christmas 2005

The runup to christmas this year has been incredible. Work has always been lots of fun (and it's nice that I can work from home occasionally, so I don't need to be away from sol too much, as I probably would if I weren't able to work from home).

A few days ago we had sushi. That was very, very good. The other night it was nilagang baboy with lots of pechay. Tonight it's going to be, ahh, let me see... vietnamese fresh springrolls, pomelo salad, yangchow rice and other health food after yesterday's lechon, crab, shrimp, potato salad and macaroni salad with white cheese.

The last few month's have been good too because they've seen the launch of C2 lite iced teas and Zesto's One lite iced teas. I like the non-lite stuff too, but the lite I like more since I'm not a sugar person.

There were strawberries from baguio this year, so there's been strawberries dipped in condensed milk and, until i killed the bottle, strawberry daiquiris in Cuervo Especial :-).

All that, plus inexpensive fast internet at home! And good people to work with (well, mostly, there are some duds whose attitude I will need to work to adjust) and fun at work.

I'm very happy for Sol that she's joined a christian church (I might prefer that it be Catholic, but as long as it's not a freako church that is clearly just plain wrogn, I like most non-catholic churches too). It's been very good for Sol. It might be better for her too if I were to join, but I doubt if that's going to happen soon. I have my own spiritual row to hoe (or weed, or plant, or harvest, the metaphors keep pouring out), I think it all works out though. And it'll all work out better as time moves forward.

It's been a great year, and next year will be better. The year after that, maybe in New Zealand, that's going to be even better, and sometime between now and then, probably a baby, God granting.


Torture dehumanizes the torturer too

In 1971, while in Lefortovo prison in Moscow (the central KGB interrogation jail), I went on a hunger strike demanding a defense lawyer of my choice (the KGB wanted its trusted lawyer to be assigned instead). The moment was most inconvenient for my captors because my case was due in court, and they had no time to spare. So, to break me down, they started force-feeding me in a very unusual manner -- through my nostrils. About a dozen guards led me from my cell to the medical unit. There they straitjacketed me, tied me to a bed, and sat on my legs so that I would not jerk. The others held my shoulders and my head while a doctor was pushing the feeding tube into my nostril.

The feeding pipe was thick, thicker than my nostril, and would not go in. Blood came gushing out of my nose and tears down my cheeks, but they kept pushing until the cartilages cracked. I guess I would have screamed if I could, but I could not with the pipe in my throat. I could breathe neither in nor out at first; I wheezed like a drowning man -- my lungs felt ready to burst. The doctor also seemed ready to burst into tears, but she kept shoving the pipe farther and farther down. Only when it reached my stomach could I resume breathing, carefully. Then she poured some slop through a funnel into the pipe that would choke me if it came back up. They held me down for another half-hour so that the liquid was absorbed by my stomach and could not be vomited back, and then began to pull the pipe out bit by bit. . . . Grrrr. There had just been time for everything to start healing during the night when they came back in the morning and did it all over again, for 10 days, when the guards could stand it no longer. As it happened, it was a Sunday and no bosses were around. They surrounded the doctor: "Hey, listen, let him drink it straight from the bowl, let him sip it. It'll be quicker for you, too, you silly old fool." The doctor was in tears: "Do you think I want to go to jail because of you lot? No, I can't do that. . . . " And so they stood over my body, cursing each other, with bloody bubbles coming out of my nose. On the 12th day, the authorities surrendered; they had run out of time. I had gotten my lawyer, but neither the doctor nor those guards could ever look me in the eye again.

Torture's Long Shadow

But of course George W Bush, and his vice president, are pushing for it. Huh. It's probably impossible for them to dishonor themselves, but they dishonor their country, and those citizens who aren't all hot to torture someone too. Now there's been a compromise, they'll accept Sen McCain's restrictions against torture. But of course it'll still happen, and there won't be too vigorous a fight against it. It's just posturing. George W Bush knows what the effect of pushing for a legal right to torture would do to his presidency. So he'll accept the legal restrictions, and then the armed forces and the security agencies will continue to do it anyway.



Sol needed a break and we went to baguio for a weekend. It was a good
trip. On two previous trips I'd given up on baguio as being too crowded
and polluted to be worth the trouble.

It's still that way in the central section (session road down to the
market and surroundings), but it's not bad if you avoid that.

When we arrived we checked out one hotel that was right across from
where the bus first let passengers off (not the station). The hotel
wasn't all that great (smell of mold in the room), so we decided to find
a taxi and look for someplace else.

The taxi driver was very nice, very helpful. Very good english too.
They have good english up here in the mountains, something I found to be
true out in Banaue and Sagada too. He gave us a bunch of options
(including a backpacker type place, we weren't really into that). Our
first try, though, was the Microtel in Baguio. It's affiliated with
Victory Liner, the bus company we used, so there was a substantial
discount if we could show our tickets.

It's a good hotel, seems to be an international chain. Very new, clean,
all rooms have airconditioning (although it's really not needed since
this is Baguio).

We had lunch at the Manor in Camp John Hay. That was pretty good.
Expensive, but good. Sol wanted to plan to stay there on another weekend
trip, but I don't think we'll do that since we were discouraged by the
prices. It's a nice place to visit though. And the surrounding area is
a great place to walk around.

A few hours in the Baguio market are always nice. I love the Baguio
market. The only thing I don't much enjoy about it is the constant
pestering from kids who want to sell sack bags for carrying things, and
who want to carry my bag for me. But they're polite, if persistent, and
I like them, so I just smile at them while telling them that I'm not

All in all, if we don't go to the regular tourist traps, it's a nice
place to visit and rest. A bit expensive, but fun, and restful. We

Gerald Timothy Quimpo bopolissimus@gmail.com bopolissimus.lists@gmail.com
http://bopolissimus.blogspot.com http://monotremetech.blogspot.com
Public Key: "gpg --keyserver pgp.mit.edu --recv-keys 672F4C78"

All men see only in 16 colors. Peach, for example, is a
fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have
no idea what mauve is.


Japanese School Teacher essays

I recently read Memoirs of a Sansei by David Mura. Didn't like it much. I read it for the mind expansion and insights it might lend. There was some of that, but the general whining (liberal, overtones of hippy) of the author was offputting. And the occasional hypocrisy, or honesty, or something. He's taking a vacation in the Philippines, is rushing to Banaue, there is some sort of emotional turmoil and he has some liberal insight about some hitchhiking filipinos whom he passes by, and later he meets a japanese on the same road, picks him up and continues to Banaue, where he has some sort of epiphany about how he was able to connect best with the japanese person outside japan, when he couldn't quite connect that deeply with the japanese on their home ground. Yech. Dreck.

Now comes I am a Japanese School Teacher, essays by . Haven't read through them all, first essay looks OK though. I may enjoy them all.



Camiguin Curfew Stupidity -- the politicians must be stupid

My wife and I went to Cagayan de oro recently to visit my favorite uncle and wedding ninong who is in the hospital and is in a bad way. Since we were in Mindanao already, we went to camiguin to visit the Camiguin Action Team I thought we might get some Camiguin Diving in.

I was surprised to be informed that there is a 10PM curfew imposed. It doesn't make sense and is bad for business. The reason put forth is that it's an anti-prostitution measure. That's a crock of manure since camiguin is a small place. Everyone knows who the prostitutes are, no one prosecutes despite that.

The rumour though, is that the curfew was imposed due to a conflict between the governor and his son, the mayor of Mambajao. The mayor has chosen to finally ditch his wife and live with his mistress. The governor, for some reason, is punishing the whole population of the island (including the bars and restaurants that depend on tourism, and the foreign tourist high season starts this month) for his son's pigheadedness. Par for the course, I suppose. There is far worse that the reigning family has done, they're just keeping true to form.


Torture, American-Style

Torture, American-Style

the CIA has a list of acceptable interrogation methods, including soaking naked prisoners with water in 50-degree rooms and making them stand for 40 hours handcuffed and shackled to an eyebolt in the floor.

