What You Lookin' At?

National Museum of the American Indian

A Local Report

We took advantage of our proximity to the nation's capital today to visit the relatively new National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian. The building itself is the star, I'm sure. Inside and out, it feels like a reflective place. The collection on display is small, but interesting.

Two of the display sets have tried to eliminate the traditional little printed cards with computer kiosks. The computers are mounted a few feet from the display wall. They are nice because they allow for magnified viewing of the artifacts. They are not so nice because they encourage clusters of visitors to stare at a picture while the real objects sit only feet away. Worse, to get any interesting information, you have to wait your turn until the little brats' parents drag them away from the terminals. It really bottlenecks the experience.

Although the NMAI is not my favorite of the Smithsonian museums, its cafeteria is. Fry bread, roasted corn, planked salmon...yum.

Peppy Peppers

Peppy Peppers

A Garden Report

Two weeks ago, we moved the little guys outside.

I think they like the neighborhood a little better than the kitchen sink, but the cat keeps sitting on them out here.

Drink Me

Drink Me

A Family Report

This cat caught a snake yesterday. Imagine that!

We think it was an Eastern Ribbon Snake.

Lost Planet Airmen

Well, we went to see Star Wars Episode Pi, or whatever it was. After all, it was our duty to our generation to line Lucas' pockets.

I don't really have much to say, except that one scene really popped out at me. You might have missed it, but there's a point where the evil dude calls up this military guy right on the battle field to tell him to off our hero Obi. Their conversation went something like this (It's not really a spoiler if it didn't really happen, right?):

"PALPATINE: Dude, whasssssssssup?"
"PALPATINE: C'mon man, lighten up!"
"MILITARY DUDE: Sir, I'm kind of in the middle of a firefight here."
"PALPATINE: Oh, right, right. (nods head) So, anywho, I just need you to do something for me, man."
"MILITARY DUDE: Sir, is it time to put into effect your evil, dastardly, and yet so secret plan?"
"PALPATINE: No, well, maybe, but first I want you to do that other thing. "
"MILITARY DUDE: Sir, I'm kinda busy here."
"PALPATINE: Oh, c'mon, just a little of that Hot Rod Lincoln"
"MILITARY DUDE: Sir, I keep telling you: I'm not that Commander Cody. (To himself) Can't wait 'til I get a promotion."
"PALPATINE: (grumbling to self) Big-headed rock stars."
"PALPATINE: Nothing. OK, fine Mr. Rock Star, at least give me the tag line before I tell you to execute the plan."
"MILITARY DUDE: Tag line, sir?"
"PALPATINE: Geez. Do I have to do everything myself? (prompting) Hey, Brain...?"
"MILITARY DUDE: Right, Sir. Ahem. Hey, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?"
"PALPATINE: Same thing we do every night, Commander Cody: Try to take over the world!"

Well that went on longer than I had planned. I just went down that canyon and couldn't figure a way out. Oi.

At any rate, I suppose Cmdr Cody jumped out at me because my Thermodynamics (or was it Heat Transfer?) professor back at good ole RPI was John Tichy, a founding Lost Planet Airman. And that's true!

Pop Quiz

It's been a while since I took one of those online quizzes:

You scored as Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.

Cultural Creative
















What is Your World View? (corrected...again)
created with QuizFarm.com

I'd Like to Teach the World to Branch

How many gigs can a man migrate, before he migrates a whole VOB?

I'm getting just a little loopy doing this NT to Unix migration. On Friday night, I arrived with a twelve pack of diet Cokes (with Splenda!). Now, I'm down to my last one.

Just a little hint for all you ClearCase geeks out there: If you're going to be killing Multisite by removing all your replicas, be sure to crank down the oplog keeps and scrub, scrub, scrub your VOBs. The rmreplica command on the final replica is treated as a single event. Your journal file (vista.tjf) could go over its 2GB limit and the VOB will start returning error messages.

