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May 31, 2005

Speaking for myself alone

Have you ever seen an event go sour before it even happens?

The Freihofer’s Run for Women, an all-female 5K in Albany, has been the USA championship for that distance for several years, and consequently invited only American elite athletes. This year, the championship is elsewhere, and Freihofer’s started assembling an international field. I lined up some work for myself and made plans to be in attendance.

It started looking pretty hot, after several announcements, and last week we started seeing names of athletes like Lornah Kiplagat, who has covered the distance faster than any other woman alive. (For some inexplicable reason, she’s not credited with the world record, but that’s a discussion which will have your brain gnawing its way out, so I’ll leave it for another time.)

One hitch: one of the athletes prominently mentioned was former 10K world record holder Asmae Legzhaoui (say “Leg-ZOW-ie”; like fellow Moroccan Said Aouita, she scores big on the vowels-to-consonants scale, with extra points for using all five unambiguous vowels.)

Legzhaoui was busted for doping (with EPO, specifically) in 2002, and hit with a two-year ban, but now, on her return, that hasn’t been mentioned very much. In fact, the press materials from Albany haven’t mentioned it at all; her agent is calling it a “maternity break.” (While it’s true that Legzhaoui had a child during the period of the ban, she wouldn’t have been competing even if she hadn’t.)

This made me pretty uncomfortable. I write for outlets that cater to fans of the sport, and I do best when I can write something dramatic about an athlete who did something dramatic. I can’t be anything but tepid about an athlete who’s been busted for doping. I was hoping to myself that she wouldn’t win, and I could do my work pretending she wasn’t there.

Over the weekend, Kiplagat withdrew from the race, saying she would not participate in a race where Legzhaoui was an invited guest. (Presumably she would race Legzhaoui if the latter paid her own entry fee and travel expenses.) Another Kenyan woman also represented by Kiplagat’s agent/husband also withdrew, and word is that Benita Johnson, an Australian who won the 2004 World Cross Country championships, is out as well (though that hasn’t been officially confirmed.)

Here’s where I start saying things I can’t say when I’m speaking for anyone but myself. There was a very long and rambling article about the “scandal” on runnersworld.com today, “reported” by the sometimes-incoherent Toby Tanser. It’s very heavy reading, running very long and apparently unedited except for a quick pass through a spell-check. (If I was trying to project a professional atmosphere, I would’ve cut it by half, removing the sentences which don’t make sense, imposed some organization on the arguments, and attempted to feign impartiality.) Tanser is very close to Kiplagat’s camp, and the story is slanted heavily against Legzhaoui. He mentioned, disapprovingly, one Moroccan agent who said…

He has no problem with people like Asmae running races because they were suspended and can’t be punished the rest of their life. However, he said they should not treat them like heroes because they don’t deserve this.

I’m really, really worried about this now, because the athletes who are withdrawing are the ones who stood a good chance of beating Legzhaoui. There are others who still might, but as more withdraw, we may be left with the pariah as the favorite, much like the 2001 World Championships in Edmonton (my second, and last, Worlds) where the Russian Olga Yegorova was cleared for competition despite failing an EPO test earlier in the summer.

I tend to agree with the agent: once the athlete has served the ban, they should have the chance to compete again. But a lot of the image of drug-free athletics is built around trust, and once we’ve been burned by an athlete, it’s hard to trust them again. I continue to hope someone other than Legzhaoui wins on Saturday in Albany; I do not want to write about her as if she’s a hero; nor do I want to read others attempting to gloss over her ugly past.

Now Playing: Daniel Lee from by Sarah Borges

Posted by pjm at 1:51 PM | Comments (2)

I should be collecting royalties

At a nickel a page view, I think we could’ve fed Iz for nearly a year now on the proceeds of his modeling career. If there wasn’t so much clutter in the photo, I would be printing birthday cards by now. Anyway, here’s the latest. The range of venues where this photo has shown up can only be accounted for by Google Image Search, I think.

Either that or our cat is becoming an internet icon.

Now Playing: Flower from Some Friendly by The Charlatans

Posted by pjm at 10:17 AM | Comments (0)

May 30, 2005

Vacation == no laptop

And I’m sure you’re all disappointed that I haven’t stacked up a long weekend’s worth of posts, right?

Posted by pjm at 9:00 PM | Comments (0)

May 27, 2005

Geek glee

As a Mac-using geocacher, I’m somewhat outside the geocaching technology mainstream. GPSRs which play nicely with Macs are few and far between; apparently the GPS architecture is wedded to serial ports at a very low level, and USB connecters are dicey. (I’ve got a USB adapter for my GPSR; it doesn’t work. Maybe I should buy a new one, with Bluetooth?)

The result is that I can only add cache waypoints to my GPSR by keying them in or by taking it to work and sending a batch through the serial port of my Windows box there. This can be a drag, because it makes spontaneous caching nearly impossible. Ideally, in any given location, I’d have a few dozen nearby waypoints already in the GPSr, and when I had a spare hour, I’d check to see which is closest. I can do this for places like Fayetteville, which only have eight or ten caches handy, but what if I’m going to Boston? How can I decide which caches I’m actually going to hunt?

This brings me to the next hint: there’s more to the cache than the coordinates. There’s other data, ranging from a description of the container to an encrypted hint for the hide. If I’m looking at a limited number of caches in an area (or I’m planning an expedition from home,) I print the pages from the website and haul the paper along with me. But this weekend I’m going to be in a cache-rich environment, and don’t know where or when I’ll have the time to go looking. I can’t print them all out.

