November 01, 2003

Gone for three days, going on four months

On Tuesday, it was 90 degrees. I spent the day in shorts and a t-shirt thinking that it was too damned hot.

Wednesday, I got on a plane and went to Seattle and tried not to freeze.

Friday, I came home. Today it was about 60 degrees.

The 30 degree drop between the time I left and came back really made it feel like I was gone for way more than three days. Very weird...

Posted by Mike at 05:52 PM | Comments (1)

November 02, 2003

Spammers: die

Over a two day period, I spent a total of about six hours working on our church's server to make it do a better job filtering spam. This all started because one of the persons on that domain started getting literally over 300 spam email messages per day.

That's basically one every five minutes, although I swear that when I was monitoring the mail logs, it was even more often than that.

In the end, I wound up IP blocking a bunch of them, then using about three different spam filtering approaches on the mail that did get through. That's reduced the flow from 300/day to about 20/day -- which is still stupid, but at least not completely overwhelming.

Here's a quote from the web site of one of the companies that was flooding the server (until I banned their IP block): "Email marketing is why we get up in the morning. No joke. No hype. We love what we do. And so will you." Umm ...

I would like to find some of these spammers and bill them for six hours of my time. It's one thing when I spend six hours on the church web site, making it better, because then I am adding some value to the world. All I did with this six hours is take back some of the value in the world that the spammers stole.

Posted by Mike at 08:10 PM

A small step forward

The Episcopal Church today consecrated Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as a bishop in that denomination.

I rejoice in the news that a major Christian denomination has recognized that homosexuality is NOT incompatible with Christ's teachings — and that it therefore follows that homosexuality is not incompatible with church leadership, either.

I rejoice that so many in the Episcopalian church have supported this move.

I am hopeful that my own denomination, the United Methodist Church, will some day heed the call of numerous local churches, including my own, for full acceptance of ALL of Christ's children.

I grieve for the divisions this is creating. From reading various news reports, it seems highly likely that some Episcopal churches will split from their denomination. Some bishops have stated their intent to refuse to recognize Robinson as a fellow bishop. There is, clearly, still much to be done, and much healing that must happen.

But this is a beginning. Like all such beginnings, it is not, and will not, be easy. But from such steps, great things can follow.

Thanks be to God.

Posted by Mike at 09:27 PM | Comments (1)

November 03, 2003


After an eight month break, I'm a manager again.

It's a small team -- I'll have only three direct reports, which is as small a number as I've ever had reporting to me. The small number means that I'll still be able to develop code, which is pretty important to me.

Posted by Mike at 03:49 PM | Comments (3)

November 05, 2003

Spammers: die (part 2)

In the last 36 hours, a total of six new spam comments have been added to my blog and Meredith's blog.

Today I installed the excellent mt-blacklist plug-in written by Jay Allen. It was easy to install, and seems to do a good job of blocking comments that are really spam.

Posted by Mike at 02:21 PM


Microsoft today announced that we are offering $250,000 each for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the writers of the Sobig and MSBlast viruses.

To paraphrase a movie: "So congratulations, you've just become a $250,000 lottery ticket... except the odds are much, much better. Do you know anyone that wouldn't turn you in for a quarter of a million dollars?"

Posted by Mike at 09:58 PM

November 06, 2003

A woman's issue

President Bush recently signed legislation banning partial birth abortions.

Here is a picture, proudly displayed on the web site, of Bush, surrounded by nine smiling men, signing this legislation that has such important ramifications for women.

Hmm ... it seems like something is missing from the picture ... if only I could put my finger on it ...

Posted by Mike at 07:49 AM | Comments (1)

November 08, 2003

One connector to rule them all

I'm typing this entry on a laptop PC that has the following ports: Sound out, sound in, modem, Ethernet, TV, Monitor, Serial, Parallel, Docking station, USB, and AT mouse/keyboard.

Across the room is our TV/entertainment system. We have an amplifier. It connects to six speakers, S-video and S/PDIF from the Ultimate TV, S-video and S/PDIF from the Xbox, stereo audio from the CD player, composite video and stereo audio from the VCR, and S-video and composite video to the TV. This is in addition to the Ethernet running to the Xbox for Xbox Live.

In my backpack is an iPod. It uses a FireWire (aka IEEE 1394) interface for power and for data. In my pocket is a cell phone with a custom power / data connector, and a PocketPC with another. My wife has a different cell phone, with a different custom power / data connector.

I could go on.

The point is that there is an insane number of different connectors. Not only that, but there is an insane amount of wiring necessary to support all this. The area behind our entertainment console looks like a small animal could get trapped in there. And when we go on a trip, we end up taking enough different cables to fill a small bag.

