Boxville

Today is unpacking, rearranging, breaking down boxes, and to break things up a little, more unpacking. Slowly, this is place is changing for looking like a warehouse to our home. My office is still mostly untouched, with all bookshelves bare and the books themselves in stacks of boxes looking like the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I do have the Linksys WAP set up, and now have the beginnings of our home network going. One bit of a problem – it appears that the Comcast cable modem network here is different than in Atlanta. I don’t believe that things are routable into the network, meaning that I can’t have a webserver or ssh into my network from outside. That kind of sucks, actually. Luckily, I now have the Rackshack box. Since I had already set it up to be my interim mail handler machine, I think I’ll just set up SpamAssassin on it and make it my permanent mail handling machine. I had always intended for the Rackshack box to be the stable and permanent version of stuff I experimented with on the home Linux box. Now I guess I have no option other than to do things that way.

NW gets worse

And then my 8:56 AM flight this morning, for which I diligently arrived at the airport at 7:40 AM, actually left at 11:30. The whole reason I took this NW flight with the connection was to be in Chicago Friday night. There was a Delta direct flight that left first thing Saturday morning. My wife thought I should take it, but I didn’t want to get there Saturday, I wanted Friday. By the time I got to O’Hare, I would have gotten there sooner on the direct flight. I don’t even want to use the return flight on NW. By the time this is over, I will never fly them again. I’ll go Amtrak before I fly Northwest.

NW Airlines

… stands for No Way will I be flying with you again. I had a 6 PM flight from Atlanta to Detroit, connecting to O’Hare. Because of storms, there was a backlog of planes taking off from Hartsfield so we sat on the taxiway for 55 minutes after we were supposed to leave. That 55 minutes is magically the same amount of time I had as a layover, so I thought it seemed highly unlikely that I’d actually make that connection. I knew this and I was prepared for it. When we got off the plane, it was 8:58 and my flight was supposed to leave at 9:00. If planes are late all over the country, though, it seemed possible that maybe my flight would leave late enough that I could make it. I ask the gate person where the flight to Chicago is, and she says “A seven five”. I look up and I’m standing under a sign that reads “A 7/5”. This confuses me and I say “Aren’t I already at ‘A seven five?'” pointing at the sign. Rather than saying “No I mean seventy-five”, she just tells me “It’s at the other end of the concourse.” I’m a little confused, and I look at the departure screen, seeing no reference to my flight. I don’t know for sure that she’s giving me good information, she’s being completely bitchy and snarky and generally non-helpful. She also fails to mention that there is a tram that runs the length of this concourse. I take off doing the OJ sprint — really the OJ race walk — down the length of this very long concourse. It must be close to a mile. Even with the slideways, it takes me over 10 minutes to get there. When I do, there is no one around at that gate. I now can’t tell if I was given a bad gate number and this gate was never in play or if the flight left on time and everyone, including all Northwest personnel are just gone. I ask the people at an adjacent counter, and they say the flight left on time. Which means that at the point I began this trek, it was already too late. Instead of hustling my fat ass up and down this concourse for 30 minutes, I could have been up at the ticket counter trying to get on another flight.

I’m now walking around the Detroit airport, which is laid out really funkily and I can’t tell where anything is and the signage sucks. I finally get up to the counter after asking multiple airport people how to get there, and I’m 10th in line of people who have been stranded. There is one, count her, one, Northwest ticket agent redirecting people. After a while another person opens a line, and I finally get up there. My only option – a flight that leaves at 8:56 AM, 11 1/2 hours from that point. There is nothing they can do, no connection flights that they can put me on. I’m trying to get 200 miles and you’d think I was trying to get to Tuva by the reactions I got. “At this time of night, sir, there just isn’t anything.” It’s fucking 9:30 PM! Maybe I’m spoiled by flying back and forth between Hartsfield and O’Hare, the numbers one and two most busy airports, but shouldn’t there be some signs of life even as late as 9 or 10 PM on one of the biggest travel days of the year?

