Dylan: January 2003 Archives

Chairless

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The son my mom talks about in this post is me! Mind you, after reading the finishing sentences I'm not sure if I should admit that publicly. ;)

Superbowl

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I watched the Superbowl. There I said it. Not all of it mind you, but enough that I can't deny it. My roommate turned it on during halftime so he could watch Gwen of No Doubt jump around on the stage.. I found this deeply amusing that this wannabe punk looking band is there performing with this rigid time limit (can't short change the sponsors!) in one of the most-watched commercial events ever. Then Sting starts singing message in a bottle with them with hardly a gasp of breath for poor Gwen between songs. I swear the songs were sped up slightly to make sure they fit exactly into their alloted time.

Then of course there is the game. Reminds me of the joke: I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out. Well, in this case I was watching some commercials and a football game broke out. I know it has been discussed ad nauseum elsewhere, but I still had to comment. I feel it was particularly surreal for me because I don't watch TV regularly. Watching 8 seconds of gameplay (if that!) followed by 30 seconds of commercials and sponsor announcements was just hilarious.

Most people I talked to felt the game sucked. Tampa Bay trounced Oakland and there wasn't much more to it. From a non-sports watcher point of view though the game was excellent. If there ever was a game that was just ripe for mocking it was that one. At halftime if was 21 to 3 (or something equally silly)... and although it looked like Oakland MIGHT at somepoint decide to maybe sorta kinda attempt at a comeback.. it never came through and instead we got to watch Tampa Bay make interception after interception and even get another touchdown with just 2 seconds to play. Final score 48-21. It don't envy the Oakland coach after that poor performance.

Media Degradation

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As a followup to my DNS Query of a few days ago, I thought I would point to this article at the BBC entitled: How the net leaves itself open to attack

Media proliferation of mis-information at its best. Not only do they incorrectly describe how DNS queries work (or at least omit many essential details), but they also use the report I talked about as the sole example of how fragile the Internet is today. Throw in their scary article title and assortment of typos and it seems either media quality is getting worse, or I'm just starting to wake up. This is the BBC we're talking about!

Living in 2003

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Forwarded to me by my mom. Numbers 12, 17 and 21 rang home for me. heh.
You know you're living in the year 2003 when:
  1. Your reason for not staying in touch with family is because they do not have e-mail addresses.
  2. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of three.
  3. You call your son's beeper to let him know it's time to eat. He e-mails you back from his bedroom, "What's for dinner?"
  4. Your daughter sells Girl Scout Cookies via her web site.
  5. You chat several times a day with a stranger from South Africa, but you haven't spoken with your next door neighbor yet this year.
  6. You check the ingredients on a can of chicken noodle soup tosee if it contains Echinacea.
  7. Your grandmother asks you to send her a JPEG file of your newborn so she can create a screen saver.
  8. You pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone is home.
  9. Every commercial on television has a web site address at the bottom of the screen.
  10. You buy a computer and 6 months later it is out of date and now sells for half the price you paid.
  11. Leaving the house without your cell phone, which you didn't have the first 20 or 30 years of your life, is now a cause for panic and you turn around to go get it.
  12. Using real money, instead of credit or debit, to make a purchase would be a hassle & takes planning.
  13. Cleaning up the dining room means getting the fast food bags out of the back seat of your car.
  14. You just tried to enter your password on the microwave.
  15. You consider second day air delivery painfully slow.
  16. Your dining room table is now your flat filing cabinet.
  17. Your idea of being organized is multiple colored Post-it notes.
  18. You hear most of your jokes via e-mail instead of in person.
  19. You get an extra phone line so you can get phone calls.
  20. You disconnect from Internet & get this awful feeling, as if you just pulled the plug on a loved one.
  21. You get up in morning and go on-line before getting your coffee.
  22. You wake up at 2 AM to go to the bathroom and check your E-mail on your way back to bed.
  23. You start tilting your head sideways to smile. :)
  24. You're reading this.
  25. Even worse, you're going to forward it to someone else.

Bank of America

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When I moved down here to California three years ago, I opened an account with Bank of America. I chose them mostly because they were within walking distance of where I worked and my wife (girlfriend then) was using the car to apartment hunt.

