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May 12, 2002

Well, yes. Happiness isn't happiness without a violin-playing goat.

I've recently discovered that I've earned two military service ribbons while I've been here.

If I understand this right, one is for national defense, and one for mobilization.


I've had The Crystal Method / Vegas tape in my car for almost the entire time I've been I've been down here.

That's right -- the audio in my car has been 100% TCM for over 6 months.


I watched the Oliver Stone movie Any Given Sunday last night. If I had to describe this movie in two words: un-freakingly-believably harsh. Wow.

That's really the best way to describe it -- wow. It's a very in-your-face Stone kind of movie. So I guess it shouldn't have surprised me, and perhaps it didn't, but it was still un-freakingly-believable in its intensity and content.

It's hard to rate this movie, because in some ways, it was excellent. But you really have to be in the right mood to watch it. Hence, if you catch it wrong, it'll suck.

So I give this movie -- 0. This is also known as "sympathy".

I've said many times that I won't explain my rating system, but I will say this about a zero rating: it means that you should take no extra effort to watch this movie, but if it comes along, you should not take any effort to not watch the movie, either. Which, in retrospect, is pretty much how I ended up watching this movie. So I guess the sympathy rating for the movie is appropriate in all kinds of ways.


I went grocery shopping today. I don't enjoy grocery shopping. Which I don't fully understand, because I love food, and when you go grocery shopping, you can get any kind of food that you want. And that should be strongly appealing to me. But it just seems so... annoying.

Have you heard the wive's tale, "Don't go grocery shopping when you're hungry"? I've never understood this. Indeed, I think that's a stupid sentiment. If you're hungry when you go shopping, you'll actively seek out all the things that you like to eat. Why is that a bad thing? <sigh>

Two interesting things occurred while I was at the commissary today:


  1. I was thrilled to find Maggi in the seasoning aisle. I've long been wanting some seasoning to add to my soups and tuna salads. Now I've got Maggi -- that rocks! (I'd looked for Maggi in the commissary before; I either missed it, or they didn't have it/were out of it. Who knows/cares? I happy now)

  2. On the way out, to reward myself for going through the drudgery of grocery shopping, I bought a Snickers Cruncher bar, since I had never had one before. It was remarkably like the old Whachamacallit candy bars that you can't seem to find anymore.

I can't help wondering if there is a global conspiracy involving (at the very least) M&M/Mars candy company that has recently reincarnated Whachamacallit into Cruncher.

Hmm...


Happy Mother's Day!

May 18, 2002

You know what they say about men with big feet? Big feet... large shoes.

Great quote from one of the daily reports that I read at work. It's from a field software engineer:

"Problem solved. The server couldn't access the DBS disk because the connection pins were clogged with dirt."


I've come to the conclusion that Honda Civics are psychic.

When Tracy drove my old Civic to the dealer when she was finally making the final purchase on her new car, it decided to get a flat tire. It just knew.

I took my current Civic into for its regularly scheduled maintenance the other day. I drove down to the dealership, parked, and gave the keys to the service guy and waited for the shuttle to take me to work. A few minutes later, when I was getting into the shuttle, the service guy told me that the battery had died, and that had to push my car into the service bay. It just knew

I had to have $200+ worth of service to get a new battery and routine maintenance. And there's still a ping in the engine that they tell me will take about $400 to fix. Bonk. :-(


Everyone should tell Perk that he needs to use Mandrake. All he has to do is pretend it's not French -- call it Canadian.

Any they're not spies.


I did a new release for the env-switcher project today (it's a standalone project, and is used by OSCAR). Lots of bug fixes and enhancements.


One "Totally 80's Weekend" on Comedy Central today, they showed the movie Mannequin. The funny part is that the main character's name is "Johnathon Switcher", so lots of people kept yelling "Switcher!!" throughout the movie. This all happened while I was working on env-switcher today.

I found it extremely amusing. :-)


Over the past week, SourceForge has decided that it doesn't like my lam-mpi.org address. I don't get it.

Mails to my lam-mpi.org address get significantly delayed (such as on the various OSCAR lists), but no one else's mail is delayed. I added a squyres.com address to the various OSCAR lists, and now I get mail to the OSCAR lists right away (to my squyres.com address). So I'm signed up on these OSCAR lists twice -- lam-mpi.org and squyres.com -- and I'm only getting one set of mails regularly.

<shrug>

It's really odd because I'll periodically get a huge bunch of e-mails (to the lam-mpi.org address) from SourceForge -- all the mails that had previously not been delivered. But this has been happening only every 1-2 days. So it goes like this:


  • Big burst of mail from SF to lam-mpi.org
  • Nothing for 1-2 days (to lam-mpi.org)
  • During this 1-2 days, mail to squyres.com comes in quite regularly
  • Big burst of mail from SF to lam-mpi.org

...ad nauseum.

<shrug>


Some random shorties:


  • Someone has done some work to a) add mpiexec to LAM/MPI, and b) make it work under PBS/tm. How cool is that?

  • Why would anyone advertise stocks and futures on Comedy Central?

  • My 8 year anniversary in the Army was this past week. Were I not mobilized, I would be eligible to get out of the Army (ROTC incurs an 8 year obligation). :-)

  • I upgraded to gaim 0.58 this past week. I now get a weird -- albeit apparently harmless -- popup error message after I sign into MSN. I filed a bug about it on SourceForge -- others have had the same problem.

  • I use the "check for updates" feature in Mozilla to monitor the LiveJournal of various friends of mine. Mozilla has decided to keep telling me that CPT Klak's journal has been updated, even though it hasn't been. <shrug>



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May 21, 2002

This whole office is so un-fung-shui. The desks are all arranged evil-like...

24, the TV show, ended today.

Kind of a weird ending. Some of it you could see coming, some of it I didn't really expect. Hmm.

Rumor has it that there might actually be a sequel. Mike from IBM predicts that it will be the next day, and everyone will be sleeping.

That sounds riveting.


My friends are very odd. And have lots of time on their hands.

So there are a few people on the planet who actually know what my movie scale rating means. One of them (name ommitted to protect the guilty) ran an analysis on all of my journal entries. Here's some stats:

Movies Rated: 37
Positive Ratings: 33
Negative Ratings: 1
Average Rating: 12.36 minutes
Highest Rating: 50 minutes - Fight Club
Lowest Rating: 30 feet - Charlie's Angels
Most Common Rating: 10 minutes (7 movies, 15 minutes was close behind at 6 movies)
Lowest Positive Rating: 2 minutes - The Cell
Most Favorite Movie Viewing Month: April - 6 movies
Least Favorite Movie Viewing Month: October - 1 movie
There were 3 sympathy ratings: Bounce, Pay it Forward, Any Given Sunday
There was one rating of a TV show: Drew Carey - 17.5 minutes, and it refers to a collective average of all the viewed episodes, not a specific episode.
There was one rating of CD: Boutique. It got a 10 minute rating

There were no references to props in any of these ratings.

Even worse, someone else chose to do a lexigraphical analysis of all journal entries (you need a wide screen to view this properly -- you might need to check out the web version of ThunderJournal, http://jeff.squyres.com/journal/):


The Life And Time of Jeff Squyres
In a Nutshell
(unweighted frequency analysis)


J A S O N D J F M A M J J A S O N D J F M A M
+======= 2000 ======+ +================= 2001 ====================+ +===== 2002 ====+ TOT
will 18 35 36 19 53 18 25 34 27 86 18 35 62 14 49 23 2 13 10 3 4 2 1 587
wont 2 6 3 3 1 3 6 5 3 4 3 3 8 3 4 4 1 1 2 0 1 0 2 68

can 22 34 42 37 56 30 12 20 23 52 19 32 50 11 37 14 7 10 8 1 11 1 3 532
cant 8 14 12 14 13 12 2 5 4 3 6 3 7 6 14 7 1 0 4 1 3 1 1 141

time 24 34 62 48 20 29 12 18 21 42 22 23 33 23 26 12 13 17 12 3 13 2 3 512

good 21 42 36 60 29 18 14 13 15 18 11 14 49 22 33 16 10 19 4 8 13 15 3 483
bad 4 1 6 16 4 13 4 5 3 0 3 8 12 3 12 4 4 0 1 1 1 0 0 105

hell 1 2 5 6 5 8 6 0 2 1 0 3 0 2 1 2 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 46

love 2 5 4 6 1 3 0 3 0 2 1 3 1 5 3 0 1 2 2 1 1 0 0 46
hate 0 0 1 1 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 10

what 15 41 37 41 32 25 15 10 12 40 15 16 50 21 43 21 6 16 6 3 11 1 2 479
where 9 18 18 15 17 10 3 11 5 14 4 15 16 7 7 6 6 6 3 2 4 1 1 198
how 14 24 30 30 21 17 13 10 8 23 12 19 38 11 16 14 6 6 3 4 9 4 0 332
why 4 8 8 13 4 9 5 7 2 6 7 6 18 10 9 4 1 5 2 1 1 0 0 130

more 19 27 37 31 40 21 11 28 17 35 14 14 38 14 32 8 8 12 7 6 4 5 0 428
less 3 4 7 4 3 3 2 4 2 4 4 11 3 7 6 3 1 0 1 0 3 0 0 75

them 20 45 41 25 21 27 8 13 22 38 8 15 46 11 28 17 4 9 6 6 9 0 0 419
their 22 33 33 26 21 28 1 7 12 45 12 13 55 8 29 13 6 8 0 3 9 1 0 385

his 20 9 16 23 13 17 8 7 2 18 2 9 30 2 18 8 7 7 0 2 2 0 0 220
her 11 1 5 3 0 4 5 3 2 9 5 4 5 7 5 3 0 1 0 1 2 0 0 76

mpi 4 10 14 12 70 5 6 6 16 61 18 5 2 4 1 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 240
lam 2 23 22 36 66 2 58 25 19 18 15 26 31 1 8 9 1 3 1 0 6 0 0 372
work 10 23 20 32 25 23 12 24 14 24 17 15 18 6 28 9 6 6 9 2 13 0 1 337
code 18 21 26 31 14 5 7 9 12 17 4 8 17 9 8 5 0 1 0 0 2 0 0 214

today 11 46 33 33 6 9 8 10 26 14 16 16 9 5 23 18 3 6 5 7 14 2 4 324
tomorrow 4 3 2 3 0 0 5 2 1 6 4 4 1 1 1 0 0 1 2 2 0 0 0 42
yesterday 0 23 13 6 5 15 5 8 3 6 4 8 6 2 11 9 0 7 0 0 3 3 0 137

right 15 14 14 18 16 13 9 9 12 6 7 12 29 7 12 10 4 5 2 2 1 1 2 220
wrong 4 6 3 4 7 2 2 4 5 4 3 1 6 1 2 1 0 2 2 0 3 0 2 64

want 3 11 13 10 11 8 6 5 4 12 7 9 28 5 11 9 7 3 1 1 2 2 0 168
need 3 9 10 14 20 11 12 9 4 17 10 6 11 6 13 4 0 1 1 1 5 0 0 167

client 2 6 6 3 2 4 3 2 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 2 4 2 1 0 0 41
server 3 6 5 4 6 19 3 8 2 23 4 8 3 20 32 6 0 9 5 0 2 0 0 168

problem 3 7 26 11 13 17 6 2 2 8 18 7 10 7 13 8 0 3 1 2 2 2 0 168
problems 1 7 2 1 12 4 4 9 2 3 7 3 5 4 9 8 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 84
solution 0 3 2 0 2 2 0 1 0 3 1 1 1 1 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 20

tracy 32 4 8 8 6 5 4 8 4 14 2 5 7 2 16 11 8 10 1 1 7 0 3 166
brian 3 11 2 4 7 2 9 4 9 4 3 6 16 2 7 3 0 2 3 2 11 0 0 110
lummy 1 19 5 6 3 5 2 1 6 8 1 4 3 2 2 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 70
tracys 4 2 1 1 0 6 3 0 2 10 0 0 1 0 3 1 3 2 0 0 1 0 0 40
darrell 1 1 8 0 0 2 1 0 0 1 0 1 3 0 15 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 34
dad 3 1 2 2 0 14 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 0 0 1 0 3 0 0 31
michelle 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 26 0 0 26
johnney 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 0 1 0 0 0 0 18 1 0 0 26
mom 0 0 0 2 2 7 0 2 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 22
jeff 4 0 1 1 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 2 0 8 0 0 0 22
renzo 7 0 2 0 7 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 20

does 5 12 13 12 19 9 5 6 5 12 8 2 19 10 11 2 2 3 3 1 2 2 2 165
doesnt 2 9 6 16 6 12 3 7 7 11 6 3 17 11 10 7 1 3 5 4 3 2 0 151

cool 11 9 11 18 13 8 11 5 6 9 6 6 10 6 10 4 2 7 2 0 7 1 3 165
hot 5 2 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 4 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 7 24

long 6 4 6 14 19 7 7 11 7 10 5 8 12 3 12 5 2 7 5 1 2 2 1 156
short 1 3 6 4 5 2 1 1 2 6 8 1 6 1 2 1 0 1 2 1 2 0 1 57

morning 4 10 5 9 6 6 1 3 7 9 7 4 11 1 10 5 2 6 2 1 1 0 0 110
night 10 14 6 5 2 9 5 3 7 4 1 7 8 1 4 3 4 2 1 2 7 1 1 107

