Remember that Chernobyl motorcycle trip?

Apparently huge chunks of it were fabrications. A posting in Neil Gaiman’s blog from a reader in Kiev points out that there were some serious problems with the original photo essay. The writer, Elena, has since massively revised the photo essay to take out some of the more blatant falsehoods. (actually, at the moment I can’t find the original site – it seems to have been taken down)
Jeez, what was the point? Wasn’t Chernobyl horrific enough? Why -make up- stuff about it?

The saga of the laptop

Folks know that I’ve been doing much of my development work on an IBM Thinkpad T23 for quite a while. It’s an older machine, (manufactured 3/01), but in many ways I’m quite attached to it.
Yesterday at Diesel Cafe in Davis Square, I was looking forward to a few hours of focused work time.
The laptop wouldn’t boot. Just locked up on the BIOS screen. My main work machine had died during a particularly wretched emotional and financial time for me. I was betrayed.
[this story has a happy ending, read on for details]

Continue reading “The saga of the laptop”

One small victory.

Since I’m doing a bunch of spam analysis, I decided to watch inbound traffic of spam coming to me. Of the 5-6 mails I saw, 4 were from obviously comrpomised Windows boxes that were acting as active relays.
I tracked one to Megapath, so I sent mail off to them with the IP address of the machine spewing the spam. An hour later:

Subject: You have an active spammer.
Discussion Thread Response (Eric B.)	05/25/2004 02:47 PM
Thank you for the notice. We have stopped the traffic.
MegaPath Abuse Department

It’s not much, but gosh it feels good.


I just got my first phone spam. A hotmail return address and everything. I’ve had this number for probably 3+ years now, I hope this doesn’t get to be a problem. I may have to disable msging on it (which I almost -never- use – but it is set up for downtime paging from offsite monitoring… have to figure out how to let that through)

Ah, Maine.

This weekend Cat, Zach and I are up in Maine with Cat’s father Don, and her brother Brian opening up the lake house for the season. Zach and I had come up a couple weeks ago to make sure the building was still standing and everything, and this weekend was the ‘official’ opening.
This is a fun time. The house has been standing empty and untouched since early November last year, so there’s a lot of stuff that needs to be done. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also the signal that summer is here, and there’s some lovely times ahead. Of course, the weather today and tomorrow is the -worst- it’s been for the last 2 weeks (it barely got into the 50’s here, and has been raining off and on all day).
Anyway, most of this is preparation for next weekend (Memorial day), when we’ll have a good crowd up here. But this weekend we have to: Open the house, clean up, stock with basic foodstuffs, open up all the outbuildings, do whatever repairs are necessary [this winter saw part of the gear sheds roof ripped off by the winds], pick up the whaler, put the docks back in, unload all the summery-stuff in the yard (grill, hammock, chairs, etc), move the camper trailer back up to Maine from its winter storage down at Homeport and set it up, hook up the plumbing, put the hand-operated well-pump back in place, clean up all the winter debris from the yard, reconnect the gasline feeds and get the furnace and hotwater heaters working, etc etc etc.
It’s work, but it’s worth it. Summer is here. Now where’s my sweater?

An evening out at the movies.

This evening Cat, Zach and I went off to the movies for the first time, all together. This was Zach’s first time in a full sized movie theatre specifically there to see a Real Movie [tm].
The theatre was busy, and we made it in for a matinee, so the costs were only obscene, not pornographic :-/ . At any rate, we saw Shrek 2. What a blast that was. I had my worries about going to a matinee for what could arguably be called a ‘kids movie’, but we all know this is one of those movies that’s targeted at kids -and- adults, probably even more at adults. I was worried about the audience full of small children and the chaos that could have happened, and I was not in the mood to sit through 2 hours of “Mom, Brian’s touching me!!!”. Fortunately, this didn’t happen, and I was able to really settle in and enjoy.
We had a great time, Zach loved it! Lots of good jokes, silliness, out and out laughing. I cracked up a few times at jokes obviously no one else got (this movie is -hip deep- in obscure references. Twuz great :). I’m not sure if I’d rank it above the first Shrek movie, which seemed to have better ‘flow’ to it, but all in all, this was a lot of fun.

A pleasant discovery.

