Incomplete Archives

Due to a switch to the Blogger service, these archives are incomplete (the below entry is the last that will be added to this page). The author is in the process (the slow process) of migrating these archives to a new, more complete page, but that hasn't been done yet. For now, feel free to visit the main page; you may not find what you were looking for, but hopefully you'll find something to pass the time.

Last modified Tue Jun 20 13:07:00 2006.

Blogger Update

I've done a pretty good job so far of updating the site to use Blogger, but there's still lots to do. The med school, archives, and links pages are still using the old format until I put the work into fitting them into the Blogger system somehow. I've still got about 170 posts to convert over to the new system, and then (probably) plenty of editing and formatting to make everything look just right. Still, it's gone faster than I'd expected.

This will, however, probably be my last post for some time, at least until the archives page is somehow automatically-generated and all those posts are converted manually. For the moment, each new page I add has to be put into Blogger and my old system independently, and that's a bit annoying. Still, keep checking back, and please email me with any issues you encounter or suggestions for better formatting or behavior. Thanks!

Last modified Sun Oct 9 12:11:15 2005.

Now Using Blogger

Thanks to the fine folks at Blogger (which is, of course, in turn thanks to the fine folks at Google), this site is now significantly easier to maintain. This is following my satisfaction at having converted my ChristianJones.MD site to use Blogger; that said, this one will take quite a lot more work, if only because of the much higher number of posts to move over.

Blogger's not perfect. I don't yet have a good way to distinguish automatically between “posted at” and “last edited at” times, and I'd like the option to have some simple markup-less input nicely converted into well-formed XHTML. That said, they've put a decent product together, and I'm happy to shill for it, at least until I come up with my own alternative.

So expect some more changes over the next several days (weeks, months, years,…). I'll be manually transferring most of the posts, and there are quite a few. Thanks for reading—I'll do my best to keep writing.

Last modified Sun Oct 9 12:03:04 2005.

Bush Happy with Rita Photo Ops

Just a quick shout out to Andy Borowitz for the excellent Newsweek writeup of Bush's image work. Almost Onion-worthy. If I'd thought of it first, almost exactly the way I'd have written it.

Last modified Tue Sep 27 23:10:38 2005.

I've Survived Medicine

General Medicine I is complete. It's the first clerkship I've completed, so I'm pretty happy. I've also got the weekend off before starting the dreaded Ob/Gyn on Monday. Lindsey and I will try to catch Proof tomorrow, and I'm going to try to finish the latest Harry Potter (finally). All in all, nice and relaxing.

Medicine actually wasn't too bad—I've still had enough time to catch most of the new television shows, and I've also been taking some time to work on ChristianJones.MD, my “professional” site. I'm almost finished switching it to the Blogger engine, which is going even better than I'd hoped. There are some things I don't care for about Blogger, but all in all it's been a quite positive change. Check out the site sometime, and let me know what you think.

For now, though, it's back to relaxing. Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Last modified Fri Sep 23 21:13:04 2005.

Rumors of my departure have been greatly exaggerated

Lindsey and I went out for lunch today, and I had the lucky chance to run into Chris, a friend of mine from med school. Turns out there are some rumors going around that I left school—rumors which I'll start to lay to rest here by saying that I haven't. Oh, I seriously thought about it, but ended up just taking off most of my first rotation; two days of surgery was a rough start on me mentally, so I switched my schedule around, had almost six weeks of “vacation”, and am now done with two weeks of my internal medicine clerkship.

It's going reasonably well—I don't have as much free time as I'd like, but that's to be expected. I'm much more “with it” now. If you don't see me around school, it's only because these first three weeks of IM are my outpatient rotation—I'll be back in the hospital just after labor day. See you then!

Last modified Sat Aug 27 19:51:03 2005.

Internal Medicine

I'm spending the next two and a half weeks at a private physician's office in Alhambra, working hard for this half of my Internal Medicine rotation. The schedule's not a killer, but I'm still So Very Tired®. My weekends are off, though, so hopefully I'll have the time and inclination to post a bit more then….

Last modified Thu Aug 18 07:37:16 2005.

More power!

Don't want to write much (there's so much to talk about), but I did want to apologize for any downtime and note that there may be more.

Southern California is in a state of “power emergency”, according to MSNBC. Basically, the “independent” power companies have several power plants out of commission at the moment, and they can't keep up with record demand—a bit of which my two air conditioners, home entertainment system, and twelve computer probably have contributed. Our house has had (at least) three blackouts in the last 48 hours, and I wouldn't be surprised to have more.

I'm running relatively blind—most of my work is currently on my Mac mini and an LCD or on my OpenBSD laptop. I've also got the server, a couple of routers and access points, and the DSL modem all running. That's really not bad as far as power drain goes, as I have all my other machines, including the power-hungry Windows computer, completely off at the moment. More energy is going toward simply staying cool, as it's damn hot here in LA.

The one nice thing is that this situation's given me a chance to test my UPS systems. They've held up great, even though all the machines I mentioned before (except the laptop) are hooked up to only two of them. They're consumer models from Belkin that have been on sale at one point or another, and they haven't turned off spontaneously yet. (In each of the prior outages, I shut down the connected computers and turned off the battery backups myself.)

The other lesson here, of course, is that I really need a form of off-grid renewable energy of fairly large magnitude—or somehow tap into one of the hospital's generators.

Last modified Thu Aug 18 07:42:28 2005.

On Hiatus

I'm on hiatus—from school, posting here, and pretty much all of The Outside World®—until further notice, probably somewhere between one week and one month. I'm still alive, but this site is pretty near the bottom of my list of priorities for the moment. I'll be back, but don't hold your breath.

Last modified Thu Jul 14 22:42:12 2005.

Brief update

It's been a pretty long week, so I'll just say that (as far as I know) the USMLE Step 1 went no better and no worse than I'd expected, and it'll be about six weeks until I get the results. By that time, I'll be just about finished with my Surgery rotation. For the last few days, I've been alternately relaxing and doing a load of those errands you save up for such times, and I'm already pretty tired and in no way ready to head back to school on Tuesday. Hopefully, though, it'll be a fun weekend—Lindsey and I are headed down to the San Diego Wild Animal Park tomorrow and staying in Escondido overnight. We'll be back for some fun and relaxing on Sunday (when we're likely to catch War of the Worlds), the typical 4th-of-July-barbecuing on Monday, and then 3rd-year orientation is on Tuesday. Sure, lots of work to do before then, but I'm just going to try to relax. Still, expect more updates as I can…

Last modified Thu Jun 30 21:26:34 2005.

Test Tomorrow

In less than 24 hours, I'll be done with (at least my first shot at) the USMLE Step 1. I've basically taken today off; Lindsey and I watched Primal Fear and a lot of TV. Nice and relaxing, though I think it's safe to say this is the most nervous I've ever been about an exam. (Actually, I'm not positive of that—my last couple of exams have been pretty nerve-racking. It's like my confidence has been shot since failing GI. Nah, that couldn't be it.)

I've had time to do just a bit of computer work in the last couple of days, and I got to do my semi-annual Fry's shopping spree today. Lots of great stuff and great deals—I'm sure I'll spend the next week or so putting everything together.

On the computer/med school front, I've also had the opportunity to help a couple of friends make the transition from USC's exceedingly poor web mail service to Gmail. They seemed to appreciate the assistance, so in anticipation (and the hope) of more people doing the same, I've made up a little guide to using Gmail instead of USC Email. It's likely to be renovated (in format, not content) soon, with a reformatting of a lot of my pages already in progress, but it should still be accessible at that address.

On a final computing note, I've heard about the AdvocacyDev Conference being held in Oakland a couple of weeks from now, a meeting of using Free and Open Source Software in politics and activism. This sounds like an absolutely thrilling thing, and I'd love to take part in something like this, but that'll be the first weekend of my surgery rotation, so no real luck there. Oh, well. Something to think about for next year.

So that's about it for now. Still wondering if I'll feel great relief tomorrow or be crying in bed for a few days….

Last modified Sun Jun 26 19:37:33 2005.

Five more days

Five more, then I'm (with any luck at all) done with two years of med school. Half a doctor; I can only hope the next two (and residency, and life afterwards) are at least marginally better. In the meantime, though, it's all about going over flashcards and listening to some Goljan audio reviews. I'm starting to randomly think about medical things when I'm not studying, which is ridiculously unpleasant, but is probably a good sign. I've never been big on thinking about “work” when I'm not working, but it's happening at the moment, so I suppose I should just go with it.

A couple little interesting things I read about today: there's a Slashdot review of Darknet, a (relatively) new book subtitled Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation. It turns out the journalist who wrote it has a blog at Darknet.com, and he's got some very interesting thoughts and anecdotes about copyright and fair use. (I particularly like—and will probably start using—his phrase “copyright cartel”. Might pick up the book, if I ever have the time and inclination at the same moment, but you can bet I'll start linking to the blog on a regular basis.

On a marginally related note, there's been talk—even though the story's almost a month old—about a “researcher” cracking Windows Genuine Advantage. It's not particularly impressive, actually, since it basically involves just using a number generated on a “legal” installation of Microsoft Windows to use products on an “unofficial” installation. (Windows Genuine Advantage is the program Microsoft will soon begin using to verify your installation of Windows is legal, and then let you download patches and add-on software based on that.)

To be honest, I don't have moral qualms about Microsoft releasing patches and add-ons only to “legal” installations. I think it's a poor choice for them and for the Net at large, but I have my single legal license, and am happy to use free software for my other PCs, so they're welcome—from a legal and moral standpoint—to add functionality only available to purchasing customers. That's fine. What I'm not okay with is that every time I download such a piece of software, or have to reinstall Windows, or whatever, they get that information. IANAL, but I'm fairly certain Microsoft's EULA doesn't include anything about me informing them every time I perform computer maintenance, and that seems like the next step. Mandatory bug reports. Obtaining permission before changing configuration. I'm not happy with that. So, despite the lack of technical impressario in the WGA workaround, it could still be useful. Or, you know, maybe not.

Last modified Wed Jun 22 20:17:24 2005.

Privacy be damned

Just a couple of quick notes today, then it's back to studying.

I'm a geek, and very slightly paranoid. I'm supposed to care about privacy issues, and I'm reminded of this every so often, mostly to the derision of my friends and colleagues. People on Slashdot (mind you, I'm in no way suggesting these are people I'm trying to emulate) rant on about the problems with grocery “club cards” and such. The essential problem, they say, is that it's not reasonable to “opt out” of the information being gathered by the programs, since they're the only way to get a reasonable price on groceries. So I was half annoyed with myself when I bought some over-the-counter loratadine at the local SavOn a few days ago, applied for a club card to get a significant discount, and didn't write incorrect information on the form. I'm supposed to care, right? Yet it didn't even occur to me to falsify the info until I'd filled out the form and left the store.

(Don't even get me started on the hoops I had to jump through to get a hospital ID badge. Presumably the school already can prove I'm who I say I am, but here we go giving out driver license numbers, social security numbers, and even fingerprints. Gah.)

Okay, to try and make up for that a bit, I'm writing just a short bit about privacy policies and information collection. You know those policy statements we regularly get from banks, credit card companies, and so forth, describing the limits they go to not to archive information about you, to protect it from others, etc.? Well, it turns out those are all but meaningless. The information, apparently, passes through a number of other systems, some of which seem to have fewer scruples about how they manage where you just spent that $19.95 on the web. This weekend, it was announced that one of these providers (CardSystem Solutions) was hacked into, and a brief scare about the exposure of info of 40 million credit card users exposed was announced. Now the company admits it wasn't supposed to be storing the information, yet we've heard no announcement of an investigation or lawsuit to remedy the situation.

Part of that may be because the government's a bit busy with similar matters closer to them. It turns out the TSA and its contractors have been keeping databases of passenger data even after they've been specifically told by Congress not to. Yep, the government is keeping tabs on you—but it's not the FBI or CIA, it's the people who can't even get you through a metal detector in less than two hours. Nice to see who has “secured” my privacy.

Last modified Tue Jun 21 08:07:59 2005.

Year III, Baby!

(Yes, I'm aware I can't really pull off saying “baby” like that, but I'm excited, baby!)

Got my Year II Comprehensive Exam results today—I actually did well. Not just passing, mind you, but even above average! (I'm as shocked as you are.) Wow. Almost hard to believe that I'm half a doctor at this point. Technically, the only remaining thing I have to do before I can begin Year III is take the USMLE Step 1, but I only have to take it before the beginning of third year, not necessarily pass it. (To be honest, though, my surprising performance on this test has convinced me that, in fact, I can pass the boards, and may even do okay.)

So I've got a week to finish boning up on everything I was supposed to learn over the last two years. I've got forty hours of audio to listen to, (only) about a hundred and forty pages of notes to review, and somewhere in the neighborhood of four hundred flashcards to memorize—oh, and I need to make some for pharmacology. Not bad for a week's studying, eh?

So, no real fun for a week, but I'm having pizza, beer, and champagne (hey, who said we're not classy?) tonight, and I've already seen Batman Begins, so I'm all set until War of the Worlds comes out next week. (Oh, by the way, Batman was good; easily the best since the 1992 Batman, but I'm not exactly sure which I liked better. Christian Bale does brooding well, but Michael Keaton pulls off the dark humor better. Three stars; worth a viewing in the theater, but it wouldn't hurt to wait for the DVD.)

Last modified Mon Jun 20 14:23:02 2005.

Treo 650

After a great deal of thinking about it, I bought a pa1mOne Treo today, the “smartphone” that's a Palm OS PDA and cell phone in one. I got a great deal on it, and it's been hinted that we'll need a Palm (or some other PDA that runs ePocrates) for next year. I did a lot of research, and decided to conglomerate the two devices.

Problem is, the thing isn't all that great. I'm returning it. There are a huge number of things that my Zaurus does that the Treo doesn't do—or at least doesn't do free and/or easily—and the interface just isn't what I'd like. It is a nice cell phone, but as far as PDAs go, it seems that I'm just paying for it being a “Palm” because it's a “standard”, not because it does anything special. And paying a lot, I might add—it's just not worth $300 to $400.

So I'm returning it, and it looks like it's back to the Zaurus. That's not bad, but I've never been satisfied with certain aspects of the Zaurus. (The PIM, actually—all the non-PIM things are great, but what's the use of a PDA without a PIM?) I don't like any of ROMs I long ago learned to install on the device to replace the default one. So it looks like I'm back to making a Linux distribution—interesting how these things come back to haunt you. Let's see what we end up with, in all my copious free time.

Speaking of which, I'll take off a couple of hours to see Batman Begins with a couple of my friends. If it's as decently dark as it could be, I should be happy.

Last modified Wed Jun 15 19:45:54 2005.

epguides.com

Just a follow up on a previous complaints about the change at TvTome: I'm now using epguides.com for the basic purposes I mentioned in that entry, namely determining where an episode with a particular title falls into the series. It's far from perfect, as all the links to episodes point to the old TvTome page for that episode, and many (or maybe all) don't work correctly. There's also no news or list of available and upcoming DVDs for most shows. The biggest worry, however, is that the site seems to be fairly closely affiliated with TvTome (or TV.com), and it's not clear how long it will be around or how often it's updated.

No, nothing important, just more complaining. On the good side of TV, though, Toon Disney has started showing The Tick most nights. Excellent—check your local listings. It's not really mentioned anywhere on the site, but the TiVo seems to think it's on every night at 8 PM (Pacific). If you haven't watched this show, and want to see one of the places that the not-just-for-kids animation thing started, check it out.

Last modified Tue Jun 14 13:16:00 2005.

Blogging and Journalism—the new verbiage

There's a new discussion on Slashdot about how much blogs suck. Most of the topics stem from one of two ideas:

One writer, in reference to the second point, had what may be the best description I've read of the difference between a “blog” and a “journal”—the relevant summary is: At least to my mind, a "journal" is an online diary, intended primarily for yourself and your friends. A "blog" is a soapbox or editorial page directed at the outside world. The difference is the size of the target audience..

The only issue I have with this is that it ignores the root of the word “journalism”, which is most often used to describe traditional media. Still, I think it's particularly clear that this is an important distinction. What I'm writing is a journal—I honestly don't expect anyone other than my acquaintances to care what's written here, and quite possibly not even then. I may make editiorial rants from time to time, some of which may even be topical, none of which should be considered newsworthy—this site's more cathartic than informative, I have no doubt.

Why does Google need to archive what I thought about the Repro exam, or why I don't really like LA? It doesn't, and I can only barely imagine anyone finding it useful—but it's still information, it still should be accessible, and if it makes searching for relevant items more difficult, then perhaps it's the search technology that needs to change. If it were a matter of somehow tagging a site or page as “editorial”, I'd be happy to do so. Come to think of it, maybe that's the next step for the “priority” tag in Google Sitemaps. I can even imagine the new query:

(openbsd OR netbsd) "cd audio" priority:+0.7

Last modified Tue Jun 14 10:56:26 2005.

TvTome is dead

A few weeks back, CNET acquired TvTome, which was an excellent resource for TV watchers who were a bit anal about it. Personally, I found it great for cataloging anything I downloaded from the TiVo. Alas, it is no more. CNET has apparently changed the name (and URL) to TV.com, and changed the format into one that makes it inordinately harder for me to use. No longer do half of my “Episode List” bookmarks work, and those that do take me to an area that lists different seasons on different pages, with no clear way to change this. Want to find out which episode of The Simpsons is entitled “Marge be not Proud”? Well, now it seems you already have to know that it's in season 7, or browse through all sixteen until you find it by hand. (For this specific show, I'll now be using The Simpsons Archive Episode QuickList instead, but that's not really the point.)

So, yeah, they changed a site with a huge userbase to actually get rid of what some people (like me) consider features, made it look nicer, and broke at least one element of the W3C Style Guide (“Cool URIs don't change”). They've flash-ified it, and basically made the site all but useless to me. You'd think I'd be used to the corporate annexation of the web, right?

Maybe the problem is that this isn't always what happens. A few years ago, Amazon bought IMDb. The biggest change I noted was that after several months imdb.org stopped working, and you had to go to imdb.com instead. Since then, IMDb has added features, but the basic layout has remained the same; even the links I have from around 2000 still work. (IMDb did change their address style at one point, but that was well before the Amazon takeover.) It seems like a no-brainer: buy something successful, make small changes to avoid alienating those who made it successful and in the hopes of attracting others.

For better or worse, it's not all about eliminating competition—I know I'm an idealist, but there really is still something to be said for content.

Last modified Mon Jun 13 18:27:54 2005.

Shakin' & Quakin'

For the first time I can positively identify, I felt an earthquake this morning—I suppose that's what I get for waking up early and studying. There have been times before I've thought I've felt a quake, only to realize that it's just a large truck driving by or the laundry on a spin cycle. In all the false-positive cases (and this real one), I'm sitting at my main computer. The monitor's a hefty 19-inch CRT on a little stand built onto the desk. It starts jiggling a little, and I think “I wonder if that's an earthquake”.

Well, this time it was. The Pasadena office of the USGS is reporting a magnitude 5.6 quake out in the inland empire. Seemed a little different this time, too—it lasted much longer than I thought it would, probably around ten seconds or so. I got up to see if other parts of the house were shaking, and, sure enough, some of our little knicknacks were rattling around a bit. Somewhat surprisingly, the cats didn't seem at all frightened, or even surprised. The quake didn't even wake Lindsey, so she's not too scared, either.

In any case, an interesting new experience. Speaking of which, there are rumors (which I picked up from a Slashdot article) that Mac OS X for x86 has been leaked. Ah, if only I had the time and energy to start playing with that instead of studying. (Okay, to tell the truth, I just haven't been able to find it yet, and figured I shouldn't waste any more time this morning.) Let me know if you try it out—as usual, I'm curious.

Last modified Sun Jun 12 09:21:57 2005.

The Smiths

Mr. & Mrs. Smith may be the best movie I've seen this year. (For nostalgic purposes, I'm having a little trouble reconciling that possibility against my love for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.) An easy and enjoyable four stars; see it if you have the chance. I'm not much of an Angelina Jolie fan, but I've liked just about everything Brad Pitt's done, so I was at least happy to give it a try—and it's an absolutely hilarious action movie. Lindsey even really liked it. There are only three or four more movies I'm really motivated to see this summer, so I'd say it's a good bet this one would be a good bet for you.

In unrelated news, the first person I know to have taken this summer's USMLE finished it today. My friend Kelechi left me with the impression he wasn't overwhelmed by it, and finished in less than four hours. That bodes well for me—I don't work nearly as hard as Kelechi, but then I don't expect to get nearly as good a score. As I've said before, I'm happy getting above the mean. Still, keep wishing me luck—I've got just over two weeks left to prepare.

Last modified Sat Jun 11 22:27:59 2005.

Open Source “Community”

It seems like that “community” word has been coming up more and more lately. Yeah, I consider that a good thing (lower case), if only because I generally consider “community” a Good Thing®. I went to undergrad in what I would consider the closest thing to a real community that I've ever lived in, and I've been desperately trying to get back to it ever since—that sense not just of camaraderie, but of people truly considering others in their actions, caring about others in the community, and doing what they can to make everyone's experience worthwhile—not just their own.

Yesterday, I read a NewsForge editorial about the lack of community in open source, or at least the apparent lack, but doesn't go into any real depth. Today there's a Mac Observer editorial chastising the community of “Mac evangelists”, those who actually drive others away from wanting to buy a Mac because of their zealotry. (No, the irony that I was apparently wrong about “how cool” the Intel Mac was a couple of days ago is not lost on me.)

Finally, though, is a topic that's been coming to a head for a while now: OpenBSD. The benevolent dictator of the project has a fairly well-known temper. Some say he has an attitude problem, arrogance, and so forth—I'm not one to judge him on that aspect. The general consensus among developers and long-time users is that he's in charge, the developers develop for themselves, not for the users, and the users offer intelligent feedback and questions; if a user wants something that's not there, they can mention it, but they aren't generally to get upset if developers say “That's not a priority for us”. I've only been an OpenBSD user for about a year, so I don't know if it's always been this way, but it seems to work for the project.

Lately, perhaps because OpenBSD has been getting more publicity, there seems to be a greater number of questions on the mailing lists from people who clearly don't get this concept. It's not exactly the type of community I was talking about before, but it is a group with a common goal and a reasonable way of doing things, and it's been disrupted quite a bit lately by people who may or may not be well-intentioned and who seem to care less about OpenBSD and more about their own problems. Not surprisingly, a large number of people who have been around a while take issue with this, and this all lead to a misc@openbsd thread about being nicer on the list—which does absolutely nothing to quell the actual problem.

No, I'm not suggesting being dictatorial is a great way to get your point across—only that those who disrupt a community can't expect to be invited and welcomed graciously.

Last modified Fri Jun 10 15:06:46 2005.

Developer Transition Kit

Just a quick update (during a rare break in my studies) to my comments a couple of days ago about Apple's Developer Transition Kit, the system designed for developers to start building Intel binaries: it turns out that for $999 you get a lease of the hardware, not keep it. That's not yet been confirmed (I sent an email to Apple but haven't yet received a reply), but it at least makes a lot more sense.

That's actually a Good Thing®, as I have neither the money nor the time to pick one of these up and start screwing around with it—but probably would have done so, anyway.

Last modified Wed Jun 8 10:47:25 2005.

Back to studying

After a nice long weekend off, it's back to the grindstone. I've got just under three weeks until I take the USMLE Step 1; at this point, I'm hoping for just over the mean. (By this time next week, I may just be hoping to pass.) Yesterday and today have been concentrating on embryology; I'm almost finished with that, then it's on to several days of pathology.

The only actual news I wanted to mention today was yesterday's announcement of the demise of DVD Decrypter. The first DVD ripper I ever used, DVD Decrypter has always been easy to use, and set the bar by which I still measure capabilities of software that lets me copy a movie from disc to hard drive (still the most convenient way to watch a movie on the road with my laptop). As it turns out, I downloaded the last version ever to be released (3.5.4.0) a few weeks ago, and had considered posting it here, but I don't have the fight left in me today. Yup, it's slackers like me who have apparently let the studios win another one….

Last modified Tue Jun 7 11:37:33 2005.

When did I become Steve Jobs's butt-boy?

So I'm taking a break from studying, and I see that Apple has just announced that Macs will soon be using Intel processors. What's more, a “Developer Transition Kit” is now available to members of Apple Developer Connection; it consists of a 3.6 GHz Pentium 4 running Mac OS X 10.4 for $999. What's particularly frightening is that that excites the hell out of me. This is the same reaction I had to the Mac mini. I want one.

Also somewhat disturbing is that depending on the quality of the machine (which, honestly, can't be bad coming from Apple), and including the $500 fee for joining ADC at a sufficient level to buy, tihs is actually a good price. The absolute cheapest I can get a Dell 3.6 GHz P4 is $1,099, without much software or hardware (comparable to what I'm expecting). Mind you, I'm not a paying member of ADC, so it's quite uncertain what the specs are on that machine, but it's clearly not the outrageous markup we've come to expect from Apple.

Last modified Mon Jun 6 12:39:48 2005.

New Server

I spent the weekend migrating this site (along with all of aleph0.com, christianjones.md, and norightsreserved.org) to a new server. Well, “different” server would probably be a better term, as I've had the hardware for years. It's an AMD Duron 1.3 GHz with (only) 96 MB of RAM and a 40 GB hard disk. This might seem a bit underpowered for a server, but it's only a low-traffic http server; the most popular stuff on it is my friend Deb's med school notes and such. Besides, the computer this site has been running on for years is Pentium MMX 233 MHz with only 64 MB of RAM; this is definitely a step up, and I have, somewhat surprisingly, been able to tell a difference in performance of the server.

I also took the opportunity—in fact, the real reason for the upgrade—to upgrade to OpenBSD 3.7; OpenBSD only makes patches for the last year's worth of systems, and the old 3.5 machine was ready for bed. Expect the same thing next year around this time.

For now, though, it's back to studying, at least until I find out if I passed the comprehensive exam….

Last modified Mon Jun 6 07:43:58 2005.

Freer speech

Well, more free, if only slightly so. The EFF (of which, by the way, I'm now a proud member) is reporting that offering a copyrighted work is not the same as distributing it; those who wish to sue someone for copyright infringement must actually prove that the work was, for instance, downloaded illegally, rather than just being posted on the web or listed in an index. This means (I believe), that sites listing where to go for copyrighted content or making indexes of BitTorrent files is not infringement. (Hosting a tracker, however, will remain up in the air for some time, of course.) This is a Good Thing®

Keeping with the whole free speech thing, I'm consistently amused that one large group is as active as it is about speech and privacy: librarians. I still have the image of every librarian I've ever known as a semi-retired woman with graying hair who's very pleasant, but seems very conservative. Whether this is an accurate picture or not, they tend to get anxious about little things like the “PATRIOT” act's seizure of library records; the American Library Association even has an Office for Intellectual Freedom. It may be a bit easier in the near future to deal with such requests for information from the government: Information Today is reporing that anonymous library cards may be on their way. Yeah, I've got to respect that.

So my exam went fine (probably), and I'm more-or-less taking the weekend off to recuperate; I'll start studying for the boards again on Monday. I'm also doing a bit of behind-the-scenes work here on the web server, including adding support for Google's new Sitemaps service, and upgrading to a new machine running OpenBSD 3.7. I'm sure I'll mention more about these changes over the next several weeks, so stay tuned.

Last modified Sat Jun 4 17:46:56 2005.

Deep Throat

(No, not like that, you sick bastards!) In what's sure to be the most-read story of the day, Bob Woodward describes meeting Deep Throat and their subsequent relationship (which sounds far more racy from this brief description than is probably intended). It's very interesting to read about all this, but Keith Olbermann still doesn't think they've got the right guy, and he asks some good questions.

Off that subject and on to some computing. Good news, and bad. First, the EFF has declared victory on the broadcast flag issue, or at least has come as close as I'd like them to. Digital television, if it ever is actually mandated to be the only television, is unlikely to require the broadcast flag at least at the beginning. No, my pcHDTV card is no longer necessary (and, for that matter, still not set up properly), but it's nice to have the support of a good manufacturer if it's needed later on, anyway.

The bad news (from my perspective) is really only a warning—the threat of power outages this summer seems to be on the rise for the southeast and southwest US. Oh, Southern California seems to be used to them at this point, but my servers likely only last for a few minutes on their UPSs; if “rolling blackouts” take an hour or more, I'm likely to see some downtime. Sure, that doesn't hurt my bottom line as though I run some commercial server space—but it still hurts my pride.

Okay, so back to studying. I'm currently only averaging about 60% on the Kaplan practice tests I'm taking, but I'm getting the impression they're much harder than the comprehensive exam I'll be taking tomorrow, if not harder than the USMLE itself. I'm just starting to be fairly confident I'll go on to third year, but wish me luck anyway—I can always use a little more.

Last modified Thu Jun 2 07:55:04 2005.

Still studying…

Not a lot of news today, but I took the evening off to watch a couple old episodes of Dead Like Me and relax with Lindsey. It's a shame the show's been cancelled, but at least that means I'll have the entire collection when the second season is released on DVD in a few weeks. I suppose it's not that surprising, either—I've noticed smart, funny, vaguely disturbing series being cancelled on TV for years. The first I remember was also one of the funniest sitcoms I can remember, Stark Raving Mad. I'm sure, though, that such a thing was happenning long before I was born.

Studying's going surprisingly well, even as it's quite unpleasant. I've finished reading First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 and moved on to Princeton Review's Cracking the Boards: USMLE Step 1. I'd love to have it done well before my comprehensive exam on Friday, but I don't know how likely that is. Still, I've read several hundred pages over the last few days, so hopefully I'll be able to keep it up.

Oh, and if I can actually pull off a decent boards score and pass the comprehensive, I might just have to write a little guide about how best to procrastinate and cram for the USMLE.

Last modified Tue May 31 20:47:18 2005.

Gaming (not gambling)

I'm not much of a gamer. I've got friends who spend their extra hours playing World of Warcraft, Vice City: San Andreas, or whatever the current games are. Personally, I'm looking for another decent version of Civilization (or Freeciv) or another turn-based strategy I can play reasonably well. To be honest, I'm just looking for something a little interesting that not everyone kicks my ass at. (I remember being great at Descent, and horrible at Doom, for instance. Haven't played many 3D games ever since.)

