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User Journal

Journal Journal: Octopus (Take 8: Final Entry) 2

Unfortunately I returned from a New Year's Eve party to find Pixel dead in the tank. The cause is obviously undetermined, and will remain so.

He had been acting a little strangely the last two weeks, completely abandoning his "home" cave and moving to a hole that I could not see. Feeding had become difficult as a result.

I am not sure what I will do with the tank now. I can attempt another octopus, or I could just keep the tank as a fish-only tank.

It is somewhat fitting that I first started thinking about a fish tank around New Year's last year. It is amazing to me still that in less than a year I went from knowing nothing about aquariums to having a well-run saltwater aquarium in under a year.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Spam Filtering

I have written previously on my Spam-filtering ideas. An upgrade to one of the parts (the OS) killed the delicate machinery I had created, so I took the system down.

About that time the ISP that handles my mail standardized on SpamAssasin, and Eudora 6.0beta came out with its built-in Spam-Filtering. Between those two I was able to filter about 99% of the incoming Spam. It did not help me when I traveled, and so I was always looking for another way of dealing with it.

For a while I was using Eudora for Palm on my Clie connected to my cell phone. Having SpamAssasin mark the subject line as **JUNK** meant I could do some simple filtering on the Palm and still get most of my mail.

Now that I have the PowerBook, though, remote mail-checking has changed somewhat. Now I am using on the PowerBook (to see how I like it compared to Eudora).

The mail server I use at the ISP does not allow for custom configuration of SA for filtering mail. I am able to set a scoring cut-off, and can set an auto-reject list and a whitelist. For a long time I had the cutoff set at 3.5. That caught about 95% of my mail, and the remaining 5% was almost always caught by Eudora. Having used that for several months I feel fairly confident in it.

Last night I took the next step. I raised the cutoff up to 5.0 but instead of making the message as "Junk", SA now just routes Spam to /dev/null

It has been setup that way for 24 hours now, and it is erie. My "Junk" mailbox is not being filled the way it usually does. So far I have had six Spam messages make it through SA (and get caught by Eudora). Usually by this time I have 30-40 messages sitting in that mailbox.

Since Eudora does a good job of tracking the amount of mail coming in I should be able to track the difference.

I will report back after more time with results.

Journal Journal: Honey, we got Slashdot'ed 1

[Follow this one, Matt. It is computer-related, but you will appreciate it.]

So I was looking over some server logs and I found some really strange activity. Not able to think what may have done it, I tried to figure out what was going on that day.

Then I remembered this Slashdot comment I made that day on this Slashdot poll. The post went quickly to a score of 5, Interesting.

Over 20.000 hits in three days. Over a weekend, at that. If every person looked at all four pictures that still means 5,000 people looked at pictures of Pixel. I would hate to see what the bandwidth use looked like for the site holding the video.

Nice to see something I say get that sort of exposure.

Nice to see *Pixel* getting that sort of exposure.

Portables (Apple)

Journal Journal: The PowerBook Duo 2300c Challenge (TM) 1

I have mentioned this to several of my friends over the past few months, and figured it was high time to finally sit down and write it up all formal-like.

Before my beloved 12" Powerbook came into my possession, I had a Powerbook Duo 2300c. Now that I have the new Powerbook, and the battery on the Duo is pretty much shot, I have no need for the old laptop and the value is almost nothing. I tried listing it on Craig's List, but no one bit at the offer of an old laptop with a dead battery.

So I came up with the Challenge. (TM)

The basic idea? Get an operating system not sold by Apple Computer [MkLinux, *BSD, etc.] to work on this machine. I am also leaning towards requiring that internet access be working after the install.

The information:
1) The PowerBook Duo 2300c was a hack of a machine. Apple took a PowerPC 603e processor and "grafted" it onto a laptop motherboard designed for the 680x0 line of processors.

2) The computer has 20megs of RAM and an 800 meg hard drive.

3) The machine has no real ports to speak of. It has an Apple serial port and an ADB port.

