Archive for February, 2006

School board votes down “metro plan”

I was surprised to read this morning that the school board voted down (4–3) their plan to move from yellow-bus service to metro-bus service for high-school students in Seattle.

This was to save tons of money, and provide transit flexibility (since the students would have a metro bus pass to use at other times also) for the students.

But it got voted down. And why? Because there was concern that the bus routes were not optimal, or with confusing transfers, etc.

Hmm. I wonder if there might have been some transit optimizations made when the ridership to/from the various schools dramatically changed over the next year or two. I’m guessing Metro routes would have been altered to accommodate the sudden shift in ridership. Right now there’s no need to have a direct route between the various (extreme) examples called out in the article (and the companion piece) BECAUSE MOST OF THESE STUDENTS RIDE THE YELLOW BUS! (the Nathan Hale example, notwithstanding…)

It’s a shame. As much as it would have added significant congestion to the 48 route I rely on each day, in the end it’s clear – more transit riders leads to better transit for all. Inevitably.

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Crash

Jodi and I watched Crash on Sunday night. Prior to seeing this movie, I had heard it was “great” and that it was a serious (and surprise) contender for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars. But I thought to myself… “no way… Brokeback Mountain is a lock”.

Well. I’m reversing myself here. Brokeback is a fantastic film. Ten out of ten. Any other year it would be a lock.

But after seeing Crash, it’s obvious to me that it will win best picture. This movie was unbelievable. I haven’t cringed at a gunshot like I did in that film (I won’t spoil more than that) in as long as I can remember. If you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out!

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Rob Corddry at UW HUB

I went to see Rob Corddry at the UW HUB (Husky Union Building) last Saturday and had a couple of observations worth blogging about.

For one thing, he’s incredibly witty and intelligent. Even more than you’d think from watching his hapless persona as a correspondent on the Daily Show. He took Q&A from the audience at the end and handled some very strange events from the audience during his presentation. The “flag guy” would have thrown me off my stride, but Rob handled it with great resilience!

The fallout of his being so witty and intelligent is that his style was a little unexpected if you were (as I naively was) expecting Rob Corddry the correspondent — second fiddle to Jon Stewart. He was a bit more in-your-face than he is on the show, and it took a bit of getting used to. Plus, he swore a lot more.

Ironically, I noticed this right away in the first few minutes of his program. Lots of cussing. I don’t have a “big problem” with this, per se, but was still unexpected since you don’t see that side on the show. Like the difference in persona, it took a bit of time to get used to.

So what’s ironic about that? Well, in the Q&A section, some poor woman asked the question “you’re so funny without it, why do you feel the need to swear so much in your comedy?” to a parade of college-students yelling “boo” and “sit down” and other such less insightful suggestions. The next questioner even turned the comedy on full–bore by prefacing his question with “you’re fucking awesome, Rob” or something to that effect.

Maybe I’m just getting old. I felt for the woman, both because she was berated and beaten down by the over-enthusiastic college crowd and also because I agree with her. Rob Corddry is an hilarious comedian, with a fantastic, quick wit. And he swears more than he needs to.

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Question for Sasha Cohen

If I could ask Olympic figure skater Sasha Cohen just one question, it would have to be: “so what’s it like nearly sharing two-thirds of a name with Sacha Baron Cohen (of Da Ali G fame)?”

I knew there was something familiar there.

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Prince Caspian

Continuing through the Narnia series, the next book in the series is “Prince Caspian”.

This was a better book, in my opinion, than the Horse and His Boy. It was a bit more in the style of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Perhaps it was because the four Pevensie children are back into it. But again, perhaps not, because I also quite like the Magician’s Nephew which does not feature these characters.

My one complaint about this book is that is seems a bit short and a bit simplistic. It’s a kids book. Ok. Totally get it.

It frustrated me that every time there was any opportunity for suspense, it was dashed by explanation. For instance, the several times Susan’s horn came up in conversation… it was never “gosh, I wonder what will happen if we blow the horn”. Each time, someone who had absolutely NO WAY OF KNOWING what would actually happen would suggest “hmm, maybe it will call back the kings and queens of the past to Narnia”.