Many modern PCs today have Gigabit Ethernet. Gigabit Ethernet can transfer data at 1000 Megabits per second. Uncompressed 6-channel 16-bit sound uses only 4.4 Mbit/sec. Uncompressed full-resolution SD video content is only 140 Mbit/sec, and modern video compression can reduce this dramatically (DVDs, for example, are usually at 4-6 Mbit/second -- and MPEG-2, which DVDs use, is hardly state-of-the-art anymore).

So why doesn't everything use Ethernet? Ethernet switches are so cheap now that you practically pay more for the box they come in than for the switches themselves. Ethernet cable is similarly cheap. It is the single most ubiquitous data connector around today. A mouse should use Ethernet. Same for a keyboard, digital camera, printer, stereo, TV, etc. No more having to have 75 different types of connecting cables, and instead of dozens of wires behind my TV, there would be just two per device: Ethernet and AC power.

Obviously, there are some problems with this scheme. My cell phone, for example, isn't even big enough to support an Ethernet port. Ethernet also can't carry power, which USB and FireWire can. That poses problems for the small devices like a mouse and keyboard, which need some power to run.

But it seems like the right idea. We are getting overrun with different connector types. Putting everything on an Ethernet network solves lots of problems. It is the right direction to move in.

Posted by Mike at 07:05 PM | Comments (7)

November 12, 2003

Government at its finest

CNN reports on the Republican party plans to stage an all-night event in the Senate to protest the Democratic party's block of four of Bush's judicial nominees.

The article states:

Because Senate rules require agreement from both sides to quickly confirm a nominee, the GOP cannot force a confirmation vote as long as a Democrat is present on the floor to object.

But if they fall asleep or stop paying attention, the GOP will immediately confirm the nominees, said Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.


In turn, Daschle said, if Republicans stop paying attention, they will immediately pass Democratic legislation such as a bill to raise the minimum wage or one to create a tax credit to stimulate creation of manufacturing jobs.

I would say something witty and funny about this, but, really, I can't think of a thing to add to it.

Posted by Mike at 10:55 PM

November 13, 2003

A Saint

On the evening of November 11 (as I was thinking about that day being the 11th anniversary of my mother's death), Bishop R. Marvin Stuart passed away. Bishop Stuart was senior pastor of my church, First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto, for 22 years, from 1942-1964, before being appointed to Bishop. After his retirement, he came back to First Palo Alto where he could be found almost every Sunday in the same pew.

One of the Saints has joined the heavenly choir.

Posted by Mike at 08:17 AM | Comments (1)

Republican Senators and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Night

(thanks to Russell for the link)

Posted by Mike at 05:14 PM

November 14, 2003

Not a good sign...

You know it's a bad sign when upper management arranges for dinner to be brought into the work place every night for the next few weeks.

"Yay! Free dinner ... hey, wait a minute... uh ...this sucks ..."

Posted by Mike at 06:59 PM

Point / Counter-point

Ignorance never settles a question

President Bush

Posted by Mike at 10:32 PM

November 15, 2003

Duplicate comments

Recently I've been getting a slew of duplicate comments on my blog. I suspect it's mostly because the web provider for has been unbelievably slow lately, which leads people to hit 'Post' over and over and over again until suddenly there are five identical comments.

Today I found instructions on how to modify Movable Type to block duplicate comments (defined as same name, same url, same comment text). The instructions even specified how to make it work with the MT-Blacklist plug-in that I'm using to block comment spam.

Posted by Mike at 09:36 AM

November 16, 2003

Quick Links

I often find myself wanting to post a link to something I've found on the net that, while entertaining or interesting, doesn't really seem worth an entire post just for the link.

So, towards that end, on the right side of the main page for my blog is a new section: "Quick Links". It's actually set up as a separate blog that this blog copies from. I mostly followed the directions I found here. I didn't get all of it working -- in particular, the 'pingtorebuild.cgi' isn't working for me, so if I post a quick link, this page isn't automatically rebuilt. I tried for a while to fix it, and gave up when trying to install a new perl module was causing the server to become completely unresponsive. Sometime later...

Posted by Mike at 11:01 PM

November 20, 2003

FM radio data services

My car stereo has RDS capability. Basically what that means is that if a radio station broadcasts a data stream, the radio will display text. All I've ever seen this used for is broadcasting the call letters and genre. For example, 'Jazz' and 'KCSM'.

Recently, KSJO started using it for something much more interesting: they broadcast the artist name and song title as they are playing a song. Now that's useful.

Posted by Mike at 01:01 AM

Not the flu

Last Monday, Meredith and I both decided to get the flu vaccine that was being offered through my work. I felt fine (other than waking up Tuesday morning with a very sore arm that lasted for a couple of days), but Meredith has had the 'flu-like symptoms' that they mention as a possible side effect since Monday evening.

At some point, the line between flu and 'flu-like symptoms that aren't really the flu' gets pretty blurry. If you have a slight fever, are sniffy, and feel sick -- how much does it really matter if it's actually the flu or not?

