Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween already?

Halloween, at least for the younger crowd (read: mine), is a handy excuse to party it up for a night. The costumes make folks less inclined to hold themselves back (you can be anything!), and as a result, revelry, consumption, and irresponsible decisions are the order of the evening. I'd sure like to be young forever, but I'd grow awfully tired of the lifestyle I'm expected to lead. I just want to be a crotchety old man already and sit on my regular stool at my regular haunt and enjoy a night just like any other. Dressing up is fun -- there's no doubt about that -- but who says you have to have a wild time to enjoy it?

On a night most folks are looking for a party, I'm hoping my haunt will be deserted, abandoned by... by those same folks who're out looking for a party.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Just for Fun

How can beauty so perfect be? My mind tangled, just now, halted by the appearance of a tangible impossibility, right here, making the air bend around you like it bends around every other real person here. There's no word, no image-- there's no way to even understand what these eyes behold in you. You glow. You're not-- you can't be-- people don't glow.

Why would God be cruel enough to send you here? He's put you here so I can see in you what I am not. She sees in you what she will never be, and he sees what he'll never hope to have. We turn our gaze, not in respect, but so we'll not be blinded by your grace. Already, like the sun, your image will linger when I close my eyes.

An orchid shares your simple, infinitely profound perfection, but it has no idea. You do. You toss your head and laugh, and you hang it in dark hours of sorrow. You walk from here to there, the entire way knowing what you hold, but missing not a step. The orchid hangs, as perfect as you, but I wonder if it would hold its beauty as well with the knowledge of the power it holds. You can't be, but somehow, you are. Impossibly human.

Fun, indeed! I needed a bit of romance. Dumping an imaginary love letter to the blog did the trick quite nicely :-)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Random Drivel

I've finally taken the plunge and subscribed to Giganews after Time Warner appears to have gradually throttled their news servers down to an abysmal 300kbps. I should have done this a long time ago. For the same price as the FFXI subscription I just canceled, I've got 25GB of downloady goodness per month. Right now, I'm leeching the juiciest bits of alt.binaries.boneless (read: Buffy) at speeds I'm concerned will make my cable modem burst into flame.

In the spirit of Blog Action Day (and in my usual behind-the-times fashion), I present a mildly thoughtful note. Between the grating whineathons of public radio's biannual pledge drive, I heard a strange story today about the surrogate breeding of endangered fish. To sum it up, researchers have figured out how to hack the hardware (pardon the geeky metaphor) in common fish to make them produce both sperm and eggs of endangered fish. This goes well beyond surrogate parenting -- the fish are actually making babies of a different species by mating with each other. Creepy stuff. I wonder how necessary this is, though. Instead of compensating by making more of the fish we're wiping out, wouldn't it be simpler to just stop killing so many of them? Even apart from that, it seems a bit off to be mucking around in ecosystems like that. Improving an existing species is one thing, but this? This is pretty wild.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Capitalist Healthcare

Once again, I should remind you I don't do politics very well. My commentary is short and obvious, and often seems like it shouldn't need to be stated. It does, though, because through all the fancy wordplay and analyzing pundits' games, we seem to lose sight of the fundamental flaws inherent in our system.

We've discovered a flaw to the free market economy model in the health care industry. Generally, the "supply and demand" rules work quite well to keep prices in line with consumer demand. What happens, though, when demand approaches infinite? Is there a limit to the price we'll pay for life itself?

There's not. And, currently, there's virtually no limit to the price we do pay. Socialized healthcare is a scary though, and while it's probably not the most desirable solution, we've got to take a look at how terribly we're failing right now. I don't have solutions. I don't claim to. Questions are so much more interesting than answers, anyway :-)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

We're all druggies

I heard a story on the radio today about a recall of OTC cold medicines for children. Apparently, the active ingredient, Phenylephrine, has killed some kids.

If you're not in the loop (I'm surprised at how many people are oblivious), this stuff only appeared in cold medicines about a year ago as a replacement for Pseudoephedrine, a time-tested decongestant. Among its many awful side effects (so hard to write sarcasm into text...), Pseudoephedrine caused a bit of jitteriness. Phenylephrine, on the other hand, in addition to being wholly ineffective -- at least, in my own congested nose -- was developed as a treatment for hypotension. It raises blood pressure. That's why they invented it. Any decongestant properties were an unintended side-effect.

In our overzealous obsession with domestic drug enforcement, we've replaced a widely-used, effective, and relatively safe medication to a largely ineffective one that has potentially (now, proven) deadly side-effects. I'm surprised and rather disappointed the story said nary a word about the recent switch to Phenylephrine. I'm afraid they missed the point.

LAMP Setup Notes

To make this easier for myself the next time around (I'll forget again within a couple days, I'm sure), I'm posting notes from a successful LAMP installation here. Again, if you're using this for anything but a very general outline, I laugh at the mess you'll be in shortly.

I also have a few thoughts on the last set of notes. First, archives are the way to go for migrating data. Transfer them by FTP, or SCP if you're not planning on offering FTP services. I ran into a number of unanticipated permissions problems using the NFS method. Make sure to use the --same-permissions flag when extracting.

