Archive for September, 2006

This Film is Not Yet Rated

While in NYC yesterday, I went to the IFC Center to see This Film is Not Yet Rated. Now, I just like the idea of an IFC-associated theatre (see my earlier post about IFC). It’s probably a good thing I don’t live in New York or I’d have to spend a lot of time and money going to all the cool films they show at this, and similar theatres in the city.

The film was just about what I expected it to be, based on reviews I had read. I was not particularly shocked or appalled that they exposed the identities of the various raters. It didn’t seem to me like they exposed anything particularly private about these folks (how many kids, what ages, maybe what car they drive or an image of their house). Nothing dastardly like the Craigs List scandal, at least.

I found the whole thing a bit interesting, and not at all surprising. Anyone who is surprised that over-the-top violence gets a walk while anything more than a buttcheek gets an R or an NC17 rating must not go to see a lot of movies here in the US. It’s appalling, and it’s wrong. But it’s how we do it here in the US, and have for many years.

Particularly interesting were the parts of the film related to getting HIS film (this film) run through the ratings gauntlet and then the subsequent appeals process. Again, no real surprises, but still a very crazy process and a crazy outcome. I doubt this film was deliberately suppressed to “silence it” (let’s be realistic, he included uncensored footage from a bunch of other films that had been initially rated NC17 so it seems unlikely he’d get anything less than that with the current system).

Another interesting point was made about the film shot in Iraq – real-world violence, swearing, blood, etc. And it got squashed by the ratings. How can you rate real world images? I guess that’s why documentaries are often not rated.

Since this was only in Seattle for a week, and only showing at one theatre in NYC right now, I have no idea how widely this will ever get distributed. Unfortunately. Because it is worth seeing.

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Alki ride

This past Sunday (didn’t I point out I was way behind on my blog posts?), I took a bike ride down to Alki Beach and back. My goal was to not totally ruin myself like I did the weekend earlier (ie – do a shorter ride) and it worked out that way at about 20 miles vs 31 the week before.

Here’s the map. No green numbers this week.

20060924

I did have a few interesting things to note, however:

  • Driving down Jackson Ave seems like it would be fast, since it’s a fairly steep hill. In fact, it’s very slow since you have to dodge cars constantly and stop at nearly every intersection. Ugh.
  • Driving back up Jackson Ave is painful each time I do it. I need to find another (less hilly) way to get to the water. I’m not holding my breath.
  • Alaskan Way going south is pretty poor for bikes. The Seattle bike map called it out as a good way to go — and I suppose it’s better than the alternatives — but there was a lot of bumps, cracked sidewalk, and glass. Yes, I said sidewalk. I spent most of my time southbound on the sidewalk once the trail under the viaduct ended. This because there was no bike lane and an even nastier (than the sidewalk) shoulder.
  • The northbound Alaskan way is a bit better with a bike path in the road most of the way.
  • It’s pretty easy to get lost along Spokane street vs finding the ped/bike bridge over to West Seattle. The signs are far from effective. Short version is you head along Spokane until just after you feel like you might have missed it (but not until you’ve run out of path). Then you cross to the middle, toward the bridge. And voila, there’s a path up and over a smaller bridge (thank goodness, it was steep enough as it was and you’re looking right up at the underside of the bigger West Seattle Bridge!).
  • Alki is lots of fun to ride – flat and pretty. But lots of people out walking, running, and roller-blading means lots of vigilance for bike riding. I ended up leaving the nice trail along the beach and riding the road to reduce the hassle.
  • I got to bike around the police tape from this crash, which closed off a bit of the road (and the trail) right at the northern point of the beach.

Heart rate was still a bit higher than I had expected, although probably mostly because of the steep hills going up and over to West Seattle and then back up Jackson toward the end.

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Holy cow, three books!

I’m a reading machine. Either that or I’ve just been lazy about posting my “books read” in a timely manner. Maybe a little of both.

In any case, I now have three read-books queued up for comment. Today, I shall remedy this terrible injustice.

The Truth (With Jokes) by Al Franken – This one I actually read. In hardcover. Really. Borrowed it from one of Jodi’s coworkers and interlaced reading it with various audible books, so it was a bit of a jumble. The book was a suitable update to the present from Al Franken. Very much in a similar style to his last one (Lies and the lying liars…) but with a bit less direct attacks at pundits and a bit more direct attacks at the current administration. I find his style fun and his books easy to read. That said, having read several of his books now I’ve noticed a trend that frustrates me somewhat (and I’ve noticed this on his radio show too) — he seems to make his jokes right when his point is strongest, ie – softening the impact of his “blow”. This is fine, I suppose… but after a few times doing it this becomes something of a noticeable pattern and I wonder why he does it. Jon Stewart, for instance, pulls back from the attack with comedic timing also, but Al’s timing seems more tepid. Anyway, good book. Good points. What a horrific place we have come to. Good luck in your imminent senate run in 2008, Mr Franken.

