Featured, Free Style

The End of Dollar Bills

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/05/01/where-dollars-go-to-die/

If we stopped printing one dollar bills, it would stimulate consumer spending as we came to think of anything under $5 as “change”.

One group that might really benefit are strippers: you really can’t stuff a Sacajawewa into a g-string: $5 would become the new standard for tipping. But if that is too steep for the clientele the house could offer change in old one and two dollar bills, which are offered to the dancers, who sell them back to the house. Imagine small bills forever consigned to circulate around the groins of a low-end strip club.

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Featured, Free Style

Mex Express

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/05/02/mex-express/

I took the Mex Express to La Guardia. Truth in naming, it was Mex and Express. The minivan was comfortable. I noted the crack across the bottom windshield, and the whistle on the highway confirming the computer’s report that the lift gate was ajar.

The driver said he had lived in Fresno for a few years, picking grapes. He has done all sorts of work over the years: fields, restaurants, construction. He likes anything that pays American money, and has been driving for the car service for five years. His family has lived in Brooklyn on Avenue C for many years, paying less then $900 for a large two bedroom apartment. He likes his neighborhood but now too many white people are moving in.

He has two sons, American born. They understand Spanish, but they speak in English. He says they’re good kids, and their teachers love them, but he worries that in Junior Highschool they may be exposed to bad influences. He says he warns them every day to be careful to make good friends and to avoid drugs. There is a third child on the way.

Some years back he drank too much but that has changed. He loves to work. You see people, they speak good English, standing on the streets, asking for a dollar, fifty cents, five cents? “That is no way to make money.” He showed his sons that on a hot day you get some bottled water and sell it at red lights. It is always better to work.

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Featured, Sundry

Flying Jumbo

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/05/05/flying-jumbo/

I have long legs and long arms and I love to look out the window when I fly. Whenever possible, I check the seat map for an upcoming flight to jockey for the best place to sit. Instead of printing my boarding pass the night before I will wait until I am at the airport and hit a self-service kiosk and check again for a good seat. I use seatguru.com to help assess the quality of various bulkhead and exit row seats.

Sometimes I fly Southwest Airlines, which doesn’t assign seats, so I will try to print my boarding pass as early as possible (24 hours before your first flight segment) so that I can board early and homefully score an exit row. When I can not board early or if the exit rows are taken, I may go for the bulkhead row. No tray tables but plenty of leg room, and you get off the plane quickly: best “middle seat” there is!

Unfortunately, a lot of people think it is “clever” to store stuff in the forward overhead bins, where I have to stash my bag when I am sitting in the front row. So, I drop my coat or my hat on my new seat and head back several rows to stow my bag. The danger here is that when we get off the plane I have to wait until the aisle is clear to swim upstream to fetch my bag. So, sometime before landing I sneak back, fetch my bag, and stash it safely beneath my knees. As we get near landing time, I drape my jacket over my knees and tuck my hands in to this “blanket” allowing the flight attendants to check the cabin without noticing my “un-stowed” bag. Once the plane lands I am one of the first on my way!

Recently I secured a bulkhead window seat in the same row as a gentleman sitting in the aisle seat, and some of the middle seat. I figured he’s a good guy to share a row with because people prefer not to sit wedged in next to a fat guy. Better yet, there was a card in the middle seat saying the seat was “reserved” . . . a reserved seat on Southwest?

The man explained that Southwest has an excellent policy for people of his stature. When he travels, he purchases two seats: one for Tim and another for Timothy. When he gets to the airport they exchange one of the tickets for a “reserved” placard and then let him pre-board. He boards the plane first, takes his bulkhead seat, lifts the armrest, places the “reserved seat” sign in the middle seat, then stretches his legs and watches everyone board. The best part is that unless the plane sells out, Southwest then refunds him the cost of the second seat! “Its as close to ‘first class’ as you can get, and even if I pay double its still cheaper than first class on another airline.”

I like the elegance and fairness of the solution: there’s no slippery slope of aspiring “fatties” trying to claim extra room from the airline’s profit margin, and the airline isn’t extorting extra revenue to accommodate oversize folk; A “reasonable accomodation” is achieved! For me, the bonus is having a mostly-empty middle seat to compensate for the missing tray table.

It reminded me of travelling with my sweetheart. If we sit together I can borrow extra room from her and she can snuggle against me. “Yeah, my wife is all of 125 lbs.” “Ha! My girlfriend is 4’11.” “Funny how that works out.” “Yup. I figure the kids will come out average.”