Enter Pocket Queries, which are a paid feature of the geocaching.com website. Anyone can download search results as an XML file (a format they call .loc) but paid members (like me) have the option of getting search results as an e-book. Coincidentally, the e-books can be loaded on Palm organizers… and I happen to have one handy. So I’ve got several dozen description pages loaded up and ready to go! I’m unnaturally pleased with this.

Even better, of course, would be if I could have the descriptions on the GPSR itself. I suppose if I was determined enough, I could parse the .loc files into the XML format for custom Google maps and overlay the cache markers on a satellite photo more-or-less automatically.

(This is exactly the sort of geeky thing that makes people glaze over when I talk about it, so I have to post it here.)

Posted by pjm at 9:49 PM | Comments (0)

Ceci n'est pas un running blog

I am periodically amused whenever I look at the Bloglines subscriptions of people subscribed to my feed(s) who have their own subscriptions public. (Not that there are many of you.) The thing that amuses me is that when the feeds are organized in folders, this feed is nearly always in the “running” folder (if there is one) and not in the “geeky stuff” folder—even if the person in question has both kinds of folders. (Sometimes it’s just in the “people” folder, which is fine.) This is amusing to me because I write so little about running here, and when I do, it’s more likely to be about the sport in general rather than my own running (which has been rather sparse in the last two years.)

I thought about this as I realized how many feeds I read which belong to people I know through running, and thought about making my own little “running” folder. But in fact, I don’t read the feeds because they’re about running; I read them because they’re about people who I know through running. That sounds like a quibble, but it’s an important distinction to me.

I don’t read much about training theory, nutrition, or injury prevention, online or in print. I burned out on that stuff five years ago, and I no longer care very much. (This stuff is not an exception, but the resolution of that paradox is outside the scope of this post.) I have a few feeds which I have dropped into my “news” folder which are about the sport, not the activity. (I’ll unpack that distinction some other time, if anyone cares.) I’d rather read about people, and for the most part I write the sort of posts I’d like to read.

I imagine more people would read here if this was a Running Blog, or a Technology Blog, or even an Education Blog. But I’m not (just) any of those things, so neither is this site.

But if you wish to think of it with any of the above tags, feel free; apparently all the people who’ve bookmarked this site in del.icio.us have merely tagged it “blog.”

Now Playing: This Bouquet from Not A Pretty Girl by Ani DiFranco

Posted by pjm at 11:44 AM | Comments (3)

May 26, 2005

What next? or, when the liberal arts education isn't really working out

The alumni magazine from my college is making the rounds. (I’ve heard from others that it has arrived, but for some reason, even though I’m in the same town as the college, it always comes to me late.) Some people comment on the articles, but mostly it’s a ripple of rueful complaints as people read the class notes: “Will you people stop winning awards, earning degrees, getting married and having children?” (This is not unique to my college.)

That, combined with the awareness that the college just dumped a fair number of unemployed “young alumni” on the job market who may or may not have immediate plans or actionable ambitions, began to feel like a call to action. Some of us who graduated in a similar situation, without obviously marketable skills or experience, are sharing what we’ve learned on amerst.com. I led off with my story, which is actually quite reassuring (my best offer at graduation was an internship, but it became a “real job,” and I’ve not had trouble paying the rent,) and today I posted another contribution from a more recent graduate who has held (if I’m counting correctly) three different internships, but no salaried jobs, in two years. I have a third one waiting for me to have time to edit it.

While I suspect the majority wouldn’t ordinarily be interested in the contents of that site, I know there are more than a few who might identify with some of these stories. As I add more, they should all be reachable with this keyword search.

Now Playing: Cowards from Gotta Get Over Greta by The Nields

Posted by pjm at 4:34 PM | Comments (0)

May 25, 2005


I set out to write a regular expression to validate customer-input email addresses on our website, which we use to send an order summary (and then promptly erase.)

I actually found one in the back of Mastering Regular Expressions (which is in a second edition now; I got the first edition Wicked Cheap at Ocean State Job Lot)…

…and discovered that a regular expression to match a valid, RFC 2822 email address comes out to sixty or so lines.

I simplified.

Now Playing: Secret Agent from Sister (1998 Re-Release) by Letters To Cleo

Posted by pjm at 6:20 PM | Comments (0)


I took the university health services form to my current doctor this morning. The form was slanted towards undergraduates, who would be maintaining a “permanent” “home” address distinct from their college address, so it was often unclear whether I should use my future “permanent” address in Medford, or my current “permanent” address in Amherst.

I wound up getting punctured somewhat more than I had expected, between tests and vaccinations. (I knew I would have to make up some things for graduate school, but I did not expect them to be vaccinations. There are things required now that were not required for my last go-around.) I began to wonder if I should stop drinking lest I begin leaking tea.

Then I asked how long they’d been practicing acupuncture.

Now Playing: Here Comes A Regular from Tim by The Replacements

Posted by pjm at 2:29 PM | Comments (1)

In case you missed it

I had a column about the Adam Nelson auction on the RW site yesterday.

Now Playing: Honest Joe from Wah Wah by James

Posted by pjm at 1:08 PM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2005

Take notes

When you are cold-called by the computer-supply catalog company, take notes. (Better still, get an email with an outline of the high points.) Put the relevant details in the wiki.

Then, when someone else from the same company calls, about three weeks later, you can honestly say, “Oh, yes, we’ve already heard from you. We were contacted on $date by $caller_name, and get_pronoun($caller_name) sent us $file_list and get_possessive($caller_name) contact information.”

Works like a charm.

