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User Journal

Journal Journal: in which i am a noob all over again 17

I haven't posted a journal here in almost three years, because I couldn't find the button to start a new entry. ...yeah, it turns out that it's at the bottom of the page.

So... hi, Slashdot. I used to be really active here, but now I mostly lurk and read. I've missed you.

User Journal

Journal Journal: a return which is long overdue (plus achievements!) 17

I've lurked at /. without posting for ages, mostly because I just don't have the time to interact like I used to.

But I've been clicking through the old RSS feed more and more lately, and when I saw the PAX Plague thread today, I came over to comment, since I'm kind of affected by the whole damn thing. I thought I'd take a look around since I haven't been here in awhile, and I saw that there are freaking ACHIEVEMENTS associated with our accounts. It's silly, and I'm sure it's been here forever, but I thought it was awesome and I was delighted when I read it.

I didn't realize how much I missed Slashdot until I spent some time here today, and I bet that anyone who joined in the last 2 years doesn't even give a shit about my stupid comments or anything, but it felt good to come back here, and feel safely among my people again.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Announcing the release of my new book 22

This feels like a mega-spam entry, and I'm very self conscious about posting it, but I'm excited about this and I wanted to share . . .

I just published my third book, The Happiest Days of Our Lives. I mention it here because it's all about growing up in the 70s, and coming of age in the 80s as part of the D&D/BBS/video game/Star Wars figures generation, and I think a lot of Slashdot readers will relate to the stories in it.

I published a few of the stories on my blog, including Blue Light Special. It's about the greatest challenge a ten year-old could face in 1982: save his allowance, or buy Star Wars figures?

After our corduroy pants and collared shirts and Trapper Keepers and economy packs of pencils and wide-ruled paper were piled up in our cart, our mom took our three year-old sister with her to the make-up department to get shampoo and whatever moms buy in the make-up department, and my brother and I were allowed to go to the toy department.

"Can I spend my allowance?" I said.

"If that's what you want to do," my mom said, another entry in a long string of unsuccessful passive/aggressive attempts to encourage me to save my money for . . . things you save money for, I guess. It was a concept that was entirely alien to me at nine years old.

"Keep an eye on Jeremy," she said.

"Okay," I said. As long as Jeremy stood right at my side and didn't bother me while I shopped, and as long as he didn't want to look at anything of his own, it wouldn't be a problem.

I held my brother's hand as we tried to walk, but ended up running, across the store, past a flashing blue light special, to the toy department. Once there, we wove our way past the bicycles and board games until we got to the best aisle in the world: the one with the Star Wars figures.

I'm really proud of this book, and the initial feedback on it has been overwhelmingly positive. I've been reluctant to mention it here, because of the spam issue, but I honestly do think my stories will appeal to Slashdotters.

After the disaster with O'Reilly on Just A Geek, I've decided to try this one entirely on my own, so I'm responsible for the publicity, the marketing, the shipping, and . . . well, everything. If this one fails, it will be because of me, not because a marketing department insisted on marketing it as something it's not.

Of course, I hope I can claim the same responsibility if (when?) it finds its audience . . . which would be awesome.


Journal Journal: i need a new computer - advice? 29

Simple tasks like switching between Firefox and Thunderbird are driving the load on my machine up over 4, and if I'm trying to run Amarok at the same time, it drives it up to 8. In fact, my machine frequently climbs up into the 7-9 range, bringing my apps to a crawl and frustrating the hell out of me.

So I've decided it's time to buy a new computer. I'm going to replace my aging Sony Vaio desktop machine (which runs Linux) with something newer that has more RAM, a faster processor, and a bigger hard drive.

The thing is, I'm not entirely sure where to start looking. A quick walk through Circuit City a month or so ago lead me to believe I can get a rather "big" computer for as low as five hundred bucks, which further leads me to believe that if I were to buy something online, I can get a huge pile of RAM, a fast processor, and a big honkin' hard drive for even less.

I run Kubuntu, and use KDE as my desktop (though I occasionally switch to Gnome when I get bored) and I mostly use Firefox, Thunderbird,, Amarok, and run PokerStars in wine. I'm looking for something that can do all of that without slowing my machine to a crawl.

