Herman I. May

Herman I. May


30 April 2005

myView: "Sideways"

Reviewers raved about this film during normal distribution, but Elizabeth and I awaited the DVD release. My opinion? It is a worthy film, but not worthy of the fawning it received and definitely not worth adding to a video collection.

Sideways was lauded by reviewers as the best independent film release of 2004. Paul Giamatti is rightly recognized for his portrayal of a depressed middle school English teacher with a passion for wine. There are several well developed plot lines, which are well integrated and carry the story along with zest. However, my overall impression was one of disappointment.

I simply could not relate to the Thomas Haden Church character, Jack, nor could I develop and sympathy for him. He was the architect of his own circumstances and his devious nature and selfishness left me hoping he would be found out and punished by all around him. That was not the case and it affected my appreciation for that aspect of the film.

The Giamatti character, Miles, by contrast was wholly sympathetic. He, too, was largely responsible for the woe in his life. By the end of the film, he has come to recognize the error of his ways and sets out to correct them — for the most part. One exception to the latter is his friendship with "Jack". One gets the sense that even he realizes how despicable his Freshman, college roomate actually is, but seems unable to divorce himself of the baggage of that relationship. Then again, this conflict simply mirrors those of the other individuals in his life.

Overall, it is a worthy film and one which I would recommend for viewing. However, it is not a keeper and it seems unlikely I would watch it again should the opportunity present itself.

19 April 2005

Embracing the "Dark Side"

I got an unexpected surprise this evening; and discovered a new passion. When I arrived at Colin's soccer game this evening, Elizabeth had gotten a bag of M&Ms for me. These were no ordinary M&Ms, though.

Apparently in conjunction with the pending release of Star Wars: Episode III, Mars has teamed with Lucas Arts to utilize the dark themes of "Revenge of the Sith" to promote the new, dark chocolate M&Ms. The latter are a decadence that can only be enjoyed to be truly appreciated. They have become my new favorite — replacing the peanut-butter M&Ms formerly holding that status. As an added bonus, each package (personal or bulk) contains one of seventy-five collectible trivia cards inside the bag. Not that there is much worth collecting, but it makes for an interesting read while one enjoys the candies.

One thing is for certain, I have one less competitor for this treat — Rebecca does not like dark chocolate! :-)

17 April 2005

Emerging corn

Seemingly overnight, all but one of the eight corn seeds have broken through the garden soil to begin a summer of productivity. My last attempt at growing corn did not fare so well. During the second and final growing season of our gardening attempts over a decade ago, we put in a row of corn. The ears produced were never spectacular. I think one of the largest contributors was insufficient watering. That is not an issue this time around and I am hopeful for a successful yield.

The carrots have finally emerged as well. A dozen or so seedlings have appeared during th course of the last week. They appear to be progressing well with most all of them beginning to show their characteristic multi-lobe foliage.

The lettuce, too, has sprouted. Seeds from two varieties were commingled and lightly broadcast in a designated section of the plot. Evidence of successful germination began to appear Friday (day six) with several others showing growth over the past two days. Spacing appears good from the start and itseems unlikely that much thinning will be required.

Still awaiting visible signs of germination are the onions. Several dozen seeds were planted via a similar technique as that of the lettuce, but nothing has emerged as of yet. It is only day seven since being sown and they have a slightly longer emergence window (seven to ten days). So, perhaps something will appear during the next few days.

An automated watering system was installed Friday evening. I will limit commentary to a simple announcement until further evaluation of efficacy and reliability can be gauged. It is an Orbit model 62032 with support for up to four zones. At present, one zone is being utilized for the garden, while another is metering the foundation soaker. More will come after further evaluation.

14 April 2005

Vintage Mother

I treated myself to an early Earth Day gift this week by ordering the first twenty years of Mother Earth News on CD. This is not necessarily a unique resource. A comprehensive archive of past articles has existed at the MEN web site for a while now. Having a personal copy, though, will allow me to have ready access to the knowledge base regardless of the state of internet connectivity.

12 April 2005

Tiger Korn

Apple announced 29 April as the release date for the next version of MacOS X. Ever curious to see what new "features" will be included to justify the perennial $130 sticker price, I dug around the site and discovered an interesting page entitled, "Mac OS X Tiger Comparison Chart". (It branches from the "Ugrade" section, for those interested. Look at the very bottom of the page!) Among the new "features" is a notice that the KornShell is now among the standard repertoire of command line environments.