After coming from Canada with our piddly 30 million people, and banks that are responsive, reasonable and polite, it was a bit of a surprise discovering how BofA works.

First, just getting in touch with somebody to ask questions to is difficult with BofA. They thankfully give you a 1-800 number but make you wait on hold for a fair while if you aren't satisfied with the automated phone system and want to to talk to an actual person. The Royal Bank of Canada also provides a 1-800 number, and make it a very obvious option to talk directly to a representative. In more than 10 years of calling that number, I've likely only needed to wait on a hold a handful of times before being able to talk to someone. Perhaps low populations? Who knows.

BofA also has delays on your payments you make through them. If I pay my phone bill through the BofA website, PacBell doesn't register it for up to 3 days. What a joke! The Royal Bank processes the payments at the end of the day and you're done! I think I asked once about this difference and the Royal Bank said that although the payee may not receive the money immediately, they do trust the banks to guarantee the money at time of paying so that the date the payee records receiving the payment is the same day you make it. Smart no? Takes the burden off the end-user and hides the messy details behind the scenes.

With both my Royal Bank account and my BofA account, I also have a VISA card through them as well. When I want to make a payment to my VISA with the royal bank, the transaction occurs immediately and updates the balances on both accounts. Same bank. Same system. Immediate Response. In fact they don't even consider it a payment, but instead a transfer. Not so with BofA where I often see a delay of 3 days before an online payment to my BofA VISA card shows up. How can it be so slow? It doesn't need to clear... they KNOW I have the money since their own system tells me so!

And as a thrilling conclusion to just how great BofA really is... they recently started spamming my email address with all sorts of BofA propaganda about great new services that cost an arm and a leg as well as marketing for products completely unrelated to banking. I hunt at the bottom of the email and find an unsubscribe link.. click it.. remove all the checkboxes (that I never clicked in the first place and don't even recall being asked about).. and then when I submit my choices I get presented with the following text:
Your e-mail profile is in the process of being updated. Per your request, you will stop receiving Bank of America marketing e-mails within eight weeks.
Hahaha... 8 weeks.... *sob*.

The Homeless Guy

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A homeless guy with a weblog. His life. His thoughts. His teeth.
For God's sake, don't stop brushing your teeth.
Sobering.

DNS Queries

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via Slashdot : "Scientists at the San Diego Supercomputer Center found that 98% of the DNS queries at the root level are unnecessary."

At first glance this seems like there is something wrong. 98% is a high percentage of unnecessary hits. But after I rooted through the oh-so-witty discussion on meaningless stats at the beginning of the Slashdot discussion, I came across some insightful posts talking about why this stat might be so high.

First off, DNS Servers below the root level cache (save) the successful queries they perform so that if someone looks up the same address again they can respond quicker and save bandwidth. They hold onto these saved entries for some period of time (hours? days? weeks?) before purging and querying again. Queries that are unsuccessful are POSSIBLY cached (not sure about this) but I doubt it. Which means that on the whole the most common type of queries to hit the root servers will be the unsuccessful ones. The successful ones were likely already cached further down the chain.

If you combine this with the fact that most modern browsers' URL area doubles as a search field, which means that simple searches are likely first passed through a DNS query, then you can see why even more unsuccessful queries see the light of day.

And even further, with the garbage email addresses that people type into online registration forms and the non-existent return email addresses that are bundled into spam, each of these have to query the DNS records to figure out where the mail should go resulting in even more unsuccessful queries hitting the root servers. Mix into that script kiddies and their DOS attacks and the load gets higher.

So taking all of that into account it actually isn't that surprising that the vast majority of hits on the root servers are unsuccessful and that the vast majority of the valid queries are being returned from caches. Impressive stats aren't often as impressive once thought through a little.

Go Dive Yourself

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How embarrassing. I've just realized I posted two references to Mark Pilgrim's weblog in a row 4 days apart without noticing. Maybe I should just start screen scraping his site and reproducing it locally! ;)

Go dive yourself.

