From Pine View Farm

May, 2006 archive

It Takes All Kinds 0

Some people have rather unusual hobbies:

They once were a rural American staple, a necessity for daily life. Today, outhouses are mostly gone — but not if you wander into Janie Peel’s backyard. “This is my newest one,” she said, gesturing toward a vintage double-seater that was moved in its entirety to her farm.

“It took three men to lift it,” she said. “But if we hadn’t, it would have been torn down.”

Outhouses have always fascinated Peel, an east-Georgia commercial real estate broker who now collects them.


Spammer Gets Prison 0

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about “bots” and “botnets.”

The law is starting to strike back:

A 21-year-old computer whiz was sentenced to nearly five years in federal prison for taking control of 400,000 Internet-connected computers and renting access to them to spammers and fellow hackers.

Among the machines authorities said Jeanson James Ancheta infected in 2004 and 2005 were those at the China Lake Naval Air Facility and the Defense Information System Agency headquartered in Falls Church, Va.

In other news, “Spamford Wallace” been ordered to pay a multi-million dollar settlement for planting spyware:

A federal court has ordered a man who was at the center of the nation’s first “spyware” case to give up $4 million in ill-gotten gains.

Sanford Wallace was accused by the Federal Trade Commission of running an operation that infected computers with software that caused flurries of pop-up ads. It then tried to sell consumers cures called “Spy Wiper” and “Spy Deleter” for $30



Help Yourself 3

New Jersey is one of two states that prohibit self-serve gas stations. When self-service first came along, the prohibition was motivated by safety concerns.

After all, gasoline pumps are tremendously complicated devices that can be operated only by persons with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering, as anyone who has ever purchased gasoline in New Jersey can attest.

The new governor recently proposed allowing self-serve gas stations in the interest of maybe saving a nickel or so a gallon off the price. After the resulting uproar, he backed off that proposal.

After a phone call with my brother this afternoon, in which self-service and New Jersey came up, I read this article in today’s local rag and had the first real belly laugh I’ve had in days. I commend it to your attention.


Are Right-Wingers Finally Catching On? 0

Right-wing LA talk show host Doug McIntyre apologizes for supporting George W. Bush:

I watched and tried to justify the looting in Iraq after the fall of Saddam. I watched and tried to justify the dismantling of the entire Iraqi army. I tired to explain the complexities of building a functional new Iraqi army. I urged patience when no WMDs were found. Then the Vice President told us we were in the “waning days of the insurgency.” And I started wincing again. The President says we have to stay the course but what if it’s the wrong course?

It was the wrong course. All of it was wrong. We are not on the road to victory. We’re about to slink home with our tail between our legs, leaving civil war in Iraq and a nuclear armed Iran in our wake. Bali was bombed. Madrid was bombed. London was bombed. And Bin Laden is still making tapes. It’s unspeakable. The liberal media didn’t create this reality, bad policy did.

The whole thing is worth a read.

With a tip of the hat to Phillybits.


Man-Eating Plane 0

A hapless US Air Force pilot had to be physically cut free from the cockpit of his F-22A Raptor when the canopy resolutely refused to open, Flight International reports.


Oh, My 0

Haunted Teddy Bear for sale on EBay.

Act now.


Um, Er, Yeah, Right 0

I knew this; I used to say this when I did training in making presentations. But I didn’t have any science to back it up.

Although we may not consciously realise it, in a two-person conversation, people speak by taking turns. When someone thinks it is their turn to talk, they do. Otherwise, they listen. A two-person conversation becomes like a tennis match. Inevitably there are short periods of silence as people pause to let the other person take over the speaking. But sometimes a speaker doesn’t want to give up their turn and instead wants a little extra time to think about what they’re going to say next. They use a “filler” to signal this.


Drat 0

Given that I spend a good part of my life in Philadelphia International Airport (so much so that I can just about tell you which restaurants are in which terminal), this news story did not bring me joy.

Philadelphia International Airport regularly has the worst on-time performance of any large U.S. airport.

Now, I don’t badmouth PHL the way a lot of my fellow locals do. I’ve been in a lot of airports, and Philly is by no means the worst, when viewed simply between the entrance and the jetways (I nominate Detroit and Dallas for that competition).

Yeah, it’s hard to drive through, but any airport is hard to drive through if you haven’t been there before. (And the signs are certainly far superior to San Jose, where last I boarded a plane.)

You’ve got the normal citizens, who get there occasionally, tentatively looking for their terminals while surrounded by the hoards of limosine, van, and shuttle drivers, who know exactly where they are going and cut-off and abuse the normal citizens mercilessly–that’s the same from Philly to Washington National to Fargo.

Once you get inside, it’s not a bad place to kill an extra hour or two if your plane is late. Indeed, breakfast at Lamberti’s would be a bargain in or out of an airport.