"Palestinian hanging," where a prisoner's arms are twisted behind his back and his wrists are chained five feet above the floor.

Waterboarding (in which a prisoner is made to believe he is drowning) and withholding pain medication for bullet wounds

blasting detainees with high-volume "futility music" (the report's phrase) by Metallica and Britney Spears, dressing a detainee in a bra, and making him do dog tricks

In the Bush lexicon, therefore, sexual humiliation, acute sleep deprivation and threats to have a detainee's mother kidnapped and imprisoned are humane.

18- to 20-hour-a-day questioning for 48 out of 54 days, blasting prisoners with strobe lights and ear-splitting rock music, menacing them with snarling dogs, threatening to hurt their mothers, and humiliations such as leading them around on leashes Pfc. Lynndie England-style, stripping them naked in front of women, or holding them down while a female interrogator straddles them and whispers that we've killed their comrades.

Huh. Leader of the free world.


The US government, on torture by its clients

The U.S. Embassy said in a statement that it was "united" with the Iraqi government in deploring the mistreatment of detainees.


huh. sounds like milspec U.S. government issued male cow manure to me. And no, I'm not referring to Abu Ghraib, I'm referring to the U.S. Vice President's vigorous, shameless and (so far) successful attempts to give certain U.S. arms the right to torture non-citizens, on their own soil or elsewhere.

"Detainee abuse is not and will not be tolerated by either the Iraqi government or the Multi-National Forces in Iraq," it said.

Which implies that it's the U.S. government that calls the shots in the Iraqi Government. Not particularly surprising in this context since, certainly, the U.S. government *does* call the shots in Iraq, but any competent hypocrite would mask the blatant insensitivity to a sovereign nation's decisions. But then one should not be surprised, amazed or otherwise discombobulated by such hubris.

I would wait for the gods to make U.S. leaders mad, but it seems that has already been accomplished.


refreshing conservatism

I took some quotes for my sig quotes file from an article on the decline in parental guidance in the U.S.. Some quotes though are too juicy even for me, e.g.,

Not that I’m laboring under the illusion that modern girls are all sugar and spice and everything nice. Owing to feminism, which liberated the fairer sex from common-sense, morality, restraint, and chastity, quasi-harlotry now infects much of contemporary womanhood. A lady close to my heart said it best: “Forty years ago you knew who the bad girls were; now you know who the good girls are.” And now we have a whole generation of girls-gone-wild.

Altogether a good article, very useful point. It doesn't address the issues with old-time conservatism though (some repression is a good thing, excessive paternalistic repression is, well, excessive and oppressive). Some sort of middle ground moderated and guided by love (rather than fear and punishment, as of old) is certainly the better way, but I can see that that middle ground would be difficult to maintain. Possibly it takes more goodness and wisdom than is normally available. It's something sort of like the rhythm method a good idea but too difficult for normal persons.


I think they should make them glow in the dark!

Cockeyed has a an article on The Military Applications of Silly String.

I don't know if that's a hoax. It probably isn't. I think they could enhance the product a bit by making it glow in the dark :-). Does mentioning the concept make it unpatentable? Or do I actually have to create some silly string that glows in the dark and then document that somewhere? :-).


Bad show, Funny wmv

Like my mom (she was scandalized by scenes involving toilets and activities therein) I can't stand Pinoy Big Brother. I'm not as sensitive as my mom, but stupidity bothers me. Hmmm, that link says that Willie Revillame is in there, that might be why it's so shallow then. Although maybe that has to do with Asia Agcaoili too. I wasn't very clear on who Asia Agcaoili was, but a quick google image search on her name reminds me that she's the Sex guru on one or another soft pr0n magazine sold publicly hereabouts. I wasn't going to give her much respect anyway, since she works on the show, but now my already negative impression of the show drops to new lows. huh. morons.

On the other hand, a friend sent me a link to a (no doubt unauthorized) video of the Pinoy Big Brother theme song and that's freaking funny. Hahahah, highly recommended.

The song itself is reasonable. The lyrics are upbeat and although it isn't particularly gripping, the song works well enough. But since it's related to the show, well, I can't like it. Not that it matters though. I'm not anyone's target market for anything.


Testing jet engines with chickens

In an article on studies on $bhow to minimize the impact of airplanes on birds (and vice versa):

Jet engines must now be able to withstand the ingestion of an 8 pound waterfowl without failing (this is tested in the lab by firing a chicken from a cannon at point-blank range).

I just added that to my sig quotes file :-).

It's a funny article, lots of good quotes, although all are a bit morbid, of course.

And its not just birds. Sometimes jet-stream encounters can take a page from the X-Files. "We've had frogs, turtles, snakes. We had a cat once that was struck at some high altitude," said the Smithsonian's Dove. She says birds like hawks and herons will occasionally drop their quarries into oncoming planes. "The other day we had a bird strike. We sent the sample to the DNA lab and it came back as rabbit. How do you explain to the FAA that we had a rabbit strike at 1,800 feet?"



Disputed English Grammar. Fun read. for english geeks.


Monotremes are weird

sol and i were discussing Omnipotence of God (she recently became a Christian) and that link led me to Theodicy, which is very long, interesting, and might be disturbing to someone who believes in Omnipotence (the Omnipotence entry also says that Omnipotence is only mentioned once in the bible, in Revelation, which I did find this morning, so I suppose the jews are not scripturally bound to the concept, although I don't know what their extended analysis of the situation might have led them to recently).

I've read quite a lot more than that today. This happens when I occasionally get demotivated with work. As it happens, today it wasn't ramcar (where the work is massive, but I'm glad to have it, since it's fun) but IPRC (where the work is done and they haven't paid the final installment yet, so I'm not highly motivated to add the features they've requested).


Dynamic DNS in Linux

That title is a bit over the top, of course. I only looked at one solution, and when that worked for me, I stopped looking.

I've got a sort of static IP. My internet provider, Destiny Cable Internet, as of this writing, uses the ISC DHCP Server. That server tries to allocate the same IP to the same requesting MAC if the IP is still available. So the IP is pretty stable. However, there is no promise that the IP will never change, so it's semi-stable.

I thought I'd be OK with just assuming that it was stable, but I changed my mind. It *might* change and when it does, then I'll have to go to everywhere that assumes it's stable and fix it. And then it might change again.

Instead I decided to use a dynamic DNS server. For the client software, I first looked at EZ IP-Update and, since there's a list of dynamic dns servers at that site, I chose DynDNS. Both choices were pretty random, but I'm happy with both of them.

ez-ipupdate took around 20 minutes to set up (there was a minor compile error, something wrong in the ./configure script's deciding how to use errno, so I had to figure that out and fix it, it's a quick and dirty hack though, not good enough to propagate upward, but I may email the ez-ipupdate maintainer so that he can look at his configure configuration) and DynDns took 2 minutes (plus the less than a minute to wait for the email to arrive).

So I've got dynamic dns working now. bopolissimus.homelinux.net

Port forwarding with ssh

I find forwarding ports (and, actually, also reverse forwarding ports) over ssh very useful. I'll probably find it less useful now since I've found OpenVPN so easy to setup and use, but it's still a very useful technique, particularly where I don't have root access.

I always use -v when doing this because -v will tell me if the link is slow or the link is down (while i'm still connecting, less wasted time). It also shows a message everytime a request is forwarded down the ssh tunnel, useful for debugging to make sure I'm doing the right thing.

With the setups below, surfing to http://localhost:8080 will forward requests to the internal or external server specified. Note: by default, port forwarding binds only to, so from the box itself you can connect to the forwarded service, but you can't from another box. Use GatewayPorts for exposing the service (warning, think about that, it might open security holes).

1. I'm on my laptop and I want to surf the website on remote.com.ph as if I were physically there. So what I want to do is forward my port 8080 to remote.com.ph:80 (it's an internal website and is inside a firewall, so I can't surf to that site directly from the open internet).

ssh -v -L 8080:localhost:80 remote.com.ph

what that does is, connections on my local port 8080 will be forwarded to remote.com.ph. From there, it will be forwarded to remote.com.ph's localhost:80.