dinner 29 2 5 3 10 3 2 0 3 5 2 3 5 3 14 6 4 0 1 0 1 2 0 103
movie 21 5 2 2 4 2 4 2 0 0 0 7 6 3 7 0 3 6 4 4 4 4 7 97

linux 3 12 1 9 8 11 2 6 9 7 6 2 14 3 11 3 0 2 6 0 5 0 0 120
dsl 1 3 5 3 0 26 2 3 23 2 13 0 2 5 11 12 0 1 0 0 3 1 0 116
phone 2 4 5 4 1 10 3 5 10 5 1 11 3 4 6 3 7 8 0 2 1 1 0 96
threads 0 6 19 4 0 6 2 6 1 45 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 95
army 1 1 0 3 0 0 6 0 2 1 4 9 4 1 1 7 10 23 6 0 8 3 1 91
e-mail 5 2 1 7 4 8 4 1 7 9 4 5 4 0 10 6 1 1 2 0 6 1 0 88
program 5 2 7 8 11 6 5 8 5 7 2 3 3 3 2 0 0 1 5 0 2 0 0 85
xmms 0 1 10 9 0 3 19 6 5 13 15 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 81
lam/mpi 0 4 6 7 27 0 0 3 19 3 1 0 7 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 81
lamd 0 0 5 1 54 0 1 2 0 3 0 7 4 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 80
cvs 0 1 6 8 1 2 5 6 1 0 1 2 21 7 6 4 0 2 0 5 0 2 0 80
computer 3 6 3 5 4 12 0 1 7 6 3 3 2 5 4 4 1 3 0 0 1 1 1 75
windoze 1 3 1 2 2 27 1 1 3 1 1 1 8 8 3 2 1 1 1 0 6 0 0 74
condor 0 0 0 0 53 1 10 3 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 69
router 0 12 4 4 2 7 0 1 14 4 6 0 3 6 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 65
laptop 0 3 2 0 2 2 0 4 4 3 7 6 1 8 13 3 0 3 2 0 1 0 0 64
queue 0 1 24 5 4 6 1 2 0 16 2 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 62
queues 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 15 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 20
c++ 6 1 10 5 3 2 3 3 2 4 3 3 1 8 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 57
internet 0 0 4 1 1 8 1 1 1 3 4 2 5 3 6 4 0 2 1 0 0 0 1 48
queeg 0 1 0 0 0 2 11 4 10 4 4 1 2 0 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 47
dns 0 2 7 0 0 6 0 4 5 3 4 8 1 0 2 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 45
unix 0 4 5 3 4 10 0 0 1 0 0 6 3 2 1 2 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 44
lamboot 0 0 12 0 3 0 0 7 4 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 29
microsoft 1 0 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 12 1 1 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 22
redhat 2 2 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 3 1 1 6 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 20
programming 0 2 4 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 4 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 5 0 0 20

house 2 1 6 2 1 2 4 11 16 7 2 0 2 1 1 1 4 2 0 2 1 0 1 69
tree 0 1 13 13 2 4 3 10 1 13 0 0 4 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 68
louisville 0 14 5 3 0 8 1 2 0 4 3 3 5 4 9 5 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 68
apartment 5 15 3 0 0 2 0 0 13 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 5 0 1 1 1 1 1 50
wedding 12 7 8 4 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 38
kentucky 1 1 2 5 0 0 0 0 1 8 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 0 0 22

dissertation 2 4 0 6 3 0 1 8 7 9 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 45
+======= 2000 ======+ +================= 2001 ====================+ +===== 2002 ====+ TOT
J A S O N D J F M A M J J A S O N D J F M A M

So looking at those numbers is pretty interesting. Good thing that Tracy is the name I've mentioned the most (200+)! ;-)

Apparently, I'm a pretty positive person. Woo hoo!


I've also had a request to make the "funny and interesting" portions of my journal more easily identifiable so that readers can quickly hone in on the "interesting" aspects of my entries and skip all the "mundane and boring" stuff.

I am always willing to help those who are willing to read my blathering.

So to that end, I'll use ASCII for "funny and interesting" sections of my journal. I'll use the Cryllic alphabet for "mundane and boring" stuff. This will make it all easy for users to identify between the two kinds of text in my journal entries.

Hope that helps.


I have just found a SourceForge "remember me" option so that I don't have to login every time I visit http://sf.net/.

But they also put in a new theme today. It's somewhat ugly, IMHO...


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June 1, 2002

James James... the man so nice, they named him twice.

Tracy was here this weekend.

Woo hoo!

Now she's gone.

Boo. :-(


I bought some new CD's -- it's been a while since I've bought any. I got Garbage's Beautiful Garbage and something by Afrocelt Soundsystem, Volume 3: Further In Time.

The Garbage CD is cool, similar in style to their other 2 popular CD's, and I wasn't disappointed.

The Afrocelt Soundsystem CD is interesting. I got it after listening to a few tracks in the store. It's techno-trance-ish, so it has a good beat, but isn't totally spazzy. It has some guest vocals on it by Peter Gabriel and Robert Plant. I think I'm gonna have to find the other 2 volumes in this series.


Here's an amusing fact: IU's sendmail configuration classifies RNJournal entries as spam. :-)

Speaking of Arun, I still get 5-10 Klez e-mails a week.

This has nothing directly to do with Arun (although, through a convoluted series of subsidiary corporations and offshore holdings, direct lineage to All That Is Evil can be traced to Arun. That's a different story -- be sure to buy my upcoming book, "Hello, My Name is Arun; I'm From the Government, and I'm Here To Help / An Anthology of Evil"), but it has amusing to me that virus writers just recently picked up on a trick that I did to Arun years ago -- sending random mail from random users with random subjects so as not to be able to [easily] tell that they are fake mails. :-)

But on the other hand: would people freekin' update their anti-virus on their machines and stop sending this crap? It's getting annoying...

All the mailing lists on our mail server (including LAM, MTL, etc.) have been picked up by spammers. There has been a notable increase in spam sent to the lists over the last 4-6 months. Thank goodness for decent listserver software (GNU Mailman) that blocks the vast majority of it before it hits the list.


I joined the Tivolution last weekend. I've been thinking about it for quite a while, and finally broke down and bought a Tivo. I was partially inspired by the fact that I missed a key Alias episode a few weeks ago. :-)

It's a Tivo series 2 with a maximum of 60 hours of recording time. I really enjoy the scheduling features that it has, since I'm down here in analog cable land. It's quite convenient. The subscription to the service follows the Tivo unit itself, not its physical location, so naturally, the unit will come back to Louisville with me when I head home (whenever that is!).

It seems to be great, but it has crappy reception on channels 2-5 (which unfortunately includes NBC and CNN; two channels that I watch rather frequently). It's not clear yet if this is a Tivo problem or a cable problem. The apartment maintenance dudes are going to come in today and see if it's a cable problem.

More details on the Tivo as I play with it more...


I IM'ed with CPT Klak (Michelle) this weekend and last weekend. All is going [relatively] well in Southwest Asia. Apparently, she has recently got general web access, and therefore posted a whole schload of stuff to her journal last weekend.

It's evidently now ok to say that she's been deployed to Kuwait. It is hot hot hot over there -- it averages around 115 F with regular hair-drier-hot breezes in your face.

But there's a Baskin Robins there, so all is well in the universe.


I'm was at Ft. Monmouth, NJ (CECOM headquarters) this past week for a big ribbon-cutting ceremony as CECOM opened up a new high-tech testing facility. I was there to be part of the ceremony and give a pitch/demo of some of the Great And Wonderful things that we do for CECOM out at Ft. Huachuca.

It was interesting to see CECOM's headquarters and all the people than run stuff there. It's one thing to talk to people on the phone and/or have them come out and visit your site to do some work. But to really get an appreciation of their work, you have to visit their work site. This trip was most helpful for that (as have been all my TDY's for the Army these past 6 months).

I gave a "CECOM/Ft. Huachuca is Great!" pitch to the head of SEC, the CG of CECOM, and an NJ Congressman. It went over pretty well; our boss (the head of SEC) was very pleased because the CG and Congressman were impressed.

Some quickies about my trip to NJ/Ft. Monmouth:


  • I enjoyed seeing all the green and trees in NJ. Mmmmm... who thought that one would miss the color green?

  • It's humid here in NJ. I had pretty much forgotten what that was like.

  • I got a DoD CAC (Department of Defense Common Access Card) while here at Monmouth.

  • It takes a day to travel from west to east. Woof.

  • The beds in the Monmouth BOQ (Basic Officer Quarters -- essentially a hotel on post) have mattresses that are made from NJ's finest plywood.

  • Had some Unexpected Good Sideffects of visiting Monmouth for some other projects that I'm working on down at Ft. Huachuca. More details to come on those, but it could be quite interesting.


For all you ex-bones out there:

I say space, you say Needle
space - needle
space - needle
SPAAACE - NEEEEEEEEEDUL

Another good quote: "We sang songs, we abused crudwells, and we had a big black skillet with billions of stuff in it and no one could figure this game out. Maybe that game could have been more obvious- I don't think so."

Big black frying pans ROCK!

As usual, I offer neither explanation nor apology.


Returning to AZ after being gone for a week, I have the following to say:


  • Pine's threaded mail headers are a Very Good Thing.

  • Arizona is hot. It's not humid, but who cares? It's hot! 100-110 degrees with breezes like a hair-dryer in your face. It's probably not quite as bad as Kuwait, but it's gotta be in the ballpark...

  • Jeremy F still loves Fabreeze.

  • AZ is surprisingly green. I don't know how it happened, because there hasn't been any rain since about January, but a bunch of the desert shrubbery is now green. The colors here are still primarily pastels (browns, tans, etc.), but there is definitely some green out there as well. <shrug> Go figure.

June 2, 2002

Secret 597: Whoop, there it is!

Wow -- my last journal entry was tagged by IU as spam.

This is especially amusing because I ragged on Arun's journal for being tagged as spam. :-)

Here's what IU said about my last journal entry:

 X-Perlmx-Spam: Gauge=XXXXX, ProbabilityP%, Report=CTYPE_JUST_HTML, PORN_3,      SMTPD_IN_RCVD 

I can't do anything about the CTYPE_JUST_HTML and SMTPD_IN_RCVD items, but PORN_3? What the heck did I say to deserve PORN_3?

Clearly, my clandestine plot of subversive pornography spam has somehow manifested itself in my journal. Curses! Foiled again!


Turns out that my bad reception problems on the Tivo were actually due to bad cable wiring in the wall.

Fixed.

Woo hoo!!


I forgot to mention some things about my trip to New Jersey. In addition to seeing green and an abundance of trees, I also got to see two other things that I rarely see in Arizona:


  • Fog
  • Morning dew (particularly on a car)


This page intentionally left blank.


I accidentally stumbled across a cool perl script for doing PGP (GPG) things in pine. It's called the Pine Privacy Guard. It allows the secure caching of PGP passphrases for the entire pine session -- yummy! This has been a headache of mine for years -- I always have to re-type my passphrase to decrypt every encrypted mail and to send every encrypted mail. Pine Privacy Guard also displays the output of the gpg run better than my scripty-foo does. It also supports mail-to-PGP-key aliases/mappings, something that I could have used many times in the past.

But it doesn't support having multiple encrypted sections in an encrypted mail, nor does it support having unencrypted text in an encrypted mail. So I mailed the author and asked if he would support that.

I also re-discovered the $HOME/.pinercex file. When you use a global pine configuration file via IMAP (like I do), you can have a local $HOME/.pinercex file that has overrides of individual settings from the global file.

This is quite handy for specifying local executable names for display filters, etc.


I went to see The Sum of All Fears today. Wow. Quite a chilling movie. I read the book several years ago, so I don't remember all the details of the plot, but I do remember at least a few things that are different. The imagery is quite vivid and explicit. Not a film for kids, especially after 11 Sept.

Ben Affleck did a good job as Jack Ryan, though. Kudos!

I give this movie 15 minutes.



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June 15, 2002

And we have a new favorite vegetable, which is asparagus.

Funny note:

So I got this cool CAC (Common Access Card) -- the new DoD ID card, complete with chip, three encryption certificates, etc., when I was back in NJ a few weeks ago. But it has "1LT Jeff Squyres" written right on the front.

Hence, when I get promoted in the near future, I'll have to get a new card. But Ft. Huachuca doesn't have the CAC yet (sounds like a disease, doesn't it? "I've got a bad case of the CAC...", "My CAC flares up whenever it rains", and "Friends don't let friends get the CAC"). So when I get promoted and get a new card, it will be the old green, low-tech one.

How amusing.


I finally broke down and got one of those windshield reflector thingies for my car. I did, however, manage, to get an annoying blue one rather than the default/de facto silver ones that most others seem to have. This has the unexpected benefit of making my car easy to find in a crowded parking lot.

It does make the car noticeably cooler after sitting in the sun, and makes it possibly to touch the steering wheel without burning one's hands.

Wahoo.


On the topic of pine vs. mutt...

I was recently reviewing mutt (again) on the promise that it was "much better" than pine. After trolling through its web pages and supporting material, I decided that I needed to make a qualitative comparison.

The following uses a scale of: poor - adequate - average - good - excellent.