They won’t put me on another airline, they won’t put me up for the night, and they won’t rent a car for me to drive from here. Now, I don’t blame them for the missed flight because the planes got to fly. I missed the connection, it happens, c’est la vie. Fine. Every interaction I have had since that with a Northwest employee has been like pulling teeth. People have failed to give me the information I needed, been generally not helpful, and basically made this an ordeal. Now I’m spending the night at the Doubletree by the airport at the reduced “Northwest has screwed you” rate, but still. I don’t want to be here. I really was considering just renting a car one way and getting it over, except that I’m just too tired for that. I’m not as big a road warrior as some, and this is the first time that I’ve been stranded overnight on a flight. I can say that Northwest is the airline of last resort for me from here on out. They have sucked beginning to end and I’m not home yet – they still have more ways they can suck. They are now my second choice on flights. First choice – every other airline.

No Dragon*Con for Me

I’ve been to most Dragon*Con’s of the last decade. I missed one or two while I was living in Portland, but I went to all of them when I was doing Reality Break. That was my thing. I did live remotes at 6 in a row, as well as recording interviews for later episodes. This year – even leaving the Chicago stuff aside – I just wasn’t that into it. I had the guest paperwork which I never bothered to fill out and send back. For many years, I dutifully filled it out only to not be on any panels. The last panels I were on was in 1996, I believe. I was on one with Pinhead from the Hellraiser movies, who was a really nice guy in fact. Since then, nada. I filled out the surveys, sent them in, would get the badge but nothing else. After a while, it became kind of like a joke. I’d show up, get the free badge, hang out with my friends and drink for free in the VIP suite and that was it. I know it seems odd to not want to go to this event for free that costs $75 or $100 for everyone else, but I don’t. It’s weird. I always liked it better when Ed Kramer was in charge. For me, things were better and more fun in those days. For whatever reason, Ed always championed me and my silly radio show. He offered me the position of head of media relations in 1996, which I declined because I thought it would be tough to do from Louisiana. Silly me, you can get and send emails, faxes and phone calls from anywhere.

From a congoing perspective, I’ve been on panels at most of the OryCon’s I’ve been to, and they are uniformly better, more fun and better audiences than at D*Con. I wrote about my experiences last year in this weblog. I’m not sure if I’m going this year. I’ve stalled out on my ebook project, so I haven’t had anything to push in years. It’s more out of inertia than anything else that I keep doing this stuff. Perhaps, with the change of scenery I’ll spring back to life, have my ebook prepared by November and go to Orycon to promote it. Wouldn’t that be nice? Anyway, some of the business of decomissioning our life here had me downtown last night. Until I saw chunky people in black t-shirts walking around the streets of downtown, I had forgotten that the convention starts today. I always got my badge Thursday nights, when the VIP line was never more than 2 or three people deep. If I was going, I’d have been in the same spot, but just doing different business. Last year may have been the last I’ll attend in a while, perhaps ever. Things change, and some things just stop seeming like a good idea. I wish everyone there well and hope 20,000 people of the tribe have a great time. I’ll be having my great time in a different place, not among them.

Back on the Plane Gang Pt 2

I get on another plane today, heading back to O’Hare. I know for some people this isn’t that dramatic, flying every week but for me I’ve done more flying in the last few months than I do in most 2 year periods. I have an angry screed I wrote in the O’Hare last week, full of anger at how I have gotten the “special search” on 5 consecutive flights. I changed my mind about posting it here, but if they single me otu today (making it #6) then I will post it.

I will be happy to see my wife and dog, spend a little more time in the new house, go to the neighborhood Labor Day cookout, and such. I’ll be packing the Linksys box with me, so I can set up the network in the new joint and hook up the wireless. It’ll be nice to get my e-mail, weblog reposting, my FeedOnFeeds setup and all that stuff back to normal. It’s been kind of in a transitional state ever since I packed up the home network to put it on the truck. If I had only thought to take the Linksys with me last week, it would have only been down a few days but I ain’t that smart. Nothing seems better to me right now than getting things back to normal (really, better than the normal of recent months.) Oh, what a dream.

Phil Agre on Vaclav Havel

A few weeks ago in the Red Rock Eater’s Digest, Phil Agre posted a piece on Vaclav Havel. I found it very interesting, and I’ve always found Havel interesting as one of the first real rock and roll statesmen. I have a few of his books although I have yet to read one yet. I got it via the e-mail list, but I just found where it is archived on the web. I highly recommend this article as he both recounts some of Havel’s history, as well as examines why his approach to public action worked so well and how Americans can learn from it. I particularly found the notion of “issue entrepeneurship” a useful thing to think about. Good stuff.