It's this search for something a little different that made A Gamers' Manifesto such a nice (and funny) read. Twenty points unlikely to be addressed by the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, or Nintendo Revolution—and right near the front, at number 2, is “Give us a genre of game we've never seen before”:

Why isn't a there a spy game where we actually get to be a real spy rather than a hallway-roving kill machine? You know, where we actually have to talk to contacts and extract information and tap phones and piece together clues, a game full of exotic locales and deception and backstabbing and subplots? A game where a gun is used as often as a real spy would use it (that is, almost never)?

Where's the game where we're a castaway on a deserted island and the object of the game is to find food and clean water and build a shelter, a game where we can play for one month or six months, because whether or not we get rescued is randomized? Where every time we restart we get a different island with different wildlife and vegetation and water sources?

Where's the game where we play a salty Southern lawyer who has to piece together evidence to exonerate a black man falsely accused of murder, breaking down witnesses and spotting inconsistencies in testimony?

In what universe are these games that wouldn't sell, games that can't even get made? One of the author's other suggestions is a game were we actually play as Dr. Greg House “diagnose mysterious illnesses while crushing the patient's spirit with cruel insults”. Honestly, if there was such a game announced for one of the new consoles (and it didn't appear to suck as ridiculously as those “Emergency Room” games), I'd preorder the console today.

Of course, it's not going to happen. Looks like I'll stick with searching Freshmeat for open source games.

Last modified Tue May 31 20:48:35 2005.

Blogging journalism

I've mentioned before some of the issues I have with treating bloggers and journalists differently. I'm in no way claiming to be a journalist; I'm more of an editor. I don't do any real investigating, I usually just gather information and pass it on, often with editorial comments. I'm not claiming to be a journalist, but I see no reason to be treated differently from a legal standpoint. Speech is speech.

The reason I'm mentioning this is because of the apparent state of those who society does consider journalists. Google News linked to an article today entitled Microsoft-Netscape Conflict Leaves Firefox. I read tech articles quite frequently, but this one caught my eye for a different reason: even the short blurb in the Google News summary sounded ridiculous:

To the average user, Microsoft's recommendations to either uninstall the Netscape browser or fix a specific code in the registry makes no sense.

Most computer users have no idea how to install or even uninstall software. Trying to fix something foreign such as the registry is like reading Greek in Latin.

Ignoring the one- and two-sentence “paragraphs”, let's look at the only real “fact” reported here first: “Most computer users have no idea how to install or even uninstall software”. First, the topic is about uninstalling, and that's generally considered slightly more difficult than installing software, so let's at least switch which verb is next to the “even”. Next, let's make a simple note: if a user is confronted with the numerous conflicts between Netscape and Internet Explorer, then they have by definition already installed Netscape—this latest version with all the reported problems wasn't present on their computers when they bought them. Oh, and let's not forget the suggestion that the registry is “like reading Greek in Latin”. I'm no fan of the registry, and I wouldn't want to explain editing it to much of anyone, but “like reading Greek in Latin”? I don't even know what that means.

Mind you, these are just the first three sentences. Steve Sabludowsky, the “reporter” who submitted this piece goes on later to such hard-hitting writing as “That is a big WOW and it doesn't take a degree in foreign archaic languages to understand the significance”. This guy (I think) would commonly be considered a “journalist” (if only because his story's linked to on Google News), while I'm not. Whether the site this story is on (BayouBuzz.com) is a blog or not, Mr. Sabludowsky's also apparently active in local media, including the New Orleans Times Picayune Newspaper, the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, and so forth. (His “About this Author” actually starts with the line: “Attorney, Writer, teacher, and Publisher of Bayoubuzz.com Mr. Stephen Sabludowsky is an attorney, writer and teacher.” If I had any indication this sentence was intended to be funny, it would be. Instead, it's just sad.)

So Mr. Sabludowsky is probably considered by the world at large to be a journalist, while judges are more interested in making sure I don't have the rights to protect my sources (or wouldn't have the rights, if I had any sources). I'm not complaining about Mr. Sabludowsky's success in the face of what is surely great adversity, nor about society's view of his being in some way superior to me. (Well, okay, I suppose I may be complaining a bit about the latter.) My real complaint is that if we make some distinction between journalism and whatever the alternative is, it would be nice for that to be based, at least marginally, on writing.

Last modified Tue May 31 20:49:18 2005.

Why smart people defend bad ideas

Thanks to Slashdot, an excellent article (or even “essay”) was brought to my attention. I haven't finished it yet, but it's really impressive so far. “Why smart people defend bad ideas” by Scott Berkun is not only an insightful look at how to keep from defending your choices to others when the ideas are wrong, but also how to defend yourself against those people who are doing so. More importantly to me, however, it's about not trying to win stupid arguments with yourself, like whether to study or edit a show you've downloaded from the TiVo. A brief excerpt:

From what we know of evolution it's clear that we are alive because of our inherited ability to think quickly and respond to change. The survival of living creatures, for most of the history of our planet, has been a short term game. Only if you can out-run your predators, and catch your prey, do you have the luxury of worrying about tomorrow.

It follows then that we tend to be better at worrying about and solving short term issues than long term issues. Even when we recognize an important long term issue that we need to plan for, say protecting natural resources or saving for retirement, we're all too easily distracted away from those deep thoughts by immediate things like dinner or sex (important things no doubt, but the driving needs in these pursuits, at least for this half of the species, are short term in nature). Once distracted, we rarely return to the long term issues we were drawn away from.

Last modified Sat May 28 23:02:22 2005.

Lindsey's Birthday

Studied some this morning, but I'm trying to make as much of today as possible about Lindsey. After she got up, we went out to see Madagascar (which was pretty poor—2 stars), have a decent lunch at Chili's, and then got her an ice cream cake at Cold Stone. She openned a couple of presents (just some games I got her), and then we took a nap. Pretty lame, if you think so, but damn if it's not a good day for us. Still, I'm really tired (we just got up a few minutes ago). She's on the phone with her sister now, so hopefully some cake will wake me in a few minutes.

Probably little more studying to do today—I really hope I'm not falling behind too much, but I swear I'm going to have to start studying hard Real Soon Now®.

Last modified Sat May 28 19:24:48 2005.

Excellent doctors

There's something to be said for being personable. My doctor, Todd Forman, is undoubtedly one of the most excellent physicians I've ever met. He's intelligent, reassuring, and friendly. He has one outstanding skill, though, that I still can't put my finger on, one that's shared by only a handful of other people I've met in my life. Without condescending, even requesting, he makes you want to do better.

My undergraduate advisor had the same skill; I remember missing a day of class in the second semester of my first year or the first semester of my second at Harvey Mudd. Ran Libeskind-Hadas was the instructor, and he was outstanding, so it was unusual to miss his class. Still, I was tired, so I stayed in. Less than an hour after class was over, Ran sent me an email “wanting to make sure everything was okay”, and made me feel like going to class every day thereafter whether I was tired or not, without even hinting I'd done anything wrong.

Todd's the same way. Nope, don't worry about starting any new medication until you're finished with boards. Sure, exercise, eat better, but don't stress out about it. And you know what? It actually makes me want to exercise and eat better, and I'll be more than happy to see him to start on an ACE inhibitor shortly after finishing the USMLE in a month. Wow.

Oh, and completely off-topic (as if I consider that a problem here): Today's Penny Arcade had me laughing like crazy.

Last modified Fri May 27 17:29:53 2005.

USMLE makes my BP rise

Alright, I have no reason to think that it's a causal relationship, but as I approach the USMLE Step 1 (not to mention my Year II Comprehensive next week), my blood pressure keeps climbing. I'm already taking a regular dose of hydrochlorothyazide; an earlier trial of a beta blocker (atenolol) is what I consider my primary reason for failing the GI system originally, so I'm desperately trying not to start any new meds. Oh, it could be stress, it could be anxiety, it could be anger, it could be (gasp) my obesity—but none of these are likely to be resolved any time soon, despite my best efforts. At the moment, my focus has to be on the next month's worth of hardcore studying; I'm just trying to make sure that it doesn't compromise the next several years of living which I hope to come after the exams.

In any case, I've got the first appointment with my doctor today in a few months, so we'll see what he has to say (other than “lose weight and here are some more beta blockers”, of course).

Last modified Fri May 27 09:48:16 2005.

4 8 15 16 23 42

Lost is over for the season (I finally got around to watching the season finale), and in the true The X-Files we're left with more questions than answers. In quite a little marketing coup, however, the writers have incorporated the above sequence of numbers into the show nicely enough that entire web sites have sprung up around different occurrences of the numbers. Oh, there are plenty of coincidences (as I'm sure the writers take every opportunity to create them), but no really good theories. The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences lists the numbers only as “The Lost Numbers”, and I haven't come up with anything better than this: if you convert the numbers to base three, then all the resulting numbers contain only 0, 1, and 2! (Yep, pretty impressive.) Still, numbers are pretty fascinating, so I won't be giving up any time soon. Who needs to study?

Last modified Thu May 26 21:51:00 2005.

Sitting in the airport

Thanks to the Orlando International Airport's complementary (or otherwise unsecured) wireless access, I've got my first taste of high-speed Internet access in five days. Phew. So much better.

We're about a half hour from boarding our flight to Atlanta (where we'll connect to LA). Sitting, surfing, and being incredibly tired, Lindsey pointed out a nice new quote to me:

Mrs. Schroedinger to Mr. Schroedinger: What the hell did you do to the cat? It looks half dead!

People are only just starting to get on my nerves again—I wonder if it's because Orlando tends to have more people who aren't from Florida, or if it's because people are just never happy in airports. Either way, I'm really just wishing they'd sit down and shut up. Okay, so it's not like that's a particularly new (or helpful) idea of mine, but that doesn't stop it from occurring. The only benefit I see at this point is that it's not quite summer, hence there aren't yet a ton of families here visiting The Rat.

Time to log off. I'll be back on the west coast before 2100, and hopefully home shortly thereafter. Doesn't look like we'll get to watch the season finale of Lost tonight, but that's what the TiVo's for, right? Dear god, don't even think about telling me what happens before tomorrow evening....

Last modified Wed May 25 11:41:46 2005.

Encrypters are child pornographers

According to CNET news, a Minnesota court has ruled that the presence of encryption software is evidence, much to the uproar of some online groups. In an appeal decision, a judge upheld a ruling that said the presence of PGP on the defendant's computer can be used against him. (I assume, then, that so can open-source solutions, like GnuPG.) The disagreement among privacy advocates, I assume, is based mostly on the “but I use encryption, and I'm not a criminal” argument.

Hey, so do I. I use Mac OS X's FileVault, which is specifically mentioned in the article as only possibly related; I use SSH and SSL for a decent amount of internet traffic. I've meant to set up GnuPG a number of times, and have never gotten around to it. Does that make me a criminal? Not yet, at least.

So why am I not outraged? Because we're not talking about probable cause or even anything vaguely related. We're talking about evidentiary rules, the claim that the presence of the software is relevant—and it is. The defendant wasn't found to have much incriminating evidence on his computer, but was found to have several encrypted files. There's most certainly a reasonable doubt that those files were porn; I know plenty of people who encrypt their bank statements. But that's not what he was convicted of—his conviction was based mostly upon the words of the nine-year-old girl he made pose for him.

The guy uses encryption. Hey, that's what it's there for. Is it relevant that he uses it? Of course. It's exactly the reason why police didn't find more evidence; the evidence was encrypted. That's why it's relevant for the jury to hear.

Here's the only problem I have: it may be considered inflammatory. “Why does a fine, upstanding citizen need encryption? He must be guilty.” This same logic isn't applied to locks on our doors, safes in our homes, or even guns in our nightstands—computer technology not used by the masses scares people a little. This is where education is probably a good idea. Get people to use encryption, to understand the value, or just say your client is worried about identity theft. But don't say it's not relevant.

Last modified Thu May 26 16:05:22 2005.

Leaving Gainesville

“Vacation” is almost over; we're leaving Gainesville for the airport (in Orlando) in a couple of hours. Lindsey's up at the Math department right now, catching up with friends and staff members. I stopped by yesterday, and even got to run into my old advisor, Miklos Bona. In general, all happy wishes all around.

Oh, I miss a lot about Gainesville, most especially the way receptionists, servers, and generally everyone you deal with on a daily basis actually has some kind words and a smile. This basic community aura is something you just don't find in Los Angeles, and reiterates my desire to eventually “settle down” in a nice little college town somewhere.

On the other hand, I can't recall at the moment how much worse it will get when the students are back in town—only a small fraction is enrolled for the summer session. Also, it's really freaking hot (though I doubt that has as much to do with the university as with the sun).

On a final note, I passed GI (finally), so it really will be all about working my butt off for the next month or so. First the second-year comprehensive exam on 3 June (only a week and two days from now), and then the USMLE step 1 on 27 June (a month and two days from now). Nah, no pressure at all.

Last modified Sat May 28 23:04:07 2005.

Gainesville

Well, after a couple of days of rest, I'm finally once again self-aware enough to begin blogging. Gainesville's almost exactly as I remember it, which is at once disturbing and comforting, considering it's been right at about two years since I left. All the great (from my point of view) restaurants are still in place, all the buildings are where I remember them, and the only real changes are even more new and developing apartment complexes.

I should also say that my fear didn't pan out—people aren't the same everywhere. Oh, there are people who are the same everywhere, but populations do in fact differ—I'm much happier with the more-regularly smiling faces, the “Southern hospitality”, and so forth in Gainesville. Certainly, though, that may have something to do with the fact that the spring semester at UF is over and most of the students are out of town.

We're off to St. Augustine this afternoon to hear some guy play in some bar there. I've been trying to get some studying done, so I'll keep reading my Princeton Review USMLE book until then. After the first day of exhaustion (we flew out on the red-eye Friday night), that's pretty much all I did yesterday. Meh.

Last modified Sat May 28 23:03:44 2005.

“Vacation”

Yeah, the quotes are supposed to be there. Lindsey and I are leaving for a 5-day trip to Florida tonight; one of her friends is getting married in Gainesville. It should be a nice trip, except that I'm behind on my studying and so will be taking a couple of books along with me. Still, (and sadly the highlight of the trip for me) we'll have a chance to go back to all our favorite restaurants, including Carrabba's, Sonny's, and last-but-certainly-not-least Five Star Pizza. Lord only knows what other places we'll fit into our schedule, but that should be a nice change of pace. (Nothing like getting “back to the status quo”.)

I'm going to try to blog a bit while we're there, as well as a little more leading up to and into third year. I took my GI make-up exam about a week and a half ago, but it could still be some time until I get the results. Should be sometime before June 3, when I'm scheduled to take the Year II comprehensive. That's two weeks from now (today's when the non-failures had to take that exam), and hopefully I'll be well-prepared for the comp, and well on my way to being prepared for the boards, by then. I'm taking the USMLE step 1 on June 27, so there's still plenty of work to be done.

For now, though, packing….

Last modified Fri May 20 12:41:09 2005.

Computing

So I think I know why I spend so much of my “free” time doing computer stuff, programming, building machines and setting up software on them, installing strange things to play with and uninstalling them fifteen minutes later. I use a lot of time doing it that I should be using for studying, getting other work done, and the like. Unsurprisingly, I think a large portion, if not all of it, is due to one thing: control.

Sure, it may be fairly typical among ENTJs to enjoy control (not to mention typical among computer geeks), but I think it's a little more than that. It's displaced control, as in “I'm nervous about this exam, and I should study—or I could install the latest CVS of OpenBSD and see if it works on this old laptop.” It's what I feel like doing when I have runs-in with the neighbors, or am annoyed at the crappy way everyone in LA seems to drive. It's not that I like controlling computers, it's that I like having some major part of my life that I can control.

Which, I suppose, is why I start to get inordinately frustrating when the computers aren't working right. Especially if I can't figure out why. One of the first things that drew me toward programming and basic hacking was the first “meta-rule” I remember: GIGO, Garbage In, Garbage Out. Something doesn't work? It's because I did something wrong—figure out what and exert more control over your domain. Spend time on it, don't, whatever, but don't complain—it was my garbage in that caused the problem.

Except, it seems, more and more often that't not particularly true. That's why I'm consistently (and somewhat unsuccessfully) trying to get away from Microsoft Windows, and why I get particularly frustrated when things don't work like they're supposed to, or like documentation (if it exists) says they will.

So, any advice for better hobbies to use as surrogate control mechanisms? Nah, I got nothin' either. (I've tried games, but am really only interested in the kind that you play with other people—and there's a real headache when it comes to lack of control.)

Last modified Fri May 20 12:30:53 2005.

Making a DMG

I've been experimenting a little with Mac OS X Tiger, and in doing so have started a Mac OS X Recommended Software page that simply lists the add-ons I've chosen to install. Unfortunately, it becomes apparent on downloading them that not everyone is well-versed in how to properly package software for OS X, so I had to repackage a bit. First, though, I had to figure out the best way to create a .dmg package; it turns out to be exceedingly easy, but I wanted to take the opportunity to link to a DMG for Panther tutorial (which, unsurprisingly, works just as well on Tiger. Have a read if you're going to distribute any software for OS X; it should give you some nice pointers.

Last modified Wed May 4 15:42:33 2005.

Tiger

I haven't installed it yet, but I picked up Mac OS X 10.4 (“Tiger”) today from the USC Bookstore computer store. As it turns out, it's just slightly over half-price ($69) with an academic discount, and I can justify that much for “fun”. As I said, I haven't installed it yet (not a lot of free time), but plan to soon, and I'm sure I'll have some observations then. For the moment, I'll only mention that I'm a bit surprised it doesn't come with iLife, which was included with my Mac mini. No problem, of course, but I had thought Apple included it with all their products. The only thing remaining is to see if I can install Quicken from my 10.3 disc.

Last modified Tue May 31 21:03:17 2005.

Hitchhiking

I was just hoping it was going to be reasonably good, and desperately trying not to expect too much. As it happens, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was very well done, indeed. Lots of excellent English humour, plenty of decent Douglas Adams in-jokes, and enough new material to justify laughing with the film and its characters. The only reason I'm only giving it three stars is that I probably won't see it again—I'll just read the books (which are still more entertaining). Still, very much worth a look.

Last modified Sat Apr 30 19:47:47 2005.

Enemies beware…

(Frighteningly enough, I almost wrote “enemas beware” entirely by accident.)

Thanks to Slashdot, I saw that Time is reporting that the Bush Administration is keeping Kerry supporters out of negotiations. Specifically, a few delegates to the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission, which sets spectrum regulations and the like, have literally been kicked entirely because they supported the Dems in 2004.

The White House's take? Yep. They “wanted people who would represent the Administration positively”. They're not denying the facts in any way. The Bush administration, in fact, says that you don't take part if you didn't support them.

There is an argument here. They won, so why should they cater to those they beat? Because that's what you do. When you're governing the entire country, you don't prevent those who didn't support you from participating. Sure, 55% voted for you—that's not a reason to piss off the remaining 45%.

There's no reason to think that these reps wouldn't have represented the administration positively. There's no evidence they've ever done otherwise, except by participating in the democratic process. I would expect that these people, were they to decide not to “represent the administration positively”, wouldn't participate in such an event in the first place. The way to bring down a politician has very little to do with “Oh, sure, I think we can open up the 5GHz range. By the way, can you believe we voted for this guy?”

And here I thought the worst problems were going to be the “Town Hall” meetings….

Last modified Mon Apr 25 17:37:06 2005.

Hard at work, but gotta see Tiger…

I'm nine weeks away from taking the USMLE step 1, and I've got three other exams in the meantime, so I'm working pretty hard (for a change). Still, I took the time out to pre-order Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger” from the USC bookstore—with a student discount, it drops from $130 to $70. Sure, I don't generally buy software, but I'm giving Apple a chance. It really looks like I'm shelling out almost entirely for eye candy, but wow, what eye candy!

A few stores, apparently accidentally shipped the OS early, and I'm really impressed by one thing I didn't know was in there and wouldn't have been all that impressed by, anyway: an RSS screen saver. That all changed, however, once I saw the RSS Screen Saver Video. Very cool—maybe I'll start using RSS after all….

Last modified Sun Apr 24 13:57:20 2005.

New Aleph0.com

A reformat of www.aleph0.com has been completed. Not that it took much—this is a “return to simplicity”, designed to further separate structure from content, with the intent that plenty of structure can be defined with only an external stylesheet.

The only additions are some bits of humor and the creation of a separate Aleph 0 users page. For any comments, complaints, or concerns, please feel free to email me.

I'm likely to be doing something like it on the Aleph 0 Computing Project pages, and eventually here, as time allows. (Yes, that means it may never happen.) Let me know what you think.

Last modified Fri Apr 15 16:51:23 2005.

GI Failure

No, my health hasn't had a severe turn for the worse, but it's official: I failed the GI system. I'm not one for excuses—the reason I failed was that I didn't work hard enough leading up to it. Tons of dumb mistakes that I don't otherwise make, like choosing answers I'd never heard of, second-guessing myself, and so forth, may be attributed to having been on beta-blockers for a week, or may not, so I won't bother with the excuse.

I'll take a makeup exam, pass, and move on with medical school with a nice fail to explain to residency committees. That's fine—what I'm worried about now, though, is below. Bolding is mine; some lines (phone numbers, emails, and such) have been removed or ammended to protect the innocent:

Essay format. Wow. Don't get me wrong, I can write, and charm and bullshit could work almost as well on an essay as in person, but how do I prepare for an essay exam? I honestly have no clue. It will, however, be interesting to see how much I'm graded off for penmanship….

Last modified Fri Apr 15 16:44:12 2005.

Agoraphobia

I'm really hoping that I'm not developing some form of agoraphobia. It seems that every time I go somewhere, I get annoyed and frustrated at people, both in specific and in general. Ended up not going to the movies and to a “new owner seminar” for the car Lindsey bought in December basically because I was a little down and in a very bad mood. Sure, I feel like I have a right to get pissed at people, but that's kind of the problem, isn't it?

I think I'm actually more concerned at the fact that it's not completely alleviated when I'm at home. I'm still getting angry at the neighbors, at pizza delivery people, at pretty much anyone I have any contact with other than Lindsey and my few friends. I write it up to the idea that my anger stems from my disappointment with mankind, my frustration that these people are looking out for themselves and not for others, but maybe it's just anger.

I honestly don't understand why it's so difficult for people just to leave one another alone, and in those cases where there's (valuable) interaction, why people tend to not care whether they keep their promises. Yeah, I'm pretty naïve that way, I know.

Last modified Sat Mar 12 17:45:11 2005.

No need for freedom of the press, move along…

The AP is reporting that journalists have no right to protect sources who obtained information illegally. This is a case of a few web news sites (some call them blogs, but in this case that's not within my definition) who published information that Apple and the judge in the case consider trade secrets. They're probably even right about that moniker. Seems some Apple employes gave the info to the sites, Apple chose to sue the employees, and subpoenaed the names of the sites' sources. As journalists are wont to do, the sites declined.

The judge has apparently chosen (somewhat thankfully) to decline deciding whether the site writers count as journalists. My argument would be that it really doesn't matter, but as that point's moot, I won't make it right now. Instead, the judge suggests that the sites did something wrong by publishing the trade secrets.

Okay, here's the problem I have: yeah, I think the employees did something wrong: they violated the nondisclosure agreements they have. Actually, I should say that they thus broke their contracts, and should be found to have done so in a civil court, not that they have actually done anything wrong, and certainly not that they have done anything criminal. But they did it, and while I may have made the same choice, I would expect to be held accountable for it. But the sites? They were given information, verified it with numerous sources, and published it. It's true, it's not slander, and all they did was write it.

I'm well aware that most people follow “Information wants to be free” with a “well,…”. This case, however, is about whether or not you're allowed to pass on information that someone gives you outside of contractual obligation—the idea of this now being a trade secret which can't be mentioned is making the distribution of information criminal. And for those Republicans who may be reading (I know, who am I kidding?), we're not talking national defense here.

Last modified Fri Mar 11 18:02:32 2005.

All that work for nothin'…

Well, maybe. I may have just failed my GI/Liver exam; I won't know for sure for a couple of weeks. It's been a pretty crappy afternoon, and will probably be a pretty crappy “spring break” for the next week. (Yes, I'm aware it's not yet Spring, but the school is getting better about it—our “spring break” last year was the last week of February.)

At its best, this should motivate me to start working my ass off for the boards (USMLE Step 1 for anyone keeping track). I was hoping to have a nice relaxing break, but that doesn't look too likely now. I'll still get a decent amount of computer stuff done, if only because it's the only real chance I'll have for a while. Believe it or not, I picked up three olde-tyme VAXservers at a police auction, so we'll see if those work and I'll write a bit more about them when I pick them up. I've also got to reformat and reinstall everything on my Windows computer, as it's really starting to act up again. Finally, I'm planning to replace this server with OpenBSD 3.6 (it's running 3.5 at the moment) on a higher-end machine (I haven't decided which one yet), but that should be fairly seamless to any of you loyal readers (as though you'd even notice if it were down for days).

Oh, and I got a free laptop. Decent one, too. More at some point in the near future.

Last modified Fri Mar 11 17:39:21 2005.

Time to get to work…

This past Sunday marked four months until I'm scheduled to take the USMLE Step 1 exam, so it also marks one of the many times I told myself I had to start working hard again. So far, not bad, not great. I resigned as director of Chorda Tympani, the med school a cappella group which wasn't progressing particularly well this year, anyway. Some of the time I used to put into that will certainly be spent studying, but I was also just appointed to the school's admissions committee, so that will offset some of the gains as well.

Overall, most new studying time will come from where it probably should: television watching, game playing, and computer tinkering. Oh, I'll still be doing more than my share of each, but will feel more guilty about it. (In fact, I've already had to reduce all of them quite a bit—it's a good thing February sweeps are over.)

Unfortunately, the extra study time also means I'll have to pass up some nice opportunities, like the California Medical Association's Legislative Leadership Day in Sacramento next month. I'd like to do it, but since it falls near the end of our final system of the year, I'd better be here instead.

Last modified Tue Mar 1 09:51:16 2005.

Gmail adds basic HTML support

Ah, how glorious are standards! I've raved previously about Gmail, and you've certainly read plenty about it. Before recently, however, I wasn't able to do quick checks from a terminal window or “unsupported browser”. This wasn't a huge complaint, as Netscape, Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Firefox, and Safari are all supported. Now, though, I can even check, send, and delete email from within Lynx—excellent if only because it's the only browser in a standard install of OpenBSD or just about any other UNIX-like system. Gmail now has a basic HTML page, requiring only HTML and cookies to work. Who knows how useful it will be? Who cares? It's just a new little nicety.

What do you mean, you can't try it out? Don't you trust me? Oh, I see, you just need a Gmail account. Feel free to drop me an email just to ask for one. Sure, I'll probably make some pathetic attempt at small talk, but you don't even need to reply. No one ever does.

Last modified Sat Feb 26 14:51:43 2005.

Outrageously Expensive Speech

As part of the “free speech doesn't even have to come close” series, there's a great (and short) writeup at RollingStone.com on FCC fines. Mid-February, the House passed the “Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, which increases penalies for violations of deency laws by television and radio broadcasters. The idea is that a single violation (for instance, airing a tape of the word “fuck”) could cost a station half a million dollars. Much more interesting, though, is Rolling Stone's comparison to other federal fines: turns out airing that tape carries exactly the same fine as testing pesticides on human subjects. But that's not all:

And for the price of Janet Jackson's “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl, you could cause the wrongful death of an elderly patient in a nursing home and still have enough money left to create dangerous mishaps at two nuclear reactors.

Okay, I'm not really a blow-things-out-of-proportion type (okay, I am, but for the sake of editorialism, let's say I'm not); these are the maximum fines the House resolution may impose. Several things will be taken into consideration upon a violation, including size of the audience, whether the program was scripted or improv, live or tape, and so forth—but also the violator's ability to pay. This is where I get really confused—something's less decent for a successful company than for a skel on public access? I'm sure that it's important to have putative damages to keep our innocent children from being exposed to such filth in the first place, but is a real standard punishment so difficult to find that the same act carries two different weights? Ahh, the old syllogism about arbitrary government comes to mind….

Last modified Sat Feb 26 09:15:49 2005.

Movie Reviews

Thanks to a long weekend that coincided with a Starz! free preview on DirecTV, Lindsey and I had the opportunity to catch a few flicks this weekend:

Constantine
Surprisingly good. Keanu Reeves is no worse than usual, and is actually building quite an image for himself as the super-strong 98-pound weakling. This is certainly one of the more entertaining and original comic-based movies I've seen in a while; watch if you're in the mood for some typical Vertigo humor and action. Three stars.
Trainspotting
One of the “new classics” for the drugged masses that are we. Not Ewan McGregor's first film, but certainly his first memorable one. I won't comment on how realistic the movie is, but it is quite entertaining, and even a little thought-provoking, but not for those with a weak stomach. Original, worth a watch, but probably not worth a second. Three stars.
The Fisher King
Touted as a decent look at mental illness and the homeless, this film doesn't quite live up to my expectations. Both Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges perform well, but I'm left “too satisfied” by the story, certainly not something expected from any story about mental illness or the homeless. Still, an entertaining film that's worth seeing once. Three stars.

Still have several movies (some of them likely to be crap) sitting on the TiVo to watch. More later.

Last modified Tue Feb 22 08:11:59 2005.

Rain and blackouts

It's been raining in Los Angeles for the past few days, and looks to continue. There's flooding, there are mudslides, and now, there are blackouts. Even though I live on a hill, I think it surprises no one that the latter are of the most concern for me. We lost power about five this morning for several seconds. (I was awakened by the beeping of one of my UPSs.) This afternoon, it was out for around half an hour or so—just enough to again make me realize how ridiculously dependent I am upon the grid.

Oh, I've had thoughts of going off-grid, but it continues to be infeasible, mostly because of lack of cheap options for large (relative to other residences) power consumption and a conspicuous lack of funds on my part. There was even an article in the Harvey Mudd College Bulleting alumni rag about a alumnus who had done just that, living in some of the California farm country and utilizing mostly solar power, but if I recall correctly he didn't own a television and his “information infrastructure” was composed of a single laptop.

So, for the moment, I'll rely upon inexpensive battery backups for my primary machines and server, and apologize in advance for any downtime. Still, it's better than handing control over to a server farm or even colocation site—I'm convinced that the lack of apparent server compromise on www.aleph0.com is the simple result of three things:

Thanks for not visiting!