Feature Mutt Pine
MIME support Excellent (many hooks) Good ($HOME/.mailcap)
Index/message threading Excellent (graphic depiction) Good (no graphics)
Index coloring Excellent Excellent
Message coloring Excellent Good
gpg support Excellent (builtin) Average (use external hooks)
LDAP access Excellent Excellent
Remote personal addressbook N/A (nonexistant) Excellent
Remote personal configuration N/A (nonexistant) Excellent
Roles / identities Average (can sorta do it) Excellent
Message scoring ? Excellent (not quite regular expressions, but quite functional)
Message filtering ? Excellent (ditto)
IMAP support Average Good
Documentation Adequate Excellent

(I think that mutt supports message scoring and filtering, but mutt's documentation was so poor that I didn't want to spend the time trying to figure it out, so mutt got "?" for these categories)

Generally, mutt:


  • more sophisticated MIME support than pine
  • threading support is much better than pine's
  • mutt's message coloring is somewhat better
  • mutt has builtin gpg support; pine can do good stuff, but requires external hooks

Here's a list of roughly equivalent features:


  • index coloring
  • LDAP access

pine seems to have better everything else:


  • remote addressbook -- this is extremely important to me because I check my mail from lots of different machines

  • remote configuration (including local exceptions) -- ditto on importance

  • roles / identities
  • message scoring

  • native IMAP/SSL service. mutt supports IMAP/SSL, but pine has better built-in support (particularly for multiple folders).

  • built in filtering
  • built in NNTP client

  • oodles and oodles of built-in documentation. Not just on-line descriptions of key bindings, but paragraphs and pages describing concepts and features, all cross-indexed with each other. That rocks. mutt's formal documentation consists of short man pages, and oodles of personal web pages on the net saying "here's my .muttrc -- hope it helps you."

Something that pine is missing -- features like the BBDB offers. That each member in the addressbook can have multiple e-mail addresses, and when you "reply", it will automatically trim the "to" and "cc" lists so that there's only one address per recipient.

So in my mind, pine rocks. It seems to have a lot more functional features, and craploads of high-quality documentation.


Some random quickies:


  • I had a long conversation with Tim about the stock market and technology.

  • Conversation with Liza about USC band actually liking to come to ND because we were "nice" to them.

  • Because the price of Pepsi never went up in Greely Hall, the Coke machines went forced to go back to $0.50. All is now Right in the universe.

  • www.osl.iu.edu has an uptime of 107 days. heracles.lsc.nd.edu has an uptime 187 days.

  • "You can hear the pink. This is what I'm saying."

  • "It's all the little things. I can't think of anything bigger."

  • I saw Vanilla Sky. Hmm. Somewhat disappointing. 5 minutes.


I found some CD's at home that I had forgotten to take to AZ, notably the Go soundtrack, the Office Space soundtrack, the Groove soundtrack, and Music for the Masses (a collection of Depeche Mode covers). I re-encoded them with Ogg/Vorbis and noticed some new effects that I never heard before. For example, in the initial dialogue on the Groove soundtrack ("No obstacles; only challenges"), it sounds like it is raining.

Perk did a MP3 vs. Ogg analysis:

Cdawg and I have spent many, many hours comparing digital audio CODECs. We have reviewed MP3, AAC, VQF, and Ogg Vorbis at various bitrates. We "critically listened" to them, a process developed by audiophiles to track subtle distortions and colorations in music. I listened to "Closer" by NIN, since it it such a versatile song that I am very familiar with. I must have listened to it about a hundred times this week.

If you are interested in reading about our results, you can browse:

http://www.engr.ucsb.edu/~kjh/CODEC_comparison.pdf

However, as Jeff pointed out, the paper may not be that intelligible without a glossary of audiophilia, so that you can understand what we mean by "bright", "attack", "airy", "sound staging", etc. However, some of the terms are adequately descriptive, like, "muffled", "harsh", etc. Or, I should say that they have a lot of adequatulence.

If you don't want to read the pdf, just take my word for it that Ogg Vorbis is the best technology available, across the boards. If you are looking for the best quality, multi-channel compression, variable bit rate, open source (i.e. no annoying royalties and licensing), and general coolness, you cannot loose with Ogg Vorbis. Encode at >= 96 kbps, and your sound will rock.

I'm going to start looking for hardware that supports Ogg Vorbis. So far, the only one I've found is Creative Lab's Nomad, but that costs like $400. A device that plays .ogg files off of CDR's would be optimal.

This audiophile course has been really fun and I've learned a lot of useful info. I think that it was a bit overboard in some ways. For example, I will never care that much about sound to analyze the difference between $2000 and $3000 speaker cables, but overall most of the information will be useful.


This came up in the Thought For the Day today:

Premature optimization is the root of all evil.
-- D.E. Knuth

I'd heard it before (from Rich and/or Jason Z, IIRC), but it's still a great quote, and is still very true.


I was stop-lossed last week. This means that I cannot voluntarily leave the Army. This does not necessarily mean that I can't be de-mobilized (i.e., go home and go back to reserve status) -- it just means that I cannot leave the Army.

Doh. We'll see how this plays out.

June 18, 2002

That sound that you're hearing... you know, that boom? That's my mind. Blowing.

I brought some speakers back from my trip to Louisville a few weekends ago.

I can now listen to my oggs in much better quality than the little speakers in my laptop. Amusingly enough, the audio from the modem also goes across the speakers. So I get to hear that in much better quality as well -- I think I can almost hear the 1's and 0's...


I saw The Bourne Identity today. I think the best way to sum it up is "good but not great". As usual, Hollywood took some liberties with the story. Indeed, there were at least 1 (possibly 2) sequels to the book, and interestingly enough, the movie didn't really seem to leave itself open for a sequel. But it was enjoyable, and I've always like Matt Damon -- he's a good actor.

All in all, I give it 10 minutes.

I saw Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones with Tracy when I was in Louisville. Although I generally liked Episode I, I liked AOTC even better. Lots of action, very good tie-ins to the rest of the story line (i.e., you can see why some things happened in episodes 4, 5, and 6), etc. I give AOTC 20 minutes.

I'm still waiting for a few other movies this summer:


  • MIB II
  • K-19: The Widowmaker
  • ...? I know there's some others, but I can't think of them right now...


We finally released a public web site for my organization today. Want to know about who I work for in the Army?

https://cecomifs-www.hua.army.mil/

My specific organization is "Tactical Automation Support", or "TAS" (there's a tan tab for it), but the whole IFS base organization is here at Ft. Huachuca.

Enjoy. :-)


Watch this space.


A new season of Witchblade started Sunday, with a bonus episode on Monday. Very cool stuff. They're changing a whole lot of stuff, so it should be quite interesting.

My perception of watch TV has changed with my Tivo. I now no longer ensure to get to the TV right as a show starts. I can literally watch it anytime. There are two major advantages with a Tivo in this respect:


  • The ability to pause live TV (which is surprisingly useful), and zip back-and-forth through a program that you're currently watching (including live TV). Of course, you can't zip forward beyond "now" -- Tivo is a recorder, after all -- but I think you get my point.

  • The ability to watch one recorded thing while another is being recorded. This is actually more significant than it sounds. So if I previously taped show A, and am currently recording show B, I can still watch show A. For example, if I wanted to record a whole bunch of shows on a given weeknight from 8-11pm, I could start watching around 8:30-9pm, and watch all the shows commercial-free.

Essentially, if I want to watch something, I can watch it whenever I want. That can be right when it's on TV, 1 minute after it starts, 2 days after it finished, or whenever. Hence, it allows me to choose to watch TV when I want to, not when the TV says its on. This is different from a VCR because although a VCR allows you to watch a show while it is being recorded, a Tivo allows you to watch at time X while it is actually recording at time Y. Think about it -- it's quite handy.

All in all, my approach to watching TV has become more much relaxed, because I can watch anything anytime.


It's all about OSCAR:


JeffJournal mailing list
Mailing list info: http://lists.squyres.com/mailman/listinfo.cgi/jeffjournal/
Journal archives: http://jeff.squyres.com/journal/

June 30, 2002

Next order of business -- marketing department: yes or no?

Last weekend, I saw an old friend.

I hadn't seen Dangy for almost a decade. I got to meet her fiance (Jeff) and saw their house in Tucson. We went out to dinner and had great conversation for several hours. They both teach computer certification classes, so we had lots of stuff to talk about. The wedding is in a few months -- I think they'll enjoy married life.

I'm embarrassed that it took me 7 months to finally get up into Tucson to see them -- I hope to see more of them for the remainder of my time here.


This past week at work I led a working group for web portals and business intelligence technology, and how it applies to the Army (specifically to my organization). It was surprisingly interesting stuff. We had guests in from all over the country from other CECOM / SEC organizations who came and talked about this stuff.

It was good for others in my organization to hear people besides me to talk about this stuff. It sounds like there's some pretty interesting work ahead. It may not be parallel / distributed high performance computing, but it is good stuff nonetheless.


In doing a little perl work for my dad this past week, I found a minor bug in the CPAN module Mail::Message::Body::Multipart. It didn't do case-insensitive parsing of MIME stuff properly. For example, multipart messages sent from pine wouldn't parse properly -- some methods in the module would detect that it was multipart, but you couldn't retrieve the separate parts.

I submitted a suggested patch to the author, and he sent me back a better one. Coolness.

Just doing my part to make a better world.


The OSCAR group had a 2-day meeting at Ericsson in Canada last week, followed by most everyone attending the Ottawa Linux Symposium. It looks like a good time was had by all, and lots of interesting things were discussed. For example, collaboration with Mandrake was one of the topics. Given my bias for Mandrake (it's been my distro of choice for years), this could be a Good Thing. :-)

Wish I could have been there!

It still amuses me that I'm the chair of the OSCAR group and I haven't been able to attend a single OSCAR event during my tenure. :-)


Tonight, I had dinner at Liza and Robert's. Good food and conversation. They have a house a bit south of town on several acres land with lots of trees. It has a fabulous view of the mountains. We talked about all kinds of things, including, of course computer geek stuff (both Liza and Robert work in IT fields).

We sat on their back porch and actually watched a small thunderstorm. It was great -- although I was in a small rain shower earlier this week, I haven't seen real rain since I've gotten down here. The thunder literally rolls down the mountains here, so you can hear it multiple times as it changes aspect (e.g., left to right, across the mountains).

Apparently, this area of Arizona has a heavy monsoon season every year, traditionally starting right around the 4th of July. Hence, the name "Mt. Huachuca" (thunder mountain). I always wondered about how it got that name -- it seemed fairly strange for mountains in the middle of the desert. Now that I know about the monsoon season, it makes sense. :-)

The rains can get pretty severe, which can lead to a lot of flooding because the ground is so solid that the water does not soak in.

Good thing I actually brought an umbrella down here.

July 2, 2002

Amdoore's Internet Law: smaller, faster monkeys every 18 months

I received a hilarious audio file in e-mail the other day:

http://www.osl.iu.edu/~jsquyres/wav/af-missle-guidance.wav

If only I knew where I wasn't, then I'd be able to determine where I didn't need to go, and what I wasn't supposed to do.


I had a vanilla coke today to see what all the hoopla is about.

Eh.


I have my Mozilla to monitor a few of my friends' LiveJournals. It lets me know when any of them have been updated.

Michelle's LiveJournal, for some unknown reason, modifies itself periodically (i.e., without Michelle's intervention). Mozilla tells me that her journal has been updated, so I go check. Visibly, there's no change from the last time I read it. But a diff shows that random HTML tokens seem to get insertted in the middle of the text.

I attribute it to anamolous solar flare activity.


One LAM to find them
One LAM to distribute them
One LAM rules them all

Make today a LAM/MPI day.


I found out that you can only pause live TV on Tivo for 30 minutes if you aren't recording the program.

Whoops!

July 5, 2002

It's got butter on the table, right there between Butter James and ButterPeter... an almost mind-blowing vortex of art and material...

Another sign that the apocalypse is soon: The Crocodile Hunter movie.


Fact 'o the day: Doug the handyman on Mad About You wears Notre Dame / Fighting Irish t-shirts.


I finally fixed my rollerblades today -- it took forever because I had to borrow an allen wrench to do it. While fixing them today, I noticed that I desperately need new wheels -- mine are very, very worn down.

So I bladed for about 45 minutes today. The first time you go rollerblading after not having done so in quite a while is always an interesting experience. First it gets you in the joints (particularly in the hips). Then the leg muscles. Woof!

No pain, no brain. That's what I always say. I think.


I had a 3 way call with Brian and Sriram today for some interactive LAM debugging. I had to dial a whole schload of digits to get them connected (not counting multiple mis-dials):


  • 1-800-CALL-ATT (dial down the center) -- 11 digits
  • 1 + Brian's phone number -- 11 digits
  • calling card number -- 17 digits
  • PIN - 4 digits

Then repeat the procedure to call Sriram.

That's a whopping 80 digits.

Wow.

But it was all worth it -- after about an hour, the proverbial light bulb went on over Brian's head. Amusingly, it didn't sound like "click", it sounded much more like, "Oh holy mother of #$%#@!% God... I know the @#$%@#$% reason that the @#$%@#$% @#$%@#$% @#$!#@$!@#$ thing doesn't work! #@%#@$%@#$%@#$%@#$%@#$!!!"


