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Archive October 2002
Wednesday 30 October 2002
The progression of insistence, via irritation.

Before emailing, please read the FAQ.
Instead of emailing, please read the FAQ.
Instead of emailing, please read the updated FAQ.
Instead of emailing, please read the updated FAQ!
the next step, if the stupid email continues, is...
Instead of emailing, PLEASE read the updated FAQ! [07:02] [10 comments]

Sunday 27 October 2002
Hooray, a blog entry in double-time. Appropriate, since it's a blog entry about time, in a way. Mysql is bad. All databases are bad. Data files are the best. For a large database, a hash-indexed pile of data files is the best thing in the world (except, if it's a constant database, a Bernsteinian CDB file is rather good). With a thing like Vampires, there's not even any file-locking required, since everything either adds or overwrites (never deletes), and the form lends itself well to a fixed-record-size database. With binary data, no less. Hooray! [09:05] [30 comments]

Friday 25 October 2002
Many web-hosting companies offer a 99% uptime guarantee. I just realised what this means - it means your server can be down for an average of nearly 15 minutes every day. Even ravenblack.net, with no redundancy, with shoddy power supply, with regular exploding into white-hot fragments of doom, achieves nearly this level of 'reliability'. And what do they offer if they fail to meet their guarantee? Taking the first hit on a Google search for "99% uptime" to be representative, they offer "a pro-rated refund of your hosting fees for the month affected." Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't that just mean "you don't pay for what you don't get"? Not much of a guarantee - I should damn well hope I don't pay for service I'm not provided with. For fuck's sake. In fact, it sounds like if their servers are down for the entire month, so you get no service at all, you still have to pay 1% of your hosting fee. With a "pro-rated" guarantee like that, they should bloody well be offering a 100% uptime guarantee. [00:12] [14 comments]

Thursday 24 October 2002
I have now switched my email over to using the new spam filter. It still does a white-list check, it still bounces messages it blocks, but now it should block non-spam messages from strangers a lot less, and quite possibly also block spam messages slightly more. A body of a little over a thousand messages has been used to form my statistical base (463 spams, 591 nonspams) at this point; the filter has been seeming fairly reliable since about the 500 mark. Most of my readers here are probably already whitelisted, so it shouldn't affect those people at all. I also sent $10 to D.J.Bernstein, because I was going to email him compliments, and realised that when people send me compliments on programming things, I'd generally prefer them in cash form. Thus, I avoid hypocrisy. I was particularly entertained, today, by his succinct rant on the subject of cross-platform compatibility. [09:38] [6 comments]

Wednesday 23 October 2002
Drunken Master was lent, by us, to someone. If any of you are that someone, let me know - I would like to know where it is. I'd quite like to have it back, too, though there's no sort of rush. Also, cripes, I see why the bandwidth of the zombies caused trouble - 7000 vampires in the first hour. Tomorrow, the world. [00:50] [0 comments]

Tuesday 22 October 2002
The zombie brain-eating died due to lack of bandwidth. Since I pay for my bandwidth, I can use as much as I like, though, and so I've composed an alternative; I vant to drink your blood! Why would I do such a thing? For the money! I pay for my bandwidth, and it pays for me. Hooray! [23:25] [13 comments]

Monday 21 October 2002
Brains for Zombies! Careful, or I might explode. [22:28] [0 comments]
The heating broken-ness was merely the pilot light having gone out. I guess our heater is a bit outdated, since relighting it involved a whole slew of scary trapdoors, and the ridiculous suggestion that I should "light it with a match". The pilot light being about a foot deep in a narrow dark hole, such that it would have to be lit blind, if one were to use a match. Personally, I don't consider sticking my hand and a flame into a hole with a gas-emission point that I can't see to be a good idea. Anyway, it is now functional again, so that's nice. The ravenblack.net server is also working, obviously. My games/music/art/movies/printing computer, however, has been co-opted by my wife, so I can now have none of those things. Also, I had "special monkey mushrooms" at The Sunflower today. [04:04] [1 comment]

Sunday 20 October 2002
Hooray for bad days. Our heating doesn't seem to be working, and then the ravenblack.net server died. Apparently there was scheduled maintenance of the network at the time, so we thought little of it. It didn't come back up... But the ISP are fairly inept, so extended outages are to be expected. We thought little of it. Then I tried a traceroute, which revealed that the network was working and only the end-point was broken. The person whose house it's in was called, and revealed that the machine was refusing to power up. We went round to diagnose; it seemed to be a power-supply problem. One new power-supply later revealed that no, it was a fried motherboard. So we came home and picked up a semi-spare machine to replace the other. A few minutes of fiddling with that revealed that its keyboard connector was broken, essentially rendering it another dead motherboard. The telling, of course, is much swifter than the enacting, which involved about 30 screws at every step, each of which were carefully placed in the most awkward and annoying place possible. So, we went out to see if we could find a purchasable motherboard that would support either of the two processors that were now floating free. We couldn't. So we came home again, this time to pick up the lady's desktop machine, and gut it to turn it into the server. At last, the hardware worked. Unfortunately, at this point it was revealed that the Linux kernel wouldn't load with this slightly older processor, because it had been compiled optimised, or so we thought. Some time later, after another kernel had been compiled using a different hard-drive as the launching point, it was revealed that the problem wasn't the kernel being a wrong version, but rather it being a fucked file. The 'generic' kernel wasn't a fucked file, but all the glibc libraries were fucked files too. Some installing from a CD later, and it lives once more - and we only had to replace 95% of the hardware and 50% of the operating system! Sweet! [11:12] [6 comments]