Last modified Mon Feb 21 18:23:52 2005.

Vioxx and Patients' Rights

By now you've quite possibly heard that Vioxx will be returning to the market. This has promoted understandable shock about the FDA's role in public protection, and physicians are denouncing the decisions.

Why do they consider this a bad thing? The Food and Drug Administration is expected to protect the public by banning dangerous pharmaceuticals, or by disallowing them in the first place. The current outrage suggests that they're simply catering to the drug companies, to industry that stands to make more money if they can sell they're drugs. I have no idea if that's what they're doing, or if that's what they did when they approved Vioxx and other COX-2 inhibitors in the first place.

I do believe, however, that this is in fact a success for patients and their physicians. The fact remains that there are patients who respond better to COX-2 inhibitors than to any other drug available, and there are those who should heed the risks of cardiac complications discovered in the recent studies. It's called an informed decision, and it's what people should be making with the help of their doctor, rather than having the decision made in advance by the government. (It may be noted at this point that some of these are the same activists who said the FDA should be dissolved back when Vioxx was originally pulled from the market.)

There are physicians who aren't particularly interested in patient education, and certainly some of those would rather have the excuse to simply say, “I'm sorry, but the federal government has decided you can't take Vioxx. Have some ibuprofen.” Personally, I'm happy that I have the opportunity to discuss a patient's choices instead of simply forcing one.

Last modified Sun Feb 20 09:42:32 2005.

Updating the classics

Countdown with Ken Olbermann and tons of other places are reporting on a new television program this fall: Loonatics, an update of the Looney Tunes characters with “newer” art, a setting in the year 2772, and superpowers of some kind. This includes the possibility of “Buzz Bunny” and more. Wow. I honestly didn't know where to start.

Here's the problem with such updates, at least from my point of view. See, one of the quotes from Warner Bros. Animation President Sander Schwarz is meant to alleviate concerns from us old-timers: “[T]hese are cartoons. Lighten up! They're fun and the existence of one doesn't preclude the existence of another.” Sure, that's true. Unlike the Starbucks v. Kahlúa issue I mentioned earlier, no one here is trying to take away any real kind of market share, and if nothing else I can revel in what's likely to be a ton of Golden Collection volumes.

The problem I have here is merely one of ego, quite related to the Kicking and Screaming issue I mentioned a while back. Quite simply, on the off chance that this new show is a minor success (but really sucks), some kid's going to ask me at some point who my favorite cartoon character is. I suggest Bugs Bunny (or, more likely, Daffy Duck), and the naive child takes me to be a hip adult who knows what's cool and gets it more than any other adult in the world.

Come on, am I really going to have to put up with that?

Last modified Thu Feb 17 22:22:20 2005.

Starbucks to begin ruining Kahlúa

I'm always amused when an entirely successful, even ubiquitous, company decides they need to branch out. According to MSNBC, Starbucks will begin selling a coffee-flavored liqueur. They're smart enough to really only use the brand, not multiple-per-intersection stores; Starbucks Coffee Liqueur will be sold in liquor stores, bars, restaurants, and, I assume, anywhere you can pick up ridiculously overpriced goods.

Let me be fair. Back in the day when I used caffeine, I'm sure I contributed more than my fair share to Starbucks's rapidly ascending profits. That was, however, more to do with convenience than quality, mostly since they run the “coffee shop” on the medical school campus. When there was a long line for the main cafeteria (which contained the unsurprisingly better “school-branded”—and thus cheaper—coffee), or I was out of decent coffee for the pot in my lab, I'd pay for my humongous cuppajoe and get out of there. Oh, it was swill—I commented on more than one occasion about it being “the worst cup of coffee I'd ever had—but it was caffeine, and I took it.

I don't drink much liqueur. Well, any. Never really liked the whole “dessert drink” idea of a drink sweeter than it was alcoholic. That said, I've had the occasional coffee or hot chocolate with some schnapps (not really liqueur, but meh) or (gasp) irish creme. Lindsey has white russians, so she's the Kahlúa drinker in the house. I think it's just a shame that a generation of college-age pansies are going to end up thinking it's called “Starbucks” (and that it tastes terrible but you're supposed to like it) instead of Kahlúa—not to mention starting to refer to a double of anything as a “venti”.

You have to wonder if I'd dislike Starbucks so much if their wireless internet access were free….

Last modified Thu Feb 17 06:41:13 2005.

More on Microsoft AntiSpyware

So I've downloaded and started using Microsoft AntiSpyware Beta 1 (apparently the only beta they're going to have). It actually seems to be a fairly complete project, though it does seem to contain just a few interface bugs. (From the little I know about Windows GUI programming, actually, these are bugs that should actually be difficult to make, like the vertical scrollbar not performing quite right. You have to wonder if Microsoft inserts these just so people will remember it's beta.)

Overall, a much more satisfying product than Ad-Aware Personal. A while back, Flexbeta's comparison of MS AntiSpyware, Ad-Aware, and Spybot Search & Destroy was touted as showing MS's product as not up to par; in fact, it compared more than favorably with the other two. Each of them found spyware the others did not; AntiSpyware found more that the others didn't, and I'm guessing that those who leave the “send information to Microsoft” feature turned on are the same who will get a decent amount of spyware, further closing that gap (if it hasn't closed already). The article does, perhaps wisely, go on to suggest that no matter which tool you use, you should also use another; I'm not sure that's warranted for the more conscientious user.

PC World also has a review of MS AntiSpyware, which they compare to Webroot's Spy Sweeper, a non-free program with a limited trial. They did half the test that Flexbeta performed, running Spy Sweeper after AntiSpyware, and found (surprise) Spy Sweeper to find extra “infections”; no mention of doing the test in reverse.

I've never used Spy Sweeper or Spybot S&D, though I'm beginning to wish I'd replaced Ad-aware with Spybot earlier. Still, Microsoft's product is looking reasonably good to me, and I have little reason to use another on my Windows system. (To be honest, if there were still a no-cost AntiVirus from Microsoft, I'd probably use it, too; the interface for ClamWin just isn't quite up to par. MS is supposedly working on an anti-virus solution, but it looks unlikely that it will be free to download. If only they still made the version that came with Windows 3.1….)

Last modified Wed Feb 16 10:00:47 2005.

Microsoft to release free antispyware

An MSNBC story reports that Microsoft AntiSpyware's final version will be free to download. This is a good thing (lower case, that is), and it should bring some nice light to the question of spyware and adware. The article very appropriately gives quotes from Bill Gates's speech today, including his note that the capability is “a burning need for [their] users”. Very good.

The article then goes on to talk about the beta testing that went into it, along with how, even in the final version, “[t]he program also includes a feature where users can submit information back to Microsoft so that it keeps up with the latest threats.” Hey, that's great: Mr. Gates, I think someone may be spying on me—can you take a look at my computer for me? Oh, and don't look in the folder labelled “Chris's Private Stuff”, okay?

Yeah, I know what they're getting at, and it's really a necessary part of a good operation like this—but I hope the irony is as clear to everyone else. Wouldn't want to beat anyone over the head to make a point. Hell, I'll probably even download the final version for my last remaining Windows install; at least I can hope that if there's not a for-fee version they won't obviously cripple the free product like Ad-aware does.

Last modified Tue Feb 15 12:59:04 2005.

LotGD, cont.

All right, it seems my endorsement of Legend of the Green Dragon was a bit premature. As I mentioned yesterday, I was concerned about the constant begging for funding, but was willing to deal with it for a short time. After playing last night, however, I began to notice that there were actually areas of the game I couldn't access without making a “donation”. So, meh.

Please note that I'm not suggesting people providing a service (as those at lotgd.net are doing) shouldn't charge—they have every right to. My only reason for mentioning my displeasure with it is that it wasn't what I expected, and I had previously mentioned it as being a fun thing. Now, not so much.

So, I decided to take a look at the LORD incarnation I mentioned at lord.nuklear.org. All well and good, but it turns out that it's just a Java telnet program into their BBS, not really a web version. Again, meh.

If I get motivated enough, maybe I'll take the LotGD code and install it on this site just to play a nice little game or two. To be honest, that seems rather unlikely, as it doesn't (by itself) seem like a good enough reason to install PHP and MySQL, but we'll see. It's not like I really need extra things to take up my time….

Last modified Tue Feb 15 11:17:25 2005.

LotGD

Back in the day, when men were men and 1400 baud modems roamed the InterNet, I first came close to getting “on-line”. In actuality, I visited a dozen or so local BBSs in and around Winter Haven and Lakeland, Florida; I was Hrothgar (or maybe it was Heremond—I can never remember which was which), and didn't even know what the InterNet was. Usually I just tried in vain to save up download time in the Time Bank, just enough so I could get an uninterrupted hour to download that one megabyte bitmap file that just had to be hot, but turned out to be yet another hand-sketched fantasy dragon princess. Actually, the only time I had any real contact with a network that wasn't between a grand total of two computers was when my friend Jonathon got a list of free ftp sites. We learned the very basics of how to use the command-line client, and when one of the sites stopped responding we thought we had shut down the government of Ecuador and maybe we'd better stop while we could.

I never got into chatting with people who lived a local call away; in fact, I still don't chat or ytalk or “instant message” or whatever they're calling it these days. What I did enjoy, however, were door games. The king of them all was Legend of the Red Dragon, or LORD. (In fact, a few years later I found that there are BBSs you can telnet into to play LORD. Did it a couple of times, but telnet is so 1995.)

Yeah, it's still around, but a new, web-based, open-source clone is now available. Appropriately named, Legend of the Green Dragon (which they abbreviate LoGD; I prefer LotGD since I can then remember the website) retains the charm of the original—I've been putting in half an hour to an hour for each of the last couple of days. I think the worst downside of this particular incarnation is the apparent need of every server to solicit funds; to be honest, I'm not usually much of a community participant in places like that. I understand the need to pay for bandwidth, but the constant begging just starts seeming trite after a while.

One other option I should therefore mention is Nuklear LORD. From first glance, it's another web incarnation of LORD, though not open source. (The sysop—wow, didn't think I'd ever need that term again—actually addresses this issue reasonably well in the Nuklear LORD FAQ.) I haven't tried it, but may just switch over to that at some point if lotgd.net ever becomes too annoying.

And now, back to the realm…

Last modified Mon Feb 14 21:36:24 2005.

Medical malpractice

No, I'm not being sued just yet. Today, however, was the first seminar of the GPSS (Graduate and Professional Student Senate) Malpractice Series, in this case a physician, pharmacologist, and Ph.D. of some kind who planned to discuss medical malpractice. The seminar itself was a total bust—it's safe to say that the only thing I learned was that the average settlement for a “nuisance” lawssuit (malpractice or otherwise) is twenty to thirty thousand dollars. (Not that anyone discussed what was considered a “nuisance” suit, but meh.)

The whole concept did get me thinking, though, and a letter to the editor in this month's Southern California Physician magazine had some interesting information: five percent of physicians are responsible for 80 percent of malpractice awards. This first bolsters two of my concerns about malpractice reform: that it makes it easier for incompetent physicians to keep practicing, and that by supporting such reform physicians will be seen by the public as trying to evade responsibility.

What the letter doesn't note, however, is how many physicians are sued without having to pay an award—maybe this is the “nuisance suit” mentioned earlier. Do I believe that physicians are sometimes sued for no good reason? Yes. Do I believe that given any hypothetical “cap” on malpractice awards, there is some sort of malpractice a physician can perform that should be awarded more than that cap? Absolutely.

Is there any possibility that it's the legal system, and not the specific issue of malpractice, that needs to be reformed?

Last modified Mon Feb 14 20:29:25 2005.

Day Off

Took the day off today. Slept in, edited some TiVo video, played a lot of The Battle for Wesnoth, and watched a few episodes of The West Wing from the end of the second to the beginning of the third season. It was the latter that made me think about making a quick post.

After September 11, 2001, The West Wing showed what they called a “play”, delaying the start of their third season. The episode was called “Isaac and Ishmael”, and dealt with a lot of questions popular among those of us who felt impacted by terrorism for the first time. It talked about “why” Muslim extremists and others perform terrorist acts, a bit of the history of such, and so forth, but also began addressing the question of civil liberties in a society that's trying to stay safe. The show doesn't suggest any real answers to most of it, but re-watching it this evening did have an impact on me.

I'm not a particularly soft-spoken guy. People around me are generally aware of my views on a variety of issues, though almost as often incorrectly assume my opinion before I've mentioned it. (In fact, on multiple occasions I've been mistaken for a Republican. Hell, I used to be a Republican—ideologically, not registered—and maybe that's one reason for confusion.) However, there are some things I don't tend to speak out about, and there are other things I'm happy to talk about with just about anyone who will listen, but would rather not mention in writing.

One of those was the staggering decline in civil liberties we've been experiencing over the last few years. I didn't want to talk about it directly, because I'm honestly scared to be identified as any sort of “troublemaker” in that area. It's a vicious cycle: failure to protest leads to more problems which lead to more fear about speaking up.

Once again, though, Aaron Sorkin has shown me the error of my ways. As far as I'm concerned, I'll be mentioning plenty about the decline in free speech that's currently going on in the United States, and will do all I can to change that trend.

I'm quite aware that my parents' generation has botched the job quite nicely. It's starting to look like students who are now in high school aren't going to do any better: a poll over the last several months shows, among other travesties, that “when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes ‘too far’ in the rights it guarantees.” How will I deal with that? By making the most of the speech I have available to me.

Don't despair. This site isn't undergoing any major reformat of content. I'm simply adding a new policy: I'm not going to keep from stating opinion because of my fear of its unpopularity or government support. When I can't do that anymore, I'll either be on my way out of the jurisdiction of whoever's doing the oppressing, or I'll be detained beyond my control—hopefully the former.

To be honest, I probably already would have moved, if I weren't trying to finish medical school and if there were Chili's restaurants in Switzerland.

Last modified Fri Feb 11 20:30:56 2005.

Two site updates

Just a quick note to point out two smallish updates. The first could actually be considered a pretty big deal: I've registered yet another domain: norightsreserved.org. Kinda surprised it wasn't already taken. I've moved the old No Rights Reserved project (such as it was) to the new site, and hope to add quite a bit more, like information about why and how to dedicate works to the public domain. For the moment, still just an example of it in use.

I've also now added a Mac OS X section to my computing project. At the moment, it's just a small collection of tips, things I've spent some time figuring out. With luck, it will save others some time. Expect it to grow as I keep playing with my new toy.

Last modified Mon Feb 7 20:37:20 2005.

These kids today…

Won't bore you with much this afternoon, but I should mention that I did fine on the Repro exam I had yesterday. Not well, mind you, but fine, just fine. And, yes, I worked harder than usual so I'll entirely blame my lack of superiority on the remarkably bad faculty we had for this system. Back in my day we had outstanding, passionate instructors like Ran Libeskind-Hadas and Francis Su, instructors who would regularly blow your mind before telling you how great you were, even though you had to walk around Harvey Mudd at seven in the morning in a olde-tyme El Niño near-freeze.

Okay, I'm in an odd mood. Most of that nostalgic talk comes from reading a couple of items: an article on Kuro5hin talking about dead technologies and a comment on Slashdot about how bad kids have it today. Sure, technology and progress can be great—but that really depends on how you define your terms.

Last modified Sat Feb 5 16:46:53 2005.

Repro exam

So I'm sitting in the school's computer lab, kinda bored, while everyone else around is madly cramming for this morning's reproductive system exam. It's not that I know it all, or that I'm not a crammer; it's that I generally don't tend to stress and freak out during the hour or so before the exam. I've already looked at today's Fry's ad, I've played a game of Text Twist (despite the fact that it only works on Internet Explorer in Windows), checked my Gmail and Slashdot a few times, and still have eighty minutes before exam time. So, I figured I'd do the only other pointless thing I can think of, update this page.

I've actually been working on it quite a bit (and planning even more) behind the scenes; expect some new stuff over the next week or two. Nothing mind-blowing, of course, but a slightly updated layout and a much cleaner operation in general. Stay tuned.

Alright, I just remembered that I should take a look at Kuro5hin and a few other sites. More later, I'm sure….

Last modified Fri Feb 4 08:31:39 2005.

MGM Class Action Lawsuit

I don't generally have a problem with frivolous lawsuits. They make for entertaining reading and writing, and they usually keep lawyers busy enough so that I'm not the one being sued. However, I read today that MGM is settling a DVD class action suit. After the initial panic from reading that several of my discs may be corrupted in some way—some rumors were that MGM was just taking pan & scan transfers and slapping letterboxes on them—I was able to read a long thread on DVD Talk that describes that's not what's going on at all. Turns out this was a lawsuit filed a couple of years ago which just alleges MGM's description of “widescreen” was deceptive. I've seen the diagram in question, which clearly shows that “fullscreen” versions are cut off on the sides and “widescreen” versions show all of the picture that's available. Unfortunately for this case, that's not always the way it works. In some movies (The Princess Bride was the first one I knew about), the camera actually shoots in 4:3, a “fullscreen” aspect ratio. However, the director composes the shot so that it will look good in, say, 1.85:1, and ignores stuff that would be off the screen in that smaller picture. Then, at the theatre (or somewhere in between), the film is shown with the top and bottom cut off a bit, as the director intended. This technique is called “matting”, and it turns out that some movies on DVD have both the letterboxed and unmatted versions. Therefore, technically, the unmatted versions show more picture, but what every director expects you to watch is the letterboxed film. Phew.

So why does this suit bug me? Because this gives the studios more incentive to not release letterboxed movies at all, and to stop even trying to educate the public about the different formats. MGM is one of the few who has explained any reason why letterboxing is better; if a distributor tries to change that to “because it's what the director wants you to see”, then someone's going to cry about Greedo shooting first, and everyone's going to hate widescreen. Grr.

Oh, and not to mention the fact that I've wasted like an hour on this issue this morning….

Last modified Fri Jan 28 07:55:36 2005.

The Mysterious Mac Mini

So I was certainly one of the first “regular people” (yes, I do sometimes define myself as such) to pick up a Mac mini. The thing's quite cute, and full of surprises. Personally, though, I really don't know how much is the machine and how much is OS X. Oh, they're both quite good, I suppose, and it's going to take me a little while to get used to each of them.

The only overlying downside (“overlying downside”? That's got an interesting ring to it.) is that the machine itself is quite clearly made of laptop parts, and operates as you'd expect a laptop to. I generally haven't been discouraged by performance, but the optical drive (a CD-RW/DVD-ROM) sounds horrendous and is quite slow, pretty much identical to the DVD-ROM on my Dell laptop. The only other performance issues I've had so far is the occasional video stutter in the included “MarbleBlast Gold” game.

There are a few other things I haven't figured out, yet, like how to set a host alias. For instance, I want to refer to a machine on my local network as “dante”, but doing so simply goes to dante.aleph0.com, which DNS resolves to the same address as my externally-available www.aleph0.com. One choice, of course, is changing the DNS record, but that really shouldn't be necessary (if only because I do want people outside my network to think dante.aleph0.com is the same as www.aleph0.com).

On Linux or OpenBSD I'd only have to change the /etc/hosts file to refer to dante (and dante.aleph0.com) by the proper internal IP, and I'd be done. That doesn't seem to work here. Okay, technically I'd also have to make sure that /etc/resolv.conf properly searches “file” before “bind”, but according to OS X's resolver(5) man page (and can I even possibly express how thrilled I am that there are man pages?), the lookup keyword doesn't even exist. So no luck there. I heard something about using NetInfo instead, but, quite frankly, need a little more documentation on that before I can figure out what's going on.

But enough bitching. This is a nice system. In the Windows-centric world from which I'm coming, some things are done differently, and there are thus things I'll have to relearn. I'm happy to. The one advice I can give Apple is this: you want people to switch. some of us are fairly Windows-oriented, and already quite knowledgeable. Give us just a little more guidance, and you'll have switchers in droves.

Last modified Sun Jan 23 18:04:34 2005.

One day more…

It's officially confirmed; my Mac mini will be available for pickup from the USC Computer Store tomorrow! I've only been waiting for a little over a week, but it seems like much longer—and I'm giddy as a schoolgirl. (Though, no, I'm not wearing any sort of jumper.) At this point, the thing would really have to suck to disappoint me.

Mad props to the store, too. While all the Apple Store locations around here went out of their way to be annoyed that I wanted to buy something from them, the USC Computer Store not only reserved one for me (so I don't have to wake up early, though I probably will anyway), but they even gave me the Apple student discount. Sure, it's a paltry $20, but it'll go towards a decent Apple keyboard, iWork, or the like. Turns out I don't need to buy a wireless adapter (yet, at least); I just set up an OpenBSD box as a gateway to the rest of my network. I'll still have to shell out for a keyboard and mouse, though, since I only have one set that have USB adapters and they're on the “main” computer. I don't want to move those, so at least it gives me an excuse to buy a nice Apple set.

I've decided to try something new with this little box—treating it more-or-less professionally—maybe “respectfully” is another word. I'm going to try not to open it, but take it to an Apple Authorized Service Center for upgrades. I'm going to try not to hack it, but just run OS X as it is. (Oh, sure, I'll add software, install X11, and run plenty of development-type apps that most Mac users don't, but that's not what I'm talking about here.) In all, I'm going to try to treat it with the deference a nice piece of engineering deserves, whether others consider it “just a tool” or not.

In about three days, ask me if that's still my plan. Who knows….

Last modified Fri Jan 21 16:52:13 2005.

Worst Day of the Year

No, not today, but according to the BBC, it will be this coming Monday. It's not entirely clear if that only refers to Britain or whether it will be the same for everybody, but it's not like I was going to be looking forward to a Monday, anyway.

In the meantime, I can only hope for the best. We had our second “career day” yesterday, in which various hospital departments attempt to describe their specialties and recruit interest. It wasn't like I was doubting Emergency Medicine as an eventual specialty choice, but I do like to keep my options open. Besides, visiting some others before ending up with the ER docs always makes me that much more certain of my choice. Really, no question at this point—call it 98-99.5% sure for now, though that tends to fluctuate by a percentage point or two.

There are a few little things I have been wanting to mention. First, it turns out that California's working on a law to ban the development of peer-to-peer software that would allow copyright infringement. I can only assume they're getting around the Betamax case by making this criminal. Yeah, write a peer-to-peer program, get jail time and/or a $2,500 fine. That seems reasonable. We just voted to commit three billion dollars to stem cell research, partly because we wanted to encourage the scientific economy—so let's make sure Computer Science doesn't count as part of that.

We saw In Good Company a few days ago, and it wasn't bad. Oh, it wasn't a super film or anything, and I still can't imagine Topher Grace as anyone other than Eric Foreman, and couldn't even buy him (though his acting was great) in Traffic. Overall, three stars—it's worth a rental.

Okay, so I'll leav it at that for now. Plenty of thoughts in my head, but plenty more on my plate, too. (No, I'm not eating dinner. It's a metaphor.) One of these days, I'll get around to posting my ranting about Repro and how it's taught at Keck. For the moment, I'm going to surf and hope I still get my Mac mini on Saturday. Oh, don't worry—I'm positive I'll remember to mention if I do….

Last modified Thu Jan 20 19:32:31 2005.

Computing page change

I've done a pretty big reformat and content change on my computing page, including the removal of the timeline for getting rid of non-free software, the addition of a current status, and more. I'll keep trying to update it to have some (relatively) significant content, so please keep checking it out. Have fun!

Last modified Sun Jan 16 19:40:12 2005.

Political roundup

As election season per se is over, this'll probably be the last political post I'll have for sometime. The subject of voting irregularities seems to have been mostly ignored away, and even Keith Olberbann has stopped talking about it—since I'm not getting info about it from anywhere, I can't exactly post more.

Bush has said any Iraq “accountability moment” is long past, irrelevant since he was reelected. Essentially, his point was that he won the election, so the voters don't care about the lack of weapons of mass destruction and have basically ratified his position on Iraq. Specifically, “The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me.” First, not everyone voted for George W. Bush. A majority did, yes—I'm not disputing that. The trouble is, Bush doesn't govern those who voted for him, he governs all Americans. Is he going to ignore the wishes of the millions of Americans who voted for someone else? I guess I shouldn't be particularly surprised, but I didn't think that was how it worked. (Not to mention, of course, that it's not entirely unbelievable there were people who voted for Bush despite his Iraq policy rather than because of it. Oh, well—I suppose not everyone can make the distinction between “ad hoc, ergo propter hoc” and real life.)

Finally, I never mentioned the Newsweek story a few weeks ago which includes a John Kerry interview and looks at his plans for another run. It's interesting to me that anyone talks about his running again. Sure, he's rather young, and may even do relatively well, but I would not have expected it. Did Mondale run again? Did Carter? Did George H.W. Bush? Really odd. And what about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama? Surely, Senator, you're not expecting to run against two people in your party that are significantly more charismatic than you? (On the other hand, I suppose the Howard Dean campaign demonstrates how far charisma can get one.) The story's an interesting read, but may ask more questions than it answers.

My friends know that I'm a bit of an idealist. I wouldn't consider myself an outrageous idealist, but is a decent Jed Bartlett too much to ask for? Oh, right. Yes.

Last modified Mon Feb 14 10:54:50 2005.

Mac mini, continued

So I'm seriously looking at getting one of these little bastards. Turns out that the Apple stores won't be carrying them until the 22nd, but that does include the USC campus bookstore; as a student, at least I'll get $20 off. It still beats the 3-4 weeks of shipping that comes with buying it online, but I was hoping to check one out today.

So, instead, I've been reading about it. (Yes, I would consider “obsessing” too strong a term.) All standard stuff which any Mac user would tell you, but a couple of cute little blurbs, including:

Last modified Thu Jan 13 16:44:06 2005.

The Mac mini

Wow. I am seriously blown away. Sure, I'm a geek, but I didn't expect anything like this.

There's been a rumor for some time that this week (Macworld is either going on or just finished), Apple would announce a sub-$500 Mac. The idea was that so many people loved the iPod and became Mac converts, the only thing stopping others was the price of the hardware. It's certainly the only thing that's ever stopped me from buying a Mac once OS X came out. I honestly believe they're superior hardware and software, but man do you pay for the name.

Not anymore. Today (or recently), Apple announced the Mac mini, the sub-$500 Mac that was rumored. Sure, it's not cutting-edge, but it's not out-of-date, either. The really interesting thing, and the thing that made me need this machine: it's tiny. Seriously, like half the size of my Dell laptop. It (of course) doesn't come with a monitor, but I've got a couple. The other point, of course, is that it's an Apple, so it's gorgeous. Take a look: Picture of the new Mac mini

The only bad news is that it's Apple and it's brand new—so the current online store wait time is 3-4 weeks. Grrr. I'm going to head over to the Pasadena Apple store later today and see if they have one on display (and, dare I hope, in stock). I'll let you know.

Wow. (And man, am I a geek.)

Last modified Mon 5 Nov 2007 at 1215.

Working hard…

Surprisingly, the New Year's resolutions are going quite well. Sure, I'm dieting again, which is not much fun but doable, but the real surprise is that I'm actually working fairly hard. Not by real people standards, maybe, but certainly by my standards. I'm trying to do a 40-hour work week, just as if med school were an actual job, and not do any real work at home. For the moment, it seems like a lot of work and is going well—I can only hope that replacing my usual end-of-system cramming will still work out for me.

Because of school, there's not really much personal news at the moment. As usual, I'm ridiculously annoyed with my neighbors, I'm working much harder than I'd like (and not as much as I should), I'm getting more sleep than I'd like (and not as much as I should), I'm playing Battle for Wesnoth (think turn-based WarCraft) way too much, and, of all things, I haven't seen a movie in weeks; since we got back from Colorado, I think. (To be fair, I've been watching a bit of The West Wing and Law & Order: SVU. Oh, and Committed and Medium aren't half bad, either.)

The only real news to mention is the new existence of an OpenBSD Zaurus port. Very cool. It's still under active development, and hope for more soon. Note, though, that this doesn't (yet) support my SL-5500, but hopefully will before too long. In any case, good thing to work on.

The other project I've been spending some time on is MedCenter, a USC medical student web site. I inherited the project, and am using the administration and redesign of it as my “required student project”, which is basically a way to make sure Keck medical students never want to contribute to the community again. I'm not a huge fan of the site at the moment, but am more annoyed at the choice of infrastructure—it's currently running Microsoft Windows NT 4.0, and I recently noticed that Microsoft's end-of-life on supporting NT 4.0 is this month. Meh. Maybe we'll be able to change it to an open platform, but I have a feeling the school administration will just upgrade it to 2000 Server. Again, meh.

Okay, off to play a little. Have a good one!

Last modified Wed Jan 12 19:41:18 2005.

San Francisco update

I'm staying pretty busy at the moment (among other things, working on an arrangement of the Beatles' “Yesterday” for Chorda Tympani, our med school a cappella group), but I just wanted to take this brief moment to note that I got email from my friend Nestor, who was aboard the USS San Francisco when it ran aground (or something) a few days ago. He's fine; no serious injuries. It's a shame to hear that they lost a crew member, but I'm selfish enough to just be thankful Nestor's okay. Okay, that's it—back to “work”.

Last modified Mon Jan 10 21:34:49 2005.

San Francisco runs aground

My buddy Nestor's an engineer onboard the USS San Francisco, a fast-attack sub based in Guam that ran aground yesterday afternoon. They've left port only within the last few days (he's unable to give out exact dates that they'll be leaving or returning). I sent him an email this morning, but even assuming he's fine, it may be a while before they get back to port and he's able to check his email. Just wish him luck, okay? Nestor's one of the good guys.

Last modified Sat Jan 8 09:37:03 2005.

Happy New Year!

So, 2005 is here, and I'm back to lots of things: dieting, school, and (therefore) studying hard. Trying an 8-4 40-hour-a-week business kind of thing for school and related stuff (like studying for the USMLE). I'll let you know how it works out.

We started the reproductive system today, which also means we're back in gross anatomy for a couple of weeks. Luckily my cadaver this year (like last year) is a female, so I didn't have to dissect a wang. From the reaction of the guys who did, count yourself lucky. There are other bad things about the section, though—not the least of which are cases and quizzes that are required and graded, but for which the faculty is opposed to distributing answers. They say it's because “there's no standard answer”—I think it's because the Repro faculty are lazy. (The Anatomists are the exception, of course.)

