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December 2001 Archives

December 2, 2001

It's a building with generals and soldiers. But that's not important right now.

I actually met someone here (in ASC, actually) who has used MPI.

He's another reservist, like me -- I think he was a Major, but he might have been a Lieutenant Colonel. He did his Master's thesis in AI using MPI to simulate his system (mostly MPMD stuff, actually) . He used mainly HP MPI because he was working on big HP iron. I pimped LAM to him, of course.

He teaches computer science at... err... I can't remember what school, offhand... It was a good conversation, though.


Notre Dame won their last football game this season against Purdue. I didn't get to see the game because ABC chose to show the Oregon/Oregon State game here instead. Bonk. It's somewhat ironic that we beat them, but they're bowl-eligible and we're not. Ah well.

Notre Dame formally fired Bob Davie today. As with many people I know, I feel bad for Bob Davie -- all indications are that he's a fairly nice guy. But he hasn't produced as a football coach, so he's gotta go.

Good luck, Bob. Now hopefully Notre Dame will get to have a good football team again... :-)


I enabled my "extended absence greeting" on my cell phone so that people stop leaving me voice mails there. Since I'm in analog country 95% of the time down here, I don't get asynchronous notifications when I receive voice mail. Hence, I have to actually call and check if I've got voice mail. Blech.

I've already got voice mail at 2 other locations (work and home); I don't want to have to check yet another place for messages.

"Extended absence greeting" is a nifty feature from Verizon that does exactly what I want it to do. I put a message on there something like, "I don't check this voice mail often. If you want to leave me a message, send a voice mail to one of my other systems, or send me an e-mail."

Now, if you call my cell phone, it plays that message and then Verizon says, "Press <something> to disconnect, or, if you want to leave a message anyway..."

Quite handy.


Tracy's cousin Aaron got married in Indiana this weekend; Tracy's whole family was there. I was supposed to be there as well, but, er, well... I was a bit detained here in Arizona. :-)

December 6, 2001

I guess the foot's on the other hand now, Kramer!

The Space Episode of News Radio was on tonight.

Some things are great no matter where you are. :-)


A bunch of you have been asking how I've been adjusting down here. I do appreciate that; thanks for asking.


So here's a little more background on what I do for the Army.

In a previous entry, I mentioned the frightening litany of acronyms of organizations that my organization falls under. Lemme make it a little more clear:

  • At the top level is the Department of Defense (DoD)

  • Next comes the Army (no cool acronym)

  • Next comes the Army Materiel Command (AMC)

  • Next comes the Software Engineering Center (SEC)

  • Next comes the Battlespace Systems Support Directorate (BSSD)

  • Then comes my organization: Intelligence Fusion Systems (IFS)

  • In my organization, there are three operations -- I'm in the Tactical Automation Support branch (TAS)

See, that's simple, isn't it? DoD Army AMC SEC BSSD IFS TAS.

<sidenote>

Where I was before -- the Army Research Lab (ARL) -- is also under AMC. I don't know offhand what center they are under, but it isn't SEC.

</sidenote>

IFS is basically the organization that does the software support and development for Military Intelligence software in the Army. IFS is the only component of BSSD that resides at Ft. Huachuca. AMC SEC ISEC is also here at Ft. Huachuca (they're actually upstairs in the same building as us, plus they have a second building for testing and whatnot) -- Information System Engineering Command (ISEC) is a sister organization to SEC.

I'm in the TAS branch of the IFS, which is essentially the operations side of the house -- we're responsible for all the units out and around in this big world who are currently using our software. We dispatch Field Software Engineers (FSEs) with units who are currently deployed in situations or exercises; we monitor bug reports... sorry, "Software Problem Reports" (SPRs); we coordinate with the development side of the house to ensure that SPRs are incorporated into the next version of software, train the units who receive our hardware/software, monitor and run all the financial aspects of the process (bug fixes, FSEs, releasing, training -- all these things cost money, and where that money comes from is frequently a very complicated question).

We're essentially the sustainment division of a software shop --
we just happen to sustain intelligence software to military units.

Another branch in IFS -- the Software Engineering Team (SET) -- is responsible for the development of the next versions of our software packages. They basically maintain the current generation of the packages (say, version X.Y, and X.(Y+1), etc.).

