The Bunch of Grapes
A Blog in the Liberty of the Savoy
Tuesday, September 30, 2003
2:48 PM
Finished Tony Horwitz's Blue Latitudes last night. As the back-cover blurbs go to great pains to explain, it's part Pacific travelogue and part a historical biography of Captain James Cook. Don't let that put you off - it's a very good book. Much deeper and more interesting in its own way than I was expecting.
Friday, September 26, 2003
4:46 PM
Went golfing with Michael during lunch today. Our usual course - Sandelie West - is a pretty easy 9 hole affair, with two major things going for it - it's unpopular and cheap. (Make your own joke here.) I tied my personal best today.

My Score45458455545

Two pars, one triple, and the rest bogies. Color me happy.
8:09 AM

Press Any Key To Continue.

Any Questions?
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
10:37 AM
So, I'm reading a Perl book, tring to learn something new "just for fun." And I come across this section where it talks about quoting with "backticks" to launch a shell command. And they show me what backticks looklike: `like these`. And I think to myself "Now that's weird. I wonder how you even type those." Apparently I'm not the first to wonder, because the book goes on to say that it's usually on the key above the Tab key. I didn't have a keyboard handy, but in my mind's eye I was sure there was just no way there could be something as crazy as a backtick up there.

Of course it is there. Right on the same key with the tilde (~), which I use often enough. In fact, you have to hit the Shift key to get to the tilde - if you don't, it's a backtick.

It's a curious psychological blindness I've developed. C++ doesn't use the backtick; Neither (as far as I know) does Java, or VB, or xslt, or any of the "seondary" languages I've learned at work. I certainly never use it when I'm writing English. Years of not using it convinced my brain it didn't exist at all.
Monday, September 22, 2003
9:49 AM
Sunday I got Simon and Garfunkel tickets in the "fan club presale." (More like a general internet presale, really - you just had to go glance at the web page to get the password.) When I told John this, he looked at me like I was loony for a moment, then started to sing a little of "Your Kiss is on My List."

He didn't seem too impressed when I informed him that Hall and Oates are in fact distinct from Simon and Garfunkel.

Anyway, I'm breaking a pledge to myself to not bother with arena concerts ever again. (After all, most of them come down to watching a big-screen TV with a bunch of other people, or occasionally squinting at small figures on a stage.)
Friday, September 19, 2003
10:25 AM
Now for some non-fictional news. Verisign has turned evil, it seems. The company - which among its other businesses has at some point won the responsibility for administering the .com and .net top-level internet domains - is as of now sending all unrecognized URLs (typos, basically) to their own page. See The Register's Article for more details. Go ahead and browse to some nonsense site like if you want to see this in action.

The Register characterizes this move as an "audacious land grab." I have to agree.
9:53 AM
Pirate Log, Nineteen September 2003:

My shipmates arrrr stubburn swabbies, a parcel of scurvy lubbers who may never appreciate the rum-swigging pleasures of talking like a pirate. Avast!
Thursday, September 18, 2003
7:27 PM
A bit of original fiction:

US Exhausts Pharmaceutical Names

Sept. 19, 2003 (Washington, DC) - With yesterday's finalization of "Pivuqueev" as a registered trademark of Bristol-Meyers, the US has exhausted its once-plentiful supply of prescription drug names.

Plans to avert the current crisis are being explored by a coalition of drugmakers. Four main schemes dominate the discussions: longer names (example: "Zeraphonilicifusiterazone"), eliminating the controversial "pronounciation requirement" ("Hnualh"), adding numerals as needed ("Paxil37192"), or allowing once-taboo indecency within the names ("Coqsukka").

Inside sources expect a compromise involving several or all of the proposals, but warn that it may be weeks or months before a consensus is reached. Until such time, no new drugs can be issued.

