Archive for April, 2003

This is the best part

It's that time again… Spring, when a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of motorcyles. I've owned several sportbikes, the first two were destroyed by idiot drivers (one while parked, one at very low speed), each helping to pay for the next. My third bike was almost unbearable to ride, a 1993 GSXR750. The ergonomics were all wrong for me. The worst part is that I never felt fully in tune with it. A few weeks before my first big road trip, I sold it and bought a 1988 Yamaha FZR400. Certainly not a touring bike, but it served me well. The last day of the trip I road for 27 hours straight (about 18 hours of actual saddle time.)

So after a four year hiatius, I'm back in the market for a new (to me) bike. I've been pouring over the internet/magazines/newsgroups mentally testdriving every bike against the other. I've spent practically every free moment thinking about them. I don't know what it is about my personality, but when I'm going to buy something big, I go into full obsess mode. Maybe it's because I want to get the most for my money… but i really think it's almost more fun than reality. Right now I'm not thinking about filling out more insurance paperwork, fixing siezed chains, my sore neck/back/ass, or worrying about patches of loose gravel. In my brain it's always 318 turns in 11miles Deal's Gap.

Geek Dreams

My phone jutst rang, waking me up from a peculiar dream. I was booting a new Gentoo install. When I logged in to X, I saw that my desktop wallpaper was actually advertising for General Mills brand cereals. I though “cool, they found a sponser…” Then the Boo-Berry ghost popped up like one of those damn flash animation ads, and started flying around the screen. That's when I got pissed.

Then I woke up. Strangely I've never had a spoonfull of Boo-Berry or any of the other related monster marshmellow cereals.

Ambiance not included

We decided tonight to eat in the Oakmont/Verona area for a change of pace. Using Pittsburgh Citysearch I stumbled on a review of the Mighty Oak Barrel. (Stumbled is right… for a company with “search” in the name, Citysearch's searching capabilities suck. To find resturants in Verona, I found that you could find one, then on it's page click a link for “Resturants near this location.” Searching for Verona only returned business with Verona in the name.)

Citysearch's review wasn't entirely positive but I liked the sound of some of the dishes. I then found the following Pittsburgh Post Gazette review and we decided to give it a try.

The review was right, I'd have never walked into this place without having heard of it. I've seen VFW buildings with more panache. Inside it was better, but more like a place to get buffalo wings and a bottle of wine, a weird mix of bar and resturant.

However that wasn't why we were there. We came for the food and were not disappointed… It turned out to be one of the better meals we've had in Pittsburgh.

(The menu is largely seafood and fine meats. My wife (a former vegetarian) didn't see much vege-friendly entrees (maybe some pastas) This may change though, as they are transitioning to the spring/early summer menu in the next week or two.)

For an appetizer we had the Tower of Tuna. It consisted of sessame coated, seared tuna with diced cucumber and red onions in layers between what might have been squares of deep-fried tortilla (very nice and crisp) with a light wasabi sauce and ginger. $8. A great combination of textures and flavors, it was an excellent way to start the meal.

My wife ordered the Opah special, a thick slab of Hawaiian fish, with two spicy thai dipping sauces and an assortment of vegetables. $16 I went with the seared duck special which featured a sweet plum sauce and a side of veges and barley. $18 At first I was a bit jealous as Deb's meal was fantastic (and very spicy), whereas mine seemed a bit too sweet. However, a few grinds of pepper and some salt transformed my dish. The duck now stood out above the sweetness and was fantastic. Since I cook a very good steak at home, duck is becoming my favorite non-seafood item to order when I'm out. Both dishes were cooked perfectly.

The meal was accompanied by a small house salad, mixed greens some nuts, a soft cheese (chevre?) and a semi-sweet dressing. A half of a bread bole was also served. Both were adequate.

We were both pleased with the recommended wines, about $6 a glass. (Note: they are in addtion to the price of the entree, although the specials menu doesn't make that totally clear.)

For dessert we had the pistachio cheesecake which had bits of pistachio brittle sprinkled on top. Wow! Sweet, but not too sweet, the cheesecake was a perfect end to the meal (and perfect with coffee.) The brittle added a nice crunchy/carmely twist. The pistachio flavor wa concentrated in the crust and was not overwhelming. Just enough to make it work.

The service was friendly and satisfactory. Although again they wouldn't have been out of place at a wings place. I believe I was called “hon” by the hostess (who I believe was the mother of the chef/owner.)

We'll definately go there again.

Do you see a sign that says "Dead Cat Storage?"

From the excellent Triumph ST motorcyle website, comes this cautionary tale about using the underseat storage area.

Executive summary: Bringing a dead cat home from the vet an intrepid motorcylcist runs in trouble with the law, then learns the shortcomings of the underseat latch mechanism. Hilarity ensues.

And they walked away

Mario Andretti Crash

On the page linked to above, click the “Mario Andretti crashes at IMS” link to see the video.

Unbelievable. He walked away from the crash.

Background: Mario, age 63, is doing testing for his son's IRL race
team, filling in for an injured driver. While testing at the track he
hit debris from an accident that had just happened, causing Mario to go
for a ride.