2. Same as #1, I can ssh to remote.com.ph but the web server isn't on remote.com.ph, it's on another internal box inside the firewall,

ssh -v -L 8080: remote.com.ph

What that does is, connections on my local port 8080 will be forwarded to remote.com.ph over the ssh tunnel. Remote.com.ph will then forward them onward to

3. Same as #2, but I'm trying to surf to some external web site that doesn't let me in if I surf from the Philippines, or if I surf there from the Philippines something bad will happen. For instance, PayPal will block paypal accounts if they're used from IPs that it identifies as being in the Philippines. This has to do with very high fraud rates. But maybe I'm not a fraudster, I just want to use my paypal account, but I can't because I'm physically in the Philippines. If I have ssh access to a host in the USA which paypal won't be suspicious about, I can do port forwarding through that server, e.g.,

ssh -v -L 8080:www.paypal.com:80 my_us_server.com

There is also reverse port forwarding. I do that when the server I need to connect to (usually not for http, but for some internal server) is inside a firewall and I can't get to it directly and the firewall won't port forward to the internal server. In that case, what I do is ssh to the gateway, and from there ssh to the internal server. Then I do reverse port forwarding. What that does is, it will ssh back to *me*, and open a localport on *me* which will be forwarded down that second ssh link back to it. This, of course, only works if the internal server has a route out to the internet, if it doesn't, then some other solution will have to be found.

# first ssh to the gateway
ssh gateway.remote.com.ph

# at the gateway, ssh to the internal box
ssh my-internal

# at my-internal, open the reverse tunnel back to me, i am, client.com.ph

ssh -v -R 8022:localhost:22 client.com.ph

What that does is get my-internal to ssh to client.com.ph (my box, outside the firewall). Once it gets there, it will set up port forwarding so that port 8022 at client.com.ph so that when I (at client.com.ph) connect to port 8022, the request will be forwarded to port 22 at the my-internal computer. I use that much less often than -L, but when -L doesn't work, -R is often a lifesaver.


Comparison of different SQL implementations

Online there's a pretty long (not sure how comprehensive, but informative and useful) Comparison of different SQL Implementations

Haven't read it all yet (busy), but I'll need to get to that within 1-2 days.


Biking Through Tanzania - article

I read the New York Times occasionally, mostly for the culture. The politics there tend to be rather to my left and even where I agree, as in the general opinion of George Bush II, they tend to be more strident and, in the case of Maureen Dowd, hysterical. But there are good articles, often in the culture and travel section, and the financial section too, occasionally.

An example, and the trigger for this post:


and another:



Destiny Cable Internet SMS Number

To get Destiny Cable Internet to call me (in case of technical

SMS to 09175771111

MD [account name] [account phone number]

Very convenient since I have a cell phone and cell phone charges being
exorbitant in the Philippines, I'd rather not have to call them.
Besides, I don't know what the tech support number is and I'm too lazy
to look :-).


Windows Solutions

Long ago I saw a list of "Windows Solutions". I had it in my sigs and now I can't find them. Fortunately, I keep my old sig file around even though I don't use it anymore (I haven't seen a tool yet that will modify the gmail sig via cron).

Anyway, here they are, so I don't forget them, hopefully google will cache them and google can find them with "Windows Solution bopolissimus" :

1. Don't use Windows
2. Stop the program and start it again
3. Ctrl-Alt-Del and kill the program in Task Manager
4. Reboot
5. Uninstall the program and reinstall it.
6. Reinstall Windows and Everything else
7. Backup, format the disk, install windows, reinstall everything else, restore your data.


Charles Murray on The Inequality Taboo




I was going to whine about GoogleTalk invites that I got. Three people invited me and when I read the invite it says that the client is windows only.

But on the GoogleTalk site there are indications that the protocol used is Jabber. And in the Help Center link (they really should put this information on the main site) there's a link to How to install GoogleTalk on Gaim. So I'm happy. I don't have the voice chat features of GoogleTalk. I wish I did. I'll probably figure that out at some point. Particularly since I've now got lots of bandwidth, enough for voice chat or video. But I'll do that some months in the future. I don't have a headset and mic setup and I just don't have the time to deal with that right now.


Zotob and why the victims deserved it

I didn't know anything about Zotobuntil days after it had been out. Well, two days after it came out. Or maybe three.

I have the same reaction as every other time something hits the Microsoft side of the world. Everyone who was cracked deserved it. If anyone was injured because a Microsoft controlled warship misbehaved, or maybe some sort of system in space stations, orbiters, space shuttles or hospitals injured or killed someone, well, the people injured weren't to blame. However, the armed forces, space or hospital agencies (and all those financial and banking agencies and power generating and distribution agencies) that chose to deploy and continue to use Microsoft software for anything mission critical are certainly to blame.

They should have patched.

They should have bit the bullet and spent the millions necessary to upgrade to the most current version (XP), and then they should have patched, once, twice, and three times. There would still be holes in there, but they'd not have fallen to Zotob (if they were still at W2K) or any of the various XP remote root attacks.

They could also have switched to Linux. I think that there's a lot of value in Linux for common office workers. They won't get windows viruses, they probably won't get any Linux remote compromises (since they're desktop users and most remote compromises are to commonly run daemons or to web based applications, which regular desktop users just don't run, and even if they got compromised, most compromises on web programs can't promote themselves to root, so they're limited to web page defacements which are embarrassing [to professional linux administrators] but probably unnoticed among regular users, if they even run web servers]).

There's a lot of value in Linux for server applications too, but those need to be locked down more seriously than do desktop systems. Although, generally, they're far less insecure than comparable windows systems. But this isn't an anti-windows rant. It's more a rant against unthinking windows administrators who aren't paranoid about their systems. Any administrator should always be paranoid. But windows administrators should be certified insanely paranoid. They'll get cracked anyway, but at least they'll do their best. And they'll get cracked less often. The amateurs who let Zotob into their systems should be fired and then shot as a favor to the gene pool.

One more reason why I shouldn't live in the USA

I was reading the Washington Post, and I saw:

This article about BooksFree.

It's not a *bad* thing about the USA (there are some bad things about the USA, people work too hard, there is no time for a life and everyone is chasing after their credit card debt, it's all too tense), but this isn't one of them. This is a *good* reason why I'm fortunate not to live in the USA.

This site is an instant entree into the poorhouse for me. I'd be a member instantly, and I'd never get any work done because I'd be reading so much. Maybe I'd have *two* subscriptions, thus receiving twice the number of books per month.

I need to work harder, so that I'll be able to either setup such a company (all those books right in my warehouse, free to read before I send them out) or retire and subscribe :-)

Oh, wait, the URL for that company is:



Chikka on Gaim, needs gaim-devel

There's been a Chikka plugin for Gaim for a while now. I got it to work some time ago, then reinstalled linux and never found the energy or need to get it to work again. It's pretty easy, but I got sidetracked by a desire to make it work with source built gaim rather than using the gaim that already came with my distribution.

I decided to look at it again from the standpoint of just getting it working instead of trying to make it smarter (so that it could detect where gaim was installed if it wasn't in the standard places, etc). When I last did that, I lost interest again since it didn't work.

Today I tried again and I realized that I probably needed to install gaim-devel to get chikka working. and after a:

urpmi gaim-devel

and a simple ./configure;make;make_install in both the chix and chix_gaim directories, i've got chikka functionality in gaim. Now, I don't think it's working yet. I can go online in chikka and i see when other people are online (they just received or sent a chikka message), but messages i send don't seem to be working. I'll need to look at this again some more. I'll probably get it working tonight.

anyway, installing chikka does need gaim-devel. Without it, i couldn't even get gaim to notice that it was possible to connect to the chikka network, or that chikka even existed.


Incredible Speed with Destiny Cable Internet

I was testing downloads overnight and I was getting speeds in the range of 200+ kBytes per sec, which is around 1.5mbps. I didn't think that was possible since I thought the modems themselves were capped at some level (even if destiny internet doesn't have a network appliance doing bandwidth capping per individual user). But I guess the modems aren't capped. I think I did hear mention of 1.5mbps being the physical limit though. Maybe the modems aren't capable of any more than that. But I'm going to test some more to see what the real limits are :-).

