Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tao Te Ching 29

Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done.
The universe is sacred.
You cannot improve it.
If you try to change it, you will ruin it.
If you try to hold it, you will lose it.

So sometimes things are ahead and sometimes they are behind;
Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily;
Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness;
Sometimes one is up and sometimes down.

Therefore the sage avoids extremes, excesses, and complacency.

One of my favorite movies was Harold and Maude, another was All That Jazz, but I — weakling that I am — felt obliged to change my views when my liberal friends emerged from the purgatorium of these picture shows plainly embarassed for their benighted friend, myself, and trying painfully hard not to retch on my shoes. It took awhile, but after a long series of self-critical reflections, I could dimly apprehend that these movies were about rich people, a kind of self-centered intelligentsia of the well-to-do. A black kid even spat on me out of a diesel bus window in Washington, D.C., so engrossed was I in multiple categories of hypothetical self-loathing.

Eventually, I decided it was better to be myself. Yes, therefore, I enjoy Pat Buchanan's firebrand assessment of St. Winston Churchill. How exhiliarating to fly in the teeth of the motorcycles of received wisdom. I am no monopolar personality, McDuck. My mood swings have a South and a North pole!

So, by a Treaty of Rapprochment with myself hammered out in the white hot forges of the latterday Reagan years, I resolved to laugh once more at Harold and his guru Maude (and it is a measure of my nearly infinite capacity to self-heal that I laugh at, not with, these phantasmal paragons), whilst recognizing that that world of self-parodic privilege probably does not exist in any of my friend's heads either, and consequently I have no friends. Ah. So this is... freedom, I have mused. You must be insane.

In those days, it was possible to be self-righteously left wing. These days, so we have evolved, dry wit must be tempered by a pathetic sense of the card-carryingly ridiculous. Placard. Nonsense ahead. Slash placard.

(Fitzpatrick's Forensic Admonition: Do not correct your enemies when they are making a mistake.)

Shame on me. As a member of the class of poor but lazy intellectuals, it never dawned on me that I was not rich. More insidiously, I remained ignorant of my stupidity for ten thousand lifetimes. No offense, but I intend to forget it, now that I know better. It's restful in the tarpit, and the sabertooth cats and megatheria cry me to sleep of an evening. G'night. お休みなさい。

True, I spent the first thirty years of my life building a sense of self, and the second thirty tearing it down. So far, the last thirty have commenced with something like aplomb, or at least gravitas — I got fat. This too will change. I too am a man of almost infinite jest. T. S. Eliot, an indisputably thin man, quoted Sanskrit; I, more rotund, quote Japanese, a livelier lingo. I'd quote Spanish, but I'm not fluent enough to defend myself against the ribald jokes of my acquaintances. Language is like sand burrs — where she's spoke, she'll stick.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Teenage Mutant Ninja Cow & Friends

When I look at something like this, I feel overwhelmed by a powerful sense of real humidity. Just thought I should mention that.


Sunday, September 27, 2009


Whenever I try to find a file on Linux/Ubuntu, I run into difficulties. Either my privileges don't match the file's hidden (!) location, or it's hiding among ten thousand other files, or Tracker's on strike, or whatever. And occasionally, what I need to do when I'm looking for a file is wipe it and all its idiot siblings off my system because they take up space.

Well, that's what the Linux find command is for. But find is a bear to use. So here's a compromise — I call it dudley, because the name is stupid and memorable, and because dudley is a mass murderer (of files!) which you have to respect.

Hmmm... If you use dudley you will also need srm, which you can get (in Ubuntu) by entering sudo apt-get install secure-delete at the command line, or by using Synaptic. I presume you already have perl in the normal location.

Don't Try This At Home, unless you've saved the script as dudley, chmod'd it to 755, and signed a pledge in your own pulsing arterial blood not to bother me with questions or consequences.

Running dudley in kill mode is a stupid thing to do. DRINK COFFEE before pressing Enter...

