I have long been aware of RSS. i tried subscribing to some feeds from time-to-time; however, I never found an RSS reader that I really liked. I tried Google Reader when it first came out, and i don't remember being particular impressed by it. I don't actually remember what I didn't like by it, but I didn't use it for several years.
I enjoy a good cola and long ago discovered that colas, even of the same brand, taste different depending on whether they come from a can, a plastic bottle, a glass bottle or from a fountain. Taste also varies between different fountain machines that dispense the same brand of cola.
While Coca-Cola is usually my favorite cola, I enjoy a good RC Cola from time-to-time. So I was excited earlier this year to run across a restaurant in the western suburbs of Chicago that has RC in its fountain machine. I bought a large RC, but was surprised by how horrible it tasted. It has an unusual bubble gum-like aftertaste and tasted almost completely different from the canned variety of RC with which I was familiar.
Then while on vacation this June, I was in a convenience store in northern Idaho that also had RC on tap. Since I knew how varied the taste of other colas from fountains were, I decided to give RC another chance but was again disappointed. It had the same weird bubble gum taste.
The final straw came yesterday. I ate lunch at El Famous Burrito in Vernon Hills, Illinois and found they also have fountain RC. I decided to give RC one last chance, but it failed test challenge again: same bubble gum aftertaste. Three strikes and you are out, fountain RC, but I will still enjoy RC in cans and glass bottles.
In June 2009, I drove to the National N Scale Convention in Portland, Oregon. After the convention I took some time to explore the west coast. In total, I drove over 8000 miles, passed through thirteen states and two Canadian provinces, and visited 10 national parks. I've posted photographs from my 2009 West Coast Road Trip
Early this spring, I noticed two adult geese leading around three goslings outside my office building. I watched these geese grow up in and around a pond near my office through late spring and early summer. Here are some blurry pictures of my Canada geese.
After walking away last night disgusted by the state of the vnc4 package in Ubuntu, it occurred to me to try the regular Debian version of the package. I'm happy to report that it worked. I patched the bug that was causing vnc4config to crash on startup, rebuilt, and I am now happily cutting-and-pasting again.
So I bought into the hype and decided to try out the professional Debian-based Linux distribution Ubuntu. You'd think that since someone presumably pays Canonical to create releases of their platform there would be at least some basic quality control in their release procedure, even something as simple as making sure all of the source packages in the distribution actually build; however, this does not appear to be the case.
There is a pretty simple bug in the vnc4server package when running on 64-bit systems. This bug was first reported to Canonical almost two years ago, and the fix has been known for sometime: it is as simple as moving an include outside of extern "C". Despite having a known fix this bug remains unclosed.
So fine, I know what the fix, and vnc4server is open source, so I think I'll just fix it myself. But no, the vnc4 source code included in Canonical's Jaunty release cannot be built from source. The package has dependencies on packages that are not even available in the Jaunty release, and once I worked around, I found that the xserver code included in the package is so old that it can't be built on Jaunty either. I've now wasted hours dealing with this: all so I can cut-and-paste between my vnc windows and my Windows box.
As you may have noticed, I recently re-enabled comments on my websites. Almost as soon as I had finished this effort, I started getting spam comments. How there are bots out there that found my website and decoded what it took to post a comment, I don't think I'll ever know.
The common way to fight automated posting is through the use of CAPTCHAs. These operate on the premise that there are things that humans can read that are still things that are exceedingly hard for computers to decipher. After encountering the spam problem, I decided to investigate adding CAPTCHAs for the comments.
Of course this will only help until someone rights a better computer vision algorithm that can figure out the words in the images. Oh well.
The other nice thing about reCAPTCHA is that it is actually used to help with the electronic scanning of books.
So I only updated my website twice in 2005—once in January and once in February; so sue me. I’m lazy.
I guess the biggest news from last year is that I started my first real job on July 18, 2005. I’m now a full time employee of Motorola, Inc. I’m a senior software engineer at Motorola’s design center in Champaign, Illinois. Doesn’t the senior part of the title sound impressive?
I’m also still in school. I’ve completed the class work part of the Ph.D. program; so classes don’t interfere with my full time employment. Essentially I come home from a full day of work at Motorola, and put in several more hours of work on my Ph.D. thesis.
The operating system I’m working with for my thesis, Choices, is beginning to take on more of the aspects you’d expect from an OS.
Between Motorola and schoolwork, I also had time to do lots of other things in 2005.
In January, I went to President Bush’s second presidential inauguration with my friends Sarah and Naomi. They had recently moved to the DC area, and somehow managed to get tickets. We were closer than a lot of people, but the only view of the president we had was on a big screen TV. I also visited my friend Ellen who had also recently moved to DC.