Last night, I booked my next trip. I hope Philly has a good day on my departure day.


Those Who Are Ignorant of History Are Condemned To Make Fools of Themselves 1

The current hoo-haa over the recent release of a recording of the “Star-Spangled Banner” in Spanish has little to do with reverance for the flag of the United States of America or the nation for which it stands.

Rather, it is a manifestation of xenophobia, bigotry, and, to some extent, racism.

History is full of delightful ironies which prick the balloons of the forces of evil, and the local rag pointed out one of them today:

The government already gave its blessing when the U.S. Bureau of Education prepared a Spanish version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1919. And that translation has been available on the Library of Congress’ Web site for the last two years.

You can see the official United States translation into Spanish of the national anthem here.

You can see the lyrics of the recent Spanish language release here.


I just came across this column in today’s Washington Post:

I believe this is why “Nuestro Himno” has been received with such trepidation. By infiltrating one of the safest symbols of U.S. national identity with Spanish syllables, this version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” has crossed a line. It has inadvertently announced something many Americans have dreaded for years: that their country is on its way to becoming a bilingual nation.

If I’m right about this, and America will sometime be articulating its identity in two languages, then the question looms: How will the citizens of the United States react to this monumental challenge?

One possibility, of course, is a nativist backlash, with more vigilante Minutemen swilling beer in the Arizona sun, more calls for deporting all illegal workers, more demands that an impenetrable wall be built against the foreign hordes, more attempts to dismantle bilingual education in U.S. schools.

But others may tell themselves that the United States has been built on diversity and tolerance and that, at a time when the national soul is indeed being tested, at a time when the democratic ideals at the heart of American identity are truly in danger of being sacrificed on the altar of false security, our better angels should welcome the wonders of Spanish to the struggle and the debate.


Adventures in Linux, Wireless Department 0

I travel. Since I am a trainer, it’s often more cost-effective to bring one trainer to many trainees than vice versa.

From time to time, I’m trapped in a hotel that does not have proper internet service. Instead, they have (gasp) wireless.

Because they are too cheap to pay someone to pull cat 5 through their building.

So I decided I’d better figure out wireless for my laptop, which, natch, is a Linux box. (Have I mentioned what a relief it is not to have to constantly scan the box for adware and spyware?–most of that stuff doesn’t speak Linux. I scan once a week for viruses, but that’s about it.)

So I went out and got a D-Link access point to add to my network here at Pine View Farm Central and a Linksys PCMCIA card for the trusty laptop. (By the way, PCMCIA stands for “people can’t remember computer industry acronyms.”)

Then I went to Linuxant and grabbed the WLAN driver to help me use the Windows PCMCIA driver in my Linux laptop.

Worked like a charm.

Then I turned the encryption on in the access point.

No more charms. Can’t get an IP address.

(By the way, anyone setting up a wireless network really ought to turn on encryption–otherwise you are running naked through the network, and folks can park their cars in the street in front of your house and use your network).

So, I still need to figure out how to pass the encryption password to the PCMCIA card in Linux, but, fortunately for my main goal, most hotels do NOT encrypt their networks. They may password-protect their connections, requiring you to accept the “terms of service” before they allow you to connect, but they don’t keep you from getting an IP address, so I’m good to go for my next foray as a road warrior.

Which is coming up far too quickly.

Linuxant rocks.


The War on Hackers 0

El Reg has a new installment:

A California hacker has pleaded guilty to disrupting computer systems – including the network of a hospital – through a malware-fueled attack designed to install adware on infected PCs.

Christopher Maxwell, from Vacaville, California, 20, also confessed to disrupting US military systems during the January 2005 attack. As part of a plea bargain agreement, Maxwell agree to pay $252,000 in compensation to Northwest Hospital and Medical Centre in Seattle, the main victim of his attack, and the Department of Defense.


My Roses Are Ready To Bloom 0

Of course, roses bloom all through the season. That’s one of the joys of having them.

But the first bloom is special. They all burst out at once; for me, that’s about 20 rose bushes.

Last year I missed it. My whole month of May was taken up in dealing with my father’s death, the funeral arrangements, and taking care of my mother.

There are buds on the roses now. I think that this year I will get to see them bloom. I’ll post some pictures if I get the chance.

Oh, yeah, the lilacs started to bloom today. As I cut the grass, I could smell the lilacs.


Big Dig 0

Boston is one of my favorite cities.

No, I wouldn’t live there. It gets too cold. But otherwise, it’s a great town.

I remember it before the Big Dig, when the elevated Mass Pike split the city. I remember a cab ride from Somerville to Boston South Station while the Big Dig was under way. We went past the Boston Garden; the east end of the building was gone, and we could see the basketball court and the stands from the Route 1 Bridge. Remembering that always puts me in mind of the Cheers episode (#229) in which the denizens of the bar went to the garden.

