Monday, September 24, 2007

Weekend Report

The first two paragraphs are cross-posted from a family blog, so for those of you that have already read them, skip to paragraph three...

So my #1 son started reading "The Fellowship of the Ring" on Friday. My immediate reaction was that despite the fact that he is a really good reader that he's only 8 and it was going to be tough for him to finish something that massive and dense. So I offered to race him, since I figured that a little competition with the old man might give him the needed push. Well he was too smart to agree to a competition where we were on even footing, he countered (or perhaps my wife suggested) that I have to read the entire trilogy while he only reads The Fellowship. I agreed to this even though I was pretty sure I didn't have time.

At that point we bargained over what each person got if we won. The son (after his initial idea of $20 was rejected) said he wanted to buy three books off the book order (the one the school is always sending home). For my part if I win (which seems unlikely unless he completely bogs down) then he will be given the choice of finishing the trilogy or reading three other books I select. I'm thinking "Wizard of Earthsea", one of Heinlein's juvenile novels ("Have Spacesuit...", "Red Planet", "Space Cadet", etc.) and then one other (I'm open to suggestions). Last I checked I'm in chapter 7 of Book 1 and he's starting chapter 4. I'll keep you posted on the progress of the race.

Other than that I spent a big chunk of time (~8 hours) watch the whole first season of "Avatar: The Last Airbender". It's a kids show that gets played on Nickelodeon, and it's really, really good. I can't recommend it enough. And it wasn't just me that got into, my wife, if anything, likes it even more than I do, and of course the kids like it. The show really has a lot going for it, just off the top of my head I can think of five elements that it does really well. 1- The premise is excellent, 2- Not only are the protagonists sympathetic, but the major antagonists are sympathetic as well, 3- The world/setting is very detailed and totally compelling, 4- The fight scenes are awesome, 5- They've managed to strike just the right balance between humor and seriousness. Anyway, the first and second seasons are out on DVD, so if you get a chance pick it up.

A man came up to me and said "I'd like to change your mind, by hitting it with a rock," he said, "though I am not unkind."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Landis Stripped of Title

Well Ed asked me about Landis, which was actually the first I heard of it. So I thought I'd take a 15 minute break and jot down my thoughts. I wish I could say that I was 100% certain that Landis was innocent, or 100% certain that he's guilty, heck I wish I could say either thing with even 75% certainty, but I don't feel that I can. In fact my opinion on the matter changes from one day to the next. The Landis ruling does give some insight into the larger problems of doping in cycling and particularly the on going efforts to get rid of it. My opinion on this subject has always been that the riders need more protection from the possibility of erroneous prosecution. To put it another way I think that as a defendent that a cyclist should have most of the same rights as a defendent under the American legal system. Or in other words, to use the cliche that they should be "innocent until proven guilty".

To use an example from the actual trial, here's an excerpt from the VeloNews coverage of the verdict (

The majority of the panel found that while the initial testosterone-epitestosterone test was not "established in accordance with the WADA International Standard for Laboratories," the more precise and expensive carbon-isotope ration analysis (IRMS), performed as a follow-up was accurate. As a result, "an anti-doping rule violation is established," said the majority.

The finding means that Landis was cleared of the initial positive T/E violation, but now faces a two-year suspension because the IRMS test did show the presence of exogenous testosterone.

Under the American system this sort of thing would very likely be "fruit of the poisonous tree". The second test only came about because of the first positive, which, according to velonews, was flawed. Now of course, as a fan I'm generally more interested in whether he did it or not, than whether everything was done exactly by the book. But the latter would certainly help me make up my mind about the former. And since (and this is has always been my #1 beef with how things are done) the very same lab which conducted the first, flawed, test conducted the second test how are we to be sure that it wasn't flawed as well? In fact it was this very thing which was alleged by the Landis camp.

As I said my opinion on this wavers from guilt back to innocence every few minutes (during those periods when I'm actually thinking about it). I guess right this second I'm leaning towards guilty. I mean Cristian Moreni was busted for taking testosterone and admitted his guilt, so there are cyclists doing it. And as much as I would like to believe that Landis' dramatic ride on the day of his positive was the result of shear guts, it does make a certain amount of sense that drugs would be involved. But man, it'd be a lot easier to condemn him if the doping agencies had gotten their act together and really done things in a way that left no room for doubt...

I need a hero...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Yesterday was the bimonthly big deadline at the day job. I was in on Sunday to take care of it, but after a couple of failed attempts we decided it wasn't going to happen until Monday (on of my co-workers had to stay up until 3:00 am to fix the problems). When Monday rolled around in addition to trying to finish off the big deadline there was another relatively catastrophic occurance with our search engine. Eventually, after hours on the phone with the vendor we figured out that there was some files which needed to be deleted.

Of course when I tried to delete the files I was told that they were in use by another process. I've never had that problem on Linux, just one more reason to dislike Windows (this is not to say that they're aren't reasons to like Windows, but I couldn't remember any at the time.) As a result I had to reboot into Safe Mode before the files could be deleted. The point of this story is not that this was a particularly bad crisis more to point out that when you're already slammed with one thing that, when something else comes up it's potential to cause stress is amplified a hundred times.