Now Playing: The Innocent from Fly Me Courageous by Drivin ‘N’ Cryin

Posted by pjm at 10:57 AM | Comments (0)

The shot that got away

I’ve been carrying my camera with me for a while, hoping to get a shot of the red-tail hawk(s) along the state route I follow back and forth to work.

This morning I saw one, and unfortunately it was right next to an access ramp where I could not pull over and take a picture. It was being harried by a pair of smaller birds as I approached, and I watched it perch on the road sign informing me that tractors, pedestrians, and farm animals were prohibited on the divided highway. It stayed there, looking ruffled, as I cruised by not five yards away, unable to get the picture.

Now Playing: One More Song The Radio Won’t Like from Failer by Kathleen Edwards

Posted by pjm at 9:38 AM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2005

Food = love?

In the course of the weekend, I had pieces of four different birthday cakes. (The ratio of cakes to celebrants was somewhat greater than 1:1.) The stops were unquestionably pulled out.

  • Grocery store sheet-cake (the four-year-old picked it by the decorations,)
  • Chocolate mousse cake with raspberry glaze, no longer on the menu at the dinner restaurant but produced by request for one of the older celebrants,
  • “Ultimate chocolate” cake at the same restaurant, and
  • Homemade carrot cake made by an aunt the next day.

This glut of frosting (yes, there were leftovers) may explain why I returned to Amherst with an entire otherwise-untouched strawberry rhubarb pie.

Mmm, strawberry rhubarb.

Now Playing: Последний герой from Akusticheskiy Kontsert by Viktor Tsoy

Posted by pjm at 4:29 PM | Comments (1)

Secret message for the blue Toyota westbound on Route 2

The reason your car is getting lousy mileage lately is that you’re riding the brakes. Tip: right foot does gas and brakes. Left foot only works if you have a clutch.

Now Playing: Seconds from War by U2

Posted by pjm at 10:23 AM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2005

Violating the COPPA

Yesterday, I registered my nieces as users for a website without their parents’ explicit permission. I even went on to the “Parents” section to vet their privacy policy, and invented (valid) email addresses for them.

I think the only reason this is safe is that they claim not to be able to type enough to remember login nicknames and passwords (particularly the compound words I chose for passwords.) They claim they need to be read to as well, yet they seem to navigate the site just fine.

Posted by pjm at 12:00 PM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2005


I can spot loose change on the roadside while on my bike. When I do, I stop and pick it up.

If I’m not wearing anything with pockets, I wedge the coin(s) between my fingers for the rest of the ride.

Posted by pjm at 5:50 PM | Comments (0)


If the Press Herald reports on the death or injury of a Groovy Girl in an asleep-at-the-wheel accident on the Maine Turnpike, you can safely unsubscribe from this site’s feed.

Now Playing: Dreamer In My Dreams from Being There (Disc 2) by Wilco

Posted by pjm at 5:03 PM | Comments (0)


I’d like to thank these people for making it possible for me to buy presents for my nieces without caving in to The Barbie Hegemony. Extra bonus points for selling them through locally-owned toy stores so I can support my own community at the same time.

Now Playing: Back Room Window from Songs From The Other Side by The Charlatans

Posted by pjm at 10:18 AM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2005


There’s a story I can tell now.

After seeing Adam “Space for Rent” Nelson throwing at the Boston Indoor Games, I had a few questions to ask about his sponsorship situation, not for an assignment but for my own curiosity. Sometimes those lines of inquiry go nowhere; sometimes they go somewhere interesting.

It’s pretty improbable that nobody would be interested in sponsoring Nelson, who has won two Olympic silver medals in the shot put and is probably one of the most interesting, intelligent, and exciting athletes in that event right now. It’s more likely that when his contract with Nike came up for renewal, the terms weren’t to Nelson’s liking, and he hasn’t yet found anyone with Nike’s deep pockets.

So Brian Cazeneuve and I buttonholed him at the USATF indoor nationals, and asked a few polite questions about his situation. Then I said,

“Have you thought about putting yourself on eBay?”

“Actually, yeah,” he said, “We have thought about that.”

(Ooh! And I’m covering one of his meets for an outlet which will want a throws report! This is going to be fun.)

Now Playing: Secret from Day Two by Endochine

Posted by pjm at 1:37 PM | Comments (1)

Different priorities

I talked to my nieces on the phone last night, on the occasion of the younger one’s fourth birthday. One of my aunts called us annually on our birthdays, and I want to establish a similar streak with the girls.

The older one is playing organized tee-ball now. If you’re not familiar with tee-ball, it’s essentially baseball, but instead of the ball being pitched, it’s set up on a rubber stand (the tee) in front of the batter, who swings at it until they get a hit. So it’s baseball without the pitcher on defense. (I recall playing in a baseball league where the pitcher pitched to a certain count for each batter, then the tee came out if necessary. Since I couldn’t really focus on the game at that point—or the ball, for that matter—I never really moved on in baseball.)

There’s no sign of little-league syndrome affecting this player yet, though. She described the uniforms in detail, and told me when practices and games were, but offered no comment on the game itself.

Now Playing: Nuclear from Demolition by Ryan Adams

Posted by pjm at 10:45 AM | Comments (0)

Looking backward

There was a rabbit on the rail-trail today, keeping an eye on me as I rounded the corner, and more cyclists than usual, possibly headed to the breakfast in Hadley.

My run led me around a field south of the College and its “bird sanctuary,” where a boarded-up farmhouse looks out over an impressive view toward the Pelham hills. I was able to pick out the Mt. Orient overlook, and realized I was seeing the reciprocal view to this photo. I wished, a little, for a camera that I could carry while running; the only one which seems portable enough, actually, is a phone-quality camera in one of the toys I got on loan last week.

