Monday, November 26, 2007

Morrissey Rocks

Morrissey Rocks
We found this strange tombstone in Calvary Cemetery in Queens. No date of birth, no date of death. Just "Morrissey Rocks." Is this the grave of some devoted, anonymous Morrissey fan? An man with an unusual name? Or did some hipster buy a plot and put up a stone, just for kicks? Would the cemetery allow that? I suppose I could call the management company and ask, but I'd prefer to let the Internet spontaneously reveal all.

Mm, Pot Pie

The NY Times recipe for Turkey pot pie with chipotle and cheese is awesome, although I did make a few modifications. Instead of the "cheesy stick" lattice top, I made a biscuit topping from this Gourmet magazine recipe (I forgot to add the cheese and they didn't really rise, but whatever). I used homemade Thanksgiving-turkey-carcass stock. I used 1 cup of heavy cream and 1 cup of whole milk (because I didn't have enough cream). I added about a 1.5 cups of sliced shitake mushrooms and 1.5 cups of mixed grated Cheddar/Monterey Jack/Colby along with the turkey and veggies. I sprinkled about 1/2 cup of the cheese on top of the biscuits.

I don't think any of these modifications made a huge amount of difference, although I can testify that it turned out plenty creamy without 2 cups of cream. I would not recommend attempting the cheesy stick lattice.

xkcd: Success

This is pretty much exactly how it went down when I upgraded to Gutsy.


Consider this a standing endorsement of xkcd.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Gnome Sessions

I tentatively clicked "Remember current running applications" in Gnome Session Preferences (aka gnome-session-properties) and lived to regret it. What this does is it restarts any currently running application when you login. This is useful for, e.g., your online backup daemon, but kind of annoying for, e.g., five Emacs windows,, some random Nautilus directory window, etc.

Now, first I tried checking and unchecking "Automatically remember running applications when logging out", as the window layout makes it seem as if these two settings are related. They are not. Then, I was tempted to fix this by futzing with the "Startup Programs" or "Current Session" lists. This is Not Right.

The Right Thing is to close all your programs (or just the offending ones) and then click again on "Remember current running applications". That is to say: the only way to change the "remembered" snapshot is to take another snapshot*.

Note: Session Preferences has a Help button, but the Gnome manual page on it doesn't mention "Remember currently running programs" or "Automatically remember running applications when logging out". This is annoying.

* Presumably there is a text file tucked away somewhere that controls this (maybe ~/.gnome2/session?), but I haven't the patience to find out.

Style Guidelines for People

In the midst of some unrelated Googling, I came across Luca de Alfaro's style guidelines for student co-authors. This is good stuff. I particularly like "one sentence per line" b/w "fill-sentence macro". It's an elegant solution to a frequently annoying deficiency of diff, which is unfortunately the baseline for anyone collaborating via CVS or SVN. I tweaked his macro to get nice indentation in AucTeX:

(defun fill-sentence ()
(forward-sentence -1)
(let ((beg (point)))
(if (equal "LaTeX" (substring mode-name (string-match "LaTeX" mode-name)))
(LaTeX-fill-region-as-paragraph beg (point))
(fill-region-as-paragraph beg (point))))))
(global-set-key "\ej" 'fill-sentence)

[UPDATE 1/20/07] Fixed an off-by-one error when the cursor is on the first character of the sentence by adding (forward-char).

BSG Is Back (Then Gone Again)!

BSG: Razor is basically a very solid, two-part flashback episode in TV movie form. Admiral Cane is resurrected* for some Hot Lesbian Action and to dictate a torture memo** ("Pain, degradation, fear, shame... Be as creative as you feel the need to be"). Eighties vintage Cylons are resurrected for no apparent reason. New characters are introduced and then killed off with ruthless efficiency. There was a bit of the old, vague mytho-babble ("All of this has already happened... and will happen again") pointing towards the next season, which makes me terribly worried the show will end badly, in grand X-Files and/or Twin Peaks style.

It doesn't look like Razor is scheduled to re-air, if you missed it, but it will be out on DVD next week (in an annoyingly expanded version). Season 4 is scheduled to begin in March (or April?). Till then, work...

* Not in the "she's a Cylon" sense.

** Isn't it fun how "torture memo" is now a cultural reference?

LaTeX Letters

I was trying to write a letter in LaTeX the other day:





\opening{To Whom It May Concern:}

Hello, there.