To top it all off, after spending the whole day putting out one fire after another I had to stay late for an interview (it was the guy I mentioned earlier who couldn't come during normal business hours). I figured the interview would go pretty quick, but it ended up taking quite awhile. I ended up being not as impressed with him during the in person interview as I was in the phone interview. Of course he missed some easy questions when I got around to giving him the technical test. For example what kind of Apache admin doesn't know what mod_rewrite is/does?

Frankie says relax

Monday, September 17, 2007


Well I had a friend in town from California over the weekend, so I spent much of my time hanging out with him. We played this Days of Wonder game Colosseum which was a lot of fun. Essentially the idea is that you’re a Colosseum owner (apparently there’s more than one) and you win by putting on the most successful show (as measured by attendance). You have various shows you can put on each with different requirements. So for example one show might require two gladiators, an actor, an arch, a lion and a potted plant (half of the fun is imagining what the show look like with those components.) If you don’t have all the components required you can still put it on it just attracts fewer people. I had one show that required an arch and two actors, but could be staged even if you were missing two of the components. I can only imagine what a show involving a single arch would look like.

I also did the family campaign. I was having a hard time getting everyone at the table, so that I could spring this gigantic trap just as I got everyone seated my friend (the one in town for the weekend) called me on my cell. He had my car at the time so obviously I had to take it, but I took quite a bit of ribbing for interrupting the game after I’d given everyone else such a hard time for delaying things. But other than that I thought it went pretty smoothly. I’m running them through the “Savage Tide” adventure path and at the moment they’re trekking south across the Isle of Dread after their ship wrecked. They just made it past the gargoyles and they’re about to… oh wait they read this blog I guess I can’t give away the horrible demonic doom they’re about to encounter.

Of course the real excitement didn’t take place until Sunday. My dad had a little bit of water running on some of the bushes in front of the house, the problem is that if you’re not really careful you can flood the basement. Well one of my nephews was outside playing just before dinner and he came across the tap, and turned it all the way up, so instead of a trickle of water it was a geyser. Then we all sat down for dinner. It wasn’t until we sent the kids downstairs after dinner that the “leak” (as the kids initially called it) was noticed. We wet vac’d that puppy for probably an hour and they were still at it when I had to leave.

Loneliness and cheeseburgers are a dangerous mix.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


The interesting thing about the comment from aozora is that I do repel. I haven’t done so recently, but I’ve done it enough in the past that I have every confidence that I’d have no problem doing it again. So while I would never argue against the idea that “repelling is something the vast majority of geeks can’t do.” I’m at least one geek who can. Or maybe that’s just more evidence of the holes in my geek creds, I haven’t played Talisman, and I have repelled… On to current events:

Well recently I’ve been having some car problems with the van. It’s commonly believed that I have bad luck with cars. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, even if you redefine it as “probability has not been kind to you”. I do know that it’s rare for me to have a car problem that doesn’t end up being more annoying than I think it should be. A few weeks back I took the van in to get the brakes done. While I was there the mechanic pointed out that I probably needed an alignment, since my passenger side front tire was wearing unevenly. So a couple weeks later I finally got around to it. As soon as I started driving I could tell that something was wrong with the front driver’s side tire, but I figured that whatever it was I could get the tire store to fix it. Well when I got there, as I believe I mentioned in a previous blog, it turned out that they could replace the tire, but they didn’t do alignments or really anything else other than replacing tires. So I got a new tire, and fumed…

That was on a Friday, so my next chance to get something down was the next Tuesday. I took it to Sears and told them that I needed an alignment, and that I was having problems with the front driver’s side tire. In between Friday and Tuesday I had talked to the mechanics in my family and they thought it was a bad bearing, so I mentioned this to the folks at Sears. I guess that was my big mistake, because they spent so much time verifying that the bearings were okay that they completely missed a big dent in the rim of the tire. Even so I can’t help but thinking it was pretty sloppy. I mean I guess they had two different people take it out for a test drive (one of whom was evidently the manager) and they still couldn’t figure out what the problem was? In any case after that I took it back to my main mechanic and he easily discovered the problem, so now I have to go back to the tire place and get a rim… assuming they do rims…

What doesn’t destroy me makes me stronger

Monday, September 10, 2007


I feel like, in general, my geek creds are pretty broad. I’m a Linux admin, I play D&D, I have all the episodes of Robotech on DVD, I have a World of Warcraft account and I have an overhead bin filled with Magic the Gathering cards. But every so often something slips through, some embarrassing hole in my experience is revealed. One of these holes is the game Talisman, made by Games Workshop (to be honest my geek creds are weak across all of the Games Workshop products). Well they are releasing a new edition of the game in October, and they had 50 pre-release copies of the game available each day at GenCon. One of my friends wanted a copy and so I agreed to stand in line with him.