Now Playing: Best Imitation Of Myself from Ben Folds Five by Ben Folds Five

Posted by pjm at 10:29 AM | Comments (1)

May 18, 2005

How to make your own pizza (without a phone)

One of my housemates in Pennsylvania had worked, at some time in his educational career, in a Pizza Hut. Sometimes when we felt ambitious (and weren’t grilling, something we did quite frequently once he fell off the vegetarian wagon,) we would make pizza. I still do it, now and then, because of all the things I cook for myself it has the best satisfaction-to-work ratio. Tonight I was thinking about how many of the steps I learned from him.

So: the guy’s guide to home-made pizza.

Now Playing: Hockey Skates from Failer by Kathleen Edwards

Continue reading "How to make your own pizza (without a phone)"

Posted by pjm at 8:34 PM | Comments (1)

Taking the scenic route

When I’m biking to work (as I did today: three for three!) I take a route which is not quite the most direct one. It avoids a stretch of fairly busy road, which is enough reason to start with, but it also puts a big hill in the course. The payoff for the hill is the view from near the top. On clear days, you can see both Mt. Warner in Hadley (really more of a hill) and beyond it to the left, the Mt. Tom range in Easthampton.

Mt. Tom and Mt. Warner

That’s the southwest view; I posted the west view last year.

As I was snapping this shot yesterday afternoon, a resident pulled in to her driveway and called out her window, “Nice day!” I said, “Great view, too.” “Enjoy it,” she said. Since I can, I’ll extend the invitation to all of you.

There were more cyclists out this morning than either of the last two days, probably because of an article about bike week in yesterday’s Gazette, or because the weather was great.

Now Playing: A Life of Sundays from Room To Roam by The Waterboys

Posted by pjm at 9:25 AM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2005

Today's sign that I am Not Right in the head

I want to have some kind of monster.com feed to tell me how many people have responded to the job listing.

I know the answer is at least two. I wonder how high it will go.

Now Playing: Mr. Right Now from If You Lived Here You’d Be Home Now by The Nields

Posted by pjm at 12:10 PM | Comments (0)

Two down, or three?

I realized, as I rolled out of East Plumtree to cross Route 116 this morning, that this was actually my third consecutive work-day of bike commuting, starting last Friday. If everything goes to plan, I’ll make it four in a row tomorrow, then four out of five for bike week on Friday.

It was much sunnier this morning, and I saw several other cyclists out. One or two had the backpacks or panniers which are the sure sign of the commuter. I had an eBay box to be mailed, wedged in the top of my bag, and after mailing it (and buying a roll of packing tape,) I felt curiously pleased with how much of day-to-day life I was accomplishing without gasoline. One of A.’s commenters called this the “low-car lifestyle,” which is a nice turn of phrase.

Now Playing: I’m Still Searching from Diamond Sun by Glass Tiger

Posted by pjm at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2005

Take my job. Please.

I think we went less than half an hour from posting the listing on Monster to the first response.

Send your entry now. I know some of you are the sysadmin/webmonkey type. At least, I think I know. Do I?

Since I’m not making the hiring decision, I doubt there are any extra points awarded for reading here, but if you’ve been reading closely (and understanding what I write) you’re probably relatively well prepared for the interview. We’ve sort-of lowballed the requirements, looking more for someone like I was four years ago than for someone like I am now. And I didn’t want us to create an unfillable opening.

Now Playing: Copied Keys from Back to Me by Kathleen Edwards

Posted by pjm at 5:03 PM | Comments (0)


  • Installation of SpamAssassin 3.0.3 fails at the “make test” stage. All test pass except for “SA_test” which seems to be important.
t/spam......................FAILED tests 1-7
        Failed 7/7 tests, 0.00% okay
  • Is there such thing as an open-source license management solution? It seems counter-intuitive somehow, but a customer asked this morning. I thought (since they were working on an Xserve) that it should be possible to write a shell-script wrapper to check, create, and/or remove lockfiles as a sort of base-level concurrent-user limitation. Maybe the idea that it’s that simple is enough to keep anyone from making an open-source KeyServer?

  • I need to make PHP on a Linux server connect to an MS-SQL server which is Elsewhere, both in network and geographic terms. No problem recompiling PHP with the mssql functions and FreeTDS, but now it is both (a) failing to connect, and (b) producing no error messages. I think this is the difference between “failing gracefully” and “failing obstinately.” I have no other MS-SQL server to test with, so I can’t tell if the problem is with my server or theirs.

Update: And then the SpamAssassin build failed on another, different set of tests. And then it crashed the server. Maybe again some other day?

Now Playing: Drive Away from Golden Age of Radio by Josh Ritter

Posted by pjm at 1:59 PM | Comments (0)

One down, three of four to go

Another important consideration in the gasoline-free commute is that most bicycles don’t provide much rain protection. Fortunately for me, the sprinkles did not become an actual shower until I was well warmed-up, but I still could have used heavier clothes than I was wearing this morning. There are more showers forecast for the week, but generally with less confidence than this morning. There were some forecast for this afternoon, for example, but it’s sunny and green outside the window now.

Maybe the weather accounts for the utter lack of other cyclists this morning, but I think it’s more likely that few people who don’t already do this even know about Bike Week.

Now Playing: Here & Now from Aurora Gory Alice by Letters To Cleo

Posted by pjm at 12:29 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2005

"I had a bicycle named Heaven..."

“…and I painted it blue, when I lived next to you.

I had a bicycle named heaven...