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About Me, Featured, News and Reaction, Sundry, Technical, Technology, Testimonials

Why I Am Deleting my Facebook Account

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/05/05/so-long-facebook/

You remember how everyone was on Friendster? And then, Friendster was too slow, and everyone lost interest?

Then we were all on Orkut? But it turned out the guy just stole the code from somewhere else and it got boring pretty quickly, too.

Then there was Tribe.net, but I never signed up for that.

Then there was MySpace, and suddenly you could pretty much do anything with your profile, hook in doo-dads and gewgaws and blinky backgrounds? Well, I dipped my toes in that trainwreck but yeah . . . old news.

And then Facebook came along, which only stole the idea from someone else, and not the actual code. It was fast and scaleable like Orkut, and it had applications and stuff so you could have the flexibility of MySpace but within a controlled environment. Boy that thing took off!! But, Facebook was still missing a critical ingredient: you can not trust them.

So, I figured I would get ahead of the curve on this one. They keep revising their rules and re-jiggering things to make it harder and harder for people to keep their information private. Eventually enough people are going to be spooked at that. I tried to re-re-re-re-review my privacy options and look at taking out most of my profile information but they made it enough of a pain in the ass. Eventually I used Google to find the option where you can just delete your account, which, in true Facebook style, takes two weeks. Anyway, in another week and a half, I will have vanished.

If I change my mind someday I can sign up all over again. Despite the hooplah, though, I think there is a very good chance that lots of folks will move on in the near future. Either some kind of open-standard, or maybe a comparable platform run by a company that regards trustworthiness as a central ethic. (Speaking of which, you can stalk me on Google.)

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Linux, Technical

Ubuntu: Re-install All Packages

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/05/05/ubuntu-reinstall-all-packages/

After some transient disk issues I was stuck with an Ubuntu VMWare image that was brain dead. I figured I would give the install CD a chance to fix but the Ubuntu install CD doesn’t have a fix-it option. (Really?!) Since the issue was somewhere in how Gnome and X were configured, I launched an xterm session and managed this command:

dpkg --get-selections \* | awk '{print $1}' | xargs -l1 aptitude reinstall

What that does is get a list of all packages installed on a system, then invoke “reinstall” for each package. It took a few hours to run.

The Ubuntu forums had a recipe using some more straightforward Debian incantation, but that didn’t work for me.


Featured, Technology, Testimonials

Celsius: Where Metric Fails

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/05/06/celsius-where-metric-fails/

I love Metric, but I think for human purposes, Fahrenheit is more useful, and actually closer to the convenience of metric:

0: water freezes
100: water boils

0: colder than Denmark
100: warmer than human blood

If I want to boil and freeze water: hell yeah, Celsius. But if I want to know how hot or cold it is outside, explain it to me in terms I can understand!

(Originally a comment on the Big Fat Blog)

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About Me, Featured, Technical, Technology

Password Management

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/05/10/password-manager-solution/

To a discussion as to preferred password manager solutions, I added the following:

I developed a simple algorithm I use to generate passwords using my brain. I have changed this algorithm a little a few times. At the most basic level, something like this would be you like to use the password “frog” . . . but then add the first two letters of the web site name: Yahoo -> frogya, Google -> froggo.

The benefits of this “password manager” are that as long as your brain functions appropriately, you will always have platform-independent access to your passwords. If any given password is compromised it is non-obvious to an attacker what your other passwords are.

The main drawback to this password manager is that different password policies are mutually exclusive: one site requires a special character, another site prohibits special characters.

I use a different algorithm for more complex passwords for important stuff like ssh keys and unix logins.

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Trending Topic

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/05/13/how-do-i-delete-my-facebook-account/

Trending topic: "How do I delete my Facebook account?"

Of course, Google wouldn’t be spotting a trend for this search item if you didn’t have to use Google to figure out how to delete your Facebook account. CNN credits Danny Sullivan for noting this trend.