So, back to everything (I've got another hour's worth of work to do tonight), but I'll leave you with this disturbing thought: I actually read an interesting conversation on Slashdot. No, really. Okay, maybe two messages (as that's all that's really interesting) can't be called a “conversation”, but it's nice to so neatly condense the two important points of the argument about “piracy” or “information liberation” (depending on your stance). Have a nice read.

Last modified Mon Jan 3 16:13:26 2005.

Rainy days

Pretty rainy in Southern California, but I seriously need to say this to other Angelinos: suck it up. Wow—three days in a row of rain? Must be the end of the world. MSNBC cites “hundreds” of car accidents that have occurred because of the rain over the last couple of days; I don't suppose that would be because Southern Californians have no idea how to drive in the rain. (I'll help you out a little here—there's actually a pedal beside the gas that you can use, too.) Lindsey even had to leave for work an extra ten minutes early because it was raining—there's something that doesn't happen in Florida.

Jerry Orbach died. He's certainly the most famous detective, Lenny Briscoe, from the Law & Order franchise. I'm not normally much of a celebrity-gusher, but this seems like one of the good guys. Pretty classic way to go, unfortunately, for an older guy: prostate cancer. Hey, I don't like the screenings any more than others, but it keeps getting underscored as necessary….

Also wanted to send a quick shout-out to my buddy Nestor in Guam. He's advancing nicely in the Navy's nuclear sub program, and I wish him luck. I actually feel kind of bad, since I initially discouraged him from joining up a couple of years ago, but he actually seems pretty happy with it now. Here's to you, buddy!

Last modified Wed Dec 29 08:46:44 2004.

Gmail invites

Oh, I just wanted to mention that I have a few invites to join Gmail, and I've already distributed some to everyone I know who would make use of them. If you'd like one, feel free to drop me an email. Thanks!

Last modified Tue Dec 28 11:54:59 2004.

Back from Colorado

I don't know what it is that makes me sick on the way home from trips, but it's happened two of the last three plane flights I've had. So I feel like crap (though worlds better than last night), and still feel like I have a ton of stuff to get through before school starts again in a week. Grr. Oh, well—I do have a decent amount of gifts, including enough DVD box sets to watch for about three days straight, so I'll keep this relatively brief and just comment on some interesting news and pseudo-news.

One of the more interesting stories I read this morning: Ecstacy to be tested on terminal cancer patients, a la MSNBC. No, it doesn't do anything to combat the cancer, but it does help as palliative care. Nice to see actual drug studies being done to make a person's last days more pleasant. Though the article refers to MDMA as “ego-friendly” (and I suppose it is, compared to LSD), I would still be concerned that family wouldn't be too happy about their dying grandmother gushing over them if that weren't normally her style. Then again, maybe they would.

Ken Olbermann's column Bloggermann is still talking about the Ohio “recount”. Apparently, just before Christmas there was a Kerry lawyer who mentioned the importance of “preserving evidence”, while of course not supporting the idea that it would make any difference in the election. There wasn't anything all that surprising in the resulting editorial, but I particularly appreciated Ken's summary: “The Kerry campaign spent much of 2004 being accused by its critics of trying to be all things to all people. It seems poised to continue to wear the bull's eye well into the New Year.” I suppose it doesn't help that I'm planning to watch way too much West Wing over the next week, and I'll be constantly comparing that President to the real-life one.

Of course the largest news event of the weekend was the earthquake and resulting tsunami in East Asia. Guam's fine, which has effectively meant any chance of my personally knowing a victim has dropped to zero; therefore, please forgive me for my largest concern being the fate of Arthur C. Clarke, who lives in Sri Lanka. According to the front page of his foundation's site, he's apparently fine.

On the lighter side, Dilbert's annual weasle awards have been named. Scott Adams makes the point that they're not necessarily his view of the world—in fact, “they represent a view of the world that's about as creepy as if you woke up one night and found Michael Moore in you bedroom wearing nothing but a baseball cap.” Thanks, Scott. That image is going to haunt me for weeks.

The last story I'd like to comment on (hey, I haven't posted all week, okay?) is from Nature, and seems to point out a theory of quantum darwinism, specifically how things can change dramatically and near-randomly at the extreme microscopic level and remain “exactly” the same at the visible level. Think of it this way: Observation changes the observed object. You give somebody directions to your abode, saying “take a left at the red house”. Why do we not consider the possibility that the house is green, or blue, or a car, by the time our visitor notices it? Or, as Heinlein would rather us think, if events and choices can make different universes, how can an ostensibly infinite number of possible choices lead to a rather small number of universes? Sorry to go all philosiphical, but at least I threw some science fiction in there.

Finally, I'll just throw a shout-out to a new service I discovered a couple weeks ago: del.icio.us. It's considered a “social bookmarks manager”, but I just like the ease-of-use and method for putting bookmarks online. Very handy.

Okay, that's all for now. I've spent the last hour reading news and writing this, so it's time to get some work done. Off to the TV…

Last modified Tue Dec 28 11:51:43 2004.

In Colorado

So we're at Lindsey's mom's in Longmont, Colorado, just outside Boulder. As always seems to happen, I felt like crap on the first day of travel, slept, and now I'm feeling better. On the other hand, Lindsey's got a cold and a sinus infection, so we spent the morning at a local clinic and are trying desperately to get some relaxation time in. Her sister and stepdad will get here this afternoon, and we'll (hopefully) have a decent dinner and do just a little last-minute shopping.

Lindsey's family is always disturbingly good to me at Xmas-time. (“Disturbing” only because they're significantly better to me than my family is.) I'll get some nice little gifts, I'm sure, and I'm sure some of them will be DVDs. Oh, I'm in no way complaining—the best gift I'm getting from my mother is some book about how doctors connect with their patients. Hmm, haven't heard that one before.

Not sure when I'll post again—it's easy here, as Lindsey's family has a nice insecure wireless network set up—but I don't have a good idea of when my free time will be.

Hope all is well with you, and happy holidays/solstice/vactaion!

Last modified Fri Dec 24 11:03:48 2004.

EPIC 2014

Just ran into this site (thanks to Slashdot), a “future history” (I assume with apologies to Robert Heinlein) of the media, a short documentary, a 1984 for the news-conscious among us today. Please check it out—it's one of the first things on the web in a long time that's had any actual meaning to me.

The movie's apparently been around for a while, but the Slashdot effect has moved them onto a dozen servers—it should only get better, but just in case you can't find them (or want to save them, as I did), the movie files are below. Note that these aren't in a great format for presentation (and are on a slow connection); I'd recommend just downloading them here and watching them later from your machine. Both are necessary to watch the movie. Drop 'em into the same directory and load the first one.

Last modified Mon 5 November 2007 at 1205.

Drugs to make you smarter

Interesting little story in the Los Angeles Times today about drugs that sharpen one's mind (in a good way). Mostly concentrating on drugs like Ritalin used for off-label purposes, but legal. I'm already expecting a slew of medical students to head over to campus health and beg for prescriptions before the next set of exams. (On the other hand, is there any particular time a med student doesn't need to be concentrating?)

Heard a story last year that back in the day it was common for campus infirmaries to hand out amphetamines at a student's request. Relatively shocking now, but why is this any different? Students (and doctors) will most certainly start taking some of these drugs (or already are), and then twenty years from now we'll learn about all sorts of psychoses and other side effects that show the drug—surprise—does more harm than good. I can't imagine taking it; the only question that comes up is whether I'll be at a disadvantage if I don't.

Last modified Mon Dec 20 16:40:22 2004.

Boulder, MyDomain, and “vacation”

Vacation's here. (Hey, three updates today, could you have guessed?) Not exactly and end for work, though. I picked up some USMLE Step 1 prep books while we were out at Borders today, which is the closest I've yet come to studying for the exam I'll have to take before starting 3rd year. I'll be likely to just read through half of those—the other half make up about 3100 practice questions. That's a thousand more than I could have gotten from Kaplan's Qbank, and at a quarter to a third of the price. We'll see how that goes.

We're headed to Colorado on Wednesday, but I have a bit of work to do before then. I have to put together a guide for later AMA Logistics Committee chairs, but that shouldn't take long. I'm more concerned about the things I didn't expect to have to deal with, things like the latest problems with christianjones.md. I have no idea what went wrong, but I was just checking on it last night and noticed it's address—or even entry—wasn't being propagated to nameservers from the registrar. I put in quite a bit of time and $24.95 to get the nameservers transferred from MyDomain, the site's “administrator” (and I use the term as loosely as possible) to the outstanding DynDNS, whom I've used ever since I first had a high-speed dynamic connection back in 1999. MyDomain still hasn't explained what the problem was—my first message to them asking about the problem informed me that “You will need to allow approx. 72 hours for the nameservers to propagate.” Thanks, “Rosemary”—but that bears very little resemblance to even talking about the problem I was having. I can't stress enough that it would be a good idea to stay away from these people, but I've begged for a direct phone number—if I get one, I'll be sure to make it available to others with the same problem.

I'd like to get some good web site stuff done, but I honestly don't know when that'll happen. If anything, it'll have to be Real Soon Now™, since the first priority has to be to clean up this place—it's been a bit messy for, oh, the past few weeks/months/etc. We'll see.

I want to end tonight with just a quick recommendation to check out my buddy Dan Warren's Music Page. Dan and I chatted occasionally in grad school at UF, and despite the facts that I don't tend to keep in touch with people and my guess would be that Dan doesn't either, he's about the only person I keep in touch with from back then. Long story short, I'm just learning Dan has interests outside of math, and his musical tastes are both eclectic and cool. (How many other people would recognize the “Eli's coming” quote occasionally at the top of this page as being a Three Dog Night product? Well, okay, maybe quite a few, but not the ones I tend to have the benefit of hanging around.) Anyway, check out the page—I'm a fan.

Last modified Sun Dec 19 19:18:28 2004.

Lemony Snicket and more

Watched Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events today. Not bad, and surprisingly good and dark for what's likely to be considered a “family film”. Three stars. Got to see trailers for the remade Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, next summer's new War of the Worlds, and a new horrible-looking Will Ferrel movie.

Okay, technically the Ferrel movie doesn't look horrible, but they committed an atrocious blasphemy—they named it Kicking & Screaming. My heart crushed. See, Kicking and Screaming is the name of what may very well be my favorite movie, an outstanding flick about a few just-out-of-college guys who have no idea what to do with their lives. One of my ten or fifteen 5-star moves, and (as I said) maybe my favorite ever. So just imagine the looks I get from friends, colleagues, patients, and anyone else who asks what my favorite movie is, and then thinks it's a Will Ferrel movie about a dad who's a hardcore coach of his son's soccer team. It just hurts to think about it.

Saw The Bourne Supremacy yesterday, and was mildly impressed. Just as well-made as the first one, but slightly less interesting. I just didn't care as much. Still, three stars. Also watched The Girl Next Door, and was pleasantly surprised. I had expected a teenage-aimed hormone-infested comedy, but it was actually good, funny, and actually had a point. Still, nothing all that impressive, just better than my expectations. Three stars, but you should know that Lindsey gave it four, somewhat to my surprise.

I'm more or less in the middle of Welcome to Collinwood, a bumbling thief movie that's not done by the Coen brothers, but might as well be (it even has George Clooney in it). Just a little bored with movies at the moment, so I'll finish watching it and write more later. While I'm at it, I should mention that I just learned the short-lived puppets-as-actually-existant Fox comedy Greg the Bunny as well as the first season of Las Vegas are (or will soon be) available on DVD. Not bored enough to resist slapping them into the Netflix queue.

Last modified Sun Dec 19 18:58:33 2004.

Bush Named Time's Person of the Year

In a courageous and unexpected move, Time Magazine has named President George W. Bush its 2004 Person of the Year. It's really an impressive move for Time, who usually picks, well, George W. Bush, his dad, or other presidents. They cite “sticking to his guns” as one of the outstanding qualities that contributed to his selection. Hey, I can be a real asshole, and I don't change my mind that easily either—can I be Man of the Year? (Patience, I suppose, may be in order, but I'm not sure that would enhance my qualifications.)

To be fair, MSNBC's story on the choice notes that the Time staff said the Person should be the one “who most affected the news and our lives, for good or for ill, and embodied what was important about the year, for better or for worse”. This may, then, very well be an appropriate choice that I shouldn't make fun of—but that's not particularly likely, is it?

Last modified Sun Dec 19 18:48:58 2004.

Pass=Winter break

Well, I passed, and it's time to start relaxing (or at least “relaxing some more”). The test wasn't too bad, considering, or at least I didn't think so. Considering what? Considering I didn't get any serious studying started until Monday. Considering everyone else seemed to think it was harder than I did (though I'm sure most of them will have scored better than me). Considering the first two years at Keck are pass-fail.

I heard for the first time this year a little “equation” that makes me wince: P=MD. That's right, you “just have to pass”, which is usually somewhere in the neighborhood of seventy percent.

I should mention, in the interest of full disclosure (don't you love that phrase?), that I benefit directly from this policy: my exam scores are routinely in the 70-80% range, and my transcript will look remarkably similar to someone who's aced all his exams. That said, I'm not sure pass-fail is such a great thing.

Oh, I'm not suggesting that doctors shouldn't be graded on a pass-fail basis; in my little world, that's exactly what doctoring is. There's an argument, then, that med students should be trained in the same way. The flaw is this: a doctor passes when a patient is cured, survives, and/or so forth. A med student passes with a 70. In my experience, not much more than a 70. And here's the rub: that's all we're shooting for.

P=MD, and you don't have to work as hard as those people who got a ninety. P=MD, and your residency will be as good as anyone else's. Just not sure if that's the motivation we should be going for. Maybe, though, “do as little as possible to get the job done” is fairly apt for medicine today. Hmm.

While I'm ranting, why's it so freaking hard to just park in front of your own house?

Last modified Fri Dec 17 23:13:57 2004.

Not a lot to talk about…

…but I'll ramble on for a while anyway. Tomorrow's the Endocrine system exam, and I'm hoping to pass. Not sacrificing any cute little animals or anything, but hoping. I've studied pretty hard for the last several days (though admittedly almost none for the last several weeks), but rumor has it that this is the one several people failed last year. Wish me luck.

Took a break tonight to watch Envy. Wow. Lindsey went so far as to declare it the worst movie she's ever seen, but I've seen Babette's Feast, so the Jack Black vehicle still gets two stars in my book, and a simple warning—avoid unless your being paid to watch it.

Still have four more movies sitting around the house, as well as a couple that have been on the Tivo for as much as a few weeks. I'll probably get to them next week—I've got a few days off before we head to Colorado to visit Lindsey's mom and stepdad, and not too much work to do in that spare time. School starts back a depressingly early January 3, but I'm sure I'll be ready for it by that time.

For now, I'm tired and I've got an exam in the morning. I'll sign off by saying that the cheating discussion we had a couple of weeks ago has apparently “resolved” with the simple requirement that we sit every other seat in the testing hall. Yeah, that should fix everything.

Last modified Thu Dec 16 21:17:44 2004.

Short election news

Well, the “recount” is apparently still going on. The quick note I wanted to post, though, is that apparently a Minnesota elector accidentally voted for “John Ewards” instead of Kerry. Seriously, at this point, would the Democrats have won even if Bush hadn't run?

Last modified Tue Dec 14 10:39:34 2004.

Open Source Concerns…

I'm a supporter of open source software (which is also sometimes called free software. I tend to prefer (only on a personal level, not an evangelical one) that information be licensed under BSD-style licenses to being licensed under slightly more restrictive GPL-style licenses. (Of course, I really prefer releasing software into the public domain, as I do with all of mine, but not being evangelistic about it, I certainly don't insist that others do the same.

The upshot is that I use free and open-source software wherever possible. A grand total of two of my computers (my laptop and my primary desktop) have Windows XP installed on them, and now that I've finished my work with the latest AMA conference, it won't be on my laptop anymore. Everything else is running OpenBSD, and even my main desktop doesn't use any software I've actually paid for (which, of course, isn't the same as free- or open-source-only). The goal is to mostly finish the switch by May (when the next version of OpenBSD will be released), and then only use Windows when I have to assure compatibility with a larger group (such as at the AMA conferences). I'm not suggesting I'll be able to make the goal of a total switch to free software (a good Java VM and Flash plugin standout as things to worry about), but that's the goal.

I'm an advocate (without being a zealot) wherever possible—I even have several Ubuntu Linux discs that I hand out (Ubuntu will even send you several for free if you like), and profess the quality of the software to anyone who'll listen.

Trouble is, I've hit a snag. No, not the Java and Flash problem mentioned above, not the fact that OpenBSD seems to be much less user-friendly than most Linux distributions (which I, in fact, disagree with), and certainly not having to explain the joy of open source now that Firefox and Thunderbird have reached 1.0. No, the problem is actually in the business of open source.

I've been an OpenBSD advocate for a few months now, and even decided to abandon my own Linux distribution due to OpenBSD's quality. When 3.6 was released around November 1, I chose to buy a CD set from the OpenBSD store. $45 was nothing compared to the immeasurable amount I'd shelled out for software over the years, and I even threw in a $5 donation. It also helped that I wasn't being required to pay for this software, but could even download it for free, had I chosen. I have a high-speed connection, I'd already made a script to do that quite easily, so you can't even really say it added to convenience. I was actually just giving money for the nice warm feeling, and for some free stickers.

Trouble was, the stickers were pretty poor, the CD case was broken to the point that it couldn't securely hold the CDs, and the whole package arrived about a month later than I expected it to. No big deal—as I said, I almost considered this money a donation—but poor practice. Even for those in the communal mindset, it's hard to get away from thinking you should be getting a product when you pay for one.

Even worse has been my interactions with the Mozilla Store. When Firefox 1.0 was about to be released, I shelled out a few bucks to be listed as a friend in a New York Times ad set to run within three weeks of the launch. That date's come and gone, and the ad is yet to happen. At the same time, I decided to purchase some Firefox stickers from the Mozilla store. As it happens, I'm about an hour away from their shipping house. They were shipped on October 26th, “reshipped” twice according to email and phone conversations, and I finally had to give up and ask for a refund yesterday. (I'm still waiting for that refund to actually be posted to my bank account.)

No business would survive in the marketplace like this; this happens because nobody expects open-source software developers to know anything about business. Indeed, there's no reason why they should. On the other hand, the developers want to—they want to sell stickers and raise money in other ways, since they're not raising any by selling software. It just doesn't work. At best, they outsource the product, get a nominal share of the profit, and the consumer gets a decent buy. At worst… well, I'm sure there are stories worse than mine.

So, sad as it is, I'll go back to not paying for software or for software-related things. I won't pay for advocacy, though I'll try to make the occasional donation. I suppose as long as I know up front that it's just a donation, it may feel like I've gotten my money's worth.

Last modified Wed Dec 8 09:19:05 2004.

I'm back!

Actually, I've been back in LA for more than 48 hours, but recovering for most of that. Saturday (the hardest day for my committee) went fairly well, with only minor indigestion. At the moment, I'm trying to get caught up on other work, as well as trying to get an early start on studying for the endocrine system exam. As usual, not terribly worried about it, but it would be nice to study at a slightly less hectic schedule than usual.

The semester's winding down quite nicely. Only three or four more school-related tasks, mostly eclipsed by that last exam of the calendar year. I've also got one more ICM workshop (domestic violence, tomorrow), and my semiannual ICM evaluation (on Thursday). I can't imagine those being terribly bad. (Well, I can imagine it, but really don't think it'll happen.) After those, the exam next Friday (two days after my birthday), and then off for just a few days before leaving for Xmas in Colorado with Lindsey's mom and stepdad.

So, all in all, a little hectic—but it shouldn't be too bad as long as I stay healthy. Cross your fingers.

I do actually have a few things I want to mention, but I'll save them for next time.

Last modified Mon Dec 6 20:51:29 2004.

AMA Meeting

So I'm in Atlanta at the AMA-MSS Interim Meeting this weekend (well, until Saturday, anyway). I can't say it's particularly enjoyable, I can't say were getting particularly good work done, but at least it looks good on the old CV and I officially don't have to go to school for a couple of days.

I'd actually like to write more, but I've been writing some other stuff for the school's Chief Complaint, and getting very little sleep, so I'm going to cut it quite short. More later if I feel up for it…

Last modified Fri Dec 3 08:56:48 2004.

Cheating and community…

We had a little meeting today at Keck that's been coming for a little while. Turns out on our respiratory system exam a few weeks ago, someone allegedly was copying answers off a classmate's exam, and it's sparked a fairly heated discussion about what should be done in such situations. There doesn't seem to be an obvious consensus, and I'm not perfectly sure where I stand on the issue either.

The first opinion to be expressed (when the claim was reported to the class via email) was that the cheater is only hurting himself. In fact, the respondent made the point that he'd cheated, though not since undergrad, and “grew up” after coming to the realization that it wasn't helping in the long run. The next opinion, which was delivered by a friend who was held to task quite a bit for it, was that it was a probelm of patient care, and that, essentially, any cheater would end up having lawsuits up the hoo-hah.

Today saw discussion of the honor code, the problems with additional proctoring and more, but the overall message was that students (and, later, physicians) need to “grow out” of the playground attitude that “tattling is bad”. It's proper, professional, and required to confront colleagues you believe to be behaving unprofessionally, and to report such to appropriate authorities if you're not satisfied with the confrontation.

Here's where a bit of conundrum starts for me. I don't cheat (in my opinion), and don't know anyone who does (again, in my opinion). (Why the “opinions”? Because I share answers. Not on exams, and not on anything I've been specifically told not to collaborate on. Information, however, wants to be free—and others disagree with that. We'll therefore, for the moment, consider cheating to be the disobeying of expressed rules, and avoid the “opinion” terminology.) Problem is, helping one another along as students and physicians has been taught to us as an inherent part of the health care community, and it is certainly my belief that sharing the load is appropriate and professional. We were asked today, “If you decide not to report cheating, where do you draw the line?” I have no good answer, and I'm not suggesting we shouldn't be reporting cheating, I just don't know that we should.

Everyone seems to accept that cheating is going to happen, despite encouragement to adhere to the honor code or increasing security at exams. If that's actually the case, then my suggestion is to have a formal or informal session discouraging students from cheating, and leave it at that. If there is something to be done to actually end cheating, consider whether it will also impinge on the open community attitude we're supposed to be fostering before implementing it.

It seems that we're continually more willing to give up rights than to simply expect more of one another. Maybe people as a whole deserve that attitude. I'm somehow both cynical and idealistic, so I can't make that decision myself. In the meantime, though, I'll try to at least retain my rights.

Last modified Mon Nov 29 21:25:36 2004.

Back to work…

Time, once again, to get off my lazy butt and get some work done. The AMA-MSS Interim Meeting is less than a week away, and I still have a decent amount of preparatory work to do (not to mention packing and making sure all my electronics equipment is set to go). It's been a nice little Thanksgiving break, though—even if I have eaten way too much. With the AMA meeting this week, the endocrine system exam only a couple weeks after that, and a real need to start preparing for USMLE step 1 (which I'll take next June), it seems like work will really start to gear up. I'm sure it will all be fine—as long as I can pull myself away from my several hobbies that in no way advance my professional life.

No good shopping yesterday after all. Turns out we got to Fry's after just about all the sale items I was looking at were sold out. There were a couple of decent rebate deals I still could have picked up, but by that point I just didn't want to stand in line for them. Ah, well.

No movies this weekend, either. Well, none in theaters, anyway. Lindsey and I watched a couple of Netflix DVDs that have been sitting around a couple of weeks. Elephant, by Good Will Hunting director Gus Van Sant is a depressing, boring, and just incredibly slow look at high school violence. I know I'm supposed to be a movie geek, but it really is just a proclivity for movies, not films. The last several “films” I've seen have been incredibly boring. One star.

And, just to prove that my tastes aren't in the high-brow indie flick area, we also watched the 80's John Cusack classic Better Off Dead…. Odd, but quite entertaining. Almost an 80's movie that makes fun of itself. Good stuff. Three stars (well, barely). Don't bother unless you, like me, are a fan of both 80's teen comedies and John Cusack.

Last modified Sat Nov 27 23:36:35 2004.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, I'm finally recovering from the coma-like state induced by one of the best turkeys I've ever eaten. I don't know exactly what it is, but Lindsey makes turkey and stuffing better than anyone else I've ever known. Sure, I have simple tastes; none of that weird stuff like grapes or raisins or apples in the stuffing, no “turducken” or deep-frying, just amazingly good old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinner. For the others of you who celebrate today with ridiculous amounts of food and doing absolutely nothing productive, I hope you've had a good one!

And, as tradition and economic conditions dictate, we'll be going shopping tomorrow. Sure, some might (and do) consider it insane to go out on the busiest shopping day of the year, but it's also the one with the best deals, and I'm a sucker for a good deal. That mean's I'll be hitting Fry's early and trying to pick up cheap electronics I don't need. We'll grab some food, and finish with probably some typical suburban mall shopping. Unlikely to see any movies this weekend, as Alexander is getting phenomenally bad reviews. Still waiting for the Oscar movie of the year….

Just finished watching the eighth season of Friends. Still amazing to me that some of the sitcoms from the last ten years have such replay power that I'll shell out forty bucks every six months to keep a season for posterity—despite the fact I've seen most episodes more times than I can count in syndication. I'm not planning to buy all the seasons of Seinfeld, but you can bet I'll be renting them from Netflix.

Oh, and I gotta mention that I finally got copies of Don Knuth's The Art of Computer Programming. Lindsey gave it to me (early) for my birthday. (I believe I've mentioned before that she's the best significant other ever.) Some might find it odd that I still wanted the books after leaving math. Hey, I may be doing medicine, but I'm still a geek (maybe more than ever), and I'm not exaggerating when I say no geek should be without these texts. I honestly plan to read them cover-to-cover. I just have no idea when.

Last modified Thu Nov 25 20:55:51 2004.

Good Morning!

Well, I'm up early and in a linking mood.

I don't normally talk much about hot-button issues, and I'm going to continue that by simply linking to someone else who's talking about one and then talking about their article. Anna Quindlen of MSNBC has a really impressive writeup of some current issues surrounding abortion and women's rights. The remarkable part is that it's a real plea for reasonabilty, for discussing issues and acknowledging differences, as opposed to trotting out slogans and telling everyone how ignorant or insensitive they are. Not bad.

MSNBC is also the home of my newest regular read, Bloggermann by Keith Olbermann. While most networks are desperately fighting for their legitimacy by denouncing blogs as the antithesis of journalism, Olbermann and MSNBC have decided to embrace the format. Purists will note that his page is essentially updated daily, isn't in a stream-of-consciousness format, is funny, insightful, and well-written, and therefore probably bears more resemblance to a newspaper column than a blog—but it's called Bloggermann, so who am I to argue? His observations on the Ohio recount were about the only coverage I saw in the “legitimate” media, and were very well done. Have a read sometime.

Last modified Wed Nov 24 08:04:26 2004.

Woo Hoo! Thanksgiving Break!

Thanks to some nice planning by one of my classmates and the acquiescence of the Keck faculty, our Thanksgiving break officially started at 3 PM today. Of course, I was home by 1:45 and probably wouldn't have attended tomorrow even if there were classes, but somehow it's always nice for the slacker philosophy to be proven the appropriate one.

Speaking of slacking, I've been doing plenty—yet somehow also getting plenty of work done. This was our second week of the Endocrine system, so it's not like I've started studying yet, but there's plenty to do outside academia, too. I've finished most of the superstructure of my new professional site; although it's not yet automated, has much larger images to download than I'd like, and contains little if any content as of yet, I'm pretty proud of it. I'll end up posting there information about events I'll be attending (such as the AMA meeting in Atlanta next weekend), thoughts on health care, and so forth. Don't worry; my more glib (or rather, less professional) thoughts will still all be posted here instead—it's unlikely the new site will be of interest to anyone outside health care. Of course, it's unlikely either will be of interest to anyone at all.

Also been doing quite a bit of arranging for Chorda Tympani, our a cappella group. At the moment (unfortunately), it's all Xmas music—the tradition has been to do carolling for the first semester, and “real” a cappella for the second. Expect some good stuff in January or February. I don't want to mention specifics just yet, mostly because I don't know what my mad skillz will allow me to concoct.

Finally, on the personal health front, my ultrasound last week was fine; no enlarged liver, gallstones, or ulcers. Some mild splenomegaly we'll check out with a CBC, and my nausea and stomach pains have actually been getting a bit better (I think). How much has to do with not going to school, with the fact that I've had no coffee since November 12, and how much is entirely unexplained, I have no idea. Oh yeah, no coffee—and my entire caffeine consumption has dropped to about the equivalent of 4-5 cans of diet soda over the last two weeks, and is still dropping. I'm sleeping somewhat better, and generally feel a little less stressed. Best advice I can give anyone else used to a pot of coffee a day: stop.

And speaking of sleeping better, time to go do that. More later!

Last modified Tue Nov 23 22:19:49 2004.

Done with Respiratory!

Okay, so I passed respiratory and it's on to endocrine. I can't say I'm looking forward to it all that much, despite my family's history of diabetes mellitus. Besides, my last hemoglobin A1C was 5.0, so nothing to worry about at the moment, anyway. Oh, but I digress—my main point was that the respiratory system (certainly the worst-taught one at Keck so far) is over and it's back to doing things that have as little to do with medicine as possible.

Of course, at the moment that's not particularly little. I've got to work on my Required Student Project, the MedCenter web site, and get ready for the AMA-MSS Interim Meeting the first weekend of December in Atlanta. As chair of the logistics committee, there'se not a ton of stuff I have to do before the conference starts, but as a member of the Computers and Technology Committee I have a report or two to finish writing. Throw in the work I'm doing on improving my professional site, and it seems that more and more of my “free time” work is medically related, at least tangentially.

Been starting to have some stomach problems, too, which I'm fairly comfortable for the moment writing up to stress—but what stress? Sure, I study during exam weeks, but I certainly don't stress about school the way most of my colleagues do. I let other things get to me, like getting easily annoyed by my neighbors, but don't really consider myself a stressed person. Took a proton pump inhibitor (Prevacid), which didn't really seem to work, but Prilosec seems to be doing a bit better. I'll get an ultrasound tomorrow (which isn't likely to show more than a fatty liver), and take it from there. Of course, we're just assuming it's an ulcer at this point, but I'm not anemic—I think the worst outcome I fear at this point is having to cut back on spicy foods. I've already reduced my regular caffeine intake by 75%; at this point, I might just stop drinking it and see if my sleep improves too.