These are just because I said so:

24 hours. A
very long day. Do you think
we need more caffeine?
Wizzle bizzle bot.
Flappy blappy mackle boo.
Ginkel plakma dee.
Jack and Jill ran up
the hill, eating their curds and
wey. Oh, wait... not right...
Driving my Honda
down Fry Boulevard; crusin'
Sierra Vista

(by the way, yes, that's a joke)

main(argc, argv);
{ printf("Hello world\n");
return 123; }

(just don't pronounce (, ), {, }, ;, or ")

Colorful slinkees
Is there anything better?
Cascading down stairs
Dollar bills. Tan shoe
polish. Red cabbage. What is...
Renzo's happy time
"Can you hear me now?"
Verizon ICMP
standard protocol

July 21, 2002

Frankley, my dear Scarlett, I don't give a LAM.

Quote from an old friend who I just congratulated on becoming a father:

Hey, thanks! Being a dad is the Best Thing Ever (TM). I can't wait to teach him about pointers :-)

Some quickies:


  • Saw "MIB II". Good but not great. 12.5 minutes.
  • Started watching The Dead Zone on USA. Good series! Anthony Michael Hall does surprisingly well.
  • Bought Fatboy Slim, Live on Brighton Beach. Kewl.
  • Bought The Crystal Method, Keep Hope Alive. Had I been paying attention, I would have noticed that it was a single. But it's still good, and the last song particularly jams.
  • It's started raining here in Sierra Vista. Nothing huge yet (so they tell me), but it's definitely a change. There are clouds in the sky regularly, for one thing.
  • Tivo found Red Dwarf for me! Woo hoo!
  • Michelle's journal on livejournal.com still reports "changing" all the time, even though it doesn't change. Murlph...
  • Perk is investigating beds, and the relative Goodness and Badness between different kinds/brands/etc.
  • Ogg/Vorbis (and their development web site) hit 1.0 the other day! Woo hoo! Ogg/Vorbis rocks. If you don't use it, you should.
  • Random factoid: Ogg/Vorbis 1.0, Perl 5.8.0, and Debian 3.0 all came out on the same day. Coincidence? Government plot? Astrological alignment? Alien influence? You decide.


I actually have an office at work now (I was in a cubicle before). Surely it must be the apocolpyse if a lowly Lieutenant has an office! I'm also a "Team Leader" (my old title was "Project Officer" because we couldn't think of anything better).

We just had a re-organization at work, which is how this all happened. While I'm actually flattered that they think enough to me to give me a title and an office, I still find it funny.

Serious sidenote: I typically don't say much about work here in the journal, mainly because I don't want to say something that I "shouldn't be saying". Hence, say very little... or [usually] nothing at all. It's not that I do much... er... "interesting" (read: classified) stuff. But the Army is very squirrelly about what can go on public web pages, etc. (with good reason, I might add).

That's why I don't talk about work much.


Had a great trip home last weekend. It's nice to see my wife and house every once in a while. :-)


I've done a bunch of interesting work on LAM recently. I think I mentioned in a previous journal entry that the Age of SSI (System Services Interface) has begun. I did the RPI (need to do the gm RPI today), and we'll be doing other kinds of SSI APIs soon.

Even though I've mentioned this before, it's just so cool that I needed to mention it again. :-)

If you want to see a quick version of what we've been working on, check out the What's new in CVS? page.


OSCAR will hit 1.3 stable tomorrow. I did a lot of work to clean up the installation and user docs. Good stuff.


The listserv on lists.squyres.com has been flaky lately.

It seems to be related to the new (beta) version of GNU mailman that I put on there. The machine reboots every night, but for some reason it doesn't seem that the mailman software starts up every time the machine restarts.

Hmm... Seems to be related to a lockfile problem; if the lockfile is still there when the machine reboots (as it does every morning via cron), Mailman won't start. Simple fix.

August 11, 2002

Demobilization, baby!

There's a lot of News Radio episodes that are named after Led Zeppelin albums.


We've been paying $7/month for Tracy to have "Extended Voice Mail" on her cell phone. We finally decided that since Tracy rarely ever uses that voice mail, it was silly to continue paying it. So I called Verizon and canceled it.

But it turns out that "regular" voice mail is free. "Extended" voice mail simply means that you can have more messages. So we've been paying $7/month for lots of voice mail capacity that we've never used. Arrgghh!!


The NBC show Scrubs is really funny as hell. Very well written -- hilarious stuff. I highly recommend it.


Tim and I rented Kung Pow: Enter the Fist the other night. Egads, what a horrendous movie! It used the same set of 5 (not very funny) jokes over and over and over and over and over.

50 feet.


Woo hoo!

I got orders in hand today to demobilize. I will be driving out of Ft. Huachuca on or about 20 October and heading home to Louisville.

I am still currently stop-lossed, which means that even though my ROTC commitment is over (as of this past May), I can be demobilized and go home -- I just can't resign from the Army. So I'm currently in the midst of trying to find a computer/IT-related position in or around Louisville for a regular one-weekend-a-month, two-weeks-a-year kind of reserve unit where I can ride out the stop-loss. No word on that yet -- we'll see how it goes.

But I wanted to share the fact that I actually got orders in-hand today saying "Go home!". Of course, the Army can change that at any time -- so I won't fully believe it until I'm in my car heading east, but at least this is something to shoot for.

Amusing story: so I've been working the demobilization issue for about 2-3 weeks now -- it's amazingly complicated to leave here and go home (you have no idea)! During this process, I asked the question, "So what organization was it that actually activated me last November?"

I asked because down here at Ft. Huachuca, I am working for an organization called "CECOM" (Communications and Electronics Command). Before I was mobilized last November, I was working for the Army Research Lab (ARL). So how I got mobilized and deployed to CECOM while I'm still formally attached to ARL, I have no idea (ARL and CECOM are unrelated organizations).

Apparently, no one else knows, either. My G-1/personnel guy told me, "Sir, after making about 40 calls trying to figure out who activated you, I gave up."

Your tax dollars at work. :-)

August 18, 2002

You know that there were actually 6 Arnold the Pigs. This is #3. Not myfavorite.

Response from Ron (another grad student in my lab group) on my demobilization announcement:

Now that Jeremy streams techno/dance mp3's into our office speaker system, and I make very inappropriate comments at inopportune times, your services are no longer needed. I'm afraid we have to let you go.

Too funny!


The Notre Dame Palm Pilot player (written by some ND undergrads) was indirectly mentioned in an ESPN article the other day:

http://espn.go.com/page2/s/caple/020815.html

(yeah, sure, it could be a different ND fight-song-playing-palm-pilot-program. But it's more fun to assume that it's the NDPMP)


Fun fact o' the day: 24 camels is called a "qoonta".


Today my Tivo delivered the new No Doubt video and a short "making of" video in a special selections area (i.e., it did not come across cable -- it came directly from Tivo).

Interesting.


I went to the early bird showing of Signs this morning. I couldn't find Tim (granted, I only called him about 20-25 mins before it was supposed to start), so I went alone.

It was ok. Not a "must see", but a decent-to-good movie. Lots of good suspense, actually. They did a lot of interesting things with silence and quiet -- a very "audio" movie (which can be a strong element of a suspenseful move), if that makes sense. Also interesting was the fact that there were some glaring not-quite-right sci-fi details in the movie. This was mostly ok, actually, because the story really focused on the family and suspense aspects. But don't go to the movie expecting an action packed sci-fi.

All that being said, it's definitely rentable. 10 minutes.

August 28, 2002

What if instead of reporting the news, we reported... the _space_ news?

Last week's Witchblade was very Fight Club-esque.

This week's Witchblade (season finale) was somewhat different. It'll indicate a rather large change for next season. I guess that keeps in tradition with the first season's finale, too.


I'm still trying to get some help from AR-PERSCOM (Army Reserve Personnel Command) on two things:


  1. Getting my promotion straightened out. I've still got no promotion orders yet.
  2. Finding a new unit in Louisville.

I called them last week in pursuit of both of these and got the following voice mail message:

"Due to a manpower shortage... there is no one here to help you. Do not leave a message."

Wow.

That being said, CPT S. was doing his best to help me, and he was actually fairly responsive and helpful. Thanks, CPT S.! CPT D. finally managed to come through for me, and I got my promotion orders faxed to me yesterday. Waaaa hooooooo!!!!

My effective date for O-3 is 1 Sept, so I'll have a formal promotion ceremony next week sometime.

No word on a new unit yet -- still working that issue...


Had a good week with the 'rents; they came down here to visit me here in AZ. They saw the sights (mostly while I was at work), but we did a bunch of touristy things together over the weekend.


I finally managed to catch the two Alias episodes that I missed during the regular season. Makes a bunch of things make a bunch more sense.


Short journal entry today.

And yet we'll survive.

September 4, 2002

It's finally happened. I've been

It's finally happened.

I've been promoted to Captain (CPT). Actually, my effective date of rank was several days ago (1 Sep 2002), but we finally had the promotion ceremony today. So I "pinned on" the rank of Captain today during a small ceremony in our conference room. My XO (MAJ F) and our civilian boss (equivalent of a Colonel, Mr. W) pinned on my new rank. I'm wearing MAJ F's old CPT rank (which he got from a 1 star general), and old rank from CPT Klak.

We had cake and cookies afterwards. Afterwards, I took the extra cake down to the guards at the front of the building. They were confident that they could "take care of the rest of that cake for you, sir. Not a problem."

With this promotion, I leave behind the rank of First Lieutenant (1LT). All of these names/nicknames have been commonplace for my the majority of my military career:


  • Lieutenant

  • "ell tee"

  • Loit-not

  • Hey you

It'll be tough to get used to all the following names instead:


  • Captain

  • Cap'n

  • Mon Cap-i-tan

  • Hey you

As one of my civilian contractors told me after the ceremony, "I actually know very little about the Army -- all I know is that you're now the equivalent of Hawkeye Pierce in M.A.S.H. Are you going to start showing up to work in your bathrobe?"

Hmmm... tempting...

September 10, 2002

The _cow_ made of our butter? That's how I like my irony served, my friend

I invented the question mark.


Tim left on Friday.

Bon Voyage, Tim!


My promotion party was this past Friday evening after work at the Officer's Club here at Ft. H. It was a joint party with Charlotte R. from work (she got promoted to GS-12), which made the price quite bearable.

A whole bunch of people showed up from work, including some of my contractors, as well as a small number of random outside friends. Much food and drink was had, including a really big friggen' cake. A party is not a party without a big friggen' cake that has your name on it.


Saturday, I went to Julia's to watch the ND game. Woof -- what an ugly game. Our defense was good, but our offense still needs work.

That's ok -- it's a rebuilding season, and such learning experiences are to be expected.

Afterwards, I went to John and Monica's. I showed John the goodness of PHP. We later went to the Sierra Vista Oktoberfest on Saturday evening. Much beer. Much good conversation. Then more beer.


I started wearing my new glasses on Sunday evening.

Hello trees! Hello leaves! Hello distant road signs! Hello squirrel crossing the road...[WAH-THUMP-THUMP].

Er... whoops.


The following story is from Love Thee, Notre Dame II, stories collected by Larry Wentz, '59, from the Philadelphia Notre Dame alumni club. I actually wrote this story about 6-8 years ago, but I just saw it in print for the first time a few weeks ago.

January 1, 1990, just before my second semester at the University of Notre Dame. I was down south at the Orange Bowl representing my school before a sellout audience. Granted, I was sitting amongst over 250 other people who were dressed exactly like me, and also representing Notre Dame, but I felt special anyway.

The Orange Bowl is roughly shaped like a giant "U". The ticket sellers had seen fit to seat the Notre Dame fans on the right side of the U, and the Colorado fans on the left. Even my parents were up in the stands (somewhere). I dimly remember how my dad, an Irish Guardsman from the early 60's, had practically forced me to try out for the band when I had arrived on campus only a few months before. "Join the band, see the world!," the upperclassmen had said. Well, here I was, seeing sunny Florida. Not exactly the world, but who can turn down a free week in Florida in December, with free admission to our bowl game to boot!

NBC, of course, had the contract for this game. My fellow trombone players and I had yelled an obnoxious hello to NBC sportscaster, Bob Costas, across the field as he took his place in NBC's field-side broadcasting tent. "Nice tie, Bob!" We were rewarded with shrug, and adjustment of his tie, and a wave. We all felt special.

We were filing out of the bleacher seats and down onto the field for the pre-game show. Band members milled around like worker ants, everyone trying to get to their assigned locations behind the goal posts of the near end zone. The Band Gods had decided that we would play the pre-game show, and that Colorado's band would play the halftime show. NBC would tape them both, and assumedly, splice them together for a veritable battle of the bands for those going-to-commercial segues.

Finally we all got into our places, lined up perfectly straight (hah!) rows, standing at attention, ready to charge onto the field. Our entrance was twofold; at the drum major's whistle command, we would take the field with the traditional Irish "Trot." For those of you who've never had the pleasure, trotting is basically leaning back as far as you can (without falling over), holding your instrument out in front of you, and running forward while kicking your knees up as high as they can do, all the while ensuring that you don't run into the person in front of you. Not an activity for the squeamish.

Once we trotted up to the twenty-yard line, the plan was to halt and wait for a second whistle blast from the drum major, signaling that NBC was now filming and we could go one with the show.