A whole different group is responsible for the planning and development of the next generation of the software packages ((X+1).0, and (X+1).1, etc.). Not only are they a whole different group, they use a whole different contractor (Lockheed Martin, in this case). This creates interesting political situations, to say the least. :-)

Once they reach a "stable-enough" version, they deploy it out to all the field units and give the software over to us -- we do the sustainment.

Make sense? It does make sense. Really.

Now get this -- CECOM has about 2500 people (IIRC). There's only about 200 military personnel in that number; the rest are civilians. Weird, eh?

This is one reason that what I'm now doing is totally different than what I've done in the Army so far. I had no idea that there was such a huge machine in the Army for the support and development of the common soldier. That is, I knew there were plenty of external organizations that provided support for the Army -- I didn't know that the Army itself had an enormous mechanism for these kinds of things.

The majority of experience that I have previously had in the Army
-- the Apache battalion at Ft. Knox -- was under FORSCOM (Forces Command, as opposed to AMC). That's what one typically thinks of when one thinks of the military -- the stereotypes with sergeants, commanders, privates, etc. That's what I'm used to, so that's why this is so different for me.


Monday was MAJ Ferguson's promotion ceremony -- he's a Major now (he was a Captain). The ceremony was in our (IFS)'s conference room, and a whole bunch of people attended -- most of the IFS staff, a bunch of the contractors and management from our main contractor here in Sierra Vista (a company named Ilex), MAJ Ferguson's immediate family, his parents, and his in-laws. His father-in-law is a Colonel (O-6) in the Army Tricare system (the medical "insurance" program for the Army, for lack of a longer explanation). It was a good ceremony, and CPT Ferguson became MAJ Ferguson.

Cool stuff.


Today and yesterday the director of CECOM SEC -- a civilian with the rank equivalent of a one star general -- was here visiting.

Think of it this way -- he's the director of our parent's parent organization. Yep -- he's the Big Cheese. We had lots of briefings for him and he met with lots of people here (both within IFS and with other tenants of Ft. Hucachua).

I got a coin for CECOM SEC -- very cool stuff. Army coins are decorative coins bigger and thicker than half-dollars. They're quite elaborate and typically have logos and mottos of the organization. The CECOM SEC coin is actually the nicest Army coin I've ever seen.

One typically receives coins as awards. Mr. Thomas handed out several coins to IFS personnel for various 9/11 activities. My coin was for being activated and some of the things that I've done since I've been here. Not quite as noble as 9/11 activities, but good enough, I suppose!

I got another coin from MAJ Ferguson's father in law -- a Tricare coin. This wasn't for anything in particular; I just shared a few of my old Apache battalion patches with him. So that was pretty cool --
two coins in one day!


I've made a few taps for my car with the boom-box that I brought with me from Kentucky. Unfortunately, it has the annoying "feature" of inserting a 2 second gap between songs. This is particularly annoying with tracks that run together with no audio spacing.

Ugh!

I'm doing all that I can. And stop calling me Shirley.

Minor mistake in my last entry... I said that ISEC fell under the SEC. Not so. ISEC is a sibling organization to SEC. That is, it goes like this:

DoD Army CECOM SEC
and
DoD Army CECOM ISEC

Whoops!


Perk e-mailed me today asking if I had any recollection of an journal entry that I wrote long ago about "CR-114" from Dr. Strangelove.

I knew at once what he meant -- the "CRM-114" is the encryption device used on the Air Force planes in Dr. Strangelove. However, I only had a really dim recollection about a journal entry that I may have written about it.

So I dug through my journal archives and didn't find any references to it. Hmm.

So I dug through my mail archives.

After searching through 233MB of old mail, I found the mail in question: it was in a mail that I sent to Jeremy, Kevin, Brian, Pete, Arun, and Perk on Sunday, October 3, 1999. Check this out:

Subject: Dr. Strangelove / Back to the Future

So I was watching Back to the Future today (it was on USA). Remember at the very beginning when Michael J. Fox is hooking up his guitar to the massive speaker? You see him flipping all kinds of switches and turning several knobs, etc.

I just happened to notice that one of the switches that he flips to the "on" position is labeled "CRM-114".

