1. Just because the event has "strong" in the name does not mean you need to try every single barley wine you see.
  2. Even though $4 for a bowl of noodles is highway robbery after charging $40 for admission, just pay it. It doesn't matter how big a breakfast you had, you're going to need to eat something.
  3. When you finally do put something in your stomach, the chef-hot Thai leftovers in your refrigerator are not a good topper to a day's drinking.

That said, I had a great time, ran into three people I hadn't seen since college (and, despite all I'd had to drink, was still tactful enough not to ask one of them if he'd taken working for Rick Renzi off his resumé yet), and, while there were a few hours of discomfort later that evening, I managed to wake up the next morning fresh as a daisy. Take your vitamins and drink plenty of water, kids.

I am told that the next one we're going to has weaker beer, smaller glasses, and free food, which should stack the deck a little better in my favor. Looking forward to it.

So it seems that today's top election news is that a recent Barack Obama speech lifted lines from a 2006 speech by Massachusetts Governor Devall Patrick. Judge for yourself:

Obama:

Don't tell me words don't matter. "I have a dream" -- just words? "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal" -- just words? "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" -- just words? Just speeches?

Patrick:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal" -- just words? Just words? "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" -- just words? "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Just words? "I have a dream" -- just words?

Truly the most shocking thing any Presidential candidate has done in the past week. (Well, if you don't count, say, McCain deciding he's pretty okay with the whole torture thing after all. Did I mention how proud I am to have voted for him in '04?)

But my friends, I have unearthed something strikingly similar that predates both quotes. Again, judge for yourself:

Just a statue? Is the Statue of Liberty just a statue? Is the Leaning Tower of Pizza just a statue?

That was Homer Simpson in The Telltale Head, which first aired February 25, 1990, significantly predating both speeches.

So there you have it -- both men plagiarized their speeches, from an 18-year-old episode of The Simpsons.

Stunning, I know. I expect a book deal out of this. We may even be talking Pulitzer material.

This evening, as I was driving home from Phoenix, NPR was playing Dr. King's Why I Oppose the War In Vietnam speech. I got distracted and missed my exit. That may not have been causal -- I don't usually come that way and have missed that exit before -- but it was the first time I'd heard the audio and it certainly had my attention.

Kudos to NPR for acknowledging King's more controversial later years -- every year at this time, we see the usual round of King retrospectives, and too often they skip from I Have a Dream to the assassination, glossing over his outspoken opposition to the war and his focus on economic inequality.

I also just read Barack Obama's speech from the Ebenezer Baptist Church, and it reminded me why he struck such a chord in '04. The man gives a damn fine speech, and today he delivered one worthy of being spoken from Dr. King's own pulpit.

But I am a cynic.

Obama says, "The Scripture tells us that we are judged not just by word, but by deed." Very well. "We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them" are some very pretty words. But touring with the vehemently anti-gay Donnie McClurkin was a not-so-pretty deed. And his backpedaling explanation that McClurkin isn't anti-gay but only wants to cure "unhappy gays" is not only political weaselry, it's also the plot of X-Men 3.

"It is not enough to decry the disparities of health care and yet allow the insurance companies and the drug companies to block much-needed reforms" -- those are pretty words too. Words which lead me to wonder why Obama wants the insurance companies and the drug companies to help him write his healthcare plan.

Obama says a lot of pretty -- hell, downright inspiring -- things. But in 2006 he voted for a non-binding withdrawal plan for the Iraq War over Kerry and Feingold's bill to set a date. In 2005 he voted to renew the PATRIOT Act. Judged not just by word but by deed indeed, Senator.

Two years ago The Boondocks produced one of the finest half-hours of television I have ever seen, an episode titled "Return of the King" which explored the premise of Dr. King waking up from a 30-year coma in the modern era. At one point, King asks, "What happened, Huey? What happened to our people?" Huey responds, hesitantly, "I think...everyone was waiting for Martin Luther King to come back."

