Archive for January, 2006

Come to my office for sound advice…and lynchings!

Our new official EE department mascot

Okay, the story behind this: We just got this new whiteboard in for the EE office and asked MP to hang it on the wall. Since it’s replacing an old defunct one, JR set the new one against the wall with “Please hang me” written on it, and the arrows indicating where we wanted it, and a little smiley face. I came in and saw it (JR was out of office), and drew a crude noose, and left for a while. JR saw my edit and drew a body, X-ed out the eyes and added a hangy tongue. I saw his edit and drew in the reading materials, based on what projects were annoying us that day. (They are “EAGLE for Masochists” and “SMPS 20-Ton Handbook”.)

Seeing stuff like this is probably why nobody else will hang out in our office. (…sorry, that was bad. (It’s probably just because we don’t have a beer fridge.))

Event horizon

Wizard of Oz: As for you, my galvanized friend, you want a heart. You don’t know how lucky you are not to have one. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.
Tin Woodsman: But I still want one.

I’ve mentioned observability issues far too many times already, so, I’m not going to re-rant all that stuff. All previous rants included herein by reference, yadayada. Anyway, it just bit me in the ass again.

By now, those of you on both the LJ and t.c.o. sides have probably noticed a change or two. Notably, commenting is now restricted to logged-in users (minus one), some entries are non-public, and commenter IP logging is enabled. Out of respect for a good friend (and general fuck-you-ness to a good enemy), it’s probably going to stay that way, at least for a little while.

As for the “minus one”, that also includes AIM, etc. It was fun for a little while though, letting him run…and run, and run. Like a broken timeserver that spews bullshit instead of time, and in limitless supply, as long as you keep sending an [ACK] every so often. Give a dog* enough rope to hang himself, and chances are he will.

Lj’s recent security fixes, intended to (among some other things) clear up some XSS vulns, in conjunction with the recent need to put an IP-block on a certain individual, got me thinking. When I looked at my server logs today I realized LJ makes it entirely too easy for someone to determine the IP of a specific user without their knowledge…whether or not they actively traverse off-site links. I hope I don’t scare anyone here :-) These are only a few “wild guesses” to demonstrate the concept. I won’t reveal any names or IP addresses.

S. – Comcast, near Cambridge (an Ubuntu user!)
L. – RCN, Somerville. Someone in the house has a cleverly-concealed web server. :-) (And they know my IP too now, drat.)
K. (not K*) – Dumped XO Communications for RCN, Waltham. I wonder who there knows me? (And do they really think pictures look different under OS X?) Into the plonkfile ye go. (…again.)
J. – RCN, Downtown or South Boston

Directions: I’ve made some guesses correlating a few friends (and one not-so-friend) on LJ to an IP address. I don’t want to post anyone’s IP, so I’m just going to say the service provider it’s on and the approximate location of the first hop. If your first initial is in the table above, see if I got your ISP correctly and let me know whether I was right. I guess that doesn’t really say much, considering Comcast and RCN are pretty much the only games in town (often only one or the other, depending where in town). But if they’re all correct, LJ users (or LJ itself) should probably be made aware of this issue at some point…

If there is sufficient interest I’ll explain how this is done; it’s ridiculously easy, but I’d be damned if I knew how one would go about fixing it.

* Dogs are interesting creatures. You often see two of them fighting over a toy, or other object of property, that one or both doesn’t even really want. Or growling over their food bowls…not even hungry, until they catch sight of another dog sniffing around.

ban_set *

Fucker. An easily-handled fucker, but a fucker nonetheless.

Sorry for all of you (on the LJ side) who had to witness that.

*mostly* just a datestamp entry :-)

And if rain brings winds of change, let it rain on us forever.
I have no doubt from what I’ve seen that I have never wanted more.
With this line I’ll mark the past as a symbol of beginning.
I have no doubt from what I’ve seen that I have never wanted more.

Today was…a good day. And a bad day. Mostly a good day. Bad because I’m losing the company of a great friend for a while, and vice versa, and I am going to miss her so much. It’s hard to say goodbye…harder still to mean it. But good because really, we’re not losing anything…and have only to gain.

I finally said some things I’ve been meaning to for a long time…or maybe more specifically, completely danced around them all, but I think she understood what I was trying to say. (For those who sat through the Longest Post Ever in its entirety a couple nights ago, you maybe know what I’m talking about (also, my apologies); if you didn’t even see it…let me know; the LJ side maybe acting strangely from what I hear. First friends-only post in…probably ever.) Maybe saying something earlier would have avoided a lot of trouble. Or maybe just made it harder to let go, even for temporary. There’s a lot of maybe in this paragraph.

We met up, I handed off my least carelessly-hacked-together Suncloud board to my favorite silver lining, then we grabbed some quick food at a Dunkin Donuts (yes, they have them in Chicago! Just not all touching one another), and read the writing on the wall, and the memories it pointed to. Father’s day cake. Do not immerse server. And made new ones, petting brass snails and prowling a deserted art center. Walked the grounds of Harvard in the unseasonable literal and figurative warmth, and ground through the paper-tape reader of the first computer to ever catch a bug. And said goodbye. And said goodbye, and said goodbye.