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I had weak memories of having this read to me as a child, and – somewhat like the Narnia series – I felt compelled to revisit it to see if it would make a good bedtime story for the future. I found a few tinges of familiarity while reading, but the core of the story was completely forgotten to me. In particular, I found the beginning part of the book quite confusing. I blame my fleeting attention for the first 20 mins or so of the audio book for this confusion, and I suppose that’s what I get for starting a new book while changing buses on the way home from work. After I caught up with the story, it made a bit more sense and I enjoyed it through the outcome a short 5 hours later. I was surprised halfway through the book to be presented with some strong religious themes in an otherwise science-fictiony and fantasy context. Unexpected, but perhaps it should not have been. Juries still out on whether it’ll make a good bedtime story, as it seems a bit of a niche storyline.

On American Soil (How Justice Became a Casualty of World War II) by Jack Hamann. I have no real recollection of how I came across this book. I ended up getting it from the Seattle Public Library on reserve (wow, another book ACTUALLY read, not listened!) and it’d been in my list to read for some time. Maybe the author was on the Daily Show or maybe someone talked about it on NPR. I simply do not recall. But it was a great book! This is the story of the murder of an Italian POW that took place during a base riot in 1944 at Fort Lawton (now Discovery Park) in Seattle. Given my (relative) familiarity with and fondness of Discovery Park, it really caught my attention all the details about Seattle and Fort Lawton in the 1940s. The story of how the book was written is nearly as interesting as the book… the author had come out to Discovery Park for some other assignment and noticed a headstone in the military cemetery that seemed out of place. He took down the name and discovered the “official story” of how this POW was murdered (there was a huge court-martial trial in 1944). But, so many years later, much of the details that were kept classified in the 40s had been released publicly and he was able to — through painstaking research — put together a very solid “what probably really happened” account of the events leading up to and including the riot and murder. Once I got started reading this, I rocked right through it in a day since it so engaging. Very highly recommended.

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Evan in the running

In addition to it being “Talk like a Pirate Day” (earlier blog post), it’s also primary election day in King County.

What makes this election particularly special to me is that it’s my first time ever on the ballot.

What WHAT?!” you ask… You betcha. I’m on the primary ballot for the first time ever. Now, admittedly I’m running unopposed and admittedly I’m running for a not particularly glamorous position (Precinct Committee Officer), but it’s still a good first step and it will allow me to become more active in my local politics.

So, everybody in Washington State — VOTE TODAY! And if you live in my precinct, vote for me today too!

Evan_on_the_ballot

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Happy ‘Talk Like a Pirate’ day!

… and it be a fine day fer it too! Arrrr!

http://www.talklikeapirate.com/about.html

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Burke Gilman and Sammamish River Trails

In my continuing effort to make use of my new bike, I decided to spend my Sunday morning riding the whole way up and over down and around the two lakes (Washington and Sammamish). Now, this turned out to be a bit optimistic, as this would have been a VERY long bike ride indeed!

In any case, I *DID* do about half of it. I went up along the Burke Gilman trail, over the top of Lake Washington and then back down to Redmond along the Sammamish River Trail. A total of about 29 miles on that side of the map. Then I caught the bus from the Bear Creek P&R (got some practice loading and unloading my bike, along with being totally paranoid for the whole 45 minute busride that it was going to fall off!). I ended up at 5th and Jackson and did another mile and a half up the Jackson St hill back to the house.

I also forgot (or, rather, don’t know how) to reset the Garmin so the map looks a little silly connecting from far NorthEast Redmond down to South Seattle via “as the crow flies”.

But, all in all a great bike ride. I am proud (and also a little bit embarrassed) to point out that I “biked a marathon in olympic time”. And yes, I do mean that the first 26.2 miles I biked equate to the mileage of a marathon in just over 2 hours, so right on olympic pace. I can’t imagine how those folks RUN that fast for 2+ hours. Un… believable! I suppose it’s good that I was able to keep at 13+ mph pace for two hours on mostly flat/level!