Love’s Recovery

OK, so I didn’t miss the boat on the AJC Indigo Girls article after all. I talked to Phil Kloer today. I’m not sure if he got anything useful out of me, and as always after I hung up I thought of great things to say. So it goes. If I’m quoted in the article, I’ll post a link here. Other than that, I’m done thinking about this thing for a while.

I Snooze, I Lose

Goddamn it! My cellphone fell out of my pocket when I was changing in the gym around lunchtime, and so I missed Phil Kloer’s phone call. Shit. I really liked the notion of being quoted in this article. Oh well. I’m assuming at this point that his story is written and that I won’t be in it. If that’s not the case, it will be a happy accident. Que sera. 30 hours ago I never knew this was on the table, so no big loss if it never happens. I do hate that if I miss it, it will be for something so stupid. However, most missed connections are for stupid reasons anyway.

Chuck on the Radio

Yesterday Chuck Palahniuk was interviewed on CBC Radio One. I was actually trying to listen live yesterday but a work emergency kept me from listening. They have the audio of the interview archived in RealAudio. It’s pretty good so far (only a few minutes in) and I like it. In his interview, he had a nice quote about his book Fugitives and Refugees where he said (my paraphrase):

The city wants to present itself as “The City of Roses.” What I care about is the underside, “The City of Thorns.”

Java Tools

I’ve ran across a spate of tools that make developing Java even easier and even better. I am kind of amazed at the last few years in Java development tools. Just think how much of a contribution that Ant and JUnit have had by themselves, for the efficiency of development and quality of Java code in the last few years. Now at work we’ve found even more cool ones. Today I downloaded and used FindBugs. This is a program that looks for common bug patterns amongst Java programs (will work on compiled classes, source not necessary.) It immediately flagged that we had 3 of 4 access points for a given field synchronized, and that the unsynchronized 4th use is a potential source of bugs. It found a lot of things like that. As an aside, the guy who did this, Bill Pugh is although the guy who devised the skip list algorithm.

Another tool I just got working is Jadclipse. This is an Eclipse plugin that works with the Jad decompiler. If you open a class for which Eclipse doesn’t know about the source file, it will then pass it to Jad, which will decompile it on the fly and present it as source. I’m hoping, although I haven’t tested it yet, that will work while debugging and stepping through as well, so anytime you leave your own code into a library, Jad will automatically take a stab at decompiling it. Cool, no?

The third tool is PMD, a tool that does source code analysis. This one is not the knockout of the other two, partly because it overlaps with checks that already exist in the base Eclipse program. It does check for unused code, unused parameters and methods, etc. It’s a lot like lint, doing static analysis on the source code. I’m installing that now and will run my current project through it. The sum of adding these three projects is a pretty slick effect. I like it.

Interview Me

I got an e-mail from one of the music writers for the Atlanta Journal/Constitution today. He was asking if I wanted to be interviewed for an article about the Indigo Girls. Hell yeah, sign me up! He found me by searching Google for “weblog”, “Atlanta” and “Indigo Girls”, which turns up multiple hits for me. A lot of those are from having Indigo Girls songs in my recent play list, but it does the trick. Looking back over the old entries about them, I see the one from when I met them at the Borders and I note that Amy Ray gets foxier as she gets older. At least on the very newest album, I can see clearly the schism between Amy and Emily as songwriters, and without exception I prefer Amy’s songs on this one.

I’m not exactly sure what the guy wants to talk to me about, but I’m ready for anything. I always read these articles where some uninformed dumbass is spouting off their silly statements. I’m looking forward to the possibility that I might be that uninformed dumbass. I’m also completely prepared for nothing to come of it. For all I know, the guy already wrote the article before I got back to him. We shall see.

I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Gosh Darn It, Fox News Hates Me

Those foolios at Fox just keep on going. Given yesterday’s setback, they decided to drop their lawsuit. They have, however, decided to remain pricks to the end.

“It’s time to return Al Franken to the obscurity that he’s normally accustomed to,” said Irena Steffen, spokeswoman for the “fair-and-balanced” network.

“See, they’re class acts all the way,” Franken cracked during an appearance Monday on Fox News rival CNN.

Let’s see, he’s got a current bestselling book in large part due to the publicity of the lawsuit, he’s previously been a bestselling author, he was on Saturday Night Live off and on for 20+ years during which time he created some of the most memorable characters in the show’s history. Basically, everyone knows who this guy is. How exactly is that obscurity? Just goes to show, Fox News spokespeople are no smarter or better informed than anyone there. “Fox News – we distort, you deride.”