Bah, sure you’re supposed to figure it out. But it was frustrating to read about Caspian’s army getting upset that “the kings and queens have not come back” when all they had right to expect was that “help would arrive when the horn is blown in time of greatest need”.

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Caricatures of Muhammad

This is my first (and probably last) posting on the Muhammad cartoons issue, mostly because I’m simply so confused by the over-the-top nature of the whole thing that it doesn’t pay to weigh in too loudly.

That said, I found this Non Sequitur comic in Monday’s paper to be very humorous:

Nq060220

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Metro bus funding editorial

Interesting opinion piece in the PI yesterday: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/260202_metrobus21.html

Discusses the funding problems Metro bus is facing as the demands for more service hours (due to rapidly increasing ridership — this is good!) outstrip the funds available to Metro to increase service hours. According to the article, it mostly stems back to the 1999 repeal of the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) with Tim Eyman’s I-695 initiative.

Interesting history! Being, still, relatively new to Washington State, it never ceases to amaze me some of the crazy history we have here in this state. Funding is a problem everywhere, but we seem to do some short-sighted stuff here. I’m just glad we shot down (similarly dangerous) initiative I-912 last November!

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Evan tries to get DSL – an epic voyage in geekiness

Now that this is all over, I can look back and laugh (and blog about it).

This might end up as a long post, so here’s my outline to help you determine if it’s worth reading:

  1. Evan has cable modem already, and is paying way too much for it
  2. Evan gets a letter advertising a good deal on DSL
  3. Evan rejiggers the wiring closet to accommodate DSL in place of cable modem
  4. Evan orders DSL and receives the hardware
  5. Evan spends an entire weekend trying to get DSL to work right
  6. Evan gets pissed and sends back the DSL stuff

Ok, that’s a fair timeline, I suppose. Let’s drill in!

I got a good deal on cable-modem when we first moved into the condo. Something like 1/2 price for a couple of months and then $10 off each month for a couple more. We could have gotten a similar deal on DSL at first, also, I have no doubt. But because of the way our condo is wired, it would have been harder to do DSL right away (short version: if you only have one Cat5 plug where the DSL modem needs to go, how do you get both the DSL in and the Ethernet out).

In any event, we’ve had cable modem for 9 months or so. It’s worked fine: fast, only a couple outages, etc. Our cable company (Millennium Digital Media) is not the best I’ve ever had, particularly for customer service when things go down, but they contract their NNTP through giganews which provides a much better feed than Time Warner ever did back in Charlotte.

So why try to change? Well, MDM charges $49/month for cable modem. And that’s $49/month *IF* you have your own cable modem (which, after paying $7.50 extra for a month or so… we now do!). So it’s hella-expensive. I think I paid $42/month *INCLUDING* cable modem rental in Charlotte. And for my $49/month I get 2–3mb down and 256kb up. Not stellar.

When Qwest (DSL) sent me the advert, I thought to myself… hmm… I can switch over to DSL with just a bit of rewiring in the wiring closet, I can end up with 1.5mb down + 768kb up, and I can do it for $19.95/month (I think it would have actually been $24.95/month… the advert was not clear) for a year.

How can you pass that up?! So I ordered it online, waited a couple of days, and received a box from Qwest with my new DSL modem.

It took me about 10 minutes to swap the Actiontec DSL modem Qwest had sent in for our Dlink cable modem.

Right away, any of you with Qwest DSL should be thinking to yourself…wait a second… an actiontec DSL “modem”?? Right. It’s actually an actiontec DSL “modem+wireless router”. And therein lies the rub:

  • Qwest requires PPPoA, (the “A” stands for ATM). This is roughly the equivalent of PPPoE, except that my existing router doesn’t support it (nor does any other router I’ve ever owned). PPPoA (or E) is what is used by Qwest to force you to authenticate across their DSL loop to the actual ISP who services your connection. See, for DSL – at least here – the DSL loop and ISP are decoupled.
  • The actiontec device is a router, not just a modem. It’s not just terminating the loop. It’s actually authenticating my account to the ISP and being given an IP address.
  • Then the actiontec works just like any other router you might buy to issue out NAT addresses (192.168.0.x) to a device on the one ethernet port.
  • Qwest doesn’t support it being used in any other way

So, in case that bullet list isn’t clear, here’s the shorter version: I couldn’t just drop in the DSL modem/router as a replacement for my cable modem have it work.

