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9:37 AM, Apr 7, 2008 toot this
Spring is Coming

The network people for a moment removed one of their boxes of crap from the top of the vacant cube across from me, and for the briefest of moments, I could see the window from my seat.

12:00 PM, Apr 9, 2008 toot this
Kansas City's Smokiest Bars
With a pathetic turnout of roughly ten percent of Kansas City's population, the voters that bothered to vote decided with 51% of the vote to ban smoking in Kansas City's bars and restaurants, but not Kansas City's casinos or outdoor stadiums. I was part of the 49% that voted against it, as I think smoking bans are part of a dangerous trend away from freedom, and an ignorantly accepted part of the wildly popular habit that Americans have for trading their freedom for quality of life.

That said, I think we're going to see a couple of bars disappear within the next year or two. I have prepared a list of the ones I like.

  1. Chez Charlie's It's not often that I love a bar that has nothing on tap, but Chez Charlie's makes the cut. I can't often go though, because most of my friends aren't tolerant enough of smoke to brave it. It is easily the smokiest bar that I have seen in Kansas City. From what I've seen when I've been there, the smokiness is a big reason why many of the people like to go there. I could take or leave the smoke, but I think with the ban in place, they'll be hurting for customers.
  2. Dave's Stagecoach Inn Ah, Dave's. A welcome retreat from the douchebaggery and ambitious pricing of the main part of Westport, only a block away. The beer is on tap, fresh, and cheap. The tiny space guarantees that unless you're there to stand in a circle, you're going to have to move on. They used to sell t-shirts that said something to the tune of, "Dave's: Your first stop after parole."
  3. Fitz's Blarney Stone Fitz's is like Dave's, but without the crowd, and with more available seating. There's always an imbalance between the actual setting of the hair-blowing throat-drying HVAC system and the level at which comfort may be reached. But like so many dive bars, the staff and regulars couldn't be happier to see you. Some have complained that they won't go because it's in a terrifying neighborhood, but I don't buy it.
  4. The Peanut on Main Easily the smallest seating area of any bar in Kansas City. I don't know how they get drinks and food served there, honestly. There's an ancient payphone on the wall with a taped-on sign that warns you not to use it, but that rings on occasion, causing a desperate but humorous gait by one of the staff to answer it. The Pale Ale is cheap and comes in pitchers so you'll leave the bartender the hell alone.
  5. Gilhouly's It wasn't until some of my friends moved to the West 39th area that I ever really gave this place a serious try. But man, it is a great bar. I rang in 2008 here. The booths are disgusting, and there are various articles of debris crammed into the wall's many fissures and gaps, and the smoke will make you wish you didn't have eyes, but I always have a good time at Gilhouly's. The music is great, the service is fast and attentive, and I always run into someone I haven't seen in years. That's odd too, considering I have only lived in KC for seven.
  6. Harling's This gigantic bar somehow still manages to have a visible cloud of smoke from about four feet off the floor all the way up to its 20-foot ceilings by about 9pm on any night that it's reasonably busy. The beer is on tap, cheap, and delicious. The men's room smells more like urine than urine, which stands to reason because flushing the handleless urinal is a pretty drawn-out and painful process. The bartender can often be found playing the Ms Pacman table instead of pouring drinks, and you'd better make sure to bring cash, unless you want to pay their shady ATM fee. The clientele is a mix of bohemian hotties, UMKC/KCAI no-budget students, lifers, and a very light load of urban professionals.
All of these great bars are now at serious risk, and there's really not much that can be done about it. None of them are in places where a patio is both desirable and feasible, though of all these, I think Harling's probably has the best chance of making it, seeing as they have a back porch where customers can take their beer and smoke.

We'll see how it all plays out.

3:47 PM, Apr 10, 2008 toot this
Linux Stuff I Use All The Time
I have been using Linux since before I thought I was cool. It went from a hobby, to a source of pride, to what it is now: an absolutely indispensable piece of my computing repertoire. As I was reading a lifehacker list of software designed to ease everyday life in this modern world(entirely for mac and windows), I kept interjecting with software that I use in Linux, and that are usually just second nature. So, I thought I'd go ahead and list out some of the tools, all of which are available free of charge, that I use almost every day.