Friday 18 October 2002
Apparently, amongst other things, television induces an alpha state in the brain, akin to sleep or, more interestingly, a hypnotic trance. Unlike most people, after reading this my reaction is not one of "what tosh" or "oh no, the evil government/corporations are out to get me", but rather "oh, it induces a trance state - that probably explains why it helps with programming, then." But then, coffee also helps; coffee tends to bring one out of an alpha state. I think the thing is that I need to have the ability to switch between two, maybe even three states; one for ideas, one for structure, and one for the drudgery. Sleep, TV, coffee, sleep, TV, coffee. [15:19] [0 comments]

Tuesday 15 October 2002
Code Hunter: It's Hackers, it's Swordfish, it's eXistenz, it's, well, geek-flavoured crap - but quite fun all the same. [11:44] [1 comment]

Monday 14 October 2002
There was a scary bastard creature in my residential pit, last night. I thought it was a large and scary spider; usually I would leave such things alone, since they don't bother me particularly. However, my arachnophobic lover is due to be visiting soon, so I decided removing it would be a good idea. It didn't look like a beastie that would be easy to trap and remove, so I opted, instead, to splat it. Picking an appropriate A4-sized firm flat object, I threw it perfectly on target. The target, however, was three feet away by the time the object hit the ground. Fastest small creature I've ever seen. At which point it got scary - any creature that can so effortlessly defeat an attempted squishing is far more unnerving for that fact. Casting a light on it, I attempted to figure out its genre to better discern its motivations and weaknesses. Careful peering suggested that perhaps it wasn't a spider - it had huge freaky tendrils, as spiders do not, and one pair of its legs didn't look like legs on closer observation. Some internet searches for insect identification, however, revealed no creatures matching this one's description. Retrying today, I decided it was probably an orthoptera of some sort, though its body was smaller than this genre seems to favour, and its legs longer. Image-searching within the genre found something at least vaguely similar; it was a bit like this one, only more spider-like, and with even longer tendrils. It was also capable of consistently jumping out of the path of incoming heavy objects, and also (though more narrowly) avoiding being pummelled with The Stick Of Doom. All in all, a horrifying beastie. I don't like creatures whose dexterity defeats mine. Not at all. [04:19] [125 comments]
A little over a year ago, according to this Personality Disorder Test I scored five disorders out of ten - four moderately and one highly. I'm happy to announce that I've become significantly more disorderly, now scoring eight out of ten - three moderately, four highly and one very highly. It differed slightly yesterday, but with the same total. I'm a bit disappointed to have my schizoidness decreased, but the overall increase more than makes up for it. [02:56] [10 comments] Today there is a Monk marathon on USA. For those of you not familiar, Monk is about an obsessive-compulsive, germophobic, claustrophobic, acrophobic detective, in rather a Columbine style. So, whose stupid idea is it to show a 9-episode marathon of a 12-episode series; not only omitting 3 episodes, but showing those it doesn't omit in the wrong order? A show about an obsessive compulsive person. Episodes in the wrong order. Obsessive compulsive. In the wrong order. Is this not a way to make the obsessive compulsive members of the audience quite irked? Though it's not just the series rearrangers; episode four mentions that Mr Monk has helped the police eight times previously. At that point, we've only seen three. Do they taunt me on purpose? [00:00] [0 comments]

Sunday 13 October 2002
Monsters Inc.: Entertaining enough, but a bit more childish than, say, Shrek, and with a horrible predictable vomitously saccharine ending. [23:30] [0 comments]