The astute reader will recognize "CRM-114" as the name of the encryption device used on the Air Force planes in Dr. Strangelove (I just saw Dr. Strangelove again a few weeks ago, and they mention the name "CRM-114" at least a dozen times). Strangely enough, the CRM-114 in Back to the Future, just like the CRM-114 in Dr. Strangelove, gets fried and blows up.

So do you think that "Back to the Future" is actually an apoloectic (sp?) realization of the doom prophesied in "Dr. Strangelove"?

Discuss.

Howzat for the random-reference-of-the-month?


Latency out of Ft. Huachuca is really sucky tonight.

Blech.


Here's another weird [tech] story...

We got a report yesterday from some random sysadmin that he has some user that subscribes to the LAM mailing list in MIME digest form. It appears that GNU Mailman is appending a string to the end of its MIME digests, "\nEnd of xxxx digest\n".

This is all fine and good, except that it comes after the last MIME boundary separator. Hence, it's technically not part of any body part in the message.

Apparently, this crashes their mail server!

That's right, not the user's mail client -- it crashes their mail server!
I don't know what kind of sorry excuse they have for a mail server that a single "malformed" message causes it to crash, but apparently this is a repeatable occurrence. Doh!

The sysadmin asked if we could fix out errant listserver.

Being a good netizen, I investigated and found the place in MailMan (it's all in python) and found right where the "End of xxxx digest" string is being added to the end of digest mails. I changed the logic slightly so that this string is only added when the digest is being sent out in non-MIME form. No biggie.

I tested it (since I was doing this on a live system -- don't try this at home, kids!) and forced a digest message to be sent out to a test list. I received the message in pine and it all looked good --
no "End of xxxx digest" message. Rock on.

As a sanity check, I edited Mailman to put the "End of..." message back and forced another digest message to be sent. Looking at this second message in pine, I still didn't see the "End of xxxx digest". Hmm. So I looked at my raw mail file on the mail server, and I did see that string at the end of the message.

WTF?

A nagging thought occurred to me... a throwback from long, long ago when I was working on a web mail client from a prominent web hosting provider.

I did a quick Google search and found RFC 2822 ("The" RFC that governs e-mail -- a second generation to the original RFC 822, actually). This cross-referenced me to the MIME RFCs -- 2045, 2046, 2047, and 2048.

I found that my dim recollection was right: message authors are allowed to put extra junk before the first MIME delimiter and after the last MIME delimiter if they want to. A conformant MIME implementation will ignore this junk.

From section 5.1.1 of RFC 2046, "Common Syntax":

There appears to be room for additional information prior to the first boundary delimiter line and following the final boundary delimiter line. These areas should generally be left blank, and implementations must ignore anything that appears before the first boundary delimiter line or after the last one.

NOTE: These "preamble" and "epilogue" areas are generally not used because of the lack of proper typing of these parts and the lack of clear semantics for handling these areas at gateways, particularly X.400 gateways. However, rather than leaving the preamble area blank, many MIME implementations have found this to be a convenient place to insert an explanatory note for recipients who read the message with pre-MIME software, since such notes will be ignored by MIME-compliant software.

Hence, since Mailman is putting this "End of xxxx digest" string after the last MIME delimiter, pine is [rightfully] ignoring it and not displaying it to me.

In other words -- Mailman is perfectly conformant to put that string at the end after the last MIME delimiter.

You gotta love it when you can quote RFC's to someone. :-)

So I didn't file a bug report with Mailman, and just because I'm such a nice guy, I left the "End of xxxx digest" message out of lam-mpi.org's mailman server, but I did recommend that they upgrade their mail server. :-)


Random note: I'm starting to see more and more software packages starting to use Autoconf 2.52.

December 11, 2001

Flight 209, now arriving at gate 8... gate 9... gate 10...

This week's theme: if it's not cranberry, it's crap!!

(say it with a Scottish accent for 37% more effectiveness)


This past Saturday, I played golf for the first time.

Well, strictly speaking, I played golf once before -- during a bachelor party -- but I don't think that counts. :-)

Tim took me to a golf course in Naco, Arizona. He's been an avid golfer for a long time, apparently -- he even golfed competitively in high school. Naco is about 30 minutes southeast from Sierra Vista. There's a big fence that goes through the middle of the town that divides the US from Mexico. Amazing.