Great River Road
For Spring Break, I drove the Great River Road along the eastern bank of the Mississippi River from Cairo, Illinois to Venice, Louisiana. My friend Brent happened to be in New Orleans for a conference about hurricanes—at the time, Brent, was working for the city engineer’s office in Gulfport, Mississippi. Brent had an extra bed in his room at the Hilton in downtown New Orleans, so my stay in New Orleans was free.
I’m thinking about repeating this trip again this year to see how much things have changed. Brent survived the hurricane season just fine and is now working for a private engineering firm.
I went a bit crazy with railroad related things last year—both model and full scale. I visited a number of railroad museums and numerous train shows. Among these shows, I went to the Galesburg Railroad Days in June and the National Train Show in July. I also constructed a small N scale model railroad layout on a two foot by four foot base. Now I need to save some money from my new job so I can buy a house and have a bigger place to put my model trains.
My railroading highlight of the year was Throttle Time at the Monticello Railway Museum in Monticello, Illinois. For a small donation, the museum lets patrons operated one of their locomotives. For my Throttle Time, I ran the museum’s RS-3 locomotive. My train consisted of a gondola, a streamlined passenger car, and a Wabash Railroad caboose. My friends Ellick, Francis, and Moosa joined me on the trip to museum. Francis road in the cab of the locomotive and took pictures while Ellick and Moosa hitched a ride in the caboose.
St. Louis 200B Reunion
I got together with my former roommates from 200B several times last year. For Labor Day, I met up with Chris, J.D., Kyle, and Ryan in St. Louis. J.D. and I were the last to leave town; after everyone else left we took a leisurely boat ride on the Mississippi River and toured the Budweiser Brewery.
J.D. joked that he experienced every form of transportation that weekend. He flew into town, rode around town in a car, visited a railroad museum, and took a boat ride.
No update to this website would be complete without a graph showing the amount of email I get; so click above for an analysis of two years of email.
Holidays and 2006
Having a full time job had a predictable impact on the amount of time I spent at home in Kentucky for the holiday’s this year. I was barely home at all. I had Thanksgiving Day and the day after Thanksgiving off; as well as two days at Christmas time. I wasn’t able to take any vacation time off from work until the middle of January. I went a road trip to Key West for that vacation. Given my track record, I’ll post my pictures from that sometime in 2007.
Well my giant bow made it through the Christmas season. When I returned from Thanksgiving Break, I found it lying in front of a vent along the sidewalk outside of my apartment. At first, I thought it had been ripped down by a person, but further investigation lead me to believe it had been ripped down by the wind. I re-attached the bow—this time more securely, and it survived until I took down my decorations on January 9.
I’ve been a model railroad kick since Christmas. I purchased an N gauge model of L&N #777 (an E6A locomotive) and have setup an oval track in my apartment. You can usually see this on my webcam. I’ll be adding more to my model railroad as time and money become available.
Back in October of 2001, just two months after I moved into my apartment, my vacuum cleaner died while I was attempting to clean my apartment before my friend David came up from Bowling Green for the ACMís Reflections|Projections conference. The vacuum didnít catch fire, but it did smoke. In order to avoid having to live with the smell of the burnt out vacuum, I decided to sit it outside, against the building, in front of my car. When I woke up the next morning the vacuum cleaner was gone.
Now as far as I was concerned the vacuum cleaner was worthless; however, I have always wondered if perhaps the thief would plug in the vacuum and have it catch on fire. Wouldnít that be justice? Since that time Iíve been convinced that anything set outside my apartment is destined to be quickly stolen. I have decided to test this hypothesis by attaching a large red bow to my door. I installed the bow just before 6:45pm today November 15, 2004. I will report back here when it is stolen.
Iíve also taken some trips of which I have no photographic evidence. I explored the Richardson Corn Maze in Spring Grove, Illinois, and I attended the Pumpkin Festival in Morton, Illinois. After the Pumpkin Festival, I followed the Illinois River from Peoria to Alton. I also went to St. Louis on October 8, and stood outside of the debate site to show my support for President Bush.
On July 9, 2004, a Union Pacific unit coal train with three locomotives and a consist of 136 cars derailed on an overpass over Interstate 57 near mile marker 71 between the towns of Benton and West City in Illinois. The train, on its way between East St. Louis, Illinois and Paducah, Kentucky was using Canadian National/Illinois Central track and many news outlets have erroneously reported that it was a CN/IC train. The derailment dumped eight train cars carrying a total of 800 tons of coal onto I-57. Though the falling rail cars and coal narrowly missed several vehicles below, reports are that there was only one relatively minor injury. The accident closed the highway in both directions between Benton and West Frankfort—about six miles to the south.