Boy, this is great.


Destiny Cable Internet

I need Internet access at home since, as a consultant, I often work offsite and while the QSR offices are close enough to walk, sometimes I just need to work past midnight or on weekends. I can still get to QSR on weekends, but it's just nice to be able to work from home.

I considered DSL (mainly, PLDT MyDSL), but i decided on Destiny Cable Internet due to price and the fact that PLDT MyDSL is capped at 384kbps while Destiny has no caps. Of course it's cable though, so the bandwidth is shared. Destiny just doesn't do any bandwidth capping at all. The management thinks that the thing to do is just to provide the bandwidth (their bandwidth is greater than they need,that is, they buy more bandwidth than actually distribute). I like that attitude, even though it might be better for me (or for the generic customer) to have a cap so that bandwidth hogs don't slow down everyone connected to the same node.

The service has been pretty good. I'm getting consistent downloads in the 400-600 kbps range. I haven't really been monitoring very much yet, or consistently enough. But I'm waiting to get to 1Mbps. QSR has destiny bandwidth too and once or twice I've seen downloads in the megabit range.

Of course, to people from the U.S. (all my brothers and my sister have been through here lately to be with my stepfather before his heart surgery) that's not much. 1.5mbps at home is pretty common there, if you're close enough to a telco switch. But 400-600kbps is great here. and i'm confident that Destiny will continue working on their line quality and will eventually keep me in the megabit range continuously.

Not that I can do all that much with that bandwidth. But it'd be great to have it when necessary.


at-spi really slows down evolution

I couldn't stand how slow evolution was anymore. I know that I'd fixed that problem long ago (with some sort of gconf-editor, ah, edit). I remember that it was some sort of accessibility thing.

Well, I reinstalled linux a while ago and I got evolution slowness again. I've finally found out what I need to do to remove the slowness.

urpme at-spi

Back when I was still installing mandriva, I thought I'd try out the accessibility stuff to see if mandriva was good enough to use for blind people. I still don't know since, well, I can't get gnopernicus working on this laptop. Maybe I can try it out on a desktop. If it's usable then, I may try to get my brother in law (great programmer, and blind) to try out linux.

For any blind programmer, I think the thing to do is to work in linux since the command line development environment and demand for command line developers is high in linux. In windows, well, he programs in VB, and he's pretty good at it, but he's always going to be hobbled by the
graphical emphasis of VB and the command line weakness of Windows. It's probably a great environment for blind computer *users*, but it's a terrible development environment for a blind programmer.


2005-May Part3 Camiguin-White Island-Lechon

We were going to have our wedding at Camiguin Highland. It's a very new hotel and the building, rooms and restaurants are very nice. They haven't deteriorated yet due to time and the filipino inability to maintain anything.

The friends who were with us on the Canopy Walk in Claveria, Misamis Oriental and the whitewater rafting in CDO (pics sometime in the near future) came over to Camiguin with us on Friday, and more

Friends from Manila, in a jeepney arrived on Saturday

After lunch and siesta at Camiguin Highland

we got on a two hired multicabs and went to Katibawasan falls (short picture taking trip, the pics below are from another trip later in the month, but they give an idea of what it's like)

I like going under the waterfall (well, a bit behind, right under the waterfall the weight of the water is too great, it would knock me out).

Sometimes, the pictures from that are creepy.

We then went on to Camiguin Action Gecko Galactic Headquarters

to pick up the lechon

The lechon is a bit denuded because there were two multicabs and naturally, there was some lechon skin picking on our multicab :-).

There are several jump off points to White Island, but the most popular is at Caves Dive Resort, where the Camiguinaction Diveshop is located.

I've heard of a spanish woman who swam to White Island from one of the Agoho beaches, but we took a pumpboat there.

They're usually around PHP 350 for a roundtrip. It can cost less than that if the boat can go fishing and pick you up, but it's more convenient to keep the boat so that you can leave whenever you want. It's very hot after 9AM and before around 4PM so most people go at dawn or in the late afternoon.

This summer, the locals from the Agoho shore built some bamboo and coconut leaf shelters.

To be continued


Stupid security rules

There is a tidal wave of stupid security rules all over the place these days. Most of them I don't mind since they don't affect me much. If malls insist on looking at my belt bag (fanny pack, to americans) and checking my lower back to see if there's a gun in there, I don't mind as long as it doesn't waste my time, or not much anyway. And mall searches only cost me maybe 3 seconds everytime.

MetroRail searches tend to cost more, but it's usually only 5-10 seconds (if there's someone ahead of me), so I don't care much either.

Of course, ideally, this stupidity should be stopped anyway since, really, if anyone with half a brain wanted to bring explosives or a small gun or dangerous chemicals anywhere, it's pretty much impossible to stop. Well, OK, so maybe it takes more than half a brain. But really, it would be trivial to smuggle in something dangerous (that's not perfume in that perfume container, that's alcohol, or, in combination with a lighter, that perfume works as a small flamethrower. how about that kerosene (or some other flammable but not so strong smelling liquid) in the shaving cream container? how about just that lighter. a terrorist could break five bottles of vodka in the wine shop, set it all on fire, and then start throwing more bottles of alcohol in there. five seconds, tops.

Those searches don't increase security (i'd link to schneier or someone, but I'm too lazy, Oh, ok, Bruce Schneier's site, they just inject inefficiency into everyday life.

But again, I don't mind them too much. Stupidities that cost me almost nothing I ignore. Sometimes (as with the cell phones or CD players on airplanes thing, now how dumb can an airline (or another, or maybe it's just the civil aviation board [can't find the website with a quick search and not interested enough to spend 30 minutes on it] be to not revoke the ban on CD players when there's no reasonable way for CD players to be a threat to avionics or control systems?) I flout them if they're sufficiently inconvenient.

On the other hand, yesterday I was at the University of Santo Tomas Hospital and the guard wanted me to leave my laptop. Now my laptop is my other life. I'm not leaving it ANYWHERE. So I said no. He said to leave the power supply then. I wouldn't leave that either. If it gets lost, it would take months to get a replacement from overseas (it's a Winbook, not a common brand in the Philippines). Finally I left the cable (detachable) that connects the power supply to wall power.

I don't see what the deal is with laptops though. Are they concerned about the wifi or the CD player interfering with avionics, I mean, hospital equipment? All the cell phones in the building are already doing that and I don't see people dying every second due to GSM and bluetooth and maybe even the occasional IR and (Lord forbid), laser light from a leaky CD-ROM player interfering with avion...hospital equipment. So maybe they're concerned about people connecting to an unprotected LAN connections and sniffing the network? they should use switches then! or, no, there aren't any LAN connections, this is an old building. No Lan connections anywhere.

So the only thing that comes to mind is that they're concerned about people stealing electricity. But that's yet another stupidity. This is a hospital where they have airconditioners everywhere. That's where they need to be saving electricity. Pissing off paying customers (what does it cost to be confined in a room there, maybe PHP 2000-4000 a day?) is counterproductive. I had a similar experience at Clinica Manila in SM Megamall. I was there with Sol and while waiting, I wanted to plug in. They're against electricity theft too. But the way I see it, anyone with a laptop who wants to plug in is a potential customer who could afford a laptop. They should be *encouraging* those people to plug in, so that they'll feel comfortable and warm and fuzzy and will keep coming back for health services. As it is, I'm not going to Clinica Manila for anything.

I couldn't do much about UST Hospital, but I can write this blog and castigate them in public. Maybe if enough people ask them about it they'll rescind that rule and maybe even bend over backwards and offer free wifi throughout their hospital. I rather doubt it, but wishes are free.