We got there pretty early, so Tim took me to the driving range and we hit balls for about an hour. He gave me the basics of how to swing, etc. I even had a few decent shots. We paired up with two other guys (Jeff and Martin) and teed off around 8:30am.

Needless to say, even though I had the random decent shot, my game was pretty dismal. The other guys were remarkably patient. All in all, it was pretty fun.

It was fairly cold when we started; when the sun came up, the wind started. It was really windy! Unfortunately, the wind never died down, and the sun wasn't enough to make it warm, so it was a cold wind. So Tim and I ended up only playing 9 holes -- we were sufficiently wind burned and cold as hell, so we took a rain check from the club to get the remaining 9 holes. Jeff and Martin continued on (after 2 shots of tequila to warm up, of course!).

I have a lot of work to do on my swing before I go back for those last nine holes.


ND's got a new football coach. All I know about this guy is that we stole him from Georgia Tech.

ND just stole their OIT director, as well.

Good luck!


The TV show Alias rocks. It's got all kinds of delectable twists and turns. Good stuff!


I bought some audio tapes this past weekend and have started taping some of my CDs so that I have something to listen to in the car (remember that the radio stations suck here in Sierra Vista). These tapes sound much better than my 10-15 year old tapes... imagine that!


On Sunday, I helped install the Symantic Raptor firewall at work. None of us had any experience with firewalls, so it took a few tries and some trial and error to get it to do what we needed to do. We actually left the firewall in a secondary role to the proxy servers so that we could continue to tweak the firewall over the next week and gradually migrate all the users to it.

Unfortunately, what we didn't know is that there are a significant number of remote users who use MS Outlook to connect to our MS Exchange server. We discovered that on Monday morning when they all started calling asking why they couldn't connect to the Exchange server anymore ('cause the firewall was blocking them). Doh. :-(

We fought with the firewall all friggen' day and couldn't get it to allow Outlook clients to connect from outside. Arrgghh!!! Needless to say, many users were pretty upset. Oops. :-(

"I fought the firewall, and the 'wall won..."

So we ended up backing out the entire firewall configuration and restoring the original setup. We'll try again this upcoming weekend. Blech.


I also toured the Army Signal Command (ASC) Theater Network Operations and Security Center (TNOSC). It's in a Secure Compartmentalized Information Facility (SCIF) -- you have to have a security clearance to get in. Indeed, MAJ F and I had to to surrender our cell phones at the entrance, as well as be escorted at all times during the tour, and several people had to turn off/cover up their monitors while we were in there.

It was kinda neat, actually -- the TNOSC is the help desk for the entire Army in the continental US. They have operators that answer calls for problems ranging from password lockouts to entire installation (as in an Army Major Command [MACOM], such as Southern Command, Forces Command, etc.) network connectivity issues. Calls generate trouble tickets that get passed off to an army of engineers (no pun intended -- there are a large number of engineers who actually do the problem solving!).

They also monitor the security of the entire army.mil network. There's a big row of monitors for all the IDS detectors -- all the IDS information in army.mil comes into this one room. Cool stuff.


The OSCAR group moved the weekly teleconference to Tuesday afternoons -- so I can now participate. Woo hoo! Previously, the weekly teleconf was on Wednesday mornings during our weekly briefing from Ilex, our main contractor -- something I couldn't really skip.

December 16, 2001

Tell 'em to win one for the Zip

Sodas are relatively cheap on post; $0.50 in the machines.


There are an amazing 14 bugle calls a day here at Ft. Huachuca.

Here's the list:

  1. 0555: First call. First signal for formation or roll call.

  2. 0600: Reveille. Raise and honor the US flag.

  3. 0635: Mess call. Announce the serving of the breakfast meal.

  4. 0715: Sick call. Announce the beginning of sick call.

  5. 0731: Drill call / Church call. Call for soldiers to begin training or attend church.

  6. 1150: Recall. Call to reassemble, indicating the end of the training period.

  7. 1200: Mess call. Announce the serving of the noon meal.

  8. 1245: Drill call. Call for soldiers to begin training.

  9. 1615: Recall. Call to reassemble, indicating the end of the training period.

  10. 1630: Retreat. Retire and honor the US flag.

  11. 1635: Mess call. Announce the serving of the evening meal.

