position in the calendar.  Only a few days ago it was below zero outside, but the transition to sixty was gradual, over a few days.  If the jet stream were to wiggle in the right way, we could have zero-degree air colliding with humid, sixty-degree air.  It’s best to have a basement when that happens.

I’m pretty sure the same physics is involved with a stream cutting a meander through ice, as through soil or rock, only faster.  One difference though: a meander in ice tends to be only erosive, with no deposition.

This is an ice stalagmite that appears under our heater exhaust in cold weather, and which amuses my juvenile sense of humor:

I bet somebody, somewhere…

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Christmas anytime

December 25, 2008 4 comments

I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year.

- David Grayson

(h/t Coturnix)

And the incomparable Digital Cuttlefish has a Christmas poem for you.  Here’s a sample verse:

For love, and for giving, we say “tis the season”
For caring, for kindness, for sharing good cheer
But why limit ourselves? I mean, what is the reason?
Why can’t we be giving the rest of the year?…

Enjoy!  And a wonderful Christmas to you and your loved ones.

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Yes, by all means lets keep debating and dithering…

December 24, 2008 Comments off

Share this with your friends…

A trifle off on the numbers but the essential message is quite charmingly done.  In the voice of someone who will experience the results of global warming quite more directly than the “men in suits”.  (h/t Island Of Doubt)

And then there’s this, somewhat harder to watch:

(h/t Coyote Crossing)

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Man, it feels weird

December 23, 2008 4 comments

My dentist repaired an ablation fracture on the back side of one of my eye teeth yesterday, adjusting my bite a little in the process.  The repair itself is a beautiful bit of micro-sculpture, at least from what I can tell by my tongue.  The weird part is that I have a minor sunburn on the roof of my mouth.  The repair material is set by UV light, and the fracture was right at the gumline so there was no way to avoid exposure.  Oh well, it’s been 12 hours and it is almost all better now.

He’s a wonderful geek, my dentist – he likes historical technology too.  His latest project is that he built his own spinning wheel by copying a 17th century example, and is learning to spin his own yarn.  For Christmas I gave him a nifty book on fracture mechanics that I enjoyed recently.

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A beautiful disaster

December 21, 2008 7 comments

Tornadoes and Earthquakes leave mangled wreckage.  Floods leave mud, dead crops, and moldy ruin.  Volcanoes cover everything in abrasive dust.  Plagues fill hospitals with the hopeless and dying.  Droughts mount mile-high dust storms and heat waves are just sweaty.  Ice storms are… unique as disasters go.

It started a couple days ago, a nasty ice storm that put 36,000 people out of power in Central Illinois.  The power company has been working non-stop to restore power, to say nothing of trees that fell on houses, etc.  The ceiling in my son’s apartment caved in and he is dealing with that. 

Then last night, the temperature dropped to below zero – a cruel development for those still without power.  And the wind began gusting to 30mph, downing trees, snapping power lines, and generally compounding the situation.  We may get more ice on Tuesday (Christmas eve eve) but no expected thaw until Saturday.  It is biting cold outside.  Happy holidays, everyone.

And yet… it is so beautiful.  Every tree branch sparkles like a diamond.  It is truly a gorgeous, destructive winter wonderland. (Click the picture for a larger view.)

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