Saturday 12 October 2002
I just cooked what the Sunflower Restaurant calls General Tso's Surprise. A terribly high-effort recipe involving draining tofu, freezing it and defrosting it, making an awkward sauce, covering the tofu lumps with intractable powder, deep-frying them, wok-frying some onion, adding the sauce to the wok, adding the deep-fried lumps to the sauce, getting the sauce-thickness balance right. Total effort expended: about an hour. Time to devour: about 10 minutes. Not something I'm likely to do often, but it's nice to know that I can produce a passable replica of my favourite restaurant-food. [20:15] [0 comments] Grarh! Light years faster is not an appropriate description of anything, Comcast advertisers, and it's even less appropriate for describing an internet connection. A light year is a measure of distance. You wouldn't say "gosh, that person runs metres faster than me", would you? Regardless, even if it were a measure of speed, it would be a measure of speed, and internet connections are not measured in speed. Cable modem does not allow me to communicate at 15 miles per hour. And I'm pretty sure a light year is not a number of bits per second, no matter how informal. I recommend changing the advertisement to say "shitloads faster". [14:15] [4 comments]

Friday 11 October 2002
People around here are behaving strangely skittishly about Mr Sniper, apparently instinctively following the advice of sniper experts. But should they be? Consider, there are about 16 traffic fatalities, per 100000 people, per year. Maryland's population is about 5 million. So that's about 800 deaths per year due to traffic, in Maryland. Is Mr Sniper killing 2.2 people every day? No. So which should you be more worried about, going out on the road or getting shot by a sniper? And that's without even considering the many non-fatal injuries caused by cars. [14:24] [8 comments]
Birds of Prey: The pilot was fairly disappointing; better than Mutant X, but not as entertaining as Black Scorpion. [14:11] [0 comments]

Thursday 10 October 2002
Speaking of TV, it broke again when I changed the channel. Recognising this sort of random behaviour, I knew the appropriate solution - violence. A good clout, and it lived again. It seems there's about a 50% chance that it dies each time I change channel, and a 50% chance of recovery each time I hit it. This is the art of technology maintenance. [08:12] [1 comment] Breaking news, according to TV; Americans are fat. In early 1998, CNN declared Americans fatter than ever and getting even fatter, citing 54% overweight and 22% obesity among adults. Now, late in 2002, Fox News tells us Americans are even fatter than they think they are, citing "nearly two-thirds" overweight, and 31% obesity. "The numbers are pretty shocking", apparently. You think? [08:09] [9 comments]
Godzilla: The VHS version makes a great blank tape. [08:09] [0 comments]
Witness the truth about Ninjas. But what happens when a ninja fights an exploding zombie? There should be a movie. [03:39] [2 comments] Bizarrely, the second broken TV recovered, today, when I pressed play on the VCR beneath it. I had done so before with no effect. It's still behaving a little oddly - even on minimum brightness, it's rather eye-searing. No doubt making up for all that time spent being completely black. [03:02] [0 comments] Speaking of psycho, I got an entertainingly Jeff-K-ish blog comment the other day, from one PatriotBoy2000 who says "look at my website if you think you know something about designing. my is better quality." So, everyone go and look, immediately! Witness superiar sight desine! [02:52] [12 comments]
A really stupid comment from "James Fox, a professor of criminal justice" on the recent sniper story; "This is an insignificant nobody that, through this killing spree, feels very much important," Fox said. "He feels that he's overpowering the whole community. He feels very good about the fact that he can outsmart the police."

Way to disabuse him of the notion, Mr Fox - point out that it's a fact that he can outsmart the police. Also, calling a crazed killer an insignificant nobody is clearly the way to go. Next target, James Fox? With accompanying 'Hanged Man' Tarot card, "insignificant nobody, eh?" And then, when that's followed up by someone acting as bait by saying much the same thing, the next target would be not them, but their family and friends, with a 'The Fool' Tarot card, "how stupid do you think I am?"

Oh what a fine psycho sniper I would be. [01:39] [4 comments]
Twin Warriors: One of the best wire-fu movies I've seen; more coherent than Crouching Tiger, faster than Hidden Dragon, and more amusing than both of them put together. [01:29] [0 comments]

Wednesday 9 October 2002
Hooray for people. An email whining about a certain behaviour of Motepad. It also says "And you know I'd really like it to be a real 16 bit program. Did you know they load from disk TRWICE as fast and run twice as fast too?" Ahem. And finally, some lovely irony; "You people make other mad by not listening to them and then you expect something in return." [07:02] [9 comments]

Tuesday 8 October 2002
And on a more entertaining note, a rather good endorsement of hollow earth theory in terms of seismology, albeit flawed in a couple of ways. It's still fun. [11:19] [8 comments]
I got a confusing letter from the IRS today. It was sensible, and in my favour.
As you requested, we changed your account for 2001 to correct your interest and/or dividend income and schedule D.

The change resulted in a very small balance due. We want you to know about the change, but no payment is due. Our policy is to keep you informed, but we don't want to burden you by asking you to pay this amount.

If you have any questions, please call us at the number listed above.