Now, the Big Dig won’t go away.

Right now, the governor is returning campaign contributions, even though this governor, for all he is a Republican, really had nothing to do with the Big Dig.

I got to drive through the Big Dig year before last on the way to a training gig in Chelsea, Mass. Fortunately, it wasn’t flooded that night.

I must say, contrary to their reputation of being the worst drivers in the nation (a reputation they jealously promote), Boston drivers are actually rather courteous. Crazy, but courteous.

Even though I was fighting the evening rush hour after dark on a late fall day, someone always allowed me to make my lane changes and no one tailgated me. I’d rather drive in Boston than drive California Highway 17 again.


I Guess He Did All the Damage He Could 0

Now he can join Brownie.

Jeez, the current Federal Administration sure can pick ’em.



Oil and the Commodities Market 0

Andrew Cassel had a fascinating column in Wednesday’s local rag about the commodoties markete as it affects oil prices. Since all of us are feeling the pinch (or pincers) right now, I recommend it for the light it sheds on how the oil markets work:

Here’s how it works: Say a hedge fund in California decides to put $1 million into oil futures. It hires a trader, who jumps into the pit (or more likely, onto a computer keyboard) and bids for a contract to receive oil next month.

Yesterday, such futures contracts were trading about $74 a barrel. Of course, the hedge fund has no intention of actually buying 13,500 barrels of crude (roughly $1 million worth) – the fund is betting that by next month, the price will be even higher and it can sell the contract at a profit.

As more investors bring more money to the table, prices can tend to rise – not just in the futures markets, but at your neighborhood gas station. That’s what has some critics calling for curbs on “rampant” speculation.


The point is that markets don’t make prices rise or fall – rather, they make it possible for prices to move quickly, in either direction.

In other words, the market reflects what is going on in the larger world; it does not create what is going on in the larger world (assuming the marketers are honest, of course).

He supplemented it yesterday.


Call Me Tim Allen 2

I’m finally catching up with myself.

Didn’t even know I was chasing myself.

This morning, I rewired the lights in the attic. Now I have three, all controlled by one wall switch, rather than two controlled by pull-chains and one controlled by, well, it was a trouble light with its own push switch.

Plus I have an outlet. I have plans for that outlet. I’m going to get a DVR and hang cameras around the house, just because I can.

And all the wiring meets code. Which it didn’t before. The Previous Owner was a low-voltage man; he really didn’t know what he was doing with anything over five volts.

Anyhoo, for anyone who tried to connect to my server between 6 and 9 a. m. and got a 404 (“page not found”), it was because the server was turned off because it’s on the same circuit as the attic. Some of the wiring he did was really scary.


I Nearly Didn’t Make It Home Today 3

There she was. Alone in her Jeep SUV.

Swerving from lane to lane.

Holding a cell phone to her ear with one hand, and

Gesturing with the other.

I wanted to kiss my front yard when I got here.


Off to College? 0

Chris Satullo had an interesting piece in Sunday’s local rag on what he sees as problems with the college admissions process. He was not looking at how colleges process paperwork; rather he was looking at it from a societal perspective. This item, in particular, caught my eye:

2. Students feel too pressured to make the perfect choice.They’re young. They change. That should be OK. The American Council on Education estimates only 40 percent of students graduate within six years from the college they first entered. One in five transfers. Two-thirds change their major. These choices we press on petrified teenagers aren’t be-alls-and-end-alls. They’re shots in the dark that are easy to get wrong, but the mistakes aren’t fatal.

I have often questioned the wisdom of expecting students to choose a major in their freshman year. It’s certainly okay if someone knows what he or she wants to do.

I knew one person like that: His career goal was to write/edit for the Washington Post. Every move he made in college and after college was directed at that ambition, and, eventually, he succeeded.

But I suspect that most 18-year olds have only the haziest notion of what they want to do with the lives, and circumstances will change those notions.

Heck, when I went off to school, I was confident I wanted to be lawyer. Meeting some law students changed that; they were much too uptight for me.

Rather, I ended up in a profession (training and development) that I didn’t even know was a profession until after I had graduated and joined the world of work.

From another standpoint, I am struck by his citing the statistic that only “only 40 percent of students graduate within six years . . . .”

Two of my kids attended the local state university. When they entered, they were told that five years was the normal time for completing a bachelor’s degree.

The credit-hours they needed to finish were no more than I needed in the old days at a “four-year” college, and I went to a pretty good school. When I went to school, the standard was five courses a semester. They were counseled that four courses a semester was a normal course load. That two fewer courses a year. Two x four = eight courses to finish the fifth year.

I always wondered, when did four years stretch into five? And I always thought, quite cynically, when the university wanted to get an extra year’s room, board, tuition, and fees out of students pursuing a four-year degree.