4:38 PM
It's incumbent upon me to remind you that tomorrow is International Talk Like A Pirate Day. This is important.
8:04 AM
I was out sick yesterday and the day before. Just a cold, I guess. People at work make fun of me for how often I'm sick - and I guess it's their right to, since as far as I can tell they are some kind of never-get-sick androids sent from the future to mock my fragility. Bastards.
Monday, September 15, 2003
11:39 AM
On Saturday, Wife and I went to the newest Krispy Kreme in town - the one in Beaverton. We went at about 6:30 pm, and the place was busy, sure, but there was no real line to speak of. We were in and out in a minute or two. As I suspected, this seriously reduced the amount of fun I had going to Krispy Kreme. Instead of an experience, it was just some doughnuts. Maybe I need treatment for my waiting-in-line addiction.
Friday, September 12, 2003
3:35 PM
Remember when I set the dumpster on fire? Here's a picture where you can see the fire engine in the distance.
1:50 PM
I lent Michael my Blogger template. In case you were wondering at the current eerie similarity.
Thursday, September 11, 2003
4:43 PM
Here it is, Michael's Blog. It's called How Swede it is. Ah ha ha ha ha.
3:39 PM
Michael noticed I had the Googlebar's "Blog This" button enabled and I was trapped into showing him what Blogger and BlogSpot did. He didn't seem impressed, but it must be growing on him, because now he's almost committed to starting his own Blog - so as to be as cool as me, or so he says. His main idea for the blog is to highlight his dangerous sociopathic tendencies (I'm paraphrasing here) therefore driving people to click on a Paypal donation button which will give money to a fund encouraging and enabling him to drop out of society. My suspicion is that this scheme isn't too likely to work, but who knows?
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
2:33 PM
Of course, explaining this to the suckers who are currently paying for Blogger Pro is a little touchy. Here's Pyra's email to the suckers. The good news is, they will give you a pro-rated refund - so they're playing fair. The bad news is, the letter hides that fact as much as possible, instead touting the two unique features remaining to Blogger pro (RSS and post-by-email), the supposed priority support pro users get, and last but not least the consolation prize of a free hooded sweatshirt! Wow!
2:27 PM
Ah, here's Pyra's announcement.They don't say as much, but this is really just eliminating the non-pro Blogger, and giving everyone Blogger Pro for free. Which makes sense - having a business model where they charged extra for Blogger Pro or for BlogSpot Plus might make sense, but making you pay extra for both was very off-putting.
2:22 PM
What the heck is this? Suddenly Blogger is showing me the Blogger Pro UI. Ooooh, I can Spell Check. (Amazingly, the Blogger spellchecker doesn't recognize the word "Blogger.") (Or "spellchecker," but I suppose that might not really be a word.)
Tuesday, September 09, 2003
11:48 AM
Normally I try to avoid the typical blogging practice of simply linking to a page I saw linked to from another blog. However in this case I'll make an exception. Thanks to Dave Barry's Blog for this one. Do they need nested roundabouts connected by baby ones, or is it just something the English build for fun?
8:26 AM
I went to Eugene on Sunday to visit Mom and to discuss our issues. I guess it went OK. I rode a bike while I was there. I still knew how, but only barely.

The weather has turned rainy these last few days. For which I say, "thank god." I hate hate hate watering the shrubs. And the rain feels all cozy and nice for the moment.
Thursday, September 04, 2003
2:25 PM
Let's say you want to query a database for rows from a table where the contents of a (text) column contains a certain word. So, if you're searching for "cat", you want to match rows that are like "cat", "cat on a hot tin roof", or "the big cat said meow". Equally importantly for this hypothetical situation, you don't want to match "category" or "scatterbrained". Can it be done using SQL's LIKE operator? Assume the basic LIKE operator, where '%' matches any 0 or more chars and '_' matches exactly one char.

Yesterday I claimed it couldn't be done. You want your query to be like

SELECT * FROM table WHERE col LIKE '% cat %'

Notice the spaces between the percents and "cat". This successfully skips "scatterbrained" and matches "the big cat said meow," but it doesn't match "cat" or "cat on a hot tin roof," since those don't have the space before and after.

An answer came to me in my sleep - it is possible:

SELECT * FROM table WHERE col LIKE '%cat%'
AND (col LIKE '% cat%' OR col NOT LIKE '%_cat%')
AND (col LIKE '%cat %' OR col NOT LIKE '%cat_%')

A little mindbending, but it works.
Wednesday, September 03, 2003
2:28 PM
Update on my earlier-mentioned woes:

Nobody's mentioned the dumpster fire except Michael, who wasn't really cruel about it.

Wife's arthritis was much improved yesterday. Yay!

Took the car to the mechanic. (Pacific Car Care, Barbur Blvd in Portland.) A brake they installed a while ago had a feed line leak, or something like that, which was why my brake fluid was low. That's being fixed under warranty, yay! I'm also getting an oil change done and on their recommendation having the power steering fluid flushed and replaced. They wanted to clean my battery terminals for $15 but I told them I'd do that myself.

