September 29, 2003

Rage Against The Latrine

Filed under: Archives — mhoye @ 12:00 pm

Some of you, if you are sufficiently white and hang with the right
crowd, have been mocked for eating North-American-style Chinese
food. You know, chicken balls and so forth – ha ha, look at what the gwailo
ordered, that clod doesn’t know dumplings from deep-fried squash

Well, I’ve seen the other side of that, and you know what? They
are entirely right to mock, and mock hard; this weekend, I got a
chance to eat Hong-Kong-Style American food. Dear God, they’re
right; the other shoe dropped, and my stomach was directly
under it. I knew the meal was going to be dodgy when I ordered
the soup du jour, described on the english menu as “Russian Borscht“,
and the following conversation ensued:

“Er, Mike?”


“I don’t think you’re going to get borscht.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, when the waiter repeated it, he didn’t say anything about
beets or Russians. He said ‘vegetable soup’.”


“He said the chinese words for ‘vegetable soup’.”

“No way. There’s just no way you can mistake vegetable soup for
borscht. None.”

“Well, let’s see.”

And, lo and behold, standard issue Campbells vegetable soup. Not
even a token dollop of sour cream. The most Russian thing about
it was that it seemed to be struggling to decide whether or not to
stay red. And the steak, the steak in pepper sauce. It defies
description. But let me talk about some of the flavours that came
with it; have you ever had a cup of coffee, a plain cup of light-roast
Colombian, where you could tell that last thing brewed in that pot was
hazelnut-vanilla-irish-cream-raspberry-decaf? Well, this steak was a
lot like that.

Go Go Gadget Stomach.

Folks, if you’ve got the choice between “A-Style B” or just “B”
(assuming that A is not some cultural subset of B) my advice is just
to go for straight up B, whatever B might be. Please, heed my words;
I don’t want all that time I spent on the can to have been for nothing.

September 26, 2003

Lurch Lurch Revolution

Filed under: Archives — mhoye @ 12:00 pm

I saw Underworld
last weekend, and it was good, light stylized fun. I think I liked it
a fair bit more than most of my co-viewers, but when it gets right down
to it none of them keep weblogs, so who cares what they think?

It was more than a little uneven, to be fair. In places, it was obvious
that they periodically thought “we have to explain some stuff here”,
so every now and then they hauled in some lieutenant-grade bad guy,
put a gun to his head and made him explain some things before they went
back to the running and shooting. But, hey, the running and shooting
was great. Nothing groundbreaking, for sure, but a good nutritious
mix of Wachowski and Woo, wholesome and crunchy. There were seamless,
non-trite special effects, a surprisingly intricate backstory, some
people you expected to make it to the last scene who didn’t, and it
certainly had enough gothy hotness to make me happy. If gun-toting,
ass-kicking, vinyl-coated, leather-wrapped hotness is wrong, then I
don’t want to be right.

One thing about it that I didn’t realize until after the movie ended
was how unintrusive the music was – not a lot of soaring violins at
dramatic moments, suspenseful music when the Bad Guy was Right Behind
Them, that sort of thing. It’s been a while since I’ve seen that kind
of restraint, and in the midst of all kinds of other over-the-topness,
it was nicely left out.

It could be that I enjoyed it more than my compatriots because I
made an effort to get into a good techno-goth mood ahead of time. Dance Dance Revolution, and
“House of the Dead 2”, a Sega light-gun shooter, were right next to
each other in the arcade, so while we were waiting I decided to play
them both at the same time. I ended up getting killed by the zombies
pretty quickly, shooting a few civilians and a lot of landscape in the
process, but I ended up doing pretty well at DDR, thoroughly amusing
my friends in the process. A shaved head, black clothes and work
boots are apparently not standard DDR-wear, but that’s life; the machine
I really wanted
wasn’t available.

I’ve developed a life rule about this that I think you
should all take to heart in the event you are ever given a fifty-calibre
hand-cannon and sent out to dispatch the armies of the shambling undead:
trying to shoot zombies while jumping around like a cranked-up Japanese
schoolgirl is not a high-percentage survival tactic.

Seriously, write that one down. You might not need to know that today
or tomorrow, but when you do, boy are you ever going to thank me.

September 24, 2003

Silicon Resurrection

Filed under: Archives — mhoye @ 12:00 pm

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump;
for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible,
and we shall be changed.”

, chapter 15, verse 52.