Maybe someone in there is smart enough to understand what a marketing coup that would be, free wifi in the hospital, on a budget of maybe PHP 5000 a month for the bandwidth and less than PHP 250,000 for the access points, wiring and router (and maybe another PHP 50,000 for the services of the company that would install all that, although they've got a computer science and engineering college in there, they could do it for free with student labor).

vim settings i always use

set ruler
set noincsearch
set nohlsearch
syntax off
set ts=4
set ai

i should probably also use
set ic

ok, that's it, i will :-)


No handsfree

I thought I'd try the handsfree headphones/mic for my Sony-Ericsson K700i phone. Not because I needed it for calling (we don't call, in the philippines, it's too expensive, and it's impossible to do hands free SMS texting), but because I thought I'd try the phone's radio feature.

The bad news is, I'm giving up. FM radio, even in Metro Manila, is execrable. The DJs are terrible, the station identification items are incredibly stupid, the ads are ads and the music ranges from oldies with nothing left but sap (if they ever had any meaning in there at all) to rap and R&B which, frankly, I can't get into, there is nothing there for me.

Even the classical music station, and the jazz station, when I could get them (the signals were sufficiently weak, I could never get a good enough fix, or the surrounding stations were so strong they overwhelmed the signal. But maybe that was just the phone) aren't worth much. I may try to get those stations again. But If i can't, well, they might as well not exist as far as my handsfree listening on jeepneys and the Metro Rail system are concerned.

I thought that there might be an AM receiver on there. On AM things are much the same, but at least there are the occasional (very occasional) entertaining talk shows. But there's no AM option, so I'm hanging up the handsfree set. Or maybe not. I might just find some MP3s, resample them down to much smaller sizes, and use up the 40MB memory of the phone for storing them. If I can get the MP3s down to 1MB or so (mono since i don't like being not able to hear things that are happening around me, very low sampling rate so the space requirement drops :-) I might get back to using it. Although if I rip or download comedy shows it's going to be very disconcerting for the other people on the jeep or train :-)



2005-May Part 2 - Canopy Walk in Cagayan de Oro

sol and I took the whole of May 2005 off in preparation for the wedding, the actual wedding, diving and honeymoon travel. There will be blog entries about all of those later. There are a lot of pics and, actually, I haven't organized everything yet. I need to get pictures of the wedding itself from friends since we don't have any on our own camera (forgot to assign someone to take all the pics, we had kublai or jen in mind for that, but they were late for the ceremony).

On May 3rd we went to CDO to meet friends and go whitewater rafting (blog entry for that and pics, later). The rafting was on the 4th. On the 5th we went on the Claveria Canopy walk. There are two or three canopy walk adventures in the Cagayan de Oro area. The Claveria one is the first and the best.

It's a long drive (maybe 2 hours) to the jump off point. I'm sure everyone has pictures taken there. So did we, of course.

That sign says that it's 1.5 kilometers to the top station. It's not a difficult walk, but there is going to be sweating. Also, both times that I went on the canopy walk it rained (at different parts of the course). So don't bring anything large that needs to be dry. Or bring a drybag. The top station is a platform from which we clip on to a zip line

and are lowered to the first station proper.

There was a light drizzle when we got to the first station and the view of the forest in the mist was nice.

From the first station it's just walking over hanging bridges (while attached by 2 clips to another line above).

The bridges, and the line to which everyone is clipped, are very securely attached to the trees.

There are five stations altogether (with, I think, one more not in use, and possible additions as the site is enhanced, the organizers talked about a very long zip line down to the bottom of the valley and a river traverse back down to the pickup site). The bridge to the last station is downward, some people have trouble traversing that. It's all very safe though. At the fifth station, there is a break for lunch. It's usually lechon manok, puso (rice in palm leaf wrap) and some other things. Naturally, there had to be a picture of the lunch group.

There are lots of great views of trees and forest plants. These next ones are of plants that grow on trees.

This is what it's like to look down :-)

And in the distance, it's a little sad to see the contrast between the forest and the farms where forest used to be.


Mandriva, kernel 2.6.11 and cpufreq

I installed Mandriva 2005 and my scripts for slowing down the CPU stopped working. Well, the cpufreq stuff has been modularized and now, with the stock 2.6.11 kernel that comes with Mandriva I have to modprobe p4-clockmod before the entries in /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0 become available.

I'm glad that it's all still there though, I was thinking I'd have to config and rebuild the kernel, something I try to avoid when running at 2.4Ghz in an un-aircon room :-).


Pleasant Dumaguete experiences

Dumaguete is very nice. I wouldn't mind living here, if there were a good way to make a living.

The city isn't extremely large, noisy, busy, polluted or traffic-ridden. It's sort of what Cagayan de Oro was 15-20 years ago, or maybe not. More like 30 years ago, but with all the modern improvements (DSL internet, cell phone connectivity, motorcycles).

When we arrived there was one taxi and we didn't want to take it since I don't like taxis whose drivers act like pimps. We took a tricycle on a short tour of the big hotels. It's Santacruzan month, so when we went to the C&L Hotel (very nice, I had a good feeling about it) they had no space. Chris, the receptionist was very helpful though. She called around to two or three hotels and got us a room at the Coco Grande Hotel (also very nice, newly remodelled).

I'll be posting something big in a few weeks (need some time to get the pics ready and to get other pics from others who took pics at the wedding), I'm taking this opportunity though to post short impressions that don't depend on pics being ready :-)

Webmail and internet cafes

I'm in Dumaguete, at the SurfShop (an internet cafe right by Silliman University). They have kindly allowed me to use my own laptop for going online. I asked the other internet cafe just a house down (MC )and they didn't let me do the same.

It's nice to be able to work with an internet cafe that knows what they're doing, or at least are helpful and flexible (it's likely that the other cafe is run on fascist leadership lines, something far too common in the Philippines, so that the staff won't allow anything they don't explicitly know is allowed, and they won't call the owner to check if they come across something that's not allowed, here at the SurfShop, they called the owner.

Now, I'm perfectly willing to just surf around on insecure internet cafe PCs (they're invariably windows and, i'm sure, just chock full of viruses and spyware no matter how fascist the security posture because, well, it's just basically impossible to secure windows computers that are open to be used by the public), but I'm just not going to trust any important passwords to internet cafes. As it happens, I had to send an email, so I just created a throwaway email address (bopolissimus_temp@hotmail.com) and used that to send the email, and then all I did was surf around.

But now I brought my laptop over and I'm online, so it's downloading my gmail and I'll read and reply offline (that's around 2 weeks worth of email and there's going to be a lot of it).


evolution spamassassin and gmail on slow links

I'm on camiguin and the internet access here is slow. I was trying to download my gmail to evolution and it wasn't working, I was getting frequent timeouts (gmail would stop responding). Finally I thought to turn off the automatic spam checking in evolution. Now, the CPU isn't pegged at 100 percent and i'm getting my mail. The mail still takes a while to arrive, but at least I'm not getting disconnected from gmail so often.

I'm using the 2.6 kernel's CPU frequency scaling control functionality to set my laptop at only 300Mhz. that's not why i was timing out though, since even at 2.4Ghz and with remote checking disabled, it was still timing out. SA is just fat and slow and should be disabled when checking gmail on slow links.

I'm running at 300Mhz because this laptop runs so hot (it's not a low power CPU) that it would burn my thigh. I work around that by putting the laptop on top of a hardbound book, but then the CPU still runs so hot when i'm doing CPU intensive things (e.g., compiling postgresql, or the kernel, or even just some modules in the kernel) that the laptop will beep three times and turn off without giving me the opportunity to shutdown properly. Running at 300Mhz lets me do anything I want (albeit slowly) and not run the risk of heat related outage. I've tried at .600,.900 and 1.2 Ghz and those all work too, but i'm being conservative since i don't really need all that power anyway.

Wedding Dives

Sol and I got married on the 8th of May and we're taking the month off. It's been great. Details later, but these are notes to myself so I have an idea what to elaborate on.

1. whitewater rafting and canopy walk in CDO area with tim, tina, mace, mark, hazel. great fun. some pics of canopy walk, but need to develop the underwater camera pics for whitewater rafting.