Everybody seems happy enough with my call to Austria.

Leaving just Mom. Ugh. Gramndma called today to rag me out about Mom too. Whee.

Still, four out of five ain't bad.
9:00 AM
Some language pet peeves are so intense that it becomes a pleasure to seize upon them and ridicule the infraction committer. So it is with me and the misuse of the word "literally." For instance, I still relish the time when an email went around the company talking about a new hire and how she "literally hit the ground running." Yes! Paratrooper marketing!
Tuesday, September 02, 2003
10:01 AM
I don't believe in shammery like biorhythms, but if I did, I must be at a low point. Many things are going wrong:

- Setting the dumpster afire still looms over my head
- Wife's arthritis is this close to crippling her this week
- Mom has lost it, gone over the deep end, and blames me for not being a devoted enough son
- Car's "Brakes" idiot light has come on
- When I got to work this morning there was a message requesting me to call a customer. In Austria.

Not much I can do about the arthritis or the dumpster. Or possibly Mom, not sure there. And I suppose bringing a car to a mechanic to check out the brakes isn't the hardest thing in the world; it just feels like it sometimes.

I now present the saga of the phone call. Bear in mind my crippling fear of phones.

I was asked to call a "Mr. Stopper" in Austria at 0043 XXX XXXX XXXX. Nobody else was in the office yet (I get there pretty early) but I knew if I wanted to catch them at a decent hour in Austria there wasn't a moment to lose.

So I try to figure out how to dial internationally. 1 + 0043 + XXX... ? Doesn't work. I Google for international dialing instructions. Let's see, from the US, dial 011 + country code + number. This same (bad) page seems to tell me that, yes, 0043 is the country code for Austria. So, 011 0043 XXX... Doesn't work. Hmm. Do I need a 1 to get an outside line? 1 011 0043 xxx... BEEP BEEP BEEP "We're sorry, the number you dialed..."

After a little more of this I grit my teeth hard and dial 0. Yes, I'm going to request the help of an operator. This is virtually unprecedented in my life. This dial 0 for operator thing is more like a myth or fable to me than a reality. But apparently it's true.

"SprintVerizonQuestWhatever, how can I help you?"

"I'm trying to place a direct-dial call to Austra and I'm too stupid to do it."

"Hmm, let me see, you dial 011 plus... Australia?"

"Austria." (Having visited Austria, I can vouch for the fact that no conversation regarding Austia ever manages to not pass through the delicate Not-Australia-But-Austria phase.) I continue, showing off: "Country code 0043."

She roots around a while, and comes up with this breakthrough: "OK, so dial 01143 plus your number."

The light dawns! That damned 00 in front of the 43 was like the international dialing prefix if you're in Europe, or something. Damn Google! Damn Google to hell!

"OK, I got it, I see what my mistake was, thank-"

"Let me finish this sir..." (Apparently she has very explicit instructions for helping the international-dialing-disabled.) "Do you have seven or eight numbers after the 43?)

Hmm? I look. I have a group of 3, than a group of 4, then another group of 4. Well, if I'm supposed to have seven or eight... "Er... looks like I have seven plus an extension."

"Very good, sir. Goodbye."

OK: 01143 XXX XXXX. Well, something rings. Then I hear some German. I randomly now try the "extension" digits. Another German message and it hangs up on me.

I ponder. The German I heard had sounded somehow official and tellecomunication-y. Maybe this "seven-plus-an-extension" idea is just something the operator planted in my head to mess with me.

I try the full thing: 01143 XXX XXXX XXXX. "We're sorry, all circuits are busy at this time. Please try again later." Is this true? Or is this just a faulty error message? I try again immediately. "We're sorry, all circuits are busy at this time. Please try again later."

I'm so close I can taste it. The good news is that with all this consternation with actually dialing the number, I've forgotten to worry about actually talking to the customer. I give the same number one more try:


"BOOP. BOOP." Those could be European rings...

"Stopper." Wow, I reached someone in Austria. I win!

07/01/2003 - 08/01/2003
08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003
09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003
10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003
11/01/2003 - 12/01/2003
12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004
01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004
02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004
02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005

“Striving to be a more perfect geek since 1970”

(Challenge/response guarded: If I've never heard of you and you mail me, you'll have to prove you're a human before I'll see it. Think of it as a fun game. Whee.)

What is the Liberty of the Savoy?

Friend and co-worker's blog