Friday, October 23, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

R.E.M. Live at the Olympic

R.E.M. are one of my all-time favourite bands, and their concert in Seattle a few years ago was one of the best concerts I've ever seen.

So, I'm really happy to see they have a new live album coming out. You can read about it and listen to the whole 2-disc album on NPR's website here!

Great spam subject lines

"Stimulate her grotto better".

I guess I will need to go spelunking!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Netgear ReadyNAS Duo + Win7 = Fail

I recently bought a ReadyNAS Duo for use at home, and am also running Windows 7.

Unfortunately, the two don't seem to be very happy with each other. Copying files from my Windows 7 machine, over the wireless LAN, to the ReadyNAS Duo throws up this error:

These errors happen randomly, often after a few files have been copied. Looking at a network capture, it looked like the ReadyNAS was sending an error in response to one of the SMB commands that Windows 7 sent...
SMB SMB:C; Transact2, Query FS Info, Query FS Size Info (NT)
SMB SMB:R; Transact2, Query FS Info, Query FS Size Info (NT)
SMB SMB:C; Transact2, Query File Info, Query File Standard Info, FID = 0x2B31
SMB SMB:R; Transact2, Query File Info, FID = 0x2B31 - NT Status: System - Error, Code = (8) STATUS_INVALID_HANDLE

I tried switching to Robocopy, but the same thing happens (at least Robocopy can be made to automatically retry...) One problem with using Robocopy is that the timestamps on the ReadyNAS seem to be FAT-based, so Robocopy will always think the files on the Windows 7 machine are newer than those on the ReadyNAS.

To get the timestamps to work as ecpected (and have Robocopy skip files that already exist on the ReadyNAS), you need to use the /FFT option. This is odd, since the ReadyNAS seems to be reporting it supports the NTFS filesysten, looking at the SMB responses it sends to Windows:
SMB SMB:C; Transact2, Query FS Info, Query FS Attribute Info (NT)
SMB SMB:R; Transact2, Query FS Info, Query FS Attribute Info (NT), FS = NTFS

I hope there is an update to support Windows 7 properly... Time to try Netgear's tech support (steeling myself...)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fair treatment under the law

NPR recently aired a story on Hispanic farmers' fight against the USDA, and it really made an impact on me. I was shocked and dismayed to hear that they are being denied the same treatment that African American farmers received:

Soon after President Reagan took office in the early 1980s, the USDA's civil rights division was quietly dismantled. Nevertheless, the agency continued to
tell farmers that if they felt they weren't getting loans because of their color
or gender, they should file a complaint.

But for the next 14 years, those complaints were put into an empty government office and never investigated. By the 1990s, black farmers filed a lawsuit — Pigford v. Glickman. Because the USDA failed to investigate years of discrimination complaints, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman certified the black farmers' case as a class action. And with that ruling, rather than risk a trial, the federal government Settled with 15,000 black farmers for $1 billion.

It looks to me as if Hispanics are still being treated as second-class citizens, despite this being 2009 and the civil rights movement having triumphed to a large extent in the area of discrimiation against non-whites in the USA.

You can read more and listen to the story here.

Is This Your Brain on God?

I've been interested in meditation, mysticism and Eastern religion/philosophy for a while. It's exciting to see how modern science is beginning to have the tools to see what happens inside the brain as people dream, medititate and have "spiritual" experiences. Is "god" really just chemistry or a side effect of how our brains are wired?

This article from NPR offers a fun way to dig into the various NPR segments, books, etc. that touch on this topic.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Peter Cook and Dudley Moore again

A while back I posted a link to a classic comedy sketch from Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Well, it's time for another one! Here is the classic "facts of life" sketch on Youtube.

Watch out for warm chairs!

Monday, October 12, 2009

What people think about your Seattle school

The Stranger (a free weekly newspaper in Seattle), recently had a special "back to school" issue.
For my foreign readers, I should clarify that in the USA "school" is a synonym for college and university, so the issue focused on the issues 18+ year-olds face when going to college/uni.

The funniest section was the guide to "what people think about your school" - perhaps useful information for people like my brother-in-law that are trying to pick good teaching jobs :) I've had a few conversations recently with family, trying to clear up the difference between Seattle Pacific University and Seattle University... So here is an extract from the article that makes it clear:
If you're attending Seattle Pacific University, people will assume you're either celibate or a closet case or both. If you're attending Seattle University, people will think you're relatively intelligent and maybe Catholic but nothing special.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Jamie Oliver in the USA

The New York Times Magazine has an interesting article about British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. He has a new project/TV show focusing on obesity in the USA and trying to get people to cook healthy, home-made food. (He did a similar show in the UK which I've not yet seen, and before that did a project to improve school lunches in the UK).

The article is worth reading - and there's this timeline of his career to check out too.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Seattle Homebrew Competition

Next Saturday, October 17th, is the Seattle Homebrew Competition awards show at Brouwers in Fremont. See more info here.

Berlin Reunion

To quote's write-up:

"Earlier this week, 1.5 million people filled the streets of Berlin, Germany to watch a several-day performance by France's Royal de Luxe street theatre company titled "The Berlin Reunion". Part of the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Reunion show featured two massive marionettes, the Big Giant, a deep-sea diver, and his niece, the Little Giantess. The storyline of the performance has the two separated by a wall, thrown up by "land and sea monsters". The Big Giant has just returned from a long and difficult - but successful - expedition to destroy the wall, and now the two are walking the streets of Berlin, seeking each other after many years apart."

