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Amused, Bemused, and occasionally Confused.
Miscellaneous rants and musings, whenever I feel like it.
It always hurts worst two days later
OK, so I went on an over-ambitious bike ride on Sunday. I have't gone more than five miles in a day since I tweaked my knee in August 2007, but Sunday was such a great weather than I just kept going and going. My shoulders and wrists were hurting when i got home, and my legs were tired, but my knee never even gave me a twinge.

Of course, the next day I was a little sore. I biked to work anyway (just a couple of miles) to keep my muscles from stiffening up. But you know how they say it always hurts worst two days after hard exercise? Well, they aren't kidding. I'm not twenty years old anymore, more's the pity, and I don't bounce back from these things like I used to. But still, if this good weather keeps up, I'm going for another ride on Friday. Just not quite so far.

Other random news: I've been checking out Facebook, and liking it so far, though it's weird having friends from different parts of my life pulled together in one place. Not quite sure how I feel about that, but I'm sticking with it so far.

----Ron

[link of the moment   |You Are Dumb - serious snark. Warning: NSFW language.]
[book of the moment |A Meeting at Corvallis, by S. M. Stirling]
[quote of the moment|"A closed mouth gathers no foot." ]
[mood of the moment | tired]
[music of the moment |Orbital - One Perfect Sunrise]
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Yes, I am indeed still alive
Boy, did I ever have a nasty case of the winter blues this time around. Things are finally starting to look up again, though. I always say I'm going to get active here again... let's see if that actually happens this time. I'll post before another year goes by, how's that for a goal?

By the way, I'm on Facebook now, in case anybody cares. I guess that's what all the kewl kids are doing these days, or something.

----Ron

[link of the moment   |Weregeek A funny webcomic, if you're a geek anyway!]
[book of the moment |River of Gods, by Ian MacDonald]
[quote of the moment|"The truth will set you free. But first it's going to piss you off." -- Found on Usenet ]
[mood of the moment | Tired]
[music of the moment |John Shipe - Coffee House Gig]
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Still here
So, um, yeah, I have a blog, I guess I should post once in a while. Thing is, my life has been pretty boring. Busy, but boring. There are worse things, though.

----Ron

[link of the moment    | Homestar Runner!]
[book of the moment  | Rimrunners, by C.J. Cherryh]
[quote of the moment| "In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice."]
[mood of the moment | blank]
[music of the moment |Concrete Blonde - Happy Birthday]
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House is finally legal, woo-hoo!
At long last we got the inspector to come look at our house again and this time he signed off on it! Now we can get our mortgage and pay off the family loan and all the other steps we need to take to untangle our finances.

Not much else to say today, except:

09F9 1102 9D74 E35B D841 56C5 6356 88C0

If you don't know what that's about, click here for an explanation. It's mind-bogglingly moronic that posting a specific number online is illegal, but thanks to the DMCA, such insanity is the law of the land. You can find more info here, courtesy of the EFF.

----Ron

[quote of the moment| "Remember when conservatives protected privacy and freedom?"]
[book of the moment  | Beyond Fear, by Bruce Schneier - security demystified.]
[link of the moment    | Astronomy picture of the day]
[mood of the moment | happy]
[music of the moment |Baz Luhrman - Everybodys Free to Wear Sunscreen]
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And another month goes by.
Yesterday we thought we might actually get the city building inspector to sign off on our house, so we can actually get a real mortgage instead of this weird family loan arrangement we have. It's taken six frackin' months to get this far... mostly spent chasing down contractors. It took us an entire month just to get someone to come insulate the heating ducts in the garage; he hardly ever returned phone calls, and was always busy, and our little job just wasn't very important to him I guess. I hate nagging after people to get them to do what they said they would do, but if that's what it takes, so be it.

So we finally got that done, and we thought it was the last thing on our list, but the home inspector arrived yesterday, took one look inside, and said "What, no handrail on these stairs? I can't sign off on that!" See, one of the items on the list he gave us, way back in October, just said "handrail on stairs". We thought, that just meant the upper stairs, which were totally open to the lower floor and definitely needed a rail... not the lower stairs as well, since those were between two walls. But it turned out to be both.

The funny part is he barely looked at all the other nione items, and some not at all. "Oh, you got that ductwork insulated? Good. No, I don't need to see it." GaaaaH! I could have just lied and saved myself a month and a half of chassing insulation contrators! Of course, I'm not all that great of a liar so he probably whould have noticed something was wrong if I hadn't been telling the truth.

