Monthly Archives: August 2005

Seeking Comcast User

Getting close to nailing down an alternate SMTP port for traveling Birdhouse users. Have confirmed that it works with SBC/Yahoo!, and want to make sure it works with Comcast Cable Internet as well. If you use Comcast (or another cable provider for that matter) and would be willing to help me with a quick test, please contact me. You don’t need to be a Birdhouse customer to do this. Thanks in advance!

Free Opera

Not sure how many people are using the Opera web browser these days, but if you’ve ever hesitated to try because it isn’t free, the company is celebrating its 10th birthday by handing out free reg strings for all platforms. Get ‘em while they’re hot.

Opera has always been great, and I remember how grateful the BeOS user community was to see the BeOS port of Opera. But in these days of free Firefox etc., there isn’t a whole lot of incentive for people to try unheard-of browsers. Still, Opera has always been famous for its strict adherence to W3C standards, so it’s an important element of a webmaster’s toolkit.

Debt Relief

Had a mini-disaster a few nights ago and corrupted most of my email inbox (long story), slashing my “To respond to” list from ~150 to ~20. After the initial “Oh, crap” reaction, a strange feeling of peace washed over me, and lingers. Can’t tell you what a relief it is to have that much perceived obligation erased in a flash. I do feel bad about all those great unanswered threads vanishing into ether, but ultimately, it was like getting a big stinky boot off my neck. 

After witnessing newfound lightness in my step, Amy has promised to start deleting random blocks of messages from my inbox.

Music: David Bowie :: It Ain’t Easy

StyleCatcher for MT

File under “Long overdue”: With the release of Movable Type 3.2 finally comes the ability to switch between installed template styles with a few clicks, bringing weblog customizability more into line with what WordPress has offered for quite a while.

Several nice ones in the library of styles Six Apart is offering in its first round. Oddly, three-column designs are conspicuously absent from the display of new styles, though they say that the designs work neatly in three-column layouts (hacking a two-column CSS design into three columns has traditionally been non-trivial for general users; one of those areas where table-based design is vastly easier). Now that MT styles can be neatly packaged for download / install, looking forward to seeing what kinds of contributions the user community comes up with.

I’m pretty content with the current Birdhouse design for now, though I do enjoy messing with things from time to time. But lately I’ve been almost begrudgingly recommending that customers setting up new blogs use WP rather than MT, primarily for this reason. StyleCatcher evens the score.

Music: David Bowie :: Moonage Daydream

Liberals Under My Bed

“… with the nation’s libraries and classrooms filled with overtly liberal children’s books advocating everything from gay marriage to marijuana use, kids everywhere are being deluged with left-wing propaganda.” So what we apparently need is a primer for children of conservatives. Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed:

This full-color illustrated book is a fun way for parents to teach young children the valuable lessons of conservatism. Written in simple text, readers can follow along with Tommy and Lou as they open a lemonade stand to earn money for a swing set. But when liberals start demanding that Tommy and Lou pay half their money in taxes, take down their picture of Jesus, and serve broccoli with every glass of lemonade, the young brothers experience the downside to living in Liberaland.

Yep, that’s what we see at every turn — a deluge of left-wing propaganda. We’re swimming in it, apparently. Damn liberals and their damn broccoli.

Remodel Status #4

Remodel Miles Helps Toilet installed last week and in use, tackled the sink today. Used a grout saw to remove a hex tile to make way for the pedestal’s lag-bolt. A bit of caulk to the base and it went into place neatly. Drilled bracing holes in new wall, test-mounted basin. Perfect level, looking good.

Installed most of plumbing into basin last weekend, thought it would be a simple matter to plop it on top of the pedestal, bolt it to the wall, and walk away. Spent most of the day wrestling with atrocious installation instructions. Sample sentence:

Unscrew the nut from the pop up body and take off the spring clip from the ball rod (please note: retain the white packing ring on the ball rod), and place the nut in the ball rod. Insert the ball rod into the side hole of drain, slide the nut on and tighten securely).

This might not sound unapproachable, except for the fact that there were three different parts that could accurately be called the “pop up body,” and that they used the word “in” wherever they mean “over” or “on.” In other places, the directions were completely muddled by attempting to cover six different fixture models in one set of text. “Let’s see… if I don’t have the white washer then I need to apply plumber’s putty between the black gasket and the porcelain. Wait, they must mean the other white washer. In that case…” And so on. All compounded by the impossibly cramped working quarters behind a pedestal sink – had to use a mirror to check my work, check for leaks, etc. Getting the drain lever assembly installed took 90 minutes alone. Finally got it all watertight and working. Not done yet, but the bathroom is actually usable again for the first time in two months! And looking great.

Miles was a great help, too. Pictured: learning all about vice grips, then turning them on me — “Bite! Bite! Cheetah chomps!”

Next up: Install shower/bath fixtures, locate source for ball-bearing cabinet rails, build sliding drawers, install lighting (assuming it ever arrives).

SBC Follows Through

From time to time, raving pays off. Got SBC Maintenance on the phone this morning and they activated service in under an hour — four days before scheduled activation. Set the service up tonight. Goal was not to have to use the installer CD and all the crap that comes along with it. The last thing I wanted was a corporate monolith sticking god knows what god knows where in the bowels of the OS.