The first whistle blast came. The drums started their cadence. The band trotted onto the field. The front ranks stopped on the twenty, and the entire company halted, waiting for the NBC cue.

The Notre Dame side of the stadium absolutely erupted with cheering, screaming, and the fans generally going bazonkers. It was an absolutely amazing feeling; 50 gabillion people were completely enthralled to see us take the field.

The NBC guy with the headphones appeared to be fiddling with his wires and didn't look ready to give us a cue, so the Colorado fans, not to be outdone, started their own school cheers on their side of the stadium. An impromptu shouting match broke out between the two sides of the Orange Bowl: "WE ARE .. ND!" ... "WE ARE ... ND!" (I have no idea what the Colorado fans said.)

Standing there somewhere around the 10 yard line as an 18 year old freshman was quite an amazing experience. I will never forget the sheet magnitude of sound from the Notre Dame side of the stadium when we took the field; I had never heard anything so loud in my life. I just stood there (panting from the trot) and absorbed the noise from our fans.

What seemed like years later, the drum major's whistle screech brought me back to reality. Instruments went up, and the band began to play. The previous ear-shattering road from the Notre Dame fans turned into a mind-numbing explosion of cheering and shouting when we started playing. I seem to recall the Colorado fans were pretty quiet at this point.

I truthfully don't remember much of the show, but I do remember a T.V. camera following me around for almost a full minute. I was so nervous that it was probably the worst playing I had ever done in my life. I scrambled to stay in line, keep in step, and play my music, although I don't know if I ever managed to do all three simultaneously.

I'm sure we finished the show with the traditional Notre Dame fight song, and then ran off to the sidelines, lest we get pummeled by the football players taking the field. What I clearly remember, though, is that the fans were screaming and cheering the whole time. I don't think I ever made 50,000 people feel happy at once, nor do I think that I will be able to do so again. But I know that this freshman performance certainly is one of my favorite memories from my days in the Band of the Fighting Irish.

September 21, 2002

There are 10 types of people -- those who understand binary, and those whodo not

My cell phone has a bug.

Any voice mail message will cause it to not be able to send or receive calls until I reboot. Arrgghhh!!!


CPT Klak is here!

She got here this past weekend for a class at Ft. H.


I bought a computer the other day. Among other reasons, it recently occurred to me that I don't actually own a computer (I have an IU-owned laptop). Plus, my (i.e., IU's) laptop has limited expansion capability. So I bought a Dell -- 2.4Ghz desktop with a big honkin' disk and schloads of RAM. I bought it now because I got in on the end of the "back to school" specials, and Dell had free shipping. So it'll get home before I do, but that's ok.

New computer for me! Woo hoo!

Update: The computer was delivered to my house approximately 36 hours after I clicked on the "submit" button to order it off of Dell's web page. Wow. That's impressive.


Mandrake 9.0 is supposedly coming out in a few days. I think it will go nicely on my new computer. :-) Woo hoo!


I have finally found an army unit to transfer to -- it's located right in Louisville. It's the 100th training division (a division is several thousand people). I'll be heading to the division headquarters G6 office (central IT planning/support). I don't know exactly what I'll be doing, but it satisfies all my requirements:


  • It's local to Louisville
  • It's computer stuff
  • Deployments will likely be in Louisville itself

Woo hoo!

Unfortunately, I can't setup my transfer to 100 DIV until I actually demobilize (i.e., return to Louisville). So there's still paperwork to file and approvals to obtain before this actually happens. But it looks promising.

For those of you who don't know, here's the organization of the Army:


  • Squad: generally 3-5 people

  • Platoon: generally 3-5 squads

  • Company: generally 3-5 platoons

  • Battalion: generally 3-5 companies

  • Brigade: generally 3-5 battalions

  • Division: generally 3-5 brigades

So if you do the pure math of it, a lower bound on the number of people in a division is (3^6), or 729 people, and an upper bound is (5^6), or 15,625. So a division is a lot of people.


Everyone keeps asking me if I'm counting down the days until I get out of here. Short answer: no.

When I get closer (say, T-1 week), I'm sure I won't be able to avoid it. But for now, I am still working here and I still have a job to do. Focusing on the number of days left is just a distraction and would detract from what I am trying to do down here. I'll be home soon enough -- counting the days won't speed that up at all.


I've had an idea slowly brewing in my head about e-mail clients for a long time now (at least 2-3 years, I think). I've never really spoken about it to anyone, nor have I ever written anything down about it. Last Saturday, I woke up at 4:30am thinking about it. I have no idea why.

Since I was unable to return to sleep, I took this idea and put it down in words for the first time. I sent off a lengthy rambling e-mail about it to several friends. During the week, I talked about the idea to several people as well. The first few times I tried to explain it, I don't think that I described the idea very well. After having now discussed it several times, I've refined my thoughts and explanations a bit, and I think I can coherently describe it now.

I'm going to do a separate journal entry about it, and utilize the little-used "category" feature of ThunderJournal to file it under "technical".

September 22, 2002

I saw the sunrise as

I saw the sunrise as I was driving to PT Friday morning.

It was about 6:05am when I left my apartment. The sun was still behind the distant mountains, but there was plenty of "before sunrise glow" to see by. Some cars were still using their headlights.

As I was driving in a northbound direction on post, the sun peeked over the mountains -- I could see it through my passenger side window. It appeared first as an incredibly bright yellow dot on the top of the mountains, and grew into a small arc of shiny yellow.

With the sun rising on my right, shadows started appearing on my left. Fuzzy at first, then growing in sharpness while simultaneously shrinking in length. The air turned bright gold. A glowing hue materialized on all the houses, trees, and fences as I drove by. Glancing back to my right, the sun was a shining semi-circle that continued to grow.

Shades of gold slowly faded towards yellow. Houses gleamed and reflected more gentle colors as the sun finally raised itself halfway over the mountains -- the ever-larger semi-circle above the mountains now started showing its lower half.

I turned my car westward so the sun was directly behind me. Its rising presence was so bright that I had to flip my rear view mirror up to avoid its blinding glare. Even in the "night" mirror angle, I could see the growing orange fireball still climbing over the mountains. Other cars started to turn off their headlights.

Seconds later, the sun completely cleared the mountains. The whole land was lit -- and here in Arizona, you can literally see the land for tens of miles in most directions. Shadows extending westward were now sharply defined, white houses had returned to white, and all traces of twilight were gone. The day had begun.

Elapsed time: probably around 30 seconds.

Idly musing while watching the shift in spectrum of ambient colors, I wondered if we humans -- as a technological race (reflecting my own bias, of course) -- will ever be able to create something so beautiful and majestic as a simple sunrise.

I honestly don't know.

September 23, 2002

Spandex... it's a privilege, *not* a right

I've had an idea that's been kicking around in my head for a few years now. But I think I've started thinking about this semi-seriously recently. I certainly have no time to implement such an idea, but it's something that has intrigued me for quite a while -- it's an itch that I'd really like to scratch.

This is not necessarily a product or a get-rich-quick-killer-app, but it's something that bothers the crap outta me, and I wish I had a better tool.


The basic premise is that I'd like to have a proper knowledge management solution for my e-mail.

Mail clients today do not offer flexible enough filing systems for mail messages. Specifically, the concept of "mail folders" is no longer good enough for a society that has become highly dependent upon e-mail. Users tend to create large, complex hierarchies of folders reflecting intricate filing systems that inevitably contain inadvertent (and typically widely disparate) redundancies. For example, at the time of this writing, I have 392 folders in my personal mail store. Such complex folder hierarchies are now so commonplace that most people think that they're "good enough", when actually they just aren't aware that it can be better.

Indeed, the whole concept of an electronic file folder is modeled off the physical reality of a Manila folder in a filing cabinet. You take a memo (i.e., piece of paper), put it in a single folder, which goes in a single drawer, which goes in a single cabinet, which goes in a single row of cabinets, and so on. This means that there is one path to get to that particular piece of information. You can photocopy that paper and put it in other folders to make multiple paths to the information, but that's pretty inefficient and you have obvious problems such as what happens if someone updates the original memo? You then have to go update each copy -- which could be pretty labor-intensive.

While this is a perfectly valid and reasonable approach to filing information, I claim that such a limiting system (i.e., only one path to a given piece of information) is not necessary in the electronic world. Indeed, this limitation is based on a physical model -- why carry it over to the electronic world?

Instead, look the collection of your mail as a knowledge repository. It contains vast stores of information. The challenge is not only to keep this information organized so that you can quickly find the data that you need, but also to be able to dynamically change the filing system as the need arises.

Tenet #1: Provide multiple paths to information.

A basic precept of many Knowledge Management (KM) solutions today is that information should be reachable by many different paths. In order to accomplish this, one must look at filing information "from the other way" -- instead of putting large amounts of information in a filing system, attach large numbers of filing systems to each piece of information.

For example, say you receive an e-mail from your friend Bob in Human Resources. Bob's mail tells you the specifics of a job opening in the Finance department that you are interested in, but also makes a friendly wager of $10 on the outcome of a football game this weekend.

How do you file this message? There's at least two different ways to look at it -- job related and personal. You obviously want to keep both pieces of information and be able to find them later. Do you file it under "job prospects" or "personal:bets with bob"? Clearly, you'd really want to file it under both.

Granted, under today's mail clients, although you can copy a message and put it in both places, the underlying assumption is that you'll normally file a message in one location -- so copying/re-filing messages is not as easy as it should be. Regardless, abstractly speaking, you've now got two copies of the information, and simply made distinct single paths to each. In a more practical sense -- you've now doubled the storage required for that message. What if Bob had attached a 2MB document detailing the Finance job? In days of shrinking IT budgets, you've just used 4MB of your valuable personal disk quota simply because you want to find the information two different ways.

Instead, it would be much more efficient (and potentially easier on the user) to file the one message in both places. You should not be penalized (in terms of space, for example) for wanting to find the same piece of information in multiple ways. Not only should it be possible, it should be trivial to file that mail in multiple places.

Multiple paths to information are also important because of the passage of time. What seems like a logical way to file information today may be completely forgotten tomorrow. So if a user files a message in many different ways today, their chances of finding it tomorrow are much greater because it may be found in multiple different places (as opposed to finding the one-and-only-one location where that information was filed).

Keep in mind that I'm talking about features that don't [yet] exist -- bear with me, and assume that the actions that I'm talking about will have a simple and easy-to-understand graphical interface for users to use.

Tenet #2: Separate the filing system from the information.

Most users' mail folders hierarchy started off as a small, simple set of folders. But it evolved over time -- new messages arrived that didn't quite fit into the existing neat and clean division of folders, so add a folder here, add another there, etc. After a while, adding folders in this piecemeal fashion results in a "big ball of mud" -- kludge after kludge after kludge inevitably results in inadvertent redundancies, ambiguities, and downright misplaced messages and folders.

A user's mail folders hierarchy becomes so large and complex that it effectively becomes a "legacy system". Even if the user wants to reorganize everything into a "better" filing system, it would take enormous amounts of time and effort to do so because each message would have to be examined, re-categorized, and then dragged-n-dropped in from the old filing system to the new. Hence, people tend to stay with their "big ball of mud" model, even if they know that it's inadequate, inefficient, or otherwise sub-optimal.

Specifically: with mail folders, the information is in the filing system rather than the other way around. Instead, the filing system should be completely divorced from the data that it contains. As with tenet number 1, information is king -- the filing system (although it can be considered information itself) should not only be dynamic and changeable, it is definitely secondary to the information itself.

Using such an approach would allow users to reorganize all of their mail without significant effort. Granted, it would still require some effort on the user's part (there's no such thing as a free lunch, after all), but the threshold of effort is significantly less if the filing system can be created and destroyed at will with no risk of loss of information. Consider: with mail folders, if you destroy the filing system, you may accidentally destroy information as well. If the filing system is totally separate from the information, then accidental data loss cannot occur.

With a separated filing system, not only can the information be reorganized on the fly, there can also be multiple simultaneous filing systems. Consider the example from above -- Bob's mail to you about a job posting in Finance and a friendly wager on this weekend's game. Taking that mail and attaching two different filing systems to it would allow you to file it under both "job prospects" and "personal:bets with bob" -- yet still only be a single message (rather than two copies of the same message in to different file folders).

Another common example is outgoing e-mail. With current mail systems, there is an arbitrary (IMHO) separation between incoming and outgoing mail. If you want to group all the messages of a given conversation together, you have to move or copy your outgoing messages out of your "sent mail" folder into the destination folder where you stored Bob's incoming messages (or some variation on this, such as CC'ing yourself, etc.). If you separate the filing system, you can simply select to see "all messages to or from Bob" -- there's no more artificial separation between incoming and outgoing e-mail. Of course, it is trivial to select one or the other if the user wants to -- outgoing mail is every message that has a "From" of their address, and incoming mail is everything else. It's just important that the possibility of combined listings becomes available under a separated filing system.

Tenet #3: Let the computer do the menial work.

E-mail has become so important to industry and society that users are often flooded with incoming mail every day. Answering and keeping up with e-mail has become a significant portion of people's jobs. This results in some of the problems described above (e.g., the "big ball of mud" approach to organizing e-mail). One way to help is to let the computer handle as much of the menial work associated with e-mail as possible.