Note: Few, if any, of these applications are specific to Linux, but since Linux is free and easy, and I've been using it for years, I'm qualifying them as Linux apps.

#1, by far: Perl It wasn't until I started writing a lot of code in Perl that I really realized the true potential of computers. The same could be said of any programming language, really, but Perl is free, easy, elegant, fun, and simple enough for even a programming novice like myself. Perl powers this entire website. I use Perl every day at work, and have subsequently saved my employers uncounted thousands of dollars in saved time and organization.

#2: Samba My first system administration job was at a small software company in Dubuque, IA, where I was brought in to manage a Redhat Linux server they'd leased from Dell, to host their excruciatingly inelegant code repository. They used no code versioning system of any kind. Instead, their highly modular source code, which by the way was really outstanding software, was hopelessly hosted on the Linux server and shared out to the office network using Samba. So, when someone needed to compile, the development software on their Windows PC would compile the tens of thousands of discrete files out on the network, and bring the server to its knees. Samba allows unix-like machines to host and connect to windows networking shares. This inelegant setup however, helped me like nothing else in learning it for my own use, and taught me well what not to do. Today, I keep all of my important data(media files, sensitive information, odds and ends) on a separate machine at home, and my Windows machine only has program files installed, so if it fails, I experience no data loss. This must all be a little confusing to the nontechnical reader, and I maintain that Samba has to be experienced to be understood and appreciated.

#3: Imagemagick As of this entry, I have 4330 pictures on this website. Every single one of them has been resized. You better believe I didn't go into Photoshop and resize them all. Actually, I don't even have Photoshop, as I have no need for it, no desire to pay for it, and would rather be as legal as possible with the software I use. Using the raw power of the command line, Imagemagick allows me to make batch updates to all the images that ever get uploaded to this website.

#4: Apache httpd As a platform for Perl development, having access to an apache server has been invaluable. Half or more of the programming I do is for web applications, or for this website. It's always extremely handy to have access to a world-accessible web server, if I need to move files around.

Without these four pieces of software, I would be sunk.

3:55 PM, Apr 15, 2008 toot this
Idle April
I slept happily through long quiet nights both Friday and Saturday nights. It's always lovely to get some real sleep. I didn't go out on Friday. I had been out the previous three nights, and a break was welcome.

On Saturday I received some excellent news that was slightly sullied, but excellent nonetheless. The ridiculous crap with my 2003 federal tax return appears to have been resolved, as I received a letter from my bank notifying me of a recent deposit to my checking account from the Internal Revenue Service. I logged into my bank's website and saw that I finally received my 2007 refund. Unfortunately, owing to the typically governmental stance of charging others for their own mistakes, the IRS helped themselves to a couple hundred dollars of my refund. I suppose I'll get a piece of mail sometime soon accounting for this discrepancy, and I'm certain that there's absolutely nothing I can do about it.

That said, I still got about ninety percent of my refund, and immediately used it to pay my American Express bill, as I had planned on doing in February, when I was expecting it. The remainder of the refund has padded my checking account to a comfortable level, so that for the present, things are A-OK. I celebrated the fresh solvency by playing video games with Nick online, and then meeting him out for a quick beer.

That "quick beer" turned into a multicity jump from Grinders to Paci's to the Peanut to JP Wine Bar. Jim joined us after we left Grinders. We were driving up Oak, and when we reached 12th, we thought, "maybe Jim'd like to join us!" So I turned left on 11th and Nick called Jim to ask if he was up for some beer right now. He was, and good times were consequently had. Even with all this, I still got home by 1am that night, and slept like a log until long after sunrise.

I spent Sunday sitting around the house, doing nothing in particular.

1:08 PM, Apr 21, 2008 toot this
1 comment »»
Every Reason to be Happy
For the fourth week in a row, the kickball season was postponed due to perfectly timed rain. It appears that this week's game too will be cancelled. I sure would love to play, but I've had enough going on lately to keep me occupied. With kickball cancelled, Jeff and I went to Blanc Burgers & Bottles in Westport. I had never been there before, and found the food to be outstanding, and the all-bottled beer selection to be almost as good . It was way too expensive to make a visit a casual thing, but I'd recommend it without hesitation.