Anyone have any suggestions on where to start looking?

Edit: I don't think I have the patience to build my own machine out of individual parts. I also don't have any real loyalty to any particular company or architecture. New Egg has lots of machines with AMD processors, and though I've always had Intel processors because more things seemed to run on x86, that's not as much of an issue as it once was, right?


Journal Journal: Oil Industry-sponsored FUD at Slashdot? 12

I am absolutely stunned that Slashdot's editors would give credibility to a completely false story, pushed by a paid industry PR professional. As Rugrat said,

The "article" is not an article, but a press release written by an employee of a public affairs company.

"Tom Harris is mechanical engineer and Ottawa Director of High Park Group, a public affairs and public policy company."

For a website that spends so much time and energy combating FUD from Microsoft, and the MPAA and RIAA, it is baffling that FUD that was paid for and is pushed by the oil industry would make the front page here.

Come on, Slashdot. You can do better.


Journal Journal: So, About Dapper . . . 24

For the last year or so, I've been happily using Debian, with a mixture of sources so I was stable, but current, just like nearly everyone who uses Debian.

Then I tried to upgrade or something insane like that, using aptitude, and the whole thing went tits up on me. No amount of cussing, kicking things, or actual tinkering with the software could save my machine.

I thought about asking for some advice in the Debian forums, or on one of the lists, until I ran out of fingers in my entire family tree to count the times someone said some variant of, "Shut up, noob! Your stoopid and not leet leik I am! Go back to Winblows! Ha! HA! HA!!!1"

Yeah. Guess I'm not venturing into those waters, so I figured I'd just have to grab my network install CD and start over (luckily, I set up /home on its own partition a long time ago, so if I fuck something up really bad, I don't lose all my porn very important data.

The day I planned to reinstall Debian, I read that Dapper Drake had been released, and everyone loved it so much, they totally wanted to marry it. A friend of mine, who is wise in the ways of science and the air speed velocity of unladen swallows has also been singing the praises of Ubuntu for a long, long time, so I grabbed a Live CD to see what all the fuss was about.

Holy shit. What an awesome bit of work it is! It's the first Linux distro to find every single bit of hardware on my old Sony Vaio desktop machine, including all the USB ports. It looked great, too, and was the most "Mac-like" Linux I've ever used.

I realize that a lot of you are mocking me right now, but listen for a second: I'm not interested in hacking on my kernel to make sure something is detected during boot, or modifying all sorts of settings in a text editor just so I can make the damn thing find my camera . . . and don't get me started about CUPS. I love technology, and I love and fully believe in "free" as in speech, and I'm grateful for free as in beer. But also really into "works," as in just does. And on my machine here, Dapper Drake just works, and it's awesome. This is the Linux distro that I can take to my parents, and to my friends who are drowning in a sea of FUD, and convince them that they don't really have to be part of the Borg if they don't want to.

And ultimately, I believe that has to be our goal if we're going to convince people to give Linux a real, serious try as an alternative to Windows. We need to be able to tell them, with confidence, "Put this CD in your machine, and give it a try. I think you'll like it, because it just works."


Journal Journal: play poker for a good cause on sunday july 17th 6

(Cross-posted to WWdN)

The final table of the 2005 World Series of Poker started at 4pm yesterday afternoon, and wasn't finished until just after 7am today. I'm not sure, but I think that's a record. I'd call Pauly to be sure, but something tells me he's crashed out until at least Sunday.

Two qualifiers from PokerStars made the final table, and one guy, who qualified using free play points, made it to the final two tables, finished in 13th place, and won $400,000. Not bad for a freeroll!

Speaking of Pauly and PokerStars, we're doing a charity tournament on Sunday in memory of Pauly's friend Charlie Tuttle:

Charlie is from Clarksville, Tennessee and he's a twenty-six year old music enthusiast who loves hanging out and playing poker with his friends. Charlie was dealt a bad hand in life when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, which he has been battling this past year. A couple of weekends ago, he was hospitalized because two tumors in his chest pressed up against his lungs, causing him breathing problems. I don't have to tell you how serious his condition was.

