i'm rather fed up with most of the anti-homeopathy snark i come across nowadays.

It's easy to dismiss homeopaths as charlatans, and homeopath clients/enthusiasts as deluded and anti-scientific fools. But i strongly feel i'm not anti-science1 - and i have seen a homeopath.

i have CFS. Over the years i've had medical 'professionals' tell me there's nothing wrong with me, that my health issues are a result of not being married, that my CFS is actually rickettsiosis, which has also deluded me into thinking i'm a woman2. Overall, my experience with the medical profession has been .... less than positive3.

i turned to a homeopath well after i spent a considerable amount of time dealing with this. i saw a homeopath who was a former member of the (pro-science, anti-New-Age) Communist Party of Australia. And for the first time, i had a health practitioner take my CFS seriously and treat me and my claims of ill-health with respect.

i tried a number of homeopathic remedies. Most i feel had no effect; at least one seemed to, briefly, have a powerful, mind-altering effect. But i don't regret at least trying homeopathy, because (a) "medical 'science'", when it wasn't completely dismissing me, was offering me no concrete help; and (b) the homeopath i saw treated me with respect, and this helped my mental health.

On the basis of my experience, i've come to dislike the cheap shots of much / most anti-homeopathy snark. Not because i'm an advocate for homeopathy - which is certainly lacking in replicable evidence4 - but because it often seems to come from a place of condescension, a place lacking any apparent recognition of possible broader contextual issues. How about more focus on why people might be turning to homeopathy? Might it not be because they're being treated with disdain by privileged (particularly in terms of class) medical practitioners5? Might it not be because medical practitioners are often unwilling to say "We don't know?" Might it not be because paternalistic and elitist qualification structures severely and unnecessarily restrict the number of medical professionals, increasing the costs of accessing them, and forcing them to spend time providing medical certificates for people with colds rather than on investigating more serious issues?

i would suggest that if scientific medicine is truly superior to homeopathy in all cases, one won't need to attempt to dissuade people from visiting homeopaths and to discredit homeopathy; people would in general choose scientific medicine whenever it provides an effective and accessible solution to their health issues.

So instead of snarking homeopathy, how about snarking the arrogance, elitism and costs of Western medicine and medical institutions, and work towards making scientific medicine an effective alternative?

1. i'm basically a zetetic; and cf. this old blog entry of mine about science.
2. As per this old blog post.
3. E.g. this.
4. Although "[h]omeopathy consultations can benefit arthritis patients, say scientists".
5. [personal profile] moominmuppet recently shared this article on being a 'border gimp'.
i love FOSS.

Several weeks ago the gateway box on a LAN i manage died, badly. The boot sequence wouldn't complete on earlier versions of the kernel, and would barely even begin on the current version before locking up. The CD-ROM drive had been broken for ages; the DVD-ROM drive decided that this was a good time to fail as well. i tried connecting up a CD-ROM from an old machine, but booting from an Ubuntu CD would also freeze midway through the startup sequence. So there was all this data on the unhappy machine's hard disk that couldn't be accessed, with no backups of that data available (i know, i know). It seemed that i would have to find either another machine to plug the hard disk into, or purchase a USB enclosure for it.


The floppy drive was still working. And there a floppy-based Linux distros available. After perusing this list, i eventually came across Zool Linux, a distro that fits on single floppy - and, unlike many other floppy-based Linux distros, has support for both the ext3 filesystem (the filesystem used by the hard disk in question) and networking. So i was able to boot Zool, mount the hard drive, tar up the directories i wanted to recover (a great suggestion from a friend from #aunzichix), and ftp the tarballs across the network. Yay! And yay for software that can be remixed and reworked to make wonderful systems like Zool available.


2008-09-07 11:09
Recently released statistics indicate that in Australia, roughly 50% of people chat via MSN and just under 30% of people chat via Yahoo!.

The protocol used for MSN chat - the .NET Messenger Service - is closed and proprietary. This means, firstly, that those outside Microsoft who want to write a MSN chat client have to reverse-engineer the protocol - i.e. observe its behaviour in order to determine how it works - rather than simply refer to a specification; and unfortunately, the former is a more time-consuming process than the latter (frequently significantly so). It also means that such non-Microsoft chat clients will always be behind the 8-ball, as Microsoft can (and regularly do) change the protocol such that clients 'break' and have to be modified to deal with the modified protocol. Since MSN Messenger, sorry, Windows Live Messenger :-P, is only available for Windows, that leaves the increasing numbers of people on alternative Operating Systems such as Mac OS X and Linux in a difficult position.

