Supersize Me

Yesterday we saw Super Size Me. I liked the movie as entertainment, although it wasn’t as scientifically or statisically signifcant as it could have been. Since part of the implication of the film is that this guy’s all McDonalds diet mirrors the ill effects suffered by many Americans from eating fast food, it would have been nice for himto have a little more rigor going in. He saw 3 different doctors and a nutritionist through the course of the film. Also good would have been for him to consult a scientist/statistician about how to design the parameters of this experiment to best model what he was trying to model. Specifically, for a lot of these meals he seemed to be eating not just McDonalds food but an excessive amount of it. Not only would he have the supersized meal, but he’d also have the shake plus a sundae or something like that. I think that kind of puts the total weight gain he experienced in question. The nutritionist calculated that he was eating around 5000 calories a day, twice what he needed to maintain his weight. I think just by not eating those desserts he would have been more like 3500-4000 calories. That’s still a lot, and still a lot of it from fat and sugar, but not quite so bad.

So, while I do have some qualms about the data collection process, I found this highly engaging as entertainment and persuasive as polemic. The stuff about Sodhexo running the school cafeterias and offering highly unhealthy choices was pretty chilling stuff. I’d recommend people see this movie, and it definitely fits in with the alterations in lifestyle I’ve been trying to affect in my own life. Seeing the film makes you want to reach for the salad and fruit for sure.


I got email from Loic Le Meur of all people today. He was pointing out that my blogroll on the left side was pointing to his old weblog. Since what is there comes from the export of my RSS aggregator, I updated it today so whatever changes I’ve made in the last 5 weeks are now reflected. That’s why blogs I do read but don’t have RSS feeds never show up in it. My favorite new addition since last time: the Achewood feed.


On Sundance Channel just now I watched Anatomy of a Scene about a scene from a movie I’ve never heard of – Stander. The film looks highly interesting, about an Afrikaaner policeman in Johannesburg in the mid-70’s. Somewhere in there he has a turning point and begins to buck the system, eventually becoming a bank robber. In fact, he would rob banks while he was a cop, doing the crime on his lunch hour and then coming back in the afternoon to investigate the robbery. Now I’m interested in seeing this film. It stars Thomas Jane, who also starred in The Punisher. I’ll have to hunt this up at the video store.

Segundo Viento

After a few weeks of getting my butt royally kicked in Spanish class, I felt pretty good this week. I actually had studied and was able to converse pretty well. Only two students showed up, so we had lots and lots of one-on-one conversation. I hit a few walls when there were things I wanted to say that I just lacked the words for, but mostly I was able to keep up my end of the conversation. I was a little surprised to learn the phrase for “iced tea” is “té helado” which seems like it would literally be “ice cream tea.” It was fun, I felt good and like I’m heading in the right direction. When it was just me and the teacher, we went over some of the “what to say in stores” scenarios. I wasn’t sure whether to say “dame eso” or “queiro eso” or “deseo eso” and she said basically that all were correct.

Just in fooling around, my brother and I started chatting in our mutually broken Spanish via IM. On each end we had a little mechanical assistance, he with a dictionary and me with It worked so well in that it gave me enough time to think of the word I want while allowing me to practice my vocabulary that I want to do more of it. Are there Spanish speakers out there who would be willing to IM back and forth with me periodically? Even better would be if you are learning English, and we can split time in the two languages, correctin each other as need be. If anyone reads this and is interested, send me an email or leave a comment on this post.

More on Shrook

I think it would be overstating it to say I have a love-hate relationship with Shrook. Let’s call it a “like-irk” relationship. I like the program and it is the best combination of client side and server side RSS aggregation that I have available at this time. I was using FeedOnFeeds which I liked for being able to use the same aggregation pool at various computers – home, work, kiosks, etc but eventually the lack of management of articles drove me away from it. Articles in FoF only have two states – read and unread – and having to leave loads of articles unread in order to blog later became a huge drag that ate away at the efficiency of using it. I like that Shrook has a web client that I can use (although it needs a lot of improvement) and that when I have my laptop I will be able to share my articles and their read/marked status across the laptop, the desktop and the web client. All that is to the good.

