February 2003

Quotation of the year candidate

by Michael Alderete on 2/28/2003

“I don’t have nightmares about you cheating on me, I have nightmares about you giving me horrible technology.”

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Out with the old…

by Michael Alderete on 2/27/2003

Tonight Rochelle found what must be the oldest thing in our refrigerator, some sliced pickled ginger in sweet vinegar. The package says it expired in 1997. Which means Rochelle has had it longer than she’s had me.

We threw it out.

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DHI 51-54

by Michael Alderete on 2/27/2003

DHI 51: We ordered a new LCD display for Rochelle’s PC, but to make the most of it, you need to connect it to a digital video interface on the graphics card. Rochelle’s existing graphics card was too old to have even heard of DVI, so I bought her a new one off of eBay. It came today (before the new display!), and I installed it in her PC. So now she can use her computer in 800×600 pixels, at 16 colors (that’s colors, not bits), and 60Hz refresh rate.

In other words, it currently sucks to be using the new card. I am trying to download the correct drivers from the ATI Technologies web site, but they’re totally fucked up, and every download link gives the same two-word error message: “Not Found”. Not helpful. Not impressed. ATI sucks. (For now, anyway.)

DHI 52: More computer work for Rochelle, installing Quicken 2003 onto her system. Another DHI will surely be getting together this weekend to work on initial configuration of our accounts, especially for online access and automatic downloading of information.

DHI 53: I reattached the smoke detector to the wall. We had detached it for the paint stripping work, because the heat gun kept setting off the alarm. We’ve been done with the paint stripping for weeks, but only this morning remembered we’d detached the detector. Oops.

DHI 54: I made a contribution to fund ads advocating inspections over war. If I help improve our country, my little corner of it will be better, too.

I’m not done with the week, yet, but wanted to post the link to MoveOn.org earlier, in case you wanted to help fund those ads, too.

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DHI 44-50

by Michael Alderete on 2/23/2003

DHI 44: I moved a few dozen books from other bookcases to the new shelves in the water closet. We’ve decided on themes for two of our three shelves, but neither theme completely fills its shelf, so there will need to be some rethinking done.

DHI 45: I connected the TiVo and the VCR, so that we can transfer shows off of the TiVo to tape, for long term storage. Strictly for personal use, of course.

DHI 46: I paid $300 to the MasterCard, which sounds like a daily chore, except we just transfered all bill-paying responsibilities to Rochelle, and that $300 will completely pay off our credit card, leaving us with no non-real estate debt for the first time since our wedding/honeymoon/bathroom remodel (which was followed closely by the stock options fiasco/stock market meltdown, which was followed by 3 months of unemployment each). Now that’s a home improvement!

DHI 47: I finished moving this weblog to aldoblog.com, moving the appropriate files from one location to another, and setting up some redirects in Apache to make links to the old site continue to work. In the process I discovered I had not completed the DNS configuration for the aldoblog.com domain, so I finished doing that, too.

DHI 48: I collected more books to move into the water closet, this time all of our travel books. I found a couple more SF and food books to move, too.

DHI 49: I stripped off an old photo that had fused to our front window, cleaned with Windex, and then scrapped off the glue residue and the accumulated grime of 11 years on Haight Street with a razor blade. The front windows are now about 90% more clear — I can’t wait until tomorrow afternoon when the sun is shining through them, and I can see the improvements the best!

DHI 50: After much research (scanning log files), and even more dithering, I turned off my server-side spam filtering software, because it is apparently occasionally dropping random messages. This basically undoes one of my prior DHIs, where I implemented the anti-spam measures. Which kinda sucks, but then, how often do you get every home improvement right the first time?

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DHI 41-43

by Michael Alderete on 2/16/2003

DHI 41: I filled out my portion of the mortgage loan application we’re working on to refinance the house. The amount of money we get from lowering our interest rate is staggering (mortgage math is crazy!), but we regrettably have to plow it right back into the house.

You see, our house is more than 100 years old, and the foundation is original, and brick-and-mortar. A new foundation is going to be $75,000, a very scary number…but not as scary as having our house slide out into the street!

DHI 42: I finally got around to configuring aldoblog.com, so that this blog can move to a shorter domain name and URL. DNS now resolves (primary and secondary name servers), Apache recognizes it as a virtual host, and some initial redirects are in place to make the transition seamless. I still have some work to do, moving directories around, and setting up the real redirects, to move y’all over to the new location. That’ll have to come this weekend, though, when I can focus for a couple hours straight.

DHI 43: I coughed up $100 for our contractor when Rochelle was short of cash to pay him one evening.

The rest of my DHIs didn’t happen this week; I was too tired, or too lazy, or both. I plan to get back on track this coming week, but I haven’t yet decided what to do about the shortfall…

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A new hope

by Michael Alderete on 2/12/2003

I’ve written previously that, while I moved the BeBoxes out of the parlor, I have not actually moved them out of the house, the ultimate goal. So, while I technically avoided having my systems thrown out on the street, I haven’t finished the project. Indeed, Rochelle reminded me of this fact just this evening, and wondered if I was planning to keep them in my office for another year.