A similar situation exists with regards to the Yahoo! Messenger Protocol, although it seems to me that Yahoo! don't modify the protocol as frequently as Microsoft do (or at least don't do so in a way that breaks non-Yahoo! chat clients so frequently). And at least Yahoo! provide a version of their Messenger client for both Mac OS X and Unix systems.

Hence the need for a chat protocol which is based on an open specification, not subject to the business needs / whims of a single company. One such protocol is XMPP, the eXtensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (formerly and informally referred to as 'Jabber'). Google Talk uses XMPP, as does LJ Talk (and apparently Yandex, one of the competitors to Google in Russia, is adding XMPP support). Amongst the features of XMPP are:
  • Its federated model. Unlike the .NET Messenger Service, or the Yahoo! Messenger Protocol, anyone can run an XMPP server. If the Windows Live servers go down, no-one can contact each other. One XMPP server going down, however, does not have the same effect.

  • The notion of 'resources' which allows one to use multiple instances of the same account simultaneously. So i can leave myself logged in at home by logging in as "myaccount@myserver.com/Home" and still log in at work by logging in as "myaccount@myserver.com/Work" without causing an end to the "/Home" login session.

i'm enthusiastic about the long-term possibilities of XMPP. i've recently been reading the specifications, and hope to eventually get around to improving Haskell-based XMPP support - something i've been wanting to do for quite a while now, but haven't since i've not felt "in the zone" for programming. :-((

The problem, of course, is that XMPP support for things like crayzee emotes, file transfer, and voice and video chat, can't really compete with the offerings of Microsoft or Yahoo! - either because the relevant XMPP specs are still in development, or because they haven't been widely or adequately implemented. This, and Microsoft's ability to leverage its monopoly in the OS market to push its own chat service, together constitute a significant barrier to more widespread use by individuals of XMPP in the short term.

Having said that, it's also true that many people don't necessarily always use or need these extra features, and instead use chat services to just text chat. i thus try to encourage such people to start using an XMPP-capable client such as Pidgin or its Max OS X sibling, Adium, both of which allow one to use just one program to access multiple chat networks1 in addition to XMPP (e.g. MSN, Yahoo!, AOL, ICQ, etc.). A futile effort? Perhaps. But i feel that an open protocol such as XMPP offers far more opportunities for innovation and cool new services than closed protocols do; and the more people use XMPP, the more likely such opportunities will be taken advantage of, and the better our chat-based services will become.

1. Personally, i chat via ERC in GNU Emacs, using Bitlbee as a gateway server. This allows me to use ERC to chat with people on MSN, Yahoo!, LJ Talk, Google Talk and IRC. Very cool! But not necessarily everyone's cup of tea. :-)
In all the hoo-ha over this study, other research related to male homosexuality - research which i personally find more interesting, given my interest in evolutionary theory - seems to have been overlooked: "male homosexuality can be explained through a specific model of Darwinian evolution". The evolutionary model developed by the researchers
promote[s] a focus shift in which homosexuality should not be viewed as a detrimental trait (due to the reduced male fecundity it entails), but, rather, should be considered within the wider evolutionary framework of a characteristic with gender-specific benefits, and which promotes female fecundity. This may well be the evolutionary origin of this genetic trait in human beings.
i continue to be mystified by people who start learning Haskell, an explicitly functional programming language, and immediately try to write OO code in it. i'm not talking about the typical confusion of Haskell typeclasses with OO classes (Haskell's typeclasses are more like Java's interfaces), which is understandable. i'm talking about things like this quote from a post to the Haskell-café list:
After many years of OOP though my brain is wired up to construct software in that 'pattern'....a problem for me at the moment is I cannot see how to construct programs in an OO style in Haskell....I know this is probably not the way to approach it...but I feel I need to master the syntax before the paradigm.
As has been said in another context, I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a [comment]1. To use an old cliché, it seems to me to be a bit like trying to bang in a screw with a screwdriver as though it's a hammer. i mean, trying to understand the syntax? Fair enough, although understanding Haskell's syntax is probably not that difficult in comparison to, say, learning its type system. But trying to understand it by trying to implement OO in an explicitly functional - not functional-oriented, like Scheme, or multi-paradigm, like Common Lisp - language? Isn't that trying to run before one can crawl? The poster in question says that he's primarily interested in Haskell's type system - and it is indeed rather nifty, as least from my perspective as a noob to type systems - but i don't see how one can learn about that system without also having to deal with the fact that Haskell is a functional language with non-strict semantics. For example: in learning about the IO () type, one has to learn about how Haskell uses monads to 'quarantine' side-effect-producing IO from side-effect-free code; and not only that, but there's a good chance that one is going to get bitten by the laziness of hGetContents.