Oh, and of course god forbid I should go on a diet….

Last modified Sun Nov 14 18:29:11 2004.

Happy Firefox Launch!

Mozilla Firefox 1.0 is released today! This is the web browser I use, even on Windows, and is far and above the best available. It includes tabbed browsing, popup blocking, a cool, fast interface, and is, of course, free software. Since the official sites are getting hammerred now that the news is out, I've decided to post a copy of the Windows installer on this site. Have fun!

[Edit: As of the evening of the launch, the Mozilla Firefox page seems to be responding nicely. For the sake of speed, I'd suggest you download it there.]

Last modified Tue Nov 9 21:03:05 2004.

The Incredibles

are pretty darned entertaining. Good stuff all around—and the action was just as good as any modern live-action, special-effects-laden superhero movie. Lots of little tiny homages, as expected from any Pixar film, and a good new take on superhero movies. Easily as good as Toy Story or Toy Story 2. Honestly, the only real drawback was the huge crowds of kids and other people who clearly don't get out often. Thus, I'll leave this one with three stars, a recommendation that it's worth paying to see, and the advice to go early in the day or after it's been out two or three weeks. Don't worry—this one isn't leaving the theatres any time soon.

It's likely to be a few days before I'm updating regularly here again. My respiratory system exam is six days away, and this one is likely to take quite a bit of cramming. If I get sick of it and feel like doing anything other than sitting in front of the TV for an hour or two, I'll write a bit more. Until then…

Last modified Sat Nov 6 17:49:41 2004.

OpenBSD/Windows XP dual boot

In preparation for the upcoming AMA conference at which I'm chairing the Logistics and Resources Committee (basically the AV club of the meeting), I've had to install Windows XP on my laptop. Since I was documenting the process anyway, I decided to post a quick guide to dual-booting OpenBSD and Windows XP.

Last modified Fri Nov 5 20:58:34 2004.

Non-election stuff

So, I've still got some time before hearing Kerry's concession speech, and despite my interest in the elections, there are actually a couple of other things I wanted to mention. As usual, they have to do with movies and TV.

It's looking like NBC will be cancelling Father of the Pride. Oh, it's no superb show, but it was a decent laugh before Scrubs on Tuesday nights. As usual, my guess is that most of the jokes were a little too “adult”, but there were a few annoying parts. (Come on, why would animated Sigfried and Roy be better than their live action counterparts?) If anything, this and the tragic downturn of The West Wing will just cause me to cut out about a third of my NBC viewing.

I keep hearing good buzz about The Incredibles, opening this weekend. Lindsey and I will probably head out to see that, but I'm not sure exactly when. Hey, I'd just as much love to see National Treasure (which is quite likely to be crap), but there's no way I'll drag her to that.

Okay, back to being a news junkie. Er, studying. Yeah, studying.

Last modified Wed Nov 3 10:30:42 2004.

Nothing to see here…

So, after an extremely active (for me) writing day yesterday, I'd like to keep up the pace, but have to study for a respiratory quiz this afternoon. Still, there are still enough thoughts bouncing around in my aching head for an update or two.

When I awoke with Lindsey at 6 this morning, there was still far from any definitive answer to who won the presidential election. MSNBC still had Bush at 269 electoral votes, having failed to award any of the remaining states to him. CNN still hadn't called Ohio, leaving Bush at 259, and Kerry a few points behind. She went to work, I went back to sleep.

Kerry apparently decided to do the menschy thing and concede the election. This was actually what I'd hoped Gore would do in 2000, concede to “spare the nation's humility” and run again. Now, it's unlikely Kerry will run again, and there may be better things worth sparing at this point than the nation's humility, but I still get the point, and still applaud the gesture. He'll be giving his official concession speech in a few minutes, so I'll keep this short.

More later?

Last modified Wed Nov 3 10:04:18 2004.

Oh, it could still happen…

And, once more addressing the bitching I loathe, there could be plenty more.

There will certainly be some returns coming in over the next few days that could change things, but won't necessarily. I'm about to go to bed with the race (according to MSNBC) still at 269 to 207, with Bush in the lead. At the moment, he also has the lead in Nevada and New Mexico, as well as in Iowa, a state which CNN seems to think won't be able to decide on a winner until the end of the week.

Again, the idea is that if Bush wins any of these (or the other still-not-called states of Minnesota, Wisconson, Michigan, or Hawaii), it'll be over. That's apparently just not happenning yet, and I'm going to bed. (Actually, that's the best argument I have for electronic voting—getting all the results before I'm too tired to pay attention.)

Oh, and about the ceasely bitching I ceaselessly bitch about: I'm still fairly certain I'd rather have a whiny nation than a police state. Pretty sure. Probably. I think.

Last modified Tue Nov 2 23:26:49 2004.

So, this is mildly interesting…

Is it possible? (Well, obviously the answer is “yes” as I'm writing, but…) MSNBC has already called both Florida and Ohio for Bush, giving him an electoral vote of 269; CNN has been a bit more conservative in “calling” states throughout the evening, but hasn't yet actually disagreed on a result. (We'll see later if this, er, “strategy” actually works out for CNN.) If Bush wins another state (and assuming MSNBC's projections are correct), he's got the Presidency again. But just the fact that he stands at that magic number, one shy of the electoral votes needed to win, brings up the conspiracy-theorist dream, the rumored idea that's been circling the net pundits for the last few days—an electoral tie.

Oh, even in such a case, there are still some interesting possibilities. An elector may choose to switch votes, in which case others may do the same. This seems fairly unlikely, but so did a tie a few hours ago. If they all vote the way they're “supposed” to, then the House of Representatives basically chooses. The bad news, even compared to my preferred candidate not winning in one way or another, is that either of these scenarios leads to four years of bitching “unfair” and “cheat” and “stolen” by the losing party. That really doesn't help in any way. Plenty of my friends and colleagues already feel that way about the 2000 election; why would it be better this time around? This isn't a party issue, at this point—I'm fairly certain that both Republicans and Democrats are excellent whiners, and that they both annoy people just as much when they do so.

I hope it doesn't happen. If it does, I hope people will see that it's because of the system we have, and perhaps even make efforts to change that system. Claiming they were disenfranchised (that's the proper word for “cheated”) won't change anything.

About the only thing I'm becoming aware of at this point (aside from my usual fatigue) is that, as I'd half-joked to friends yesterday, we won't really know anything for another month, anyway.

Last modified Tue Nov 2 22:46:42 2004.

It's official

No, no official results in the election yet—it's just official that I'm again, at least temporarily, a news junkie. I'm sitting at my computer with eight Firefox tabs open to various pages on MSNBC, Slate, and electoral-vote.com. (Oh, yeah, and a couple for Gmail and Slashdot. At this point, all I've really learned is that I wish there were a way to tell a tab to “refresh” every n minutes.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been monitoring e-voting problems nationwide. (This, unfortunately, only partially offsets my quite unpleasant surprise that as many as a third of American voters are using the ATM-like touchscreens. It doesn't bode well that I've personally heard people having trouble with the machines.) Hey, I'm a technophile, but the way these machines are made and used frightens me like no blinking “12:00” ever could. Shamelessly stolen from the EFF's “Verify the Vote” site, I think this pretty much sums it up: Clippy Voting Assistant

Last modified Mon 5 Nov 2007 at 1216.

Happy Election Day!

Ah, election day. How could it not be fun to sit around for hours (especially since my vote was cast last week) and wait to discover the fate of the world? Lindsey's off taking her actuarial test at the moment, I've already watched an episode of The West Wing (which essentially just disappointed me in the quality of our real-world leaders), and I'm about to start tidying the house for the hard-core partying to come. (NB: I suppose, to be fair, hard-core partying doesn't really necessitate any prior tidying, but is there anything wrong with making it look nice?)

Oh, I suppose I should mention that in a mark of true marketing genius (or at least marketing consciousness), the third season of The West Wing is also released on DVD today. Seriously, I never would have thought of that. But, hey, if you want to really make my election day, regardless of Presidential victor, head over to Amazon and buy it for me (or, really, anything else on my Wish List would be fine). Really. Buy me stuff.

Last modified Tue Nov 2 10:18:21 2004.

Happy Day of the Dead!

For the second year in a row, we didn't get a single trick-or-treater at our house for Halloween. Just more candy for us, sure, but I'm feeling a little ill after making a meal from snack-size Snickers bars and Hershey's miniatures. At this point, if I don't have crazy sugar-induced nightmares (or go into a diabetic coma), I think I'll actually be surprised.

In further preparation and relaxation for Lindsey's actuarial exam tomorrow, we went out for our typical dinner and a movie. Unfortunately, there doesn't really seem to be much out worth seeing, so we settled on Surviving Christmas, the latest Ben Affleck fare. To be kind, I'll call it two stars, but really only because I did actually chuckle a time or two. On the other hand, there were plenty of times I was just writhing in my chair, so call it as you will. Not really good enough for a rental, but still good enough to be a “safe” movie for the sake of getting out of the house.

Our first Health Care for All meeting went off without any serious glitches, though it was competing with a couple of other organizations. Since one was Chorda Tympani, with which I'm also involved, there was some bouncing back and forth. On the other hand, the a cappella group is just doing some Christmas carolling this semester, and I won't be around for the biggest concert, so I'll be taking a fairly minor role in that for the moment. Next semester, though, we'll hopefully be able to do some interesting stuff.

So, for now, it's off to bed. Wish Lindsey luck (though I think she's quite well prepared), and I'll keep writing soon.

Last modified Mon Nov 1 20:48:01 2004.

Happy Halloween!

To be honest, I don't have a significant announcement of any kind, so I thought I'd just try to babble about for a while.

Lindsey's third actuarial exam is coming up on Tuesday, a day bound to be the start of some non-actuarial significance. (Actually, I suppose it wouldn't surprise me at all if some statisticians were called in to count votes in certain states.) She's a little stressed, but doing quite well. At least she gets tomorrow and Tuesday off work. We'll try to catch a movie and some early dinner to relax tomorrow.

Of course, that's only after tons of school stuff I have tomorrow. No, not class (who'd you think was writing this?), but rather the first meeting of “Health Care for All”, the single-payer health plan advocacy club on campus, of which I'm the treasurer. (They don't actually seem to care that I'm not actually a supporter of the single-payer plan.) As the treasurer, I apparently am the one who orders pizza and fills out the reimbursement forms.

Unfortunately, that first meeting coincides with that of Chorda Tympani, the med school a cappella group, another group I'm supposed to be leading. In this case, though, I've essentially handed the group over to another student until January, since the first semester is basically just Christmas carols and such. With any luck, we'll be able to do some real East Coast-style a cappella in the spring, and I'll have a bit more input into that.

As far as computing goes, I've had to put Windows XP back onto my laptop, since it'll pretty much be required for the AMA conference I'm attending in December. I'm the chair of the Logistics and Resources committee for that conference; we're kind of the A-V club, and I have to be able to interact more compatibly than OpenBSD might let me. The good news is that I've actually now realized it's harder to install and update Windows than to do the same for OpenBSD or Slackware. There's just so much useless confirmation clicking it seems to take forever.

I've also started to experiment a little with Linux again, in the hopes of making my January 1, 2005 deadline for removing all closed-source software from all my machines. At this point, just for ease of setup of our main desktop, I'm looking at the apparent ease-of-use of SimplyMEPIS or the cleanliness (and Slackware base) of VectorLinux. Over the next few weeks, I'll be trying them both out; I'll let you know any interesting findings. (Okay, I'll be honest—I'll probably either never mention them again or I'll let you know definitively uninteresting stuff.)

I'm liking OpenBSD more and more from a design standpoint—it's definitely the kind of thing I would have done myself given the skills and the time, and I'm more and more glad I abandoned the Infinit GNU/Linux project. I've migrated all my PCs except the main desktop system (and my laptop, as I mentioned above) to running only OpenBSD, and have even (finally) put all my seven hundred something gigabyte media fileserver all into OpenBSD format, and discovered some interesting large file bugs in the process. Could this be my entrance into OpenBSD development? Only time will tell—time I already have committed to other things, I'm sure.

Last modified Sun Oct 31 18:57:51 2004.

Medical Care Outsourcing?

Just noticed a Slashdot article (which is referencing an MSNBC/Washington Post article) with the ominous title “Medical Care Gets Outsourced Too”. It essentially deals with a guy who needed a cardiac valve replacement (not that uncommon) and found that he could do have it done for about one twentieth of the cost in India. This (and similar cases) have been going on a long time, from surgery to prescription filling. No, this is in no way news, or at least wouldn't be if both health care and job loss weren't centers of the political universe at the moment.

Trouble is, the way this article is presented (the Slashdot lead, not the Washington Post article) focuses on outsourcing. Yeah, outsourcing is a big concern, especially in the tech group that Slashdot caters to. (Well, okay, I read it, too, but may not be the official target demographic.) What this does, though, is try to make it everyone's concern, with the hope that some influential MD will say “I'm going to lose my job to India! Stop outsourcing!”, and ridiculous tariffs (or something) will follow.

This isn't a job loss issue. This is a health care issue. I believe the claim that the care this patient received was as good as he'd have gotten just about anywhere, and I'm not scared that people will go to other countries and receive substandard or dangerous care. I'm afraid they'll have to go to other countries to get any care at all. Care in this country is quickly becoming substandard. Add to that the health insurance problem: the patient in the article was quoted a US$200,000 surgery after a $50,000 deposit, mainly because he didn't have insurance. He instead chose to spend $10,000 to go to India and have the operation. I've met other patients in similar situations, breaking the bank to pay cash for an uninsured hospital stay. They're the new ranks of the “wealthy uninsured”, who aren't rich, but could certainly afford insurance if they chose to.

What about those that can't? What about someone who couldn't scrape together $10,000? There's some line under which you can't get medical care anywhere, yet is still higher than the limit for getting Medicaid (or the equivalent). I'm not suggesting a single-payer plan is the answer (the article actually mentions Brits and Canadians going to India to avoid long waits), but our current system certainly isn't.

End today's rant.

Last modified Fri Oct 22 16:42:54 2004.

Boons and banes

Ah, the trials of being a computer enthusiast on a medical student's budget. I made a promise to myself a little while back that I wouldn't buy another hard drive until I could get it for less than US$0.50 per gigabyte without a rebate, and (without promising) set a goal of getting four 250 gig drives and setting up a nice RAID for my next purchase. Well, it turns out that Fry's has just what I wanted now, and has them for $119.99. (frys-electronics-ads.com hasn't updated their page yet, but the Southern California ad also appears in the olde tyme print newspaper.) Trouble is, I don't really have an extra five hundred twenty dollars to spend. Oh, the pains of my life.

On the other hand, I probably should be studying instead of driving out to Fry's, anyway. Oh, I'm sure I still won't, but I should be. Lindsey's working hard for the last couple of weeks before her third actuarial exam (which happens to be on election day), and so we have a couple of “no fun” weekends planned. I'll probably just spend some time at Borders in Pasadena, screw around with computer stuff, and hopefully get some modicum of work done.

Oh yeah, and praise my friend Janet's name for finally getting me a Gmail account. Loving it so far. No, I'm not actively giving out the address since I plan to keep chjones@aleph0.com as my “portable” address and just forward it there. Hey, I'm just amazed I've already got 3 megs on there.

Last modified Fri Oct 22 10:00:44 2004.

I'm back

After a short hiatus for studying and such, I'm back. Lots of little announcements, no real big ones. Perhaps the biggest is my registration of christianjones.md; I was ecstatic to see that it was actually available. That'll turn into my “professional” site, while this will remain my “personal”. No, that doesn't mean that I plan to spend a significant amount of time making the professional site all that great (for instance, it hasn't been significantly updated from the simple welcome page I posted). Thus, it shouldn't take too much time away from this.

Along the same lines, I've decided to start a simple example-only campaign to advertise public domain information on the web; right now, I only have the No Rights Reserved page at christianjones.md as a prototype. [Edit: as of 15 November, I've started hosting it at aleph 0.] At some point (in my copious free time), I'll make a simple explanatory and usage page and post more details here. For the moment, if you'd like any information about why this is necessary, please feel free to email me.

Went to Fry's and spent way too much money again, but got some cool stuff, including yet another hard drive. (I mean seriously, 31 cents per gig? How am I supposed to resist that?) I actually have a single machine (my “media server”) with over 800 gigabytes spread among six hard disks now, and well over a terabyte of hard disk space distributed among my many desktops.

Finally finished watching the first season of “Dead Like Me”; I'm gonna stick at a rating of three stars, with a recommendation to check it out. Certainly not for everybody, and I still like “Six Feet Under” better, but try watching the pilot if you have the time and inclination.

And, finaly, a bit of a disappointment with I Heart Huckabees. It was good, it was funny, and Lindsey liked it a lot—I think I was just hoping for something more profound, or at least thought-provoking. Still entertaining; I'd recommend it, if you're in the mood for a strange laugh. Personally, I'm happy to say that the direction and the performances (especially those of Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin) were outstanding, but think I liked Being John Malkovich (the closest to sharing a genre I can think of) as a more lasting entertainer. Three stars.

Oh, yeah, and I passed renal. Two down, six to go. Just started respiratory yesterday; I'm still trying to decide whether I'll go to most of the classes or not. Prospective student interviews are starting, so I have a bit of motivation for coming to school, but I'm also biking again, so I have bit of motivation not to.

Last modified Mon Nov 15 13:01:40 2004.

Debates

Lots of debates. Or, as I called them in my last post, “debates”, but somewhat noteworthy and entertaining nonetheless. The most obvious, of course, was the first of the 2004 Presidential debates last night. Sure, Lindsey and I are only about one-third through the debate itself (thanks, as usual, to TiVo), but we watched the Indecision 2004 coverage on Comedy Central last night after Joey last night (which, unfortunately, seems to be going downhill in a very bad way). No real comments about the debates themselves—suffice to say my expectations from the other day were entirely justified.

Oh, but more debates—such as when to buy more hard drives. Thanks again to Fry's Ads for pointing out that hard drives have finally reached below $0.50/GB without rebates. Yeah, 160 GB Maxtors for $69.99. Oh, and I need more space, too, despite recently noticing that I've finally topped a terabyte with all my home machines combined. Unfortunately, Lindsey's studying hard for actuarial exams, all my other friends and I are studying for the renal exam next week, and my most recent financial aid disbursement check hasn't arrived yet, all of which means this “Limit 1 per customer” deal won't yet satisfy my need for a 480 GB RAID-5 system. Oh, well. Debate's over, I guess.

And it looks unlikely we'll see I ♥ Huckabees this weekend, too. That's due mostly to our work schedule, but also to the fact that it doesn't yet seem to be playing at the theaters we normally frequent. Only in limited release—guh. Ah, more time for watching Dead Like Me—er, studying, I mean studying….

Last modified Fri Oct 1 18:05:32 2004.

This'll be a short one….

Only a couple of quick notes, then it's back to the struggle between studying renal and spending time implementing the organizational system from Getting Things Done; you can guess which is winning out.

Scrubs is still holding its own well, funny as ever, despite the naysayers that it “clearly only has a few funny ideas left”. I'm also not much of one for a show that regularly has a “lesson”, but it still keeps me laughing. Surprisingly enough, Father of the Pride is keeping me going, too; this was especially surprising since I didn't expect it to last four episodes. Of course, now that I've shown early approval it's only a matter of time….

I've got disc three of the first season of Dead Like Me ready to watch, but with the renal exam coming up next Friday (and with I ♥ Huckabees opening this weekend), I'm not sure that I'll have a chance to watch it anytime soon.

Finally, the two real reasons I wanted to make a post today. First, it seems that someone has finally demonstrated evidence of a theory most of us accept readily (at least, most of us who drink a pot of coffee a day): caffeine withdrawal is real. So real, it should even end up as a disorder in the DSM-V (in 2010). As the most widely (ab)used behaviorally-active drug, that's not exactly surprising.

Finally, just because I know some people who'll be watching the Republican v. Democrat Presidential “debate” tomorrow night, I wanted to point out Connie Rice's Top 10 Secrets They Don't Want You to Know About the Debates. Oh, I may still watch (though I'm not sure why—I can't see changing my mind about anything because of it), but just some good things to remember while it's going on. I guess I still think that one of these days, we'll have a debate like in that episode of The West Wing. Now that'd be something.

Last modified Wed Sep 29 19:18:07 2004.

Movies & TV

That's just about all my free time anymore. Tomorrow I'll again go back to studying, spending as little time as possible in front of a computer (i.e., no more than an hour per weekday) and trying to implement the organizational system from Getting Things Done. In the meantime, plenty of movies and TV this weekend.

I'll start with Medical Investigation. It's going downhill. Fast. I'm not ready to stop watching the new show, but I'm deleting all the episodes I've saved off the TiVo. You gotta ask yourself, if it's not worth the disk space, is it worth watching again?

Dead Like Me, on the other hand, keeps getting better. Lindsey and I are about halfway through the first season, and I'm still enjoying it, even if there are still plenty of unanswered questions (hell, maybe because there are still plenty of unanswered questions).

Okay, time for the weekend's movie reviews:

The Forgotten

Not bad for your standard X-Files-esque psychological “thriller”, but not that thrilling, either. Julianne Moore ably portrays a woman whose physical reminders of her deceased son begin to disappear, but she won't forget. Blah, blah, blah, aliens probably did it. Three stars for the edge-of-your-seat factor, but no need to see it twice.

The Last Shot

Seemed so promising, but left me without as many laughs as it promised. Matthew Broderick is a new Hollywood director, and Alec Baldwin is the producer who decides to make his film—except the producer is actually an FBI agent who's just faking the movie to sting the mob, or the Teamsters, or somebody. Seriously, if Matthew Broderick keeps making movies like this and The Stepford Wives, I' going to have to write off any new movies he makes and go back to watching Ferris Bueller's Day Off a few more times. Two stars.

Oh, and don't forget that Star Wars and its friends came out on DVD this week, due in part to George Lucas's piracy concerns. I'm not really sure how this alleviates his concerns; I'm sure, uh, plenty of people have already ripped the movies to a local hard disk.

Peace out. (I've always wanted to say that, but it sounds as ridiculous coming from me as does “dang” or “baby”.) You keep reading 'em, I'll keep watching 'em.

Last modified Sun Sep 26 09:39:55 2004.

Dead Like Me

So far, immensely entertaining. Only four episodes (counting the pilot as one) into it, so I'll again refrain from giving a quantitative rating, but I will say for those of you with a Netflix account or disposable time or money, check it out. Worth watching.

Also pleasantly surprised by this season's ER premiere. Oh, it's nothing like the show's first few seasons, but not as bad as I'd expected—of course, I'd purposely tried not to get my hopes up. I am comfortable saying, though, that the inclusion of a car chase in an episode most certainly means the show has jumped the shark. I'm hoping the same can't yet be said for The West Wing.

Also finished watching The Rainmaker today. Not bad, not great. I suppose I was a little disappointed considering the stars (Matt Damon, Danny DeVito, Claire Danes, and more) and the fact that it's a John Grisham movie by Francis Ford Coppola. Just didn't live up to that promise, you know? Three stars. As usual, check it out if that's your sort of thing. I'd personally substitute a good episode of Law & Order.

My wrist is slowly getting better, but I'm spending the next several days doing some pretty serious organizational stuff, so updates may still be a little slow. In the meantime, I've also taken over administrative responsibilities on MedCenter, the USC med school student server, so please check it out and email me with any comments, especially changes you'd like to see. For now, I've finished another six pack of Newcastle, so it's off to bed. Movies this weekend (hopefully).

Last modified Fri Sep 24 22:07:08 2004.

Pelvic exams

We had our live-subject pelvic exam workshop last night. Horrible. Even more uncomfortable than you might imagine, as our teacher (who was having us perform the exam on her as she taught us) couldn't seem to find the balance between teaching (i.e., figurative hand-holding) and testing (i.e., bluntly saying “no, you're doing it wrong). In comparison to the experiences of our classmates, I think my group's problem was that our TA was much less laid back. Made it that much more uncomfortable, y'know?

Seriously, if I were ever given the choice of one thing in medicine I never had to do again, this'd be it. Of course, the analog is probably true for just about every woman who's ever had one performed on her, too. Lord knows I'll scoff anytime I hear a man complain about a rectal from now on.

Last modified Thu Sep 23 21:47:13 2004.

Blockbuster online rentals

A little different than Netflix; not necessarily better or worse, but I'll stick with the company I know and love (and still somehow consider the “little guy”). Blockbuster has essentially the same service (their return addresses even seem to be only a few P.O. Boxes apart), with the addition of two free in-store rentals a month, and is a couple bucks less. Still, in the two week free trial period I'm just finishing, movies seem to take a bit longer to get shipped to me, and I had to file a complaint (easy enough) to remind them I'd already returned Can't Buy Me Love. Oh, well.

Studying's going surprisingly well, which means I don't have a movie to rate today. The Rainmaker will be soon, and I hope to see The Forgotten (and maybe more) this weekend.

Last modified Thu Sep 23 21:10:13 2004.

XXX

No, the movie, not the rating. Watched it this morning, and it was surprisingly good. Really just as cheesy and as entertaining as any Bond film. Three stars. Again, definitely watch it if it's unedited and free.

Hulk was another story. Started off well enough, a solid three-star prospective, then took a dump on itself with the absolutely terrible computer-animated muscleman. Stopped watching about five minutes after the green guy's first appearance; one star.

And, the new surprise hit, the Showtime original series Dead Like Me. Saw the pilot tonight; Lindsey and I will watch the remaining episodes of season 1 over the next few weeks, and I'll have a brief review then. So far, so good.

Studying's also so far, so good. If I can keep up the pace I'm at (and it's not that fast a pace), I'll be all set for the renal exam in a couple of weeks, step 1 of the USMLE in June, and have learned medical Spanish proficiently by Christmas. Now taking all reasonable bets…

Last modified Tue Sep 21 20:58:25 2004.

For the first post in a while…

…just a quick update and a few movie reviews. Got my splint off today, so I'm close to full speed typing again. Also started working regularly again (no, not employment, just actually doing schoolwork), and working on extracurricular things more actively than just doing what comes along. Hey, if I can start dieting again, I'll be back where I need to be.

I spent the weekend watching some Blockbuster and NetFlix free rentals, as well as enjoying the Starz! free preview weekend. Oh, mostly bad movies, but I can't complain about the, er, access to them on my computer, for once.

So let's see. Don't mock any of the below, please—I almost certainly wouldn't have seen them had they not been free, so some slightly lower quality than usual is to be expected.

We'll start with the one I just assumed I wouldn't like, and for that reason was probably pleasantly surprised: Piglet's Big Movie. Yeah, seriously. Oh, there's no trace of psychological thriller, no twists or turns, no nudity (which is probably a good thing), and it had the feel of a clip show whose clips I'd never seen, but was easily the best kid's movie I've seen in a while. (Yes, it probably is the only kid's movie I've seen in a while.) Two stars.

Comic Book: The Movie is one of those things you watch just for a particular cameo—in this case, that of Kevin Smith. Might as well have fast-forwarded to that part and then hit “eject”. Poor. I hate mocumentaries. One star.

One of the most idiotic I've seen in a long time is one I actually had held out hope for: Dumb and Dumberer, the prequel to a much more entertaining movie. I watched a whole fifteen minutes of this, so if it gets better later on, I apologize for misleading the thousands who read this site daily. Important to remember that sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. One star.

And, finally, the most enjoyable of the weekend was Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, an adaptation of the “unauthorized autobiography” of Chuck Barris. Pretty cool, but pretty strange. Definitely covers a lot of genres: comedy, documentary, action, psych, and more. Three stars—watch it if it's free.

Okay, that's my computer quota for the day. Still more on their way and sitting on the TiVo—I'll keep watching 'em, you keep reading 'em.

Last modified Mon Sep 20 20:52:51 2004.

More movies

Been watching a few things from Blockbuster and Netflix for the last couple of days:

Mystic River wasn't bad, but wasn't all that great, either. Certainly not worth the best picture or best screenplay Oscars it was nominated for (which, I suppose, may be why it didn't win). Directing was fine, but I just couldn't get settled onto the edge of my seat; three stars.

Lindsey got into a movie mode this afternoon, so we watched Clueless and Mona Lisa Smile. In both cases, I couldn't help but compare them to similar movies with men as main characters—Mona Lisa Smile was the chick version of Dead Poets Society, and Clueless was the chick version of countless high school guy movies (like pretty much anything with John Cusack from before 1990).

It wasn't that these two were bad movies; I just really couldn't identify with any of the characters. Kind of makes me feel bad for the countless women I've recommended Dead Poets to. Two stars for each.

Last modified Sat Sep 11 22:07:10 2004.

Joey & Pathology

Watched the series premier of Joey tonight—not bad, better than I feared.

And, in a quick update to the review “copyright” issue I mentioned yesterday, I posted a copy of the notes in question on my med school page.

Last modified Thu Sep 9 21:49:07 2004.

Narcotics

Seriously, I just don't get narcotic abuse. Well, that's not quite true—I can most certainly understand doing something that feels very good with no other benefit. What I don't personally experience is the “feels very good” part.

Dr. Schnall, the hand surgeon who operated on me a couple of days ago, was nice enough to give me a Vicodin prescription, even when I suggested ibuprofen and acetaminophen would be enough. (Don't get me wrong, I've been loading up on those.) Sure enough, I had some trouble sleeping Monday night (the first night after my surgery), so I decided that last night I'd take the opiate and zonk out for a few hours, at least.

Trouble is, I think it actually kept me awake. Took me more than two hours to fall asleep, and I'm just exhausted this morning. I'm not suggesting that narcotics don't affect me, but this seems very similar to taking Darvocet and oxycontin when I had leg surgery a few years ago—it doesn't take away the pain, it just makes me care about it less. Give me some extra-strength Tylenol any day.

On the other hand, while trying to fall asleep, I did find it amusing at one point that my hands looked really big.

Last modified Fri Sep 10 21:20:26 2004.

Settling in as a 1-armed gimp

I'm learning to function appropriately one-handed (because of my cast, you pervs); it still gets me when I look to my left wrist for my watch, though.

After a bunch of computer work this weekend, it finally looks like everything's working again. With any luck, that means I'll also look into updating my computing page again soon. And once again, mad props to the support team at Speakeasy—they may be significantly more expensive than SBC, but I'm sticking by my assertion that the service can't be beat.