The first day was crazy. We got there only about 30 minutes before the exhibit hall opened, and it was packed. I guess they were having some sort of "opening ceremonies" as well (including a balloon drop) and as a result we didn’t make it in to the exhibit hall soon enough to be one of the first 50 people in line. So we decided to try again the next day. We arrived about an hour before the hall opened and secured a spot essentially right in front of the doors. We were pretty confident we’d get a game, until the doors opened, and suddenly there were people sprinting from every direction, leaping over display tables like they were Olympic hurdlers, knocking over exhibits and exhibitors. I could swear the some were even repelling down from the rafters like Special Forces commandos, and all of them were heading to the Talisman booth. Fortunately my friend, who is frequently mistaken for a Sasquatch, let out a warcry of such surpassing power that the smaller skinny geeks (Acneious Yugiohus) were knocked off their feet, and the older geeks (Fatbeardius Wargamerius) paused because they thought they had heard a mating call, allowing us to slip into the line at position 37 and 38.

I had originally not planned on buying the game, but after spending so much effort to get into a position where I could buy the game, I figured what the heck. As it turns out one of my many brother-in-laws is/was an avid player of Talisman, and his birthday was coming up, so it worked out great. We ended up playing it last night. My wife won, I was the last player, other than her, still in the game, which is evidence more of my weakness than my strength. The top three players had a titanic battle in the final square, while I was just trying to get to the final square (essentially I had to roll 8 or less on 3d6 and every time I didn’t I was sent back some number of spaces depending on how badly I rolled). Overall a pretty fun game, with a decent balance between simple mechanics and replayability, of course my wife really liked it, winning a game after a titanic struggle has that tendency.

Germany loses again

Thursday, September 06, 2007


The last couple of weeks I (along with my boss and my boss' boss) have interviewed a half a dozen or so people who have applied for the position I'm about to vacate. Up until today we hadn't really talked to anyone that was really impressive. The gentleman we talked to today was knowledgeable and had most of the skills we were looking for but when I asked him why he was leaving his current job, he said he wasn't necessarily, that he really liked his current job and that he was just "passively" looking at jobs, sort of to "see what was out there". When we asked him if he could come in for an in-person interview (the interview today was a phone interview) he indicated that his only available time would be at 6:00 pm. Obviously he's being careful about staying in the good graces of his current employer. So we'll have to see what happens.

Last week I asked another interviewee the same question and he replied that they were closing the office he works at and moving things to Texas. I asked if they were relocating anyone, he said they were. I asked him if they had offered to relocate him, he said they had not. After he left my bosses asked me what I thought. I said well there's one big red flag: if his own company doesn't want him why should we? If they think it's better to leave his position unfilled, or to hire someone else, that doesn't speak very highly of his perceived value. The second red flag is that he's not clever enough to lie about it. He could just as easily have said, "I have family here, so I declined their offer." Or if he was really worried about telling a lie he could have said, "Before they had even made their decision on who to move I told them I wasn't interested, so the subject never came up again."

Obviously this is a pretty cynical attitude, but hiring people is always pretty dicey. You've got an hour or two to decide if you want someone around all day every day forever. You really have to latch on to every clue you can.

Of course I've never had to lie in an interview

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

You're laborers; you should be laboring.

Well I spent most of Labor day doing just that, laboring. I was behind on some specification documents for one of the websites we're putting together so I spent most of yesterday finishing them up. Although I guess despite the title, you are not meant to labor on labor day, it's a day for laborers to not labor, and was actually created in 1882 and made a Federal Holiday in 1894. It also supposedly marks the end of summer. I sure freaking hope so. This has really been a brutal summer, but according the 10 day forecast on the mecury is not going to go above 89 and may drop as low as 60... I'll really start getting excited once we start getting down into the 50s and I'm crossing my fingers that we've seen the last of the 90s.

We did have a labor day/birthday party last night. I spent some time talking to one of my many brother in laws about Fourth Edition. One of the things I've discovered in my research is that the Fourth Edition Player's Handbook will only have 8 classes (rather than the 11 that were in the 3rd Ed PHB). So the question is what three classes are going to be left out? (Actually it might be four since there's been some mention of a new class called the Warlord...) If I had to guess I would say Monk, Bard and Druid (with Sorcerer thrown in if I need to make room for the Warlord.) Anyone else have any guesses. For those who have no idea what I'm talking about I'll at least go ahead and list the 11 and you can at least try picking those that sound lame. The 11 classes in the 3rd Edition Player's Handbook were: Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, Wizard.

Another somewhat philosophical discussion which emerged in our discussion was whether it was better for the defender to make a roll or for the attacker. The reason it came up was that one of the changes people are speculating about for 4E is changing saves to defense. So rather than having a reflex save of say +8 you would have a reflex defense of 18. The argument is that it's more fun to put the success of an attack in the hands of the player, rather than having the DM circumvent the players attack with a lucky roll. Of course my brother-in-law pointed out that he really enjoyed having some nasty fireball come his way and be able to roll a killer reflex save and avoid all the damage (with evasion of course). So that's my second question would you prefer to roll saving throws or roll attack rolls against someone's save defense?

Cautiously optimistic