The mobo replacement did the trick, and my Indy gave me quite a startle,
with its hyper-enthusiastic bootup noise. “I’m here! I work! Check
me out, I rock! Trumpets!” Why does that merit a biblical quotation,
you ask? Well, because I shouted something biblical at that point.

If you happen to be ressurecting an Indy, and you’re confronted with this
message when you first boot up,

Initializing tod clock.

Initializing tod clock.
Unable to set tod clock

then my advice is to find a new mainboard. I’ve looked high and low,
and the only alternative advice I’ve been able to find is to buy a new
timer chip; the Indy uses one of those repugnant battery-in-the-chip
widgets, sadly, and they apparently get flaky and dangerous near the
end of their lives. The chips themselves only cost a few dollars, a
sensible option if you’re less of a clod than I am. I’m glad Geoff had
the extra Indy-shell about, because that way lies madness and I’m less
likely to end up with a working machine than I am to wind up with
my hand welded to my face.

Soon, I will figure out how to make the OS install work – it wants to
install, but I think I’m not selecting the packages right. I need

September 23, 2003

Manual Stimulation

Filed under: Archives — mhoye @ 12:00 pm

If you’re not a computer geek, at this point you should probably just
stop reading. Seriously.

Command-line information in Linux comes in two common formats –
“man”, short for “manual”, and “info”, short (one would think) for
“information”. Just out of curiosity, I decided to ask both of these
utilities what they though about themselves and each other, just to
find out what they’d say.

Then, I made a clever chart of the result.

/ Command: man Command: info
Arg: man Detailed, provides syntax, an overview, examples and some useful
see-also references.
A hacked-down copy of the output of “man man”, with line-wrapping
locked for an 80-column display and no highlighting. Classy.
Arg: info Terse, but good. Some syntax, some details, some examples. Unlike
many info pages, does not refer user to info anything.
Provides the info page for “infokey”, which my careful analysis
has revealed to be exactly nothing at all like “info”, and hence
completely useless.

It’s worth noting that there are two info entries in the manual database:
info(1) and info(5). Mercifully, man info pulls out info(1), because
info(5) is just info(1) with any trace of useful information leeched
out of it.

This comparison is not, of course, entirely fair – info doesn’t actually
mean “info”, you see, it means “texinfo”. “man texinfo” does give you a
truncated and somewhat snide helpfile, referring you to “info texinfo”.
Amusingly, here’s a bit from the returned result:

For a full description of the Texinfo language and associated tools,
please see the Texinfo manual (written in Texinfo itself). Most likely,
running this command from your shell:
     info texinfo
or this key sequence from inside Emacs:
     M-x info RET m texinfo RET
will get you there.

Whoa, the manual for Texinfo was, get this, written in Texinfo!
Wild! That would be, like, writing a Word reference in Word!
You’ve just blown my mind, dude. Will it most likely work?

For those of you who have sensibly decided not to play along at home,
actually navigating around an info page is apparently not
included in the “info texinfo” pages, though if I wanted to make
an info page, I’d be right on my way. It’s nice, though, that they do
include a pithy little quote about how good it is to have even inadequate
documentation at the bottom, just in case you weren’t furious enough
already. The fact that “man info” is vastly more useful than “info
texinfo”, ironic though it might be, was painfully predictable.

Just for completeness sake, “texinfo texinfo” does nothing.

This is all, of course, in addition to the random pastiche of HOWTOs,
html documents and gzipped postscript things that make up the rest
of the /usr/share/doc/ heirarchy. I suspect that the reasons that the
Linux world, can’t settle on a single reference tool in the midst of
all of this are twofold:

  1. Ideology is PCP.
  2. Emacs is crack cocaine cut with ideology.

September 22, 2003

You cheat, Dr. Jones

Filed under: Archives — mhoye @ 12:00 pm

boot -f dksc(0,5,8)sashARCS
boot -f dksc(0,5,7)stand/fx.ARCS --x

See that? Odds are good that it means absolutely nothing to you. Zero,
nada, zilch. And you know what? That’s OK. You could probably have
gone your whole life without ever seeing those particular characters
in that curious order and still lead a full, happy and rewarding
life. You could get an education, a job, raise a family, get promoted,
study philosophy, paint watercolors, write a book, run for office,
climb a mountain, cure a disease and die in your sleep at a venerable
age surrounded by loving family and friends without ever giving the
slightest, tiniest fuck why booting something, dash eff sash whatever
might be important. However if you, like me, are trying to resurrect
an Indy that has been horribly abused with a half-assed Debian install,
then those two lines are absolutely critical and you’re really not likely
to do any of those other nice things, and you’re learning to live with
that. Only took me two days to figure the boot-whatever thing out,
too. Woo.

