¡Hasta luego!

Hey blog peeps! We’re blowing this popstand for a while. We’re going to go get tanned (everyday) and cocktailed (once or twice) in balmy Puerto Vallarta with our friends Brian and Mikey in preparation for Carolyn and Max’s wedding in Detroit. All told, we’ll be gone for almost 3 weeks.

Need to reach us? We’ll be checking e-mail and the blog periodically. See you all later and have a great holiday season!

nom nom nom

Yesterday was Ersatz-Thanksgiving at Christina and Rainer and Oliver’s house. Tammy graciously drove us over to their house, even though she was very busy with lots of stuff going on at her house that day. And we got there kind of on the early side and watched all the other parties roll in. It was a good mixture of Germans and “U.S.-Amerikaner” nice bird(with a wink to Christina) and even a sprinkling of “others,” some of whom also drove us back to Regensburg. Big thanks to Penny and Chris for that — we are looking forward to seeing them and son Nathan again.

Seemed like everyone brought something to share, (especially the turkey, for which we are thankful) and I enjoyed Hezamarie’s corn-cake leftovers for breakfast very much. On to some mashed potato leftovers for lunch!

Computer dead? Time to switch to platforms? What about my music?

Ugh. Our desktop PC running windows won’t turn on. I turned it off normally last night, and this morning, it just won’t come on. I suspect a blown fuse or something in the power supply. I really don’t want to have to deal with that loud Aldi-branded hunk. But I *do* really want to make further use of at least some of its components; not the least of which are its twin 250GB SATA hard disks. I found a nifty-looking housing for taking two SATA drives and making them into one big or two separate external USB drives.

Is this what Linus really looks like?  No of course not.  But it would be cute if he did.If it weren’t for our iTunes investments over the past few years, I would probably have finally been able to completely forgo licensed operating systems (except at work, where I don’t have that option). We’ve already got a Linux-based laptop and desktop here (the desktop box serves as a…uh, server). But iTunes, our dealer of habit-forming audio narcotics, doesn’t offer to hawk its wares to those would turn their noses up at paying for software (note well: I’m not advocating piracy!).

So, I’m thinking really hard about how to proceed here. The cheapest way to go (especially if that hunk is still under warranty) is to get the PC fixed. But it’s big and clunky and especially loud. Hate that. Also hate all the dust its multiple fans collect (uh, perhaps that had something to do with its untimely demise?). I can’t just build a new computer, cannibalizing the old one, and downloading an open source OS like Linux or one of the BSDs and expect it to play the music we bought through iTunes. So we’re still going to have to rely on Windows or Mac OS X (row row, row!)…at least until I slowly and painfully record each track purchased from iTunes into Audacity and re-code it back into plain-old-MP3 or some other non-DRM’d format. And that’s not going to happen any time soon.

Any opinions out there on the Mac Mini, particularly as a home desktop system in use mostly for multi-media applications (iTunes, Skype, general surfiness)? I’m looking at one for 700€. And then getting far away from iTunes.

Nacht der Lichter

inside the Dom 2
inside the Dom 1

That means “Night of the Lights” — notice the candles in the pictures at left. We had a nice evening out with some work peeps and spouses. We were expecting sort of a choir concert, but it actually turned out to be mass. Details (in German) here and here in English. It was interesting nonetheless, but not representative of a typical Bavarian Catholic mass. Then we went out for drinks. Seemed an appropriate ending to this work week — prayer and meditation, then self-medication.

this is not just because I’m the son of an English teacher

From a CNN article:

Pop star Boy George was due to appear in court in London on Thursday accused of falsely imprisoning a 28-year-old male escort by chaining him to a wall.

See, there would have been no problem had he simply conformed to accepted principles for imprisoning one’s escorts. I presume he should have chained him to the floor, or used zip-ties or something like that.

From another one:

Police seized Khan last week after he appeared at a student rally at the University of Punjab in Lahore, police said. He had been on the run after escaping from house arrest days after the November 3 emergency order was imposed. He faces anti-terrorism charges.

ol_perve.jpgI thought ol’ buddy Perv was our ally in the war on terror. Strikes me as weird his opposition would face anti-terrorism charges.

I know, I know. I have such high standards and low resistance to hairsplitting.

But somebody does get paid to write this stuff.

breaking my own rules

I’m doing a sort of experiment here of sorts. It’s pretty nerdy, so read the the next couple of lines and then call it quits if you like. There’s a link to an email address below; please click it and send me email. I’ll be happy and send you a friendly response back — IF you’re not a scum-sucking spammer or email-harvesting spam-enabler. Please briefly tell me who you are and how you got here if your name or email address is not one that I’ll recognize immediately on sight.

november18th2007@cliff1976.com

Okay, on with the nerd show!

I’m so pleased with the Bad Behavior plug-in for WordPress over the last day or so with regard to blocking comment-spam that I want to give it a real test-drive in the realm of harvester blocking as well. It’s supposed to prevent harvesters from sifting through my blog looking for email addresses to be collected and bombarded or sold for further bombardment.

That’s Part I.