Rules and filters are two common features in e-mail clients today. These are actually Good Things. Unfortunately, few users actually understand or use them. And even among those who do, there is always the fear that important e-mails will get lost or otherwise go unnoticed. This goes back to the fact that the mail folders and filing system is [currently] the primary concern -- the actual individual e-mails are not the focus.

Using a separated filing system with the concept of rules, filters, and scoring will help make them "easy" from the user's perspective. Specifically, a separated filing system can guarantee that no e-mail will every be lost, and that using rules/filters/scoring will actually increase the possibility that important e-mails will be noticed. The goal should be to make it common to have lots of rules/filters -- the more, the merrier. Indeed, let the computer mark each incoming (and outgoing!) e-mail in 20 different relevant categories such that there are now 20 different ways for the user to notice that important mail, not just one (i.e., the old concept of an "inbox"). Filters can then be used to ensure that the important e-mail -- even though it shows up in 20 different categories -- is only brought to the user's attention and viewed once (rather than 20 times).

Granted, some interface work and user education will probably have to take place to make rules and filters understandable to most users, but re-orienting the filing system will guarantee that no e-mail will ever be lost due to faulty rules (something that is not necessarily true today). This may help reluctant users to "take the plunge" and actually start using rules/filters.

Of course, users should also be able to manually categorize/organize a message. Even though much of the processing can happen automatically, there will always be a need to manually classify a specific message, and/or re-designate a given message to be in a new (set of) category(ies).

Combining all these ideas together, the end result is that all messages (both incoming and outgoing) can be automatically categorized and organized when they arrive. Important messages can actually filter up to the top. Messages can be fully reorganized and recategorized on the fly. Arbitrary searches can be executed to find any given message with no searching restrictions. Searches can be performed on results of other searches. And so on.

The point is that this would be a fundamentally better filing system -- one that is flexible and powerful. Of course, it can be simplified down for those who don't want that kind of power (e.g., Gramma, who only gets 2-3 e-mails a day). Indeed, the entire "mail folder" concept can be fully emulated with the ideas described above. But for those who need it, this gives them a much better toolset to organize the information contained in their e-mail.


So let's make this a little more specific. From the user's perspective, let's define a few terms before we start talking about features and capabilities of such a system:


  • Category. A category is essentially what most people currently think of as a mail folder. Categories have names and are hierarchical. For example:


    • mailing lists

    • mailing lists:LAM users list

    • mailing lists:53 listserv

    • job postings

    • job postings:finance

    • job postings:finance:northeast

    • job postings:finance:southeast

    • job postings:accounting

    (where the ":" character separates categories and sub-categories)

    However, a huge difference between categories and mail folders is that any number of categories can be associated with each message. So Bob's e-mail to you about the job posting in finance may actually be in "job postings", "job postings:finance", and "job postings:finanice:northeast" (the job is in Pennsylvania).

  • View. A view is essentially the result of a search. Views are named as well, but begin with the special character "#". Like categories, views are hierarchical -- sub-views are further searches on the parent view. Here's some examples of common views, and descriptions of them:


    • #sent mail - all messages sent by me

    • #sent mail:to bob - all messages sent by me to Bob

    • #sent mail:to bob:this week - all messages sent by me to Bob during the past 7 days

    • #sent mail:yesterday - everything that I sent yesterday

    • #mail with bob - any message to or from Bob

    • #yesterday - all mail sent and received yesterday

    • #yesterday:sent mail - same as "#sent mail:yesterday"

    Again, the ":" character separates views and sub-views.

    Note that views are continually updated -- they are not the results of a one-time search. So when you send a mail to Bob, it immediately shows up in #sent mail, #sent mail:to bob, and #mail with bob. This completely destroys the artificial separation between outgoing and incoming mail -- users can now view entire conversations (including their own replies) with ease.

Categories and views can be navigated and browsed just like a conventional mail folder tree. So the usage scenarios are actually fairly similar to existing mail clients.

Since nothing like this exists in current client software, remember to take it on faith for the moment that we can make a nice, easy to use interface to support all this functionality. Use your imagination. :-)

The main use of rules will be to assign categories (other actions are also possible, such as deleting). Rules can search / match any aspect of a new message (incoming or outgoing) and assign categories as appropriate. It will be common to have lots of rules. For management purposes, rules can also be named (starting with the special character "%") and be hierarchical. Here's some examples:


  • %bob - matches any message that has a From, To, CC, or BCC of bob@mycompany.com.

  • %bob:bets - any message that is to or from Bob and contains the word "bet" or "wager", assign the category "personal:bets with bob" to it.

  • %bob:jobs - any message that is to or from Bob and contains the words "job posting", assign the category "jobs"

  • %bob:jobs:finance - any message that is to or from Bob and contains the words "job posting" and "finance", assign the category "jobs:finance"

  • %spam - delete any message that has a subject beginning with "ADV:"

  • %spam from foo.com - delete any message that relays through the "foo.com" mail server

Consider the following usage scenario: All new mail will have the default "inbox" category attached to it. User-created rules will attach additional categories to each incoming message. Finally, the user may manually assign more categories when viewing the individual message.

This means that to see new mail, the user simply views the "inbox" category. Since most users treat their inbox as "messages I have not processed yet", once the user reads and processes a message in the inbox, the user can simply detach the "inbox" category and it disappears from the "messages I have not processed" list. Note that the message still remains filed away in all of its other categories.

This will be an important distinction, actually -- the difference between deleting a message (which completely destroys the message), or removing it from a given category / view.

The capability to search (i.e., define a view) on anything is one of the key concepts of this system. Users can search on category names, any field in the message header (e.g., From, To, CC, Subject, Message-Id, etc.), and any combination thereof. For example, you don't actually need a category for "mail from Bob" -- such a view will be available because the underlying system automatically indexes on the "From" field -- you can simply have a view of the value "bob@mycompany.com" in the From field. Categories are more intended to further organize messages in addition to examining all fields in each message's header.

Most modern mail clients offer some form of search capability (ranging from very primitive keyword searches to sophisticated field text pattern matching searches), but most are still bound to the mail folders concept -- searching scopes cannot be dynamic (i.e., based on a view), and the results of a search cannot themselves be searched. Plus, they're one-time searches, not continual views into the current pool of messages.

Basically, what it comes down to is removing some of the arbitrary artificial constraints concerning the storage and retrieval of mail messages -- allow any given message to be filed in any number of ways, combined with the idea of a high degree of automation such that the incoming flood tide of mail can be automatically (and manually) organized in a dynamic manner.


Technical details

All of the above can be described with a few basic precepts:


  • using an RDBMS to store messages

  • using the full power of SQL to search for messages

  • indexing messages by reference, not by value

  • allowing an arbitrary number of user-defined, hierarchical categories to be attached to a message, and indexing on those categories

  • automatically indexing each message by every field in the message header

Although there are at least several mail servers that use a real RDBMS on the back-end (many of us have been conditioned to think in terms of sendmail, which uses /var/mail-style flat files -- but not all mail servers do this), this is not quite what I'm talking about. The client needs to have visibility into the message store database. So even if the server uses an RDBMS back-end, if the client connects via IMAP or POP, it won't have access to the power of the RDBMS. Hence, we need something more.

A few approaches come to mind:


  1. Make all servers standardize on a common database schema. Then we can have open mail clients that can talk to any server (probably via some kind of ODBC connection), and life is good.

    But the practical possibility of getting this to happen is slim to none. Not only because back-end RDBMS schemas are proprietary and closed (and probably rightfully so), but also because trying to get all vendors to agree on a common database schema would be next to impossible.

  2. Make all servers standardize a common protocol to access the back-end database. Hence, open clients can connect to any server.

    Although this seems tempting, recall that SQL effectively fills this requirement (tunneled over whatever network protocol is appropriate, such as some flavor of ODBC). So abstracting away the SQL while still giving all the power of searching and whatnot (that SQL is designed to do), we'd really only be going a half step above SQL itself. So while I don't want to discount this possibility (since it would be much easier to get vendors to support a protocol than to force them in a specific database schema), I think some experience needs to be gained with the whole RDBMS approach first before anyone could understand enough to design such a protocol.

  3. Separate the mail server from the message store. An easy example of this would be to have a sendmail server with a customized mail.local (or every user has a .forward) that inserts the incoming message into a database instead of /var/mail. A separate RDBMS server can be running (and not necessarily even on the same machine as sendmail) to accept both the incoming messages, as well as listen/respond to ODBC connections from clients.

    Yep -- that's right -- mail clients use ODBC to retrieve their mail. Forget opening /var/mail/username, and forget using mh-style folders. Just open up an ODBC connection (which can even be across the network -- no need for it to be local).

I'm thinking that #3 is the easiest to implement first. #2 might be possible after we understand #3 and gain some experience with database schemas that would be required to implement it.

Indeed, to implement #3, all you need is the following:


  • design a database schema that can handle all the requirements described above (this will actually take a considerable amount of thought and design to do properly)
  • an agent to insert new messages into the database (either a mail.local or an executable to be invoked from .forward), probably with a default "inbox" category attached to it
  • take an open source mail client, and, assuming that it has at least a semi-modular approach (and at best, a formal API) to reading/writing mail messages from/to mail folders, rip out the guts of the mail folders access routings and replace them with database calls

That's the basics. There's millions of features and details to be worked out, but that's the gist of it.

And here's some random thoughts / implications of what this all could mean:


  • Assumedly, the back-end database can either be a per-user database or a one-database-for-all-users. It would be nice to allow it both ways. But if one or the other has to be chosen, I think the all-users DB would be much more useful and user friendly. It would also allow "public folders" kind of functionality (see below), since everyone shares the same DB message store.
  • Searching on Message-ID to make message threading without the artificial separation of the sent-mail folder will now actually show the whole conversation, not just the messages that people sent to you (I love this idea!).
  • If incoming messages automatically have an "inbox" category attached to them, users can safely detach the "inbox" category and leave the message filed away in other categories. i.e., there needs to be a clear / easy way to do this that is distinct from "delete message".
  • Spam busting has great potential here -- you can even filter based on any machine that the message relayed through, not just originating e-mail addresses, etc.
  • Think of it the other way around -- take a single message, and show its relations to other messages. For example, message X has these categories, is part of this(these) thread(s), is one of 38 messages from Bob that you received today, and is the 25th out 48 message on the LAM listserv that you have received in the last week. And so on.
  • Basically -- anything you can do in SQL, you can do in a view. You can set the scope of a view to be arbitrarily large (all messages in the database) or arbitrarily small (a single message, or a single thread).
  • High-quality clients can still do local caching of messages (a la high-quality IMAP clients today) and views (i.e., results of searches) to improve client performance.
  • Key to all of this will be a simple and powerful interface. Create/edit/delete categories is simple enough. But making an interface that makes views and rules easy to create/edit/delete will be absolutely essential.
  • Views should be stored in the database itself. That is, whatever SQL or search string is necessary to execute the "#sent-mail" view should be stored in the database itself. Hence, if I connect with client A or with client B, I can still see the same "#sent-mail" view.
  • "Public folders" (a la MS Exchange, or any IMAP server) can be implemented with special, reserved categories. It may be a good thing to define some "system reserved" category prefixes that cannot be defined by a user.
  • If a single back-end database is used to store all user messages, system administrators actually have a larger degree of control over user mail spools. Consider -- many companies have a "max e-mail age" policy, such that mails over age X should not be kept. With a RDBMS back-end, a search and removal of messages older than X is trivial.
  • Some kind of message export from the database will probably need to be supported, such as dumping to /var/mail-style mail folders, mh-style folders, XML, or perhaps to another database.
  • Consider making a second ODBC connection to another server to be able to access other message stores. There are oodles of web-based listserv archives out there, why not give people raw access to a database containing the archives instead of forcing a web interface? The possibilities here are very interesting... Consider a mailing list where no mail is sent out via SMTP. Subscribers still submit mail via SMTP (i.e., conventional mail clients), but they simply make ODBC connections to "receive" mail from the list. As a subscriber, I would configure my mail client to make an ODBC connection not only to my "home" mail server, but also to the LAM listserv ODBC. Messages to the LAM list would still show up in my inbox view (if I wanted them to, that is), but they were never actually pushed via SMTP to every subscriber on the list -- they just appeared in the database, and clients pulled them. Granted, this has obvious scalability problems, so a more realistic example might be providing ODBC connections in a read-only fashion for archive searching, etc. (vs. everyday usage). But it's still interesting. :-)


The whole point here is that mail clients today are bound by artificially limiting data stores. If we remove those limiting factors and instead use a very powerful data store and start using KM kinds of tools with e-mail, the possibilities are truly interesting..

None of this is holy writ. Like I mentioned in the beginning, this was an idea brewing in my subconscious for a few years, and it only just took on words and active dialogue with others within the last week. So although this idea intrigues me greatly, if I ever get around to implementing it, it may be substantially different from what I have outlined from above. :-).

That being said, comments and suggestions on this are welcome.

October 18, 2002

Wooow... she even infused the meringue with an insusient hint of lemon zest!

Wow. I can't believe it's over.

It's Friday morning, and I'm packing up my stuff to drive outta here and return home. I sign out today at 1300 (1:00pm for you non-military types), and then essentially hit the road.