Here’s the map (click the large thumbnail for an even bigger view):

20060917

And, of course, as always… I learned some new stuff:

  1. The little road where 26th Ave says that it dead-ends which I blogged about last time really is a dead end. But only for cars. If you are biking you can carry your bike on a wooded path about 100 yards or so to a long, descending staircase and then you’re back out on the road on the other side. Yay, shortcut to avoid hills!
  2. A consistent theme on this bike ride (since it was my first time on many of these trails) is VERY POOR SIGNAGE. When you’ve been placing regular signs telling bicyclists to go straight, to turn, to turn again, etc… you can’t suddenly NOT have a sign when another turn is required! I had to backtrack a ways to get over to Montlake and the stadium area after the signs suddenly stopped directing me and I ignorantly kept on going (now, the wrong way). I hit this a few times later on too on the trails (particularly Sammamish River Trail) where there was a choice to be made on which way to go, and no sign to tell me which was the right one. Frustrating!
  3. Toward the end of my ride I hit a brick wall. Not literally, of course, but I had just overestimated my stamina for long, hard bike rides without substantial training. I decided that I was going to catch the bus home instead of doing the whole (probably 45+ mile) ride around the lakes. I started to get really tired, and really hungry. And after finishing “my marathon” I took about a 20 minute “nap” on a conveniently located park bench along the trail. Seriously. I was totally zonked. Lesson learned, I can’t just go out and ride 45+ miles without any training, even if I had a good breakfast.
  4. I had a nice (big) lunch in Redmond and then I went a-looking for the Bear Creek P&R so I could catch the 545. It worked out ok, and now I know where it is, but it was a bit of a pain to find and it caused me to miss an earlier bus. So I got to wait 20 mins for the next one once I finally got there. I probably should have looked first to realize that the 545 stops lots of places in Redmond, including the Redmond P&R. Oh well, but the good news was that by putting my bike on the bus right at the start of the route (on a Sunday, no less), there was no big deal about slowing down the bus by putting on a bike, etc.
  5. Then I flew, like an Eagle, across the span of Redmond to downtown. We didn’t even need a bridge.
  6. And, of course, I had to have a fall. It wouldn’t be a bike ride without at least once not being able to unclip and falling hard. So this time it was because someone came flying around a blind corner on their bike and I had to quickly stop (then teeter, and then fall) to avoid hitting them. After picking myself (and my now scraped up knee and elbow), I apologized for the near wreck and he graciously accepted my apology. How thoughtful of him.

Total Distance (not including the bus ride) was 30.61 miles!

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Removing lists from Doddsnet

Subtly, quietly, a few weeks ago I removed the lists archive from Doddsnet. Well, sort of. The list archive is still there. It’s just frozen in time and hidden. So any search engines that have indexed historic posts (and a bunch have, according to my hit logs!) will still be able to find these posts. But I’ve unsubscribed from the various lists and stopped generating any new additions to the archive.

Why? Well, I’d been archiving these several lists going back years and years. And when I started doing this a few years ago, it was because *I* was reading these lists and found it useful to have a local (and searchable) archive of their content available. This was back before these lists provided such a thing on their own — or at least not that I could find at the time.

But over the last 2–3 years I’ve found that I never really use it anymore. I don’t read these lists. It was a fine service for others who ran across it via a search engine, but it wasn’t useful for me. And it was kind of a pain to keep going, since I had to install and keep updated all sort of tools (Perl, etc) on my server that I wasn’t using for anything else. Plus, worst of all, it meant that I was relying on the Exchange “M: Drive” (EXIFS) functionality to get access to the emails as simulated files. Since the M: drive is a legacy concept, this dependency meant I couldn’t easily move my server forward to later versions of Exchange.

I decided that it was more important to me to be able to upgrade my server than to figure out some new way of doing the archiving that I don’t use anymore.

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Wiring Closet

Now that I’ve finished swapping out the old POTS telephone line in our wiring closet for another CAT5 ethernet drop, the whole place is wired. And I’m very excited to say it’s pretty unobtrusive and functionally done!

About 6 months ago I swapped in a Linksys WRT54GC compact router in place of the huge WRT54G I had been using as the primary gateway (out in the living room). I like its small size and low heat, and I like how it’s been very reliable. This is great since the new plan was to have it tucked up inside my smartbox in the wall, I didn’t want to have to be getting at it on any regular basis. As part of this move, I put our Dlink cable modem (not quite as small nor as cool-running as the router, unfortunately) into the box. And finally, I needed some GigE speed, so there’s a 5–port SMC GigE switch in there.

Combined with all the telephone stuff (there’s also a 110 punchdown block in there), all of the CAT5e cabling and cable Coax for the distribution throughout the condo, it’s quite a packed smartbox! Oh yeah, I had to terminate the power in there too. So there’s a power strip tucked in there somewhere. Very VERY pleased it all fits! All crammed into a space about 16” x 16” x 3” deep, thanks to careful layering and some zipties.

Here’s what it looks like with the box opened up, click to see it larger:

Wiring_closet1

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Bon Vonage

Today is our “cut-over” day from Qwest telephone service to Vonage telephone service. I’ve been a faithful “proper telephone” (POTS) customer going back ages and ages to my BBS days, but it just doesn’t make sense anymore.