My SGI Indy,
graciously abandoned to my care in a Shaver-displacement of yore,
is a lovely little box, aside from the fact that it’s hanging randomly
whenever I try to get Irix installed. I know it’s not the RAM; Geoff
provided me with a second machine, just the box, mobo and processor,
and I’m going to swap them out and see what happens. I’m not familiar at
all with the hardware or its behaviour and I can’t find any references
to this kind of problem on the web, so I’ve pretty much been reduced
to the lead role in the oldest tech-support joke in the book:

What happens when a tech-support weenie blows a tire?

He changes all four to figure out which one is flat.

Very frustrating.

This is old news to people who’ve known it for a while, but my man Nick is in Japan. Keep up,
he’s good at that thar writin’ thing, what with his fancy education


Filed under: Archives — mhoye @ 12:00 pm

I bought an Ikea desk on the weekend, and while the desk itself is fine,
the experience of buying it was horrifying. The next time I go to Ikea
for any reason, I’m going to bring along a dart gun and a bandolier full
of tranquilizers; there are an astonishing number of fat, slow-moving
and slow-thinking people in that store. They wallow in the aisles like
hippos in a winding river, drifting lazily downstream through their
own private home-decor Serengeti. They walk arm in soft, blubbery arm,
gazing with wet, beady eyes on the faux-pine that surrounds them, saying
“Oh, isn’t that nice?” between agonizingly slow, awkward steps, forcing
me to portage my way through the side aisles on my way to getting stuck
behind the next herd of their kin.

I don’t shop – I go to stores to purchase things, not to graze. I’m
moving, and things that impede my getting into and out of a store when
I’m on a mission make my jaw clench like a vise. Tranq darts are clearly
the only way to go, here.

“Why, isn’t that nice. Wouldn’t that look nice in little Billy’s
room? What do you think?”

“I don’t know, why don’t I just stand here and…”

(phoont! phoont!)

“Hey, what … whoa, I… I think I’m going to lie down on this

“Yeah, I feel…”

(thud, thud.)

I would like to make the following suggestions:

  1. If you are in a long line and you intend to perform some action
    when you get to the front of that line, for example “order a bagel”,
    the correct procedure is not to discuss the weather until you get to the
    counter, and then agonize over what you would like to order. Instead,
    use that time to look over your options and make up your mind.

  2. It is absolutely imperative, having had several minutes to fully
    think through any questions surrounding your chosen front-of-the-line
    course of action, that once you actually achieve that coveted
    front-of-the-line status you do not immediately ask the attendant
    to read the entirety of the large-print overhead menu to you that you
    might accurately diagnose the particulars of your bagel craving.

  3. If you sense that you are hesitant or undecided about something,
    take a moment to examine your surroundings. If you are in a congested
    or well-trafficked area, specifically if there are a number of people
    using the same route you are and coming on strong, step off to one side
    before working out your difficulty rather than simply standing right
    where you were when the confusion struck.

  4. Eat a fucking fruit cup, or something. Do a sit-up. Put down the
    deep-fried pork rinds, turn off the television and take your morbidly
    obese children for a walk in the park, maybe. You should not have
    more fat hanging off your arms than I have in my entire God damned
    faculty. My immediate family could fit comfortably into one leg of
    your prescription pants, for Christ’s sake. Seriously: show some
    self-respect, fuck. Jesus.

There you have it. These are sensible suggestions, and I don’t think
they’re a huge burden on the average Ikea-going citizen. Look at it this
way: if you follow them, then your odds of getting shot in the ass with
a tranquilizer dart in a furniture store will be greatly reduced.