Part II is in conjunction with my awesome hosting company, NearlyFreeSpeech, whose staunch policies about only accepting email from well-configured servers do a good job of cutting down on spam…so good, in fact, that occasionally legitimate mail from ill-configured servers is incorrectly flagged as spam and it never makes it to me. I’m talking about mail servers owned by organizations such as Google and my mom’s employer and my parents’ cable internet service provider at home.

It would seem that the world of server administrators is getting lazier and lazier every day. NearlyFreeSpeech.NET has identified that most spam comes from servers whose IP addresses fail a reverse-lookup test. Put simply, every computer on the internet sending email should be identifiable via both a name AND a number, and anyone should be able to ask what the corresponding name is for a given number, and vice-versa, and get corroborating answers to those questions.

It’s kind of like me saying to you,

Hey, I’m Cliff. Here’s my mobile number: (212) 555-1234.

and if you call that number, you expect me, and only me, to pick up (because it’s my cellie!).

If NearlyFreeSpeech.NET gets email addressed to me where the server’s number doesn’t match the name it’s reporting, they assume it’s spam and throw it away for me. This has worked great, except for the growing number of apparently legitimate server administrators who are too lazy to make sure their servers names corroborate their numbers. Apparently I’m not the only who’s been affected by this.

So, I’m beta-testing a hybrid email filtering service of theirs. They still prevent suspicious-looking emails from reaching my email inbox, but there will be a quarantine area where I can look to see what the spam traps have caught should I ever seem to be missing an important message (like from the car rental company sending us the confirmation about our rental in December). I would prefer that the rest of the world simply properly configure their email servers: that would totally preclude the need for a quarantine area or filter queue or whatever you want to call it. However, that is sounding less and less realistic over the years. I mean, even Google can’t consistently identify themselves on the internet!

Here’s the dirt on my little test: I want to see if Bad Behavior keeps the harvesters from finding the email address above and NearlyFreeSpeech.NET correctly allows messages from you, my loyal and non-spammy readership, to arrive at my inbox unencumbered by ideals of the 1980s, back when everyone pretty much trusted his cyber-neighbor to know his phone number.

Oh yeah, and I’ve disabled comments on this post. Just send me an email using the unmissable address above (click it or copy it into your favorite mail program), please. I may do a follow-up post here with comments enabled depending on how well this test goes. Thanks for helping with the test!

my darling clementines, some more anti-spam measures, and another H.P. book

It’s that time of year again. The rooves are snowy, the wind is blustery, and the apartment is filled with the scent of a freshly-peeled kilo of clementines. Clementines are about due for mid-November, but the snow and stuff was kind of surprise. Wonder what kind of a winter we’re in for. I’ve pretty much already resolved not to ride my bike to work for the remainder of the year given my 3-week post-op recovery period and our upcoming vacation.

On another note, I’d been trying to limit the amount of blogspam we deal with (Sarah’s efforts combined with mine spare you, our dear reader, from having to see all the ads about high-risk loans or getting out of debt in Colorado). The spam filter published by Joe Tan as a WordPress plugin just wasn’t getting the job done. I’ve installed “Bad Behavior” by Michael Hampton in parallel and so far it’s doing a bang-up job. I recommend other WordPress users try it.

Oh, and this morning I finished Harry Potter und die Kammer des Schreckens*, which I’d started while recovering in the hospital. Meh. I hope the next one is better.

Rockiest part of the road behind us, I hope

It’s good to be home. Sarah photographically documented these aspects of the “ordeal” (I’m being dramatic here; it was not as big a deal as I make it seem). I was initially glad we went with the Evangelisches Krankenhaus due to their proximity to our house. But after all is said and done, I’m glad to have had such a “personalized” experience. Choosing a smaller hospital definitely felt like the right choice, because I met with the surgeons* before and every day after the procedure and had direct line of communication to them via the nurses on my floor.

Surgery is not something you do for fun, but the especially the nurses in the surgery department did their best to ensure a speedy and comfortable recovery, and being home a whole day earlier than expected is proof enough for me.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering: my out-of-pocket costs are 10€ per day for a hospital stay, for up to 28 days per year. I don’t know what the co-pays would have been under my HMO back in Michigan, but I wager they’d have been higher. This health care system is getting high marks in my book.

I’m thinking some day when Sarah’s out getting her voice lesson on or otherwise occupied, I’ll invite Tammy over or bring my “eggs” over to her and we’ll extract them out of their Evil Sauce and do a proper dissection.

We’re finally out of the Stone Age

See, I can do witty blog commentary, too.

For everyone I haven’t been able to contact personally, Cliff’s surgery took place on Monday afternoon. He had his gallbladder removed in a laparoscopic procedure, which was what we fervently hoped would take place. There were several gallstones, and because he thought fast and asked the doctors to save them for him, they set aside four of the largest ones. They’re each about the size of a peanut M&M, dark brown with a dappled pattern and utterly repulsive. They’re preserved in what I think is formaldehyde – whatever it is, it’s a sickly green color and I’ve just taken to calling it ‘evil sauce.’

Cliff is doing really well now. He was a little loopy yesterday afternoon, after coming out of surgery, but that’s to be expected. He is currently completely lucid and able to move around without much pain. He’s also desperately bored, which is unfortunate, since he’s probably there for at least the next couple of days. If anyone wants to visit him, I’m sure he would be tickled.

Photos to come later.