# usages:
# dudley
# dudley $DIR $TARGET
# dudley somedirectory partofsomefilename
# dudley -x somedirectory partialnameofmanyfilestokill
# sample calls:
# dudley /home/mydaughtersname/ *.mov
# dudley . vlcsnap
# dudley (i.e., this script) does horrible things to all references
# to $TARGET in the $DIR directory.
# I wrote it (on Mac OS X) so I could sponge up and wring out some
# stuff I don't want in my Fink /sw directory. Always requires sudo,
# to make the point that this is a merciless utility.
# 3 March 2003
# d.c.oshel

require ""; # good old Perl 4

# invoke with sudo if not root...

if ( $< != 0 ) # even in harmless cases, emphasizes that dudley is dangerous
exec( "sudo $0 @ARGV" ); # does not return

&Getopts('xq'); # implies shift if switches are found

# down to business...

$VERBOSE = $opt_q ? 0 : 1; # verbose is not quiet
$KILL = $opt_x;
$APP = $0;
$APP =~ s/[\.\/].*\///; # strip path from beginning of application name
$DIR = $ARGV[0];

if ( $DIR eq "." ) {
$DIR = `pwd`;
chop( $DIR );

if ( "$TARGET" eq "" ) {

print "\nWarning: $APP is a mass murderer (of files and directories), so be careful!\n\n";
print "usage: $APP [options] DIRECTORY PATTERN\n";
print "options:\n";
print " -x Securely remove files that match PATTERN, using srm -r\n";
print " -q Suppress user-friendly remarks in simple listings\n\n";
#print "\nIf you need something more sophisticated, try (e.g.)\n";
#print " find DIRECTORY -iname PATTERN -exec srm -r -- {} \\;\n\n";

} else {

if ($KILL) {
print "Destroy all files like \"*$TARGET*\" in $DIR? [Yn] ";


$ans = ;

if ( "$ans" eq "n" || "$ans" eq "N" ) {
if ($VERBOSE) {print "No changes were made!\n";}
exit 0;
elsif ( "$ans" eq "" || "$ans" eq "y" || "$ans" eq "Y" ) {
if ($VERBOSE) {print "Deleting all like \"$TARGET\"s in $DIR ...\n";}
system( "find \"$DIR\" -iname \"*$TARGET*\" -print | xargs srm -r "); # -d is depth-first traversal (post-order)
if ($VERBOSE) {print "\n";}
else {
print "? [Yn] ";
goto LUP;

else {
if ($VERBOSE) {print "Looking for \"$TARGET\"s in $DIR ...\n";}
system( "find \"$DIR\" -iname \"*$TARGET*\" -print" ); # normal pre-order traversal

Labels: , ,

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Flatland adds a dimension

Edwin Abbott's Flatland is fun but annoying. People assume that Flatlanders are two dimensional, when clearly the narrative unfolds in the course of Time. So just as Time is our fourth dimension, it is the Flatlander's third.

Time, then, is clearly an actor's illusion — an abstraction at best, but just an illusion just like Oriental philosophy says.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Slugs in the coolth

Fall rains have brought out a freaking SLEW of SLUGS all over the fallen leaves and climbing on (and falling off) the glistening wet blue plastic recycle bin we put out on the curb every Friday, rain or shine. Little white buggers about as long as a toddler's pinky. Glurg! I prefer my landlubbing gastropoda with shells on, but I'd rather have a plague of box turtles than either — not slugs nor snails.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Old age really is absurd...

If "old age is a blessing," why do "only the good die young?" By that reckoning, we "only as old as we feel" old farts are shackled to our dwindling abilities like so many flickering wicks about to drown in our own melted tallow. It's karma. If we were truly good, this whole "age" issue would never have come up.

Trade you two platitudes, three cliches and a polyanaphorism for... what, truly? Wisdom? Carve this in stone: No one with an ounce of wisdom wants a pound of it! All I need or want is warm slippers, a wool cardigan with holes in the elbows, a couple of cats and the sunset in my wife's eyes, the quiet next-room laughter of my wife's and daughter's home.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

They also ran who only stood and gaped

Karpov vs. Kasparov, Valencia 2009. This clash of aging, over-the-hill titans, with Deep Blue banished to Davy Jones' locker, sort of reminds me of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics, except that Hilter allowed Owens to compete (and ride in the front of Berlin buses). Is this the best we humans can do?

[n.b. My chess prowess, like my Go prowess, is a joke. I prefer to call it that. It's actually a nasty bit of perspective (not sour grapes, of course) on that uppity snootiness about another elite pastime I could never master. That's why I'm rooting for the machines. To be honest, I know quite a few people who play chess — even some who play chess well — and they are all nice people. Until they play chess. Then they smirk. They try not to. It's just a flicker of a smile in one corner of the mouth, quickly suppressed, and a flash of cruel fire in the eyes like the remembered glow of a smashed lightning bug. My so-called friends! I don't play chess with them, only with small children. Ones I know I can beat... Mwah-ha-ha-ha...!]


Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Karmic Koala is due out October 29th. Just when I've finally got Jaunty working about right, it's time to screw things up again. I think I'll wait and see this time.