September 18, 2003

Search Results

Filed under: Archives — mhoye @ 12:00 pm

I have mined the referrer logs late at night under a moonless sky,
sprinkled the rich earth with grep and sanctified their remains with
perl, and I am left with the query strings of the Damned:

  • occidentalized OR toss OR happening OR precluding OR whirlpools
  • does anyone hear
  • clock OR algenib OR pothole OR rhesus OR declaring
  • How long is an average human neck
  • weasels OR stencils OR flotilla OR chillers OR hedonist
  • pantless dent school
  • red ink causes headache
  • overmedicated antihistamines
  • ordering online prozac for parrots

I promise you that I do not make this stuff up. It’s eerie that I’m
somehow related to an FBI document on concealed weapons (a document
that in part instructs airline security staff how to recognize knives
disguised as bullets, I should add), and I don’t know what
“pantless dent school” could possibly mean. But between that and the
idea of feeding prozac to parrots, my mind is boggling hard enough to
trip a seismometer.

Ph3@r && L0@th!ng

Filed under: Archives — mhoye @ 12:00 pm

I’ll jack the next car that comes down the street. You

I’ve got a neighbor, I don’t know who, who’s running an unrestricted
wireless access point, and as a result I now have free, unlimited
wireless broadband coming into my room. Works fine for me – I use
ssh for pretty much everything and I start all my services by hand,
when I need them, so I’m not too worried about getting h@XX0r3d.

Nevertheless, I’ve started playing around with things like nmap,
nessus and Driftnet and I’m
telling you, kids, this network security stuff is serious shit. And I’m
starting to get seriously paranoid. Little things like ssh returning
the wrong prompt (“Password:” where I expect to see “mhoye@wherever’s
password:”, for example) are starting to make me very nervous. I’m going
to take a good hard look at what my home network is doing this evening.

It Does Not Matter, It Is In The Past

Filed under: Archives — mhoye @ 12:00 pm

From the Unix Hater’s

Chromosomes accumulate random genetic material;
this material gets happily and haphazardly copied and passed down the
generations. Once the human genome is fully mapped, we may discover
that only a few percent of it actually describes functioning humans;
the rest describes orangutans, new mutants, televangelists, and used
computer sellers.

The same is true of Unix. Despite its small beginnings, Unix accumulated
junk genomes at a tremendous pace. For example, it’s hard to find a
version of Unix that doesn’t contain drivers for a Linotronic or Imagen
typesetter, even though few Unix users even know what these machines
look like. As Olin Shivers observes, the original evolutionary pressures
on Unix have been relaxed, and the strain has gone wild.

Date: Wed, 10 Apr 91 08:31:33 EDT
From: Olin Shivers <>
Subject: Unix evolution

I was giving some thought to the general evolution (I use the term
loosely, here) of Unix since its inception at Bell Labs, and I think
it could be described as follows.

In the early PDP-11 days, Unix programs had the following design parameters:

Rule 1. It didn't have to be good, or even correct,


Rule 2. It had to be small.

Thus the toolkit approach, and so forth.

Of course, over time, computer hardware has become progressively more
powerful: processors speed up, address spaces move from 16 to 32 bits,
memory gets cheaper, and so forth.

So Rule 2 has been relaxed.

September 17, 2003

Sound And Vision

Filed under: Archives — mhoye @ 12:00 pm

Today’s entry is media-rich.

First off, my Dad has sent me some pictures from
, where some of my relatives are living. So far they haven’t,
knock on the ample supply of bone-dry tinder locally available, had
their neighborhood burn down. Nevertheless, they’re going to run
out of red pixels
pretty soon. It’s easy, almost reflexive to feel
small in the face of an event like that, and I think that people are
right to feel that way. Alone, we are that small.

On a more cheerful note I would like to inform the rest
of you of a small piece of information, simply that Americruiser makes
best funk records
. Give it a listen. If you take nothing else
away from that song, they’ve made sure you’ll get that one thing,
that Americruiser does in fact make the best funk records.

Finally, the flash animation du jour which is, like
most flash, best viewed on all the drugs you can muster, is here,
with your speakers turned on and your brain turned off. If you are at
all susceptible to catchy, pointless stupidity, turn back now.

I’ve been having a lot of fun today with xplanet, a cute little linux tool
that lets you take planar photos of the earth during the day and at
night and superimpose weather images over top of them, and then use
those to generate an image of a globe. I tell you, the fact that I
can quite casually fool around with hours-old satellite photos on my
laptop gives me a childlike, Buck-Rogers thrill. Been following the hurricane
lately? Well, you should see it in context.
While we’re on the subject of things that make you feel small, that
there’s a swirling cloud of two-hundred-miles-per-hour winds that you
could use to hide Florida twice.

Maybe if we’re lucky, the rain will make it all the way to the west

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