(cut irrelevant tabular statement)

The small balance that you owed has been credited to your account. Your account balance is now zero.
This wasn't even just a completely ridiculous amount like 3 cents, either - it was $2.38 that they've written off. After all my complaining about tax people, I thought I should also give them credit where it's due - which is in the federal tax offices in Atlanta, not in the state offices in Virginia or Maryland. There's also a disturbing bit of form letter on there - "if the amount you owe is over $100,000...". If the amount anyone owes is over $100,000 then they certainly ought to stop piddling around with bloody $50 whining about things that don't even apply. [11:12] [1 comment]
Clash of the Ninja: Possibly the best awful kung-fu movie ever, competing even with Gymkata; ninja powers include shooting flames out of sai, and exploding into marshmallow. [11:05] [0 comments]

Saturday 5 October 2002
An enjoyable site, if not entirely convincing, is this one. A bit that is convincing (in the end) is his research into federal phone tax revealing that the law regarding it has been repealed. His detailed report of what happened as a result of his reporting zero income in 1996 and 1997 is also quite compelling and, after a point, entertaining. Interesting that the IRS hassles him about the same amount as they hassle me - the difference is, he makes form responses to most of his once-a-month annoyances, whereas I have to get lots of bits of paper together each time. So it seems it would actually be less distressing to tell the IRS to fuck off than it is to try to deal with them on their terms. Hm. [14:47] [20 comments] You may remember that, some time ago, I mentioned a statistical spam filter. Yesterday, or the day before, I modified my old spam filter so it would keep a copy of messages, sorted into 'spam' or 'not spam' categories. Today I wrote code to take those old messages and perform the appropriate statistic-collection, and also the code to compare new messages against the statistics so collected. With the current small sample size of 85 real messages and 34 spams, it was able to subsequently go through those 119 messages and successfully identify 83 of the real messages as real and 32 of the spams as spam. One of the two unidentified spams was blank, the other was unusually well written, and would still be filtered once there's a larger sample. Of the two real messages, one of them actually was a spam that had just ended up in the wrong folder, impressively, and the other was a Yahoogroup message that I wouldn't have minded missing anyway. Given such results from a small sample, I look forward to seeing what transpires with a proper-sized sample. [14:37] [2 comments]
Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog: Old-style kung-fu comedy, early Sammo Hung; it doesn't even nearly live up to the hopes I had for it based on its title. [14:24] [0 comments]

Wednesday 2 October 2002
Somewhat related and a bit more vague - optional prisons for people who haven't committed a crime. An optional prison would provide similar life-sustaining materials to those offered by a normal prison, and allow access to a certain level of working materials - out-of-date computers, a library, a machine shop, and so forth. Occupants of the optional prison may leave at any time, with the cost of their stay billed to them later in a similar manner to student loans. It could prevent crimes of desperation, provide time for self-education for those willing to work to learn but unable to get tuition, provide a block of undisturbed time for people to write a book or a piece of software, and so forth. And it would be cheaper to operate than a normal prison, since it would need only loose security. In essence, a little bit like university with campus accommodation, or perhaps like medieval monasteries. What have I not considered that makes this a bad idea? [14:10] [6 comments] The death penalty - I've heard arguments that it's more expensive than life imprisonment (because of all the appeals process involved, rather than expense of the actual death), and the more common arguments about "what if the court is proven wrong later?" I have a solution that negates both these issues, reduces costs, streamlines the whole deal - whenever someone is sentenced to any amount of prison time, offer them the option of death instead. If they choose death, it can be administered on the spot; no appeals necessary, it was their choice, they could have chosen imprisonment if they thought they might be cleared of any wrongdoing later. Given that they take away any suicide-enabling paraphernalia from prisoners, I assume this implies that some prisoners would choose death. It seems completely ridiculous for money and accommodation-space to be allocated to people who don't want to be alive, in a society that doesn't want them alive either. [13:54] [20 comments]
Armour of God: The predecessor to Operation Condor (not sequel, as American labelling would have us believe), this is essentially Indiana Chan, and probably my second favourite Chan movie. [13:41] [7 comments]

Tuesday 1 October 2002
I was inspired by something to remember an odd sport 'Kabaddi', which I saw on TV many years ago. I started describing what I recalled of the rules which, entertainingly, were not described during the programme - what I thought, I had gleaned mostly from observation. What I now thought was additionally distorted through the bendy lens of 15 years of memory degradation. And yet it was quite close to being correct - the game really does have rules that discourage breathing. [15:42] [3 comments] Nicely written blurb for unix programmers, Recursive Make Considered Harmful, deconstructing admirably, and recommending suitable alternatives and counterarguments for all the most likely arguments in favour of recursion. Unfortunately it's in PDF form, but there is also an older HTML version which doesn't seem to lack. [11:55] [3 comments]
My Lucky Stars and Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars: Mediocre Sammo Hung with a mere side of Jackie Chan - a nice beginning with humorous car-chase and such, but the lengthy sexual-comedy scenes detract badly. [11:52] [2 comments]