The last two weeks have been crazy hectic, but good. I got a lot of sincere "we're going to miss you" kinds of goodbyes. Tracy was out here a few weeks ago and said to me, "You're going to miss this place, aren't you?" Yeah, she's totally right. I met some really great people here, actually made some good friends, and will be sad to go.

That being said, I'm sure that I will be able to find it within me to turn the ignition and push down on the gas pedal later today and start driving. ;-) Even though I'll clear the state lines of Arizona with mixed feelings, it'll be fantastic to return home and be with my wife and friends. I can't wait; it'll be awesome. :-)


Quick summary of a bunch of things that happened over these last two weeks while I was too busy to write journal entries (in no particular order -- cope):


  • CPT Klak was here (Ft. H) to take a satellite imagery class. She came over to see my office, met with her old classmate MAJ F (we were all in Army ROTC at the same time at Notre Dame), and generally had fun while she was here. She returned to Ft. Gordon on a red eye last night.
  • CPT Klak -- a reservist like me -- has been extended for a second year. Big bonk. :-(
  • I got an Army Commendation Medal for my time here, which is really nice and totally unexpected. It was signed by the 2 star general commander of CECOM (the parent organization of the organization that I worked for down here at Ft. H).
  • A friend of mine (Dagny) teaches a Linux+ certification class in Tucson and asked me to come up and lecture at it, which I did. It was fun. I spoke for about an hour, and then took about another hour's worth of questions. John D. came with me (friend from Sierra Vista), who's actually a Solaris guy, but we both had fun.
  • Dagny and Jeff got married (not me, of course). Kudos for them!
  • Dagny, Jeff, and I went to Biosphere 2, which was pretty cool.
  • I had lots of "going away" dinners and meals with friends here in Sierra Vista -- too many to mention. I will miss them.
  • The mail client idea that I mentioned in ThunderJournal a few weeks ago has evolved and grown a bit. It's now turned into a low-bandwidth project with myself and 2 friends. Someday we might actually have code that does some of this kind of stuff. Ping me if you're interested.
  • I heard from a happy LAM customer today (after I accidentally deleted a post of his on the LAM list):

    No hard feelings! We don't mind as lam-mpi this weekend reduced our Markov-chain simulation from 30 hours to 1 hour.

  • LAM picked up a mirror in China at the High Performance and Scientific Computing Lab, Network Center, Lanzhou University.
  • Renzo is snubbing me again on my trip home. Worthless bastard. Ok, so he's on a cruise with his family. I still can't believe that they didn't check with me before scheduling their vacation!
  • After literally months of deliberation, LAM/MPI license woes are solved. LAM 6.5.7 has been released with the new license. Woof!
  • Don't do this:

     # cd /home # rm -rf `du -s * | sort -rn | head -1 | awk '{print $2}'`; 
  • Lots of cool things are happening in LAM.
  • SC in 2 weeks. Woo hoo!
  • Notre Dame has managed to go 6-0 in men's football. Amazing. There's a decent, building team there! There's been a good amount of healthy Irish Luck as well, but our new Coach seems to be doing well, and the players seem to be responding to him. Kudos!

Ok, I really gotta go pack now. Homeward bound!

October 25, 2002

Radio, box-side smelting... it's all the same, really.

As my last journal entry stated so succinctly, I'm home. Woo hoo!

Lots of work stuff to do:


  • Install Mandrake 9.0 on my new 2.4GHz box.

  • Install XP on Tracy's machine.

  • Commit a whole bunch of OSCAR stuff.

  • Work on a LAM/NSF proposal with Andy.

  • Get PIPT working for an SC2002 demo.

  • Finish the LAM boot SSI.

Lots of home stuff to do:


  • Re-setup my home office; probably re-layout the room with the new computer, tidy up (hide?) wires, etc.

  • Re-setup my wireless network access

  • Clean up (read: add shelving) in my "server closet"

  • Integrate Tivo better into TV system downstairs (volume doesn't work right)

  • Investigate multi-function remote controls to do Tivo/TV/cable/etc. integration better

  • Caulk up the back door

  • Finish going through all the bills and things that piled up while I was gone


So I installed Mandrake 9 on my new Dell Dimension 4500. Woo hoo! Only problem is -- performance stinks. :-(

Specifically -- disk performance stinks. As in whenever there is big disk activity going on, the machine "pauses". After doing some digging around, I started playing with hdparm, since that can have a huge impact on performance. I discovered that hdparm won't let me set using_dma to 1. So I can't use DMA with my disk! Doh!! Not being able to use DMA certainly explains the kind of behavior that I'm seeing...

After doing more digging around on the web, it seems that this is a known issue with Linux kernel 2.4.19 (which is what MDK 9.0 is). And it's not really Linux's fault -- it's the BIOS's fault for not setting up the device properly. Later Linux kernels (i.e., patches since 2.4.19) have apparently worked around this issue.

Arrgh. Haven't quite decided what I'm going to do about this yet.

And now the NIC is giving me lots of trouble, too (lots of error/dropped packets) -- don't know if this is another symptom of the same problem, or a different problem altogether.


I found that the new version of xwrits has a rabid new function that does lock the screen once an hour to force you to take a wrist break (as opposed to just popping up a window saying "it's time to take a break!).


I fried my Linksys WAP today. :-(

All I did was upgrade the firmware (the upgrade software told me that the upgrade was successful), and then it became totally unresponsive. I called tech support, and they advised me to contact the Returns department and see if I can return it. I bought the thing a long, long time ago and no longer have the receipt for it -- I kinda doubt that they'll take it back. :-(

October 30, 2002

I have a position of indirect respect and oblique power

I have had both more success and more failure in getting my new machine to use all of its capabilities:


  • Success: got linux 2.4.19-ac4 to compile and install
  • Failure: normal lowmem kernels won't use all of my RAM (I have 1GB RAM, they'll only use 896MB)
  • Success: got a highmem version of 2.4.19-ac4 to compile (that will use all 1GB of my RAM)
  • Failure: couldn't get it to work. Unresolved symbols in some kernel modules. I can't [yet ] tell if this is a problem with my kernel compile, or something with my installation of that kernel.
  • Success: running the lowmem 2.4.19-ac4 kernel enables DMA to my hard drive.
  • Failure: running the lowmem 2.4.19-ac4 kernel disables support for my i810 sound system.

More updates as they're available. Since I have a [mostly] working system, I'm using that for now and will be addressing the other issues (sound, highmem) when I get the time.


GNU ddd wouldn't compile with GCC 3.2. I had to make some minor mods to their source files to make it compile properly. Uck.


Notre Dame keeps winning men's football games. Wow. I'm amazed. Rock on to Ty Willingham and to our players!

Tracy and I set Tivo to take the game vs. FSU. We forgot the "nice people" factor -- while we were at Home Depot, one of the sales guys saw Tracy's ND sweatshirt and said, "They're winning right now, 10-3".

Arrghh!


From the "sick and wrong" department (something I saw in someone else's perl code today):

     # I love this trick:     local $" = ')|(?:'; 

November 4, 2002

What are we supposed to do until then? Go without coffee and snacks like wild animals in some kind of police state?

I have 11 six-foot telephone cords.

That just seems like way too many.


Notre Dame finally lost yesterday -- to Boston College. We really looked like crap. :-(

I kinda figured that we'd lose at some point this season... but to BC? Why'd it have to be BC?

We're still in the top 10, but... well, we'll see what happens in the rest of the season.


I cleaned out my "server" closet today (hence, I know exactly how many six-foot telephone cables I have), and put up shelving in there. No, don't get excited -- it's plastic, pre-fab shelving from Home Depot. But the place is much more organized now. I (re)discovered a mini-tower that was sitting in the back that I had totally forgotten about.

Hmmm.... I wonder what it is?

Think it'll run Mandrake 9.0?

What the hell!

When I finally cleared out the closet and got everything back in order, I hijacked squyres.com's monitor and hooked it up to this beast. It booted Windoze 95 (plus). Wow. Time for the sucker to die.

So I put in the MDK 9.0 disk, and (after a few tries) got it to boot up the MDK installer. Kudos to MDK for having an installer that will fall back to ANSI graphics mode if the video can't handle graphics! Who woulda thunk? (yes, this machine is really old...) Ok, the curses-based graphics weren't entirely flawless, but it worked reasonably well enough.

Turns out that this machine is P166 with a 2GB hard drive (I laughed out loud as I found out those two pieces of information). No problem -- I found a few spare hard drives today while I was reorganizing (4, to be exact). One of them was 4 GB (the others were all smaller!), so I popped that one in and have re-started the MDK install, just for giggles.

Amazing.


I got a new WAP at Best Buy today. Instead of a standalone WAP, I got a router/4 port switch/WAP. It was the same price as a standalone WAP. In the words of Austin Powers: yay capitalism!


I also bought a Sony AV3000 uber-remote control for our entertainment setup downstairs. The jury's still out on this one; it was somewhat expensive, but it did allow me to ditch 7 remote controls for just that one. Tracy seems to like it, too. It has some pretty powerful capabilities which I'm only sorta using. We'll see how we'll it works out; I may still exercise the Best Buy return policy...

December 14, 2002

You poor, misguided, Canadian bastard

Goodness and Badness.


Badness: my DSL provider is shutting down.

DirectTV DSL has provided me with fabulous service over the past few years. I've enjoyed excellent bandwidth, very little down time, great terms of service (didn't care about my operating system, allowed whatever incoming and outgoing services that I wanted, didn't charge for additional computers, etc.), and I had a fixed IP address.

They just announced this yesterday, so there are few details available yet. They promise more details on Tuesday, including supposedly options for where I can go after them. The last time I looked at the local phone company DSLs around here, they weren't nearly as good as DirectTV DSL. :-(


Goodness: much progress on my dissertation this week. I went to IU and had lots of good planning and design conversations and whatnot with Brian and Andy about System Services Interface (SSI) stuff in LAM. We've added plans for several more SSI's:


  • Request Progression Interface (RPI): This one is technically already done, but we're going to make "multi-RPI" possible -- the ability to support multiple RPI's in a single MPI job.
  • Boot: This one is also technically [just about] done -- a fully modular booting process. So far we have modules for rsh/ssh and tm (i.e., PBS/OpenPBS). Yes, this means that LAM now has native PBS support (Brian coded this one up). Woo hoo!
  • MPI Collectives: I had some brainstorms and this past week I coded up an SSI for the MPI collectives including some super-cool optimizations. When multi-RPI becomes a reality, this will become very interesting. Right now there's only the one module -- the same old LAM collective algorithms that we had before. But I'll take a stab at coding up the MagPIe algorithms shortly. There's also some very interesting collaboration opportunities with collectives.
  • MPI One sided: This will be kinda cool, and as Brian pointed out, gm supports a native get/put model, so this could be very nice indeed. We have some of the one sided functionality right now; this will be a good excuse to finish it.
  • MPI Topologies: This may or may not yield significant fruit. But it will provide the possibility of interesting stuff -- if SSI modules can somehow map LAM onto the underlying architecture, that would be very cool. We'll see where this one goes.

There's others planned, but all of those will be in my dissertation. Very cool stuff, especially when multi-RPI becomes a reality.

December 29, 2002

I mean nobody cares how beautiful the souffle is if the appetizer is turds in a blanket

Just came back from a week with Tracy's parents in Florida.


Christmas was great; I got everything that I asked for: some books (I'm a reading fiend), an additional CD case (my other two cases are full, and I have CD's just lying around), new boots, various stuff for around the house, etc.

We saw Mark and Amy and Tracy's parents while we were down there, which was cool. We generally hung out and did nothing for a week, but I did manage to see Star Trek: Nemesis and The Two Towers.

I'll give Nemesis a sympathy rating. It was fine and all, but it was essentially a long Next Generation episode with better special effects. If you're at the theater and it takes no extra effort to see it, then see it. Otherwise, it's very rentable.

The Two Towers was great -- lots of great fight scenes, and very detailed, intricate sets, etc. It's everything that it's cranked up to be. The only downer is that (and I don't think I'm giving anything away here) even though the movie ends on an "up" note, the good guys basically get their ass kicked throughout the movie, and you walk outta the theater feeling somewhat "blah". This has nothing to do with the movie, per se, it's the storyline itself. But the movie is excellent -- I give it 15 minutes.


When I fired up my IM client this morning, I had a pending message from Darrell reminding me to visit his parents while I was in FL. Needless to say, I had totally forgotten that they were right near Tracy's parents in FL, and didn't visit them.

Doh! :-(


My DSL switchover appeared to go without a hitch on 26 Dec. I came home from FL last night and put in the new DSL modem, switched my Linksys DSL router to DHCP, and walla! Happiness. :-)

I now have a new fixed IP address (I updated DNS last night; it's still propagating), and all my services appear to be working -- incoming ssh and whatnot still appear to work. Woo hoo!

The next challenge is with my old DSL provider -- I sent a disconnect request last night. Let's hope that when they shut it off, they don't shut off my new DSL service by accident...


Our VCR died last week for apparently no reason -- it simply refuses to do anything, even though it will power on/off. We have a "backup" VCR (read: an old one that still mostly works), but it only has mono audio out, and even though I'm not an audiophile, I can tell the difference, and it bugs me. This is doubly annoying because the cable box/TiVo feeds its audio through the VCR, so everything that we watch is now mono. Ugh! I probably need to re-think my audio wiring so that feeding through the VCR isn't necessary, but I haven't wanted to expend the effort :-).