So i have to wonder, given that this person doesn't seem to want to leave the OO paradigm, whether OCaml, which has a type system broadly similar to Haskell's, might be a better choice?

1. This was actually said by Charles Babbage, regarding his difference engine:
On two occasions I have been asked, – "Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?" In one case a member of the Upper, and in the other a member of the Lower, House put this question. I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.
My slide rule arrived today, yay! For a 40-year-old piece of equipment, it's in great condition; the action of the central rule is slightly sticky on the finer adjustments, but the cursor is fine, and overall it's basically clean and legible. So i've been having great fun with it - it rocks! Muchas gracias a [livejournal.com profile] naked_wrat for buying it for me - love you lots beautiful!
Today i had one of 'those' conversations involving Windows and its attendant security issues. i get asked about these things because, you know, i know stuff about computers, and for most people 'computing' and 'Windows' are synonymous. i find these conversations difficult. In my experience, many people don't strictly need to use Windows, unless they're using software which isn't available or doesn't have a functional equivalent for the serious user on free operating systems (e.g. many games, Photoshop, certain academic software, etc.). The argument is often made that Windows is simpler, but nowadays, Linux distributions such as Ubuntu or Mandriva are generally no less straightforward than Windows. For example, although it's true that one might face problems playing encrypted DVDs (due to ludicrous legal issues), it's also true that installing, updating and removing software on such distros is typically much more straightforward than on Windows. Further, many people still need tech support from a friend or relative when they're using Windows; and in my experience, the Windows environment in the hands of the average user actually creates many more tech problems, overall, than i've encountered managing several Linux environments in the hands of five average users.

Consequently, the conversations that people often have with me about Windows often feel something like this:

Windows user: So, I'm having some problems shooting myself in the foot.
Me: Er, okay?
User: Yeah, I leave my gun on display behind an unlocked window, and so an organised crime syndicate made use of it, and for some reason it's now not working the same.
Me: Well, er, maybe you shouldn't have it on display? And if you do, maybe you should lock the window?
User: Look, I don't want to get into all the technical details . . . . I just want to know how I get the gun working again.
Me: So you can shoot yourself in the foot again?
User: Yeah, exactly.
Me: But, er, why do you want to shoot yourself in the foot anyway?
User: Ah! Well, there are these cool bullets, right, they look great! And they fire so well! But they only work properly when you're aiming at your foot.
Me: Well, perhaps you should change over to a different gun, that has similar sorts of bullets, and that you don't have to aim at your feet . . . .
User: No, I've heard those other guns are too difficult to use, and anyway, what happens if something goes wrong with it? How will I fix it?
Me: So you know how to fix this dodgy gun? Then why are you asking me how to fix it?
User: Well, you know about guns, right?
Me: Well, yeah, a fair bit, and that's why i'm telling you i think you'd be better off with a different gun, one that doesn't basically require you to shoot yourself in the foot . . . .
User: Look, this gun is the one I want to use, okay? So just tell me, what do I have to do to get it working so I can start shooting myself in the foot again?
Me: . . .
Various bits'n'pieces:
  • Further to the recent victory of the ALP in Australia's Federal elections:

    • An article noting how a mass movement against the WorkChoices legislation contributed to the Coalition's defeat.

    • Rodney Croome provides some commentary on the possible implications of the ALP victory for queers:
      I shouldn’t be surprised that so many of the young gay men and lesbians I speak to think that with the election defeat of John Howard and his Liberal Party the sky’s the limit.

      Many of them have no experience of the frustrations, spin and occasional aggression of Federal Labor in power. Sure, it was infuriating to have the conservatives look down their noses at us like we smelt. But that doesn’t look quite so bad the 20th time you’ve been told by the others, "shut up, shove off and be happy with what you get".

  • A non-privacy related reason for governments and business to not store so much information on us: the vast amounts of energy required to do so is starting to outstrip the energy required by the global airline industry.