Posted by Mike at 02:17 PM

November 22, 2003


A little over four years ago, towards the end of a warm August month, we made an offer on our house, then closed on it during an also warm September.

Our house was built in the early part of the 20th century as a farmhouse in Mountain View when most of this area was orchards. We bought the house from someone who had just bought the house six months earlier and spent the time doing extensive remodeling to the house, including adding on the master bedroom suite. The front (original) part of the house had a lot of work done to it, although there are still plenty of signs of the original age of the house -- perhaps most notably in the continued existence of the original (ungrounded) electrical system (which occasionally proves a problem when trying to plug in a laptop).

Shortly after moving into the house, we began to wonder if the contractors that we bought the house from had spent a lot of time doing this sort of thing before. Most of the work was nice, but there were a few odd oversights, like the kitchen sink faucet handle that was put in backwards so that we couldn't actually get cold water, or the laundry room door that couldn't possibly be closed if anything -- say, a washer or dryer -- was placed in the laundry room.

Did I mention that we bought the house in a warm month? That fact probably wouldn't have mattered to experienced homebuyers, but this was our first house, and we were not.

We soon discovered the biggest oversight in the remodeling of our home. The living room has a large floor grating with a gas heater underneath it in the basement. This appears to have been put in 20 years or so ago, and provides ample heat to the living room and dining room. The second heater is a wall-mounted gas heater in the kitchen. Aside from the fact that we don't often need lots of extra heat in the kitchen, it doesn't work. And the third heater is another wall-mounted gas heater in the hallway leading back to the master bedroom.

You'll note that I have listed no sources of heat that are actually in a bedroom.

The living room heater is more than capable of heating the front guest bedroom, as long as the door is wide open, but guests often prefer to sleep in there with the door closed, for some odd reason. Or, they would, if it weren't for the fact that they would freeze if they tried. Our cat doesn't always have that option, though. He sometimes gets put in there at night when he has trouble with the idea that 5 AM isn't play time, and when he gets let out, he is often REALLY cold. We may have to stop doing that as it gets colder.

The hallway heater is carefully aimed so as to heat the laundry room, and so barely manages to heat the master bedroom -- but only if the master bedroom door is open, because they installed it on the kitchen side of the door.

After the first very cold winter, realizing the scope of this problem, we tried to get some estimates for installing central heat and air in the house. This led to another odd discovery: that when the 10' x 10' cellar underneath our house was dug out, they evidently tossed all of the excavated dirt over the retaining wall into what had been the crawl space. Thus, the crawl space isn't even high enough for duct work to be run through the house. So before we could install heating, we have to get someone to dig out about a foot of dirt throughout our entire crawl space.

In the meantime, we pile lots of blankets on the bed.

Posted by Mike at 01:46 PM

Matrix Revolutions

Last week, Meredith and I went to see Matrix Revolutions. It's worth seeing on the big screen, because the effects are really good (although some of the scenes should have been 1/4 as long as they were). And it's better than Matrix Reloaded. Not that that's saying much -- that particular bar is so low you can trip over it. It benefits from leaving out the ten minute orgy/MTV dance party scene that Reloaded had.

But, really, Revolutions is a disappointment. The story is just weak. It's especially so compared to the original Matrix movie, which was so amazing.

Ah well...

I still like Agent Smith.

But, speaking of Hugo Weaving, here's something to look forward to: it's only 24 days until Lord of the Rings day.

Posted by Mike at 10:14 PM

November 29, 2003


On our way back from Meredith's 10-year high school reunion, we stopped at Tower Records, mostly to pick up the extended version of The Two Towers. While we were there, we got Jonny Lang's the CD, "Long Time Coming", and the new "Let It Be... Naked" CD.

We listed to the Beatles album first. It's OK. Nothing very exciting. The whole idea is that it's a re-release of some of the old Beatles material with a bunch of the studio overdubs removed. It turns out that some of those overdubs and studio effects weren't all so bad.

The Jonny Lang CD is awful. It's like bad pop. We bought it because I loved his "Lie to Me" CD, but that was Blues, and this is ... not. I guess it's fine if you happen to like cheesy pop music.

Posted by Mike at 10:57 PM | Comments (1)

November 30, 2003


I picked up Project Gotham Racing 2 right before Thanksgiving, and have already blown many hours playing it. There's something really fun about racing cars at insane speeds. The online play is great. I still suck at it, though. Even the single player modes have an online component: after each race, it shows you where you rank compared to other players for that race (my average ranking is somewhere around 14000th place... good thing I don't do this for a living).

Not everyone likes the game, though. One Australian official wants to see the game banned because the game is "actually glorifying speed and power." It's good to see that idiocy around video games isn't entirely confined to the USA. Well, for some value of 'good'.

Posted by Mike at 09:38 PM | Comments (1)