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Archive April 2002
Saturday 27 April 2002
Planned Parenthood are an excellent organisation. Not least for the irony of the name, since the majority of their help appears to be with planning to not be a parent. But also because, when health insurance coverage is utterly arse, they cost less than what the pills alone would cost, for both prescription and pills. They also provide a year's worth in a visit, saving repeated trips and waits at a pharmacy. And their gynecologist people are more competent than the expensive ones too. And nicer. Apparently. [19:13] [9 comments]
I spent almost an entire day getting a Windows box back up to standard. This was annoying. And so I finally got around to doing something I've been meaning to do for ages - a mechanism for making Windows Update not require the use of my paltry internet bandwidth for things I've downloaded before.

What you need for this hobby:
  One firewall which also runs Apache.
  One bored and angry programmer.
  A flask of weak lemon drink.

First, drink your weak lemon drink. That's it. The rest is not worth it. Really.
Oh, alright. So then you set up Apache to rewrite any URL received on a certain internal IP from /directories/file.xxx to /cache.cgi?directories/file.xxx.
Then you make said cache.cgi a script which sends back a file, if one exists, or goes to the original host and original path, and downloads that, simultaneously writing it to the file and streaming it to the client.
Finally, you make (or add to) a \windows\hosts file on the machine that's going to be updating, lines which override various download servers and make them use the internal IP I mentioned earlier.
Ta-da, you now have a permanently caching sort-of-transparent proxy for those domains you overrode. Much easier than installing a piece-of-junk caching proxy such as squid.
Now drink the rest of that weak lemon drink. I saw you trying to get away with only drinking half. How can you do any hobbies if you won't drink your drink? [19:10] [7 comments]

Thursday 25 April 2002
Interesting observation: GE dryer doesn't rotate, attempts to set fire to clothes. GE dishwasher has a partially melted door, and attempts to set fire to kitchen. And a quote from someone else: "yep... the GE cable boxes we've had have caught fire too..."
Hermit suggests maybe GE have a deal with the fire department.
I suggest not buying GE products. [19:11] [11 comments]
In looking for a plumber to replace the valves by the washing machine, I found some excellently named local ones. There's the audaciously named "Len The Plumber". There's "Mister Plumber And Son", which has a nice ring to it, and sounds like a computer game. Best of all, there's "Mr Rooter", whose comedy value will probably be lost on any non-nerds. On the other hand, it has alternative comedy value too, especially for Australians. [06:02] [5 comments]
GAAAAAARGH! Today has been a big steaming heap of not-good-ness. First I determined how to connect the washing machine. That's good. Then I discovered the valves both leak. That's not good. The cold valve was okay after a brief spray. That's good. The hot valve was not, and has no shutoff valve upstream. That's bad. The washing machine works. That's good. The dryer does not. That's bad. One of the toilets leaks really badly from cistern to bowl. That's bad. My least old computer started dying. That's bad. Then it finished dying. That's worse. And I don't even have any spare money with which to make amends. Gngh. [04:56] [2 comments]

Monday 22 April 2002
It's a good idea, also, to not lock oneself out of a recently purchased abode. When asking someone to bring your coat, upon which a key is resting, don't assume they'll notice the key being flung across the room when the coat is picked up. Luckily we wanted the locks changed anyway, so we just had the locksmith pick the old one before replacing it. No credentials required, interestingly, so if I ever need to rob a place, I'll just call a locksmith. Much easier than learning to pick locks myself. [20:37] [2 comments] When cleaning a fridge of a house that's been vacant for two months, two things you don't want to find are: 1. sticky stinky stuff all over the entire fridge, metal shelves and all. 2. A cheese slice secreted under the meat drawer. [20:34] [8 comments]

Sunday 21 April 2002
Painting a house is fun. For the first ten minutes or so. Then it's tedious and irritating. "I'm bored now, can we be finished yet?" [18:39] [8 comments]