And that's the tragedy of the modern civil rights movement: for forty years, America has been waiting for Martin Luther King to come back. (It's also the tragedy of the current season of Boondocks, which has descended from this Peabody-winning meditation on our culture to jokes about movie ticket prices, and whose Katrina episode centered around Granddad trying to get rid of his mooching relatives, but that's a tangent.)

And for a nation and a movement so desperate to see Martin Luther King come back, it can be very tempting to mistake Barack Obama for him. He is an inspiring orator, and if he becomes President it will be the most significant step for racial equality since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

But Obama is not Martin Luther King. I seldom find myself in the position of defending Hillary Clinton, but she was right when she said, "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a movement. He was gassed. He was beaten. He was jailed. And he gave a speech that was one of the most beautifully, profoundly important speeches ever written in America, the I Have a Dream speech." Obama, meanwhile, has sat quietly on the Senate floor and taken safe positions on controversial issues rather than risk his reputation for what he believes is right. (Clinton has too, of course -- even moreso, I would argue -- but that doesn't make the King/Obama contrast false.)

I also think Clinton has been attacked unfairly for her remark that it took LBJ to sign the Civil Rights Act. She wasn't impugning Dr. King's legacy, she was merely recognizing President Johnson's role -- and I don't think any rational person could argue that, had Richard Nixon been President in 1964, the act still would have passed.

All this to say...I hate politics. There are moments when Barack Obama's words inspire me, when I think of how he could be a great leader, how he could restore America's position in the world and, more, how he could bring us closer than ever to recognizing those self-evident truths that Jefferson mentioned back in 1776. I hear him speak of the continuing struggles for equality, not just racial but also sexual and economic, and I want to see a leader who can speak to the nation's conscience and make those dreams a reality.

But in the end, all available data show that he is just another politician. I may well mark his name on my ballot two weeks from now, but I fear that too will be an exercise in cynicism -- if I vote for him, it will not be because I trust him, but because I mistrust him less than I do Clinton.

I think it's hard to be an optimist in America in this day and age. Perhaps incremental improvement is all we can hope for. I can't say I think that's enough...but I guess I'll take it.

You've probably noticed the site looks different.

Or, if you haven't because you're reading this via RSS, you've probably noticed you just got ten duplicate entries in your reader.

That's because I just migrated my backend over to WordPress.

As I alluded in a recent post (and yes, I update so seldom that three months ago qualifies as "recent"), b2evolution reached a point where it made even the simplest tasks a chore. A quick rundown:

  • As noted before, it refused "id" and "name" attributes in <a> tags. In other words, it would not allow me to use anchor tags as anchors.
  • Its error messages were hideous. "Invalid URL" may be useful information in a post that has as many as three links in it, but when you have fifty, it's the coding equivalent of punching me in the gut and then pointing and laughing. And for those of you who have not yet taken a 100-level programming course, it bears noting here that telling me which URL was causing a problem would take maybe twenty characters of additional code.
  • Not only wouldn't it tell me which URL was a problem, it wouldn't tell me why. I had to poke through a gigantic list of blocked URLs before I discovered that b2evolution had for some reason automatically blacklisted all mac.com sites.
  • Okay, this is the best one. You think blocking mac.com is bad? Check this out. In the same post, I linked to a rather lengthy driver URL -- go ahead and mouse over that link and see what I mean -- and b2evolution rejected it.
    See anything wrong with it? No? Neither did I. It took me about an hour to figure out what was happening. Here's the problem:
    The link contains the string "&ProductID". See where I'm going yet? No, you probably don't; even if you know that the HTML code for an ampersand is "&amp;" it probably hasn't hit you what happened there.
    So okay, here's what happened: b2evolution saw the "&Product" in that link, expanded it to "&amp;Product", and then, on a second pass, turned the ;P into a smiley.
    Hang on, it gets better: there is no way to disable smileys in the b2evolution admin control panel; you have to hack the PHP manually.
    Hang on, it gets even better: there actually is a checkbox in the control panel to allow you to disable smileys...and it is grayed out by default. Someone went to the trouble of actually coding up an easy fix...just to make it impossible to use.