Qwest service was fine, etc. If they offered a Vonage-like service for the same price, I probably would have switched services rather than carriers.

That out of the way, I’m pretty excited about Vonage! For those of you not aware of the service, it’s a Voice-over-IP (Internet) telephone service. They provide you with a “box” you plug into your home network — ie, you have to already have broadband Internet service — and then you plug a regular telephone into that box. Ta da! You now have a VoIP telephone setup!

So, why switch? Well Vonage would have you believe that you’ll save tons of money. Some people probably do. We’re actually spending about $3 more per month for the service, not including the high-speed Internet we would have paid for anyways. We use our mobile phones for long distance calls and did without any of the bells-and-whistles offered by Qwest (for added $$).

What sold me was a couple of things that Qwest could not, or would not, provide:

  1. Flat fee calling – I get unlimited local and long distance calls for a low price. This is the key selling point for lots of folks, I suspect, but not so much for me due to mobile phones.
  2. Voicemail that comes into my email as an audio file – the old answering machine is now officially shut off, and I can get my home voicemails while I’m at work (so there’s still time during the day to call folks back!)
  3. Flat fee INTERNATIONAL calling – this was a big selling point due to some family and friends over in the UK. Now we can stop buying calling cards and start calling right from the home phone. Very cool!
  4. Ability to add a second number (or even a separate/second line) from any geographic area – if we decided we wanted to add a line for fax or for a home business or something it’s as easy as doing the configuration on the website.
  5. Easy to manage through the website – their website is hella slow during the day sometimes, but it lets me review and modify just about anything about my account once I finally get in.

Ok, so that’s enough cool features for now. And I didn’t even get to the part about how you can bring your phone number with you wherever you are, whenever you move or travel, from that point on! Just plug in the box on a network and BAM, your live on the telephone network. Can you see I’m excited?

Maybe some day we’ll go to mobile-phone-only. But that day is a while off I think, since we still need to buzz people into our building, have a “shared line” for the two of us, and keep from giving out our mobile number to every vendor who requires a “home phone number” from us… Plus, Cingular (wireless) won’t send my voicemails to my email address either, so they have some catching up to do there!

Update - 2 hrs later – Whoops, I realize I left off a 6th reason that help to explain why a huge cheapskate like me would pay $3 more for their service. They throw in all the added-value services for free. Voicemail = Free, Caller ID = Free, etc, etc. Just like a mobile carrier. I pay $3/month more, but I get $20/month or more worth of features in Qwest’s pricing.

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Another Day, Another Bike Ride

This bike ride was even better than the last one for a couple of reasons:

  1. Jodi came along
  2. Nothing too terrible happened (no almost getting hit by cars, no cleats falling off, etc)
  3. We went to the Ballard Locks and saw a bunch of HUMONGOUS salmon making they way into and through the fish ladder

Once again, the Garmin Forerunner 305 provided us with a great map. It also provided us with heart rate stuff, but we’ll just post the map (thumbnailed. Click it to expand.):

 2006-09-10

Now, the first thing you should notice when clicking is that the map is HUGE. Yes. It sure is. We biked 19.2 miles over about 2.5 hours. The second thing you should notice is that there are five, yes FIVE green numbers on the map. So much to learn! Here are the five things I’ve highlighted:

  1. When 26th Ave “dead-ends” into a T-intersection and there’s a huge hill to your left (up to 25th) and an angled street off to your left but heading in generally the direction you want to be going… take the angled street. I think I read the city bike map wrong, because no way should anyone on a bike have to go up that horrible hill! The angled street could turn into a boat ramp for all I know, but it would be better than that horrible hill!
  2. On Sunday morning, a section of the Burke-Gilman trail is closed for the Fremont Sunday farmer’s market. No problems, they have great “detour” signs for the bikers.
  3. When coming to a stop, declip early. This was my only fall of the day (I think) and it was due to bad habit on my part… I’ve always been a proponent of doing the bike-stand thing where you balance while at a stop. This is great. I’ve always been pretty good at it. It’s not too hard with strap pedals, since you can rip your shoes out in an instant to plant feet on the ground if you go too far out of balance. Much harder with clipless pedals locked in. Lesson learned, I hope.
  4. Counter intuitive, but if you go across the Dravus bridge (seemingly the “wrong direction” to get home) you can take this really pleasant bike path near Pier 91.
  5. … A really pleasant bike path that ends suddenly with very poor markings on how to get back into civilization. If you follow the signs for bikes at the end of the path, I suspect you’d end up at Discovery Park eventually (hint: this was the wrong way for us to go). Instead, take a deep breath and go up and across the Magnolia Bridge and back over to the busy street for a few blocks, then follow the signs to get to Elliot Bay park (and Myrtle Edwards park).

Next time, perhaps an even longer ride?

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