Saturday 20 April 2002
The Deus Ex Machina music is incredibly insidious. If I fall asleep with music on, and Deus Ex Machina is in the queue somewhere, it invariably manages to feature in my dreams, from just playing in the background to having people start singing it. I wonder if there's some rhythmic or tonal aspect of it which makes it particularly subconscious-compatible. "Imagine if it was all nothing more than some electronic game." [21:35] [5 comments] I was very surprised and entertained to see, for sale in the airport, a T-shirt with this on it: "If I don't get another beer, then the terrorists win". I thought airport rules were that you are not allowed to say 'terror', 'bomb', 'kill', 'hate', 'keyring' or anything of the sort. Yet they sell such T-shirts. I would expect a shirt like that to come from T-Shirt Hell, like this one. (that last via Nik.) [16:49] [1 comment]
Holly is my favourite UpsideClone, with A Tale Of No Watermelons. [07:10] [14 comments]

Thursday 18 April 2002
And on the subject of the home-buying, I am now sufficiently moved in to the new place that it can be a place to stay. Which is to say, the computers are here and... er... so is internet connectivity. And a quilt. I also went to the nearby supermarket, and was really quite pleased by it - it has many of the foods and drinks that I particularly like and often have difficulty finding. Not only that, but the walk is pleasant with minimal road-crossing or road-parallelling. And the house is empty of roommates. And the neighbours aren't exploding, yelling or torturing dogs 24 hours a day. At least, not today. [23:16] [9 comments] Uncanny Onion article: Home Buying Up Among Lame-O's. I assume the names have been changed to protect the innocent. [08:53] [0 comments]
Tired? Take a pill. Pills are better than life. Especially the experimental ones. The computer is your friend. [06:53] [0 comments]

Wednesday 17 April 2002
The house is ours! We are behoused. Now the question is, can I resist putting up pictures that nobody gives a crap about because all houses look alike, or will I succumb like so many others? The wise money is on the latter. [22:48] [5 comments]

Tuesday 16 April 2002
Yesterday, the new house-buying problem was a minor infestation of carpenter bees. They have now been exterminated by daleks. So, I'm expecting the next thing to go wrong to be an infestation of zom-bees. Closing is tomorrow, if the ex-bees haven't caused the government to throw another hissy-fit. On the up-side, the quoted closing costs were significantly lower than I had expected. [22:22] [2 comments]
A couple of people spoke to me about ESP things yesterday, which caused me to formulate my view of such things into a very succinct form. I believe in many of the effects attributed to ESP, but I don't believe they are ES. I fiddled around a bit last night attempting to demonstrate my contentions, and came up with a rather excellent example which nicely demonstrates that it is possible to detect a person behind you, using only vision. In a room with only one light, hold up your hand so that the palm faces directly away from the light. Now put something either black or white a foot or two away from your hand, in the unlit palm-side direction. Watch the effect on the light-level on your palm. I was expecting something bordering on imperceptible, something you could pick up only subconsciously, but the effect was remarkably easy to observe. Add to that the other available subtle cues of scent, sound, air disturbances, and body language and you can explain almost the entire repertoire of functional 'ESP'. [02:31] [1 comment]

Sunday 14 April 2002
Time for a movie review: Death To Smoochy. It's surprisingly good. Don't believe the trailers, they lie, they lie. It's about mobsters and death and ethics and imagery. The rhino is just a vehicle. The movie is funny, despite the humour being puerile. Nobody carries off puerile better than Robin Williams. And few people can play the ditzy innocent as well as that bloke from Fight Club. The movie is all about the characters, little about the plot, so it doesn't lend itself well to having a pleasing trailer, nor a convincing review. But you probably know me - do I recommend bad movies? Apart from when I do it deliberately, I mean, like with The Stuff, or various kung fu things. No need for you all to rush to my comments to say yes at once. [23:08] [3 comments]
America needs to establish a catch-all warning so that things can cease having to have stupid warning labels all over them.
Warning: Things that you do can have consequences. All Things except air pose a choking hazard - do not attempt to inhale Things, nor, if you are completely inept, attempt to swallow them. Anything may be hot, if it has been heated, so be careful. Things may also be painfully cold, so watch out for that too. Surfaces can be uneven or slippery or at an angle - don't fall over. Some Things are sharp, hard, or poisonous. Don't eat them or hit yourself with them. And stop bloody trying to burn Things. [22:24] [15 comments]