2. came to camiguin friday, rested that day, saturday many manila guests arrived, the younger set went to white island for sunset, bonfire, lechon and beer. great time, great pics.

3. sunday was wedding day, but that was still for the evening. in the morning we had organized a group trip to mantigue island. sol and i were going to dive the wall with barb, salve and katya, and diggi was going to conduct intro dives for seven people. everyone had a great time. pics in a future, more complete post.

4. wedding sunday afternoon. at the last minute (well, 3 hours or so before the last minute), judge borromeo determined that it would be possible to have the ceremony at the hotel, so that's what we did. that made things much more convenient and everyone could look on. short wedding ceremony, judge quoted from shakespeare. good party after, with tina and cecil emceeing. we forgot some things (sparkling wine poured at all tables for toasts, so eugene started the water toast :).

5. we started the advanced open water diver course. great dives. navigation at tangub, peak performance buoyancy at old volcano, drift dive at white island today, night dive at tangub tonight. deep dive tomorrow at old volcano. or maybe canyons.

it's been a great 1.5 weeks so far. the rest of the month is going to be awesome. and then i'll be excited to go back to work.


Cagayan de Oro online phone directory

I had to get phone numbers for some Cagayan de Oro hotels so that friends who were going there could query prices and book (they still don't have web sites, or the web sites don't come up early enough in google) and I remember that there's a handy site for searching for CDO phone numbers. CDO-ID is a searchable site for numbers.

Now, the front page hasn't been modified since around 2001, so possibly the phone numbers aren't the latest either, but most of the numbers will still work.

I remember that when I used to work for an internet provider in CDO I wanted to do something like CDO-ID too. Years before that I'd gotten hold of the Misortel phone data and had a searchable site (long gone now, hosted by weblink i think). Well, I tried to get the data out of the telcos, but they were incredibly unimaginative and I never really could get the data out on a regular basis so that I could have a reasonably up-to-date directory. Eventually I gave up trying, particularly when I found out that CDO-ID already had a site.

This resistance to putting up phone numbers on the internet is a major stupidity for any telco. After all, if the phone numbers are online, people can search for them and they're then likely to make long distance landline calls. The cellular telcos should probably also do something similar, at least for their postpaid accounts, and maybe some sort of interactive prepaid directory too (aliases allowed, but maybe filtered for obscenity and illegal names). That would probably drive up voice traffic.

But I don't see the celco's doing that either. They don't like change, despite their business being founded on technology, where change is so fast, it's essential to embrace it.


Istana Bali

I was with sol at Club 650 (Libis, near Shopwise and Eastwood) yesterday for badminton with friends. After the games we went up to Istana Bali, a new restaurant there. The food was OK. A bit overpriced, but that's just me, newly in from the provinces and eternally afflicted with sticker shock. Except for the draft beer. A mug of draft is only PHP 25. That's cheaper than the Pale Pilsen, SM Light, Super Dry and Strong Ice! In fact, it's almost half the cost, since the other beers are either 45 or 55 (i wasn't paying enough attention to remember exactly).

I'm going back there. Not just because of the draft (although that's a big deal) but also because it's pleasant, cool, the restaurant is new, so the owner and the staff are doing their best to make a good impression. We ordered one item and changed it to a lower priced item, but the bill came back with the original item on it. It was certainly an understandable mistake, I'm glad I caught it, but I'm sure it wasn't intentional. But because of that we got another (small) item taken off the bill and the owner apologized for the mistake and was very nice about it. That's not something I see a lot and I appreciated it.

one letter passwords

I was listening in on a conversation on passwords the other day. One of the people in the conversation mentioned that they knew someone whose password was "A". Just the one letter. And there was a conjecture that maybe that was a really hard password to guess since, most people would think 3 was short and no one would think that anyone would use a one letter password. This was for windows login passwords, so it's not something that would normally be attacked via brute force somehow, although in an organization with lax password controls, the same password might also be used for email, file shares, etc. In which case the situation suddenly becomes worse.

Anyway,I thought about that a bit, and yesterday the refutation came to me. A one letter password is a dead giveaway because it's so easy to shoulder surf. It's not even necessary for the shoulder surfer to actually see what's being typed. It's sufficient to see that only one character was being pressed. After that, it would be trivial (in the lax organization, more security conscious organizations would have failed password limits and timeouts) to try all the one character printable characters on the keyboard and log in.


usb thumbkey svn repository speed

I store (most of) my source code in a USB flash drive. Originally it was ext2 (because my previous thumbdrive was ext2, because i couldn't put reiser on it, at 32MB the old drive was too small and reiser wouldn't mkfs on it). Yesterday I got frustrated because commits were taking too long (small commits, but they were taking 2 minutes or more). So I did an svnadmin dump and also tar-gzipped the repository and rebuilt the filesystem as reiser.

Reiser said how much of the disk it would eat, and then proceeded to make the filesystem. After the load, checkouts, commits and updates are very much faster. I think I'll stay with this. I'm not sure what the problem was though. It might just have been that svn was trying to update too much data there (maybe the strings file, which is 6MB) and was just slow yesterday. Or it might be that reiser is just doing something good and it's a better match for SubVersion. I'll keep track of when it gets slow again. If it never does, then I'll stick with svn, but if it does get slow, I'll try xfs and jfs for svn, just for fun :).

long time

The older I get the more memories recede into a haze. But some things stick. One event I particularly remember had me with my face being pushed in the grass by some neighbors. I'd probably been snotty or something, and so these two kids (they were smaller than me, so it was only fair that they gang up) started beating on me. I put up a good fight, but eventually the sum of their masses began to tell and they had me on the ground eating grass.

My brother was at home, maybe 200 meters away, but he seems to have noticed the commotion. Instead of going out the front gate, he climbed the back fence, ran over, and took the boys off me. He didn't go and fight them himself (he probably knew that I'd been snotty :), but it was cool that he took them off me so I could get up.

Then we went home. No fuss, just a regular day.

boost regex!

I posted on the PLUG mailing list about regex libraries in C/C++. Matt Baluyos pointed me at PCRE and paolo falcone pointed me at Boost. I decided to go with boost because I couldn't stand the PCRE library.

That's not to denigrate the quality of the library, it works, very well. I use PCRE implicitly in PHP and it's a great help and is incredibly easy to use there. But C is now just too low level for me and while I can work there, I don't like it much. If I can, I work in PHP (perl is far too ugly for me, although that could change if i were to work in it instead of just reading it). I'll be working in java soon, but I tend to have a bias against it for small projects. I'm sure it's great for large projects, but even there, the libraries and frameworks seem over-engineered. But that's probably just a function of the fact that they're large enough that I can't get my brain around them in a week.

For anything lower level that I can't do in java or php, i like C++. And that's where I use the boost regex libraries. I've written utility functions that hide some of the details of the boost implementation (just pass string pattern, string data, vectormatches, and internally it does everything else). there's also a similar set of utility functions that passes the pattern as a regex const reference instead (so that patterns that are used all the time aren't re-compiled).

it's very nice to be able to say:

vector matches;

if ( re_search(pat, line, matches) )
for (int ctr=0; ctr < matches.size(); ctr++)


php, popen, stream_set_blocking(...,false)

So I thought that I could make a "multi-threaded" (but not really) program in php by using stream_set_blocking. Well, the things I need to do simultaneously involve calling popen on external programs and then reading the data and doing something with them.

Well, popen doesn't work with stream_set_blocking(..., false), so I can't do things that way. Unfortunately, I've spent a week or two setting up the framework for all this (so it would be easy and convenient) but now I find it can't be done.

Oh well, time to give up on trying to do that in PHP then, and just buckle down to doing it in C++ (the original version is in C++, but frankly, I just don't want to maintain that code anymore, no choice now though).


The American Empire and the End of Freedom

One should, of course, take what is said with a grain of salt, given the
source. The guardian is consistently anti-american.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that much of the article is true.

As a practical matter, the US government, and, in fact, most (but not
all) of the americans on the ground care far too little about the rights
and welfare of the people they walk over. They are too focused on their
own needs. As far as that goes, so is everyone else, focused on their
own needs.