That said, the client running on my 10.2.8 desktop can be quite irritating. It’s not quite a UI disaster but there are some serious usability issues. I spend most of my time in the 2-up view with the list of all articles in the left panel and the current article in the right. In order to get to this setup, you have to select an article to view in the list because the control to make it 2-up is on the title bar of the article view. There are plenty of irksome things like that, common actions that require some odd activity to invoke it. Although the author has fixed the horrible crashing issue that made it poop out every 10 minutes, there are still crashes. I’ve had frequent crashes when I’m viewing marked articles and unmark one. Yesterday I got the notice that there was a new version available (2.05 where I’m running 2.04) and after using the 2.05 for a few minutes I backed up to the 2.04 release. It was crashing more often and worst of all, image references stopped working in 2.05. Any post with an image in it would get the box of the graphic dimensions but no image. After a few minutes I just got sick of it, and trashed the 2.05. Sigh. I really want to love Shrook but the program won’t let me, with bugginess and oddness and crashes. I paid for it, so I’m going to use it but it is frustratingly close to being what I want without getting there. Still, hopes springs eternal and maybe the 2.06 will be better.

The Heavy Hand of the Music Man

A few people let me know about this story that Clear Channel is blocking musicians using instant CD technology. Since Clear Channel bought a company that holds the patent on that, any musicians using competitive technology are being blocked from doing it at CC venues. This kind of has the stink of antitrust about it, doesn’t it? Aside from the issue of Clear Channel being a rapacious scumbag outfit, I really wonder about this patent. It sounds kind of obvious, doesn’t it? Record show, make a CD of it. The patent is apparently about the interval of time between those two things. If the band sells the CDs offsite but out of their van after the show, does that infringe? What if interested fans convene at a different bar, where they burn the CDs. Does that infringe? It all seems crazy, but when CC exerts their muscle as concert promoters and venues to protect their business in another field, that seems to me like the very stuff of antitrust violations.

In other news, I saw a reference on Slashdot about this episode of PBS’ Frontline entitled “The Way the Music Died”. Starting May 29, the episiode will be avaiable to be watched online. It looks at the music business and their business practices, the way they are fighting the current era of technology, etc. I’m hoping they cover a few salient points that need to be considered when record labels are suing their customers and working hard to make use of current technlogy criminal:
The music business has a long and storied history of cheating its artists, customers and business partners out of money.
The music business (and the movie business) have consistently fought against new technologies that ultimately ended up making them assloads more money. Remember Jack Valenti’s doomsday speeches in the 70’s and 80’s about how the Betamax would kill Hollywood? Imagine if he had won that fight. The movie industry would be 10% of what it is today. The record companies were convinced that taping would kill their industry and lobbied against it. In fact, they did the same to radio. This is why I don’t believe any of it when I hear about how P2P will cut into record sales. This alarm has been raised umpteen times before and it has never ever been correct. Come tomorrow, I’ll be watching this episode. Thank you Frontline for making them available this way!

This Phrase is Mine

I checked in google which has no one else saying it, so there is a strong possibility that I coined the phrase “denial of communion attack” yesterday. Let’s add that to the two other terms I’m claiming (neither of which seems to have spread beyond me: “nicotocracy”, defined as an organization in which all the real decisions are made by the groups of people standing outside the building smoking together; and the acronym HIRPHUA, which is short for “Heart in Right Place, Head up Ass.” I thought these were both killer, but no one else seems to think as highly of them as I do. Story of my life.

Zaurus and Macs

I haven’t been posting much about the Zaurus lately. I’ve been busy and haven’t been doing anything beyond simple everyday stuff with it, so there hasn’t been much to talk about. Thanks to a passerby who left me some information in a writeback, I was informed that you do need a Compact Flash card to flash the ROM on this thing, so I’m buying an old 32Mb card from a coworker for $10. Maybe this weekend or so I’ll flash the ROM to Open Zaurus. Sitting at the get-together in Schaumburg, all the guys running OZ seemed to have a cooler setup. Things on my standard Sharp ROM got a little funky when I installed some of the Opie apps anyway, so why not?

There’s this professor in Germany, Dr. H. Nikolaus Schaller who seems to be doing a lot of stuff with Macintoshes and Zauruses. He has the aptly named Dr. Schaller IT Research Initiative that is doing this work. I can’t tell if this is an organization, an idea, a collection for stuff he is doing at his university or what. I really don’t care, as long as he keeps making it easier to combine Zaurii with Macs. This is the group that does the OS X to Zaurus cross-compiler, and they are working on the project to add a true Zaurus sync to the Mac. Recently they’ve added a discussion forum so if you have any questions, there is the place to do it. I just asked a question on the forum today asking if ZMacSync will always be 10.3 specific or if they have plans to add in compatability back to 10.2. It’s all interesting stuff. If you are a Zaurus owner and a Mac user, that’s a place worth checking out.