Except for sound. Sound is still a mess, but that's Ubuntu 4U.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Wifi bonus puzzle #4

Unofficial hints for Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box wifi bonus puzzle #4, "Cut and Splice."
  1. The left side never moves.
  2. The right side turns one-quarter turn clockwise.
  3. Notice the two small squares protruding on the right side.
That should be all the help you need to solve this.

Labels: ,

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Paradise Lost

Think the West Virginia of Micronesia... only phosphate fertilizer, not coal. This is what happens when Adam Smith's "Hidden Fist" crushes the last ounce of value out of some tiny paradise hidden in the back of beyond. In this case, Nauru.

Labels: ,

Friday, September 18, 2009


Obama unicorns, anyone? I dunno if this appropriate, but Rush Limbaugh looks like the tub o' lard he is, so wottheheck.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

ext3 and ext4

There were these two aliens, see, named "ext3" and "ext4" who invented file systems for Linux. "ext3" was great, but a little slow, while "ext4" was a speedy devil who couldn't hold a curve and needed rollbars and a soft landing — but having neither, occasionally crashed and burned.

I, poor fool, thought that "ext4" was the nouveau default Ubuntu Jaunty Jackalope F_ _ _ _ S_ _ _ _, which it was. What I didn't realize is that Ubuntu is a Swahili word that means, "What? Me Worry?" So when "ext4" finally crashed, burned and locked up my Dell Inspiron 1525 in a tiny alien hell, I had to Gird My Loins And Do Battle.

Now, some 24 hours later, "ext3" is back on my laptop, "ext4" is cringing under the satire-bot I've set up at blogspot, and all is well with my bits.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I have proof (that the world has gone insane)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Noted in Passing

Jody Powell, who died today at 65, was President Jimmy Carter's press secretary. He was a fairly laid-back professional schmoozer who doubled in campaign years as Carter's Knight Visible on the chicken-and-peas circuit.

I was not Harkin's press security those days — or I still was, but I was disqualified by contempt for the fifth estate and annoyed by the amount of spin my job entailed. So Barry Piatt was taking over reins I never realized I'd relinquished, and I was still a member emeritus of the afterhours blue smoke and mirrors staff gatherings. You'd hear things...

Like, Jody Powell briefing JF† about what to with the ton of paper a fairly safe incumbent Representative gets from constituents who want him to "Gee, pass this on to Jimmy, wouldja? Just an idea I've been working on."

Powell said, "By all means send it to the White House. But we have a system."

If the letter (package, tome, brief, white paper, etc.) was from Nobody, just FORWARD it on.

If the letter (etc.) was being passed on as a favor from Tom to Tom's contituent, mark it REFERRED TO WHITE HOUSE.

If the letter was germane, and credentialed, like from a Nobel Prize winning Iowan such as Norman Borlaug, mark it RESPECTFULLY FORWARDED.

If the letter was a pure gift from some obscure Iowa State University economics professor likely be useful to the White House, if it came with Tom's personal recommendation and/or it was a favor repaid to Jimmy Carter — mark it RESPECTFULLY REFERRED.

Powell was more succint, but that was the gist. I remembered that policy. It seemed odd to me. It had a certain quirkish oddity, like it was scratched out by leprechauns on the teak bartops of Tir na Nog. I drank me mug o' porter.

So far as I know, the loose cannons on Harkin's Congressional staff only sent one RESPECTFULLY REFERRED package to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. without Tom's knowledge. All the rest, if any, went through channels. And if some Ph.D. at Iowa State got his C.V. burnished a bit, I'd be in no position to know. It woulda bin a firing offense, did anyone ever ken the pookah. Truth is, nobody could help Carter, but he had a few friends.

Bye, Jody. You were weird. I mean that in a good sense...

John Fitzpatrick, Harkin's A.A. at the time, and/or Campaign Manager, depending on the season

Labels: , ,

Friday, September 11, 2009


I had a flat. Took it to the garage. They fixed my flat. They had a big jar of rusty screws on the counter. I paid my bill (only $20). What caused the flat? You guessed it. A screw. They gave me the screw. I put it in the jar.

A "screw"...

Everyone I tell this story to laughs. It's always a "screw." I say that word with air quotes now. It's a fill-in word. A plausibility word. It's just bubbles in the tire. Where the bubbles come out, that's where the leak is, that's where you patch. The thing that caused the flat is never in the tire. Tell 'em it's a "screw." They'll buy that. It doesn't matter anyway! The flat is fixed!