I found out about the incident late in the morning and decided I that I needed to travel the 160 miles south to Benton from Urbana to check out this accident. Variable message signs along the highway beginning at exit 96 on I-57 warned of the highways closure. I decided it would be best not to contribute to the traffic along the detour route (and who wants to sit in a traffic jam anyway), so I planned a course I thought would avoid the diverted traffic. I planned to exit onto Illinois 154 at exit 77 and take Illinois 37 and then local back roads to a railroad crossing just to the west of the railroad overpass; however, just south of exit 83 I began to encounter stopped traffic. So I turned around on the interstate—there was almost no northbound traffic at this point—and exited the highway at exit 83.
It turned out that southbound traffic was being diverted from the I-57 at exit 77—one exit north of the interchange nearest interchange to the accident. From exit 83, I made my way over to Illinois 37 and took back roads through the northern extremes of Benton and West City over to the railroad as I had originally planned. Despite the fact that traffic was being diverted from I-57 to part of Illinois 37, I encountered only very light traffic—aside from the tail end of a massive traffic jam leading into downtown Benton.
I had spotted the railroad crossing nearest the overpass on a map of the area. When I arrived at the crossing, I found it to be located in a rail yard storing hundreds of empty coal carrying rail cars. A Union Pacific locomotive was also in the yard; it appeared to be pulling cars from the tail end of the train that had derailed. The overpass over I-57, along with several derailed cars, was clearly visible from the crossing. Dozens of CN/IC employees and several pieces of heavy equipment were operating in the area. I spoke briefly to a local teenager who had ridden his bicycle to the crossing; we walked along the rails about a quarter of the way to the overpass before deciding we’d better not go much further.
After spending a few minutes at this crossing, I traveled to a street overpass over I-57 that was about a quarter of a mile north of the railroad overpass. The bridge was crowded with onlookers watching work on the highway below. Crews were working to remove the coal from the highway and load it on to waiting coal trucks. Vans from several television stations were parked on the highway along with a number of emergency vehicles and various other vehicles. From the bridge, I walked down a local street along the interstate to get closer to the bridge.
After awhile, I returned to the crossing that had been my original destination. By this time, a truck carrying two forty foot sections of railroad track had arrived. I found the driver and spoke to him for sometime. He had brought the load in from a yard in St. Louis. It was now nearly 7:00pm; he said that the railroad had asked him to be there by 6:00pm and now he was getting paid overtime.
I stayed in the area of the overpass for a few more hours waiting to see how the track was to be removed from this flatbed truck. In the meantime, CN/IC worked had positioned two derailed cars back onto the track, and the Union Pacific locomotive that had been in the yard pulled those and several other cars out of the area, clearing the main track into the area. Finally, around 9:30pm a railroad crane pulling a flat car and a short equipment train entered the area. There were some complications—power lines blocked the area the crane operator had originally planned to use and the truck driver had some trouble finding a way to position his trailer on the tracks; however, by 10:15pm the crane had lifted the two track sections onto it flat car.
After this, I left for Urbana. I figured that operation was probably the most interesting operation I could see up close. At exit 71, I found the local police still blocking the south bound entrance to the I-57; however, the northbound ramps were open. I-57 between exits 71 and 77 was a dark and desolate highway. The southbound lanes were still closed at exit 77, so the only cars I encountered were two northbound vehicles. Traffic that had been diverted along Illinois 37 re-entered the northbound lanes at exit 77. The local news had been reporting that the intent was to reopen the highway by midnight.
On the way back to Urbana, a large thunderstorm far to the north of I-70 provided a spectacular late show. I finally encountered the rain associated with this storm at exit 190; however, I had been seeing the lightning from the storm ever since I left Benton—120 highway miles to the south. Another somewhat momentous event occurred on the drive back: just short of the northbound rest area on I-57 at mile marker 166, my car reached 100,000 miles. When I took possession of the car back on April 21, 2001 it had a mere 120 miles on it. I am planning on it lasting at least another 100,000 miles.
My Spring Break this year (March 20-March 28) consisted of a couple of brief road trips, a visit home, and an ophthalmologist appointment.
I devoted the first Sunday of Spring Break to visiting the last few counties in Kentucky I hadn’t yet visited, so now I’ve visited all 120 of Kentucky’s counties. You can keep track of the counties I’ve visited over at mob-rule.com. As of today, I’ve visited 33.1% of the counties in the United States.