4) The machine is currently running MacOS 7.6.1

5) I am in possession of a Duo Dock II which provides most normal ports.

6) The DuoDock II has an ethernet port, so I can currently connect the computer to the rest of my network and, in turn, to the Internet. I have heard reports, however, that AppleTalk will not connect together a Panther machine and a machine running MacOS 7.x anymore (so I would not be able to mount it as a network drive to install onto)

7) I currently do not have a CD-ROM drive capable of hooking up to the machine.

I have researched this topic quite a bit, and have not found a definitive "Yes, you can install this on the 2300c". Almost everyone says the exact opposite, in fact. Some look somewhat promising, but are lacking in several areas. I leave you to retrace some of my steps and learn the same things I did.

Your reward: For most of my friends I have offered up the computer in question. In addition, you get the satisfaction of saying "Hey, I actually installed [#OS_OF_CHOICE] on a machine not officially supported."

[And, before you say anything...]


Journal Journal: TSA reply... 2

From: "TSA-Contact Center"
Subject: Re: Shoe requirements in passenger screening
Date: Wed, 19 Nov 2003 15:30:52 -0500

TSA has always been alert to the danger of a "shoe bomb" attack, highlighted by the Richard Reid incident in December 2001. TSA's increased focus on screening shoes in recent months reflects a necessary reaction to information gathered by federal intelligence agencies.

Passengers will not be required to take off their shoes before going through metal detectors, but should understand that their chances of being selected for a more thorough, secondary screening will be lower if they do.

Security requirements issued by the TSA establish a security minimum for adoption by air carriers and airports. Air carriers and airports may exceed those minimum standards by implementing more stringent security requirements. This prevents potential terrorists from "beating the system" by learning how it operates. Leaving out any one group, such as senior citizens or the clergy, undermine security. We simply cannot assume that all future terrorists will fit any particular profile.

TSA Contact Center


Journal Journal: My email to TSA

Subject: Shoe requirements in passenger screening

I regularly fly between the Chicago area (using both Midway and O'Hare airports) and Louisville, KY (SDF).

Every time I have flown out of SDF in the last six months or so, I was asked to remove my shoes before going through the metal detectors. Having checked the TSA website, I know that I am not required to do so. Every time I go through with my shoes on, however, I am immediately pulled aside for additional screenings. Let me note that I never once set off the metal detector when I went through it.

Every time.

The first few times I took off my shoes when they asked. After a while I researched on the TSA website since not every airport seemed to require it.

The first time the screener argued that I was required to remove my shoes before going through the metal detector. We went back and forth for a couple of minutes, and when he finally conceded, he pulled me aside to be wanded and removed my shoes to be put through the x-ray machine.

The second time when I refused to take off my shoes (after the screener "suggested" it), I was simply wanded down, including a swab rubbed on my shoes.

Today I was pulled aside for additional screening and my shoes were again sent through the X-ray machine.

When I finally asked the "supervisor" about this, she said that removing my shoes was only a suggestion and not a requirement. When I pointed out that each time I came to SDF I ended up having additional screenings when I refused, this amounted to a de facto policy of having all passengers remove their shoes. She then said that I was always required to remove my shoes because the soles on my shoes were over an inch thick. While the shoes I had on today were over an inch thick, shoes worn previous did not meet this "requirement".

In addition, I went through metal detectors at both O'Hare and Midway (among other airports I have travelled to in the last six months or so) and was never *required* to remove my shoes.

My questions:
1) No where on the TSA site, from what I have seen, does it say anything about this "one inch sole" requirement. Is this actually a policy or just something unofficial done at SDF?

2) Can an airport in fact have a de facto requirement that all passengers remove their shoes as part of the screening process? Can additional screenings be called for simply because a passenger refuses to removes their shoes?

I suppose this comes down to something I have talked with my friends about when we talk about our TSA screening experiences - every airport, in fact every screener, seems to have a different policy. This comes despite TSA listing general policies on the web site.