I'd tell you what a rusty screw is, but frankly it doesn't bear repeating.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Jaunty Jackalope got my wireless working again!

Something† broke my wifi on this Dell Inspiron 1525, and now Jaunty's brought it back again! Beauty! And setup was just as easy on this computer as it is on my Nintendo DS, viz., enter the WEP 128 password and accept all the defaults.

As I recall, the Dell Vista crashed and burned, so I installed Ubuntu Hardy, which did not have the Dell proprietary drivers for wireless, so I upgraded (eventually) to Ubuntu Jaunty, which does. Just got around to setting up wireless again, today.

Labels: ,

Harkin Gets HELP

U. S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) will chair the late Ted Kennedy's Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

Harkin is giving up his Ag committee chores, shedding no tears; he's always considered Ag one of those "take a deep breath" duties to Iowa since 1975 — a task he's performed honorably and well. Simple seniority has put him in the right place at the right time to carry health reform forward, and that is a role he'll regard as the capstone of his career, if he pulls it off. Harkin regards health issues with a deep, personal and abiding passion.

On the other side of the aisle, I'm hearing the first rumblings from the hustings that maybe Chuck Grassley has lost it and begun to dodder a bit in his old age.

Grassley can't have it both ways. Either he's a country lawyer on the Hill, or he's Elmer Fudd pulling fantastic twaddle out of his ass for the folks back home. For years, he couldn't afford to let on that he actually had brains — us bumpkins would nod knowingly to each other and say, "You know, he's smarter than he looks!" — but then Republicans won a Senate majority a few years ago and gave him R-e-s-p-o-n-s-i-b-i-l-i-t-y.

Now that Grassley's got brains (and, brother, nothing succeeds like letting the cat out of a bag it was never in), he can't afford to let on that they're about as scrambled as a country breakfast at the old tractor pull — where anyone with a camera in their phone is a YouTube journalist to document it. If he wants it both ways, his days on that lunch stool at the A&K diner are just about up.

(Just remembered. The A&K, a nice Mom and Pop Greek restaurant about four blocks from the Capital back in the day, is no more.)

Labels: ,

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A small C/C++ IDE for Linux

Code::Blocks is a nice tool for goofing off with C programming under Ubuntu Jaunty. "Hello, world!" is the project template, and it runs almost out of the box — you have to sudo apt-get install build-essentials first, or else it will bark and fail because g++ is missing.

Back in the day, I was pretty much infatuated with Microsoft's Visual C++ Studio (long before .NET took over), and Code::Blocks seems like a nice miniature version of that. I.e., it calls up header files into the editor just by right-clicking on the name, does step, step-in and step-out debugging with break points, has build, run and rebuild (with all the reassuring dialogs about possible consequences), plus a flock of interesting-looking features I haven't explored yet.

I had to install libcgi (huh? why?) for some stuff I have in mind, and that went ok — just a few presuppositions to dispense with. The header wound up in /usr/include/libcgi/cgi.h, while the include line is #include <libcgi/cgi.h>. A breeze.

Runs on Macintosh and Windows, as well as Linux. On Ubuntu 9.04, use the Synaptic Package Manager (!) for hassel free install.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I've been busy...

Monday, September 07, 2009

The soul groans...

We have an astute parish priest at All Saints, and yesterday at Mass during the homily, he underlined a bit of scripture¹ for us — the soul groans in the body as it prays. Without words, the soul still groans. And that's still prayer. Hmmm... Now I need to look that up.

¹Mark 7:31-37, also 2 Corinthians 5:4


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Something's Brewing!

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, the Nintendo DS sequel to last year's Professor Layton and the Curious Village*, has only been out for a couple of weeks, but already the walkthroughs have popped up like so many chanterelles.

Egads! That means... All the Tea Set ingredients and how to brew them (and where to find them!) are finally public knowledge!

[Update] I cleared the game this evening. (Yes, I cheated... I needed that cup of tea!) Considering the size of the screen, and the feather light heft of the story, the ending crams in about as much drama, action, reunion, tears, laughter, lost love and apocalypse as your average Shakespearean summer theater, and does it well indeed. This "simple game" is already a classic — and yes, all the loose ends are tied up, even the hay angels, even as the credits roll.

Labels: ,

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The thing about reincarnation...

Begin with the assumption that your karma is bad, bad, bad and you have been trotting on the treadmill of Samsara for millions of lives. Birth, death, rebirth, over and over. There's a detail most natural philosophers overlook; between this life and the next, you have to wade through the River Lethe and forget your former life. A trip on the Stygian riverboat takes you to the Cosmic Bardo, and judgment; a waist high wade through the Ford of Lethe takes you back to the everyday world.