  12. 2130: Tattoo. From the Thirty-Years War -- call to prepare to be called to quarters.

  13. 2145: Call to quarters. Call before Taps to summon soldiers to quarters.

  14. 2200: Taps. Last call at night; lights out.

The bugle calls are played over speakers outside all over post. Most of them apply to the enlisted training that goes on here at Ft. Huachuca (Ft. H. is a TRADOC post -- Training Doctrine -- so there's a bunch of enlisted and officer schools here for various Military Intelligence types of things).


Not to be outdone by Ft. H. itself, Greely Hall (my building) has taken to playing Christmas music in the hallways randomly throughout the day.


I got stopped for a random search at the gate yesterday morning. Good to see that tough security measures are still in place.


I love the alarm clock in my cell phone. Here's why.

Seriously -- have you ever used the alarm clocks in hotel rooms? They usually work, but sometimes they're analog (which leads to inaccuracy), sometimes you screw them up and set them to "PM" when you meant to set them to "AM", etc. Plus, the exact controls for setting an alarm clock, while relatively standardized these days, are never exactly the same, so you have to figure it out every new place you go.

I don't know about you, but when I'm getting ready for bed, I just want to set my alarm clock and then go to sleep -- I don't want to have to expend brain power to figure out a new alarm clock when I'm ready for bed. Is this rocket science? Absolutely not. But it's more complicated than it needs to be.

Having an alarm clock in my cell phone means that I always use the same interface, thereby helping avoid the possibility that I screw up and set the wrong wakeup time. Plus, the phone is digital so it syncs with whatever the local time zone is -- it's always on the "right" time.

This translates to a lower degree of stress when I go to sleep.

So I literally sleep better knowing that I have an alarm clock in my phone.

I upgraded my phone a few months ago ("upgrade" is probably a strong word; it went for "not working" to "working"; I guess that's the ultimate upgrade). I basically got the same phone, just a newer model. I asked the sales lady if the new model had the alarm clock feature. She looked at me really weird. "No one has ever asked me that question before," she said.

If only everyone used their cell phone alarm clocks, the world would be a happier place.


Since I've now got new tapes to record some CDs on (to listen to in my car), I've thrown away a bunch of my old tapes. On the one hand, I've thrown away part of my history -- many of those tapes dated back to high school. On the other hand, they really sounded crappy.


Before I deployed, I put a bunch of CDs on my laptop for casual listening. There was a mish-mash of MP3s and Ogg/Vorbis files (I had totally forgotten that some of them were oggs, actually). I discovered that I created the Ogg files poorly; the filenames didn't reflect the track name. Doh!

So I'm re-creating all of them with the latest, greatest CVS copy of the Ogg encoder. I'm also encoding them at 160kbps (all my other stuff is at 128kbps) to see if they sound any better. Lummy swears that he can tell the difference between 128 and 160kbps MP3s.

Ogg is still in a "beta" state; I'm holding off on re-encoding all my CDs until Ogg goes stable for a little while.


The director of CECOM was here this past week (a two star general). He came by for about an hour for a briefing from IFS on Tuesday. I got about five minutes of his time to brief him what I was doing.

After I was finished, MAJ F. told him that I am one of the reservists activated for Enduring Freedom. He asked me what I did in civilian life, so I told him that I am working on finishing my Ph.D. in Computer Science at Notre Dame. We chatted about this for a minute or two, and I (of course) ended up pimping LAM to him.

He asked for an abstract of my Ph.D., so I printed one out for him, as well as the abstract to a general LAM talk that I gave last year at LLNL.

How cool is that?


The Subversion project appears to be coming along nicely. I played with it a bit last week; I'm looking forward to when it goes stable.

I submitted a small patch w.r.t. checking the version number of the Berkeley DB package; it was accepted into the code base.


While I do enjoy the fact that my Palm Pilot talks to MS Outlook, it has [of course] some annoying "features":

  • For events that are created in Outlook that are later synced to the Pilot:
    • They are created in the "home" time zone on the Pilot rather than the "Arizona" timezone, which is the time zone that I have my Pilot make new events in
    • They use the default pilot alarm rather than the DateBk4 alarm (although sometimes they use both alarms -- I haven't figured out the exact correlation yet)

  • For to-do items that are created in Outlook that are later synced to the Pilot:
    • They don't set a default due date, so even if they are completed, they carry forward and are displayed on the next day

  • For events that are created on the Palm and layer synced to Outlook:
    • Outlook ignores all time zone settings. For example, if I set an event at 8am EST on the Pilot, Outlook will make the event at 8am, not whatever the local time should be (6am, since I'm in MST). This is perhaps the most annoying "feature".