Saturday 13 April 2002
Programming is not a logical debate with the computer. It is a "beating the computer about the head and neck with a two-by-four of logic until it surrenders". There is no other way. Anything less and it will sense your lack of resolve, and taunt you with undisclosed bracketing errors. This is the true zen of programming. [21:54] [2 comments]

Friday 12 April 2002
Pleasing mathematical insanity, in the form of how to calculate square roots using only pencil, paper and brain. Via Tyrethali. [22:54] [5 comments]

Thursday 11 April 2002
Aha, the Doom song, as sung by GIR on Invader Zim. It's about 15 lines up from the bottom of the page here [23:29] [6 comments] Question: "They have an anti-theft sticker on a $3 thing of deodorant. What kind of theft problem must they have?"
Answer: "A smelly one." [18:34] [1 comment]
A very odd and excellent waiter in a restaurant. Our co-eater said he didn't want any appetisers because they would kill him. The waiter immediately said "Death is bad." A fairly odd start, made more odd by his then going off on a rant, "Well, it's not always bad, but you want to have time to say goodbye to people first, and spend all your money, and work up a really big debt. Massive debt. Oh, wait, I'm already in massive debt." And then he wandered off. (The lady called after him "Don't die 'til we have our food.")

At the end of the meal, handing us the thing to sign for the credit card payment, he handed us a tranparent fluorescent pink pen. "I need this back," he said, "it's a family heirloom. My grandmother made it for me. Out of bamboo."

This is how to get an excellent tip from Ravens and friends. [18:33] [8 comments]

Tuesday 9 April 2002
This is tremendously inspiring. I started my search for homeowner's insurance on the web. After failing to find any automated quotes (lots of forms, all of which are a "we'll call you with a quote" deal), I resolved that the first insurance company to connect me to a real person who can give me a quote when I call would get our business.

Call one: Screechy voice answers "Hello, incomprehensible company name that is definitely not the one you're trying to call." "Er, is this the right number for Term Insurance?" "Yes." "I'd like a quote for homeowner's insurance." "Please hold. (long pause) Can I take your number and have someone call you?" "No. Fucking no. Fuck off. Grarh."

Call two: "Hello, you have reached William M Sparks Insurance Agency. If you know your party's extension, please dial it now. If you are receiving this message it means we're out of the office." "It's 3pm on a Tuesday! Get the hell back in the office!"

Option three: Auto Insurance Center - no phone number on the website at all - they want to be able to call and email me at their whim. No thanks.

Next on the list - a proper insurance company - Geico. They advertise with lizards, too. Their web-form looks like it actually would give an instant quote, but I didn't want to give it contact information. So I called, and, hallelujah, a person; not a quoter, but able to immediately connect me to a quoter. And I'm pleased by this - this shouldn't be pleasing, this should be expected and demanded. The person on the phone was marvellous, too. I recommend them, and all their lizards. [23:42] [1 comment]
Mm, a Neil Gaiman's Sandman-character test, with big images that I don't feel like putting here since most of you probably know what they look like anyway, and there's pretty much no descriptive text or anything, but, to my surprise, I am Death rather than Dream. Test is here. Mm. [22:39] [15 comments]

Sunday 7 April 2002
Hurry up, I haven't got all day. I still have 23 hours of it, but some sod stole an hour this morning. Daylight savings, tosh. Daylight robbery, more like. [23:54] [12 comments]
I now have a Livejournal account as RavenBlack, for the purpose of being able to read friend-locked entries and make comments non-anonymously. Thanks, Alex, for the free account code. Those of you whose Livejournals I read, if you want me able to read your locked entries, add me as a friend. I won't be using the actual journal aspect - such things will remain here. [06:00] [5 comments] I have a new goal in life. I must have $78M for A Luxury Submarine. If anyone has $78M they'd like to spend, and would like to share a luxury submarine with me and mine, please contact me. (It's worth a try.) [00:20] [2 comments]