Work on Friday was work. Whatever. The joy gets sucked out of life when I'm on call, and I'm on call. fortunately, a lot of really great stuff is coming up, so it'll take a lot of sucking to get me joyless right now. I will outline the various reasons why.

1) I had an extremely painful tongue sore for the last week or so, and finally looks to be clearing up. It hurt to do anything: eat, talk, sleep, sit still, think, argue on the internet, anything. Now that it's feeling much better, I feel like going out and seeing the world.

2) I am on call, as I said, and the worst of it is most likely behind me. The weekend included a maintenance window, and James, who did the maintenance work, said that there were lots of fires to put out. It was almost an hour after the window officially ended before he switched the pager back over to me. I got paged about once every 45 minutes until 9am. Last night however, was hunky-dory.

3) The long winter appears to have finally subsided, and given way to a glorious green spring. Though it's about six weeks late in coming, Spring is here, complete with verdant green grass, blossom-plumed trees, and omnipresent emerging leaves. It's difficult to be in a bad mood in such surroundings. Plus, I still have like a month before flowering plants start to incite me into unstoppable fits of sneezing, and leprosy of the eyes.

4) This weekend is the third annual KCATA Pubcrawl. Along with several irresponsible friends, I will work my way from bar to bar between Waldo and downtown, using only my feet and the trusty bus to do it. It isn't forecasted to be as warm as it was in the previous two years, but it'll still be fine. I can't wait.

5) The weekend after that, I'm hopping in a car with Erp and Amber, and we'll be driving five hundred miles to Louisville, where we will attend the Kentucky Derby. I haven't been to Kentucky since Bart's wedding in 2006, and have been itching to get back. I just can't wait!

12:35 AM, Apr 22, 2008 toot this
Holy Hail!
I was startled awake at about 1am to the clatter of a zillion pebbles being thrown at my window at once. I got out of bed and took a look out the window to see this:


So I snapped a picture. It sure wasn't letting me sleep.

2:38 PM, Apr 22, 2008 toot this
Megaman 2
In what order do you defeat the bosses in Megaman 2? My brother and I used to team up. He'd take the first four, and I'd take the last, but even now, I stick to the same order:

  1. Flashman (Easiest level, easiest boss.)
  2. Metalman (The metal blade was absolutely critical.)
  3. Woodman (First victim of the metal blade.)
  4. Airman (Easily my least favorite boss.)
  5. Bubbleman (The underwater level was awesome. Watch out for the spikes!)
  6. Heatman (The slow-moving bubble lead made mincemeat of the human Zippo.)
  7. Quickman (Some of the best music in the game, and easily the hardest level in the game.)
  8. Crashman (My favorite music in the game, and the only good use that ever came of Woodman's stupid spinning Leaf-shield.)
What's your order? Accusations of nerdery will not be recognized.

9:25 AM, Apr 28, 2008 toot this
KCATA Crawl 2008 Done
The 2008 KCATA Pubcrawl was an unmitigated success. Some people came and went, but in total, over twenty people came out for the third annual crawl. Over a period of sixteen hours, the group visited eleven bars between Waldo and downtown. Some firsts for the crawl:

  1. Bars: Pizza 51, Mike's Tavern, Crosstown Station, John's Big Deck
  2. Route: The #25 bus
  3. No Plaza bars
  4. No Westport bars
  5. No Midtown bars
  6. No Power & Light bars
It's always great to expand the horizons of an annual pubcrawl, and it's good to see that without going to the most likely bar areas, new and exciting places can be found and enjoyed. The bars we visited that had been visited in previous iterations were Waldo Pizza, 75th Street Brewery, Charlie Hooper's, Grinders, Zoo Bar, Harry's Country Club, and the Red Front.

After leaving the Red Front, some of the few that remained gave the rest of the few that remained a ride to Town Topic. It was far too full, so said people(myself included) went to YJ's for coffee and breakfast food. At the end of the night, only Alex, Geoff, and I remained. Faced with the reality of not being able to catch a cab at 3:30am("I've got a two-hour wait." CLICK), we walked from 18th to my place on 7th before shaking hands and calling it a night.