Felicia Lee, who is fighting her own battle with cancer, knows several top professional poker players, so she got several of her friends to call Charlie: John Juanda, Marcel Luske, Max Pescatori, and Barry Greenstein to name a few. In fact, when Barry Greenstein won his bracelet in the $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha event, he dedicated it to Charlie.

As Pauly wrote:

Situations like this one make you reassess what's really important in life. Las Vegas is a city built on greed. Poker is a game that often attracts some of the lowest forms of life. However, in the past two weeks, there has been a small group of professional poker players who have earned my respect and admiration. Amidst all the darkness and debauchery, I have caught a few glimpses of the bright side of humanity. The hearts of some of the biggest sharks in Las Vegas are filled with compassion.

Thank you, Charlie, for inspiring us all. We'll never forget you.

Charlie passed away on June 22 and his friends have organized a charity poker tournament this Sunday at PokerStars. It's going to be a lot of fun, and I hope to see lots of WWdN readers there.


18:00 EDT (15:00 CDT)
Buy-in is $20 — all of it goes to charity.
"WPBT Charlie Tournament" under Tourneys -> Private tab in the lobby

The Internet

Journal Journal: a little help? 28

I'm sure this is just begging for vandalism (unless those douchebags have grown up and finally kissed a girl) . . . but there is an error on my Wikipedia page that needs to be corrected. I'd do it myself, but that's against Wikipedia editing policy.

I am not in Brother Bear. Willie Wheaton, Wil Wheaton, Jr., and Reginald Maudling (Mrs.) are all not me. I've tried to get this taken off imdb, but someone (well-intentioned, I'm sure) keeps putting it back, and Wikipedia editors (also well-intentioned) are putting Brother Bear back up . . . so we're in an infinite improbability loop, and my towel is getting dirty.

Would someone please correct that, and cite this journal entry so it doesn't get corrected back?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Filming a movie near my house.... 2

A movie is being filmed just up the street from me. Yesterday Jon Heder, FKA Napolean Dynamite, walked right by me. I saw kids taking off hellbent after a golf cart with Adam Sandler in it. Rob Schneider was tossing a baseball around. I shook hands with Dennis Dugan. Pretty neat. Details and pics on my blog.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Pop Quiz I guess.

spell your name backwards: Smada Sacul Bej.
have you ever had a song written about you: No
what song makes you cry: Philadelphia by Neil Young
what song makes you happy:She Don't Use Jelly by The Flaming Lips
what's your all time fav. song?: Where is My Mind? by Pixies
what do you listen to before you go to sleep:Silence.
height: 5'8"
hair color: red
piercings: formerly left ear lobe

what color pants are you wearing:
what song are you listening to: The Immortal Dog & Pony Show by For Squirrels
what taste is in your mouth?: Sesame Sticks
whats the weather like?: bout 65F or so.
how are you?: Bored (obviously)
get motion sickness?: No
have a bad habit?: Nailbiter.
get along with your parents?: Yep
boyfriend/girlfriend: A wife
have a current crush: Nah.
have a big regret: Sure. I live in a world of regret. Everyone wants to be better.

tv show: Nova. Arrested Development is good.
conditioner: It's built right into my shampoo.
book: Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
non alcohol drink: Schwepps Lime Seltzer
alcohol drink:I teetotal. If I have to pick I'd say Bartenura Moscato Di Asti.
things to do on the weekend: Daven. Play some games. Watch my daighter grow.

broken the law:
Shoplifted in 8th grade. Got caught. (See regrets, above).
snuck out of the house: No need. I was good and my folks were permissive.
ever gone skinny dipping: Yeeeah. I think so. No clear recollection though.
made a prank phone call: Sure.
tipped over a port-a-potty: No. That's disgusting.
use your parents credit card: Nope. My Mom is poor and my Dad lives in a cash economy.
skipped school: Not til college--does that count?
fell asleep in the shower/bath: Yep.
been in a school play: Yep--King Arthur in the DPJHS rendition of Connecticut Yankee in [My] Court.
had a boyfriend/girlfriend: Lemme see: Amy, then Shelley, then Toni, then Hadar. Married the last one.
had children: Yes: The Noosh!
been in love: Derf.
have a hard time getting over someone: Oh hell yes. See regret, above.
gone out with someone you only knew for 3 days: Nay.