I am not sure I would count this addition as a "feature". True; ksh has not been among the standard shells installed with the default operating system. However, it has been readily available from the AT&T Research labs since the dawn of Darwin. In fact, installing ksh was one of the first tasks I performed upon migrating to MacOS X shortly after 10.0 GM was released. Any UNIX geek worth his salt and who prefers ksh over the heretofore standard shells offered by Apple — bash, csh, sh, tcsh and zsh — would have long ago installed their own shell binary. (Though, evidently there are posers who are perhaps not as savvy as they might like to think.)

Judging from the balance of the list, Apple has once again had to work overtime to compile a list of system enhancements and tweaks to justify charging in excess of twelve dozen clams for what is basically an incremental upgrade. Thankfully, I will be able to take advantage of an educational discount. Otherwise, I am not sure the investment justifies the return.

09 April 2005

Garden set

Following two weeks of work, the content of this year's garden has pretty much been established. Earlier this evening, I transplanted the seedlings started a fortnight ago. Additionally, seed from two varieties of lettuce as well as that for onions were sown directly into the soil. It is now up to nature as all that remains for the next few weeks is to ensure adequate watering, carry out a little weeding here and there and wait for the plants to mature.

Coming as somewhat of a pleasant surprise was the fact that one hundred percent of the frozen seed from a decade ago successfully germinated. A week ago, only sixty to sixty-five percent of the seed had sprouted. That quickly increased to total success by mid-week. The only exception being the sunflower seed, which I knew would likely be a failure. It is not counted amongst the precentage consideration given the fact it has sat in a kitchen drawer for many years, thus not preserved by sub-zero archiving.

The vast majority of the radishes have germinated. It is my plan to rotate new seed into the designated area of the plot as the roots begin to approach harvest — during the next four to six weeks. This will enable continuous harvest into the fall.

Few of the carrots have shown signs of germination. I am hoping that, like the okra, they are simply slow to erupt. However, a combination of the hounds trampling through that area of the bed at one point and the heavy rains two days after being sown, may have exposed or washed some of the seed away.

Lending encouragement to the hope for some carrots from the initial seed is the spinach. Like the carrots, I thought much of the seed had been exposed and subsequently blown or washed away. However, at least a dozen seedlings have pushed up through the spoil. In fact, three to four have already begun to show harvestable foliage at the center.

All-in-all the garden is off to an excellent start. No losses to date. All transplants are healthy and thriving; all seed has germinated or, hopefully, soon will. The weather has been unpredictable. Some days warm; some days cool. Heavy overcast contrasted with bright sunshine. Only 2.1mm of rain has fallen for the month, so supplemental watering has been the rule. In the next week or so, I will need to get a bail of hay and mulch the ground in order to prevent evaporation.

08 April 2005

Legacy of JPII

Pope John Paul II is dead and buried. So, too, it would seem, are his personal thoughts and writings. When the content of his Last will & Testament were made public yesterday, one disappointing stipulation was that all of his personal papers were to be burned. In my opinion, this is extremely disconcerting and irresponsible.

What possible merit could there be in the destruction of these documents? One must presume that he had some reason for recording his thoughts and actions in the first place. To have them burned is to deprive current and future generations insight into one of the arguably most influential personages of the last quarter of the Twentieth century. Instead of insight into primary reasoning, history will be left to speculate upon the logic and intent of the rationale of John Paul II.

Curiously, this declaration seems to be undergoing little scrutiny within the Press and other public fora. Reports seem to be placing emphasis upon this component of the will of John Paul II, but there is little discussion regarding motive and repercussion. I suppoose it is a reflection of the disposable and temporary nature of modern society. In my opinion, it is a very great loss to both this generation and to those who will follow.

06 April 2005

Hail Scheherazade!

Migration from the old server hardware to the Mac mini has been completed. Following the initial configuration and activation of a VNC server, the machine was decapitated and the input devices amputated. It is now simply a square box with an attached 300Gb external drive attached.