On Monday, I found out that I don’t necessarily need new glasses, but I’ve had my current pair for four years and they are starting to wear out. So it’s new glasses time for me.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, I headed out west to Oklahoma. I had the desire to go on a longer road trip, and Oklahoma was the nearest state I had never visited before. I covered lots of a ground those two days and saw a number of interesting things: Little Rock at rush hour, the Sonic made famous by the Simple Life, the Oklahoma City National Memorial, parts of the Oklahoma turnpike system, Wal-Mart’s corporate headquarters, Branson, and Bass Pro Shops’ largest store (in Springfield, Missouri). You can browse a few pictures from my journeys below.
For your viewing pleasure (and my entertainment), I’ve once again graphed the size of the email delivered to me each day. This time I’ve used data collected for the eleven weeks between Jan. 28 and Apr. 13, and I’ve added a running average so we can identify general trends in the size of the mail delivered to me each day.
I suppose I should eventually graph the number of emails I receive each day; perhaps some sort of neato zero-sum graph divided spam and ham.
Today, I took a road trip with the intention to take in some Illinois history. I headed through Decatur and took US 51 south from there. The US 51 corridor, like the rest of central Illinois, is incredibly flat and boring, I happened to pass the Vandalia Correctional Center on the same day Gov. Blagojevich proposed closing it: there was a TV news van from WAND-25 there; however, what I went to Vandalia to see was one of Illinois’ old state houses. A stone building in downtown Vandalia served as Illinois’ state capital for three legislative sessions from 1836 through 1839 before the capital was moved to Springfield. Vandalia had been home to the state capital since 1820. It turns out that Abraham Lincoln had lead the effort to move the capital.
Old Illinois State House
I continued further south and west from Vandalia to Kaskaskia. Kaskaskia is one of the oldest towns in the Illinois country. It was founded by the French on the bank of the Mississippi River during the late 1600s or early 1700s. In 1703 the Mission Church of the Immaculate Conception was founded there. In July 4, 1778, General George Rogers Clark captured the town from the British for the American cause. This was his first victory in his campaign to take the western frontier from the British. For years afterwards, Kaskaskians rang a bell donated by the King of France every July 4 to celebrate Clark’s victory. This bell became known as the Liberty Bell of the West.
When Illinois was organized as the Illinois Territory in 1818, Kaskaskia was named as its capital. Kaskaskia remained capital when Illinois became a state in 1818; however, the capital was moved to Vandalia in 1820.
Today Kaskaskia lies on the west side of the Mississippi. It can only be reached from Illinois by traveling into Missouri. A flood in 1881 caused the Mississippi River to cut through a strip of land separating it from the Kaskaskia River. This moved the course of the river eastward and forever cut off Kaskaskia from the rest of Illinois. Today, Kaskaskia is home to only 18 residents.
Starting in late January and for no particular reason, I started monitoring the total size of the email I received everyday. A program takes a measurement around noon US/Central time everyday.
It turns out that I get multi-megabyte amounts of email everyday. For the first couple of weeks I was getting 9 MB of email a day. Finally, around Feb. 11 the MyDoom virus died out, and my email suddenly shrank to a measly 3 MB per day.
I'm measuring the amount of email before I do any filtering on it, so I don't actually have to read most of this email. Procmail and SpamAssassin successfully filter out most of the stuff I don't want to read.
This version of WebCam2000 adds a few features inspired by a patch from Robert Konigsberg: the locations of capoff.bmp and overlay.bmp are now configurable through the system registry, capoff.bmp is no longer rotated when the camera image is set to be rotated, and the WebCam2000 now has a way to quickly turn off the camera.
While browsing through the MSDN Subscriber Downloads today, I discovered that I could download Microsoft Virtual PC 2004 and Windows Code Name "Longhorn" Preview. I decided to try them out, and I must say I really like the idea of running multiple OSes concurrently. I've never had a chance to try other tools like VMWare, so I don't know how Virtual PC compares, but it is nice to run Windows XP, Windows 3.1, and Longhorn on the same computer all at the same time.
Well, at least I'm not writing the 2003 Wrap-Up in June...
So, I went home for Thanksgiving and came back to an extremely busy three weeks of school before Christmas. I finished up all of my grading and projects late in the evening of Dec. 22 and drove home that night. I spent a couple of weeks at home this time. I came back up to school to spend New Years Eve in Chicago, and then drove down to Nashville on New Years Day. Over all, I did a lot driving.
I've been around Urbana for most of January, and used that time to get some work done on KentuckyRoads.com. I finally have a layout for the site that I am mostly pleased with.