I'm pretty sure that at least some of these are problems with the Chappura PocketMirror conduit, not Outlook itself. But they're still annoying.


It's snowed here twice this week; it's been in the 30s and 40s all week. The snow melts by mid-morning, but it's stayed white up on the upper parts of the nearby mountains the entire week. I've had to scrape my car just about every morning this week. Ugh.

It doesn't help that my ice scraper sucks. I drove all over town yesterday looking for a new ice scraper. Everyone is sold out because of the recent weather. Double plus ugh.


The scenery here can be quite amazing at times.

Explanatory note: Ft. Huachuca is backed up to the edge of several mountains. When you drive on to Ft. H, you're driving straight towards the mountains. Sierra Vista is directly next to Ft. H. The area around Sierra Vista is miles and miles of open land. Visibility is typically around 30+ miles.

Yesterday morning, when I was driving to Greely, the mountains were absolutely breathtaking. There was a set of enormous thick, full, smooth clouds directly on top of the mountains (and not another cloud in the sky -- they were only over the mountains themselves); they looked like an entire second set of mountains on top of the real mountains. Not only that, but they were low enough such that the tops of the real mountains were obscured; there was no gap between the bottom of the clouds and the tops of the mountains.

With the winds at the top of the mountains, it looked like the cloud mountains were "spilling over" onto the real mountains; a truly beautiful effect.

Later in the day, I looked up at the mountains again and noticed that the snow abruptly stops about halfway down the mountain. I would have expected a gradual tapering off of the snow down the sides of the mountains (since there's no snow on the ground in Sierra Vista), but it's actually a fairly abrupt change. Pretty neat-looking.

As I was driving onto Ft. H. this morning, there was a 3/4 ring of clouds around Sierra Vista, bounded by the mountains. It was pretty trippy; it was like Sierra Vista was in the eye of a storm. The skies directly overhead were completely clear and the mountains are in full view, but starting about 5-10 miles out, the horizon consists of a dark, murky mist that gradually merges up with the blue sky above it.

It was kind of like Sierra Vista had a wall of clouds around it. Trippy.


In light of last week's failure in setting up the firewall, Ken (the contractor sysadmin) and I spent some time yesterday setting up a standalone lab in the machine room to play with firewall configurations. We setup the firewall itself, a simulated "outside" machine, two simulated "inside" workstations, and a web/mail server that will sit in a "DMZ".

Hence, the firewall will have 3 NICs: one to the outside world, one to the inside world, and one to the "DMZ". All incoming traffic will be funneled to the DMZ -- no incoming traffic will be allowed to the inside world.

So we'll play with that over the next week or two before we try to go live with the firewall again.

December 22, 2001

Sister, you're wanted on the phone

I caught a matinee of Lord of the Rings today.

I got there only a few minutes before the movie began; there were only 9 seats left in the theater (according to the ticket computer). The poor ticket woman at the theater in this small town looked frazzled; she said, "I've never seen anything like this!"

It was quite an enjoyable movie -- I recommend seeing it in the theater. It's very long (3 hours), but I didn't look at my watch once. Great special effects, some fantastic fight scenes, and good background information for those who haven't read the books make the movie worth seeing.

Interestingly enough, the movie presents some information in a different order than is given in the book. That is, some information that is given only towards the end (as flashbacks and story re-telling) of the book is given in chronological order in the movie. Makes the overall story make a bit more sense, actually, and is kinda necessary if you haven't read the book.

Overall, I give it 30 minutes. I might even go see it again.


While I was watching LOTR, Tracy went out and bought a new car.

Recall that I was originally going to bring my own car down here to Ft. H. However, upon taking my car in for a checkup before driving all the way out here to Arizona, we discovered a whole bunch of problems with it. Doh!

So I took Tracy's car down here, and we decided that Tracy would buy a new car. So after months of homework and research, Tracy went out and bought an Acura 3.5 TL today.