The general timeline proceeded as follows:

Sunday —
initial configuration
movement of all content to the new drive(s)
installation of all queued system upgrades (via Software Update)
bring MisterHouse back online
Monday —
reestablishment of NFS shares
publishing those shares to allow for networked $HOME directory access
compile and install image manipuation libraries
bring the photo albums served from that machine back online
Tuesday —
compile and install ID3 tag libraries
compile and install readline
compile and install sqlite
compile and install the latest mt-daapd nightly
Wednesday —
recompile and reinstall the resident 4.3.10 install of PHP to support GD and MySQL
install MySQL 4.1.10
reactivate services and servers making use of resident SQL databases

The process of transmutation did reveal one "bug", if you will, with the Mac mini. More precisely, it is probably a limitation of the Mac OS X platform in general. Attached 1394 storage devices are not mounted until the Aqua (and windowing?) environment is launched.

It was my intent to simply have the Mac mini run with in headless mode with no login at the console. However, I quickly discovered that I did not have access to the four partitions residing on the supplemental 300Gb available through an external drive. Only after about half an hour of futile troubleshooting did I discover that the partitions could only be mounted when an administrative account was logged into the console. This is a less than satisfying situation for obvious reasons. As an interim fix, I have set the autologin bit to boot into my account automatically. The screen saver is set to its minimal setting with password mandated dismissal enabled.

The next few days will be spent scouring the web and the Apple discussion forums in an effort to discover whether or not it is possible to force mount the partitions without the need for console login.

05 April 2005

Conscientious objections

An extremely disconcerting piece of information recently came to my attention. Frank Corte, junior, a Republican State Representative from San Antonio has submitted a piece of legislation which attempts to provide legal protection for pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions based upon "object[ing] to participation in an abortion procedure". The latter being described as covering the dispensation of both prescription contraceptives and emergency contraceptives. This is yet another attempt by the religious right to legislate morality and, as such, overstep their mandate to an extreme.

From what I can tell, this legislation stems from an incident which took place here in North Central Texas, where an Eckerds pharmacist refused to fill a prescription for emergency contraceptives in the case of a woman who was apparently raped. The pharmacist, Gene Herr, would not fill the order based upon his religious conviction that to do so would be tantamount to accomplice to murder. Eckerds responded to the issue by firing Herr and another pharmacist at the store.

The legislation submitted by Corte seeks to amend Chapter 103 of the Occupations Code to include pharmacists among the health care workers protected by a "Right To Object To Participation In Abortion Procedure." In its present incarnation, the statute applies to those who object to participation in the performance of a physical abortion procedure. Corte's legislation would seek to redefine contraception as an abortifacient procedure and allow pharmacists to exempt themselves from their duty to dispense medication prescribed by a physician. This is the most ridiculous rationale I have heard in quite some time. A recent story in The Dallas Morning News reported that as many as one in four normal pregnancies end in miscarriage for reasons that range from stress to genetic abnormality. To suggest that a chemical contraceptive designed to prevent implantation is a form of abortion reflects ignorance on the part of its proponents.

The most irresponsible quote attributed to Corde came by way of NPR. In an interview earlier today, Corte indicated the reasoning behind his legislative push for a so-called "conscience clause"e; was to avoid "put[ting] pharmacists in a situation to prescribe [chemical contraceptives]". I think this illustrates nicely the ignorance Corte and his ilk on the religious right. Pharmacists prescribe nothing. They are health care servive agents; not health care providers. They dispense medication; they do notprescribe. Therefore, is they have every expectation of being terminated if they do not fullfill their obligations to their employer and they should be afforded no job security for expressing their misguided fundamentalism.

Browsing through the list of other legislation Corte is authoring this session reveals a disturbing theme. House Bills 811 and 979 seek to revise or amend sections of Chapter 249 of the Health & Safety Code. The proposed changes would basically remove language covering institutions and individuals whose practice is substantially based upon abortion delivery to include any and all institutions and individuals performing these procedures. This will effectively broader government oversight and probably lead to low volume providers being pushed out of business. I though the Republicans were against "Big Government". This is nothing more than political harassment.

03 April 2005

Minimize me!

...or Scheherazade is dead; long live Scheherazade.

After three years of milking every last megahertz of functionality out of our old PowerMac 8600, the time has come to send her to the recycling bin in favor of up-to-date technology. This is not the time for sorrow, though. Scheherazade has been reincarnated in the form of a Mac mini!

In an effort tot prolong the inevitable, I have been attempting to squeeze every last drop of usability out of our 8600. It has received processor upgrades, RAM enhancements and increases in storage capacity. An IDE expansion card, 100Base-T NIC and the use of XPostFacto to facilitate the installation of OS X have all added to extending the longevity of this otherwise very capable machine. However, there have always been nagging limitations to modernity. Chief among the latter has been an inability to get past Panther (10.2.8).