Part of the drive to and from Zach’s school takes us over some construction going on on Rt 290 near 495. For a while I thought it was some sort of municipal project… the strip of land they were working on looked like a pipeline, and not for the first time I wondered why someone didn’t come along, pave the top of it, and make it a bike trail.
On the way to a Mosaic meeting, I passed over that spot again, but this time headed off on a sideroad. Buzzing along, I passed some other new road construction and… *GASP* a bike trail! Okay, I -know- that wasn’t there before. Gotta check this out.
Sure enough, the new trail I saw, and the construction on the 290 extension are in fact work on the Assabet River Rail Trail project. This is part of the big effort to turn old railroad beds and right of ways into bike trails.
The construction on the rt 290 extension is a tunnel they’re putting under the roadway to let the trail pass by. There’s pictures on the ARRT project home page.
This whole trail is only about 5 miles from the house, which is outstanding. I think I’ll pull the bike out and head over there soon and check it out with Zach!

Instability in FireFox – solved.

Over the last couple weeks I’ve found myself not using FireFox as much as I had been. This is usually an indication that there are problems with the app that are making me not like it, or just ‘get in the way’. I found myself running Konqueror more, which has its own quirks.
Today I settled into trying to figure out what was annoying me. FireFox had been doing silly things like if a page refreshes automatically (like, say, my My Yahoo news page, it would raise the window to the front, and NOT give it focus. This was annoying as all git out, because every 10 minutes my FireFox window would spontaneously POP to the front of the screen. Not good!
I had seen a few other crashes and other oddities, so I ambled over to #firefox on (note that link may not work for everyone), and posited my problems.
Apparently a while ago I had installed the Tabbrowser Extensions otherwise known as TBE from the FireFox extensions library. This extension gives you amazing control over the tabs in FireFox (tabbed browsing is the cat’s meow – if you’re not using it, by using, say, an inferior browser, you should seriously consider upgrading).
Unfortunately, the TBE is known to have SERIOUS stability problems, and apparently is the first line of defense when someone say “I’m having problems with FireFox”. Sure enough, after I disabled the extension, things got MUCh smoother – the auto-raise behaviour stopped, and FireFox seems more stable.
The one behaviour I absolutely needed was the ability to re-order tabs. If I had tabs “a”, “b” and “c”, and I was viewing “b”, and hit the middle mouse button to open a new tab on a link, after I closed that window (usually with ^W), FireFox would show me tab “c”, and there was no way to fix that (it should have bopped me back to the ‘previously viewed’ tab, that being “b”.
Going through the above link, I found MiniT which looked about right. I installed it, and voila! I can simply drag one tab to another position on the tab bar, and since FireFox closes tabs from right to left, it’s easy to put them in the order I need.
Thanks to the folks on #firefox for pointing out the flaws in TBE.

I am… Lawn man!!!

Okay, not really. But it’s sort of fun playing one.
We have a rough lawn here at Homeport. It’s been getting slowly more scraggly over the years, and that evil enemy of lawns, moss, has started taking over in spots.
Talking with our landscaper roomie, she pointed out that this pattern is common in very acidic soil, have we tried to lay down lime?
By golly, no, we haven’t. It hadn’t occurred that since we have a de-acidifier already for our house water (we have well water, and the water was so acidic it was eating up our pipes), that maybe that also meant the surrounding soil was acidic, which would make it hard for grass to grow.
Hmm! We need a test! We don’t have a pH tester, but it sure sounds like this is worth figuring out. We chose a strip of lawn next to the driveway (those that know the property – it’s rigt across the driveway from the house at the top of the hill, in front of the brick wall) – that’s always had scraggly grass on it, and it’s been getting worse.
First I worked it over with a rake and a pitchfork to aerate the soil a bit, this’ll let the lime soak down into the dirt. Then I laid down a layer of lime (the granulated kind, not the white powder – apparently the powder kind takes -forever- to soak into the ground). This granulated stuff was sort of gray-brown. On top of that I put an inch or so of compost (we had a few cubic yards delivered to fill out the garden). Over that came the grass seed (MAN is grass seed expensive. I covered perhaps 300 square feet of lawn, and the seed was about $17. That’s gonna get expensive if we reseed large sections of the lawn.
All of the experts say the next step is to roll the area with a roller, or use a tamping tool. I have neither, but I have a nice garden tractor with very wide tires. I rolled over the area a couple times to get the compost firm (so it won’t just mud-up and slide away), and put the tractor away.
The last step is water. Water water water. The grass seed needs to basically be kept damp until the seeds germinate, that’ll be about 2 weeks. The next week of weather look good (highs in the low 70’s), so this means we won’t have any brutally hot days to bake the bejeezus out of that strip. If that happens, I’ll put out a sprinkler, but if I water it every morning and evening, I think I can keep ahead of the dryness.
Now we wait! If all goes well, we’ll have a nice carpet of good grass there. If not, we’ll have a mudpuddle. Woohoo!