Woo hoo! It's a 4-door sedan-type vehicle; silver with a black interior. Pictures will likely be forthcoming soon.

Tracy is very excited about it. :-)

We decided to donate my old car to a local charity (just 'cause we're such nice people) and take the tax benefit. I think my car must have known this, because while it was sitting in the Acura parking lot and Tracy was signing the paperwork to buy her new car, it got a flat tire.

What timing!

Since Tracy had literally just bought a new car, the Acura people were quite friendly in helping change the tire, etc. So my old car made it to the charity place -- albeit slightly limping on its spare tire. :-)


It seems like there is no caching of DNS lookups on my laptop. For example, doing "ssh somewhere.com" twice in a row will result in a lengthy wait each time while resolving the name. It's even more obvious with something like ncftp where it tells you "Resolving something.com..."

This doesn't seem normal. Grumble.


The Army gateway to Yahoo! IM really sucks. It crashes, hangs up, and is generally a version or two behind the Yahoo! protocols. So Tracy and I switched to MSN this week. Ugh. It pains me to do it, but a) it works from my Army desktop (something that I'm sure will not work anymore when we finally get the firewall installed), and b) is much more reliable and durable.

Oh well.

December 30, 2001

It's a damn good thing he doesn't know how much I hate his guts. ((pause) It's a damn good thing you don't know how much he

Back in Sierra Vista.

I spent the last week in Ft. Myers, FL, with Tracy and the in-laws. It was nice to get out of AZ and be with family for the holidays.

Highlights of the week:

  • Got to hang out w/ Tracy's brother Mark and his wife Amy
  • Saw Harry Potter again, along with A Beautiful Mind (more below on that)
  • Ate too much food
  • Slept in just about every day
  • Enjoyed some warm weather
  • Actually got some presents (various Squyres members actually sent me presents to Florida)

It was a good trip; the flights there weren't too much trouble but I was pretty peeved when I was bumped from the final leg of my trip to initially get to Ft. Myers. I mean, really -- I'm doing my part by still flying (indeed, I truly believe that it's safer than ever to fly today!), and the airlines are still pulling crap like over selling flights. Grr...

Luckily, someone volunteered to give up their seat and I made it down to Ft. Myers at the expected time.

Tracy and I spent some time while down there writing our annual Christmas letter (got some positive feedback on it already :-) as well as hashing our a bunch of financial gorp that we didn't have time to work on before I left and while she was here at Thanksgiving. Good stuff, actually, even though it's complicated. I have to admit getting much more interested in the financial aspects of things since I got married last year (no, I am not becoming mature! I will continue to staunchly deny this!).

Neither Tracy nor I had time to finish our Christmas shopping before we left for FL; we barely managed to get immediate family members. If you didn't get one from us, it's coming -- trust us!

Additionally, I accidentally got my brother in law a computer game (Age of Empires III) that is extremely similar to the one that my sister bought him (Conquest Earth or something like that). Oops. :-( I got both my Squyres-side brother in laws AOE III so that they could play each other over the internet.


I finally figured out why I couldn't get Windows/VMWare to talk to the internet. Turns out that I was just being "too smart", and assuming that the networking was trying to be dumb. Nope -- the networking is actually pretty smart, so I just needed to let it do what it wanted, and it now works like a charm.

I'm running all the anti-virus, Windoze, and Office updates that haven't been run since I got here to Ft. H.

This means that I can now also run the Quicken updates and run MSN messenger from my laptop (which is quite handy).

I also finally installed PGP on Windoze/VMWare and copied my relevant keys over there to facilitate sharing files securely.


I actually got a pretty low volume of mail while I was away, which is a Good Thing -- only about 250 or so. The OSCAR group tried to get together for a teleconf on Friday, but it didn't happen. Oops.

They're all meeting in California in a week or two anyway (Brian will be there in my place), so it isn't a total loss.


I finally CVS checked-in a new version of the wrapper compilers for LAM/MPI. They're vastly simpler than the current incarnations (hcc, hcp, and hf77). The new ones use C++'s (std::string) instead of (char*), and all share a common back-end engine to do all the string processing, etc. -- their respective main()'s are all very short.

Now that it's checked in, I can do testing on platforms other than Linux, and eventually replace the current versions with this new stuff.