I feel like each time I travel I need to carry print-outs of the web site with me and argue with the screeners about things they are doing that contradict what the TSA seems to be saying. This is obviously not what the TSA wants and is not what I want, either.

Shoe Screening Policy

TSA has instructed all Screeners that passengers are NOT required to remove their shoes. However, if your shoes alarm while proceeding through the metal detector, you will be subjected to a secondary screening.

If you know your shoes alarm every time you go through the metal detector, we recommend that you wear other shoes or you may choose to remove them prior to screening and place them in the TSA supplied bins so they can be sent through the x-ray machine.

[Edit: It seems a better page to link to on TSA's web site is here: and here:]

User Journal

Journal Journal: My trip to Louisville 1

10:00am: Receive phone call that my 1pm meeting has been cancelled.
10:07am: Receive second phone call that my 1pm meeting has been cancelled. Decide this should also mean that my 10:45am meeting has been cancelled and, as such, I turn off my alarm clock set for 10:15am.
10:59am: Receive phone call asking my presence at the 10:45am meeting.
11:01am: Arrive at 10:45am meeting.
11:17am: Leave 10:45am meeting.
12:00pm: Lunch, laundry, packing, and various other activities around my apartment.
3:37pm: Take my car in to the shop for repairs.
3:52pm: Leave shop knowing what bolt I have to remove to fix the hood finally.
3:57pm: Start working on removing the bolt in question.
5:03pm: Finally remove bolt in question only to find it does not fix the problem.
5:23pm: Finally get the front end of the Jeep put back together.
5:25pm: Curse about Jeep online, and then take shower, eat dinner, and pack some more.
7:00pm: Watch "Smallville".
8:00pm: Watch "Angel".
10:12pm: Leave IMSA for downtown Chicago.
11:03pm: Arrive Neo, a bar/club in downtown Chicago.


3:03am: Leave Neo.
3:09am: Arrive Golden Nugget, a 24 hour pancake shop in downtown Chicago.
4:21am: Leave Golden Nugget.
4:39am: Arrive Adams and Wabash station, Chicago el stop.
4:49am: Leave Adams and Wabash station on orange line train to Midway.
5:14am: Arrive Midway airport.
6:35am: Depart Midway airport on Southwest flight to Louisville, KY.
8:31am: [Eastern Time] Arrive Louisville, KY
8:52am: Get into bed.
1:15pm: Awake.
1:27pm: Breakfast.
3:03pm: Shower.
3:47pm: Depart for haircut and wedding.
5:17pm: Arrive at wedding, Leavingsworth, IN.
7:14pm: Depart wedding reception.
8:02pm: Arrive for haircut.
8:51pm: Return to house.
10:00pm: Watch "E.R."
11:15pm: Go to sleep.
9:15am: Wake up.
9:17am: Shower.
9:41am: Breakfast.
10:40am: Depart for Standiford Field, Louisville, KY.
11:30am: Depart Louisville for Chicago.
11:30am [Central Time]: Arrive Chicago.
12:27pm: Return to IMSA.

So TSA [Travel Security Agency? Totally Scared Answer] in Louisville gave me a hard time again. I was getting ready to go through the security checkpoint when I was asked if I was goign to remove my shoes. I replied that I was not. As soon as I got through the metal detector, however, I was asked to walk over to the side to be screened. I never set off the alarm.

The TSA agent that was going to search me first had me sit down. He had me take off my shoes and then proceeded to put through through the conveyer built! He then had me stand and wanded me down as usual. This is the third time the TSA agents in Louisville have done this. The previous two times, however, they did not take off my shoes and put them through the X-Ray machine. Previously they just wanded the shoes.

After being searched, I approached the supervisor's table and asked if removing shoes was required. TSA's web site says that it is not required. The supervisor explained that while it was suggested, removing shoes was not required. I explained that every time I was in Louisville, I was pulled aside to be searched when I refused to remove my shoes. I explained this seemed to be a de facto policy of having all passengers remove their shoes. The supervisor seemed confused, since this did go against the policy she just mentioned. She then looked at my shoes and said that my shoes had to be searched since they met one of the requirements. I asked which requirement and she answered that since the soles were over an inch thick they had to be searched.