Nearing the top of my TODO list is writing a little program to make adding these entries even more trivially easy, wish me luck.
Well here it is half way through November, and I'm doing an October wrap-up. Between working on all of my current class projects, my goal is to write a short script to make adding entries trivially easy. Then I can really start sharing my life with the world.
October was an adventuresome month. The first weekend of October, I headed down to Middlesboro, Kentucky to take a tour of the Cumberland Gap Tunnel. The tunnel is an extremely interesting piece of information. I will soon be writing up an account of my experience there over on KentuckyRoads.com.
On the 25th of October, my best friend David Raney got married down in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I spent several days down there, and was the best man in David's wedding.
Besides that, there has just been a lot of school going on here in Urbana.
This year has really gone by fast; 2002 seems like just yesterday. In about 11 hours it will be October in my time zone. October has always been my favorite month. I enjoy fall in general. I've always preferred cool weather; there is something brisk and energetic about fall weather. I enjoy the changing of the leaves, watching them fall, and hearing them rustle in the wind. On top of all of this, October is also my birth month! So hands down, October is my favorite month.
School is progressing well. My class projects are starting to shape up so soon there will be lots of work to do.
A major distraction to my work will soon be coming up though. On October 21st, Railroad Tycoon 3 will be released. I'm sure to be tempted by this game...
Ryan's wedding was fun. All of my former 200B roommates, save J.D., were able to make it. Additionally some of my other friends from college-Phil Summers, Brad Strobel, and Rob Lenny(sp?)-were there.
I went down there late Thursday evening and hung out with Brent, Kyle, and Ryan at Ryan's apartment. I had to come back to Urbana Friday morning to finish up some grading from CS 321; so I left when Ryan left work. I met up with Kyle and Brent in Indianapolis on Friday afternoon.
Kyle, Brent, and I had planned to stay at Ryan's apartment Friday evening; however, he got a bit carried away at the rehersal dinner and ended up inviting a total of 12 people to stay overnight at his tiny apartment. So Kyle, Brent, and I ended up staying at a hotel near Ryan's apartment in Bedford, Indiana.
The wedding itself was at the United Methodist Church in Paoli; the reception was about 15 miles north of Paoli at the First Baptist Church in Mitchell, Indiana. After that we all drove back to Paoli and then 40 miles to Louisville, Kentucky for another reception.
All in all, it was a lot of fun. I've posted some photographs from the wedding on the 200B website.
Additionally, the trash mess outside of my apartment has been cleaned up! Excellent.
Well it's my favorite time of the semester again: the time where I get to spend hours on end grading exams! After having to spend two hours watching students take an exam on Saturday afternoon, I spent hours over the next day and a half grading, and I'm still not done. Fun, fun, fun!
I took a short break this morning to finish the project of adding all of my websites into my new website management software. KentuckyRoads.com and 200b.org are now completely integrated into my new software tool. I've also updated the design of the 200B website. I decided to play around with CSS some more; specifically, I've tried out the float attribute. It's behavior seems a little funky, but I used to make the navigation menu on the 200B website.
Speaking of 200B, Ryan will be getting married this coming Saturday. I'm gonna make the trip to Paoli on US 150. I live two blocks from US 150 here in Urbana, Paoli is on US 150, and Louisville, the location of the reception, is on US 150. I should see some nice Indiana back roads.
The residents of the surrounding apartment who are moving in and out have managed to overflow the dumpster that is ten feet from the door to my apartment. The dumpster is intended to be used by only the resident's of my building; however, many residents of the neighboring (and much larger) building use it, and this is what happens. You can see in the background of this picture that the building next door's dumpsters aren't nearly as full. The garbage collectors will never pick up all of the trash here, and it will lie around the area for months to come. Oh well, college towns are cesspools.
Jeff has completed a major reorganization of his web space. This reorganization involved the moving of WebCam2000 to its own domain and the withering of the Stratoware.com domain. A couple of things have also been removed from TheBadPlace.com. For instance, Jeff's archive of school papers is no longer online.
StratoSetup and Windows Restart have also been downgraded to the status of "no longer actively maintained." Jeff might still update them in the future, but he has no plans to do so at this time.
The main part of Jeff's web space is now generated using new site management software. The software is a distant cousin of the software used to create Jeff's KentuckyRoads.com web site. This version of the software uses a collection of Perl scripts to build static HTML pages based on a MySQL database. Jeff plans to test the software, do some refactoring, and release the software at some point in the future.
One of the new features of the site is the ability to comment on "news items" such as this one. See the "view/post comments" link below for more information.
As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns about Jeff's website, feel free to contact him.