have a job:
your cd player has what in it right now: Probably some Israeli Children's disc.
if you were a crayon, what color would you be?: burnt umber.
what makes you happy?: Learning. Teaching. Wondering.
the next CD you're going to buy: Likely none. I've embraced ITMS.

you got a real letter:
Yesterday--it's Holiday season.
got an email: 22 minutes ago.
thing you purchased: groceries.
Tv program you watched: Hmm. I saw a Frontline two weeks ago. I don't watch much TV.
movie you saw in the theaters:The Incredibles.
kissed:This morning.
hugged: See above.
song heard: Here Comes Your Man by Pixies.
place you were [besides home]: Work.
phonecall: 10 minutes ago. Someone in FL wants Rose Petals--STAT!
you were depressed: Beats me. Am I supposed to self-diagnose now?
you were in the hospital: When my daughter had to get a jaundice test--10 months ago.

I got nothin'.
murder: That creepy Minority Report girl saying it as she slips into the milky brew.
cape: Cod?
penis: Vagina.
cell: virus.
shoe: Docs.
fun: Katamari Damacy.
crush: cans.
music: I'm listening to a song right now, so that kind of took over.
chalk: hopscotch.

NUMBER. . . :
of time you've been in love:
of girls you have kissed: 4 in a hot way. I have a zillion relatives though.
of boys you have kissed: Many European relatives and friends. None in the hot way.
of times your name has appeared in a newspaper: One time, I think. Street Interview after college graduation.
of scars on your body: 6 or 7. Chicken Pox, a head gash, some growths nicked out, some old one on my wrist I don't recall, etc.
of things in your past you regret: Whole bunch. See regret, above.

funny:I'm waaay funnier than you, for sure.
hot: No.
friendly: Yeah, I have manners too.
ugly: Yeah, I guess.
loveable: Mmm. Tough call. I can be standoffish.
caring: Yeah.
sweet: Probably not. Maybe.
dorky: Cripes--do you see where this is posted?

I've got a newfound respect for Buster Keaton
least favorite day: Tisha B'Av.
flower: Morning Glory.
jello flavor: Jello's not kosher--it's made from horses feet.
summer/winter: Summer.

slept in your bed:
My wife and I.
saw you cry: Wife.
sent you an email: Some client.

said i love you and meant it:
went out in public in pjs:Yeah. They looked legit though.
kept a secret from everyone: Yes.
been to new york: Yes.
to california: I live there.

last cigarrete:
sophomore year.
last cry: The first blessing I said over my daughter. Friday, February 20th.
last book read: Working on one now. Finished the last about 6 days ago.
last curse word uttered: Maybe an hour ago?
last beverage drank: Current.
last food consumed: 30 minutes ago.
last phone call: 17 seconds ago.
showered: 6:50 AM.
last shoes worn: Beat-to-shit Skechers on my feet.
last cd played: two days ago?
last thing written: Email, maybe an hour ago.
last word spoken: "Brainerd? I think that's in Wisconsin."
last sleep: 6:47 AM.
last im: Weeks ago.
sexual fantasy: 6:52 AM.
last ice cream eaten: Cherry Garcia Frozen Yogurt two days ago.
last time wanting to die: Not yet.
User Journal

Journal Journal: History of First Post on /. ? 4

I get the moderator points, I read at -1 when I have them (normally I read at +4 because I am an elitist shit), and I wonder in amazement at the "fp" phenomenon. It's something I'm really not getting. At least trolls seem to have a purpose in life (to annoy others), but the motivation for an fp is beyond my comprehension.

The Wikipedia has an article on "First Post" here, but it doesn't really go to motivation. Is it just boredom? Is it a troll-by-any-other-name? Are these folks actually proud of the accomplishment? I have to admit, I "Foe" anyone dumb enough to FP with an actual UID--is that what they want?