Actually, she did not say that. She said that shoe removal was always "suggested", but that shoes that had soles over an inch thick also always had to be searched. It seemed to agree with what happens in that airport - they suggest that I take my shoes off before going through the metal detector, but do not require it. As soon as I get through, though, they pull me aside to further search me.

She said that in order to save time it would be better if I removed shoes that had soles over an inch thick to be put through the conveyer belt so that they would not have to pull me aside "and take more time."

I said that might be the case each time, since I could not remember what shoes I was wearing the previous two incidents.

I did not ask her why they did not just require people with shoes over an inch thick to remove them prior to going through the metal detector. I wanted to go online and do further research. At the time I remembered the TSA website sayign that shoe removal was not required. I do not remember it saying anything about requirements including soles over an inch thick. The last time I was in Louisville's airport I remember hearing the security agent listing off the same "requirement" to another passenger.

As an addition, the security agents at both Midway airport and O'Hare airport have never made me take off the same pair of shoes, inch thick soles or not. Next time I will have a copy of the TSA "requirements" printed out on me.

[Note: I had planned on researching TSA's requirements before getting this up online, but I really wanted to get this online as soon as possible, so I will either edit this entry later or post another one after I research what TSA says.]

User Journal

Journal Journal: 5pm 2

How is it 5pm and completely dark outside?

Nice lunar eclipse last night, though.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Octopus (Take 7) 1

More pictures...

Where's Pixel Part 1

Size reference

Where's Pixel Part 2

Finally, as promised, a movie [3.7meg AVI].

Note on the size picture: An octopusses's size is very relative. With a very fluid body, a lot of muscles, and no bones, an octopusses's volume can increase by over 100% based on what he wants. I have seen an arm that looks less than two inches long stretch to be well over four inches long.

And he is still eating a ton. I need to find some more food.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Octopus (Take 6) 1

I finished escape-proofing the aquarium this past weekend and so this evening I opened the terrarium and let Pixel out into the rest of the main tank.

He was very cautious at first, and then Righty got too close he even inked a little bit. He quickly snatched up the remaining Sally Lightfoot crab and a large red footed hermit crab and found a hiding spot under one of the rocks to feast.

I checked in on him a few minutes ago and I was glad to see him watching me from the safety and comfort of his hiding spot.

More pictures will come now that he is out in the wild (and in an aquarium where I can scrape the sides clean of algae - the growth was beginning to get thick on the sides of the terrarium, meaning I could not really take any good pictures or movies).

I keep freaking out that he will find some way to get out of the tank somehow and either end up on the floor or in the sump.


Journal Journal: Grades, and Panther

Grades for my students are due tomorrow at noon, and I just got done with mine (putting myself firmly in the faster half of all RCs, I believe).

Each quarter (that is four times a school year for those of you without a degree in math. Actually, come to think of it, that comment is probably better reserved for people that *do* have a degree in mathematics) I have to write several paragraphs about each of my twenty-four outstanding students.

This quarter's grades went even better than they usually do. It is sometimes a little difficult to write grades for students who are more on the quiet side, though. The quieter the student, the less I interact with them. The less I interact with them, the harder it is to write several paragraphs about their development.

But I am done with them. I did about two thirds of the work yesterday at an informational meeting in Evanston, IL put on by the NYU Department of Admissions. Being able to sit in the audience and accurately describe a student's aversion to doing housekeeping was well worth the price paid for the PowerBook.

I have already upgraded the PowerBook to Panther using the copy Apple kindly shipped to me via FedEx in exchange for $70 (.edu discount). It is a little different, but in general I am finding it well worth it. Expose is a wonderful feature, and almost worth the upgrade price alone. I am waiting to install Panther on the PowerMac until I (and developers) upgrade all of their software to make sure it will work with Panther.