Actually, I see now from further reading that Dr. Schaller’s ZMacsync is only for the Sharp ROM (and only V3.10 of that). Apparently ZaurusMacSync is supposed to work for OpenZaurus. Man, this tower of Babel is really a problem with the Zaurus!

Fedora Core – So Far So Good

I did do the Fedora Core 1->2 upgrade last night, and it seemed to work fine. The only issue I ran into is that the POP package changed, so the ipop3d that things were configured to use no longer existed. A little research turned up that both cyrus-imap and dovecot had POP services built into them. I tried cyrus which didn’t work immediately and looked difficult to configure, then tried dovecot which did work immediately and I kept. The upgrade process seems not to have eaten anything. The desktop looked fine, although I didn’t have time to play with it much. I read that there are Nautilus improvements. Thus far, everything I try to do is working fine. No data was eaten that I can tell and my configurations survived admirably.

My main reason for wanting to upgrade quickly was that at this point I didn’t have a lot of work invested in the FC1 install. If something was going to go haywire and lose data in the upgrade process, better to make that attempt sooner rather than later. Now I’m on the 2.6 kernel and I may well stick here for a long while. I’ll upgrade packages as they need them, but unless there is some clear gain I may not immediately jump to FC3 whenever it comes out.

Fedora Core 2

A few weeks ago when I installed Fedora Core 1, I was just a little too hasty. If I had waited one more week, I could have gone straight to the FC 2, including the 2.6 kernel and all. I’m downloading and burning the ISOs right now. I wasn’t 100% sure if FC 2 would have an “upgrade existing install” option, but according to this dude’s blog it does. So, when I can get the ISOs all downloaded and burned I’ll go for it. I’m digging FC 1 and expect FC 2 to be even better. I’m not sure why I just got the fever to upgrade, but I have it and so am going to address it.

MSNBot, Begone!

I just added in the msnbot to my robots.txt as a disallowed user agent. This damn thing has been getting pages from this weblog like crazy all day today. There are thousands and thousands of possible ones if you count all the individual day views and writeback views and category views. It’s been going one every 3-5 seconds. Enough is enough. Even more infuriating is this statement in the MSNBot FAQ:

# How often will MSNBot access a web page from my web server?
MSNBot should not try to access your site more often than once every few seconds. If MSNBot determines that your site has a slow connection, it accesses it less frequently. If you find that MSNBot places too high a load on your web site, please send e-mail to

So, they think it is OK that it gets your pages every few seconds. As I understand crawler etiquette, one minute is a reasonable time to wait between page loads from the same server. Any robot I ever write has that as the minimum interval for reloads from the same webserver. This blithe answer “shouldn’t be more than every few seconds” is bullshit. From reading the FAQ, this bot isn’t even related to being indexed for MSN searching! It’s just some research project thing. Way to go, MSN. Load the living hell out of webpages for some bogus project that isn’t even useful. I’ve been banning ill-behaved crawlers that load pages willy nilly, and now MSNBot is on that list.

Gay Protest Against the Catholic Church

The last inter-blog argument between me and my brother was about the Catholic Church denying communion for political reasons. They are at it again. According to this story in Gapers Block, Cardinal George has ordered Chicago area priests to deny communion to anyone wearing a rainbow sash this Sunday. The message here is clear: the Catholic Church is happy to give homosexuals communion as long as they are quiet about it. If they have the audacity to publicly demonstrate that they want to be treated as equals by the Church, they are cut off. Vocal queers bad, discreet closeted queers good.

I humbly submit there is a better and ultimately more effective form of protest available to gays in the church. Rather than wearing rainbow sashes (or in addition to), get yourselves some pieces of rainbow paper at a stationary store. When it comes time for the offertory, give no cash but instead drop in an envelope containing your rainbow paper with a dollar figure written on it, the dollar figure that would have been your contribution. It’s one thing to be hardassed at the communion bar about the sashes, it’s another to be sitting in the office with an adding machine understanding the dollar costs to being out of touch with the needs of your parishioners. This is all academic to me, being neither gay nor Catholic. I do so hate bullies, though, and this pronouncement from Cardinal George and all these “denial of communion” attacks on parishioners strike me as exactly that.