This coming week is bike commute week. Like I did last year, I’m hoping to ride in four out of five days. (In particular, I want to hit the breakfasts in Hadley on Thursday and Amherst on Friday.)

I’ve done a human-powered commute at least once every week since early April, so I’m ahead of last year. I’m happy with that. I think in the fall I will be riding even more, especially when I get better at locking and unlocking the bike.

Posted by pjm at 1:58 PM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2005

Dumpster season

It’s one of those weeks when everything happens at once in Amherst. The fair is spinning on the Common, soaked only in Silly String despite forecasts of rain. And the dumpsters of the local colleges are full as fully-loaded vans and SUVs bear away all but the seniors, finals having ended (at least at The College) yesterday.

After my sophomore and junior years, I was part of the crews of students cleaning dorms for Buildings and Grounds (aka “B&G”) in preparation for Commencement and Alumni Weekend on successive weekends, both making extensive use of on-campus housing. The amount of stuff we “trashed out” of rooms was phenomenal, and that was just what they had been too lazy to take to the dumpster. It would’ve made an epic yard sale, and in fact many of us snagged perfectly good stuff for re-use. I didn’t count all the loose change I picked up, but at least once it was enough to buy myself dinner at the local pizza-joint-of-choice.

At the time, my opinion was confined to what a waste it was, and how the conspicuous waste was another aspect of conspicuous consumption on the part of my classmates—a point that was abundantly clear to those of us living four-to-a-double and trying to scrape up some summer cash by cleaning up after the wastrels.

It is still that, but lately I’ve started seeing it more like the inevitable waste of mobility. Every time I have moved, while I’ve left my apartments clean, I’ve also developed a certain amount of stuff to cast off. Since the new year, I’ve been looking at stuff in this apartment with an eye to what can be shed in the next move, and I shudder at the thought of moving my parents, in the same house for about thirty-five years, into the retirement home they constantly threaten to build.

I’m hoping to do a better job than the dumpster-fillers at the College, leaving their wrack behind like the trail of an invading army. But for much of it, the question becomes, how do you get rid of it? Freecycle discourages “dumping” too many items to the list and asks users to claim as much as they offer. eBay is slow and not a sure destination in many cases; after all, there’s no promise that anyone will want a lot of this stuff.

Yet at the same time it’s not enough for a yard sale. (Nor do we have a yard.)

I wish it was as easy to responsibly dispose of stuff as it was to acquire it.

Posted by pjm at 9:43 PM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2005

The other end of the move

Yesterday I faxed a signed lease out to the other end of the state. Today I put a security deposit check in the mail. Between those two, I have decided it’s safe to turn off the feed of apartment listings from Craigslist.

This was, without a doubt, the toughest housing search I’ve ever been part of. We looked at ten apartments over three weekends (and had two more appointments cancelled.) We called back two after they’d already rented; in one case, it had rented before we visited, and had there been better communication we might not have bothered.

In the course of the search, our priorities and price ranges shifted, and not always in tandem. Each new apartment not only added a line to the list, but re-shuffled all the others as we saw previous visits in view of the new one.

We’ve ended up with the second one we looked at. It’s close enough to the university that I will be able to walk and bike to work; it’s a long walk to the T, but not impossible. It has a driveway, a guest bedroom, and laundry, and it is larger than our current space.

Most importantly, I think, the cat will like it because it has stairs. I proposed putting all his toys upstairs and seeing how long it took for them all to be batted downstairs.

We’ll move in mid-August, so I will have time to get unpacked before classes begin, not to mention the Great Katahdin Expedition. (As it gets closer, I have escalated to capital letters.)

Now Playing: Call To Love by Crooked Fingers

Posted by pjm at 10:20 AM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2005

Debugging a moving target

It would be bad enough, honestly, if the problem was that the images turn up in the wrong place in IE/Win. (After all, then the correct answer would be, “IE/Win is evil, and doesn’t implement the CSS spec predictably or well; if the cover images aren’t right, you should be using a better browser anyway.” Then I’d figure out what’s wrong and write a special little CSS workaround for IE/Win.)

No, the real problem is that the images come up in one (wrong) place when you link in to the page, and then another (different, but equally wrong) place when the page is reloaded. I’ve actually sat on the problem page, clicking reload, and had the images migrate around the page in an apparently random pattern, flitting between three locations (one of which is actually the right one.)

Since the browser is allegedly using the same HTML and CSS both times, I’m pretty much helpless to debug the problem. The current solution I’m going with is, “sorry, IE/Win users. No pretty images for you.”

Now Playing: Half Magic by Matt the Electrician

Posted by pjm at 12:00 PM | Comments (0)

May 11, 2005


Mmmm, box with electronic gadgets for review.

Mmmm, box with Bluetooth electronic gadgets for review.

Ah, wait: there’s a Fedex shipping label in the bottom with note, “Send back with this.” Oh well, I have enough gadgets as it is, right?

Posted by pjm at 9:40 PM | Comments (0)

Missing the alarm

So. It has been busy lately, or so I claim. As an example, I offer yesterday morning.

I was late to bed, probably due to the concert. I have an arrangement with one alarm clock which involves feeding it, then sleeping until the other alarm clock sounds. Except it didn’t, or if it did, I slept through it. I woke up with a jolt about twenty minutes before an appointment to be a pincushion and set some kind of personal record for being showered, dressed, and out of the house. It involved skipping most of my usual routine, including details like eating breakfast or making tea.

In hindsight, the interesting part is how quickly I started doing triage in my head. I knew what I absolutely could not miss, what I should try to get done, and what I could put off until later, and I had my to-do list (A. helped, so some things didn’t get put off as long as they might have otherwise; I was seriously considering going without breakfast entirely, something I hate doing.) I am pleased that I was able to mentally shed some habits and still function.