This led to the following two errors, which shed little light on the situation:

! LaTeX Error: There's no line here to end.

See the LaTeX manual or LaTeX Companion for explanation.
Type H for immediate help.

l.10 \opening{To Whom It May Concern:}

and (on a different example)

! Incomplete \iffalse; all text was ignored after line 66.

l.16 \end{letter}

Runaway text?
\@mlabel{}{\unhbox \voidb@x \ignorespaces \global \let

The problem, as it was gently explained to me, is I had omitted the second mandatory argument of \begin{letter}, which is the address of the recipient. The following is correct:




\begin{letter}{Foo Corp.}

\opening{To Whom It May Concern:}

Hello, there.



[UPDATE] I just realized that the reason I got so confused about this is that I was working off a previous business letter that was formatted like:

Foo Corp. \\
... \\
ATTN: Warranty Dept.}

I'm not sure if I intended it to be the case (probably not), but LaTeX picked up the braces around the address as the argument to letter. When I used this as the template for a personal letter and deleted the address, all hell broke loose.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

All Merchandise Missing, Empty Carton Discarded

Huh. I've never seen a "shipping status" like this before:

Package Progress
Date Time Activity Location Notes

BTW, the damage has not, to my knowledge, "been reported." To me, at least.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Starving Like Cats and Dogs

Substitute "cat" for "dog" in this little drama and you have a good idea of what pretty much every day is like around here:

Dog: I am starving.
Me: Actually, no. You aren't starving. You get two very good meals a day. And treats. And Best Beloved fed you extra food while I was gone.
Me: I saw you get fed not four hours ago! You are not starving.
Dog: Pity me, a sad and tragic creature, for I can barely walk, I am so starving. WOE.
Me: I am now ignoring you.
Dog: Did you hear me? I am starving.

From there, it takes a turn towards the slightly-less-universal (and incredibly funny). Read the whole thing.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fake project directories in tarballs

To make a tarball where all the files are in a subdirectory FOO (as per best practices), where FOO doesn't really exist on your disk (e.g., FOO may be PROJECT-vX.Y.Z and the files are in directory PROJECT), just do

tar cvf NAME.tar --transform=s,^,FOO/,g FILES

Note that the argument to transform in this case is just a sed command with commas instead of slashes.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Eye Candy

The difference between "Desktop Plane" and "Desktop Wall" in the Ubuntu "Visual Effects" options (aka CompizConfig Settings) is that the latter allows windows to overlap a viewport* and the former does not. (Along with this comes a lot of incidental options and visual fillips, like the ability to drag a window entirely from one viewport to another.) Although this does not sound like a big productivity booster, I'm going to give the Wall a chance.

I'm not going to give the "Desktop Cube" a chance, because it won't let me place viewports above and below, as well as left and right, seemingly out of some wrong-headed sense of pseudo-three-dimensional literalism (although your "cube" can have an arbitrary number of faces, they must be arranged linearly from left to right: Euclidian topologies only).

* For some reason the "Desktop Plane," "Desktop Wall," and "Desktop Cube" options all use viewports and not workspaces**, so they don't work well with the Gnome Workspace Switcher.

** For some other reason, Gnome has two distinct ways of implementing virtual desktops (viewports and workspaces) even though theres no discernible advantage to one over the other (except for compatibility with this application or that).

[UPDATE] Visual Effects lead to intermittent system freezes. Fun! Going back to boring old workspaces.

Problems, I've Had A Few (Fresh Pasta Edition)

The problem with making fresh pasta dough by the well method is that, if your eggs should overtop their flour walls, they will move quite rapidly towards the edge of the counter and, from there, to the floor. In my case, I actually managed to let a significant quantity of egg matter seep into the dishwasher.*

The problem with making fresh ravioli is that it's actually quite tricky and you're bound to screw it up the first time, especially if you'd like to stuff them with a mash of fresh pumpkins that is unexpectedly wet. (You've got to walk before you run, kids.)

The problem with Mario Batali is he doesn't say any of this in his recipes.

* Bonus tip: there's no way to save a pasta dough once you've incorporated too much flour (e.g., because you started desperately flinging it at a rapidly advancing torrent of eggs). The dough quite decidely "locks" and won't react to additional liquid/eggs in any useful way.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Fun with Keyword Analysis

Noted without comment: as of now, this blog is the #5 result (of "about 1,040") for the Google search "irresponsible assface".