In short, b2evolution was like everything my old web host ever gave me: at first, it was a generous gift and gave me an outlet to share my thoughts with the world, but over a period of years it became less and less bearable up until it reached a point where I simply couldn't go about my daily business anymore without it making my life unpleasant.

Actually, catty remarks about Internet drama aside, this is a coincidence -- I started this overhaul several days before Sharkey decided to pull up stakes. However, it's a happy coincidence, and it's nice to see him carve us out an alternative to Crazytown.

Anyway, on to the technical side, for anyone else who has WordPress questions. On the whole, I think WP is better so far. I absolutely despise "smart" quotes, and it parses text inside <code> tags just as poorly as b2evolution, if not even worse, but fortunately I found two plugins called Unfancy Quote and Preserve Code Formatting which take care of those two problems right out the gate.

I think I've done a pretty good job with the new theme, taking the old look and making a few modest changes to it. (I've finally retired that silly-ass old digits.com counter. It is the end of an era.) The CSS is my own, but the PHP code is largely adapted from Sandbox. As such, it's GPL'ed code, so once I'm finished tweaking it I'll put a zip file up just in case anyone wants to eyeball my source.

If there's anyone else trying to migrate old-ass b2evolution (0.9 series) to WordPress, there are a couple different ways to do it. You can convert to Movable Type and import natively (tutorial at Insert Witty Title), which preserves categories but hoses custom slugs, or you can use a conversion PHP script (tutorial at ibrian, though there are a few different versions of the script), which preserves custom slugs but hoses categories. I opted for the latter since it's less of a pain to recreate categories than slugs, but YMMV; if you never used custom slugs and just stuck with the default post titles, I'd say try the former. (There is something in there about how b2evo replaces spaces with underscores and WP replaces them with dashes, but there should be a tool to correct that too.)

Anyway. New blog, new forum. Let me know what you think. Maybe one of these days I'll get up the courage to dust the cobwebs off my Links page.


Playing: Super Mario Galaxy.

Reading: Just finishing Dune.

Howdy, folks; it's yer old pal, Crispus T Muzzlewitt!

As you fellers well know, when I ain't writin' fer Salon's Machinist blog, I spend most o' my nights sleepin' on park benches or in boxcars. And as I have so often remarked, it's the good life -- except fer them damnable folk what live in houses. Always yammerin' on about how good they got it. "Hey Crispus," they'll say, "it sure is harder to get rained on with a roof over your head." Or "Hey, bum, you could sure use a shower." Or "Hey there, Mr. Muzzlewitt, it looks like somebody stole your bindle while you were passed out on that park bench."

Smug bastards. I hate them all so very, very much. With their clean clothes and their straight teeth and their "Hey Crispus, you'd probably have a lot fewer headaches in life if you had a bed to sleep in and if you didn't smell like gin and urine."

So it is with no small amount of glee that I announce my recent discovery that houses are actually no more secure than the wide open spaces where I rest these bones. Sit down, young'uns, and let me tell you a tale.

'Tweren't long ago I was approached by the right honorable representative of a local security firm, and he done dropped a bombshell on me: houses don't keep folk out at all!

And my esteemed colleague Battlin' Joe Frickinfrack confirmed he done saw it with his own two eyes: a seedy-lookin' feller walked right up to the front door o' one o' those fancy houses like you see sometimes, and when the owner unlocked the door, let him in, and then wandered off somewheres, why, the seedy-lookin' feller done robbed him blind. So you see, it's just like my bindle -- front doors don't offer you no more protection than a park bench in the moonlight on a mild autumn night.

Another thing: I keep hearin' about folk who keep their valuables in safes, 'cause they think it's safe, on account o' the name maybe. But truth is, safes ain't no safer'n a lady's purse. Sure, you see a lot more purse-snatchin's than safe-crackin's, but that's only 'cause more folk got purses than has safes -- safes just don't make no sense as a target; why crack a safe when it's so much easier to snatch a purse? But it can be done, and easy, too: Battlin' Joe says that there burglar I wuz talkin' 'bout a minute ago also managed to get all the money outta that man's safe, on account o' the man gave him the combination.