I've been reading the Dune series of books for the past month or two; with all the flight time this past week, I'm getting close to finishing the last book (Chapterhouse: Dune). When I drove back to Sierra Vista last night, I rented the 2-tape SciFi channel video of Dune. It was pretty good, but diverged some minor event sequences from the original book. That is, the overall story is the same (e.g., events A, B, and C), but some of the ways that the story when from A to B to C were a bit different.

I've hear rumors (from /.?) that there's another SciFi Dune movie in the works that covers the next two books. That should be cool.


Good ol' George has declared tomorrow (Dec 31) a federal holiday, so I actually don't have to go back to work until Wednesday (Jan 2).

December 31, 2001

I guess I picked the wrong week to quit smoking

By total chance today, I found the .pinercex file.

It's exactly what I've been looking for -- a "local overrides" file where you can put stuff relevant for the local machine when using a global IMAP-based config file.

Woo hoo!!

(Sometimes I wish that pine was documented better -- I found this file by looking through $HOME/.pine-debug1)


I neglected to include my review of A Beautiful Mind in my last journal entry. Whoops! Shame on me.

It was a good flick -- fairly serious and fairly long (2.25 hours), so only go see it if you're in the mood. If you know the story of Dr. Nash, it won't be any surprise, but I didn't, so I enjoyed the story. I give it 10 minutes if you're in the mood for a good drama.


Yesterday I had a long chat with Darrell. It's always good to catch up with him. We chatted about all kinds of things -- technical and non-technical. It's amazing how much of the IT world actually revolves around message passing. :-) We even chatted about some of the generalities of Yahoo!'s IM system vs. MS's MSN IM system.


I recently put in a cron job to reboot squyres.com every morning at 5am. The server seems much more stable now. I'm not happy with this; it may mean that the server was the cause of the flakiness in my DSL modem rather than vice versa.

Actually, I guess I am happy about it because my problem seems to be solved... but I'm not pleased that Linux is not being stable. <sigh> I guess it has been quite a while since I've updated the distro on that machine, and it is pretty old hardware (a PII of some flavor)...


There's a stoplight outside Greely Hall (my building here at Ft. H) that regulates a 4-way intersection. I frequently leave Greely when there is little or no traffic; I make a left turn at this intersection to head home. The light is frequently solid green in my direction as I approach it. There are sensors in the road for scheduling (you can see them in the asphalt).

I don't know what the algorithm is for scheduling the lights, but after observing this light for quite a while now, I notice that it is guaranteed to change the light to red as I approach -- even though there is no other traffic. This is clearly undesirable behavior.

You might think that it's coincidental -- that the light is actually timed and when I drive up, the timer for the green light simply expires for my direction. But this is not so. I have driven up to right before the sensor in the road (while the light is green) and waited. The green light stays on -- not making any changes until it receives some sensor input. As soon as I drive up on the sensor, it changes to red.

So there are only a few possible conclusions from this:

  • The light scheduling algorithm sucks
  • The light is possessed and hates me
  • The light is intentionally exhibiting this behavior

Let's discount the third argument as being non-sensical (but then again, this is a government installation...). <sigh>

Let's also not forget that I drive up and trip the traffic sensor in the left-turn lane. I'm wondering if it's a bug in the traffic light algorithm, perhaps having something to do with Arizona's crazy obsession for having the green left turn arrow after a red light, not before (see previous journal entries about this). That is, perhaps the algorithm thinks that it must cycle through a red light before it can turn on a green left arrow.

Be aware that "bug" in this context could also be synonymous with "stupid AZ law" or "bureaucratic idiocy" which requires a cycle through a red light before enabling a green arrow.

Blech.

This behavior is clearly sub-optimal, as it could keep the light green in my direction and turn all other three directions red (assuming no other traffic) while turning on my left green arrow. Why does it need to cycle through all-four-directions red first?

Blech.

Join your local "Everyone Should Be Optimal" (ESBO), or "ez-bo" union and help stamp out such silliness.


It's New Year's Eve -- I'm outta here. Nothing too exciting planned, actually, but I'm heading home for the actual turn of the year.

Happy New Year!

About December 2001

This page contains all entries posted to JeffJournal in December 2001. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2001 is the previous archive.

January 2002 is the next archive.

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