A similar incident happened at LeMans in 1999:
Mercedes Flip

This time is was just a poorly designed car. Believe it or not, Mark Webber flipped it two days in a row during practice, and then wisely refused to get back in it. A subsitute driver flipped it again during the race.

New technology, new old problems

I hate re-inventing the wheel… But that's what I've been doing all week. System Administration/IT work seems to involve a lot of this. For instance: Our development image is around 12gigs, and it takes about 4 hours to install/configure a laptop from scratch. We use Ghost to clone the setup onto the other machines. That involves booting off a dos floppy, installing the network drivers and transferring the hard drive image.

Well our new laptops don't have floppy drives, they also have gigabit ethernet hardware that I don't have Dos drivers for. I found drivers but not on the manufacturerer's or Dell's websites (that would have been too easy.) I then had to learn how to make a bootable CD with everything I needed. This generally involves making a bootable floppy and then transfering the image to the CD. This was yet another ordeal, but after much frustration I found Bart's Bootdisks which simplified matters. The docs were a bit weird.. I went through 9 CDs until I got everything sorted out.


Game On

We moved offices this week. The servers and related gear arrived last night. Reloading the racks, and properly wiring things took some time, but we're back in business. The T1 just worked (actually it became active while I was trying to find out if it was on.) With everything properly rebuilt it was just a matter of hitting the power switches.

…it also looks like my call to building maintainence worked… I just noticed the AC turned on. Now I don't have to hang out in the server room just to keep cool.

Swank Gear

It's finally here! My new Dell D800, 1.6Ghz Centrino with a WUXGA (1900×1200) LCD. (I ordered it 3/12, the day it was announced.) When I first fired it up I was impressed, but not overwhelmed. That is until I sat it next to my older Dell Inspiron 5000E with the 1st gen UXGA screen. The image quality is unbelievable. It really has to be seen to be appreciated.

I'm still loading a ton of shit on it (XP Pro, Visual Studio .NET 2003, SQL2K, VS6, Visio Enterprise, Mozilla, Cygwin, Intellij Idea, JBoss, CVS… ) I haven't really had a chance to put it through it's paces. I'm not even sure what a good test of speed is, other than a full compile of our middle tier.

The rest of the machine scores well too. Good keyboard action, very quiet, not too hot,, solid feel, good sound, wireless + 1gig Ethernet… it all adds up to a sweet rig. I feel no longer have any regrets about passing on the developer workstations I spec'd out and built last month. I just need to order a spare power supply so I don't have to cart the damn thing back and forth to work every day.

We ordered 4 identical machines. I think my coworkers will be very happy when they get their hands on them.


Some wang(s) cracked our mail server at work Sunday. Fortunately, nothing but time was lost in the process. Chris has some good ideas for tackling the work that followed.

What he forgot to mention was:

Be Paranoid. Since, I'm often an asshole, so I know how to think like one. Expect any/all common helpful commands to be compromised. I think in retrospect the best thing to have done would have been to immediately cut the power to the box. Once down we could have then booted off a CD and inspected what happened safely.

(fsck be damned. You should be using a journaled filesystem anyway…)

I wasn't thinking quite that sharply, but I did avoid a few landmines. We saw that shutdown was altered, and while poking around we triggered some process that was trying to “rm -rf *” part of the filesystem. Fortunately, we umounted the vital partitions first (after kill -9'ing a lot of now suspect processes.)

The timing was quite amazing. We are in the process of moving offices, and in the middle of a huge release with a completely unrealistic timeframe. All our furniture was moved yesterday. This morning the phone guys helped out by accidentally tearing out our T1 and phone system.

At that point I starting to get nervous… what next a meteor impact?

The new install kicks ass. This isn't the way I wanted to do it, but I'm glad it's done. We now have a shitpile of storage, and a much more modern distribution. I also replaced horde with Squirrel Mail. It's vastly simpler to install/maintain and provides some nice additional features.

nobody's home

Another Saturday, another batch of trespassers trying to steal my time, money and/or soul.

I can't remember the last time I was pleasantly surprised by the doorbell. This weekend is no different. A quick look out the peephole confirms it's obviously no one I know. I'm irritated, but that is at least partially offset by the pleasure of making them stand outside unfulfilled.

For some reason Deb tries to pretend we're not home. She turns down the TV and hides. I'm angered seeing how we (royal we) are conditioned to stop what ever we are doing, to answer the phone/doorbell. So much so that we are uncomfortable ignoring their call. Why do they get such priority? This is probably the biggest reason I dislike mobile phones. Ringing my doorbell is an order of magnitude more aggravating. This is my fortress of solitude… and from a security standpoint, why would I give any random jack-off a chance to come in and case the place. No one in their right mind has a guest account on their coporate network. Why is this any different?

As it turns out it this time it was a bunch of bible beaters (as evidenced by the pamphlet left behind.)

It's a shame I can't go to Pier One and buy a nice sisal door mat with “FUCK OFF” boldly emblazoned on it. That would be something I could really use.

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