Franken Wins First Round

I’m delighted to see that Al Franken won the initial ruling on the Fox News lawsuit, and that his book was the number one bestseller on Amazon last week. From the article, comes a very Franken-like quote:

“In addition to thanking my own lawyers,” Franken said after the ruling, “I’d like to thank Fox’s lawyers for filing one of the stupidest briefs I’ve ever seen in my life.”

I half suspect Franken of bribing someone to file this lawsuit. It’s far better publicity for his book than he could have bought.

Farewell America

Via a post from a man I’m proud to call my friend, Mark Bourne, I find this article – a poignant goodbye to America from Ed Vulliamy, a correspondent for the Observer. Having just read all of this long column with many moments of mist in the eye and angry clench in my jaw, all I can offer by way of commentary is “Amen, brother.”

Back on the Plane Gang

In an hour we leave for O’Hare for me to fly back to Atlanta. I don’t want to go. I don’t want to leave my family, I don’t want to leave Evanston, I don’t want to be in Atlanta any more. I’m there to tie up loose ends and to get myself out of there as soon as humanly possible. I’d rather be up here, riding my bike around town, walking my dog through the new neighborhood and getting to know this place. My incentives now are to bust my ass and to get myself done at work, get everything wrapped up and to get myself in a car heading north once again.

Bobby Bonds, RIP

Damn, Bobby Bonds passed away today. I feel for Barry Bonds – 59 was too young to lose my dad, and 57 is too young to lose his. Here is a page with some remembrances of Bonds. The first on the page is my favorite:

“I remember him telling me that if he’d known hitting 30 home runs and stealing 30 bases was such a big deal, he would have done it every year. But he wasn’t interested in padding his stats. He wanted to win ballgames.” — Former Giants teammate Gary Matthews.

Sobig

Now I know the answer to the virus stuff – I’m getting mail by infected computers that have Sobig.F. What is scary is the effects of Sobig and Nachi including:

  • Defense contractor Lockheed Martin had less than 1 percent of its systems infected, but still had disruptions.
  • The Massachusetts Institute of Technology found its e-mail servers congested from the amount of messages created.
  • Railway and freight hauler CSX had to stop trains because of the Nachi worm, the Associated Press reported.
  • Airline Air Canada canceled flights on Tuesday because its network couldn’t deal with the amount of traffic generated by the Nachi worm.
  • The Pentagon and military had myriad infections of the Sobig.F virus and the Nachi worm, various news agencies reported.

When your OS and mail products can make trains and planes stop running, that’s pretty serious. Exactly how long can people pretend that the risks of MS products are not higher than those of other competitors?

Virus

I’m cut off from a lot of my normal communications – I don’t have TV I can watch yet, I’m on a dialup so not browsing as much as usual, etc. There seems to be another e-mail virus amok. Across my various accounts, I must have gotten 20 different mails with some .pif attachment. Since I’m reading it all via web clients, it is easy to spot them. They have some vague subject (“Your Details”, “That Movie”) or are disguised as bounces with “more information in the attachment”. I guess this is a social engineering attempt to get even the people who don’t use Outlook or automatically invoke attachments to fire it off manually. I don’t even know what a .pif file is, but I’m in no danger right now of accidentally invoking one. The only impact is the filling up of my mail accounts with this 100k attachment over and over.

What I don’t understand is how many of these things it takes before people wake up to the fact that Microsoft products with their shoddy security are risky things. In the last month, I’ve lost at least 5 hours of productivity to patching OS and dealing with various MS virus issues and this is without ever getting infected, just in preventative measures. Multiply that by a few dozen million people, and just the recent fiascos mean that MS has cost billions in lost productivity. Their slogan should be “We cut the corners and pass the costs on to you!” The products suck, they have a high cost of ownership, they cost you much time just to keep them running, they put you at risk frequently, and people line up to buy them. Whatever. I have never bought an MS OS in my life. The two Windows machines I have were both provided by employers. My money either goes for Linux boxes or Macs. I really dig my used OS X box, and if/when my trusty Thinkpad wears out, I’m going with an Apple laptop all the way. I’ve always preferred Macs but with Linux desktops getting better and the existence of OS X, I see no reason to buy a Windows machine ever again.