But the U.S. does itself a disservice by hewing closely to the theory
that the rights enshrined in their constitution apply only to their
own citizens, and apparently, only to those who are convenient and
are actually on their own soil.


For myself, well, i watch, mildly amused, while U.S. policy, and many
of their "heroes" (they're not heroes, they're kids put into warzones,
defending themselves, and all too often brutalizing the population
because they don't understand the local culture and because their
american pride [and those attack helicopters, bradleys, tanks, humvees
and overall military superiority] make them accept without questioning
the importance of their own survival as opposed to the trivial needs
and rights of the populace) descend into the natural depravity of
absolute power and empire.

Probably, many americans would vote against their own government
instantly if they understood what their government is doing to
non-americans, and to the american ideal. But most of those americans
are too comfortable and are unwilling to risk the difficulties that
would come of trying, vigorously, of changing their government's
policy. For those few, I wish them luck. For the rest, well, I wish
them luck too. It's going to be a difficult century, or longer. The
descent into depravity from power is long and fun for a bit, and then
it gets worse.


So you want to be a consultant?

I saw So you want to be a consultant? long ago. I'm looking at it again since someone on a mailing list pointed at it.

I'm learning again. Some of those lessons I haven't internalized yet. It'll take a while, a lot of things do. I'll get there yet :).


Rsync and compressed files

I did some testing and I find that generally, it is better to rsync uncompressed files rather than the corresponding compressed files or archives. at any rate, tar.gz archives are bad for rsync. tar files are OK.

  1. i took a directory of source code and test data, around 9MB.

  2. copied it to a remote box

  3. tar cvzf on both sides to one file and also tar cvf to another file.

  4. on the source box, edit one source file, insert only one line.

  5. tar cvzf and tar cvf on the source box. the source box should have sources, tar and .tgz which vary in only one line in only one internal file.

  6. rsync of the source gives a speedup of 450 (14K sent, 94 received), rsync of the tar file gives a speedup of 85000+ (78 bytes received, 20 bytes sent), rsync of the .tgz gives a speedup of 1.48, (2.4MB sent, 12K or so received).

so rsync of a tar file is best (because only one file needs to be analyzed to see where the differences are). rsync of a compressed file (at any rate of .tgz, but probably of any compressor) is bad. not sure why, but i wouldn't be surprised if the compressed representation of a lot of data depends on what has come before, and there may be other effects like that which
confound the difference finder since too much is found to be different.


Sagada Mountain Tea

I'm almost out of Sagada mountain tea. This is not good. Sol and I are going to have to go back there and bring more back. Maybe ten bags instead of the measly two bags we brought back last time :).

I've been googling for the tea and I can't find anything that says it's for sale in manila. There's got to be somewhere that has it. I just can't find it. Maybe it's time to ask the mailing lists. That might save a trip to sagada. It would be good to go, but I need to save money for the wedding in May.

Saisaki music

I was at Saisaki megamall the other night. I would have a link there, but I don't since i don't see an official saisaki web site on the first or second page in google. these people need to hire an SEO :). the one link i clicked on was some whining about a "saisaki trap", which is, i suppose, bad enough, but... if that comes up ahead of the real saisaki web site, well, they need to hire an SEO.

Sol and I met francis, my brother. He's in from the U.S. and is nuts about japanese food. Sol asked me what francis looks like and I couldn't answer. I'm just no good with faces. When francis arrived however, it struck me. he looks like Ming Tsai! :).

Anyway, the food is always wonderful there. I always love the salmon sashimi. Sol ordered the uni for us, my first time, and it was incredibly good.

but the music sucks. I mean, country muzak is really, really bad. Whose damn fault is that?


corporate peer to peer

is almost always a mistake. at any rate, it is anywhere where bandwidth is expensive.

I was just talking to someone at a company I do some consulting with. I was working remotely, and the link was ridiculously slow. Ping times were at around 1 second, and sometimes 1.5 seconds. I could still work (i've got some techniques involving rsync, for very bandwidth starved links, and i just type ahead), but I could work better if the bandwidth weren't so slow.

So I talked about the serious need in corporations to take steps to block p2p, and then, since it's impossible to block it completely, probably, to do as much as it can to monitor p2p and then to have a policy about p2p use (probably that it should not be allowed at all, and that it would be blocked and monitored, and violation would affect performance reviews).

That may sound draconian, but it's necessary.

  1. bandwidth costs money. even if it were cheap, if peer to peer didn't soak bandwidth the company wouldn't need that much bandwidth and could contract for less, thus paying less every month. That's money that goes straight to the bottom line.

  2. the company i'm using for my example runs its own publicly accessible mail and web servers and therefore their bandwidth is all fixed IP. That's a bit of a bug on the part of IT management, they could go with 80% dynamic IP bandwidth and then 20% fixed IP for mail and web. They would save quite a bit of money right there since fixed IP bandwidth carries a very high premium in the philippines. they would save more money just by buying dynamic bandwidth for staff time-wasting surfing and buying less fixed IP bandwidth for those services that require the bandwidth.

  3. in a litigious world, it's for the company's good that peer to peer is blocked and violations monitored and punished. The same company has received a warning letter from a RIAA/MPAA related agency, apparently someone had left their bittorrent client on and had been downloading and serving enough files that they attracted someone's notice.

Naturally, this sort of thinking won't sit well with employees. But frankly, I don't think it matters. The staff aren't being monitored for wasteful surfing (of which, perhaps half of all surfing at the office is wasteful and not work related or only very peripherally work related), so their surfing for entertainment is a free benefit of employment. It's only fair that those online activities which might be damaging to the company be disabled so that other online activities of neutral or only mildly negative value may be allowed.



Back in the middle of October 2004, Sol and I went to Battad (I'd link to something there, but I don't see anything good in the first few links in Google, and there aren't that many hits). I'd been there before (in 1997, with danilo and kim, if they develop websites or blogs I'll have to come back here and link to them) and had been raving to her about how great it is there. Of course, this was in hindsight, and years after the difficulty of the hike up the mountain had receded into a pleasant memory.

This trip, we took the overnight bus to banaue, had breakfast there, took an overpriced (PHP 300) tricycle to the jump off point at Battad (long ago, we took a jeepney to I forget where, maybe Bangaan, got off at the junction and walked up the mountain). They've been building a road so the hike is much nearer if you jump off from the end of the road, and much nicer if you start walking from the junction. Here's a view

of the walk from somewhere around the end of the road down to the ridge that has the hostels where tourists can stay (click on the image for a larger version).

From the end of the road, it's still something like 45 minutes or more to battad itself. It's mostly downhill (and you can shave some time off that by taking the much steeper route, we didn't though since it was drizzling and slippery when we got there).

When you get to the ridge with the hostels, there are a whole range of choices. Most of them are about the same. There are slight differences in hostel "personality", but they're generally all good. This trip, we stayed at Simon's. We were going to stay somewhere else, but there were other guests there. Simon's is a bit out of the way (only a really little bit, it's just beyond Rita's I think it was, and beyond Simon's there aren't any more hostels). The rooms are basic. There are no 3 star hotel amenities here (although the bathrooms are very good, much better than they were during our last trip). There's not even any electricity in Battad (maybe in a few years there will be, there isn't now though, although I think one of the other hostels had solar power or similar, not sure what they used it for though). The room was very comfortable though. Everything at Simon's was great. I'm sure at the other hostels it's much the same.

I artistically disarranged the pillows there :). It's neater than that.

Here are views of Battad from Simon's. Click on the images to view larger versions.

a view of the village of battad from Simon's dining area
Battad from our bedroom window

The food in Battad is nutritious and good, but there's not that much choice. For the
sake of adventure, we had the pinikpikan chicken. It's interesting to think about, but I'm not having that again. It's not just because of what they do to the chicken, but also the fact that the soup is bathed in the smoke of the chicken's feathers. That gives the whole thing a strange bitter taste that I don't much enjoy. Last time I went to Banaue, Battad and Sagada, I had a lot of omelette. You can still get omelette wherever you go, that's probably the safest food choice for most people. You can work off the cholesterol walking up and down the mountains.