Actually, the song that's caught in my head is The Wrong Bananas. "I bought, I bought, I bought, the wrong bananas." Oi.

Sharing is Caring

Here's one because I thought I wouldn't forget and three months later, I forgot. Now I can search for it here.

Many Windows tools use a network share to store information that's needed by various clients. For example, ClearCase uses a network share to hold the storage area for VOBs and views. The path is registered as UNC (e.g., \\mycomputer\myshare) so that all clients can access the data. In fact, if you use a client application that is hosted by the same machine that hosts the share, the client will often still try to access the share via UNC instead of the local path.

I've found that if I have an XP laptop that is a part of a domain, but not always attached to the domain, then even the local shares aren't necessarily visible when disconnected from the network. This will stop ClearCase from performing properly when I'm out demonstrating it.

But there is a workaround. Note that the normal caveats and disclaimers apply. Read the MS knowledge base article to see how you might be messing up your system before you try this:

1. Use Registry Editor (Regedt32.exe) to view the following key in the registry:
HKLM \System \CurrentControlSet \Services \Tcpip \Parameters

Add the following registry value:

  • Value Name: DisableDHCPMediaSense
  • Data Type: REG_DWORD -Boolean
  • Value Data Range: 0, 1 (False, True) Default: 0 (False)
Description: This parameter controls DHCP Media Sense behavior. If you set this value data to 1, DHCP, and even non-DHCP, clients ignore Media Sense events from the interface. By default, Media Sense events trigger the DHCP client to take an action, such as attempting to obtain a lease (when a connect event occurs), or invalidating the interface and routes (when a disconnect event occurs).

2. Restart your computer.

To Fall Down at Your Door

Well, tomorrow is Bike to Work Day, but I'll be doing data migration all night in Germantown, so I can't really bike tomorrow. Our HQ is moving this weekend, too, so I thought today might be a good day to ride down to work for the last time. I doubt I'll be able to bike it all the way to our new HQ in Tysons Corner.

Boy, the Mayor looks so spiffy in bike attire.

Iron Council (China Miéville)

A Hugo Nominee

I entered the B & O Railroad Museum with a little shiver of anticipation. It's easy to lose an afternoon wandering among the big iron steam and diesel locomotives. As a mechanical engineer, I feel like the steel throbs at just my resonant frequency. The giant gears and dashpots bring out a nostalgia for a time I never knew (and that fully exists only in imagination). I walked into the roundhouse dreaming of a time before the mechanical, concrete world was obsolesced by this digital farce.

"Those days are gone," a voice said with a tinge of pleading. I looked around, wondering who had been reading my thoughts. The voice continued, and I spotted its source: a woman was standing on the running board of a big 4-4-2. She was speaking to a man who was sharing the running board with her. "So, Harry, let's get off this train before someone throws us off."

Harry ignored her. He held his arms wide and pressed against the great boiler. He seemed to be murmuring to the train, or to himself, or maybe a little of both. Whatever he muttered didn't sit well and she threw out a mighty sigh. As she climbed down, I was joined by a lanky man. I normally wouldn't have stared at this private drama, but I had been caught unaware by the parallel to my private thoughts. I did, however, decide to ignore the large doll the lanky man held in his hand.

And I am pretty sure that his pack was not moving around on its own. Much.

"Can I help?" I asked the woman after introducing myself.

"Ethel," she said. She raised her hands in despair and continued, "I don't see how anyone can help. He's been like this since he got back from his last business trip."

"Bon voyage," said the doll man. He sat at the front wheel of the engine and stared up at the train-hugger. The woman's eyes darted nervously to his slightly squirming backpack.

"No, I don't think it was a good trip, no," she said, finally. To me, she said, "He thinks he can whisper the train, you know. " Then she shouted at the man, "Harry! You can't whisper a train! It's not sentient!"

Harry's lips never stopped moving, though he did frown a little more.

"He's been reading this," she said. She held up Iron Council, a book by China Miéville.