  • And last but not least, today i won an eBay auction for a 1957 Faber-Castell slide rule. Yay! Yes, i'm a nerd, and proud of it. :-)
Amongst my many silly behaviours is a desire to learn as wide of variety of approaches to programming as possible. Practically speaking, this translates into constantly checking out a variety of programming languages. Consequently, when i was kept up all night recently by a cold, and i didn't have a clear enough head to do some Kabbalah-related reading, i ended up starting to play around with Forth1. Since i've not done any assembly programming, having to think in terms of stack manipulation (beyond basic push / pop operations) is an interesting challenge. Having said that, i suspect that Forth's stack-based approach is what contributes to it having a certain amount of elegance2; and i'm definitely a sucker for elegance in programming. Which is why i love Perl - i often find it allows for elegant solutions3, despite the regular bagging-out it gets from various quarters. i don't want to be cramped by a language that won't let me do certain things because other programmers might (or would) use them incompetently . . . .

1. Forth actually influenced the development of PostScript, a programming language even though most of the time it's used in the context of page layout.

2. Although i confess that i feel it's aesthetically marred when people write Forth in upper-case, even though it's case-insensitive.

3. Not least because it doesn't restrict itself to a particular programming paradigm. i like Lisps, and Scheme in particular, for the same reason. Although i think the problem is not so much when a language restricts itself to a particular paradigm, but when it does it in an ugly way; so that, for example, Smalltalk is an OO language that appeals to me, whereas Java doesn't.

The molecular signature of loneliness:
In their study, Dr. Cole and colleagues at UCLA and the University of Chicago used DNA microarrays to survey the activity of all known human genes in white blood cells from 14 individuals in the Chicago Health, Aging and Social Relations Study. . . .

Genes overexpressed in high-lonely individuals included many involved in immune system activation and inflammation. However, several key gene sets were underexpressed, including those involved in antiviral responses and antibody production. . . . "These findings provide molecular targets for our efforts to block the adverse health effects of social isolation," said Dr. Cole.
New research has found that a group of scholars in south-west India identified infinite series centuries before Leibniz and Newton. Infinite series are an important component of calculus, the discovery (from the mathematical Platonist perspective) or invention of which was the subject of much controversy in the 17th century. Isaac Newton claimed that he discovered it first under the name 'fluxions'; Gottfried Leibniz, who called it 'calculus', begged to differ. The dispute developed nationalist overtones, with some people supporting either Leibniz or Newton based not on the evidence but on their own national sympathies. Eventually the Royal Society of London established an inquiry into the matter, and produced a report in which it declared Newton should be given priority. This conclusion was no surprise, however, given that Newton himself wrote the committee report. :-P Wikipedia has an article describing the details of the sorry saga. It was a fairly ugly affair in the history of science, and stands in stark contrast to the story of what happened when Alfred Russel Wallace1 and Charles Darwin independently developed the theory of evolution by natural selection: in an act of grace that is characteristic of Darwin, he agreed to Wallace's essay on the matter being presented to the Linnean Society of London with a rider noting Darwin's priority.

1. Wallace's other main claim to fame was his discovery of the Wallace line in South-East Asia.
i must say i'm resistant to the notion that i should create a profile on whatever social networking Web site is the current craze. i really don't like the idea of (a) continually having to re-enter personal details and interests i've entered elsewhere, (b) leaving this information scattered all over the Web, and (c) increasing my security risk profile, as everyone jumps from one social networking site to the other. A while back it was Tribe.net; then it was MySpace1; and currently it's Facebook (and perhaps LinkedIn as well). i'm sure that a year or two from now, it will be something else.

Apparently this is driving other people bananas too, because i'm observing increasing amounts of discussion about the creation of some kind of standard that would allow people to easily transfer existing information on one social network to a new social network.

Anyway, i'm quite happy with LiveJournal, thanks very much. :-)

1. Which i'm particularly resistant to joining, owned as it is by Murdoch - i'd rather not be handing my personal details to the Murdoch marketing machine on a platter!
Although, as i wrote in an earlier entry, i'm not fussed about attempts to justify spirituality via science (or, as is more usually the case, 'science'), i couldn't help but be startled by the similarity between Lurianic Kabbalah's concept of the Tzimtzum and the following excerpt from an article about a potential mathematical description of what happened before the Big Bang:
Loop Quantum Gravity has been around a while, but Bojowald appears to have simplified it, using different mathematical terminology. This allows solutions to be determined for what was, before, an intractable problem. And what his solution reveals is something that's . . . well, it’s astonishing.