Premium Pilgrim

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LOL. Mark Pilgrim announced today that his weblog and the rest of the "dive into" empire will offer a premium subscription access. With the $40/year subscription you not only get all of the "dive into" sites you know and love, but you will also have access to "Dive into Webcam", streaming video.. and full frontal nudity! hehehe. Who says you can't make money running a weblog?!?

Yes, it is satire. And quite well done at that. I'll admit that he had me going for a while and wasn't 100% sure either way until I reached the end of the FAQ.

Mark's Pilgrimage

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Along with Mark Pilgrim's latest site-redesign process, he is also taking a good hard look at his online fame, what he writes about, and why he writes. He references Joe Clark's article deconstruction of You've Got Blog' as well as an excellent piece by Dennis Mahoney called On Lighthouses. Mark never ceases to amaze me with his insight, new ideas, new directions and clarity when it comes to writing it all down.

Ma's Blog

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After introducing my mom to the concept of weblogs a few months back she now has a weblog of her own. She is an excellent writer, so check it out sometime.

Photos

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Jan 12 2003: Gorgeous sky as seen from Palo Alto Cafe, Palo Alto, CA. January 15, 2003 Morning in Palo Alto, CA Squeak the Cat. (She Squeaks)
Click for larger images

LavaMan Cometh

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I purchased a digital camera just before Christmas and I am deeply ashamed I haven't put any photos up yet. The vast majority of them currently reside on my wife's laptop in Victoria, but as since I'm a smart tech person, and can easily think of a handful of ways to transfer them down here to California, I really have no excuse.

I do have a FEW that I've taken down here though, and with the recent talk of Lava Lamps I though this one would be fitting.

LavaMan closeup. Click for bigger picture. Meet: LavaMan. My Lava Lamp inhabitant and caretaker. I've only seen him once so far, and just happened to have the digital camera handy to capture the event. I am keeping careful watch out for him though and if he shows up again I'll see if I'm quick enough to catch him. In this photo I've apparently captured him holding up the LavaSky. No rest for the gloopy.

nBot and LegWay

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nBot [via Slashdot] : nBot is a small 2-wheeled robot, developed by David P. Anderson, that is capable of balancing and moving itself around. This is effectively a non-commercial investigation into mimicing what Dean Kamen's Segway does. Check out his site though. Some excellent videos and images and he lets everyone know exactly how the whole thing was built and coded.

For you DIY'ers, check out Steve's LegWay. A balancing 2 wheeled robot built from Lego and balanced using code written for BrickOS. Woo!

Mouth Wide Shut

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Joel Spolsky has a new article out entitled Mouth Wide Shut where he expounds on the good the bad and the ugly of publicly talking about what features and products your company is working on . At one end he has Apple with their absolute secrecy policy completely astounding people with the release of their new products. At the other end you have Microsoft and the oh-so-hyped .NET (even Microsoft is backpedaling now) and of course the OSAF and their to-be-developed Chandler.

A quote:
Look at the poor Chandler guys; they started talking about their product before any design was done and immediately got buried under such a deluge of feedback just managing it all was impossible. Now everybody thinks Chandler is going to be All Things to Everybody.
If you haven't already, I suggest taking a look at Spaces. It did its design before announcing itself, it is available in alpha form now (so close to beta you can taste it) and the turnover time for fixes, new features, and general communication through the mailing list is incredible.

Linux is my friend

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Google Engineers are given a Linux box to work on when they start. Excellent I thought... I'm familiar with Linux, and would love to migrate away from Windows. After about 4 days I requested a Windows box as well... because I work on code that runs in browsers it is invaluable to have a Windows box handy to test out what the majority of the world sees your code like. Also.. after 4 days of struggling with new mail programs... new editors... new shortcuts.. new toolbars... new image software etc etc etc.. I was ready to concede defeat. Luckily it has taken a little while for my Windows box to show up. While waiting I've made the best of it and have now found versions of Software that run under Linux that satisfy all of my Win32 application cravings.

Other apps, like FlashPlayer, RealPlayer and such each had Linux distributions. Woo! Perhaps some issues will arise if I receive a lot of .doc, .xls or .ppt documents to deal with, but so far it seems most people are happy presenting things in HTML. Woo!