Saturday 6 April 2002
Bloody bloody bloody hell. And then phew. My laptop, and all work upon it, just appeared to be completely and utterly destroyed. I was messing with deleting bits of hardware within the system control panel (See 'Things One Should Not Do, Volume One'), and one reboot... didn't. Not even to an attempt to get into Windows. The BIOS couldn't even see the hard drive any more, as though it had been completely horribly frizted in some way. Panic stations! But as it turned out, the hard drive had just evilly chosen that moment to come loose from its connection. What are the odds? The sort of odds that would happen only in RavenWorld, where everything is perpetually exciting. If only I could trigger that sort of unlikeliness for lottery-winning. The good thing about false alarms like this is that they remind me to make a backup. [05:53] [6 comments]

Friday 5 April 2002
Tyrethali is splendidly UpsideClone, with Superego. [23:32] [1 comment] Amusing in a different way - some particularly pathetic tales of Zero Tolerance. [22:42] [1 comment] Entertaining: an MST3K-style commentaried view of comic grunts: The Unh! Project. [22:22] [0 comments]

Thursday 4 April 2002
Graarh! Apparently an FHA mortgage has bloody stupid requirements. Basically, we need to repair things before we can get the mortgage. We can't repair things because we don't yet own the house. The bank that does own the house won't repair things because they don't want to. Amongst the requirements is the rather lovely complaint "Missing ceiling tile in basement". These tiles are purely cosmetic things, pieces of crappy foam stuff. How does one of those being missing make the house uninhabitable? If the basement wasn't finished at all, there'd be no complaint. "Front storm door is broken" - the spring-loaded hinge-thing is off. It's the work of 60 seconds with a screwdriver. Storm doors aren't even necessary - if we went by and smashed the door off entirely, then would it be okay? So, we can't even get permission to repair these stupid things ourselves, we have to have a "licensed contractor" do it. Which presumably translates as "rip-off artist". And if something else goes wrong and prevents the purchase, the repairs will be out of our pockets. Oh yes, and we have to arrange all this within the next six days or so, which involves collaboration between loan people and repair people and realtor people. [16:34] [8 comments]

Wednesday 3 April 2002
The lady was gibbering a bit, last night, due to her blood-sugar being rather high. When she noticed me laughing, and realised what she had been saying, she forbade me from blogging it. She did, however, give me permission to blog the wording of the forbidding, which was something like this: "No blogging this. Nor writing it in a place where people which are my friends can read it where you will type it and they will laugh because they will because they read your blog and they are my friends and you are mean." To which I said "Octopi?" So she hit me. [07:44] [7 comments]

Tuesday 2 April 2002
The real difference between a soft language such as Perl and a harder language such as C... Perl inspires alternately "gah" and "ah"; C inspires "GRARH!" and "Ahahaha!" [23:51] [0 comments]
The thing that has amused me most recently is Holly's pleasingly offensive pros-and-cons summary of whether it's better to meet in America or Australia.
 Rain, occasionally.
 No in-places that are not family-laden.
 You loathing flights more than I.
 It's America.
[23:49] [2 comments]

Monday 1 April 2002
That random intruder the other day has completely changed my view of the house. Now I notice things like "Hm, the bathroom has a distinct dearth of weapons". I also rearrange things appropriately, such that the locations where I spend most time have lengths of metal pipe in convenient reach. Suddenly I understand why it is that so many Americans have baseball bats and guns secreted around their beds. [22:08] [13 comments]
I think I neglected to mention that I received my physical green-card the other day. In the same day I received a letter saying "Soon you will receive a green-card". Today, two days later, I received that same letter again. I wonder if I am two aliens. [05:21] [4 comments]

Sunday 31 March 2002
Merry undead-on-a-stick day. The only day of the year when a rabbit leaving small ovoid brown things around the house is considered desirable. Any other day, you wouldn't expect it to be eggs, and you wouldn't expect it to be chocolate. I recommend checking, even today, just in case. [23:50] [3 comments]