It’s been thought for sometime that there may have been some previous Universe that existed "before" ours. This is a difficult idea, because in the Big Bang model, space and time were created in that initial moment. But if Bojowald’s solutions are correct, it leads the way to understanding this previous Universe. It was out there, everywhere, and it contracted. Eventually it became an ultradense, ultrahot little ball of space and time. At some point, it got so small and so dense that bizarre quantum laws took effect — things like the Uncertainty Principle, which states that the more you know about one characteristic of an object (say, its position) the less you know about another (its velocity). There are several such laws, and they make it hard — impossible, really — to know everything about the universe at that moment.

What Bojowald’s work does, as I understand it (the paper as I write this is not out yet, so I am going by my limited knowledge of LQG and other theories like it) is simplify the math enough to be able to trace some properties of the Universe backwards, right down to T=0, which he calls the Big Bounce. The previous Universe collapsed down, and "bounced" outward again, forming our Universe.
i've finally got around to scanning through the Revised5 Report on the Algorithmic Language Scheme, or R5RS as it's more commonly known. Scheme is a minimalist dialect of Lisp. The Report and the language both feel particularly light and elegant to me.

Over the last several months, i've immersed myself in the world of Haskell. Haskell has an elegance of its own, but for me it's a very dense language (translation: It makes me feel stupid / exposes my stupidity). i often find that, when reading Haskell code, i really have to concentrate to get a sense of what's going on. And even then, i don't always "get it". Although i've noticed a TMTOWTDI-like attitude on the Haskell-cafe list: code posted as an implementation of a particular algorithm can elicit responses from me ranging from "Zuh?" to "Oh my, that is truly a thing of beauty!"

Of course, this can happen with many programming languages: i'm not a C programmer, but i've found the source for OpenBSD that i've looked at to be very understandable - a testament to the 'cleanness' of that code base. Still, on the basis of the (admittedly small amount of) Scheme code i've read thus far, Scheme comes across to me as quite a readable language. But maybe i just need to search the Web for Obfuscated Scheme contests, to see how bad it can get. :-)

Edited to add: Just came across this, which refers to someone "who compared programming in Lisp to studying Kabbalah, in that it does strange things to your head". Bwahaha!


2007-04-25 00:48
i've just glanced through this set of slides (PDF) describing the disturbing security implications of the Type 0 Routing Headers which form part of IPv6 - headers which can be used to route traffic not just through routers but through specific hosts as well. :-/ Argh.
Pleasure-loving bonobos win again! Social tolerance allows bonobos to outperform chimpanzees on a cooperative task:
In experiments designed to deepen our understanding of how cooperative behavior evolves, researchers have found that bonobos, a particularly sociable relative of the chimpanzee, are more successful than chimpanzees at cooperating to retrieve food, even though chimpanzees exhibit strong cooperative hunting behavior in the wild. The work suggests that some social tendencies or emotions that are adaptive under certain circumstances—such as aggression during competition for mates—can hinder the potential for problem solving under other circumstances, such as sharing of a food resource.
And while tv series like Heroes continue to propagate the myth suggesting that ordinary people can only be heroes once they develop super-powers, Australia's Bravery Awards demonstrate otherwise.
This morning i came across an article entitled 20 must-have Firefox extensions. Online media love lists like this, because they tend to provoke debate along the lines of "How could you leave out X? And how on earth could you include Y?", which in turn leads to more people visiting the Web site featuring the list in question.

Personally, i found that there weren't that many extensions of interest to me; and of those that were, two i've already installed (Web Developer and Download Statusbar), one i decided to install on [livejournal.com profile] sacred_harlot's computer (Nuke Anything Enhanced), and one i was already aware of but decided that i didn't have a real need for (Greasemonkey). And of course, there are indeed extensions which weren't included in the list that i feel are useful for almost all Firefox users:
  • CookieSafe: For privacy reasons, i don't allow sites to set cookies unless i feel there's a compelling need to do so (e.g. logging in to LiveJournal or Yahoo!). CookieSafe makes it easy to specify temporary or permanent exceptions to a default no-cookie policy

  • NoScript: JavaScript allows Web sites to create all sorts of cool effects and features - and also allows Web sites to do dodgy things behind one's back. Like CookieSafe, NoScript allows one to set a default no-script policy and define exceptions on a compelling-need basis.