So far at this point, every one of my reasons for switching back to Windows have been knocked down one by one so that I really have no reason anymore. All my apps have adequate, if not better, replacements for the Windows version. I'm actually very happy with it all.

Lava Lamp, USA

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Soap Lake, Washington is planning on installing a giant Lava Lamp at the center of their town to attract tourists. It will be an estimated 60 ft high with a max diameter of 18 ft. It will hold approximately 60,000 gallons of liquid including the wax-petroleum-jelly hybrid gloopy stuff. One has to wonder though if some drunkard at 3 AM isn't going to yank out a firearm, whoop it up, and cause the downtown core to be bathed with piping-hot chemical-enriched liquid. Now *that* I would have to see. ;)

My Googlism

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Googlism.com does a search with the words you specify and then provides a series of relevant, and often amusing, phrases related to your search terms.

Web-famous people, like Jeffrey Zeldman, receive a whole pile of googlisms for their name. Less famous people like myself have to settle for only a single googlism. Namely: "dylan parker is the second place winner". Heh. I'll try not to let it go to my head. ;)

Sore Hand

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My hand has been bugging me recently. Specifically my middle finger on my right hand. All day it is fine, but each morning after waking up there are sharp pains in my middle joint when I try to curl my fingers. Fluid pressure buildup I am told. It seems to get slightly better some days.. then spread slightly to other fingers on other days. I'll get to a doctor to ask them about it soon, but in the meantime I decided to do a search on Google Groups to see what I could find.

I then naively searched for:
  "middle finger" "sharp pain" morning stiff
Any guesses what the common theme containing all my search terms was? heh.

DIY 1km wireless link

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via Slashdot : DIY 1km wireless link : "A fast connection between my house and the cafe was becoming more and more necessary, mostly in order to provide remote administration at acceptable speeds, but also of course to finally get fast Internet at home! Me-wann' download quicky-quicky now!"

The article references Cringely's article about attempting something similar. I somehow remember that Cringely received some criticism about his setup and some doubts as to whether it actually works. Now that I search though I can't find anything. Frustrating. Anyone remember this?

Cripsy Snakes

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Via Karlin Lillington: "Hello my computer was making a strange hissing noise last night and this morning when I turned it on there was a crackling noise and some smoke then nothing, if I bring it in can you fix it?" Wow. Check it out for yourself.

Pete Townshend

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BBC News :: " Rock star Pete Townshend has been arrested by police following a search of his home after he admitted viewing images of child pornography on the internet."

Apparently they also have his guitar in custody at a south-west London Police station. Oh wait.. that says the guitarist is in custody.

Gibson's Weblog

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It appears that William Gibson, the fantastic dystopic science-fiction writer, is maintaining a weblog! Cool! I apparently am related to William Gibson somehow through marriage... some remote connection somewhere that I never really understood. My brother and I affectionately refer to him as Uncle Gibby. :)

Mark is Pissed

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Mark Pilgrim is pissed off. After being on the cutting edge of standards and recommendations of the w3c he is feeling quite cheated by their ruthless non-backward-compatible working drafts of XHTML2.0. Kick some ass, Mark.
Standards are bullshit. XHTML is a crock. The W3C is irrelevant.

Rabbit dies. People mourn.

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There was this rabbit, see.... and his name was Oolong, see.... and well... the rabbit's owner put stuff on the rabbit's head and took pictures, see... now now.. don't ask me why... but this little rabbit looked mighty cute with them there baked goods and fruit on it's furry little head. Well... it seems Oolong died. And well... see... people are sad. So goes it.

Comings and Goings

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Well I'm back in the bay area. Living in my new place. Enjoying my new job. After a month of holidays over 6 weeks I'm having a difficult time re-adjusting to the working life. On some deep fundamental level I feel it is very wrong to fill most of one's free time with the act of working.

I decided to go through the process of actually calling a bunch of phone numbers and changing my address rather than just relying on the postal system's forwarding service. This caused some slight confusion since the address I've moved to is about a mile further along the same road Tracey and lived on back in September -- and also the address that most places still had me at.