For the most part, this has not been too much of an issue. Panther has been more than capable in providing for our needs. However, its limitations had begun to manifest themselves in the last three to four months. With no support for 64-bit code, several software updates had begun to require an excess of attention less than desirable kulges. Even those had begun to exceed their usefulness. A recent nightly of mt-daapd had reverted to the need for actual 64-bit support; attempts to install readline failed repeatedly with apparent header insufficiencies; and trying to get an enhanced version of PHP with GD support to compile died miserably. The time had come to at least make the attempt to upgrade to 64-bit ware, XCode enhanced Jaguar (10.3.x).

It has only been since the dawn of 2005 that version 3.0 of XPostFacto has emerged from beta and become stable and reliable enough to attempt an install. This version is required for Jaguar and any planning for an upgrade was contingent upon its use. Several hours had been set aside yesterday for the task. Irreversible failure was the unfortunate result.

Trouble began almost immediately. The CD-ROM drive in that machine has been, to put it mildly, flaky for quite some time. Its ability to reliably read disks ha been deteriorating and had reached the point where it was totally useless. Therefore, the plan was to remove the primary boot drive, place it in a SCSI enclosure and attach it to Brunhilde by means of an Orange Converter. Upgrade would them proceed as a mounted, external device. Things looked ominous from the outset. Running DiskUtility revealed a corrupt extents tree, which, following several attempts, failed to be completely repaired. It was decided to continue, nevertheless. The upgrade appeared to go well, but reinstalling the drive on Scheherazade resulted in a hung boot process, eventually ending in a kernel panic. Additionalo troubleshooting revealed that it was no so much the damaged extents tree, but some aspect of the OS and kernel which were causing the panic. Several hours and much frustration later, it was apparent that more drastic measure would be needed.

Basically, it came down to two choices: a) wipe the drive, install the OS from scratch, restore from backup and hope for the best; b) or bite the bullet and upgrade the hardware. The former would require the investment of at least four to six hours of time with little guarantee of success, while the latter could be accomplished in less than four and provide a reliable, 64-bit architecture and modern hardware to carry us effortlessly through the next four to six years. Following a consult with Elizabeth, it was decided that new hardware was to lesser of two evils and so began the process of converting Scheherazade from an aging PowerMac 8600 to a svelte and powerful Mac mini.

As I write this, the content of her internal drives is being migrated to the new system. The user accounts have already been established and the OS brought up to spec at 10.3.8. Additional progress will be noted in the coming days.

01 April 2005

∞ ∗ ∞

Is this an April Fools joke or a service enhancement?

While logging in to my GMail account this morning, I noted what appeared to be a hand-drawn schematic sugesting the mail storage available at Google would be characterized as "∞+1". At first I laughed. It remonded me of my youth; when my prothers and I would get into an argument about the degree of some arbitrary entity. Invariably, an escalation would ensue, which would end when the apparent victor achieved the hyperbolic state of "infinity times infinity; the lastest most number that never ends!" Google's new storage limits reminds me of this exercise in futility.

This appears to be a legitimate increase in client storage, but I have to wonder. It is the first of April after all. Nevertheless, another "new feature" is the ability to enhance eMail composition with Rich Text Formatting (RTF). To me this is a burben; not an enhancement. Formatted mail is a peeve of mine. eMail is a text-only medium. Stylized text has no place in the inbox. It is the domain of the web browser and the offline text application. In fact, I refuse to respond to formatted mail. Whether it be embellished with HTML markup or RTF, if it arrives in my mailbox without a plain-text viewing option, it gets booted to the trash. Many have been the correspondent through the years who has had their missive sent to the garbage bin only to inquire days or weeks later whether I received their note. My response is, "yes, but..."

Google should be commended for their leadership. They seem to have recognized that storage costs have become almost negligible and to limit one's mailbox to 250Mb — much less 25Mb!!! — is folly. I am a little concerned about their willingness to implement formatting options. However, they seem to recognize this to be a secondary enhancement and have offered it as an opt-in feature; rather than a default.

With their one year anniversary just around the corner, Google's GMail continues to maintain its aura as the must have technology of geeks the 'net over.


continue to the March 2005 archive

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last BBEdited: 2005.05.10