Or a world, at any rate. Your reentry glide path is weighed down by karma†. You might skip off the atmospheres of Earth and wind up in Valhalla, you might crash and burn in Niffleheim. With any luck, you're back in Des Moines. With a few exceptional moments of better than average karma, you join the country club.

And you know nothing. You remember nothing. That former life is a disc of vinyl in a cardboard jacket, squeezed between a score of other distant lives, a pent-up flood of deja vu, the nameless band, the hundred half-remembered tunes...

For the sake of argument, let's assume that death is fairly traumatic when it happens, even at the best of times. The anoxic brain experiencing the gentlest demise will feel put upon. At the worst... A sudden drop, a sudden shock.

The thing is, since you're recycling this stuff, you're drawing your engraver's diamond tip over the same circules and swirls you etched in a former life, a farmer lyfe, a phoarmaa liffe, kapabin rif... The big dramatic moments have jogged your hand, the moment is recorded. When the needle retraces that moment, the needle bumps and jumps, you amplify a shock you tend to remember.

No details, just a sudden jolt. You're drifting off to sleep, your wife at your side, your kids snoring in another room. Suddenly your mind implodes. BAM! The strange thought invades your space. You've just met an old familiar gallows. You fell a half a meter, neck snapped, sense of being vanished in cold shock. The unreality takes your breath away. Man, what did you DO...? You get up, bare feet on the cold floor, and get yourself a sandwich in the kitchen, well past midnight.

Here's the rub. The older you get, the more frequently these echoes arrive. (Got a headache? Oh, yeah... Four lives ago... Mules kick, stupid!) You usually died in your sixties, it all comes flooding back. How will you live to be 90 with all this ghastly moaning pulling you down?

Me? I'm betting on the BODHISATTVAS, dude.

Hmmm... Is karma a stack (LIFO) or a queue (FIFO)?


Friday, September 04, 2009

Michael Jackson buried at Forest Lawn

I see Michael Jackson was buried in Los Angeles last night, six weeks late.

The canopic jars† will be launched into space on a regular schedule over the next four years, or as flagging song sales warrant.

Ironically, no canopic jar has ever held a brain — a mysterious haggis-like grey organ which the ancient Eqyptians discarded as an utterly useless source of moist rot and decay. That said, there is NO truth to the rumor that Skull & Bones, the Yale secret society, has already enshrined Jackson's brain in a Futurama-esque Leyden Jar at Lodge 322. None. "If I had said that, I would be wrong." — Mr. Waturi, Brain Cloud, p. 8


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Ruby derailed

More pieces means more ways to fall apart.

Even the IDEs find amusing ways to blow up on tiny details — Aptana RadRails or NetBeans IDE 6.7.1 with Ruby.

Of course, NetBeans is a product of Sun Microsystems, so they have preferences when it comes to what servers you use... (And no, no mongrel clusters, just WEB bricks.)

I'm sticking with good ol' gedit for the time being, but GVim has a ruby mode that seems pretty good, too.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009


I wish to heck I knew what that post yesterday was about. Focus, Dave!


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Buddy Language

It seems to be a universal human constant. People on their feet gather in circles, facing in, their backs to the world.

Is that because the gathered can see over each other's shoulders, outward in all directions, and so cover each other's backs? Overwrought. The usual tactic is circling the wagons, like musk oxen, back to back and facing out.

Do they feel that by ignoring the savage and inconstant world, it will go away? Even without a center, with no speaker, facing in toward each other does seem to be a reaction to disturbing news.

Why does the Tetrarchs' fearful group hug seem so armed and dangerously laughable? Because we face in? Because like a living thing, counsel rises from our midst...?


Picture of me not sleeping all day

Actually, I'm trying to figure out Ruby on Rails. This is like taking a big bite of elephant. You don't know where the salt goes, everything is gray, and you have begun to suspect the elephant is inadequately prepared. Not my favorite luau, but I shall persevere.

[Update: Wed Sep 2, 2009] So far, I've got Ruby 1.8.7, Rails 2.3.3, RubyGems 1.3.1 and Mongrel installed and working together (it's automatic). And I've started poking around in the installation files to see what's going on. More dangerously, I've discovered that Rails isn't the only game in town; there's Django, Crystal, Catalyst, e.g. Also, that Ruby books blather on for entire chapters before they demonstate code (if they do... I'm waiting.)

Labels: , ,