Turns out that the key to sidestepping the installer CD is knowing in advance the initial PPPoE user/pass, so you can pre-feed your router. Obviously.com to the rescue. Once the initial connection is made, SBC does this weird thing where you have just enough DNS to access their online registration page, without being able to access any other sites. And the registration page — surprise — only works in Explorer. Of course they don’t tell you this. What you get in Safari or Firefox is a full-screen form with no Submit button. Nice work, jerk-brains. Only going by hunch did I think to launch IE and complete the signup. What this means for all new Tiger users with no legacy copy of Explorer sitting around is anybody’s guess.

And it’s fast. Ran a speed test at dslreports.com, and we’re getting 1.12 Mbps downstream — reasonably close to our 1.5Mbps cap. Not lightning by today’s standards, but almost 100% faster than we were getting with Speakeasy, and at 1/3 the cost.

Short story: As much as yesterday’s experience put a bad taste in my mouth, as much I was prepared to regret our decision to switch, you just can’t touch the speed and price anywhere else in the broadband market. I’ll really miss Speakeasy, but for a measly $11/month extra, we just got cable TV and doubled our DSL speed. I’ll stop complaining now.

Music: Cecil Taylor :: D Trad That’s What

SBC Screws Up

Come home to find DSL offline. Speakeasy has been incredibly reliable for us over the past couple of years, so I find it suspicious that it should go offline five days before activation date for the switch to SBC. Call Speakeasy, they can’t bring up the line. Dude suspects someone has “pulled the crossover,” whatever that means. Call SBC, who tell me that DSL takes five days to activate, so this is normal. “Normal?,” I ask. I was very specific with the salesperson that this was a “switch” order from another provider, and that cancellation of Speakeasy and activation of SBC would happen on the same day. Big downtime was not an option for me. On this particular I could not have been more clear.

“We have no record of any technician starting the conversion, sir.”

“But you also just told me that conversion normally starts five days before activation, right? And it’s exactly five days before scheduled activation. Doesn’t it kind of seem obvious that an SBC tech knocked my existing service offline prematurely?”

Silence.

“Hello?”

“Yes?”

“Sigh. You say you have no record of work being done, but you also say that you “normally” take people offline five days before activation. While the salesperson guaranteed that cancellation and activation would happen the same day.”

“Sir, you’ll need to talk to our maintenance department. But they’re closed.”

God, dialup sucks. And Mail.app gets really ornery when the connection type gets changed out from under it, which sticks me with webmail (saving my litany of complaints about Mail.app for another day).

So, “Beispeil #22″ that you get what you pay for. Low-cost service means corporate armies of uninformed, low-tech employees reading from scripts while customer sits in limbo. Will take on the drones tomorrow. Worth it? We’ll see.

Your sound I understand the languages.

I don’t understand the languages.

I hear only your sound.

The sun is shining slowly

The birds are flying so low.
Honey you’re my one and only,

So pay my what you owe me.
Beispiel Nummer zweiundzwanzig.

- Laurie Anderson, (Example #22.)

Encounter with Local Fauna

After midnight, hear strange rumblings coming from the side of the house, outside Miles’ window. From my office window, I see the large acacia bush moving, as if in a strong wind, but there is no wind. A bit freaked, thinking maybe some kids are setting up shop in the bushes, grab a flashlight and head outside. Sneak around the corner, throw a beam, and out pads a young buck, looking brave but a bit frightened. His antlers (substantial) had probably become entangled in the dense bushes while foraging, and now he was looking for a way out — but a human was blocking the only route.

I crouched, snapped off the torch, tried not to project a threatening vibe. His big black eyes were illuminated by a nearby streetlight, tranquil but a little bit scared. From a distance of about eight feet, we stared at each other for the longest time, equal parts curiosity and fear flowing in either direction.

This would not be such a surprising event if we were in a more rural location, but we live on a fairly busy street in a thoroughly suburban neighborhood, the last place one would expect to encounter forest creatures. But this is not the first time I’ve seen deer stray this far down from the hill. On evening walks, sometimes see them venturing into neighborhood gardens, snacking on suburban gardens. “Deer are just rats with good P.R.,” or so they say. Have even seem them on occasion traveling in groups, bounding down the street, hooves clacking against the asphalt, oblivious to stop signs, worse than those packs of kids buzzing around on 2-stroke scooters.

Eventually he made his move. Slowly, cautiously, as he had to come even closer to get past me. I’m sure the bulk of fear in the equation was on his side, but can’t say it didn’t cross my mind that those antlers could do serious damage if he decided for some reason that it might be fun to disembowel a bi-ped. Not that that’s ever happened, just saying it crossed my mind. Briefly.

Suddenly he broke into leaps, and was gone, up the street in seconds, tail bobbing in the darkness, clacking his way toward another garden.

Related: Wonderful interview by Forum’s Michael Krasny with poet and naturist Diane Ackerman. Ackerman talks about her conflicted feelings about deer, why she gives necklaces to squirrels, why she plants weeds, and how it’s against the law in some cities to let your front yard become a meadow.

Music: Elvin Jones & Richard Davis :: Summertime