I actually did both this time. Changed my address and setup forwarding from both the last place I lived as well as the place before that. I think I might have confused the forwarding system though as apparently some conflict has arisen and mail for the current owners of Tracey and I's last place is now being sent to Santa Clara. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping it will sort itself all out.

The new place I'm living is interesting. It smells like garlic most of the time as one of my roommates consumes huge quantities of it roasted each night. It's not really a nice garlic smell.. but more of that acrid next-morning stale garlic smell. My room smells ok though.

I'm considering moving again though.. as it appears that one of my roommates has a slight addiction problem. Alcohol and cigarettes are all I'll mention by name here, but I've strong evidence of harder less-legal substances as well. He hides it well -- as I'm told most addicts do -- but I got home earlier than expected the other day and must have caused him to rush through his procedure as he still had a smudge across a place most people don't accidentally get chalk. I'm totally sure how I feel about the whole thing. He seems quite harmless but I've seen him get into a state that is quite incoherent. I've started looking around at other places to see what kind of options I have.

My work is going well. The project I have is keeping me busy and provides and adequate level of interaction to meet other people. I've been quite impressed with the development processes they have in place as well as the overall dedication and passion from other employees. This is the type of company I was looking for when I came down here more than 3 (!!!) years ago.

I dropped by the Mitchell Park library in Palo Alto this afternoon -- just a few blocks down Middlefield from me -- and rented two DVDs. Their selection there is incredible. I'm used to the library over on Newell with their daily selection of at maximum 10 DVDs of which you are lucky if you recognize the name of more than 3. The Mitchell Park library had likely close to 100 DVDs on the shelves and capacity for a fair number more. Impressive. Free rentals! And the RIAA is worried about Kazaa! I borrowed 'Deliverance' and 'Rushmore'... and would have gotten 'The Elephant Man' as well but there is a 2 DVD limit.

Mountain Man from the movie 'Deliverance'Deliverance is incredible. I had no idea what I was getting into with it... I had always heard about the disturbing 'pig' scene and always imagined something like a take on Charlotte's web where Wilbur gets turned into bacon. Not quite so nice I'm afraid. The movie was just excellent though. A movie where I truly felt the camera was a bystander and not an in-your-face recording device. If you haven't seen it then I highly recommend it.

Rosemary from the movie 'Rushmore' Rushmore is also incredible, but I had already seen it so knew I would enjoy it again. Find something your good at and do it for the rest of your life. I'm working on it. Another highly recommended movie. What's the Rushmore in your life?

We have a good friend that really enjoyed Rushmore and Tracey and I both think he was / is a lot like our hero Max Fischer. We think he thinks so to but this has never been talked about with him. Funny how that works.

Apple's New Stuff

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Cringely's latest column, Why Apple is Pulling Away From Microsoft and Can't Afford Not to Do It , is a good one. He gives some interesting history and his comforting attitude-filled opinions about Microsoft.

Some snippets:
The notebooks are nice, but what floored me were the applications, not only for what they are, but also for what they mean to the company and the PC industry. This is Apple sticking it to Microsoft.

...

This is a major new application, and it came out of nowhere. More than 300,000 users downloaded Safari on the first day it was available.

...

With Redmond periodically threatening Apple with an end to Microsoft Office for the Mac, this is Apple saying, "We dare you."

Sightless in Seattle

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Overheard in airport terminal between a blind man and a blind woman sitting on opposite benches about 20 feet apart:

Man: I'm way over here.
Woman: What?
Man: Somehow I got way over here!
Woman (sarcastically): Good for you!

About 20 minutes later I was standing near the same woman as she was waiting for her luggage. The woman was standing so close to the carousel that bags would brush her coat when they passed. An airline worker was standing with her holding a clipboard and watching the bags go by.

Worker: It's ok. You can stand back. I'll get your bag for you. It's gray isn't it?
Woman: That's what they tell me.
She ignored his advice.

A few minutes went by with the worker occassionally checking out a bag and then throwing it back on the carousel. A light gray bag that has gone around twice so far brushes the woman's fingertips as it passed.

Woman: This is my bag!

Worker then yanked the bag off the carousel, checked the tags on it and smiled sheepishly. It was her bag.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Dylan in January 2003.

Dylan: December 2002 is the previous archive.

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