I talked with a gentleman from Norton Home Security about this problem, and he said that, rare as it may seem today, it'll be an epidemic in the comin' months, and every homeowner everywhere needs to go right out and buy a Norton Home Security System. He then went on to add that he has absolutely no conflict of interest in makin' that partic'lar recommendation. And shucks, I believed him, but just to be thorough, Salon sent out its star reporter, Judith Miller, an' she confirmed that her source has absolutely nothin' to gain by exaggeratin' the threat posed by this enemy.

So there you have it, you smug sumbitches, with all yer fancy "doors" and "walls" -- now we know the truth. Houses ain't no more secure than parks, 'cause you can unlock the front door and let somebody in; safes ain't no more secure than purses, 'cause you can tell people the combination and then they can crack them, and OSX is just as vulnerable as Windows, on account o' if you allow root access to a suspicious program it can do bad things to yer computer. So wipe them smirks off them damn faces; yer house ain't no safer than my bench nohow.

So that'll do fer now, but I reckon this'll be the first in a three-part series. Next time, I'll talk about how roofs are overrated 'cause rain still gets in if you knock giant holes in them with sledgehammers, and in our final installment, I'll examine how showering and that there underarm deodorant them rich folks use don't do nothin' to make you smell better if'n you rub pig shit all over yer body immediately after.

Thank you, and goodnight.

Hobo names supplied by John Hodgman.

Updated 2007-10-14. Scroll down to where it says "Update 2007-10-14". I'd put a link here, but for some reason b2evolution will not let me use the "id" or "name" attributes; expect a presumably silly and useless "rant" on that subject very, very soon. (Update 2008-01-17: Switching to WordPress fixed the problem.)


So I got that Mac Pro I was talking about earlier. No, I still can't afford the thing, so if you notice me living a life of indentured servitude for the rest of my days, well...I'm Irish. We're used to it.

The bastard about being on the bleeding edge is that there aren't a whole lot of guides to walk you through your setup. For example, I found quite a number of guides on how to multiboot a MacBook Pro with 3 OS's on different partitions of the same drive, but approximately bupkis on how to do it on a Mac Pro with each OS on its own drive.

So, in case anyone winds up Googling for the same information I couldn't quite find, here's how I finally did it. Hopefully this'll make it easier for you than it was for me.

Installation and booting

I can't say for certain, but I think order of drives and order of installation are both important.

After some trial and error, I wound up laying my drives out like this:

Drive 1 is Kubuntu.
Drive 2 is OSX.
Drive 3 is Windows XP x64.

Leastways, that's how they're set up in hardware. For reasons I'm not altogether clear on, they show up in software as Kubuntu on sda, Windows on sdb, and OSX on sdc. Still more curiously, both the Kubuntu drive and the OSX drive are assigned SCSI ID 0,0,0. (Could be some holdover from the old master/slave days? Maybe the drives are on different controllers? Something to do with MBR vs. GPT? Is it because the Kubuntu drive is physically first but the Mac drive boots first? Don't know.)

Order of installation seems to be important too. I say this because my first time through, I installed Kubuntu, it ran fine, and then I installed Windows and Kubuntu wouldn't boot anymore. I'd click on the Linux icon and it would boot the wrong OS. (Actually, it still does; more on that later.) So, as with most things in life, everything was going great until I installed Windows.

But after a day and a half of banging my head against the wall, I finally got all 3 OS's moving by rearranging the drives (see above) and installing Windows first and then Kubuntu. (OSX, of course, was preinstalled.)

Things to keep in mind: since we're talking 64-bit Windows, the Boot Camp program is useless. You can ignore it. It might be useful for resizing your OSX partition since Windows insists, for no reason whatsoever, on writing system files to the first drive. I say "for no reason whatsoever" because you can move those files -- boot.ini , ntdetect.com , and ntldr -- to the drive Windows is installed on and it'll run just fine. There's more info at x(perts)64; that guide is specifically for dual-booting XP and Vista, but I found it useful anyway.