While in FL, I came up with the brilliant idea of replacing the dead VCR with a cheap DVD/VCR combo (and moving the DVD player to the upstairs TV). But looking at bestbuy.com today, I see that the only ones that I would consider (feature-wise) would be several hundred dollars, which I'm not really willing to spend.

The cheapest solution here might well be to buy White Christmas on DVD, which was the only VHS tape that we've played in quite a while. :-)


I have made much progress on MetaMenu. Now I gotta make some progress on MailDB. :-) (both of these projects are early enough that they have really lame/non-existent web pages right now, so stay tuned for details)

December 30, 2002

Some notable things I forgot

Some notable things I forgot to mention about Christmas week in my previous entry:


  • We went to see Tim and his family (Tim who was activated and deployed with me down at Ft. Huachuca). That was great -- he's got a nice house, treated us to way too much food, and we finally met his wife and kids. A good time was had by all.
  • My C-*'s and I gave my parents a ReplayTV for Christmas. With much efforts, he ran a telephone wire over to the entertainment center (which entailed moving all the furniture, raising the rug, etc.) so that it could be activated, do its regular downloads, etc. After doing this, he found out that it only uses touch tone dialing -- it doesn't seem to be able to use pulse dialing (Dad has steadfastly refused to pay extra for touch tone service and has used pulse dialing for years)! After discussing many technical alternatives (hooking it into the DSL LAN via various methods, buying tone-to-pulse converters, etc.), Tracy said "why not just finally break down and buy touch tone service? I'm sure it's significantly cheaper than what you're talking about..." And yes, at $0.50/month, it is. So it looks like Dad will likely have to break down and pay for touch tone service. Too funny! :-)

    Follow up on this: apparently there is a selection deep within the menus for pulse dialing, but it doesn't work! Dad finally got someone from tech support to confirm that it doesn't do anything [yet]. That seems kinda weird!


March 23, 2003

Son, I look at that like a dog looks at a doorknob

Another blast from the past today: LT "Tex" from SOBC e-mailed me to say hello.

Of all things, he contacted me because he saw some of my posts in the 53 listserv. Indeed, when I visited USARC a week or two ago, several of the higher-ups already knew who I was from my activity on the 53 list. Fortunately, this was a Good Thing. :-)

Moral of the day: watch what you say on public listservs -- you have no idea how far your words will be sent!

April 30, 2003

Klakness is goodness

Klak is back. Back is Klak. Klak klak klak. Just heard from CPT Klak in the first time in over a month. I'm glad to hear that she's ok. Woo hoo!

February 10, 2004

24 and a wakeup

So I got a pretty big surprise last week.

Wednesday evening, I was just getting in my car after picking up uniforms at the dry cleaners when my cell phone rang. It was MAJ J, from my unit. “Jeff, this is an official call.”

My heart sunk. ☹

I was being mobilized. MAJ J had very little information — he only had the alert which had literally just arrived, and since it was later enough in the afternoon, every office was closed and no more information was available. He did have a report date — about 2.5 weeks from now. And the unfortunate possibility that I might be called on for my annual 2 weeks prior to that — making the earliest I could be called up just a few days from now. He promised to talk to me in the morning when he got more info. Yikes.

Needless to say, I was so distracted on my drive home that it’s a miracle that I didn’t cause any accidents. I spent the night talking to a few friends and Army colleagues, and pretty much preparing myself mentally for another deployment. To make matters even more interesting, I knew the unit where I was going, so I looked them up in the Army Knowledge Online database, and found their mobilization order. One word jumped out at me: Afghanistan. Double yikes.

In the morning, I called MAJ J and talked with him some more. He didn’t have a whole lot more information, but he did advise me to start putting my civilian affairs in order, telling my boss that I’m going to be away, etc. So I did. I made phone calls, sent e-mails, etc. This pretty much took all morning.

I finally took a break (it was pretty depressing; just about everyone had the same reaction — “Again? Didn’t you just come back?”) and went downstairs for some lunch. I got a call from Mr. M. at my unit saying, “Hey, it looks like they either never had or lost your records from your previous mobilization — you need to bring that paperwork in right now.”

So I promptly jumped in my car with all my records and headed over to the unit. MAJ W. (G-1) did a fantastic job — she took my records and started looking up regulations, etc. She finally dug up the rules stating that a reservist can only be called up for a max of 24 months on a single executive order. I’ve already been called up for 12 months under the current executive order (it’s the same one that’s been in effect since shortly after 9/11). This new mobilization was for 18 months — that would have put me 6 months over the limit. So it turns out that I was not eligible after all.

So I’m not going to Afghanistan. ☺

While I’m more relieved than words can say, I am still sad because someone will have to go.


In celebration, on the way home from my unit, I stopped by Best Buy and bought a caller ID unit for my office upstairs (we just recently got caller ID service when we switched local phone plans to save money). Woo hoo!

So I had to make a bunch more phone calls and send more e-mails to un-do all the stuff that I had done earlier in the day. But that’s ok. I’m not going to Afghanistan. ☺


Saturday started a drill weekend for me. Even though I didn’t announce my intentions to anyone, no one was surprised when I turned in a letter resigning my Army commission (I’m told that there was a pool going of exactly when I would turn it in). Mind you, this mobilization is not the only reason that I’m resigning — it’s really just the straw that broke the camel’s back. My resignation letter explains it fairly well:

Simply put, I am no longer able to divide my time between two wholly separate, intensive, time-consuming, and mentally challenging careers. If I continue both, each will suffer, and therefore I must focus on one. I have learned more than I ever expected when I enrolled as a ROTC cadet, been honored to serve with many exemplary soldiers, been humbled to be a part of this great Army, and successfully served my statuatory and contractual obligations. It is therefore time for me to leave the military.

The paperwork is filtering through my unit (I have the full support of everyone in my command), and will eventually make its way to AR-PERSCOM. Hopefully, this will proceed fairly quickly.

February 21, 2004

Wakeup

Yet another chapter in my life closes.

I got my honorable discharge certificate from the Army in the mail today. It was effective 18 March, 2004.

I’m really happy, but at the same time, it still hasn’t fully sunk in yet. It’ll take a little time, I’m sure — something that has been part of my identity for so many years is now over. At some point in the near future, my .mil e-mail address will stop working, and I’ll be shut out of Army Knowledge Online (the main Army collaboration portal).

It was a good tour. If I had to do it over again, I’d do it the same way. Darrell asked me this evening:

“So aside from all the leadership experience, comraderie, sense of duty and fulfillment, working with other soldiers for something greater, learning about massive organizations, practical experience with all levels of command, and the huge chunk of cash that you got to attend to Notre Dame, did you get anything out of the army at all?”

Yes, yes I did.

Thanks to all who helped me have a fabulous Army career; you are all too numerous to mention. How many of you kept a young LT / CPT straight and honest? You know who you are. ☺

February 24, 2004

Wakeup: part deux

I sent out a mass e-mail the other day announcing that I am getting out of the army, and including the same paragraph from my resignation letter that I posted in a previous journal entry.

Unexpectedly, I have received a large number of replies — a whole bunch of “thank you for serving!” mails and a few extraordinarily kind replies from some fellow soldiers.

I honestly don’t know what to say; I’m flattered and honored to have elicited such a response. Indeed, I don’t feel like I really deserve it. Sure, I was deployed for a year, but in comparison to many, many others, my deployment was tremendously easy. There are thousands of others who have endured far greater hardship than me.

I can say from experience that it’s always great when someone thanks you for serving. This has happened to me several times when I was walking around in public areas with my uniform on — some random stranger comes up and just says “thanks,” or something similar. We serve at the pleasure of the president, and the president serves you, the citizen. So when you, our commander-in-chief’s boss, tell us “thanks,” that really makes the whole job worthwhile. It certainly isn’t the pay or the lifestyle! (recall previous journal entries about my soldiers being eligible for food stamps) I can tell you that every military person definitely appreciates it when you do that.

So the next time you see a service member in public, thank them. You don’t need to make a big show; a quick, “Hey, just wanted to say ‘thanks’ for serving…” will do.

It’ll go farther than you can imagine.

March 6, 2004

Slimy slimy slimy

I just got my first-ever spam at a .mil address, and it’s one of the oldest spams around — laser printer toner.

Wow.

November 27, 2004

Friends in Iraq

An old college friend’s husband was just deployed to Iraq yesterday. He’s a captain in a medical battalion out of Ft. Bragg; I think his deployment is scheduled to be a year. He leaves behind his wife and two children.

This is one story among many. Please, support our troops.

To anyone who is reading this, send me a picture of yourself (and/or any friends and family) with a yellow ribbon. I’ll pass them on to all my friends who are deployed.

Most don’t want to be there; most want to be home with their families. And despite what the press reports, there are many many Iraqis and Afghanis that are appreciative of our soldiers’ efforts. Sure, there’s lots of rough spots. And there are definitely some bad apples in the US military (who the press is capitolizing on, unfortunately). But let’s not forget some things that the world press is choosing not to publicize: women are back in school. Kids are getting health care. Homes have electricity. Afghanistan just had a free election. Is the United States the solution in the middle east? Clearly not. And I don’t think that anyone believes that. But we certainly can’t just pull out right now, so I have to put faith in those who are in charge that they’re doing the absolute best that they can. I certainly believe in the US servicemen and women over there.

Regardless of how you feel about Bush and his policies, please support our troops. Support free Afghanis, and support free Iraqis.

August 17, 2005

Thank you for serving

I got an e-mail from a relative the other day with a copy of a Budweiser commercial the other day containing a subject line of “Best Bud commercial EVER!”. It’s the commercial where several army personnel walk through a train or airport terminal and the crowd applauds them as they walk through. At the end is a blank screen with “Thank you” which fades into the Anheuser Busch logo.

I am actually strongly opposed to this commercial.

Of course, I deeply appreciate the sentiment. I still actively walk up to people in uniform and say “thank you for serving.” As many of you know, I served for 10 years in the Army reserve.

But that’s not the point here.

The point is that Anheuser Busch is making up buck off this. A lot of bucks. They’re capitalizing in the popular feelings of patriotism, and in a bizarre way, almost taking credit for thanking military service members. This helps them sell beer. “USA = proud service members = Budweiser Beer” is what this commercial says. So I deeply resent the fact that AB is using a cheap trick for an advertising campaign. To me, this abuses memory of the service of our nation’s military members. Do you really want your sons and daughters to die so that Budweiser can sell more beer? I don’t think so.

I felt the same way when I saw a popular insurance company use the song “Coming Home” for the soundtrack to one of their TV commercials, showing heartbreaking losses due to natural disaster. I immediately filed a complaint. Apparently, I was not alone. Within a short time, the company had pulled the ad because so many other people had complained (for those of you who don’t know, “Coming Home” is the song traditionally played when deceased military members are returned to US soil).

So I don’t think that this is the Best Bud Commercial Ever. I’m actually deeply offended. You should be too. And you should let them know.

If they really wanted to make a statement, then pay for the exact same commercial to be played in prime time, but remove the AB logo at the end. Make it an anonymous “thank you.” That would really be something.

Specifically: you tell military members “thank you” because it’s the Right Thing To Do, not because you can make a buck from it.


My relative respectfully disagreed with me, which somewhat surprised and saddened me (my relative has immediate family members who servered in the military). My relative’s point was that no product was advertised and it was a good reminder to most americans to thank those who serve in the military.

I disagree. The fact that the AB logo is shown at the end means that it is an advertisement. Yes, it’s great to remind Americans to thank those in the military. Like I said, remove the logo at the end of the commercial, and I’d be all for it — this would be more like a corporate-sponsored public service announcement rather than a commercial.

May 19, 2006

On randomness and wood screws

My local army unit alumni association had a “pack up care packages for deployed soldiers” meeting last night. The unit (a division — a very high-level organization) has over 300 reserve soldiers deployed in the middle east.

I unforutnately had to miss it due to a prior engagement. ☹ But it makes me remember that the last time the association had one of these meetings, I heard a story that shows that the American spirit of giving is alive and well. The day before the meeting, COL J. (retired) was buying supplies — magazines, candy, razors, beef jerky, soap, and various other knick knacks that we all take for granted as part of our daily lives at a local Target. The clerk looked at him oddly and said, “What on earth are you buying all this stuff for?”

COL J. explained that it was all going into care packages being sent to soldiers deployed in the middle east. The clerk immediately fished out his wallet and gave COL J. a $20 bill. “Here,” he said. “Go get some more stuff.”


Regardless of your political/moral philosophy, please remember the service members who are away from their families trying to make the world a safer place. Although the news media typically only reports when bad things happen (and there have obviously been some spectacular failures), there is an amazing amount of good being done over there. These men and women are doing their absolute best to improve the living conditions and daily lives of others.

For example, a college friend of mine has a husband who recently returned from a year-long deployment in Iraq. He’s an officer in the US Army, and is an eye doctor. He administered free health care by proscribing and distributing thousands of pairs of glasses to Iraqi citizens — men, women, and children. Indeed, some of his female patients were fully cloaked in their traditional garb with only their eyes showing. Imagine being an eye doctor and not being able to touch or even directly speak to your patient.

This is but one story of many. Please remember these men and women, and the people that they’re trying to help.

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