A quick note, though, on the more serious side. Our class received the following email today from one of our professors:

As many of you know, I have some issues with copyrights. What should and shouldn't be allowed, what is and is not, and what I would do as an author are some favorite talking points of mine, and nearly all of them could be addressed with reference to this letter—but I'm not going to. What I will rant about for a moment is this idea of hiding behind a copyright idea, even if it's not one I share. Dr. Tsoulas made a stupid mistake, placing this file with its questions “retained for [her] teaching purposes” on a computer students have legitimate access to, and having that version posted on MedWeb, which no student has anything to do with. She is correct in saying that she owns the responsibility, yet still blames a student for downloading the file “without [her] permission”.

I understand that this is an “important personal issue”, except that it's not a personal issue at all. Personal issues affect only a single person, and do not force others to act in any particular way. This is a personal belief; I'm not forcing my belief, and Dr. Tsoulas shouldn't force hers. I hope that every person involved does consider their “individual sense of ethics and professionalism”, and makes a decision accordingly. Mine says that if I have the file, I keep it and make it publicly available. Another may say differently, and that must be respected. But their sense of ethics and professionalism isn't one that needs to be forced upon me.

As it happens, I don't have a copy of the file, or at least don't have one yet. And if it's a matter of law, that unfortunately trumps any sense of ethics or professionalism I might garner. (God forbid I'm allowed to make up my mind for myself.) All I'm asking is for readers to think, and to take responsibility, instead of hiding behind an excuse.

Last modified Sun Sep 11 21:19:02 2005.

Electoral Vote Predictor

It's not often that I endorse or even point out other sites, but here's one I found interesting: Electoral Vote Predictor. They pool polls (there's a fun phrase) and estimate the Presidential race outcome. Not bad, and they have a nifty map and even a PNG summary graphic you can source on any page.

Last modified Tue Sep 7 17:53:35 2004.

Slow updates ahead

Slower than usual, even. I suppose I should say slower (which is probably not noticeable to any readers) and less frequent (which may be, but still probably isn't). I had hand surgery this morning to remove a ganglion cyst, an outcropping of the synovium around my wrist which manifested somewhat similar to carpal tunnel syndrome, but should go away with this simple operation. It was my left hand, so most things are still quite easy, but typing will take a little adaptation. Unlikely to be doing any coding for a couple of weeks, but I'll have the splint (which is sure to be quite ripe) off in two weeks.

Some quick updates: unofficially passed cardiovascular about 10 points higher than my usual system score, so it's on to renal. Saw Napoleon Dynamite this weekend and was actually a little disappointed—2 stars. Just wasn't what I was hoping for, I guess. Saw Wicker Park, which was okay—3 stars, and also the most French film I've seen in years. A little creepy, but okay. Finally, watched The Butterfly Effect, also quite good. Three stars and recommended. A little creepy, too, but surprisingly well done, and not really what I expected.

Oh, as a side note: for the first time in more than a year, I decided to pay for a piece of software—OpenBSD 3.6 (as a pre-order). Note that this doesn't go against “Information Wants to be Free”, since OpenBSD doesn't require you to pay for their code—they just ask for the funds for continued development and a nice package. I sincerely ask any user of a UNIX-like system out there to consider a BSD; some reasons why are on my OpenBSD page. If you already use OpenBSD, think about making a contribution, too—I can't code well enough to even find many bugs, but I can give them $45 for a nice CD set and kick in a sawbuck as a donation.

Last modified Tue Sep 7 17:48:58 2004.

Phil Collins

Actually attended a Phil Collins concert at the Arrowhead Pond last night. (Officially, his “first final farewell tour”.) I can't say I'm a Phil Collins or Genesis fan (that would essentially conflict with my love of power ballads), but Lindsey's stepdad Jack likes him, and they got tickets to attend the show while in town. The disturbing part? It was a really great concert. I knew almost every song, and “Sussudio” was outstanding. Reminded me of one of the music reviews in American Psycho.

We're going to do some tourist-oriented activities today: start out with a cruise down Hollywood Boulevard, down to the La Brea Tar Pits, and back up to do some shopping and people watching at the Grove before crossing the street to be in the audience for Real Time with Bill Maher; a little different, and hopefully fun.

Realized I never mentioned that Lindsey and I saw Garden State (the one with the guy from Scrubs). She loved it, but it wasn't really for me. I can't quite put my finger on it, since the acting, directing, and camera work were great. I'd say the writing was the problem, but there was good dialog—I think it was just the story that I didn't like. Two stars.

Last modified Fri Aug 27 12:15:53 2004.

Lindsey's mom and stepdad…

…are visiting for a couple of days. For me, this essentially means no studying and no classes. Of course, it was quite likely there would be no studying anyway, and since tomorrow's Friday and I still had to go to ICM this morning, it essentially means an afternoon of no classes. That's pretty good, I guess.

I've been a bit busy lately (no, not studying for the Cardiovascular system exam I have next Friday, but still, busy), so haven't mentioned my adventures last week. The most gripping tale involves shadowing my ICM instructor (who, as I mentioned a couple posts back, is the on-site physician for a few concert and sports venues around LA). Not bad—not much in the way of medicine, but I got to attend the Van Halen concert at the Staples Center last Thursday. Hey, Sammy Hagar was singing, so the concert itself wasn't spectacular, but it was still really cool—not the least of which that the suckers who paid for tickets shelled out $65 and up per. The medicine was actually disappointing: a lady with nausea and another with pretty bad hypertension and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Yeah, if I'd studied harder during Musculoskeletal, I'd remember what that was, too.

Cardiovascular has been okay. Either I've missed a lot of material during this system, or there really hasn't been that much. I guess that means that either they're trying to ease us back in or scare us back in. We'll find out in another week. I'm sure I'll do my best to study during that week, but there will be television premieres, and I'd really like to finish reading House of God

Last modified Thu Aug 26 16:01:38 2004.

Collateral

Not bad. Direction was pretty abominable, but mostly just not my style. Top-notch acting and good story—I'll give it three stars, but probably not see it again. Nice to see Jamie Fox in a real acting role; seeing Tom Cruise reminded me that I still have The Last Samurai sitting on top of the entertainment center, waiting for me to watch. Don't know when that will actually happen….

For the first time in about five years, I visited Fry's yesterday. Great move for all the wonderful deals I got, poor move for the ridiculous amount of money I spent. I think it's safe to say I won't be buying any more computer equipment for a while. (Or is it?)

Still playing around with OpenBSD; I'm not sure if I ever mentioned that I have this server running 3.5-STABLE now. I'm working on migrating all the machines over to it, something that will certainly be no harder than running Linux on them.

Last modified Sun Aug 8 17:34:28 2004.

ICM Changes

I won't bore you with the details of our first ICM day this year; it was mostly logistical and we didn't see any patients. I also won't bore you with the details of how it all came about, but I was required to change ICM groups (no, nothing bad, just more logistical stuff). As I mentioned before, I really liked the group I was placed in for the year, but the new group is great also. Further, it led to the opportunity to have Dr. Paul Willis for our ICM instructor.

Okay, I have to admit that this is exciting. Dr. Willis is very cool, and has had some interesting life experiences. He grew up maybe twenty miles from where I was raised in Florida, and has worked for Disney, a computer company, and designed sprinklers for skyscrapers. What most people in our class are amazed at, though (maybe because I keep mentioning it), is that he's also the on-site physician at Edison Field (where the Angels play, and, yeah, he wears a World Series ring), the Staples Center, and a couple other venues around LA. We're already planning on attending multiple events over the year. Very cool.

The most interesting to me, however, is that Dr. Willis would actually be one of the coolest ICM instructors I've met even without his current positions. Am I excited to go to baseball games and concerts? Absolutely. But he's also already demonstrated a great attitude and an expectation of mutual respect. (Not to mention, from some of the notes I've found online from patients, a great bedside manner.) But hey, I'm just thrilled to have any medical instructor who knows what machine language is.

Last modified Sun Aug 8 17:28:48 2004.

Busy day…

Wow. Earlier I was wondering if today's note would be the typical “nothing important happened today; here's a movie review” entry. Turns out no.

The Big Sib/Little Sib barbecue was today, in which those of us fortunate enough to have survived year 1 of med school are paired with someone fortunate enough to be just entering it. As it turns out, my “little” sib is John Michels, former tackle for the Green Bay Packers. John really seems like a very cool guy, but I imagine he'll appreciate it when people stop approaching him with the obvious celebrity questions. I could be wrong, of course—he must be used to it by now.

Heard an interesting ad on the radio this afternoon for SBC. Since AT&T has chosen to stop investing in consumer services, SBC has chosen to take the opportunity to remind its customers that it won't forget who got it where it is, and will always treasure its customers. In my experience, of course, that means ignoring service appointments, refusing to answer straightforward questions (real doozies like “What's your last name?”), transferring calls to other representatives without any communication to you or the other representative, and making changes to your service without asking. (I'd like to say this is why I'm now using Speakeasy DSL, but I probably would be even if SBC weren't this bad.) So why do I keep them for long distance? Very simple. The last problem I had, at my third request, was escalated to allow me to speak to a manager. His name was John Stevenson (of course, this was by phone, so I don't know if that's spelled correctly), and he was nice enough to give me his direct line phone number for the next time I had a problem. I'm sure John would like me to pass along his number for any other complaints or service requests, in the hopes that it will allow SBC to keep more customers: it's (626)304-1735. I'm not sure this is useful outside the Pasadena/North Los Angeles area, but feel free to give it a try.

And a final note of good news—I've been selected for the American Medical Association Medical Student Section's Computers and Technology Committee (no, as of this writing, the CTC Members page hasn't been updated yet, but trust me on this one). It's responsibilities range from working on the web site to reporting on issues in medical computing and technology to implementing systems to aid in general business (one of our first goals is likely to be an electronic voting system for the AMA-MSS assemblies). Good little resume booster, sure, but something I actually care about, and can hopefully contribute to in some tiny manner.

So, yeah, big day. And of course I didn't get any studying done.

Last modified Wed Aug 4 21:30:05 2004.

Second day…

Yeah, school's back in full swing now. A full day of physiology—everyone else hates it, but for some reason it's my thing. Might have something to do with the fact that cardiophysiology all seems like physics to me. That's actually kind of nice.

I'm biking regularly again (if you consider yesterday and today “regularly”); it sounds scary (it's not, I'm not doing anything stupid), but I've lost 11.5 pounds since Sunday evening. It's all just water and the result of exercising for the first time in months, but damn if it isn't a bit of motivation.

So school's well, Lindsey and I are both studying hard (she's got the third actuarial exam in November), and I'm starting to look into Step 1 of the USMLE for next summer. Only problems seem to be that (as usual) I don't have enough time for everything, and (unusually) I seem to be constantly exhausted. A little early in the school year to be beefing up on the coffee ration, but I guess…

Last modified Tue Aug 3 21:06:16 2004.

First day of school…

…well, for those of us in MSII, at least. Today wasn't horrible; it was actually nice to be in the comfortable mental place of complaining about PPM, talking about movies, and sitting in the lecture hall trying desperately to pay attention.

ICM group looks great for this year; I'm looking forward to seeing how we all interact. The MDL doesn't seem bad, either—a few decent folk all around. Worst case scenario shouldn't be worse than last year.

I'm sure, though, that it will take plenty of work. I#39;m planning to update this regularly (well, more regularly than last year, anyway); stay tuned. For now, I'm off to get some sleep (yes, the last edited time is correct), and I'll leave you with this final thought:

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle may be the funniest movie I've seen all year.

Last modified Mon Aug 2 21:24:59 2004.

So much to do…

…and school starts in only two weeks. Year II, beginning with Cardiology, may be a bit of work, but I'm so ready for it to get started (in case it hasn't been abundantly clear, research this summer has been somewhat less than fun).

Lots of little and big changes: I've ceased development of Infinit GNU/Linux, but will leave the “defunct” site up indefinitely. Why? More than anything, because I've decided to switch most of my systems to OpenBSD; I even started a page about the OS. I'd still like to be using only open source software by 1 January 2005, but it will probably be a mix of OpenBSD 3.6 and Slackware 10.x. Oh, don't worry, I'm sure to keep you informed.

Bought a new TiVo yesterday. The old one (which I still have, of course) was beginning to have some very strange symptoms, including needing a regular switch of video inputs to work properly. I finally got a DirecTiVo (which is apparently now called DirecTV DVR with TiVo service, or something). We'll start hacking on that shortly. What I can say at the moment, though, includes that the picture is great (or as great as it can be on a five-year-old television with some magnet distortion).

Also saw I, Robot yesterday. Fun, nothing special, but entertaining. One of the first real action movies I've enjoyed Will Smith in. Three stars.

Last modified Sun Jul 18 09:57:55 2004.

Sarah McLachlan…

…live, and in concert. One of Lindsey's Valentine's Day gifts was tickets to tonight's show at the Staples Center. Not bad—not really my kind of music (think more Styx and power ballads), but entertaining, even if only for making fun of the opening act (who seriously sounded like she was singing “Indiana Jones Don't Cry” at one point). Note to Butterfly Boucher: angry chick music doesn't work if you're ugly. It's impressive if Ani DiFranco thinks men are scum, since she could probably get anything she wants from them. It's just depressing for this opener to think so, though, just because she can't get a date.

The most amusing highlight of the evening, though, came from one of the beverage & snack vendors. As if there were a Laker game going on, before (and occasionally even during) the show, referee-striped men were hawking their wares. We were there fairly early, so we got to hear plenty of “Pepsi, Pepsi, Pepsi! Get your caramel corn!” from these guys. When one of them sold a “bouquet” of caramel corn to a couple of girls a few seats away from us, he chatted with us—we commiserated the fact that they didn't sell Cracker Jack at the Staples center, and he complained about hawking peanuts at a Melissa Ethridge concert: “Do you know how hard it is to sell salted nuts to a bunch of lesbians?”

And I'll just leave you with that thought.

Last modified Thu Jul 15 06:26:21 2004.

Movie Mania!

Seen lots of stuff recently that I haven't commented on. Dodgeball several days ago; 3 stars, funny, but not as good as BASEketball. Ben Stiller is terrible, and a lot of the jokes just aren't that great. I had a similar reaction to Anchorman, but I expected that to be ridiculous, so it was okay. Three stars. Will Ferrel was his usual over-the-top self, but the real king was Steven Carell of the Daily Show. Outstanding work. Funny, but go in expecting ridiculous.

Finally, I never mentioned The Stepford Wives with Nicole Kidman. Not bad. Two stars, mostly because it was extraordinarily predictable. There are stories of lots of behind-the-camera problems, and I can say that the movie didn't show any sign of them. It just wasn't that great to begin with.

I've also just received the second season of Six Feet Under; Lindsey and I have only watched two episodes, but it's shaping up to be the four-star show that the first season introduced.

Last modified Sun Jul 11 08:40:16 2004.

SBC…

…has become a bane. I've used their DSL service for nearly the past year, and have been generally pleased. The speed never seems to be a problem on my 1.5Mbps down/256kbps up connection. Over the year, however, I have experienced some connection dropping, sometimes repeatedly having to restart the modem or my gateway. Last night was the worst (except for when there was “maintenance downtime”). Connections would drop every few minutes, stay off for a short time, and then reconnect. The SBC “live help” web site went down in the middle of my chat session (though my connection was fine), and the phone help was abominable. (Of course, they didn't really like it when they asked “Do you use a Windows PC or a Macintosh?” and I said “No.” Yeah, I might have been a little frustrated by that point.)

Long story short, I had planned to not report this until the changeover was complete, but I've switched to Speakeasy DSL. On a special affiliation with OSDN, I'll get 8 static IPs on a 6.0Mbps down/768kbps up connection with no restrictions on running servers. I'll let you know how it goes, but it can't be as bad as SBC has been.

Last modified Sun Jul 11 08:25:46 2004.

Almost done!

Well, almost done with the summer. Surprisingly, that's a Good Thing™; the summer in the Emergency Department has been fairly disappointing. I tend to sit outside a single room for a few hours at a time (often reading Dale Dubin's Rapid Interpretation of EKG's or the new survival book I got on clearance for four bucks, just in case I fall in a lake); it's pretty much just sitting—I have to keep an eye on the asthma booth just in case someone comes in, but no one has in the several weeks I've been doing this.

My other research project (the one I'm getting paid for) is going a little bit better. We've been able to reach nearly every department of USC that has any significant number of residents, and myself and Jennifer Malin, my research partner, will begin visiting meetings next week to distribute surveys. That should be fun… oh, sorry, that was supposed to come out sarcastically.

With any luck, though, I'll basically have 17 July–1 August away from school. I may have to go to those meetings, but since classes start (I think) on 2 August, I'd rather just relax, do some computer stuff, and watch some movies. I'll let you know how it goes.

Just a couple of other quick notes: Infinit GNU/Linux 0.4 is almost complete. There's a simple feature I want to add (booting from an initrd), and then it's just building for a few days on the slow computer. This may be the last time I build it (slowly) to be i586-compatible, since I think I'll go back to using that old machine as my server. I recently read an interesting review of OpenBSD 3.5 over at DistroWatch.com, so I think that after this Infinit build I'm going to try that out for a while. I'm (probably) not going to be abandoning Infinit, but OpenBSD looks pretty sweet.

One of OpenBSD's relatives, NetBSD, is the operating system run by a service I've recently rediscovered, SDF Public Access Unix System. This is an outstanding service which offers a free shell account to anyone; for a buck you can validate your account (I did) and configure it to your liking, or even throw up a home page (I mean post, not vomit). This is the sort of stuff I actually like to support.

Oh, cool medical tales! The first: a week or so ago, interesting case came in: woman was down at Women's and Children's Hospital (part of LAC+USC Medical Center, but not General Hospital) being interviewed by physicians, when they decided she was having a stroke. This was fairly reasonable, considering she seemed unable to control one side of her face, was drooling, and unable to speak clearly. They immediately sent her to the ER—where it was discovered that her cranial vessels were just fine, and she had spontaneously dislocated her jaw. Just goes to show you what happens when you jump to conclusions.

The second, and on a more personal note: I've been having a bit of forearm and hand pain on my left for a few weeks; I had broken my wrist when I was a teenager, so thought it might be that causing some problems. I went to the doctor on Wednesday, and, cool stuff, I get to see a hand surgeon! The likely diagnosis is a ganglion cyst. It is similar, but presents fairly different from, carpal tunnel syndrome (which is more frightening to me, as there's not much to do about that, and I don't want to stop coding). I'm definitely going to see the surgery myself (I'm hoping they won't just aspirate it), and I'm going to try to get pictures or a video tape. Now I just need to review my dorsal hand anatomy in case the surgeon pimps me while I'm under the knife…

Finally, as I always say at just about any transition (beginning of a new semester, first of the month, Wednesday, whatever), I'm going to start dieting again and trying to post more Real Soon Now®… and I mean it this time. No, seriously—you just watch.

Last modified Fri Jul 9 07:36:30 2004.

Not much new…

…except the basic design of this site. A little cleaner, I think, but if you want to compare it to the old, and you're using Firefox, you can just click on the handy stylesheet icon down in the bottom left corner of the window. Enjoy.

More at some point soon, including Infinit GNU/Linux version 0.4.0. Later!

Last modified Sat Jul 3 00:52:10 2004.

Being sick…

…really blows. I'm not one of those future docs who has had a lot of experience with personal illness and therefore wants to eradicate sickness or at least help ease suffering; I honestly just like the adrenaline and problem-solving. Maybe that'd be different if I had a greater history of being sick. As it stands, I really don't get sick all that often; perhaps for that very reason, I don't handle it well when I do. I've been “sick” for about a week, but that's been normal head cold-type stuff. Yesterday was horrible—abdominal, er, “involvement”, and I'll leave it at that. I essentially sat on the sofa and moaned all day.

Not that that sounds so bad itself; as Lindsey pointed out, the thing I didn't like about it is that I had to do that. If I just felt like sitting around and watching TV, that'd have been fine. But as it stands, yesterday (and recovery today) has been horrible.

So, back to life as usual (hopefully) tomorrow, and back to the ER on Monday. About the only benefit to the last couple of days off has been that I finally sat through Chinatown, by Roman Polanski. I've really got to stop watching these great old movies—they're admirable, but just not entertaining. Therefore, I will refrain from rating it. Ah, well. I think we're going to see Dodgeball tomorrow; I somehow doubt “admirable” will describe it, but it does look funny.

Last modified Fri Jun 18 18:22:03 2004.

Hell of a first day back…

It's Lindsey's first day of work, and I don't have to be at the hospital until 10:30; since she gets up at six for the ridiculous commute in, that gives me plenty of time, right?

I get up at six with her, relax, watch a Simpsons on the TiVo, and start packing up. I can't find my driver's license. Mind you, this is really no big deal, since I don't drive to school/work and I can't come up with any particular reason why I would need it, but it's a bad sign. An omen. A portent. Evidence of things not seen.

I realize that my license may be in the pockets of whatever I was wearing on the plane on Saturday. Per my habit, in fact, it should be in my shirt pocket. It's not. It's also not in the pocket of the sports coat I was wearing. (Yes, I was wearing a sports coat on the plane—more fallout of the Chicago story I haven't yet written.) Therefore, it must be in the pockets of the pants I was wearing when I got home, but I can't find them anywhere (the pockets or the pants). And it's not like this is a big house. So no license.

Omen, I tell you. Portent. I'm dropping a couple of work pants of Lindsey's off at the cleaner/tailor down the street to have them hemmed. It's only about a quarter to half a mile, but I bike it anyway. Figure I can leave straight from there. It's maybe five minutes to nine. I drop them off, and start trucking it back up the hill toward my house, on the way to the hospital.

I know what you're thinking. Well, I have some ideas:

  1. Chris, you haven't biked in a while. That bike may not be in the best shape.
  2. Chris, you haven't biked in a while. You may not be in the best shape.
  3. Chris, you fat bastard, how are you going to bike four miles to school when you have that horrible head cold you wrote about yesterday?

And, for one reason or another (hint: I made sure the bike was in good shape before I left), I just couldn't make it up that hill. I thought I was going to pass out. Sure, I'm in poor shape, but I don't really tend to get winded all that easily, so I'll just strike it up to the virus.

Still, not a problem. No car, no bike, but there is always good old public transportation. The bus isn't used nearly as much as it should be in L.A. considering the huge numbers of people going from place to place all the time. They're clean, and, as the trip planner on the MTA web site will show you, you can get to places in reasonable amounts of time during rush hour.

Or you should be able to. My estimated travel time, in fact, from my house to the hospital this morning is twenty-three minutes. Not a problem. Even after showering off the ridiculous amounts of sweat from my short and ill-fated bicycle trip (yes to diaphoretic and short of breath, no to chest pain and impending feeling of doom), it must only be about 9:10. I head down to the closest bus stop, which is maybe halfway to the cleaner/tailor's, and wait just a couple of minutes for the bus. All the time, of course, feeling remarkably obnoxious as I always do in my white coat. At least I'm in scrubs instead of that ridiculous shirt-and-tie thing.

Okay, I should interrupt here and mention that I'm comfortable saying that all the little things that have happened so far are just bad luck. Not really much I could have done, and I planned pretty well in case they happened anyway. Not so much with the next thing. No bad luck, really, just stupidity.

I got on the bus going the wrong way. It's okay, I notice it right away, get off at the next stop and lose about ten minutes. No, wait… that was a different universe. In this one, I'm not really sure I'm going the wrong way for a good half hour, and for about a half hour after that I keep thinking it would be faster to stay on this bus and loop around than to try to catch another bus going the other way. I really have no idea where the logic of this is stemming from in my brain, as I realize quite well that it doesn't make much sense, but I follow it anyway, until I see the fading dodo of the urban landscape, an actual payphone near one of the stops.

From there it's probably what you'd expect. I call the research coordinator, tell her “long story short, I'm stuck somewhere north of Pasadena and hope I can get there by eleven”, and wait for the bus going the other way. It's the same bus, of course—the driver has turned around at the end of the line and come back. I finally show up in the emergency medicine research office about 11:35 (nobody seems to care, and the one person I would expect to, Dr. Henderson, had worked the night before and wasn't there), walk around the surprisingly slow emergency room for a couple of hours while waiting for a patient with asthma to come in, and leave. Oh, there was the joy of taking yet another bus home and walking two or three miles from where I departed, but that's quite minor at this point.

There's a message from Lindsey on my cell phone (which, of course, I'd earlier forgotten, along with my watch) saying that her first day is going okay, which is very good to hear. She'll be home soon, we'll have a hopefully less stressful evening… and then start it all over.

Last modified Mon Jun 14 16:54:34 2004.

So much…

Where to start? No, this isn't some depressing “call for help” or anything, there's just been a lot since the last time I posted. I'm unofficially an MSII, since the year one comprehensive exam was a little over a week ago; however, there's still a week or more before I find out if I officially passed.

Lindsey starts a new job tomorrow! She finally decided she'd had enough of academia, and starts at WellPoint, who (among other things) owns BlueCross of California and of seven other states, as an Actuarial Technician. It's been big and stressful for her, but I'm very proud. Oh, and she'll be bringing in Phat Bank™, too.

I got back last night from a quick AMA meeting in Chicago. I'd never been outside O'Hare before, so the city was a fun little experience. However, I was on one of the convention committees, so I didn't get to see much of it. I'll talk about the conference a little more later on, but for the moment the thing that keeps weighing on my mind is the fact that I caught a cold, probably out in the cold Chicago rain on Thursday evening.

Bad time to be feeling like crap. I'm starting to bike again tomorrow, and it will be my first shift working on an asthma study in the emergency room. Further, this is the first full week working on a drug rep study myself and another student are doing with the Office of Continuing Medical Education, and I need to be doing a lot to get home into shape for the summer. As always, way too many projects and not nearly enough time to do them.

And yet, always time to post here.

Last modified Sun Jun 13 21:06:22 2004.

One down…

…plenty to go. Our musculoskeletal system exam was yesterday, and capped off a very hard week of studying—one likely to be quickly overshadowed by this week, since our first-year comprehensive exam is this coming Friday. As you might expect, it covers everything we've done this year, but supposedly in a “big picture” fashion and in only 140 questions. Essentially, I'll be trying to read about 10-15 books and answer something in the neighborhood of 2000-3000 practice questions in the next six days—and I'm already exhausted and spending my precious time posting here.

But there are a few things I wanted to mention, anyway. The first is the travesty mentioned in this Slashdot story, describing someone who is most certainly now on some federal watch list because he owns a soldering iron and a keg. I have no idea if the story's true—I read Slashdot hourly, but it's a conglomeration of mostly-submitted stories, and is therefore not exactly trustworthy journalism (no, not even to the extent that CNN is).

They did, on the other hand, have another story a few days ago I wanted to comment on. It describes an email outage in the Cox service in Florida, which was met by Cox support with the explanation “Cox high speed internet is an entertainment service, so we do not guarantee service”. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of the computer geeks that thinks net access is an inalienable right or necessity for life, and I do often use it for entertainment, but shouldn't it be considered a communication medium at this point, and supported the same way? If you couldn't get your phone messages for a week, or every time someone tried to call they got a “disconnected” message, would it be acceptable for the phone company to claim that theirs is an “entertainment” service, and therefore not guaranteed? My opinion is that this is a symptom of the cable companies trying to get into internet service“and, having been offerred Cox internet service in Central Florida many times, my suggestion is that anyone who has it or is considering it sign up with BellSouth FastAccess. I used them for about three years—and I can't recall a single problem ever.

Finally, on a lighter note, I saw last night (with Lindsey for her birthday) one of the funniest movies I've seen in a long time: Saved!. More and more recently, it's been the case that I'll enjoy a movie about which I had low expectations. In this case, though, I needed it to be really funny, since I knew it had no hope of having a real message that would appeal to me. It was hilarious. As I've mentioned many times, one of my major philosophies includes a lack of evangelism, and this movie made ridiculously obvious everything I hate about those who evangelize. Four stars. See it!

Last modified Sun Jun 13 21:04:43 2004.

#!/bin/bash

set -e

: "${INFINIT_PKGDIR:=$PWD}"

Oh, sorry. Been doing lots of scripting lately for Infinit GNU/Linux. It's going well, and the entire project is progressing steadily, even if slowly. Unfortunately, that means I've been a bit derelict in my med school studies; that will have to change this weekend. I've only got about a week and a half of musculoskeletal left, then a week of studying before the first-year cumulative (which seems to be hotly debated, but only about whether it should be called “cumes” or “comps”). Needless to say,

Lindsey and I were having a conversation while making cookies last night (and, no, that's not a euphemism). I've always been horrible with popular (and semi-popular) music knowledge, and I mentioned the fact that people have a very strange response when I mess up some sort of music knowledge (like being unable to tell the difference between REM and U2, or thinking that one of Led Zeppelin's front men is named Robert Page). Their reaction is quite simple—it's complete lack of understanding. No laughing, no mocking, no simple correcting. Just a blank stare. Lindsey's explanation? They don't grok that I might know nothing about music. Why?

They think I'm hip.

Yeah, that was my reaction, too. I can't believe anyone has ever thought I was hip. Do hip people spend way too much time on computer stuff, have blogs they update far too seldom, use the word “grok”, and make self-deprecating fun of the fact that they're not hip? Well, maybe they do now. I may be so hip that I don't know what's hip anymore.

Speaking of which, did you know “hoopdy” was a word? Also “bling”. See? I'm hip.

I haven't been doing a lot of writing for the past several months, just the occasional tongue-in-cheek article for my friend Karen's zine. (On the other hand, I'm so un-hip that I thought zines started with the Internet, and that they actually started with the term “E-zine”. Lindsey helpfully corrected me.) In any case, I've been reading a few of the “stories” in the Southern California Physician's annual writing contest. They're horrible, and the winner got a few hundred dollars. Looks like it might be time to get back into it.

But for now, only time to get back into classes. Yay! Two hours of pharmacology!

Last modified Thu May 13 07:54:12 2004.

Just checking in…

Still working hard (although I'm not at school at least one day a week recently), studying the musculoskeletal system and getting ready for the year-end comprehensive in a few weeks, working on a couple research projects for the Office of Curriculum and the Emergency Department, and, as always, filling most of my free time with work on Infinit GNU/Linux.

Oh, noticed today that Best Buy has broken the $0.60/GB barrier (after rebate). Still not buying more until the fifty cent mark, but nice to see that progress is being made.