  • FlashBlock: Flash is a useful plugin that is greatly abused (e.g. as per this rant of mine). Some people rudely embed e.g. YouTube clips into Web pages that automatically start playing when one opens the page, rather than waiting for one to say "Please play this clip now." Some Web sites insist that you view some dinky-to-annoying "introduction" before you can actually do anything on the site. And other sites use Flash to present you with advertising that blares at you from the sidelines. FlashBlock permits one to prevent Flash content from loading up unless one actually asks for it.

  • IDND: One technique using in phishing scams is to make use of international domain names to create a Web site name that looks like a genuine domain name, but which is actually, from the computer's perspective, a domain name different from the apparent one. This allows phishers to lead one to believe that you're actually using, say, one's bank Web site when one is actually using a copy running on a computer controlled by malfeasants with the intent of stealing your identity or resources. The IDND extension allows one to identify, at a glance, whether a site is using international domain names, and can thus assist in determining whether a site is genuine or not.

  • Link Alert: Identifies exactly what's at the end of a particular link - is it a Word doc, is it a PDF doc, is it another Web page - by adding a little icon next to one's mouse pointer when one hovers over a link.

  • OpenSearchFox: This marvellous extension allows one to add almost any searchable Web site as one of the search engines listed in the Firefox search bar.

  • Context Search: Allows one to right-click on a word in a Web page and request a search for that word in any one of the search engines one has installed.

And then there are extensions which are useful to a more limited Firefox user base:
  • Resurrect Pages: When a Web page or site is unavailable, either temporarily or permanently, this extension makes it easy to retrieve a copy of the unavailable item (where one exists) from one of a variety of Web caches.

  • UnPlug: For those of us not running Windows or Mac systems, and who therefore often have to suffer from media being embedded into Web sites using a plugin not available to us (or technically available to us, but which doesn't actually work properly), UnPlug is invaluable - it finds and presents to the user the likely URL of the embedded media, so that one can then try to download it and play it instead.

  • OpenBook: Allows one to modify what information one can provide when adding a bookmark.

So there's my list of recommended Firefox extensions. i actually have many more extensions installed than simply those i've mentioned, but i suspect they're of far more limited interest. :-)


2007-02-22 21:00
First woman honored with Turing Award:
One of the most prestigious prizes in computing, the $100,000 Turing Award, went to a woman Wednesday for the first time in the award's 40-year history.

Frances E. Allen, 75, was honored for her work at IBM Corp. on techniques for optimizing the performance of compilers, the programs that translate one computer language into another. This process is required to turn programming code into the binary zeros and ones actually read by a computer's colossal array of minuscule switches.
Apart from "Yay! About time!", two other things occur to me:
  • i wonder if the significant contributions to computing made by Lynn Conway will ever be recognised with some sort of award? Or will her transsexuality make that politically untenable?

  • i wonder whether this news will make it to reddit, and if so, how high it will end up being ranked?

First, the serious stuff: the security (or not) of Windows Vista.

Second, on a lighter, and related, note: What if people took the same attitude towards cars as they often do towards computers?

Third, i discovered last night that despite claims to the contrary, Internet Explorer 7 doesn't seem to honour the position:fixed CSS property, even when pages have a strict doctype, as it's supposed to do. i discovered this by a friend of [livejournal.com profile] naked_wrat's sending a screenshot of how the PAA Web site looks in said browser. As a quick fix, i removed that property from the site style sheet, which unfortunately changes the site behaviour; but i don't know if i could be bothered to set up an IE-specific fix.

Finally, what would happen if there were more truth in IT-related job titles?
The last several days have been full of happenings . . . .

Firstly, last Tuesday, [livejournal.com profile] sacred_harlot gained another partner (as per this LJ entry). i'm very happy for both of them, and really hope that the relationship works out well. :-D

Then, last Wednesday [livejournal.com profile] sacred_harlot and i took a journey out past Belgrave to have lunch with some friends of ours. They made us a scrumptious quiche using vegetables from their own garden, and we had a good chat. Unfortunately, their rooster - who the hens will have nothing to do with! - had a go at [livejournal.com profile] sacred_harlot, who ended up with a rather large scratch on her leg. Clearly, this rooster needs anger management, and that's going to be provided - via, say, deep-frying, or stewing. :-)

One of our hosts gave us a lift out there, but we came back via train (after she dropped us off at Belgrave station), and for once, the PT 'just worked' - we only had to wait several minutes to get a train from Flinders Street station, and about the same to get the necessary bus from the train station we get off at.