Simon's has reasonable pizza and pita (well, actually, they use the same flat bread for both).

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay. To be honest, the walk down wasn't that much fun. And the problem with staying in Battad is that one should leave early in the morning

to walk back up the mountain to the junction point. There are always great sights

along the way though.

We had contracted with our tricycle driver to pick us up at 9. We were a bit late, he waited for us and told us that he had some other passengers but he arranged for us to take a jeepney back to Battad instead.


normal distribution

I had to write a program that needed to simulate random data that was normally distributed (bell curve distribution).

Fortunately, I was able to grab a copy of Numerical Recipes in C and found some code on p. 217. The code produces a normal distribution in the range -1.0 to 1.0 with a standard deviation of 1.

My program was PHP, so i translated it from C (K&R!, boy that's old :)

The PHP source is here

Unfortunately, I'm not a mathematician and I'll need to find ways to adapt that code or find some other code where I can adjust kurtosis, standard deviation, etc.

I'd look in Knuth's Seminumerical algorithms, but it might not be there. And anyway, my copy is in Mindanao. I won't be able to refer to that until I go in May.


Email from idiots is spam

I use gmail, and the spam marking feature, and the fact that it's so easy to use, is very nice.

Every once in a while I see vacation messages posted to mailing lists. Every single one of those I mark as spam in gmail. Partly I do that because people who don't know enough to set selective filters on their vacation messages are too dumb to listen to.

The gmail filter will learn from vacation messages which words score high as spam and perhaps future vacation messages will be marked spam and I'll see less of them. Also, the authors may start to score higher as spammers. That's a good thing too, for me. I'll see less of their mail since their mail will automatically go to the spam mailbox, and when I go in there to confirm which emails are spam, I get a chance to despam those emails which are important.

I don't think I've seen gmail do that yet though (filter mainly on the sender's email address), I've seen Bob Reyes' spams about his hosting service end up in the spam mailbox, but that's just because the email was spam, not because the emails were from him.



Sol and I were lucky enough to go on CamiguinAction's Katibawasan Rapelling and Canyoning tour. She was supposed to do her confined water exercises and open water diver qualifying dives. That didn't happen though because of the weather. She did all that when we came back after New Years day instead.

On the 31st though, we were supposed to go back to Cagayan de Oro on an earlier boat, but we took the last boat instead (and lucky to have made it :) because Diggi had some guests who wanted to do the rapelling tour and it was a great opportunity for Sol to go on the same tour. I've done the tour several times, it's neat,

The tour is composed of a hike up to a point above the main falls, walking along the stream to the first wall, and rapelling down the first wall.

She slipped once, but the ropes and harness and the safety setup were excellent and she didn't fall. She just got back up and walked down the wall until she got to the ledge, disconnected the rope and jumped the five feet or so to the water below.

The second (or third,stage, I forget exactly) is a slide. The water wasn't very strong this time, even though it had rained the previous two days or so, but the slide was cool anyway. Everyone else did the slide, except me. I preferred walking down the wall :).

There's another wall, and some walking down the stream and finally we got to the top of the main waterfall. That's too high to rapell down, at any rate, it is for non-professionals. So we just enjoyed the view (there was a slight drizzle, making for a beautiful cool day) and Sol looked over the edge.

After walking down walls and sliding down canyons, of course, we had to do everything in reverse :). So we walked up the walls and back down the mountain.

At the end of the tour, everyone is exhausted, exhilarated, glowing.


Sol is taking her PADI open water course with my favorite dive shop, CamiguinAction. She studied theory (DVD and book) for several days and then took her basic exercises, exam and qualifying open water dives in the last four days.

I went diving with them on dive #1 (Tangub bay) and dives #2 (Old Volcano) and #3 (Tangub bay again).

I missed dive #2 since I was sick that day (something I ate didn't agree with me).

All the dives were great. I don't think I've dived Camiguin this late in the year before (I lost my dive log around when I had my latest and most serious motorcycle accident, I need to find that, it's got to be around somewhere), and the diving is surprisingly good.

Of course, these are qualifying dives, so it's not like I was sightseeing. I was keeping an eye on sol and her classmate all the while, and dive #1 was only to 12 meters. Dive #1 was pretty good, even though only at a maximum of 12 meters. Tangub bay is great even at shallow depths. And while they were doing some buoyancy control exercises I was looking at four nudibranchs, all less than a centimeter long, but walking along the sea floor as if they owned it.

Dive #3, Old Volcano, is always great. There are pillars and canyons from the last volcano eruption, and the sea life is very rich (I saw my first turtle there, during one of *my* qualifying dives in May 2003). I saw a lionfish immediately, and there were large triggerfish, a tuna (in the depths, diggi and dodong saw it, but sol and i didn't), several different kinds of sweetlips, batfish, and lots of other fish which make camiguin diving incredibly beautiful. It's commonplace at all camiguin divesites (incredibly electric blue fish, brilliantly electric violet/purple fish, clownfish, nudibranchs, everything else) but it never palls.

Sol was a bit tense since I mentioned a current. But she calmed down (diggi is a really great instructor, divemaster, and knowing that i'd be around, that diggi was guiding, and that we've got trained boatmen who keep a watch out for us helps a beginning diver's confidence a lot) and we had a great dive.

Dive #4, Tangub bay again, was more interesting than the first dive since we went deeper (18m) and further out. There were still exercises (additional buoyancy exercise, swimming without mask, etc), but they didn't take too long. There was a flutefish much like this one. I thought it changed color to match the color of something it moved close to when we approached it. But sol didn't see that, so maybe I was imagining things. We need to get an underwater case for the digicam :).

There were also incredible nudibranchs, and all the standard fish, lots of triggerfish and it might have been that this was where we saw the batfish and not Old Volcano :).

Incredibly fun dives all around. The last dive at Tangub bay was pretty cold, but it was worth it.

Hay, I hope we can dive in May :).


TSA experiences and impressions

I've seen a lot of ranting and negative reporting on the difficulties and indignities of TSA screening in the United States. I'm sure some of that negative reporting is on target. Something so new and (because it's so new, mostly) ad-hoc is going to cause problems for a bit. It may improve. In fact, I think it certainly will improve, although, like the US war in Iraq, it will always generate negative publicity because it is (although less so) still inherently weak.

That said though, I also have to say that, during my most recent trip to the U.S. (2002), I didn't really have anything to complain about. Things may be different now. Certainly I'd be severely bent out of joint if my name (or something similar to my name) were on a watchlist and I couldn't find a way to explain to the TSA that that was just someone else with my name. On the other hand, I doubt if there *is* anyone else out there with my name, so, unlike Senator Kennedy, I'm probably not going to have to ring up my (non-existent) high level friends to get my name off the list.

In any case, I didn't have any TSA problems at all when I was travelling. To be sure, I was flagged for the extra search just before boarding the plane at every single flight I was on. But I figured that was because of my age, gender, and country of origin. I thought it was kind of a stupidity to choose me, but they also choose little old ladies and 3 year old children, and I didn't mind much since I never missed any flights.

There's a lot of online and news ranting about rude TSA personnel, but I never encountered any of that. If anything, I was extremely impressed with the politeness of one older gentleman at Dulles airport. And everywhere else I found service pretty good. Of course, I don't feel the need to talk about bombs and chemicals and security stupidities in TSA lines. No doubt that helps. I'm sure that there are TSA stupidities that are due to rule inflexibility. But that's a general failing in the US, and it's not necessarily the TSA personnel's fault. Personal rudeness by TSA personnel is their own personal fault, but as I say, I've just never seen any of that.

Of course, the situation has changed a bit since I was last there. If (or when) I go to the US in a year or two, I won't be surprised to notice a few occasions of TSA rudeness, but I don't really expect to. I figure they're pretty rare. They just get blown up in the press (as they should be, so that individual abusive TSA personnel can get the sack, or at least reprimands).