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Free Style

Paper Shredder Hijinx

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/05/19/oh-no/

After observing an idle moment in the office todayfive years ago, I uploaded this classic to YouTube:

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Featured, News and Reaction, Sundry

Shooting at Lincoln and Franklin

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/05/19/brooklyn-shooting/

On my way back from the Post Office around 11:30 I passed a big police tape scene on Franklin Ave at Lincoln Pl. I saw a small river of blood on the sidewalk next to a dropped shopping bag. A neighbor tells me that he heard five shots and a passing fire truck stopped and had police on the scene in two minutes. I assume the victim is in an ER somewhere and I hope he’ll be okay. The neighbor says that is one of the places where people from outside of the neighborhood like to hang around, and he always walks past there quickly, because although they aren’t aiming at him, they don’t have weapons training and he doesn’t like to be around poorly-aimed bullets.

Update, via Save Brooklyn Now!: At around 10:56am, a 34 year old black male was shot in the head, pronounced Dead on Arrival at Kings County Hospital.

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HOWTO: Disable “sidebar” in Ubuntu’s mutt-patched Package

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/05/19/ubuntu-mutt-patched-disable-sidebar/

Yes, I still use mutt. The killer feature it has over Gmail is that I can go through my old messages in forward-chronological order. That and I don’t have to hack my web browsers to display plain text messages in a monospace font. But, in order to use mutt with all the latest and greatest patches, I had to apt-get install mutt-patched.

It is convenient that they maintain a package with all the patches. Unfortunately, when I fired up mutt it had this ugly left-pane, like it wanted to be Outlook or something? So, I did a little research and tracked the sidebar to its source:

Unfortunately, though, mutt lacks an important feature that most email clients do have: a folder list that allows you to see all mail folders you have and how many (new) emails they each contain.

One person’s important feature is another person’s nuisance, but further down the page I found the config to turn the thing off:

set sidebar_visible=no


Featured, News and Reaction, Technology, Testimonials

Post-Facebook Diaspora?

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/05/20/post-facebook-diaspora/

So, occasionally someone asks “well, what will we replace Facebook with?” We don’t really need to replace it right away, but there are some NYU kids who figure it would be a fun project to build a distributed social network where you get your own little “seed” site on a server somewhere, and you can connect with your friends, determining what you intend to share with whom. It sounds totally doable, though who knows if they’ll actually manage to execute and gain traction.

They asked the Internet for $10,000 via KickStarter. So far they have been pledged $174,915. $25 of that is mine. I guess they won’t fail for lack of interest or money. Go go underdogs! :)

Oh, and if you’ve been tempted to ditch Facebook, but didn’t want to be the only crazy dweeb out there, you can join just over 6,000 other folks planning to quit on May 31: http://www.quitfacebookday.com/

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doodles, Religion

May 20: “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/05/20/everybody-draw-mohammed-day/


Salaam Alaykum

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Linux, Sundry, Technical, WordPress

Rackspace Cloud Server: Crude Performance Tuning

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/05/20/rackspace-cloud-server-crude-performance-tuning/

I recently migrated this web site to a virtual server at the Rackspace Cloud. I started with the cheapest, 256M slice, but after hitting some performance issues really quickly, I figured that the extra $10/month to grow the slice to 512M was worthwhile. Even so, I don’t think MySQL and Apache are tuned, out-of-the-box, for such “small” systems.

I am running WordPress, a PHP application, on Apache and MySQL, running on CentOS. I am using Munin to track the system health. Since MySQL performance tuning can be extremely complicated I have focussed my initial efforts on Apache.

So, the memory graph would ideally top out at 512MB, but in practice, the system and programs allocate excess memory they rarely touch, and that gets paged out to swap. It is when the swap activity gets high that system performance goes to heck. A spike in system load is a good symptom of possible performance issues.

When things went bad on Wednesday, I tuned Apache down somewhat from the defaults and then enabled the Apache status page, and told Munin to go ahead and graph that. I am new to Munin, but Slicehost has some excellent articles on installing and configuring it in my environment.

This morning Munin sent me e-mail that it was having trouble collecting data, so I took a look, and reset performance values for Apache based on the above graph:

<IfModule prefork.c>
StartServers      6
MinSpareServers   3
MaxSpareServers  12
ServerLimit      15
MaxClients       15
MaxRequestsPerChild  4000

Hopefully, this will hold. I would love to audit the system memory use in greater detail to allow Apache some greater flexibility, but in the interests of achieving a stable system quickly, this will hopefully prove to be a good strategy.

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Google: Privacy Done Right

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/05/24/google-privacy-done-right/

Logging in to Google Reader, I find that they have made an enhancement, with privacy implications:

Of course, I think my shared items have always been public, but it is nice that they’re trying to do the right thing.

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