Drat. Ok, I’m resourceful. I rejiggered the configuration on stuff now in addition to the physical layout changes. Tried using the DMZ function of the actiontec router. Tried turning off all of the authentication on the actiontec (‘transparent bridging’) and doing the authentication from my existing router. Tried replacing my existing router with just the actiontec (and configured the various port forwarding, etc).

The last part “sort of” worked. But it broke a lot of configuration for my internal network. For instance, I could no longer connect to my website directly from the inside. With my previous setup, when it resolved the domain name “www.doddsnet.com” to whatever is the outside IP, my router would let me connect basically right through outbound, turn around, and port-forward it back to the inside. Worked great. But not with the actiontec. No matter what I tried to turn off on the actiontec, the web administration stuff kept coming up.

So I had to set up split-DNS and host the “doddsnet” domain internally to my router in addition to the outside view. Suck.

Plus, inbound mail kept getting queued up irregularly. The port 25 forwarding didn’t seem to work well on the actiontec. Totally not sure why this was. I just know that after leaving it running for an afternoon, I came home knowing that it wasn’t working since a bunch of “test” email I had sent inbound had never arrived. I swapped back in the cable modem and the original software configuration and POOF it all started working again (and all the queued mail delivered).

By this point, I had spent all day Saturday and 1/2 day Sunday working on this. I had called Qwest four times and spent probably close to an hour and a half on the phone with them. As a final effort, they suggested I get a static IP. But after doing some research, they returned to the line to inform me that not only could I not get a static IP on the deal that I was on, but that it wouldn’t solve the problem (getting a real IP address to my router) anyways because of PPPoA.

Whew, long post. I’m proud of anyone who makes it this far.

My summary: I’m quite disappointed that Qwest has the technical limitations that they do around their DSL solution. It’s a shame they use PPPoA. It’s a shame they cram a router down my throat instead of providing a transparently-bridged DSL modem like BellSouth did for me when I last had DSL a few years back. It’s a shame their technical support people have to deal with the ideosyncracies of a bunch of different ISPs, each with different features and behavior. It’s a shame.

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The O’Reilly Factor for Kids

Got The O’Reilly Factor for Kids as a Christmas present from Tim and have been treating it as bedtime reading for the last couple of weeks.

It’s written at the level of young teenagers, give or take (ie – “since you can’t vote yet…”, “when you’re able to drive…”, etc). I suppose if I want his advice to adults it might be more appropriate to read through one of his adult targeted books. Fair enough.

In any case, the book was good at what it was intended to do: convince kids who are already fans of Bill O’Reilly that behaving (and, in converse, not doing bad stuff) to keep on keeping on.

There were lots of good tips throughout the book (don’t drink, don’t smoke, volunteer your time to help others, etc). All good stuff, and the average kid who gets this in his stocking at Christmas will likely be either well on his way to already following all of these recommendations or well on his way to long-since having decided to ignore good advice from adults.

Anyways, that’s getting a bit out of scope. It was a fine book. It had lots of good advice. Chances are, if you follow all of this advice diligently you will end up successful. But I suppose one could argue that this is more because anyone who realizes early enough in their life that these are the right things to do has innate success-creating ability built-in and would have succeeded anyway.

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Seattle (historic) monorail to reopen this summer

The Times reports that the historic Seattle Monorail (ie – not the Seattle Monorail Project that was to have been built through the city and was voted down last fall) will be reopening this summer in time for Bumbershoot.

This is good news, because some had suggested that it simply shouldn’t be repaired and should be torn out; a terrible idea since the historic monorail is highly utilized by tourists, shoppers, and event-goers at Seattle center and because it was also one of the very few profitable transit systems in the country.

One of the scare tactics used by opponents-to-reopening it was saying it would cost upwards of $100 million to get the line back in service. Actual estimated cost? $3–4 million.

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