By Friday, the warm nights and increasingly hot days were really beginning to take their toll on me. But i really wanted to upgrade [livejournal.com profile] sacred_harlot's main computer to Mandriva 2007, as i suspected it would fix a lot of the problems - mostly related to Nautilus and mp3 players - which had been cropping up on that machine. Unfortunately, for some reason the install DVD refused to play nice, either bringing up graphics mode errors or simply quietly failing to do anything. This was despite having used the same DVD to install Mandriva 2007 on [livejournal.com profile] naked_wrat's main computer, a process that basically went smoothly (aside from some network -related hitches due to how that computer is connected to the Net), and which also provided us with some rather impressive eye candy via Compiz (from which the Beryl project, recently mentioned by [livejournal.com profile] penguinpusher, has been forked).

So then i tried an NFS-based install, using [livejournal.com profile] sacred_harlot's laptop as the NFS server. But the laptop decided that it too felt like being obstreperous, and began producing all sorts of errors, culminating in a plethora of messages from the Linux kernel basically indicating that things were getting too much for it. Great. Next option: an HTTP-based install, downloading the Mandriva 2007 system from the net. This seemed to start out okay, so i decided to leave the computer to its own devices, and went for a lie down in preparation for a social event that [livejournal.com profile] sacred_harlot and i were supposed to be hosting that evening. When i woke up a few hours later, however, [livejournal.com profile] sacred_harlot informed me that the computer had been stuck on estimating that time to completion was 7 hours 55 minutes for the last couple of hours. And indeed, the whole system was locked up. :-/ By this time the house was the proverbial oven, and i was really starting to get physically and mentally overwhelmed. i realised that there was no time to take this matter further, given the proximity of the evening's social event, so i went to pack stuff out of the way . . . . but it all got too much, and i ended up breaking down and crying. i then further realised that i was in no state to be socialising; and i certainly didn't want to ruin the evening for everyone else by sitting in the bedroom sobbing. So i threw some clothes on and took myself up the street to my other place to spend the night - [livejournal.com profile] naked_wrat was staying the night with a friend - in the ludicrous heat.

Saturday was forecast to be even hotter - and it turned out that way - but when i took myself back down the street the next day, i felt like i had regained some of my equanimity. Not for long; i realised that the failed HTTP-based install had wiped the old version of Mandriva, but had left nothing usable in its place. So i felt completely stuffed: no working OS on the machine, and no way of getting a working OS on it. Except for one last, best hope for peace: taking [livejournal.com profile] sacred_harlot's main box up the road (via taxi), and trying to do an NFS-based install from [livejournal.com profile] naked_wrat's main box. Hallejulah, it worked! So i then spent Saturday night and Sunday morning configuring the system in terms of networking, security updates, user logins etc.

Which brings me to Sunday afternoon, when i got a call from a long-time friend: she had just been kicked out of her flat by her flat-mate, based on one of the flimsiest of excuses. She and her flat-mate had been attending a seminar by a life coach (who is apparently quite a sleaze), and my friend, wearing a summer dress, had been sitting on the floor with her legs crossed. Her flat-mate took her aside and had a go at her for - get this! - 'flirting' with the life coach, who the flat-mate in question apparently had her eyes on, by virtue of the fact that on occasion her dress would ride up her legs a little and show some skin. Things went downhill from there.

This friend and i have known each other for over 12 years; and the fact is, she doesn't play these stupid girl-fights-girl-for-man games. In fact, she basically doesn't play games at all when it comes to interpersonal relationships. But it seems her flat-mate does, and is projecting her own behaviours onto others. :-/

Bottom line is this: this friend will be staying with [livejournal.com profile] naked_wrat and myself indefinitely, until she can sort out what to do as a result of all this. All this has actually happened in a quite complicated context, which i won't (at least for now) relate here; but suffice it to say that we're all hoping - and have seen some indications - that this crisis actually turns out to be a blessing in disguise.

Which pretty much brings things up-to-date. i'm very much looking forward to autumn and some consistently cooler weather!


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