The good news is, I have another motivation for making progress. We’ve decided that we get to upgrade our computer displays to LCD screens. Rochelle’s is ordered, and should arrive early next week. Mine, though, remains on the Wish List, and will stay there until I’ve earned the money to buy it. By selling off the BeBoxes.

So hopefully, what fear could not accomplish, a little (a lot!) technolust will.

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Champagne tasting

by Michael Alderete on 2/11/2003

Yesterday we hosted a comparative champagne tasting. We selected six bottles of wine, three pairs, and put them in paper bags to serve them blind. We tasted and compared each pair, paused to collect ourselves, and then moved to the next.

Since Rochelle and I knew which wines we’d chosen, and I knew which was which from opening the bottles (in spite of the bags, the caps told all), it wasn’t a completely blind tasting for us. But even so, there was quite a bit we didn’t know, and had to really go on taste, rather than knowing the label, or how expensive the wine was.

This was a once-in-a-blue-moon event, because the wines were all outstanding (most were received as gifts); we’ll not hold such an orgy for a long time, I’m sure!

The wines we tasted were:

A: Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé
B: Gosset Grand Rosé
C: Dom Pérignon 1995
D: Dom Pérignon 1993
E: Veuve Clicquot Brut (yellow label)
F: Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 1995

I won’t attempt to post tasting notes, because my palate vocabulary isn’t that developed. As a group we were disappointed with the rosés, we theorize because they would have gone better with different food. In the middle pair, the Dom Pérignon 1993 was preferred over the younger vintage by most, but the aspiring Master of Wine who attended said that 1993 was not a very good year, and felt the 1995 was better.

In the final pair, and for the tasting as a whole, people were very happy with the standard Veuve Clicquot which was, at $30, the least expensive wine in the group by more than $20.

I was partial to La Grande Dame, but again, I knew which it was, and so I don’t trust my judgment. I am looking forward to someone stepping forward, and hosting a similar tasting where I can be a guest, and prove my choice wasn’t a fluke. Still, at $120 or more a bottle, I don’t know how I could justify drinking La Dame over her country cousin.

Viva la Veuve!

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Neurons in the internet

by Michael Alderete on 2/8/2003

I’ve written before about the interesting things that are taking place on the internet today. In one of the prior postings, I referenced an article that compared the structures forming on the internet to the trails that ants lay down when hunting for food, which eventually build up very sophisticated (and efficient) food gathering behavior.

But two articles over the last two weeks made me think of something different, namely, that the links that are spontaneously happening between the many active websites (mostly blogs) are similar to the formation of “neuronal paths.” We are building a giant, global brain.

The first article was Ben Hammersley’s Trackback in the Saddle Again, which describes quite a number of different ways that articles can semi-automatically form linkages to each other. The second was an interview with Cameron Marlow, the creator of Blogdex, and in particular his Social Network Explorer. Both articles illustrate how complex structures are being formed in the nodes (sites) and paths (links) between nodes.

So my thought today was, blogs and news sites are the neurons. Links from one to another are the neuronal paths, or connections between neurons. (TrackBack and its ilk are especially cool here, because the connections are two-way.) And services like Blogdex, Daypop, Social Network Explorer, and especially Google, are how the paths are reinforced to create “preferred” pathways through the internet, which alter future queries and explorations by making those paths more likely to be reused.

What’s especially neat about some of the services like Daypop is that the pathways are reinforced not only by people publishing on the web, but also by people who are just browsing the web. That is, when you follow a link off the Daypop Top 40, it records it, and that will influence how popular that link is, and therefore how many other people will see it, how long it will be around, etc.

These structures are certainly influencing how people think, if only because news stories are now frequently emerging in the blogsphere first, and once they’ve become sufficiently interesting and widespread, they cross over to the mainstream media. One could make a case that that’s how Trent Lott fell from grace.

Powerful stuff, but it’s a long way from having a giant brain. But that’s OK, on the scale of things, websites vs. neurons, there’s not enough nodes on the internet yet. Google indexes about 3 billion web pages today, but most of those don’t participate in the kinds of services described above. Blogdex and Daypop each index less than 20,000 blogs or news sites. So we’re talking pretty small numbers, today. There are thought to be 100 billion neurons in a human brain.

So our “giant” brain probably won’t be waking up and taking over the world tomorrow.

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DHI 34-40

February 7, 2003

Mucking about in Mac OS X, fun with water, more gas, desktop action, FM broadcasting, curtains for Rochelle, and a party!

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Quotation of the year candidate

February 6, 2003

“Microsoft sees IBM spending money on Linux, making Linux more robust, getting in the way of their aspirations. I think it makes them very unhappy,” said Steve Mills [senior vice president of IBM’s Software Group].

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Fun with water

February 4, 2003

This week I drained our water heater. My mother tells me you’re supposed to do it every month, but our last plumber — who was there to fix the water heater — said twice a year. The concept — hooking a hose up and turning a valve — seemed simple. I thought this would be an easy DHI.

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DHI 27-33

February 2, 2003

Magazine reorganization, another basement disposal trip, long efforts on the computer, sanding, and more.

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