Last modified Thu May 13 07:55:32 2004.

Done with neuro!

Well, done assuming I pass. But I should know this afternoon, then it's off to my five-year college reunion. Unfortunately, I won't be able to take part in a huge number of activities there, because I have to head to an emergency medicine workshop tomorrow; with any luck, I won't be exhausted the entire weekend—but I won't make any guarantees.

In the meantime, I actually have a significant amount of work to do before heading out to Claremont. I should mention, though, that I've been making regular releases of Infinit. Next release real soon (maybe). It's already usable as a decent little server; next major step is turning it into a desktop replacement. Before doing that, though, there are several minor bugs and cleanups to work on. Probably 1.0 (the desktop replacement) will be available mid-summer.

Last modified Fri Apr 30 10:42:08 2004.

Happy 04-04-04!

Of course, 100-100-11111010100 just doesn't have the same ring.

Saw Jersey Girl yesterday with Lindsey. Two stars, aka severe disappointment—but probably because I have been quite the Kevin Smith fan for some time. I suppose this means I'll have to change that to being a “Jersey Trilogy” fan, or maybe a “Jay & Silent Bob” fan. (Yeah, all my computers are even named after View Askew characters.)

Infinit 0.3 is nearly ready. All the finishing touches are in place, only a bit of testing and building remains. Expect a release by the end of the week—and this is a big one, suitable for running a basic web server.

Last modified Sun Apr 4 18:23:10 2004.

More on Cobind…

Yesterday I mentioned Cobind Desktop, a new simple Linux distribution based on Fedora. It seems their download server is a bit hard to reach right now, so I've placed a copy of the installation disc on this server. [As of 28 October, 2004, I've removed Cobind 1.0 from this server. Newer versions are now available from Cobind's website.] I'd suggest trying theirs first—if you can reach it, it's a much faster connection, I'm sure.

I've installed Cobind on my laptop (notoriously the most difficult machine I have to run Linux on), and it's not bad. Not perfect, by far, but not bad—certainly much better than I would have ever expected of a Red Hat derivative. Still, I think I'll be preferring my Slackware in general—and with that, I'm back to enjoying building my own distribution to solve the world's problems. Well, my world's problems, anyway.

Last modified Thu Oct 28 19:07:35 2004.

Haven't failed out yet…

I just finished the Neurosciences midterm, and have a couple hours to kill, so I thought I'd mention a few things. Infinit development has been on hold for about a week while I've been studying, but I expect to get a 0.3 release out Real Soon Now®. It's still an excellent learning tool, but has been coming more slowly than I'd like for a real desktop replacement. Don't get me wrong, I still plan to develop it, and still plan to use it as my system at some point—but for the moment, I'm recommending a fairly new development, Cobind Desktop. Mind you, I haven't actually tried it yet, but it looks like the sort of thing I'm looking for.

Finally saw Lost in Translation; not bad, not great, three stars. Also saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and really enjoyed it: four stars. Probably the best I've seen since Big Fish, which, admittedly, wasn't that long ago.

I'm getting back into the Linux thing, probably partly because I've been reading a bit of Eric S. Raymond's stuff. Oh, I'm not as zealous (or as paranoid/careful) as he is, but he can get his point across. I've ended up not enjoying The Art of Unix Programming from a technical perspective as much as Mike Gancarz's Linux and the Unix Philosophy. (Though I'll admit many disagree.) However, ESR's shorter writings appeal to my ideals—and keep me interested.

I've still got plenty of time to kill, so I'll once again start playing with some scripting tools. Until next time'.

Last modified Tue Mar 30 11:19:23 2004.

Working hard…

…just not really on the stuff I'm supposed to be. I've gotten a heck of a lot of stuff done around the house this weekend, but have hardly studied. That'll have to change now, as our neurosciences midterm is only about two weeks away.

It doesn't help that I'm using copious amounts of caffeine (about a pot of coffee a day) to stay on my diet. I slept well last night, but can already tell that won't happen tonight. I'm wide awake, but my mind is less than sharp. So the question is, do I just sleep (and thus not study at all), or do I stay awake (and thus not study effectively)? Of course, there's an easy answer to what I'm actually going to do—stay awake and not study at all. Maybe watch some more Sports Night.

Of course, it's not like I haven't watched much TV this weekend. As it turns out, this is a Starz! free preview weekend on DirecTV, so I've got a buttload of movies still on the TiVo—even though I already watched Knockaround Guys, The Rookie, Black Hawk Down, and half of Tremors. All surprisingly good—or maybe just better than I expected. Or maybe the coffee's putting me in more of a daze than I thought…

Last modified Sun Mar 14 20:52:40 2004.

Packard Bell Working Well

(Don't worry. That wasn't clanging.) The power supply I got wasn't a perfect fit, but I really blame that on the strange proprietary qualities of the Packard Bell one I replaced, not on this one. The old computer's working well—probably better than it has in years. That's good; I'm planning to use it for Infinit baseline development (that is, it'll be the machine I compile everything on for release) as well as for server backup. I'm sure I'll use it for some testing, too. Surprisingly, I was able to even get the audio (a built-in Crystal Sound 42327) working under Linux with little difficulty. Oh, sure, I don't have much use for that on that machine, but it's nice to know it still works.

Last modified Fri Mar 12 18:12:34 2004.

Vacation in Florida!

Well, that's where Lindsey is. Me, I'm at school at 0720 on a Friday. On the positive side, however, our 0800 lecture is on Psychological Trauma, one of my few non-ER interests in medicine. I had at one time considered Trauma Psych as a specialty (which is probably an entirely fictional one), and the possibility of psychiatry with no follow-up or chronic disease is still intriguing to me—but I don't think I can live without the physical procedures. Still, I'm hoping the lecture is fun.

Lindsey's visiting friends for the next ten days, so if I can keep from starving and/or burning down the house (literally, not in the figurative Talking Heads sense), then I'll be happy. I don't mean to sound like the stereotypical dependent and helpless man—but it's been a while since I've gone grocery shopping.

More Packard Bell drama going on, which would probably stop if at any point I could stop, er, “fixing” things. I noticed the power supply fan was not blowing. Not that this was causing any actual problems, and who knows how long it had been that way, but it wasn't blowing, and that's bad, right? So I decided to open up the power supply and clean out all the dust. That actually helped, marginally. My guess is that there was just too much dust, probably even coating the ball bearing(s) of the fan; it would barely move when powered, but was still better than it had been before. So, replace the fan, right? Sure—except that I must have shorted something, because the power supply stopped working altogether. Hard to say what's wrong; maybe it's just a fuse, but I can't tell, so I ordered a new power supply. I'll let you know how it goes.

Okay, time to study head trauma a little. Very little.

Last modified Fri Mar 12 07:44:52 2004.

Computer woes, woo-hoos

I previously mentioned a bit of difficulties with my server, namely the apparent failure of the processor cooling fan. Keep in mind this is a particularly old machine—the oldest I own, in fact. It's a Packard Bell Multimedia 601. That's a Pentium 233 MMX with 64 MB of RAM. Packard Bell doesn't even exist in the US anymore; their remaining support is now covered by a company called Priority ONE Support, who apparently also contracts with NEC and a few other companies. In any case, this machine has been on its last legs since about 2001.

I bought a new fan and heatsink for the processor for about five dollars. (Big shout out to Gateway PC Components Store, who even had free FedEx shipping for that piddly amount.) It worked fine, but not long afterwards I started getting very strange errors: Memory failures (where only half the RAM was being recognized), a complete lack of recognition of the hard drive and CD/RW, and, of course, a CMOS battery failure (which had probably been extraordinarily low for months). The battery would be at most four dollars, but I wasn't sure that it would solve the other problems… would I need a new motherboard?

Packard Bell (like many companies of its day) used tons of nonstandard technology. This machine uses an LPX motherboard; a replacement would be well over $100, and the case won't work with a ATX (or any other kind). I could buy an ATX board for this processor, refurbished, for fifty bucks, and would shell out another 40 for a new case. Since I could get a motherboard, case, and fast processor for a hundred, that would be silly. Do I even bother, then, with the battery, or just chuck the whole thing. Mind you, I certainly don't need this computer, but I hate throwing away anything that's even remotely useful.

Target had the battery for three bucks. Turns out it's a fairly standard automobile remote-keyless entry battery. I readjusted connectors again, put in the new battery, and those problems were solved. Woo-hoo!

And the only remaining problems are the lack of development since 1997-1998. As it happens, therefore, I can't upgrade the BIOS any further than what I have, which therefore does not recognize hard disks larger than 8.4 GB. I read in the Large Disk HOWTO that this is not a problem for Linux, since it doesn't use the BIOS. Let's keep our fingers crossed. If I can get past that (and maybe find a cable that will re-enable audio support), this machine may be just fine for basic experimentation and/or development or miscellany. Or maybe I'll just put the server back on it.

Last modified Wed Mar 10 11:01:17 2004.

Lots of stress…

Well, lots of talk about stress. Our ICM group gave a little presentation today, most of it just more of my patented Charm and Bullshit™ (now with less Charm!). Mostly, though, just back to school—I had a nice long weekend, and it's always difficult to come back after that. (And difficult to eat half the usual amounts of calories and sodium, but what are you going to do?)

But there's more work to do. A little catching up in Neuro (no, I'm not actually behind in classes, just behind on the extra things I'd like, like flashcards. If I can spend a couple hours a day on it, I'll be set—I think. Lindsey's going to visit friends in Florida for ten days (leaving Thursday), so it'll be the bachelor life for a while. No, not like that—I'm faithful to the extreme—but there'll be lots of studying, hacking, and movie watching, and probably not much else. I may bathe. We'll see.

Oh, and it's actually warm—nay, hot here again! Sure, that's great (it means, for instance, that I can start biking to school again), but I'm not exactly an outdoorsy person, and heat only makes me grumpy.

Of course, everything makes me grumpy…

Last modified Sun Sep 11 21:18:38 2005.

It's been a while…

Almost a month, in fact, since the last time I checked in here. Lots has happenned. I'm not sure why, but I haven't yet given up on doing as well as possible in school, instead of “just passing”—despite “just passing” hematology, despite the extra work I put into it. We're on neurosciences now, and it's going well so far—but we've only had a week of it, and that's about when I thought heme was going well, too.

I had a little server downtime this morning; Los Angeles Department of Water and Power decided they would work on the electricity for my neighborhood for a couple of hours. They were nice enough to let me know about, but woke me this morning ten minutes or so before it happenned. No big deal, but when I turned the server back on, I got a nice yell like a banshee from it. “Hard drive failure” I assumed, which wouldn't have been a huge problem since I hadn't changed anything in more than 24 hours and everything would have been backed up, but it turned out to be the CPU fan. So, instead of running out for a new fan, this is now running on one of the other machines. 100MHz faster, three times the RAM, and a Pentium II instead of a Pentium MMX. Oh, sure, it's still crap, but I didn't have to shell out for the extra fan, and I'll be able to use the i586 for Infinit development, so that will finally be i586-compatible.

Speaking of which, I didn't announce (on here) the new version I put out over spring break, Infinit GNU/Linux 0.2. It's far from perfect, but it's much closer. Lots more work in the coming weeks: I'd like to release 1.0 before April 1, but I'll settle for 0.3. Keep checking back.

Lindsey and I saw Club Dread (horrible) and 50 First Dates (surprisingly good) today. I actually recommend the Adam Sandler—just as good as The Wedding Singer, but unfortunately without the nostalgia. Please, in the name of movie watchers everywhere, don't see Club Dread. Broken Lizard really didn't seem to get it this time around. Check out their Super Troopers instead.

That's it for the moment. Stay tuned.

Last modified Sat Mar 6 18:39:12 2004.

Greed is good!

Okay, so this little note is actually about ambition, not greed, but I like the quote.

It's been almost a month since the last time I updated the content here—not my longest lag, but nonetheless one I'm not terribly happy about. I'd like to say I didn't update because I've been working hard or busy with medical school, but the truth is I've just been screwing around. Since I'm starting to pay for that (not with money or failure, but just feeling a little guilty), I've realized there are only two real possibilities for dealing with that:

  1. Stop feeling guilty about it.
  2. Change it.

Sure, the first option is tempting, and something I'm normally quite good at, but not necessarily what many would consider to be the “best” solution. Add to that the fact that I'll need to eventually use the fruits of my labor in landing and performing a job—not to mention the fact that I actually like and want to know the material—and I'm stuck with changing my behavior. In deciding how best to do that, I've reached a conclusion that I'm not sure I would have agreed with even a few months ago:

Ambition is good.

Perhaps, anyway, ambition can be good. I'm not talking about the cut-throat, be-the-best-at-all-costs kind of ambition, rather personal ambition that encourages one to be the best he can be. (Why did I switch to third person there for a second?) In that light, it's also important to share that ambition; not to be a braggart or to demean or intimidate others, but as an additional motivation. If I tell my friends that I'm going to lose ten pounds in the next thirty days, it's likely I'll be held accountable for that. They'll ask me how it's going, and thirty days later I damn well better have lost those ten pounds. No, it's not to tell others they should lose, and it's not about competing to see who can lose the most the fastest; it's about accountability.

In that spirit, I'm going to do better on the only real way we're measured here at Keck: I'm going to do better on the exams. Sure, there's a touchy-feely quality to improving on the more subjective measures like professionalism or patient care, but the fact is I don't feel those are my weakest areas, and it would be difficult to monitor my progress in improving them even if they were. Therefore, exams it is. There are three system exams left before our yearly comprehensive exam in May or June; I'm going to do at least as well as:

Hematology and Clinical Immunology
90%. I'm less than two weeks away from this exam. In my last post, I mentioned that the topic was easy. Sure, it is still the easiest system we've studied so far, but it's not like I really have been studying for the last three weeks…
Neurosciences
93%. I'm not sure exactly what to expect from this system. I know Gross Anatomy is supposed to be fairly difficult (I've heard, actually, that the entire system is supposed to be fairly difficult), but I've always been fascinated by the process parts of Neurosciences, especially the pathologies. We'll see, but I want to keep improving…
Musculoskeletal
95%. This one's short. Plenty of memorization, and only about two weeks to do it in. Still improving…
Comprehensive exam
92%. Just after Memorial Day, covering the entire first year. This is the closest I get to being realistic—with any luck, it won't involve actually staying overnight in the MDLs. (Okay, so I'm sure that won't actually be the case. Staying up all night at home, however, seems fairly likely.) Wish me luck!

Last modified Mon Feb 9 14:07:17 2004.

Could be worse…

…in a lot of ways. Got grades for the second half of the fall semester, and the composite score for the whole semester. I didn't ace it, but I didn't do all that poorly. Except for the one subject I didn't study the way I should have, I was within two standard deviations of the mean on everything, and overall. That said, I'm (still) a bit disappointed.

However, Hematology's going particularly well. It just seems easy; and I hope I don't end up regretting saying that later. I'm mildly annoyed at some of the instruction (it occasionaly seems rather pedantic), but at least I'm doing well. There's no gross anatomy—I was very disappointed in my performance on that exam last term, but I at least enjoyed the class.

Lindsey did great on her actuarial exam, so she's thinking about getting a job. I'm sure that will go well, but wish us luck anyway!

For those of you who haven't noticed yet, thanks for using a decent browser. I've decided to stop going out of my way to support Microsoft's Internet Explorer—those of you using IE, I'm sure can see what I mean. I wasn't really supporting it all that well anyway; it doesn't really like things like '. So, forget it. This site is more for me than anyone else, and just about everyone who ever reads the site uses Firebird anyway. If you don't, sorry, but I'm going to do it the way the standards say I should.

Oh, and only slight money woes—anyone need a high-priced HTML coder for the summer?

Last modified Thu Jan 15 14:03:41 2004.

Big fish…

…is most certainly one of the best movies I've ever seen. Entertaining, thought-provoking, and (gasp) downright wholesome. I'm not sure exactly what it is about the film (yes, film) that makes it outstanding, but Tim Burton has really got a way of telling a story.

In other news, happy new year! Lots of resolutions, most of them vague enough to be struck down by the end of January, but some not so. Plenty more dieting, with no cheating—ever—this time. Working harder in school, biking more often (even if it's too cold for a sane person to be biking), and generally getting more done. Wish me luck!

Classes start again on Monday (for me, anyway—Lindsey has until the 12th), so I'm likely to not get much non-medical work done after that. I'm already preparing: I checked out an excellent instructional classic, Bates' Physical Exam, from the library. I'll probably end up reading that instead of Heinlein's “new” novel, which I'd really prefer, and which Lindsey's mom and stepdad gave me for Christmas. Bummer. I also got my first otoscope, ophthalmascope, and sphygmomanometer today. Man, medical school is expensive—and I ended up spending at least $200 less than anyone else I know….

Last modified Thu Jan 1 22:53:07 2004.

InFiniT GNU/Linux 0.1.1

has been released. Most certainly nothing more until at least 27 December, probably later.

Last modified Sun Dec 21 20:01:19 2003.

Another one bites the dust…

No, I haven't failed out of med school—I'm referring to another semester down the tubes! That's right, I've (unofficially) passed my first semester of medical school—and, since Keck is entirely pass-fail the first two years, that's all that matters. (Another possible way of reading that sentence is “I didn't do particularly well, but I don't particularly care.”)

So now time for a little relaxation—very little, from the outlook: I'm really close to being finished with InFiniT GNU/Linux 0.1.1, and I'd like to release that today. If I don't, it won't be until at least 27 December, since Lindsey and I will be at her mother's house in Colorado from tomorrow until then. Keep your fingers crossed I'll finish—with any luck, I'm running the last test right now.

I'd also like to get a running start for next semester. We're done with the “Core Sciences” section, and on to individual organ systems. The next couple of months (starting bright and early on 5 January) is Hematology and Immunology. We'll be doing Neurosciences for the two months after Spring Break (which, amazingly, is the last week in February), and finish May off with the musculoskeletal system. After that is a week of comprehensive exams (for the whole year's worth of material, I think), so the last thing I need to be doing is cramming in the last few days (as I've done for the last several exams). Don't get me wrong—I'll be doing my best not to work my ass off, but I wouldn't mind actually having a good reputation among the faculty…

Last modified Sun Dec 21 15:01:58 2003.

InFiniT GNU/Linux 0.1

has finally been released. It's certainly not fit for use as a general computing platform (yet), but is the first step in freedom through obscurity. Check it out, if you like.

With exams coming up in a little over a week, it's unlikely I'll have a great deal of time for posting or development. Then we're going to Lindsey's mom's in Colorado for a few days, so expect more stuff after the new year.

Last modified Sat Dec 6 11:03:44 2003.

Aleph 0 Computing Project

I've just made my first front page for the aleph 0 computing project, the potential product of my abandonment of the non-free software community. Share and enjoy.

Last modified Wed Nov 12 07:34:53 2003.

Way too busy…

…but I have had time to update a few things on this site, in case you hadn't noticed. My archives page isn't much, just a redisplay of the [now defunct] main page with all the posts instead of restricting it to the first ten. The links page is just that, and doesn't really have much on it at the moment other than a link to the browser you should use if you're getting lots of “'” tags on this page.

School's going well, but I could really use more study motivation. Time itself is fine, but it's still a great excuse for slacking on everything else. In that spirit…

Don't have much time right now. Back to studying.…

Last modified Tue Nov 11 12:27:18 2003.

Trauma's not so bad…

…trauma surgery, that is. So I met with Juan Asensio, my mentor for the Salerni Mentor program, and unit chief of trauma surgery service A at County. He's an incredibly active guy (a quick Medline search shows well over a hundred articles by him), and seems to advise people all over the world. If I can just get beyond the whole lack of time at home, trauma surgery could seem like a very reasonable career choice.

So what happenned to that whole thing about putting off any real career decisions as long as possible? Just another side effect of rejuvenated interest, my friend. The main reasons I decided to delay any such decisions had to do with the lack of interest I was feeling for any of the things I had thought I would enjoy. However, with all my rejuvenated interest, I'm happy to be entertaining plenty of thoughts of career and future directions.

I do, however, have to continue to concentrate on the present. For instance, I need to review eleven immunology lectures this weekend. I suppose I should get to it…

Last modified Sat Nov 1 14:31:22 2003.

Halloween rejuvenation

So, as I started to mention in my last post, I'm experiencing a sense of rejuvenated interest, formed consciously to combat, if nothing else, creeping apathy and frustration that may better be described as “pouncing” rather than “creeping”. Yes, it may be a bit forced, but it's actually quite effective so far. When I don't get something right, I'm not as upset and I'm more likely to see it as a “learning issue” rather than as a failure. When I do get something right, it delights me. I'm excited about almost everything involved with medical school right now, probably for the first time in months.

In a spirit of serendipity, I also got an email from my Salerni Collegium mentor (well, his assistant). Salerni is an interesting cocurricular organization that does everything from establishing a clinician mentorship program for students to writing an unofficial orientation guide for MSIs to providing free football tickets and barbecue for the USC homecoming game. My assigned mentor, as luck would have it, is the chair of the primary trauma surgery team; I'm very excited to meet him this afternoon and find out about shadowing opportunities—not to mention just make some connections. It seems hopeful that my rejuvenated interest will carry over into career as well.

It's also working great for home stuff. Lindsey's working hard in preparation for next week's actuarial exam, an extremely difficult test at the undergrad level, which still takes a great deal of preparation even for someone with Lindsey's background. She's doing well in preparation, but it's quite stressful for her and admittedly boring around the house for me. However, thanks to rejuvenated interest, I'm spending time on my Linux distribution, learning introductory Spanish, and trying to go through the Mega Memory program.

I realize I've never mentioned my performance on the exams from a couple weeks ago. I did quite well, certainly passing everything, and even excelling in a few areas. There were also a few areas in which I scored below the mean (biochemistry comes to mind), but well within the two-standard-deviation cutoff that suggests more serious problems. Thanks to a lack of preparation (I think), I did score slightly outside that range in microanatomy—still most certainly passing, but certainly not as well as I'd like. I asked to do an informal review with the chair of the microanatomy course, who also happens to be important in the selection of Dean's Recognition and is on the curriculum committee. He suggested that since the school has the funds anyway, they pay a third year for a few hours of microanatomy/pathology integration tutoring. I'm sure it will be helpful—it might even be more advantageous than trying to study it on my own. I'll let you know how it goes.

We've just started to get into the abdomen in gross anatomy; I'm certain today will be somewhat malodorous (isn't that a great word?). I just hope my rejuvenated interest keeps me from getting sick….

Last modified Fri Oct 31 07:44:57 2003.

Rejuvenated interest

So I don't have as much time as I'd like to write at the moment, since, among other things, I have ICM again this morning (well, like every Tuesday morning). Suffice to say for now that I have a rejuvenated interest in everything. It may be kind of forced—I figure if I just keep telling myself I have a rejuvenated interest it will eventually become true. Working so far. More later.

Last modified Tue Oct 28 08:24:49 2003.

I'm annoyed

mostly because just about everything pisses me off these days. I'm annoyed that there was a strong idiot turnout in the California elections a couple of weeks ago, but when is there not? I'm annoyed that I've started to get unsolicited commercial email on my USC email account, even addressed to “Dr. Jones”, but I get so much unsolicited “friendly” email that this single message I received today shouldn't be nearly as annoying as it is. I'm annoyed that I won't be at home today when UPS shows up with my new toy, even though I should just be thrilled that Lindsey bought me this great little Linux-powered PDA as an early birthday present. Mostly, I'm just annoyed that I tend to wake up perfectly happy and then get annoyed within a half hour.

Oh, so exams were fine. I won't have official results for a few days still, but I ended up above eighty percent overall; the exams from a couple weeks ago will be combined with another week of exams in December, and seventy percent (or so) of the total will be considered passing. Shouldn't be a problem, and I'm mostly just worried that performing reasonably well on the previous tests without working too hard simply means I won't work too hard this mini-term either.

I've got Linux running fairly well on my laptop. Slackware 9.1, at least until I have my own distribution ready to run X. There are still a few minor shortcomings, most notably the lack of a good, simple, open source VPN client, so I can't just sit out in the quad and use the wireless network.

It's ICM day again, which means we'll go over to County to see some patients, write up our findings in as professional a manner as possible, and then maybe present our findings to one another. That all sounds wonderful, but ends up generally being a session in which we listen to patients for about forty minutes and then have no idea what's actually wrong with them. However, we have also just learned to do the most basic writeups, HPIs (History of Present Illness). Funny—it actually makes you feel like a doctor.

Home life is fine, but Lindsey's working very hard. She's got an exam she's worried about tomorrow, and the first actuarial exam on November 6. I've been trying to help out as much as possible (since I'm not really working all that hard at school), but she's mostly stressed.

Off to ICM. God, I hope I don't get too annoyed today. Fat chance.

Last modified Tue Oct 21 08:18:33 2003.

Halfway through exam week…

Tuesday was “Human Organism”, a massive test over introductory Psychiatry, Physiology, Genetics, Nutrition, Embryology, and a few written questions about Gross Anatomy. Wednesday was our Gross Anatomy practical exam, 50 questions about gross anatomical specimens. Today is the exam I'm most worried about: Cell Structure & Function, 105 questions on Microanatomy and Biochemistry. It's not that I'm not good in these subjects, but after the last two days of exams (and the last nine days of studying), I'm not up for working hard for it right now.

Friday should be easy—“Prevention and Treatment” is made up of Preventitive Medicine and Pharmacology, which, for the moment, are essentially 98% of the math we'll study in med school. I don't have too much trouble there. I'll literally spend an hour or two, and be done with it.

Not that I should be terribly concerned, anyway. I did very well on HO on Monday, and I think I did well enough on the Gross practical. Today could suck, but from all four of these exams and all the exams in December, I need to get 70% of the possible points. That's not just to stay in school; since Keck is a true pass-fail system, that will literally look just as good on my transcript as whoever gets the top score in the class. The only motivation I have for doing well is not remediating myself later; I'll work hard now to avoid working hard later anytime.

Last modified Thu Oct 9 07:42:03 2003.

No more spam in California?

A new law has passed in California: effective January 1, 2003, spam is illegal. Period. No “ADV:” subject line, no unsubscribe links on every message—just no unsolicited commercial email sent to or from anyone (or even on behalf of anyone) in the state of California.

A few questions:

  1. How does anyone know my email address is in California? Sure, the domains of two of my email addresses give a whois note as being in California, but the other two don't. It's nice that the sender has to prove that the email is solicited, but how does anyone prove they knew I was in California (assuming the sender isn't).
  2. How will California enforce such a law on senders outside California, or, for that matter, outside the United States?
  3. How do I file a claim?

Maybe it's time to implement that whitelist after all.…

Last modified Wed Nov 12 07:42:41 2003.

So I'm on track…

…to lose 100 pounds in one year. Admittedly, I'm only 30 pounds into it, but it's going well. The goal is to be at 175.5 by April 24; I'll keep you updated over the next seven months.

I'm also on track to graduate from medical school. We had our first practice test on Wednesday, and I did fine. I didn't ace it or anything, and I haven't been doing what you might call “studying”, but I've been doing good for me at least. I've essentially halted a lot of extracurricular activities (like tagging along in the Emergency Room), partly out of time constraints and partly out of frustration. The last shadowing I did was very disappointing, and I don't need to be disappointed in my career choice just yet. Essentially, I've decided that everyone does the same work for the first two years of medical school (and maybe longer); there's no reason I have to (or should) worry about a specialty just now. Add to that the fact that I can't even choose between medicine and surgery—so why worry.

I've completed the very first incarnation of what I'm calling (for now, at least) InFiniT GNU/Linux. That is, I have a completely bootable system made from scratch, and the idea is to put it onto a live CD-ROM and make the installation process a couple hours of compiling in front of you. Don't know when I'll do any sort of “release” on here, and it's not exactly the sexiest distribution (you might think of it as a minimal—very minimal— development environment), but I'll arrange that sometime. Nice to have a hobby outside medicine.

Oh, and one more thing—it's premier week!

Last modified Mon Sep 22 07:48:57 2003.

Surgery's not so bad…

…almost surprisingly good, in fact. Our ICM group visited Childrens Hospital Los Angeles yesterday. Despite the fact that I'm fairly certain there should be an apostrophe in the name, we had a remarkably good visit. I have to admit I haven't been seriously considering surgery, probably because I don't tend to appreciate the stereotypical closed-mindedness of surgeons, and I like to feel like more than an overpaid mechanic. But as we watched a hand reconstruction on a child with Apert Syndrome, I was simply fascinated. In some sense, I actually saw the beauty in the way the tasks were done—lots of planning out exactly what would be done, and adaptation to unexpected consequences with ease. Oh, and they closed to Led Zeppelin IV.

So it's anyone's game at this point. Speaking of which, I agreed to play what essentially amounts to intramural football (maybe I'm missing UF already); the only problem is that I just learned it's two-hand touch, with no linemen, and only passing plays can advance the ball. Um, let's see; no defensive offense, no tackling, and no running game? What part of this is football?

It's actually a symptom of a much wider condition I've noticed here—there are quite a few people who are more ambitious than I, and I've noticed that in large part they're really not entitled to be ambitious. They make rules that suit them, they arrange schedules that suit them—all of which they're entitled to do—and then they expect everyone else to be happy about them. Oh, sure, that's coming from someone being annoyed by their ambition, but I've gotten over the need to apologize for being annoyed. We'll see how they handle getting slapped down. (No, that's not a physical threat.)

In any case, I'm fairly certain that the great comiserator will be this afternoon—we're having a practice exam, which the second years have apparently mentioned is a great deal harder than the actual exams we'll have in three weeks. Sure, I studied a little, but I'm not stressing about it—I'm more worried that I'll be annoyed at bitching about the exam than I'm worried about doing poorly on the exam itself.

Last modified Wed Sep 17 07:32:46 2003.

SBC rocks!

So it doesn't make a legal difference to me, as I've probably never shared more than about ten files on Kazaa Lite K++, but it turns out that SBC won't comply with RIAA subpoenas. I'm (now) happy to say that I'm one of the three million SBC DSL subscribers—it's just nice to see that someone I'm affiliated with actually takes a stance I agree with!

Last modified Wed Sep 17 06:46:42 2003.

Yay! Microanatomy!

Okay, so that's a bit sarcastic. Truth is, microanatomy (a.k.a. histology, a.k.a. cell biology) is one of the lower points of my med school classes—it's not that I don't see the point, it's that I just don't really care. But wow, they really tend to pound it in—I've got four hours of it this morning.