X-Arcade Dual Controller

Here’s a review of a good looking joystick, useable with MAME and others. If I buy another joystick to use with MAME, it will have two joysticks such that I can use it for Robotron (my favorite arcade game of all time). I’ve played it in manners other than two joysticks, like two sets of keystrokes or one joystick and one set of kets and none of it compares. When I would go to Ground Kontrol in Portland and play the actual arcade game, it would remind me of what a sham playing Robotron on MAME is without the proper controls.

Compleat Sturgeon

One of my ongoing literature projects is to read every short story by the late great Theodore Sturgeon. I have a number of the books in the series from North Atlantic Books that collects all his short fiction and am slowly working through them. My original plan was to read a story a day, but I haven’t maintained that pace. It’s more like one or two a week, but still it continues. My goal here is that by reading all his stories in approximately composition order I will gain a greater insight into his work as an author, his growth as an artist as well as getting the treat of reading works of his that I had never encountered before.

Currently I am still early in Volume 1. Any aspiring author in the fantastic literatures should consider at least reading this first volume because it contains a fascinating and motivating insight. As wonderful a writer as Sturgeon was – and I’ll go out on a limb and say that he was the best short story writer in SF ever – many of his early stories sucked. Right now I’m in the section of the book that contains a number of unpublished works and you can tell why they weren’t published. But here’s the motivational part: he started with stories that read like they came out of any workshop or critique group or college course and he worked and worked and honed his craft until his stories were gems. Even in the era of science fiction when the fashion was plot and idea driven gadget stories, Sturgeon wrote fiction full of characters that felt like real people with whom you could form emotional attachments. And, young writers, he wrote dozens of stories not much better than yours. There is hope for you, as long as you have what it takes to sit your ass in a chair and write your guts out every day whether you feel like it or not. After ten or twenty years of work you might even get in this league.


It turns out that that XML-RPC ping plugin had a biiiiig flaw, one that resulted in an unintentional denial of service attack on my own weblog. The way it would work is by first doing the ping for each of the URLs defined in a list. If all were successful, it would write a “touch” file and use that timestamp to mark the point at which the last successful round of pings was sent. On loading the page subsequent times, it would check to see if the newest article is newer than that timestamp. If so, it would ping again, otherwise not. The problem came when any of the URLs failed. Because it didn’t write the touch file unless all succeeded, if one of the hosts was down it would never write the file. Since the side effect of pinging these hosts is to make them load the weblog, this quickly snowballed out of control. Every weblog load caused each of the hosts to be pinged, which caused them to load the page again. was good about not reloading in this situation, but and technorati happily reloaded after each ping, even if the last was less than a second previously. This got so out of hand that I had to shut down the webserver in order to allow the load to drop low enough for me to fix it.

I went into the code and made some changes. The touch file is no longer conditional on success of the XML-RPC pings, and it happens before any of the pings are sent. That way, a page load that happens while the group of hosts are in the process of being pinged will not cause additional pings. This seems to have short-circuited the infinite loop. I don’t really care that much if it doesn’t retry on a failed ping. There will be other tries later.


I saw this little item about Punta Mona (who can resist a place named “Monkey Point?”) on It sounds like a good place to spend some time – an 87 acre self-sustaining farm that is off the grid, powered by solar panels and methane digesters. They have accomodations there and you can take rainforest tours and go on dolphin outings. I’ve long been interested in Costa Rica and want to visit there. I continue to this day to joke about how we could retire today if we did it in Costa Rica. This has more than a little influence in my desire to learn Spanish.

Week 8

My weight this week was 231 – down 2 pounds from last week and 15 pounds from baseline. The slow and steady pace continues. Starting this week, I plan on biking to the train station when I can, so that 2 miles of bike riding a few times a week should help out some as well. I do definitely need more exercise and to improve my cardiovascular health. Last week after CJUG I had to run one block to catch my train and that 100 yards of running left me breathless and spent. Biking should help that some. I might even take to doing a little jogging in the mornings, just to build my wind back up to non-embarrasing levels.

Richard Biggs, RIP

According to this post on J. Michael Straczynski’s mailing list actor Richard Biggs died this weekend. That’s a damn shame as he was a good actor and by all accounts a great person. I liked him on Babylon 5 but even before that watched him on Days of our Lives where he ignited a mini-firestorm in the early 90’s with the first interracial kiss in that show’s history. What a shame that he died so young, only 43 at his passing. He will be missed.