I made the appointment, after which everything else was just getting there when I could. Then, after work, I finally got to do something before everyone else instead of after being asked: I was the first finder of this cache.

Now Playing: I’m Waiting For The Man by David Bowie

Posted by pjm at 4:42 PM | Comments (0)

Question for midwesterners

When is it correct to say, “MissourEE” and when is it correct to say “MissourAH”?

Now Playing: The Return Of Jimi Hendrix from Dream Harder by The Waterboys

Posted by pjm at 10:34 AM | Comments (3)

May 10, 2005

It would happen now

…if it was going to happen.

chkrootkit is warning me about a possible worm on our mail server, but I can’t find any independent trace of it. And, just to make things interesting, only one of the five versions of chkrootkit I’m running is tattling. The others see nothing. Honestly, tell me three times.

I really don’t have time to play compromise-recovery right now, so I’m going to say four votes against one and leave it be. But it had better not come up again tomorrow.

Now Playing: It’ll Chew You Up and Spit You Out from Still in Hollywood by Concrete Blonde

Posted by pjm at 3:24 PM | Comments (0)

Kathleen Edwards at the Iron Horse

This was the second part of A.’s birthday present to me, the first part being Ryan Adams at the Calvin the other week. I think tickets to live music make a great present for me, because it’s usually a good time, and I don’t have to worry about finding a place to put them. Plus, one can give the same present year after year without giving me anything I already have.

Kathleen Edwards was one of the most buzzed-about artists of 2003, at least in the circles I hear, and I thought Failer lived up to expectations. Back to Me hasn’t, so far, had all the same magic, but I think it’s because the songs haven’t grown on me enough; maybe last night, when I heard them and recognized them, they reached that point.

Edwards brought a full four-piece supporting band, which made for a loud show in the Horse. They skipped the bulk of her quieter songs (no “National Steel” or “Hockey Skates”) in favor of all the driving rock. She opened with “Pink Emerson Radio,” which was a quiet start (the folks next to us were fans of the opener, about whom more later, and didn’t stop talking until a few measures after Edwards started singing.) But after that… “Copied Keys,” “Independent Thief,” “Westby,” “In State,” “Six O’Clock News,” and “One More Song the Radio Won’t Like,” (not in that order: I don’t remember set lists) and a few others.

They always started out mildly enough, but by midway through Edwards would be wailing at the mike, her husband playing lead guitar would be melting down on his side of the stage, and the bass player was trying to stay off the resonant frequency of the hall, because when he hit it, everything vibrated down to the filaments in the light bulbs. Even “The Lone Wolf,” which is somewhat plaintive in the recording, became anguished and despairing in the fire last night. I think some of the songs are more effective on the CD where there’s more subtlety to them, and certainly Edwards’ own singing suffered in the loud mix, but “Back to Me” for one wound up even more powerful with the force of the band behind it.

James Brown was playing the Calvin just two block away, and I think they were determined to convince us we’d made the right show. As near as I can tell, the only rockers they missed were “Maria” and “12 Bellevue” from Failer; I think if they’d played the latter, they might have blown the circuitry.

We got, as breaks, Edwards with only keyboard/guitar/vibe player Jim Bryson playing “Mercury” (If you downloaded the SXSW torrent you’ve got one of his songs,) and as part of the encore, Edwards alone playing “Away” (“Try not to cry,” she said as she started, but it seemed like she was having trouble with that herself.)

Unlike Ryan Adams, I think I’d see her again; I think each show would be different enough to make it worth it. I might bring earplugs next time, though. (Yeah, I’m old.)

The opening act was Mary Gautier, whose name will be suffixed with “pronounced go-SHAY” for several years. I’d never heard of her when the show was scheduled, but she turned up on NPR recently. She got an enthusiastic response (the fans next to us left before Edwards’ set was done) though I think calling her music and presentation “gritty” might be an understatement.

More: Doubleperf was at the Tuesday night show in Cambridge.

Now Playing: Fortunate Son from Chronicle, Vol. 1 by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Posted by pjm at 2:26 PM | Comments (0)

Preview of coming attractions

I’ve been going non-stop (or, at least, it feels like it) since yesterday’s post. Meanwhile, I’ve had a dozen things to write about which, for various reasons, haven’t made it to posting. Until I have time to iron them out, here’s what you have to look forward to dread anticipate:

  • Kathleen Edwards at the Iron Horse
  • Funding the site
  • Apartment searching
  • Missing the alarm
  • Improvising lunch (OK, maybe I’ll combine those two.)

Now Playing: Sooner Or Later from Bang! by World Party

Posted by pjm at 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

May 9, 2005

In the middle of the floor

I haven’t posted as much here in the last few weeks as I used to. With any luck, the ten or so people reading the feed aren’t wondering why the heck they haven’t heard more from me, but I’ve noticed, and the number of posts on the front page has dwindled.

I’ve started and abandoned a few posts. I can compare the problem to that of the cat when A. and I are in different rooms. He can’t come and pester one of us without losing sight of the other (who might do something interesting!) so he tries to find a place where he can sit and keep an eye (or at least an ear) on both of us. Our apartment is small enough that this isn’t impossible for him, but he does wind up in some spots that you wouldn’t otherwise pick out as comfortable cat-hanging-out spots.

That’s what I’ve been like. There are plenty of things happening, but some of them are not really my story to tell, some are too big to tell in this format, and some leftover fraction are too muddy in my own mind to attack just yet.