"Oh," I said. "I've read that. It's sort of urban fantasy, yes?"

"No. It is not urban fantasy," she said haughtily, as if I had said urban legend.

"Fantasy punk?" I suggested.

"Magic punk," suggested the doll man.




"Stop it!" Ethel shouted. "It's not really punk, because it lacks the 'noir' feeling of cyberpunk. It's really more revolutionary/political/western than punk."

"Ah," I said. "We can agree that it's original?"

"Actually," said the doll man who had started withdrawing plastic arms from his pack. "It's a sequel."

"No. I don't know about original", Ethel said. "Those cactae are just Ents, if you ask me."

"Desert Ents," said the man with the doll. Along with plastic arms and legs, he had spread a tin can and some twine on the floor. He had caught Harry's attention. Harry still hugged the train, but he now craned forward to watch. "And the carnivorous trees are right out of Life of Pi."

"OK," I said. "But there's 'nothing new under the sun,' right? I liked that it wasn't the same old sword-and-sorcery stuff. If anything, the book just has too many ideas."

"'Too many notes,'" quoted the doll man.

"The important thing about the book," said Ethel, "is that even if it does win the Hugo, it might not be legal to read it in Alabama."

"Reason enough to vote for it, I say," I said, full of political vim and vigor all of a sudden. By this time, Harry had given up hugging the train. He was still on his perch; he leaned over to watch the doll man assemble the plastic and metal pieces.

"Are you making a golem?" he asked, politely.

"Of course not," said the doll man. "Golems aren't real."

Harry nodded sadly and sat on the running board.

"Tell me what's wrong, Harry." Ethel demanded.

"It was a bad trip," he said. "I was sitting there in the hotel room bathroom and I realized I'd closed the door. Can you believe it?" He shook his head. The doll man looked up with horror. Ethel and I looked on in confusion. "I got home and I wanted to find a way away. I had hoped these trains would be the answer."

"But they weren't," said the doll man.

"Nope," agreed Harry. "You see, I'm an efficiency expert. My life is devoted to streamlining and simplifying processes." He paused. "And there I sat in my lonely little hotel room and I had been wasting all this energy -- all week long! -- closing the door. And to no benefit whatsoever." He propped his elbows on his knees and cradled his head.

"There's no escape," noted the doll man. He quickly stood and walked away, leaving an assembly of duct-tape, plastic, and tin. Presently, a guard wandered by and asked Harry to step down from the locomotive. Harry did so, reluctantly.

"Have you seen a crazy guy with a doll?" asked the guard. Because of our innate distrust of authority, we shook our heads. After the guard wandered off, we stood staring at the engine.

"Let's go home," Ethel said. Harry nodded.

"So why did you come down from the train?" I asked.

"I guess I realized that there was nowhere to go. No place where there'd be true efficiency. It's all just so much arguing about nothing, really."

"Hey," I said. "What if you had left the door open and a housekeeper had barged into the room?"

Harry thought about this, then his face brightened. Before he could reply, his wife grabbed his arm.

"It's gone."

And sure enough, it was. The small amalgam of plastic and tape was no longer piled upon the floor. Movement up in the cab of the locomotive caught my attention. There was movement in the next cab over, too. All around the roundhouse, bits of plastic were moving inside the behemoth engines. Then we heard the sound.

Steam whistles.

The boilers had been fired up and stoked. Hundred-year-old hunks of iron were breathing again. The three of us looked at each other.

Then we ran.

Green Man

Green Man Did your town have a Green Man Festival?

I didn't think so.

Greenbelt is one odd little town.

It's Easy If You Try

  • 7:05 - 8:15 Greenbelt to Shady Grove (MetroRail)
  • 8:30 - 9:15 Shady Grove to Germantown (Ride-On Bus)
  • 9:15 - 9:25 Germantown to Germantown (Walk)
Yesterday was enough for me. I sat in Beltway traffic and fumed. I fumed at all the people who couldn't drive properly. I fumed at all the people who have non-functioning brake lights. I fumed at the shear mass of people trying to go from Rockville to Silver Spring. I fumed at the exhaust fumes.