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Updating for Daylight Savings Time on Ubuntu

My system clock has been all wiggy since Daylight Savings Time ended (or started?) (it's ended) on Sunday. Believe it or not, it was actually flipping back and forth between correct and one hour ahead for no apparent reason. I did two things which together seem to have fixed things.

First, via Fast Track Sites, I found that my system timezone information was out of date. The test for this is:

% sudo zdump -v /etc/localtime | grep 2007
/etc/localtime Sun Mar 11 07:59:59 2007 UTC = Sun Mar 11 01:59:59 2007 CST isdst=0 gmtoff=-21600
/etc/localtime Sun Mar 11 08:00:00 2007 UTC = Sun Mar 11 03:00:00 2007 CDT isdst=1 gmtoff=-18000
/etc/localtime Sun Nov 4 06:59:59 2007 UTC = Sun Nov 4 01:59:59 2007 CDT isdst=1 gmtoff=-18000
/etc/localtime Sun Nov 4 07:00:00 2007 UTC = Sun Nov 4 01:00:00 2007 CST isdst=0 gmtoff=-21600

If the output doesn't exactly match the above, you have a problem. Download the latest tzdata2007X.tgz file (where X is a lowercase letter) from the National Cancer Institute (seriously). For gorey details, see the Fast Track Sites post cited above. (I don't think you really have to do the ln step, which sets your timezone to EST5EDT instead of, e.g., America/New_York. I skipped it.)

Now your system ought to know the right start/end dates for Daylight Savings Time. But your clock is probably still out of whack.

Now, via Ubuntu Forums and Stephen Sykes, use ntpdate to reset the clock. The trick(s) here are: (a) you have to shut down ntpd first, (b) setting the clock back an hour will convince sudo that you're trying to do something nefarious ("timestamp too far in the future"), and (c) I had to give ntpdate the -u option to get past some unseen firewall.

% sudo /etc/init.d/ntp-server stop
* Stopping NTP server ntpd [ OK ]
% sudo ntpdate-debian -u
6 Nov 17:00:00 ntpdate[13693]: step time server offset -3598.042737 sec
% sudo /etc/init.d/ restart
sudo: timestamp too far in the future: Nov 6 17:59:56 2007

Oops. Using the "Adjust Date & Time" applet, manually set the clock one hour forward. Now, run sudo -k. Now, set the clock back to the correct time (again using "Adjust Date & Time"). Starting over:

% sudo ntpdate-debian -u
6 Nov 17:00:00 ntpdate[13693]: step time server offset -3598.042737 sec
% sudo /etc/init.d/ restart
* Saving the system clock
% sudo /etc/init.d/ntp start
* Starting NTP server ntpd [ OK ]

All done. Enjoy.

[UPDATE 3/12/2008] It looks like this might be a semi-annual ritual: my system pulled the same schizo act when DST started this week. On Gutsy, ntp-server has become ntp. It's easier springing forward than falling back, because sudo just times out when you set the clock forward.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Heckuva Job, Bernie

Rudy Giuliani on Bernard Kerrick, the mobbed-up, bribe-taking, tax-evading, mistress stalking, ex-personal driver, ex-police commissioner, ex-Iraq occupation official, and ex-failed nominee to a George Bush's cabinet*:

If I have the same degree of success and failure as president of the United States, this country will be in great shape.

He continued, "My shit tastes like lollipops, 9/11, 9/11."

* And remember: you can personally authorize torture and still be confirmed to George Bush's cabinet.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

For Want of Hobo Jokes

Hey, look, official Funniest Man Alive John Hodgman has a blog:

I actually admire the sheer, misanthropic brio of those Lockhorns. After all, it can't be easy to distill all the drunken, marital loathing of WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? and pour it all into a single, hate-filled funny pages panel day after day after day.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Alternative Status Hierarchies

Joel Stein, everybody's least favorite ex-Entertainment Weekly columnist, covering the Republican fringes:

Representative Tom Tancredo ... tells me after a debate in New Hampshire, one of his staffers walked up to a guy in a shark costume and asked him if he was a Ron Paul supporter. "No. They're all nuts," replied the shark. "I'm just a guy in a shark suit."