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Unbelievable

Tony Perkins, the president of the Christian right’s most powerful Beltway lobbying outfit, Family Research Council, echoed Colson’s language. “It’s more important than the presidential election,” Perkins said of Prop 8. "The nation cannot survive without the institution of marriage."

I can't even believe I'm reading this.

End of fish era

Since the early 90's I've had a 75-gallon freshwater aquarium. I've always really loved Black Ghost Knife fishes, since I find their movement really graceful and I'm fascinated by their weak electrical activity. Normally they don't get along so well together since they are aggressive feeders and fight, but the very smart pet store owner in town suggested that if I added a LOT of young ones to the tank at the same time, that they would school instead of fighting, and he turned out to be right about that.

So in addition to the first ghost knife that we got in about 1992 or so, we had seven more from about 1993-4. They all survived a move to the current house in 1995 and while I would lose one from time to time since then, they proved remarkably hardy and long-lived.

The last two died within hours of each other, while I am out of town all week no less. sudbla buried them both in the garden, which is a tradition I have for all dead fish so they can do one last good for me as fertilizer.

So now the big tank is empty, and I think I will drain it, clean it up, and sell it. I don't really want to move it to the new place. I have a smaller 25-gallon tank which I will move, though.

Normally the death of pets really upsets me, but these guys were SO OLD (the big one that just died was nearly 17 years old) that I really can't blame myself for it. They just died of old age. Also, unlike a mammilian pet, it's hard or impossible to get an emotional bond with a fish, and that too limits the sense of loss. The worst part will be the end of the nightly ritual of feeding them, which I've done countless thousands of times.

Rest in peace, guys. You were great pets for a HUGE chunk of my life.

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Last night's social outings

Gosh we were busy last night. Right after work I met sudbla downtown for a "gala award ceremony"... a local supporting arts organization (40 North 88 West) had their annual awards ceremony. This is a pretty swank event with catered food and free alcohol, but we got on the guest list courtesy of the company developing the building where our new home will be. It was a fairly short event, just some schmoozing and then the award presentations themselves. We sat with the sales executive we've been dealing with and made pleasant conversation.

From there we walked down the street to a local restaurant and bar where North Shore Distillery was hosting a food and cocktail pairing dinner featuring their spirits. The drinks were made by the GM of the restaurant who knows his alcohols VERY well, and each course had a short talk by the master distiller discussing the pairing and, of course, pitching the gin, vodka, or aquavit in use.

Gin was on Susanna's list of banned alcohols since it was a possible migraine trigger. But since the master distiller was right there giving a talk about their products, Susanna had a long talk with her about how gin is made (at least at this distillery) and decided to give it a try. And no migraine reaction! She got to enjoy gin, aquavit, vodka, and absinthe, and felt just fine afterwards, if a bit tipsy.

So while the food was lovely and the drink pairings were wonderful, the big success of the evening was getting to reduce Susanna's list of things to avoid a little.

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Programming in English

I'm unconvinced of Applescript's utility as a programming language, but its extensive use of prepositions in its syntax does make for some very, er, friendly to read code. It's at least charming.

tell application "Adium"
   set theAccountList to every account whose status type is offline
   repeat with theAccount in theAccountList
      tell theAccount to go online
      end repeat
   activate
   end tell

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I'm more ethical!

I was just reminded, on schedule, for the fourth time in four years, that "The Ethics Act (5 ILCS 430/5 10) states that, beginning in 2004, each officer, member, and employee must complete, at least annually, an ethics training program conducted by the appropriate state agency."

So I'm now wasting taxpayer dollars using up an hour's salary going through idiotic web pages instructing me that it's not ethical to use state resources for personal gain, to influence the business the state does with private companies, and similar inanity.

[edit: The training ends with the statement "Thank you for investing the time in renewing your knowledge about ethics as a state employee." Like I had any choice. Dillholes.]

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Election statistics

A couple of years ago some faculty and grad students in Computer Science here and at two other universities did some interesting simulation work involving Bayesian statistics and state election polls, and have recently applied their methodology to the current presidential race. Their result is up on one quad of the giant video wall at the Siebel Center where it's attracting a LOT of attention, and is on the departmental web site here.

At the moment it appears to be giving a 1.00 probability of Obama winning the election even in the "strong Republican swing" scenario. I wonder how good their prediction really is and how likely it is to drift around in the last weeks before the election. I read their paper and it makes sense to me although it's been an awfully long time since I had probability and statistics and have only seen the Dirichlet distribution once, in CS 441, so I'm not the best critical reviewer.

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Spam

I used to have a long long set of firewall rules that prevented inbound SMTP connections from "notorious" spammer networks, mostly in Asia. At some point I realized that nearly all my spam comes straight to my machine from zombie machines all over the place (thanks to the lucrative and prolific SanCash operations). When all your spam is for King Replica Watches or VPXL, you figure that some spam control measures are working and others aren't.

Perhaps this is not news to anyone. But over the weekend I took the drastic step of changing those firewall rules to allow inbound SMTP from a very small set of networks and refuse all other SMTP. This has worked, with only one piece of spam arriving in the last 36 hours. And my "spam-smtp" firewall chain is only 7 rules long now instead of 519.

Most of my mail should be inbound from the campus main relay and redirection systems anyway, which have a sophisticated and aggressive spam filtering/rejection feature of their own that works pretty well. But if you've been using my specific machine address instead of using netid redirection, you probably won't be able to reach me, now.

The overarching problem is that with no central control over the Internet, authenticated exchange of email is impossible to implement, and large providers are loathe to take intermediate steps with SMTP-AUTH because it's "too hard" for the end user. I think the only answer to this will be to eventually abandon SMTP altogether; a new mail distribution architecture could easily be designed from the ground up and since it would be relatively free from mass spam, should prove to be commercially viable.

Wow, today's xkcd is really, really cool.

okay, I'll be memey too

This was interesting because I've been culling books this weekend and am next to a huge pile of nearly every book I own. So the "nearest" was the one on top of the stack nearest me. This sort of shuffled up the meaning of "nearest book."

  • Grab the nearest book.
  • Open the book to page 56.
  • Find the fifth sentence.
  • Post the text of the next few sentences in your journal.
  • Don't dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.

"Even the addition of apparently decorative pinnacles seems to have been in response to a functional need for more weight to keep further cracks from opening up under the great forces of the wind to which a massive cathedral was subjected as it rose exposed from among all the ground-hugging buildings of a medieval town."

(To Engineer is Human by Henry Petroski)

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Interesting music

I don't think I've ever heard Telemann's Pastorale-Polonaise before. It was just on Kenny Blankenship's overnight show on WGBH Classical. You wouldn't think a trio for bassoon, oboe, and harpsichord would sound very good, but surprisingly it did, once I got past the odd quality of it.

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