In a conversation with my brother this weekend, he mentioned that he was considering starting a blog, then closed the sentence with one of those laughs you put on to indicate, “Silly idea, huh?” He suggested that he’d read some of relatives and mutual friends, including A’s, but didn’t mention this site. I think that was diplomatic, but who knows. However, maybe he’ll tell some of the stories for me and I can link to him.

The hunt for an apartment near the graduate program continues to be frustrating for everyone concerned, except perhaps for the landlords of beautiful apartments which get leased out from under us. At least we’ve seen some we’d live in, giving us hope that eventually we’ll find The Right One. Meanwhile, the part of my head which thinks about such things feels like a thumb that’s been hit a few times by a hammer—not really painful, but too numb to feel much else.

Now Playing: Mistress from Priest = Aura by The Church

Posted by pjm at 11:25 AM | Comments (0)

May 6, 2005

Not done yet

I think freelance writing is an addiction. Every time I talk about quitting, I come crawling back.

I figured I was done for a while after NCAA Indoors, with very few events left on my schedule. I did a one-day job for a road race, and Boston, of course, but I started to wonder what I’d be able to do as a student. Will I be able to travel to as many events? I won’t be using my vacation days, but I will be more interested in covering my expenses on a tighter budget. How much time will I have? I might want to turn any free time into income, but I might not have any time to do the research and the writing, let alone pitching, though that turns out to be all too easy.

So, while I’m thinking about that, two small assignments with nice paychecks attached drop in my lap.

And then when this new event is announced today, which happens to share a city and date with another event I’ve covered before, I figure, hey, I’m still working, maybe I can pull in a little more.

Next thing I know, I’m sending email to my favorite outlet, asking if they’d like me to send reports. I am so pathetic. Someday, they’ll find me sleeping under my desk, huddled up to my laptop with a blanket of magazines and a pillow of statistics books, fifteen press passes dangling from my neck as I compulsively send pitches and invoices, maybe transcribe an interview here or there in a desperate attempt to quit.

Update, 5/7: I got the assignment. Reports for both events, plus a preview of the new one, so three articles in total. Time to request press credentials.

Now Playing: Kid On The Train from Spirit Touches Ground by Josh Clayton-Felt

Posted by pjm at 4:40 PM | Comments (1)

Another season ends

There was a sign on the College pool door this morning with exam-week hours, which can be boiled down to, “Only open while I’m at work.” Exam week is next week, so today was the last morning I’ll be swimming there for a while. Sometime in the summer they will have afternoon hours I can sometimes make, but for now, no.

Later today, I saw a terse “in memoriam” note on the College’s website for “Henry Dunbar ‘44.” If I have my connections right, that was “Hank” Dunbar, the swim coach when I arrived at the College. My brother, who swam in the same conference, knew him as the coach who walked the deck with his pant-legs rolled up and gum-boots on. The collection of photos and All-American plaques in the upper gallery of the pool is named The Dunbar Gallery now, so I have been swimming under his name for a while now; unless things have changed, the crew has a boat named for him as well, since he was a former coach of that team.

I don’t think I ever talked to Hank, but my first-year roommate, a swimmer, was recruited by him and was sad to see him retire after that first season. He was a strong personality, for certain.

Posted by pjm at 3:13 PM | Comments (2)

May 5, 2005

In the lost towns

A. and I went over to run in the Quabbin Reservation this evening. Well, she ran, I rode my bike and took pictures. I’ve discussed my fascination with the Quabbin before, but this was the first time I was able to take pictures of it. There are some quietly dramatic parts, like the infrequent empty cellar holes alongside the trails—heck, the trails themselves are a bit eerie, tracing between farms and towns which no longer exist, with practically nobody there.

We’re not sure why so few people use the trails; we’ve barely ever seen anyone in the Pelham sections, except for their one-day hunting seasons and, once, ice-skating on a pond in the reservation. People are more common in the New Salem sections, and since New Salem is so sparsely populated itself, it’s not surprising that there are few people walking the old roads.

Nothing, however, is quite as spooky as roads which run right down to the water’s edge… then go in.

Lots and lots of Boston drinking water.

Posted by pjm at 9:37 PM | Comments (0)

The streaker

When I am standing in front of a half-loaded laundry machine, holding a blue cat collar in my hand, I am thinking of a few things.

I am wondering how I didn’t notice the collar before reaching the laundromat.

I am thinking of the day, a week or so ago, when Iz woke me up for breakfast and didn’t have the collar on. (This state is referred to as “naked,” as in, “Iz! Why are you running around naked?”)

I am wondering if I should drop the collar in with the rest of the wash. The blue is fine, but the white letters might be a bit dingy. (The letters are his name and our phone number, stitched on his collars since he won’t wear a tag; he sees tags as toys which happen to be attached to him.)

I am thinking about his habit of sleeping in my laundry hamper at night, and I am hoping that he pulled open the “safe cat” release on the collar by himself. Maybe he wanted to wear the red collar again. That would be preferable to the collar snagging on the hamper and forcing him to pull it free.

Now Playing: Mercy House from If You Lived Here You’d Be Home Now by The Nields

Posted by pjm at 9:58 AM | Comments (2)

May 4, 2005

There's always someone geekier than you

I have been a self-confessed track geek for a dozen or so years. I suppose you could even say I’m a professional track geek, (“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro,” as the man said,) and for a few years I even managed to support myself with a job for which one of my major qualifications was being a track geek.

That said, I’ve always fallen silent when I’ve shown up at meets and seen the cabal of T&FN guys with their stopwatches and binders. I just can’t measure up, there; I love seeing someone run fast, but when you come right down to it, I like to see a good race, not a good statistic.