But I have to stop thinking about this as an ending… it’s a beginning.

In the company of geeks, does the counting start at one, or zero? Maybe normal people just don’t count things. I’ve heard the words before, but this time it might be for real. I don’t know what the rules are in this situation. Maybe there aren’t any.

Today is 1/21… It’s neither a major holiday nor a major version of ms-dos, but I think I can remember it anyway. It has been a beautiful day.

Pictures from today

Protected: On saying goodbye, and all the other words I couldn’t, and in the right order

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So tired that I couldn’t even sleep. So many secrets I couldn’t keep. Promised myself I wouldn’t weep, that’s one more promise I couldn’t keep

Not sleeping…just dreaming. I couldn’t write any more, my eyes burned. I closed them and a face tried to eat me. Painted in motive watercolors in the noise behind my eyelids, the noise of randomness and neural crosstalk and every bright light I’ve ever glanced at. I folded myself into my bed, just for a little while, closed them again to commune with a man standing in the grainy darkness in a flowing robe, his three large tentacles waving slowly behind him in the nonlight of where my window should have been. I wondered what he was standing on.

* * *

These last couple weeks have been unbelievably stressful, between dealing with lawyers (cexx.org, and, ahem, “Unsolicited Commercial Software” research in general, is a legal lightning rod), work (all the usual overworkload plus several government research proposals, due tomorrow night), and good friends in bad situations. I feel like a dog chew toy, being jerked this way and that way from day to night to day. I always consider myself indestructible, ignoring my own needs to be there for someone else, no matter how it hurts me in the process, cleaning up the mess each time as the same cyclic scenes play out over and over again. I swear just once, sometime, I will worry about me. But being there gives me a sense of purpose, a little nugget of enduring warmth in a cold world, in a way that assembly hacking, grinding through equations and 1000 hours of circuit board layout never will. I could do it ’til it kills me and die smiling. (Speaking figuratively here. Don’t all go calling 911.)

Many blog entries forthcoming, and emails to those I’m neglecting lately, when I can find the time to write them.

Lemme sleep on it…I’ll give ya an answer in the morning…

Decisions… dear bloggg, we have definitely had this conversation before. Not necessarily little meaningless decisions, nor always delicately-balanced fencepost ones that could fall one way or another at the whim of a gentle neural breeze. Sometimes they’re downright entangled, pulled simultaneously in several directions with such force that you’re almost afraid to touch them, that the slightest disturbance will send things ripping apart. This would take too long to explain, even to myself, so I won’t. I thought I had that one licked, well-researched and set in stone, then some stuff happened, and when it came up again I kind of had to start over from scratch, grinding into the wee hours of the night. I don’t really remember it..I never remember exactly what it was I was thinking just before I fall asleep, even if it seemed really important at the time, and I told myself that whatever happens, I should remember this.

* * *

On the way to the cabin for my new years eve party, at the Lorenzo Rd. exit on I55, I passed by the River Restaurant, the truck stop our family had stopped at on the way for as long as I could remember. At one time, this offramp–seemingly laid out in a time when the speed limit was 55 and cars weren’t really meant to go much faster–consisted of a surprise 3-way intersection a couple hundred feet around a sharp blind curve. If you weren’t expecting it, you would have slid more or less right into the restaurant’s parking lot, that’s how close to the main road it was. A couple years ago someone got the idea to drastically redesign the ramps at this exit and reroute Lorenzo Rd. to accommodate this grand design, with the side effect that the restaurant, once convenient spitting distance from the hard road, was now off down a potholed stretch of gravel and mostly hidden behind a Clark station. Even though the actual change was only a few hundred feet, my dad remarked, as if common knowledge, that this small inconvenience would spell its slow but certain demise. I don’t remember us ever stopping there again, and indeed, as our group pulled into the Clark station for gas, the restaurant parking lot was all but deserted. Silly humans…so nonsensical, and yet thoroughly predictable.

One of my more vivid memories of the place, besides the meager but oddly irresistible salad bar and downright respectable fried catfish, is of being a young boy and watching a pair of locals walk in and buy a fistful of scratch-n-win lottery tickets. They stood at the counter and scratched away, only to be disappointed time and again. When the last of the tickets had been scratched, they bought more. Scratch, lose, scratch, lose, scratch. I had a fuzzy notion of how the lottery system worked, but I had to ask, “Dad…why do they keep doing it if they know they’re just going to lose again?” He told me what the jackpot was, and my eyes just about came out of my head. I don’t remember the exact amount, but it was a helluva lot in kid dollars. He went on to kind of explain/rant about gambling, about the potential payoff being so great that in some cases people won’t care how many times they lose; as long as they have the chance to play again, they will. If you could have one unbelievably lucky strike and be set for the rest of your life, wouldn’t you want to give it a try? What would you risk for that shot?

I’m not sure I really understood at the time, but I think I’m starting to.