Some problems I have noticed: iRC sends URLs with a space added at the end to Safari. Adium loses the screenname notification on the dock icon (The 2.0alpha release fixes this, but is late-alpha/early-beta quality software with an alpha feature set. It is stable for what it does, but not everything is there just yet). PithHelmet (ad blocking in Safari) is broken as well.

I was glad to see that Fink has finally gotten out a Panther-capable version. Tomorrow I shall install xCode on the PowerBook and get Fink installed on that finally.

Yesterday was an eventful day, with me spending about 6.5 hours in cars, all within the Chicago-land area. Traffic was crazy yesterday, and I went into the city twice, and into another 'burb once. Going into the city again tonight, as well.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Plans for cars...

So I went to an SCCA meeting on Wednesday. This morning I went to an SCCA Solo event at Route 66 Speedway (the event was actually held on the parking lot of the track).

I have always been interested in Solo, but I kept waiting until I got a car I could compete with. As much as I liked my old car, competing with a 25 year old beater was not what I wanted to be doing. Now, with the SUV, I am still waiting.

I will wait no more!

I will get involved now, even though I do not have a car. In the spring SCCA - Chicago offers instructional course for Solo.

I am not sure what I will be driving then, but I will definitely be there that weekend, and competing next year as well.

My current thoughts lean towards selling the Jeep (something I have been thinking about doing even before this) and picking up a $1500 beater to compete with. Since I do not do too much driving these days, I can put the money towards a car that will be more acceptable to compete in, rather than thinking about trying to combine practicality with competitive driving.

Right now I am thinking about trying to find an old Miata or similar car. I would prefer RWD, since that is what I have always driven, and if I am going to learn car control, I would rather learn in RWD. If worse comes to worse, though, I can pick up an old Celica or something else to at least have a car.

Some new tires, maybe some new shocks, and I am on my way...

As a friend of mine said today "Sometimes the best way to do something is just to actually do it."

(Thanks to L- for the inspiration to actually finally do this).

User Journal

Journal Journal: Octopus (Take 5) 1

[I saw a post in another journal that reminded me to post some more information about Pixel]

This weekend, while te kids were all gone for the long weekend, I spent getting ready to release Pixel from his temporary shelter in the terrarium inside the actual aquarium. For anyone unsure what, exactly, I am talking about when I say that, check out this picture.

I got a 29 gallon aquarium from a co-worker and filled that up with water and salt on Saturday afternoon. I put a couple of powerheads (submersible water pumps) in the tank and left.

It is now Monday night and I am still waiting for all of the salt to dissolve. This tank will be used as a tank to store food until I feed it to Pixel. Right now he is eating red-legged hermit crabs. These hermit crabs are bigger than the more common blue-legged hermit crabs.

Unfortunately, one of the first things the 50 red-legged hermit crabs did was to kill one of my two Sally Lightfoot crabs I had in the tank. I had noticed that this crab was a little weak, but I was still more than a little pissed off. Any regrets about feeding the hermit crabs to Pixel was gone at that moment.

A few days later, I feared that the hermit crabs had killed the other Sally Lightfoot. As it turns out, though, that crab had molted (discarded its outer shell in order to grow, much like a snake shedding skin). So now I have a perfect crab shell.

It looks like Lefty and Righty will be going back to the pet store. I thought about moving one of the fish into the feeder tank, but a 29 gallon tank is simply not large enough for Sergeant Majors. I think leaving them as food for Pixel is not very humane, either.

I also spent a little time doing some last minute escape-proofing to the tank. I installed velcro strips along the top rim of the tank. Velcro loops, like astroturf, does not feel good to octopuses, and will keep Pixel from throwing his legs over the side of the tank and making a jump.

I am going to borrow a digital cam-corder from our A/V department later on this week, so hopefully I will have some decent movies of Pixel moving about. I am slowly starting to figure out his "moods". He is playful at times, just moving around and having fun. Other times he is hunting. Most of the time, though, he is eating.