But that doesn't really bother me. Sure, there are things I'd rather be doing with my time, but I knew that would be the case coming in. The real drags are the things I didn't expect, things like not particularly enjoying standing around the emergency department for six hours while I could be at home studying (or better). I did a tagalong (which is what they call shadowing here, not a girl scout cookie) in 1060, the “slower” emergency room at County on Thursday—and left before two hours was up. Maybe it had something to do with the 30 back pains that were waiting to be seen, maybe not. Maybe it's just not as interesting to me as I remembered. Maybe I'm just becoming more jaded and less interested in caring.

Psychiatry is pretty cool, though. Could this be an important portent of things to come?

Last modified Mon Sep 15 07:57:02 2003.

Another day, another -$133.36

Yeah, that's a quick-and-dirty estimate of what med school's costing me per day—and is based on last year's tuition, doesn't include books, supplies, or living expenses, and doesn't take into account the future interest I pay on the loans that are providing that money.

But I start shadowing in the ER tonight! It seems a little odd that I'm essentially in the same position as I was 3 and a half years ago—a little annoyed with what I'm doing and hoping that volunteering my free time in the Emergency Room will bring back some hope for a real career. Sure, I know a little more about what to expect and will be wearing a snazzy white coat tonight, but I'll still be trying to make a good first impression and will be sacrificing what tiny amount of social life I have.

I'm also slightly concerned that I'm at school at 0655, and will be here until at least 2300. I'm a first year medical student; I didn't think that was supposed to happen yet. Oh, well, maybe I'm just putting in penance for not working very hard in graduate school.

In any case, I've actually been able to stick to the new schedule I made up for myself, although I've admittedly only sufferred through one day of it. For those of you keeping track (if you actually are, please don't tell me—it's a little frightening), I've lost 29 pounds since April 24. Days like today should help that even more!

Last modified Thu Sep 4 07:07:03 2003.

That's it…

Okay, so I have to get work done. Digitizing, music, video, and most especially programming are all now exclusively dedicated to weekends. I'll keep trying to make these little updates as often as possible—who knows, without being allowed to program they may even come more often.

No, I haven't failed anything, and this is a self-imposed rule, but this is something I have to do to get through medical school successfully. I need to work hard, and I need to spend time with Lindsey, and everything else has to come after those two. I already am unable to spend as much time with her as I'd like; and by my new schedule I'll be spending even less. The only hope is that it will now actually be with her instead of screwing around on one project or another.

I'll probably post my general schedule at some point, so you can get an idea of what I'm talking about, but anytime you start with “so there are 168 hours in a week…” you can't be going anywhere good. I'm purposely leaving 1230 Friday to 1230 Sunday free every week, but I do occasionally have classes scheduled on Friday afternoon. Other than that “weekend” I have about an hour and a half “free” each evening—I think it's safe to assume I'd like at least ten times that.

So I'm continuing on all the myriad projects I have—they'll just all be going much more slowly.

Changing subjects completely, I got to interview my first patient today—or at least I should have. We went over the the eighth floor of County (a.k.a General Hospital), and I was told to interview a patient who was, well, less than coherent. We're not talking a problematic accent or tangential rambling here, we're talking moans and grunts. So much for that. I was given another patient; this one was stuck in radiology. So I just got to sit in while Pete did his interview. Arrgh. I suppose I should be grateful—some groups didn't even go to the hospital.

I start doing ER tagalongs on Thursday (six hours I could probably spend at home, but I suppose it does help the career). With any luck, that will also reinvigorate me a bit—I guess it—s safe to say that so far med school's good, but not all that enjoyable.

Last modified Tue Sep 2 16:28:32 2003.

MPlayer for Windows

Just a quick note before I start studying again… MPlayer has released a 1.0pre1 version, including official support for Windows (with Cygwin or MinGW). Just in case you're wondering, here's the steps I took to compile it under cygwin:

  1. Download MPlayer.
  2. Download the DirectX 7 header files.
  3. Change to the directory you downloaded these files into.
  4. mkdir -p /usr/local/include
  5. cd /usr/local/include
  6. tar xzf $OLDPWD/dx7headers.tgz
  7. cd -
  8. tar xjf MPlayer-1.0pre2.tar.bz2
  9. cd MPlayer-1.0pre2
  10. cp etc/cygwin_inttypes.h /usr/local/include/inttypes.h
  11. ./configure && make && make install
  12. Enjoy!

Last modified Wed Nov 5 21:45:28 2003.

Back on the wagon…

Okay, so I'm merely referring to studying, working on my personalized GNU/Linux distribution, and updating this blog again. I've been trying to relax, but constantly feeling like there's quite a bit to get done. So, in response, I've just decided to get more done and let that be its own relaxation.

I'm once again working on what is tentatively entitled InFiniT GNU/Linux, a “distribution” that I'll be happy to share but will be geared only toward the ix86 architecture and will be optimized for the computers that I own and use, and is therefore unlikely to be of much use to anyone else. I'm not particularly worried about things like the Linux Standards Base and the File Hierarchy Standard (anymore); I'll keep things generally the way they are, but won't make special efforts to do so. The idea is to eventually customize (i.e., tear down and build back up) my own operating system, so there's no reason to stick with convention just for the hell of it. On the other hand, as I would still not consider myself a guru per se, I'm not going to try and change things just yet.

Studying has had to kick back into full gear with our first real patient case, a young man with cystic fibrosis. My assignment for the case was fairly straightforward (an analysis of major clinical problems presented by CF patients and the pathophysiology leading to them), but took some time. We also had our first gross anatomy dissection (the superficial back) on Friday, so that encompassed some work in and of itself.

Friday also brought our white coat ceremony, so now I even look like a medical student ready to see patients. With any luck, that's exactly what I'll be doing tomorrow—it's our first “Intro to Clinical Medicine” (ICM) where we may actually have a chance to visit the wards. It's going to be weird to be back in a hospital.

And, obviously, I'm updating this page again. Keep checking back—still more to come!

Last modified Mon Sep 1 18:03:51 2003.

I don't know, man, that sounds like a lot of work!

So, med school takes some work, apparently. Actually, it hasn't been terribly bad—I'm just used to doing nothing for the mathematics department. I'll write a few notes, and then off to bed. (Actually, that's also kind of new. It's just a bit past ten. I'll be getting up at 6:30. Question 1: how old am I? Question 2: shouldn't eight hours be enough?)

I've decided who I'll vote for if Gray Davis is recalled. (Slashdot has an interview with her, too.) The whole recall craziness just reminds me—do I move to states with horrible voting practices, or does it follow me?

We had our first psych lecture today. Surprisingly good stuff. Turns out County (uh, sorry, thats LAC+USC Medical Center) actually has a psych ER. I'm planning to shadow the doc there at some point.

The Matrix: Revolutions trailer is out.

Since I keep meaning to mention it, The West Wing is now showing on Bravo. I really enjoy this show, but it's not for everybody (Lindsey doesn't like it, for example.) If you've never watched, TiVo an episode today!

I'm in the process of digitizing a bunch of med books, too. I'll let you know if I ever get any fit for the public. Med books are expensive—wouldn't it be nice if they were online?

Okay, that's it. I'm proofreading this and going to sleep.

Last modified Wed Nov 12 07:43:51 2003.

First day!

I've survived my first day of medical school. It's by no means a trivial thing—the worst by far was scheduling the financial aid entrance interview at the end of the day. The day itself wasn't horribly long, but the financial information seems to be geared toward those who have never even considered making a budget or cutting costs, something with which I have a bit of experience.

On the brighter side, however, I am now quite excited about school. It's remarkably obvious that Keck has made a great effort to make the students comfortable, happy, and, most importantly, feel like part of a team. Much of the education is team-based, with the entire class of about 160 students divided into groups of 24 “cohort groups”, which is then further divided into four groups of six. I've just started to get to know my “ICM” (Intro to Clinical Medicine) small group:

Pete
Pete is an interesting guy with a deep, resonant voice, who has been teaching at the high school and university levels for the last few years. He's married and has an infant son; the only drawback at all is not bad—his experience teaching anatomy exempts him from the course, so he won't be joining us in anatomy lab. I assume he'll still answer any questions we have.
Mariah
Mariah is also a new parent. She worked on the Human Genome Project for some time; interestingly, I met Mariah before—we interviewed and toured Keck on the same day.
Ronald
Ronald is a local Angelino, and has been out of school for some time. He has two young children as well.
Anne
Anne has an MPH, and is repeating her first year at Keck. I think this will be a remarkable advantage.
Karen
I haven't gotten to know Karen much yet, but her multi-toned hair is remarkable, second only to Lindsey's tri-toned look.

The ICM groups are the smallest groups we work in, and we work in them plenty. They are our gross anatomy groups, the first groups in which we work on practice patients, the groups in which we start to see real patients, and most likely our study groups. My ICM is all students who are a bit older and more experienced, something I'm quite happy about.

Most of the remainder of the day was spent in some simple cooperation-fostering exercises, like the famous “Desert Survival” simulation where a team must decide which items to use after a plane crash. Tonight our first homework assignment was to complete a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which will tomorrow be used in discussions of different learning styles (I think).

So, I'm excited. Tired (again), but excited. If I can get some good sleep during this orientation week, I think school will be much more comfortable—I'm just not sure that will happen.

Last modified Sun Aug 10 20:00:58 2003.

So I'm a little nervous…

…but mostly just tired. Very tired. Not a promising beginning, I'm sure, for starting med school. Everything starts tomorrow, if you're keeping track. The last week has been fairly hectic (sorry if you've for some reason been expecting me to write more), with lots of moving, unpacking, and buying stuff. At this point, I'm almost (not quite) wondering if med school will actually be a nice break from making the house more homey.

Wednesday there was a barbecue to meet our “big sibs”, second-year med students who have advice and food to share. Mine is Tom, and he seems like a really excellent guy.

I'm sure I'll write more about Tom, the house, and my first day of med school later—at this point, I've got to get up in eight and a half hours, while I could probably use twelve, so I'm going to get some sleep.

Last modified Sat Aug 9 20:08:54 2003.

Almost there…

We've got about 250 miles to go today, and we'll be at our new home. With any luck, we'll make that by early this afternoon, get the keys, and be able to move everything in before nightfall (okay, so this will actually require a lot of luck, and the nightfall thing is really just a goal; it's not like anything bad will happen if we don't make it in time).

We get the truck for another few days and another few hundred miles, so even though it seems to be a piece of crap we'll probably try to get our money's worth—buying and carrying a washer and dryer, maybe an air conditioning unit or two, generally racing with all the other fifteen-foot moving vans… alright, maybe not that last one.

Unpacking can't be nearly as much of a pain as packing was, although we will be trying to fit about the same amount of belongings into a little more than half as much space. Still, it shouldn't be too difficult to unpack quickly; at the worst, everything will be unpacked and the house simply won't yet be pretty by the time medical school starts next Monday.

That's right, I have one more week before I officially become a medical student. It's a fairly busy week, but I think it will be a good one. As I mentioned, we still have to unpack, I have a barbecue at the medical school to attend and meet my “big sib”, I probably need to start picking up supplies and making sure all my loans come through, and I still need to decide if we'll make Steve & Kelsey's keg party. But I'll essentially be done driving (damn, that reminds me, I also have to get my new driver's license), and that's worth it.

Last modified Mon Aug 4 04:46:00 2003.

What a difference a day makes…

Wow. Today was a good day. I don't know what has made a difference, but it could simply be that I had a much better night's sleep. Sure, there were still problems (it wouldn't be a cross-country road trip without problems), but they just didn't affect me as much. For instance? Well, it's becoming readily apparent that the Ryder/Budget truck I've rented is a piece of crap. The noise is horrible, and now it actually looks like the tires are pieced together with electrical tape.

We've been staying in decent hotels (just for reference, that's “decent” for poor students, not “decent” for employed physicians). Today's is the second Sleep Inn we've stayed in, and the second one we've had problems with. Last time it was silly problems like a lack of water pressure and the phone that didn't work; this time it's a bit more personal, apparently including a stubborn clerk and a trainee who couldn't properly make a reservation. Well, we won't be staying in any more of these places (even if $50 a night is a bargain to the $120 we spent at a “Super 8”); I assured the clerk of that while using a little of my usual Charm and Bullshit™.

In any case, this stuff just hasn't been getting me down. It might help that we're less than 750 miles from Los Angeles; we shouldget there sometime early on Monday. It, again, might be that I slept reasonably well last night; thankfully, the air conditioning at the Super 8 was actually as cold as I like, and that probably helped.

Last modified Sat Aug 2 18:14:00 2003.

On the road…

…and man, is it a pain. So after way too much work packing boxes, loading the rental truck, and cleaning the apartment from top to bottom, we're finally on our way. We left Gainesville at about 10 this morning, met Lindsey's dad outside Pensacola for a late lunch, and stopped in Slidell, Louisiana for the night. The truck isn't horrible, but could be a little quieter and have a little more power (slowing down 15 mph going up the small hills of North Florida is not cool).

By the way, before you read further, this is going to be one of my more bitchy posts. I hate whining, but somehow I don't seem to mind so much if I'm the one whining. In any case, feel free not to read if you don't want to.

So we get to the hotel in Slidell, I call Earthlink to find out the local dialup number, and the Earthlink system tells me that the area code and prefix are invalid entries. Add to that the fact that the hotel phone doesn't work, we can't tell the hotel staff to fix it because they don't know about the cats in our room, and I can’t call the front desk to enable long-distance dialing (to use the modem) because the phone doesn't work.

So Earthlink handles this reasonably well, and allows me to enable 800 number access over the (voice) phone. I get that working at ten cents a minutes, only to find that this number only connects at 14.4 kbps.

Essentially, this sucks. I'm sure it will all get better, but it has not been a promising start. Not to mention, of course, that I have no idea when this will be uploaded.

Last modified Thu Jul 31 16:35:00 2003.

Okay, so I was wrong…

…but that’s a Good Thing! As it turns out, I had completely neglected the idea of temporarily housing this page somewhere else—in this case, my EarthLink account, which I received free for six months with my laptop and which I had intended to use merely for the cross-country drive to LA and the first week in the new place (i.e., until the DSL was connected).

So, I won’t promise that updates will be all that exciting, but there will at least be updates (and, for that matter, a page at all) during the drive out and throughout the moving process. I of course don’t have all the perl scripts running on EarthLink’s servers, but there’s no reason they can’t run under cygwin on the laptop itself; I’ll just spend a few seconds each day to upload the new page to their server—or maybe waste some time scripting it.

That’s the only thing I wanted to mention today. Stay tuned! Now that there’s at least the theoretical possibility of someone reading my updates, I’m more inclined to actually make them!

Last modified Tue Jul 22 19:49:00 2003.

Still packing…

Getting ready for the big move, playing with my new laptop (for the more risqué of you out there, that’s not merely the top of my lap), and making sure I have immunizations up the yinyang (well, in my arm, anyway). That’s essentially how I’ve been spending the last several days and how I plan to spend the next two to three weeks. We’re leaving on the 31st, driving from Central Florida to Southern California, and planning to arrive about the 4th of August. After that, I’ll suffer through about a week without DSL, get hooked up again about the same day I actually start medical school, and hope that none of the computers are damaged in the move.

The gist? This will be the last update for some time, or at least the last visible one for some time. I do plan to do some writing, both on some of the behind-the-scenes Perl and some articles I’ve been meaning to get to (including why sweatshops are a good thing). I’ll do a bit of writing at the hotels we stay at, a bit more once we arrive in LA, and (if I can force myself to take the time) regular updates while experiencing med school. I don’t want to promise anything, but this site should actually become more active and infinitely (sorry, I couldn’t resist) more interesting.

Of course, you won’t actually see any of that for a while. In about a week, on the 28th or 29th, this will become a placeholder page reminding you that I’m in the process of a move. One of the deficiencies caused by my desire to depend on others as little as possible is a lack of server colocation—so the server this is running on will be in the back of a Budget rental truck along with all the rest of my crap. Oh, I’ll be updating on my laptop—but you’ll just have to take my word for it. Everything should be back to normal (or better) by, at the latest, about August 15.

The other drawback to the impending move and once again having to attend classes is an indefinitely long hiatus on my GNU/Linux distribution. I’m sure I’ll still work on it from time to time, but I’ll be making a serious effort to concentrate most of my energy on cultivating my education and my relationship. The last thing I need to be worrying about is building my own distribution from scratch. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be running Linux, using and developing free software, and in general trying to make things easy and difficult on myself at the same time; I just won’t be spending my time trying to make my efforts suitable for other people. In a great man’s words, “Well, I hope you’ve learnt your lesson, Lisa: never help anyone.”

So, stay tuned. As always, still more to come—you’ll just have to be patient.

Last modified Mon Jul 21 22:03:51 2003.

New address

So we’re finally set up with a new address and a phone number in LA. I’m honestly amazed at how easy things have been after the debacle of finding a place to live; all the utilities are already arranged, I’ve found a DSL provider (who I’m not necessarily thrilled with, but the price is good), and I’m actually starting to look forward to the move. In case anyone cares, here’s the new address:

719 S AVENUE 60
LOS ANGELES CA 90042-4306

Feel free to write. The phone number is listed, but already on the National Do Not Call Registry, so telemarketers shouldn’t call. Look it up (after August 4) if you want to call me and aren’t interested in selling me anything. Sorry that there seems to be more than one Christian Jones in LA—you might want to use my address.

Of course, I can always be reached by email at chjones@aleph0.com (at least, until I implement that spam whitelist I’ve been meaning to get to…).

Last modified Sat Jul 12 17:47:01 2003.

rxvt patch

So I’m waiting for my new Dell laptop (which, surprisingly, will probably be here sometime next week), and I realize that I’ll probably be required by the med school to run Windows, so, it’s once again time to set up cygwin. In fact, I like running a console so much, that I started playing around with customizing the cygwin rxvt, and noticed that (like any other rxvt), it’s not real pretty if you start it maximized and have a little unused space. To remedy that, I made a patch for the cygwin version to get rid of some of the ugliness. If anyone uses this and has any problems (I can’t imagine why, it’s a nearly insignificant patch), let me know.

Last modified Wed Nov 12 07:53:24 2003.

Terminator for PresidentGovernor?

So no doubt you’ve heard that Arnold is likely to run for Governor of California. Personally, I’d like it to be unlikely that he’ll be elected, but I can’t really say that. This is the same state that elected Reagan to Governor before the mad-cap fun-loving not-exactly-laid-back Eighties (a decade of which, perhaps surprisingly, I’m actually quite a fan). However, I did just see Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and I can’t imagine this would be an effective political tool for Schwarzenegger in any state. Consider the following planks:

Women’s issues
At one point, Arnold “whirls” Kristanna Loken (shoving her head into a toilet), just before literally trying to crush her pretty little face with his boot. (Maybe the fact that she actually kicks his ass quite thoroughly is to be construed as a triumph for the gender.)
Crime
Actual image from the film: Arnold, coffin full of weapons in one arm, gigantic machine gun in another, annihilating at least 8 police cars as the officers run for cover. The upside? A screen capture from Arnold’s “terminal” stating HUMAN CASUALTIES: NONE. I can see it now: I nevah said it was okay to kill police officahs—just fiah at them and destroy theah means of puhsoot.
War
Arnold goes to great lengths to help destroy those who are likely to become his enemies later—oh, hold on; people might actually go for that one.

Don’t get me wrong; I very much enjoyed the movie. I’m just not certain the country is ready for this particular entertainer to be an elected official. Yes, I know he can’t go on to the White House, but I would say Governor is quite possible—even likely. Oh, well, good excuse to register to vote as soon as possible after the move.

Last modified Mon Jul 7 20:07:51 2003.

Woohoo!

Altogether, it’s been a surprisingly good day. Far from perfect, mind you, but surprisingly good. In fact, it’s been very good—it’s just that those high points of the day took such a small portion of time.

Big news first—Lindsey and I finally found a place to live in L.A. Actually, I suppose that’s not strictly true—this particular house (that’s right, it isn’t even an apartment!) was actually brought to our attention on June 25th, but we decided not to take it then. It’s a little smaller than we’d like, but the location is wonderful (three miles from the med school), and I’m very excited about having the autonomy that comes with renting a house. Add to that the fact that the owner is tangentially related to the medical school, and we come back to the realization that much more can be done with social “contacts” than through “normal” channels. It’s a Good Thing™.

Other, much smaller but still fun, news, is that I bought a laptop. Once upon a time, I had an ancient 486 IBM Thinkpad with a broken display, but this time I’ve purchased a brand-spanking new Dell Inspiron 1100 for a grand total of just over $1000 after tax and shipping. It’s not the cutting edge device I really wanted, but with twice the processor speed and one-third the price, it was hard to go with my heart when the med school packet that arrived today said a laptop was required. Of course, it goes without saying that at least this one has a keyboard and DVD-ROM built in, along with an 802.11b card that I can actually use in Linux. (Speaking of which, I’ll plan to put up how that goes, as well.) The notebook should arrive in about two weeks, just about the time I’m packing the rest of my computers for the big move. If I have a chance, I’ll plan to put up a nice note about it.

The last decent news for today is that I may teach yet one more class for the Princeton Review. Always nice to make a little extra money….

As for the bad stuff—really nothing. Just stress about everything that needed to be done for med school and finding an apartment (ha!). So, that’s over (at least the living arrangements part), and I’m going to go watch some X-Files.

Last modified Mon Jul 7 20:11:57 2003.

Danger!

So there is a story or two (which I originally noticed at Slashdot) about Sunday, July 6, and a scheduled “contest” to deface as many websites as possible. If this isn’t one of them, it’s probably only because no one gives it a try.

Yeah, this is just a piddly little thing right now. In fact, I won’t be surprised if this is hacked, and I won’t be surprised if it’s not.

Thankfully, however, it is unlikely just any little “script kiddie” gets in, mostly because I’m not running a Microsoft product which I have neglected to update. Instead, of course, I’m running some free software I’ve neglected to update.

In news of the behemoth, however, I’ve just completed my regular reinstall of Windows XP on my main workstation—with any luck, the last one. Hopefully, this will take me through next year (mostly because I don’t plan to change anything), and I’ll be well on the way to my InFiniT GNU/Linux Workstation by then. (One of these days, the complete details of my plan allowing a perfectly free-software home network will certainly be posted.) Each time I do one of these installations, I’m reminded how difficult it is to get Windows to actually do what I expect. I would not have thought a serial port external modem would have to be uninstalled and reinstalled four or more times.

So, finally, it’s back to the Linux scripting. In the meantime, why not check back Sunday and see if I’ve been haXored?

Last modified Wed Jul 2 16:21:18 2003.

Dammit!

I’ll preface this with saying that Linux is great, and I use it because it comes closest to doing exactly what you tell it to do, as opposed to other operating systems I use. (Yes, I’m well aware that any computer does exactly what it’s told; but your commands are generally filtered through the OS and an application or two.)

But, as any good sysadmin knows, that can be a burden as well. There are safeguards—namely, running as little as root as possible. Unfortunately, some things—say, mke2fs, have to be run as root. And there aren’t really built-in safeguards for root being an idiot, and not careful, and typing, say, /dev/hdc1 instead of /dev/hda2.

I think you see where I’m going with this. On my “development machine”, /dev/hdc1 is my archive partition. I do take safeguards—such as not mounting it unless necessary. The funny thing is that had it been mounted, mke2fs would not have worked.

As it is, the scripts I use for development of the previously-mentioned distribution I’m making were already copied onto another partition, as was the one “source” package I had made myself. Unfortunately, the individual scripts to build each package were mostly lost, as were things like my todo list, CHANGELOGs, and bug tracking. I downloaded the one piece of software I could find which claimed to recover files from a formatted ext2 partition; I’m not linking to it because it resulted, after my staying up until 3 this morning, in recovering a grand total of one file usable to me.

So am I giving up? Hell, no. I’m not even pissed at anybody except myself and the aforementioned recovery program. I did this myself; one of the events leading my charge toward GNU/Linux was a similar wipeout of data on my Windows computer—one that wasn’t perpetrated by me or by any source myself, my anti-virus program, and Microsoft were able to identify. So, it’s back to square 2 or so; I just want to be able to get this done before I move….

Last modified Thu Jun 19 05:27:27 2003.

Just checking in…

Summer’s great! Sure I’m actually busier than I’d like to be—but that’s a bit misleading, considering most of it is of my own doing. I’m finishing up the first version of my own personal Linux distribution (yes, I’ll mention it here some more, but, no, you probably won’t want it), I’ve got a good jump on my ER DVDs (a process I swear I’ll put into detail one of these days), and moving plans are coming along as well as can be expected.

The best news? Since the spring semester ended, I’ve lost more than 15 pounds. I’m at a pretty steady 2 pounds a week, and I’m losing in a way that it’s pretty unlikely to return once the diet is over—not to mention without resorting to Atkins or the like. If you’re looking for something similar, I’ve got to recommend the Hacker’s Diet that John Walker, the founder of Autodesk, put together. Not for everybody, but it’s obviously working for me.

I’m also still teaching (just for that little bit of extra cash) at the Princeton Review. I give them so much credit for my MCAT score, I’ve got to give something back.

So, until I get around to updating this page again…

Last modified Mon Jun 9 09:28:10 2003.

Open Source to the rescue

While looking down through one of the previous stories, I decided to look in on the Mozilla crashing bug, and, what do you know, it’s been fixed. (Of course, the Internet Explorer analog is still at large.) I’m not one of those rabid “everyone should use open source” fanatics, but I’m glad to see it seems to be working for those of us who do.

To be fair, the bug is still existent in Firebird 0.6, the species of Mozilla I use, and therefore I would assume that it’s still in the posted Mozilla 1.4b from May 7, 2003, just by the dates. It does seem to be fixed in the latest nightly build I just downloaded. Nice to see progress actually, er, progressing.

Last modified Sat May 24 12:05:50 2003.

I’m still here…

…just a little busy. I’m preparing to teach another GMAT course for the Princeton Review. They were so instrumental in improving my MCAT score that I went to work for them a few months ago, but until now have only taught one course. I’ll be spending most of the month of June on the next one, and I have plenty of other stuff going on—getting pre-prepared for the move to California, building my own private GNU/Linux distribution, and, uh, updating this site on a pseudo-regular basis. Plenty of stuff. So, even if it doesn’t seem like it… I’ll be around!

Last modified Fri May 23 10:12:11 2003.

Am I disturbed…

…too easily? Firstly, I am consistently amazed at the prowess of Aaron Sorkin. He must be my favorite television behind-the-scenes man; he created and did a hell of a lot of work on Sports Night and The West Wing, two of my three favorite shows ever to be on televison. More importantly, I was just amazed tonight at the fact that a boob-tube program can still apply enough suspense that it takes my mind a non-negligible amount of time to come back to reality. That’s what happened tonight on The West Wing. If you’ve never watched, I’d like to recommend it—except that it’s not for everyone (like Sports Night), and it may be too late in the series to get started.

Enough about TV. I’m also mildly disturbed at the state of web surfing. I’ve been a Mozilla advocate for a while, especially after learning that it’s easy to crash Internet Explorer with simple HTML—no need for scripting, plugins, or anything. Today, though, I read that Mozilla has a similar bug. So, once again, I’m at the mercy of site coders. Not that that is a terribly big surprise, but I’m really not up to the task of making sure the entire web works myself…. [Update: As of 9 June 2005, these bugs don't exist in the latest versions of Internet Explorer or Mozilla; I've removed the “crash” samples that were previously here.]

Last modified Thu Jun 9 09:53:55 2005.

Ahh, Summer…

So it’s finally summertime. Movies are starting and television’s stopping. Okay, so it’s not quite Summer, but it is getting close—and it feels like it more than usual. I’m dieting, bored, and not getting nearly as much done as I’d like. But this page is still getting updated (even more than weekly!), my linux projects are coming along nicely (what can I say, I like reading documentation), and the diet actually isn’t too bad. Lindsey’s out of town at a Tori concert for the week, though, which certainly doesn’t help the boredom.

On the good news/bad news side of things, though, my last ever math test is tomorrow. See? I don’t actually have any reason to be bored—I just don’t feel like working.

Last modified Mon Apr 28 18:07:06 2003.

I should be happy, right?

No, this isn’t some bipolar change from yesterday’s post. I just happened upon a rumor that the first season of ER will be released on DVD on June 13. That’s great, right? Even if it’s no longer my favorite series, I’m still a fan, so I should be happy, right?

Just one problem. As it turns out, one of my major hobbies for the last few months has been ripping the TNT reruns off my TiVo, editing them up all purty, and making some personal-use DVDs. I must say they’re pretty impressive; more importantly, they’ve taken quite a bit of work, with quite a bit still to go. I’m about halfway done; I even spent some money to recover some lost data from my latest hard drive crash. (It’s a little difficult to recover 80 GB on the spur of the moment.) So I should be happy not to have to deal with it anymore, right?

So why am I bummed? I have plenty of hobbies; this won’t leave me bored and aimless. And before you ask why not just finish this and not buy the “official” copies, are you kidding? Kinda weird little ideas I have: if I like something enough to put work into it, I certainly like it enough to show even a modicum of appreciation those who can do the job better than I. (This is also a good argument for donating to free software developers—if there were more people with this idea, it might not be necessary to pay an arm and a leg for decent DVD authoring software.) (Of course, I’m also selfish enough that I want the better-quality professional versions. Surround sound? I can only hope!)

So I’ll buy the sets. And I’ll keep working on my own. Sure, I’ll have the entire series, probably before Season 2 is released in stores. Seems kind of pointless, though, doesn’t it?

Last modified Wed Apr 23 18:56:05 2003.

Life is Good…

…and not just because I’ve finally got the behind-the-scenes work on this site started. I’ve got the most amazing significant other in the world (so nyah!), I’ve almost completed the bout with mathematics that first tickled then plagued my young adult life, and I’ve been accepted to a medical school that will probably fill the rest of that early adulthood.

And lo! the semester’s almost over. If only there were a whiteboard on the door of my apartment on which to put my down/to go list. (No, that’s not my “to go down” list, which I don’t even keep. Anymore. Really.)

What’s more, this site is actually up! I’ll still be doing some perl work on automating things, but I’m actually going to start making regular updates to the content. No, seriously. Please stop laughing at me—it’s not very nice.

Stay tuned.

Last modified Tue Apr 22 17:28:10 2003.