It was not good for me.

So, today, I took our wee little public transportation system for a spin. If nothing else, I thought, it'll be good for my soul. And sure enough, I got in a good two and a half hours of reading. That was nice.

But two and a half hours! Imagine what it would take for the drive from Greenbelt to Germantown to be 2.5 hours. Imagine what it would be like to ride that distance without seats on the MetroRail. Imagine all the other people started telecommuting. Yeah, that's it -- Imagine there are no people.

Transmission (Hari Kunzru)

So I met my imaginary friend Bertie at Caspian Cafe in Germantown because I can't go three days in a row without eating their fabulous kebab. Oh, and he wanted to run his latest business idea by me before he meets with his potential "investors." Most of the time, I think that his "investors" are as imaginary to him as he is to me.

What does it mean if your imaginary friends have imaginary friends?

I met him in the parking lot. He was staring at the Popeyes next door.

"You don't want to go in there," I said. "This stuff is much better."

"Sure," he nodded. He noticed the book I was carrying. "How appropriate!" he said. "You're reading an Indian novel and we're going to an Indian restaurant."

"Dude," I said, with disdain. "The Caspian Cafe is not an Indian Restaurant. It is Persian. India doesn't touch the Caspian Sea."

"But they have kebab," he noted.

"Sure," I agreed. "But it's not the same spice. This is more buttery or smooth or something."

"Plus, I see they have fish and filet mignon kebab," he added after looking at the menu. "I suppose you don't see that much in Indian restaurants."

"Also," I said, "Most of the action in Transmission takes place in America and the UK, not so much India. Are you going to get fish?"

"Maybe. I sure like naan, though."

"It's not naan," I said. "It's pita."

At any rate, we made it through ordering and went to a table. My chicken was juicy and the bread somewhere between cracker and biscuit. Bertie picked up the book.

"So, this guy lets loose a virus --" he started.

"It's not a virus, really, it's...oh, never mind." I shook my head. "Any way, the book is pretty good, but it just made me think of work too much. Why don't you tell me your idea?"

"Ah, well," he rubbed his hands together. "Have you ever opened one of those jars of pickles or something and looked at the lid? You know what it says?"

"Yeah, something like 'Don't use if safety button has popped,'" I responded around bites of chicken.

"Exactly!" he cried. "So, after you eat the mayo or whatever and put the jar back in the fridge, jeez, you can't ever eat any more."

"Huh?" I said, intelligently. He certainly lost me quickly.

"Because when you pull it out, the label still says not to use it!" he said.

"Ah," I said, slowly, "The safety seal is still popped."

"Exactly. So, what I'm proposing is an automatically re-sealing safety seal."

"That ought to help clear out all those half-full pickle jars in the back of America's refrigerators," I said sarcastically.

"You don't think it's a good idea?" he asked.

"Well," I said, "Let's just say it might seem to solve the initial problem, but there are probably a good number of unforeseen problems with doing something like that."

He sat quietly for a minute. Then he nodded. "You're probably right. It doesn't really help those people who prefer mustard, huh?"

"Yeah," I said.

We finished our meals with a few words about the Nationals, then walked out to our cars. We stared at the passing traffic for a few moments.

"Not as much traffic on Rockville Pike as I expected," he said.

"It's not Rockville Pike up here," I said. "It's Frederick Road."

"Isn't it still 355?" he wanted to know.

"Oh, forget about it," I said. And we got into our cars and drove off.

No Hope in Soap

No Hope in Soap I'm so very glad to be finally off the road. The Brunette is the most important reason, of course. But a glance at this bar of soap reveals the kicker.

Hampton Inns are so darn demanding!

At any rate, remember that proposal visit I made to Germantown way back in November? Today, I'm sitting in a Starbucks next to the site waiting to see if I'll really start this week.