(Also, "the first drive" noted above is actually the second drive in my case, which caused a good deal of confusion; as I mentioned earlier, both the Kubuntu drive and the Mac drive show up as 0,0,0.)

It's also worth noting that the much-ballyhooed rEFIt doesn't work for me; I have to hold down Option at startup to get a working boot menu.

That menu gives me the following:
rEFIt, Windows, Windows, Windows
because EFI very helpfully assumes anything that's not Mac is Windows.

The first "Windows" is actually Kubuntu. The second gives me "Error loading operating system". I assume that the first "Windows" is the MBR of the drive and the second is the first partition, which is flagged bootable but doesn't have Grub on it.

The third "Windows" is actually Windows.

Now, rEFIt looks similar -- it offers "Boot Mac OS X from Mac", then "Boot Linux from HD", "Boot Legacy OS from HD", "Boot Windows from Partition 1", not always in that order -- but the last three all open the same OS, either Linux or Windows depending on which I booted more recently.

So I'm stuck with holding Option at boot and selecting the left Windows or the right Windows, but at least it works. I'm hoping future versions of rEFIt fix this problem.

Windows

Here's where you can find the necessary 64-bit drivers for Windows:

(Sources: Triple Boot thread on the Apple forums; Airport Driver thread on driverguide.com forums)

Kubuntu

Boot issues aside, this is the single most painless Linux installation I have ever experienced. I know there's no dearth of people singing the praises of Ubuntu and how close it is to being ready for desktop use, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to add my own redundant voice to the chorus. It was almost painless.

I still had to install the nVidia drivers by hand -- either get us some free drivers that work or stop being so damn concerned about ideological purity, guys; I need support for my video card, and this would make life pretty rough for the average user. But by my standards as a Linux vet...I didn't even have to touch xorg.conf. Kubuntu, how I love you.

Setting up wireless was another concern, especially when I read there was no native support for the adapter and I'd have to use ndiswrapper. Let me explain something about ndiswrapper: it was a bastard to install under Gentoo, and is responsible for every single kernel panic I've experienced in the past year and a half.

Under Kubuntu, on the other hand, it was over in minutes. And I don't want to jinx it, but it hasn't panicked my kernel yet.

There's a HowTo at ubuntuforums.org. Steps 1-3 are outdated now; Feisty comes with a current version of ndiswrapper, so you won't need to update it. As for the bcmwl5.inf file, it's the same one in the Dell package I linked above.

To get wireless to work immediately at boot, you'll also need to set your access point up. In Kubuntu, you do go to K → System Settings → Network Settings, click "Administrator Mode", enter your password, click wlan0, then Configure Interface, and enter the ESSID and WEP key. (DHCP and "Activate when computer starts" should already be set.)

I will note that on one of my reboots wireless didn't start up automatically and I had to run iwconfig myself. I think that's most likely due to signal interference in my apartment, but I can't say for sure at this point.

Sound support was the biggest problem I hit. The ALSA driver for Feisty doesn't support the Mac Pro's audio adapter.

After poking around for awhile, I decided that rather than bother with the individual package, I'd just go ahead and upgrade to Gutsy RC. After all, if you've even read this far, I'm guessing you're somebody who's not afraid of the letters "RC"; I'd advise you just to go with Gutsy from the start. (Course, by the time anybody actually reads this guide, I'm betting Gutsy final will be out.)

So far Gutsy's working just fine for me. (Update 2007-10-14: Except that I can't adjust volume from the keyboard. The bar goes between 0 and 11 but doesn't actually make any change in the volume. This appears to be a known bug in Gutsy at the moment.)

I'll edit this post if anything changes or if I find anything else out -- I have a Bluetooth keyboard and Mighty Mouse that I haven't bothered trying to set up in Kubuntu yet; I intended it more for my media center/emulation rig Mac Mini anyway. But if I get that, or anything else set up, I'll make a note of it here.

Hoping this has been a help to somebody. I don't usually do this, but when I find myself running into problems that aren't well-documented, I figure I may as well document them myself in the hopes that I can make life a little easier for the next guy.

Good luck, next guy.


