Archive for January, 2001

Looking Back

I remember the Challenger. I was 13 at the time of the explosion. When It happened, I was skiing. There were radios in the lift huts, so we’d catch a scrap of news, commercial or music between every run.

Between a pair of runs, we heard something on the radio about an explosion. It took a couple of times past the lift hut to catch enough of the story get a picture.

But what I remember the most is thinking: ‘This must be wrong. It is the shuttle, It’s not supposed to blow up.’

But it did. And it did because some engineers and managers didn’t assemble and communicate their data in a way that would make clear the danger of proceeding with the launch. I’ve read the analysis of the communication presented by Edward Tufte. The graphs and charts arguing for launch are incompetent at best and misleading at worst.

I’ve been an Engineer. I’ve designed things that the public travels on every day and expects to always be standing or floating. I’ve presented the results of analysis where if it were wrong and no one questioned it, people could die. But if I wasn’t clear, people did question it. Engineers did review it. And they called me on errors that they saw.

Engineers make mistakes. Everyone does. But they get reviewed and corrected. In a position where public safety is at stake, you have to communicate clearly, and you have to have your analysis reviewed. If you don’t communicate clearly, and there’s a bias to push ahead, bad things will happen. A very bad thing did happen.

And apparently they’ve learned from the mistakes.

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Playing with Rss

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So I’m playing with some new toys. I now have a mailing list archiver that’s completely seperate from Frontier, apart from writing the UI as static php files from Radio Userland. It’s a learning experience; teaching me some of the things that I really like about the frontier/mainresponder envrionment. But I think I’m getting performance out of this 500 mhz k6-2/linux box that I can’t get out of frontier on my current platform. 6000 messages inserted and indexed in 1/2 hour, without maxing the processor. Transactions. SQL. A smtp front end that is a little less tempermental than the one that I wrote in frontier.

The basic architecture is qmail -> perl script -> PostgreSql database -> apache/php scripts for rendering. I’m getting rss feeds out of it. There’s a public web interface. There’s a search engine that is probably going to be at the core of some future work.

Urls are (for now anyway, I may make them shorter soon) html and rss.

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Long, Strange Trip

a prayer for positive cash flowWhat a long strange trip it’s been. And the strangest part has been the last week or so. I’m part of a dotcom that’s in the ASP business (which means that we host applications for our customers) I was employee 4, but I was a consultant before that. I think I got the second check that the company ever wrote. I feel a huge portion of the company is mine. (Of course, legally a small portion is mine). I’ve written the lions’ share of two of the three applications that we’re selling. I know that we had other help, and I don’t mean to diminish their input, but dammit, this is my company.

Two weeks ago monday, we lost 2/3rds of the staff. Last friday, the rest of us stopped getting paid. But something strange is happening. It’s not dying that easily. We’re fighting for it, since we don’t know what else to do, and we’re not going to let it go quitely into that good night. We have cool apps, we have customers that are happy, and we have bandwidth for a little while longer.

And we have volunteers. Volunteers who are willing to work for a bit of a miracle. Perhaps all that’s required is for the lights to not go out for a couple of weeks. Perhaps we have to prove something. Perhaps it’s impossible. But you know, sometimes I like impossible odds. It’s not like I haven’t hit on them before.

late sunset. There's a planet in the picture, and I'm betting it's mars from the coloring in the pic. It looks bright white to my eye, but the color in the image is bright red.

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Live by the Investors…

Live by the investors, Die by the investors.

As of yesterday, my .com ran out of money. The lights are still on, pages are still being served, but there are no real employees left. It was fun while it lasted ( 1 year, 2 months, and 5 days is my tally). It’s not like I didn’t see this coming, It’s just that I thought that we had another couple of weeks.

Miracles may still occur. As Miracle Max would say, we’re only mostly dead. Which is slightly alive. But it would take a miracle.

I’d do it again. It was a fun ride while it lasted.

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January Seafug Meeting

For those of you in Seattle…

I’m holding a Seattle Frontier Users Group Meeting
Tuesday Jan 30th, 7pm, 1818 Summit, on Capitol Hill. Drop me a line to rsvp.

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I’ve had linux running at my house as a firewall/router for about a year now. Or more precisely, it was up for 395 days, until yesterday at 6pm. Don’t know what happened, but at least it rebooted properly.

Or to put it in perspective, that machine was running for approximately one month less than the time that I’ve been producing this website.

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Beautiful Pictures

Turkish plate, in reflected morning sunlight

Turkish plate, in reflected evening sunlight

Side window, in evening sunlight

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Geek out

You know you’re a geek when….

You type ‘sudo killall -HUP httpd’ on your trusty linux box and your music stops. You’re also probably a geek if you know what that does and why it would do that.

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Who needs a title?

without further comment

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Sparks Fly
My best shot from the Christmas tree burn last night. (I really like the spark trails, check out the high-res version) I shot off about 40 pics at Golden Gardens where the resident seattle crazies set up their yearly immolation of innocent trees. I’d guess that about 150 trees went up in flames, each one taking a minute or so. It’s clear that pine needles are pretty flammable.

A monolith made an appearance… (incidentally, the only flash shot that I took)


The finale was about half of the trees, stacked along the beach. It took about 5 minutes for them to burn. The flames here are about 30 feet high.


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