User Journal

Journal Journal: PowerBook (and Generation Y) 1

I got the PowerBook (shipped four days before it was scheduled to ship, and delivered a day earlier than it was scheduled to take from Taiwan).

All I can say is "Wow!" This is truly a nice machine. The RAM was delivered a day earlier, so I snapped that in and was off and running.

No more sitting in the office stuck with the Windows 98 computer I was forced to endure for 2.5 years. Now I get to pull in the PowerBook. I can even stream my MP3s from the PowerMac.

Earlier this week I went to a conference. One of the sessions I attended was on what they called "Millennials". I have heard them called Generation Y more often, and the name refers to the generation of people born from about 1981 until the present.

I have done some reading on my own about my own generation (Generation X, usually described as having been born from about 1963-1978 or so... The years are not completely set, there is some overlap, and some gap in some ways). It is an interesting field, to say the least.

Anyway, one of the things that was discussed in the session was the attitude of current Generation Y students at the high school and college level. A lot of them have an attitude that they are entitled to everything or, at least, a lot more than students who came before them.

My theory is that a lot of the psychology of a generation can be traced back to the culture of the world while they were growing up. Baby Boomers are heavily influenced by a post-war economy and the Cold War. Science was heavily pushed, and that effected the generation.

Generation Y was brought up in a time of political correctness. One component of this was making everyone feel like a winner. At least, no one should feel like a loser. Do not give trophies to the top three, give them to everyone who competed.

In the end, I wonder how this lack of ever "failing" has determined some of the psychology of students today. if showing up is 90%, and 90% is an A, does that mean that everyone who simply shows up should get an A?

You might laugh, but I feel that too often students have that sort of attitude.

Portables (Apple)

Journal Journal: Ordered the PowerBook 1

This Tuesday night I finally broke down and ordered a new 12" PowerBook.

I have been looking at them almost since they came out, and started getting more serious back in March, when they cut the prices. I could never justify the final cost, though - I simply do not travel that much. I try to travel about once a month, and I am pretty good about sticking to that. However, the PowerBook would still cost more than the entire rest of my travel budget for the year.

What finally did it, however, was trying to use the crappy computers they give us to use in the office. 400 MHz Celeron running Windows 98.

A friend of mine took a picture and put it up on his web site. He IMed me the link. I tried looking at it in K-Meleon. No luck (said it loaded the image, but the page was all white). Tried in Netscape 7.0 (they will not let us upgrade to 7.0.1 when the only addition was the pop-up blocker!). No go there. Tried in IE. Took down the entire computer.

You cannot imagine my level of frustration. I was sitting in the same building as my computer with month-long uptimes only interrupted by software upgrades, and I was having the most asinine problems with a computer.

The thing crashed if you looked at it incorrectly. Trying to get around DeepFreeze (which returns the computer to a standard configuration after each restart) was annoying. Of course they did not see fit to make Acrobat Reader a standard application for the DeepFreeze. I had to install it each time I needed to view a .pdf until the computer restarted again. They showed us how to use Netscape Calendar (an acceptable program, although I still prefer Palm Desktop) and removed that last semester. I was stuck using webmail because there was no decent mail client. They even prevented me from using Pine for several months! You cannot fully realize my level of frustration at this computer unless you have been using a Win98 machine for 20 hours a week for the last 2.5 years.

I decided I could justify the cost of the laptop by knowing that I could bring it into my office with me and work on it there.

I ordered a fairly packed 12" PowerBook. I went for the 60gig hard drive to save some money, and since my PowerMac has the DVD-R, I skipped on that, as well. I ordered a 512meg stick from, and that is already on its way.

One problem I already foresee - Panther is coming out soon. Hopefully I will be entitled to a free upgrade when that ships. I think Apple says that if your computer shipped in the last 30 days you can get the upgrade for free.

Oh, and while ordering I considered for a moment ordering an iSight (for .edu customers it is $130). It would be a nice toy to have, but I could see no serious use for now. I can always get one to play around with later.

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How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else. -- R. Buckminster Fuller