Anyway, off we go on another round of contractor-chasing. Right away we got hold of the guy who did most of the other stuff, and he said, sure, he could do it right away, he might even have a handrail in stock, he was going to call back and let us know... but he hasn't yet. Well, he did good work, except for not telling us that the lower stairs would need a handrail too.

So it goes. Which reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut. I guess he was ready to go, but he will be missed. He wasn't really a huge icon of my life... but his books did have a real effect on me at a couple of crucial stages. I reread Cat's Cradle in honor of his death, but I forgot what a depressing book it is. That combined with the house stuff combined with a lot of other little nuisancy stuff that I'll not go into here, really got me down for a few days.

But it could be worse. I could work at Virginia Tech instead of WOU, for instance. That was scary to read about. I feel for everyone affected, and I sure hope nobody gets it into their head to copycat this.

Blah, now I'm depressing myself again. But it's a nice day outside, after some serious rain, and I got some solid work done today, which makes me feel like I'm getting my programming mojo back after months of frustration. And we're this close to getting our house signed off, and all the steps after that are pretty much lined up and ready to go.

I guess it's not really so bad after all.

----Ron

[link of the moment    | Making Light - a way-cool blog.]
[book of the moment  | (too busy to read lately) ]
[mood of the moment | contemplative]
[music of the moment |Moxy Fruvous - The Drinking Song]
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P2P and the RIAA
A bit of background: as part of my day job, I write a weekly briefing of all our faculty, staff and students about some technical topic. Mostly I get to choose it, but sometimes the topic is decided higher up.

Two weeks ago I was sort of short on ideas and so I (somewhat reluctantly) did one Peer-to-Peer file sharing and our policies on that. Then my boss told me I had to do a second part about the RIAA's latest crackdown, targeting college students. (Because I guess it's sort of bad press when they target preteen kids, single parents, and people who don't even own computers, but I wasn't allowed to say that.) That put me in kind of a quandary, because I don't much like the RIAA's legal tactics, but I bit my tongue and wrote the thing anyway, taking as neutral a stance as I could because I knew I was going to have to get it approved by the higher-ups.

Now, before I take this any farther, let me make a couple of things clear: I do believe that it is wrong to download and share stuff if you don't own the copyright. Even if the artists are only missing a few cents per song, you're still stealing from them, and by making an illegallly downloaded song, movie, or whatever available to others, you're aiding and abetting theft from the artists. Yes, I know most of the profit on music and movies goes to big fat corporations, and there's a certain appeal in sticking it to the man, but I still need to live with my conscience.

That does not mean I like the RIAA or want to help them, though. In case you don't know about what they've been up to lately, they are starting a major new offensive targeting college students with lawsuits. When they find somebody sharing a song, they look at their IP address which tells them the network the sharer is on, but not much else. If that network is owned by a university instead of, say, Earthlink, the RIAA is more likely to start a lawsuit. They contact the university and demand the sharer's name, and if the university refuses, the RIAA can subpoena the necessary records. Our university will not turn over student data without a subpoena, but unfortunately subpoenas are easy for the RIAA to get.

The RIAA also asks the university network administrators to forward a warning letter to the student, offering a chance to settle out of court. I consider this really insidious; the thing is, the RIAA is not guaranteed to win in court (though they do more often than not, it still costs them a lot) and they want to scare students into admitting guilt and paying a smaller amount to avoid the lawsuit. Considering the RIAA sues for a minumum of $750 per song, an out of court settlement might be tempting. But if you do share music, and you are hit with one of these letters, definitely seek legal advice before agreeing to the offer. Here is a directory of lawyers currently taking on RIAA lawsuits.

That's it for now.

----Ron

[link of the moment    | The Comics Curmudgeon - When you're tired of being mad at the world and want to be snarky about something trivial instead]
[book of the moment  | Code 2.0, by Lawrence Lessig]
[quote of the moment| "In thory, there is no difference between theory and practice."]
[mood of the moment | annoyed]
[music of the moment |R.E.M. - Welcome To The Occupation]
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Not a warm and fuzzy Valentines post
Meet Ty and Renee Ziegel. As a Marine reserve sergeant serving his second tour in Iraq, Ty was badly wounded by a suicide bomber in December 2004. He lost his left arm below the elbow, all but two fingers on his right hand, the sight in one eye, and a piece of his brain. His fiancee Renee was there with him through the whole recovery process, and they got married in October. You can see more photos here, read more about the couple in the Sunday Times of London or in this People magazine article (available through the website of the Fisher House Foundation, an organization that helps wounded troops and their families.) It's great that they've managed to keep their lives together and I hope they can continue.