See the pictures here, and a video on Youtube here. Trust me, it's worth a look! :)

Friday, October 09, 2009

New Trader Joe's open!

Yay! The new Trader Joe's in "downtown" Redmond officially opens today!

Failure to THRIVE

A friend posted a link to this shocking advert on Costco's website. Ah yes, a 1-year supply of freeze-dried and dehydrated food, just what I was looking for! (If only the characters in The Road had been smart enough to order some of these before Armageddon).

Something in me just cries "No!" when I see this. And it doesn't get any better when you watch the videothat goes along with this product. It starts off sounding like a testimonial from someone you've never seen before. It turns out she works for the company that makes the stuff, but don't worry, she's not biased.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Signs you are getting old

When I was a kid, we didn't have fancy things like cut-and-paste on computers. (I am young enough that I did have my own computer as a kid, so that means I'm less than 40, right?)

I remember when programs like WordStar and WordPerfect arived and let you copy and cut text from one place in a document and paste it somewhere else. It's amazing to think this was actually a new thing!

Then came Windows 3.x, with its fancy GUI. (OK, strictly speaking the Mac was there first, but I never played with a Mac much...) Now you could cut and paste between different programs! There was this thing called the clipboard, and a desktop for you to put all your files, so you could easily find them (Hahaha, that was a great idea -not!)

Things have stayed fairly much the same since then - computers are faster and Windows has gone through some changes in terms of look and feel, but the clipboard has pretty much remained as-is. If you were really bleeding-edge you could get a program to duplicate your clipboard across machines - useful when you are writing code or doing email on machine A and debugging on machine B.

Now, in the always-online age, it seems logical to use the Internet as your clipboard, and we now have various websites devoted to this (called Pastebins). Sites like and are all the rage. Initially created to allow "collaborative debugging", it didn't take long for 1337 H4x0rs to start using them to share stolen passwords, credit card numbers, and exploits.

PS: Remember when collaborative debugging was done over email, newsgroups, or web forums?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Not the sort of thing you'll find in every phrase book

This is a sample phrase from from the Eastern ǃXóõ dialect, provided by the linguist Anthony Traill:
"Give them their stinking genitals with the fat!"
Makes "My hovercraft is full of eels" seem tame in comparison...

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Certified Man Cave

What is a certified Man Cave, you ask? Well, thankfully, this website provides the answer:

  • Construction must be managed by a Man Cave Builders licensed contractor using elements such as: Wood, Stone, Leather, Metal and Glass.
  • Media design and install must be overseen by a professional Man Cave Builders media representative.
  • The project should include at least 3 of the following components:
    • Bar
    • Multiple TV Monitors
    • Game Table
    • Video Game Console
    • Comfortable Seating: couches, love seat, bar stools, theater seating
    • Audio/Video Media Center
  • Must be a dedicated space for entertaining.
  • The new Man Cave room must be themed to fit within the Man Cave philosophy and standards and be "marked" accordingly within the Man Cave Certification process but always tastefully befitting the room's design.
  • The three founders of Man Cave Builders must fully inspect and are required to "sign off" on the room's certification.

Right, well, I'll get right on that then...

Friday, October 02, 2009

Lhasa Beer

I noticed a display in our local Whole Foods store for a new beer: Lhasa Beer.

Made in Lhasa, Tibet and claiming to plugh back 10% of profits to benefit Tibetans, I was initially highly sceptical. I suspected a clever marketing ploy from a Chinese-owned brewery (probably not even in Tibet)...

However, after looking at their website, it looks like they are the real deal. Their brewery is actually in Lhasa. 72% of their employees are ethnic Tibetans (52% are women). They are co-owned by Danish company Carlsberg. They have links to NGOs that operate in Tibet.

It looks like people are divided on whether to buy Lhasa Beer:

It's highly likely that the Chinese government own a portion of the Lhasa Brewery (why else would they allow it to operate?), and the cheaper alcohol that would logically be produced by a large Lhasa-based brewery is likely to have an impact on the level of alcoholism in Tibet...

I guess I will have to think about this some more.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

A Confederacy of Dunces

{A} and I saw the Seattle world-premier production of A Confederacy of Dunces at the Book-it Repertory this past weekend.

I was a little nervous - this book is full of zany characters and a takes place in several locations around 1960s New Orleans, a place with a unique culture. Capturing all that on stage would be hard... The good news is I think the production mostly did a great job - the leads were fantastic, Brandon Whitehead as Ignatius Reilly, and Ellen McLain as his mother were pretty much perfect and just as I imagined the characters.

Todd Licea made a great Mr. Levy and Kevin McKeon was great as Mr. Clyde, the proprietor of Paradise Hot Dogs. (His portrayal of Claude Robichaux was a bit too old and doddering for me...)
Charles Norris was good as Burma Jones - perhaps not as towering a figure as I had imagined when I read the book, but he played him with a nice "cool cat" attitude.

The ending felt a bit rushed and too hard to follow for people that didn't have the book freshly in their memory. The play probably will be most appealing to people that know and love the book and can put up with the minor flaws in the script, set or performances. People that have never read the book will have fun most of the way through, and hopefully will get their curiosity piqued enough to want to check out the book.

I leave you with a link to the Ignatius' Ghost blog, which takes you on a tour of modern New Orleans looking for the locations mentioned in the book.