I wonder what the first "First Post" entry was? The first entry at Slashdot to consist solely of "fp" and "first post" as its subject and body, or any combination thereof. I would search OSDN but I think the Internet would stop.

I think far more interesting would be "Last Posting". Somehow sneaking in and getting the last comment before the discussion becomes archived. Maybe that's trivial--do the stories all archive at a set time? What if posting meant the comments stayed open a a little longer? Then getting last post would be a real challenge.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Wal-Mart bought my house

Actually, it's still buying it. I work for a supplier to Wal-Mart. I'm a little conflicted. I like Mom & Pop stores and stuff, but I'm employed solely because Wal-Mart buys about a zillion dollars worth of stuff from my boss. Why just on Tuesday they purchased four times my salary from us. They purchase 4 times a week. So, the reason I can make my mortgage payments is because Wal-Mart overwhelmed my boss enough to hire an account manager for this behemoth.

What do you think?


Journal Journal: Starsky and Hutch 12

I just got back from Starsky and Hutch.

Surprisingly funny. I bet the DVD will be great.

Best part was how anyone in the theatre under 30 didn't get about 70% of the best jokes.

Now I'm hoping that they'll make a CHiPs movie. I wonder what other late 70s to early 80s TV shows would translate well into movies?

Oh, and if you're not watching TRIO every night, you're really missing out on some fantastic television.


Journal Journal: Writing with Open Source tools 30

There's no "Ask Slashdot" topic available for user journals, but I am intrigued by this reader's question, and I thought it was worth a try to tap into the collective wisdom of Slashdot.

Hi Wil,

you mentioned some time ago in your blog that you did a presentation on writing your book(s) using open source tools. Have you posted these slides (or whatever the medium was) anywhere?

I'm asking as I am about to embark on a writing project that will be north of 80,000 words (assuming I get past the 5,000 word 'pain barrier' that killed me last time) and recent experience with M$ Word has, quite frankly, scared the bejaysus out of me.

Anyways, if you get this it would be great to see you share some of your experiences using OSS to write.



I replied:

Hi Conrad,

Sadly, I didn't use any slides . . . that's *way* over my level of preparation for anything I do.

My talk pretty much focused on how I used to compose and edit my two current books, and what some of the pitfalls were.

I can summarize briefly for you: OO.o is a fantastic word processing suite, and did everything that I needed it to do. I was particularly impressed by the "stylist" in OO.o, which exists, I think, because they use some sort of XML-ish language behind the scenes. The stylist allowed me to assign something similar to "classes" to diffferent areas of my text, and was extremely useful in the design of "Just A Geek."

The only time I ran into an annoying limitation was moving to and from the .doc format, because OO.o and MSWord don't play nicely in regards to formatting. I worked around this by using .rtf format, when I needed to send my work out to other people (for notes and stuff). There were a few limitations in formatting, but they were purely aesthetic and didn't affect the actual data in any way.

I briefly looked at Abiword and KOffice, and found them both to be well-written and stable, but they were far more limited than OO.o.

In terms of just putting together a manuscript without regard to formatting, you could work very easily with Kwrite, or Kate, the same way that many other writers use BBEdit on the Mac.

When I finally had a finished product that I liked, I used to print to a .ps file, then used the ps2pdf13 command line tool to convert it into a .pdf document, which I sent to my printer. I understand that the newest version of OO.o has a very robust built-in pdf converter which makes that extra step unnecessary. I should also point out that converting files to .pdf on *nix always results in smaller filesizes than if you'd done it on a Mac or Windows platform. Hooray for us.

I'll post this e-mail to my Slashdot journal (CleverNickName) and maybe some of the Slashdotters will have good advice of their own to share with us.

Best of luck with your novel. Just go one scene at a time, and you'll be past 5K words before you know it!


My presentaton was pretty much limited to "I like this, I don't like this, and this thing was cool." I didn't have the time to get into a 1:1 comparison among all the different Open Source word processing suites. Do Slashdotters have any comments or suggestions? I find myself using Kate more and more when I compose weblog entries or shorter columns for magazines and the like. I occasionally use Abiword to compose and format letters and fax covers when time is a factor (Abiword loads much faster than

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