The server migration is complete! ZIM is back, this time in some shiny new threads. My first migration (to a backup server) took about twenty hours, and it consisted of a good deal of research, getting lost in the woods several times, and generally bumbling my way through foreign territory. The second migration (back to the main box) took less than four, including a break to play some blues on the guitar and poking around for new music on Oink. Learning rocks.



-- Install Apache, PHP, MySQL --

1) Add the following USE flags to /etc/make.conf:
apache2 php mysql xml xmlreader xmlwriter simplexml xsl

2) # emerge apache

3) # emerge php

4) # emerge mysql

-- Set Apache and MySQL to run at boot --

5) # rc-update add apache2 default

6) # rc-update add mysql default

-- Configure Apache --

7) Open /etc/conf.d/apache2 and modify APACHE2_OPTS to the following:

8) Optionally change the DocumentRoot directive in /etc/apache2/vhosts.d/default_vhost.include.

9) You may need to add an entry to /etc/hosts as follows:
[your IP address] [your hostname]

-- Configure MySQL --

10) Use for a step-by-step, starting with "Code Listing 1.3: MySQL configuration"

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Server Migration Notes

Keeping in mind my terrible forgetfulness, I'm posting my notes from a server migration here. I'm putting this in a public place hoping they may serve as a rough guideline for somebody else, but I highly recommend doing your own thinking, since everybody's needs are different (i.e. if you're running a mail server and use my notes exclusively, you'll be hosed). That, and I'm not exactly a pro at this :p

I'm migrating from Ubuntu (tried and trusted, n00bish as it may be) to a clean Gentoo installation. I've grown to loathe Ubuntu's lack of up-to-date repositories, as well as its overall bloat factor, and while it's served as an excellent learning tool, I'm ready to move on to something a bit more streamlined.

*** Old Machine ***

1) If you have both machines on the same network and running at the same time, NFS makes life a lot easier. Set up NFS and configure it to share / with the target machine ONLY. I used options ro,sync,squash_root.

2) Export users. I used a tutorial at nixCraft to export /etc/shadow, /etc/passwd, and /etc/group to shadow.mig, passwd.mig, and group.mig, respectively.

3) Export entire MySQL database. Had some trouble finding information on the web, but I eventually stumbled upon a quick and easy method. This time, I did archive everything in /var/lib/mysql to mysql_bak.tar.gz.

*** On the new system ***

1) Install OS

2) Install and configure sshd.

3) Set up NFS client to transfer data, if the situation permits. Once again, it's a lot easier that way. Mount / on the remote system to /mnt/old_root on the local system.

4) Transfer user information and MySQL backup to the local system using NFS.

5) Import user information, again using the nixCraft tutorial.

6) Install and configure LAMP (three days compacted into four words... hopefully it'll go more smoothly the next time around)

7) Install FTP server. Don't forget the "DefaultRoot ~" directive.

8) Wipe contents of /var/lib/mysql, then import MySQL backup by moving mysql_bak.tar.gz to / and extracting. Clean up after yourself when you're done.

9) TEST THE CONFIGURATION before reformatting the old machine like an idiot.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Analysis and Defense of Position

When you mention Buffy, uneducated men tend to say "OMG Hott!", and similarly uneducated women frinkle an eyebrow and write it off as quirkiness at best, and perversion at worst. Neither are correct -- if you mention Buffy to a watcher (spectacular pun only considered after the fact), you're in for an hour-long analysis of character development and writing style. Buffy is golden, you see. Only those who've actually given the show a chance are permitted to express opinion. The rest? Watch it at least once, from beginning to end, then we'll talk about it.

Take, for example, a situation presented in the sixth episode of season six, "All The Way". Tara and Willow have a significant squabble over Willow's excessive use of magic for personal gain. Willow, arguably at the cusp of "out of control" (wonderfully portrayed, since it's clear she doesn't intend any harm at all by her actions), casts a spell on Tara to make her forget their disagreement. Fast forward, now, to Tara's aria in "Once More, With Feeling" -- episode seven. The song is a description of Tara's love for Willow, but the double-meaning in the second chorus is beyond delicious.

I'm under your spell
Nothing I can do
You just took my soul with you
You worked your charm so well
Finally, I knew
Everything I dreamed was true
You make me believe...

I don't remember the name of the literary element that consists of the audience knowing something a character doesn't, but this is a wonderful example of it. This snippet is only a tiny portion of the episode's significance. "That one musical episode" aside, everybody spilled secrets in song that had been building since the beginning of the season. I'll not spoil anything, but there are at least two good reasons to make this episode a favorite.

As an aside, I've found the soundtrack album for this episode, along with an album released by Anthony Stewart Head, on Oink. I declare, that site has everything.

Update: I never imagined Anthony Stewart Head would make this kind of music. Downtempo electronic honey makes me feel safe and warm. Giles makes me feel safe and warm. Emotional response aside, even, this is actually quite good...