So, though my fellow “Bell Lap” contributors are sometimes as uneven as I am, I think Marc Bloom nailed it today.

Now Playing: Left Of The Dial from Tim by The Replacements

Posted by pjm at 4:51 PM | Comments (0)


We had an office meeting this morning, which started out with some announcements from the business manager. “G. and T. are expecting a baby in September… S. and T. are expecting one in October… and [pjm]…” … and she had to stop due to gales of laughter.

When she could continue, it was, “…is leaving in August to have a masters’ degree.”

Somehow I think it will take more than nine months. Otherwise, it will be much easier.

Now, fixing a corrupted Windows installation… now we have some basis for comparison.

Now Playing: Commercial Rain from Life by Inspiral Carpets

Posted by pjm at 12:48 PM | Comments (0)

May 3, 2005

Confuse as many readers as possible

Another in my continuing series relating complex ideas to the running world, my “Schrödinger’s Marathon” column ran today in RW Online. There’s a distinct possibility that nobody but me will get it.

Now Playing: Bridge and Tunnel by The Honorary Title

Posted by pjm at 1:16 PM | Comments (1)

It's starting already

Yesterday, I talked briefly to the head of the department where I may be doing my assistantship. It was the first stage in the complicated modem-squeal process by which technical people negotiate a level at which they can communicate. (This is, in fact, what the squealing noise of analog modems is: two pieces of hardware patiently negotiating a speed and protocol which they both understand.) At my current office, my direct supervisor understands a significant fraction of what I say, and I can usually explain concepts needed to understand the basics of what I’m doing. With most everyone else, conversations are a frustrating series of false starts while I try to find a level where they’ll understand what I’m saying. (Or, I could just be condescending:)

Dilbert for April 28

These folks, on the other hand, are pretty confident at a high level of discussion; heck, they’re running a Tru-64 server and a Beowulf cluster. I don’t even have a Xeon in my webserver, and half my public servers are either recycled or have been with the company longer than I have. They’re figuring out how much they need to talk down to me, which is exciting; I can’t learn anything if I only work with systems I already understand.

The discussion is showing me how, even as I committed to making this jump to graduate school, I haven’t really spent any time looking at how big a change it’s going to be. I think I’ve been mentally lazy, letting my work and my activities (or lack thereof) define who I am to myself, and not thinking about how the picture is changing over time. This is a chance for me to shake off some of the old ideas I’ve allowed to harden around me, and open my mind up. I’m not idealistic enough to imagine complete transformation, nor do I think that’s really necessary, but perhaps an environment in which I’m constantly required to be learning new things will prompt me to stick my neck out a bit more in the rest of the world—and look back at myself.

Now Playing: Jam from Pale by Toad The Wet Sprocket

Posted by pjm at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)

May 2, 2005

Mysterious glyph

(I could probably just say, “icon,” but I like the word “glyph.”)

While I wait for a large file to copy (twice,) I find myself looking at the precision screwdriver set I was using to install a salvaged hard disk. Not for the first time, I notice how irregularly the slots are labeled. The flat-head section contains a sort of flat-head icon (a circle with a dash inside, not unlike a θ as long as the crossbar doesn’t touch the circle) with the size above in millimeters (abbreviated m/m, not mm.) The phillips section has no icons or sizes, but numbers: NO.00, NO.0, NO.1. Next in that row is the pointy AWL… then…

The tool is like one of the screwdrivers sawed off at the base, with just a little stub of shaft and no business end whatever. It’s not magnetic. And the icon looks like an alarm clock set to 3:00, with flames (apparently?) coming from the top, but no bells. And there’s a big X printed over the icon.

This is supposed to transcend language, I suppose, but instead it’s more of a mystery than any translation puzzle.

Now Playing: Lost In The Plot by The Dears

Posted by pjm at 5:09 PM | Comments (0)

Around the block

The places that Iz’s birthday picture shows up are getting weirder. This weekend’s appearance is marginally not work-safe. (In fact, Iz is only three, so I wonder if he should be allowed here.)

Now Playing: Landed by Ben Folds

Posted by pjm at 12:30 PM | Comments (1)

With an aim to eradicate

We sent out fifty or sixty “evaluation” copies of a particular CD recently. Five or six recipients have contacted us to say the disks wouldn’t mount in their systems, but to date only one has sent the “faulty” disk back.

Both the “faulty” disk, and a control picked up from the stock room, mount without complaint on nearly every system in our office. The exception is my Mac—the machine on which this particular title was mastered, mind you—which thinks for a while, then spits out the disk without comment or explanation.

Just for fun, I also powered up the Firewire external CD burner, and verified that the system will mount the disks in that drive, but not in its internal drive.

So it seems likely that there’s an issue with the initial file-system blocks of the disk which only affects certain drives. And it happens that about 10% of the recipients of the evaluation copies have such drives, a significantly higher percentage than we have here in the office.

I’m trying to find out what system software/hardware the people with “faulty” copies are using, because (of course) it doesn’t occur to most people that this kind of information will be necessary in eradicating a problem. I guess we think of things as broken or not, and the idea that it could be broken to some people and not-broken to others, depending on the firmware of their internal CD-ROM drive (I’m trying to somehow eliminate the possibility that my drive is having problems) is a bit too exotic for everyday thinking.

I’d be less motivated to suss this out (preferring to kick it back to the disk authors) if I hadn’t mastered the disk myself. I want to establish that this isn’t a problem I created, even inadvertently.

Now Playing: Away from Back to Me by Kathleen Edwards

Posted by pjm at 11:29 AM | Comments (0)