Here is a selection of pictures from the event.

002kcatacrawl.jpg 008kcatacrawl.jpg 011kcatacrawl.jpg 020kcatacrawl.jpg 024kcatacrawl.jpg 031kcatacrawl.jpg 038kcatacrawl.jpg 050kcatacrawl.jpg

3:08 PM, Apr 28, 2008 toot this
1 comment »»
Pennies are Worthless
I've fished the pennies out of my change cup. I predict this will not make it past the housekeeping folks tonight.


2:41 PM, Apr 29, 2008 toot this
1 comment »»
My New Eee, and the Forced Adventures Thereof
I purchased an Eee PC last week, and it was delivered yesterday for me to ogle and admire ceaselessly. Unfortunately, I had multiple pressing engagements last night that kept me from getting to enjoy it much. So, because I was excited about it, and because I promised some people a look, I brought it to work with me today. In keeping with my naming convention of volcanoes, I named the little guy ararat.

I the course of my normal daily routine, I kept turning my attention to my new little laptop, and set about customizing it until it became clear to me that the default graphical user interface was not going to cut it for me. On a Linux-powered laptop, I require 7 relatively simple things: a web browser(firefox), console access(xterm), ssh(openssh), instant messaging(pidgin), perl, image processing(imagemagick), and the ability to play media(SMPlayer). These things are all arranged in difficult separated-out places in the default simple configuration, so I decided to start reading some of the startlingly abundant resources out there for hacking/customizing an Eee PC.

I quickly decided that I wished to use fluxbox instead of the default interface, and found a pretty detailed page on how to make this happen. I followed it closely, rebooted, and found that somehow, the setup I had followed caused my X server to break. On a normal Linux machine, if the configuration is broken, it tries a couple times and then stops, informing you that there much be something wrong, and that it's been disabled until you fix the problem. Not so on the Eee. It just kept trying and flickering and restarting X until I got tired of waiting for it to quit.

The Eee ships without the ability to have virtual consoles, so there was nothing I could have done even if it had disabled X. I had an unusable machine. Through a labored process, I finally managed to get a System Rescue CD loaded onto a USB thumb drive. I was able to get in, mount the root filesystem, and undo the changes that had been made.

Through some actions that are definitely not within the scope of novice computing, for which the Eee is targeted, I was able to restore operability on my computer. That said, most novices aren't going to mess with the system's settings either. There are lots and lots of resources out there for customizing Eee PCs, so I'll have to be more careful when I read them, at least now I have a bootable rescue disk on USB.

It's remarkable how fast the system boots. Except for one slow spot when my debbie-downer cube neighbor, Wayne, was watching, it takes literally under fifteen seconds to go from powered off to ready to use. Shutting down takes about five or six seconds. The system has a sleep/suspend capability, but it takes about ten or fifteen seconds to recover from it. With that in mind, I think it makes more sense to just shut down when I'm done using it, and turn it back on when I'm ready to use it again. It's a total difference of perhaps ten seconds between going to low battery consumption and just turning it off.

From my experience of using it for the last ten hours or so, I would highly recommend it. The solid-state drive is whisper-quiet. The fan, when it eventually kicks on, is imperceptably quiet. All that indicates to me that a fan is even running is a slight warmth on the left side of the keyboard.

Anyway, give one a try. I think it's great.

12:15 PM, Apr 30, 2008 toot this
Eee Uuupdate
Okay, so that page I referenced before that had the step-by-step instructions for configuring fluxbox for the Eee had a pretty nasty typo. The first line after the sh-bang line was accidentally combined with it, and I just assumed that there must be such a thing as an shsudo command. With the help of my handy new USB rescue stick, I was able to fix the problem, once and for all.

So now, I have fluxbox installed and working beautifully. I still have a couple more customizations to make, but it's now in really excellent shape for a laptop of mine. I've gotten a couple of keyboard shortcuts set up, and the precious screen real estate is preserved in a much more efficient manner now.

In other, possibly more consequential news, I've been elected to the board of my building's homeowners' association. There's not much more to tell than that, though. I'll brief you when more developments arise.

Blind Faith
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