But this is what he looks like now. It's not going to get any better. And he's one of the lucky ones.

War is evil. Sometimes it might be the lesser evil, but anything that does this to people is never a good thing. We all owe the troops and their families for putting them through this. Very few of us can honestly say we did enough to oppose this useless war; I know I can't. But you can do something to help the people that went and fought it, and to help their families. Please donate to Fisher House if you have anything to spare.

----Ron

[quote of the moment| "We're all in this together!"]
[mood of the moment | angry]
[music of the moment |Cowboy Junkies - You're Missing]
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Still alive
So, um, yeah, it's been a while, hasn't it. I hate winter sometimes.

Anyway, we've gotten the work on the house done, but the city inspector keeps forgetting to check his voicemail or something because he never responds when we try to set appointments to get everything signed off. We need that paperwork so we can get our bank loan, and we need that bank loan before... well, before a lot of things that I don't want to get into right now because I really should be working and not typing here. Suffice to say that a big chunk of our lives are on hold until we get this done.

Anyway, I'll try to post more often here in the future. Yeah, I've said that before. But then again, I'm still here, and I always do come back. So there.

----Ron

[link of the moment    | Doonesbury - we need this comic now more than ever.]
[book of the moment  | Quicksilver, by Neal Stephenson (yet again... I love that series!)]
[quote of the moment| "Remember when conservatives protected privacy and freedom?"]
[mood of the moment | hopeful]
[music of the moment |Bear McCreary - Lords of Kobol (BSG season 2 soundtrack)]
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The move rolls along...
Well, we might have finally found a contractor to bring our house up to code. Maybe. He hasn't called back since he visited, but he's only the second to get that far. Everybody is busy this time of year, not to mention that there's a lot of new construction in our town.

Luckily, the city building inspector said we were OK to stay in there on our temporary permit. We've made major headway moving our stuff and unpacking it; we still have to do more this weekend, but we're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. All the cats are moved, except our half-feral who we haven't been able to catch. And we've one less cat now; we finally had to put Mao to sleep after her kidneys failed. She hadn't touched food in days, and when she stopped drinking too, we knew it was time. She wasn't enjoying her life anymore, but if there's any such place as cat heaven, she's there now, probably off hunting. That was always what she loved the best.

Work has been running me into the ground lately, but this week I've felt more energetic and am finally gaining instead of falling farther behind. But I've had about enough for today. Time to jump on the bike and head home. Did I mention I can bike to work now? That's probably what's got my morale back on the upswing.

----Ron

[link of the moment    | Security Now - a podcast helping anyone learn about computer security]
[book of the moment  | Aristoi, by Walter Jon Williams]
[quote of the moment| "In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice"]
[mood of the moment | tired]
[music of the moment |Cowboy Junkies - I Don't Want To Be A Soldier]
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I guess I'm old
OK, so I went online looking for instructions for my old bike computer and our new house's garage door opener. With a bit of google-fu, I found both. And then it hit me... when I was a kid, this would have been science fiction. I remember reading novels that featured a global datanet, by whatever name, and thinking, "Man, wouldn't it be cool if such a thing existed?" Then I heard about the Internet. "What?! You mean it really does exist?" I thought, and had to go check it out.

This was 1990, mind you, so I had to sneak into the local university's computer lab and learn this weird-ass operating system called Unix; like DOS, only more cryptic. Then I could read Usenet News and play on MUDs and MUSHes-- all in text of course. I was instantly and totally addicted, never mind that it was a pale shadow of the stuff I'd read about.

Well, now it's sixteen years later. Now the Internet is more than many SF authors dared to dream about in 1990. I can check my email on my cellphone, and log into my bank and transfer money, and download stories and text and video, chat with pretty much anyone, and look up instructions for out-of-date equipment... and most of the new students currently streaming past the office window have always taken this for granted. When I got on the Net for the first time, most of them were still trying to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other without falling on their butts.

This makes me officially old, I suppose. At least in the eyes of these kids. Still don't feel it, though.

----Ron

[link of the moment    | Beloit college class of 2010 mindset list - In case you want to feel old too. ]
[book of the moment  | LDAP System Administration, by Gerald Carter - work, work, work. But I guess this is the sort of job I always said I wanted, so why am I complaining?]
[quote of the moment| "Inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened." - John Lennon (who would have been 66 in four days.)]
[mood of the moment |bemused]
[music of the moment |Sigur Rós - Myrkur]
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