Reading: Cat's Cradle again, the first in my "My favorite recently-deceased science fiction authors" theme. I think A Wrinkle in Time is probably next.


Update 2007-10-14: Accessing the Mac drive from Kubuntu

It's easy enough to mount an HFS+ volume under Linux (FS type is just "hfsplus" in mount or fstab), but accessing your home directory or mounting with write permissions is a little trickier.

To access your home directory on the Mac volume from Kubuntu, your Mac user account and your Linux user account need to have the same UID. There are a number of ways to do this; the easiest involve simply creating a new user, but I changed the UID on my Mac login to 1000 with no real trouble.

Just go into Applications/Utilites and run NetInfo Manager, click Users, then your username, then scroll down to uid and gid and change them both to 1000 (or whatever your UID is under Linux -- 1000 is, of course, the default number for the first user account).

After that, you'll need to log out and back in, pull up a terminal, do a sudo chown -R <username>:<group> /Users/<username>, and then log out and back in again.

My source on all this is the Gentoo wiki (even though I'm using Kubuntu).

That should give you write access to your home directory on the Mac drive from Linux. To get read access, you'll need to disable journaling.

It occurred to me that I'd like to keep journaling enabled in OSX and only disable it when I want to access the data from Kubuntu. I came up with a relatively simple solution: I wrote a script to enable journaling when OSX boots, and added a line to the shutdown script to disable it.

For the startup script, I created a directory called /Library/StartupItems/EnableJournaling containing a filepair called EnableJournaling and StartupParameters.plist, as follows:

StartupParameters.plist

{
Description = "Enable Journaling";
Provides = ("Journaling");
OrderPreference = "Late";
}

EnableJournaling

#!/bin/sh

. /etc/rc.common

# Enables journaling on Mac volume

ConsoleMessage "Enabling journaling on /Volumes/Mac"
diskutil enableJournal /Volumes/Mac
exit 0

(Don't forget to make this file executable.)

(Source: Greg Neagle's blog)

And I modified /etc/rc.shutdown to the following:

#!/bin/sh
# Copyright 1997-2004 Apple Computer, Inc.

. /etc/rc.common

if [ -f /etc/rc.shutdown.local ]; then
sh /etc/rc.shutdown.local
fi

SystemStarter stop

# ADD THIS LINE:
diskutil disableJournal /Volumes/Mac

kill -TERM 1

exit 0

Seems to work all right; I get journaling when I'm running OSX, and I get write access when I'm running Kubuntu. (Update 2007-11-05: It appears rc.shutdown is gone in Leopard. I'll update when I learn more.)

The bad news is that it doesn't work both ways. At present I have Kubuntu installed on a ReiserFS volume, which is unsupported by OSX. I could have made it an ext3 FS instead and installed the ext2 driver for OSX, but, well, if I wanted compatibility over performance, I probably wouldn't have gotten a Mac Pro.

Some musings, observations, and general thoughts:

  1. Who decided it was a good idea to tell people, "Oh, you're going to have to check this" after baggage check?
  2. Seriously, guys. It's jelly. What conceivable kind of danger can this jelly possibly pose?
  3. So the problem is the size of the container? So if I had, say, three smaller containers and split the jelly up into them -- the exact same matter, just in different containers -- you wouldn't have thrown it out?

Anyway. Thanks for making us so much safer, TSA.

...Then again, I guess my airport experience could have been a lot worse.

Had some serious computer trouble last night, and it vanished as mysteriously as it came.

It has occurred to me that I know at least three couples who have gotten engaged, married, and divorced in the time since my last major hardware upgrade. And that was just a new video card.

If I had the dollars, I'd get me one o' them Mac Pro things the kids talk about. Triple-boot OSX, Windows, and some flavor of Linux. I'm thinking Kubuntu, since I've discovered I don't have the time to keep my packages up-to-date in Gentoo.

But man, I'll miss Gentoo.

All of that, of course, is academic at this point, as I do not have the dollars for a Mac Pro. Hopefully I can remedy that situation, but if my computer dies in the meantime, I guess I'll have to use Knoppix or my Mac Mini or something.