Plausible Arguments: Rejecting the implausible since 2006

Comment Spam!

This is a custom blog. Posts here, while simple, don't work the same way that they do anywhere else. And this is a tiny site:'s front page gets no more than a few dozen hits a day, almost all from crawlers and the like (some of the sub-sites, like Nasal get a little more traffic). Nonetheless, someone somewhere cared enough to take the time to reverse engineer my comment mechanism and write an automated spam bot for it. I'm touched, really.

For the last few months, I've just been deleting these by hand as they show up in the database. But that's getting tiresome, and within the past few weeks someone has figured out how to vary the post ID number in the comments so they don't all appear under one thread. So for now, I've disabled comments. I'll put them back up later when I hook in a captcha mechanism. This one seems to look good at first glance. Certainly it's easy to integrate, and the captcha images look pretty.

0 comments posted by andy on Monday 12 May 2008 10:10am

Nerve Damage!

I hacked up my left pinky last Saturday cutting an apple. Basically I did what you're never supposed to do: I was cutting the food while it wasn't flat on the board. Instead, I was holding it up while cutting downward and discovered only too late that YIKES OW my little finger was underneath! Kids, don't try this at home. The situation wasn't helped by the fact that the knife in question is a giant Chinese cleaver which, while normally a magnificent tool for vegetable chopping, presents a whole lot of cutting surface when things go wrong:

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So anyway, after realizing how deep the cut was and wrapping a towel around my finger, I get Alison to drive me to the hospital where they stitch me up. There were a few lessons here: first, sutures work really, really well -- much better than band-aids. After only a week of healing, everything is sealed up so well that the only visible evidence of the cut is some residual redness and inflammation and a cut-shaped gap in the outer skin layer (and it still hurts a little when I squeeze it). Second, modern hospitals apparently use shrink-wrapped disposable suture kits, and if you ask nicely, they will give you the tools. So now we have a nice set of forceps, tweezers, and scissors, which Alison plans on putting to use with craft and knitting projects. No, they don't make up for the $100 co-pay my insurance exacted for the emergency room visit, but they're a nice consolation prize.

But the best part is that I actually managed to hit a nerve with that cleaver. As I've since learned, the finger has nerves running laterally on each side, and once the stitches came out it became apparent that I had severed the inner one. Because the cut was so close to the tip, I ended up with only a tiny patch of numbness on the inside edge of my finger.

So far as I can tell, this handicap is irrelevant. I use that finger extensively for typing (I map the control key the the caps lock location where it belongs!), but only need sensation in the opposite side. So I get all the perks of being a grizzled veteran with none of the downsides. Sounds cool to me.

0 comments posted by andy on Monday 30 April 2007 07:03pm

Verizon vs. Akamai

I had my first Verizon tech support experience yesterday. And it went roughly as expected.

Akamai sites (including sites like Apple and Dell, as well as Akamai's own site) are broken for me right now, and have been since Friday. As far as I can tell, Verizon's network group doesn't know this is happening. This is despite two hours (!) of time spent on the phone yesterday trying to convince them of this fact.

Verizon loses big points here. The low level tech support guy and his manager simply didn't believe me that the IP address I was seeing for, say, "" was different from the one they were getting at their call center. Attempts to explain that this was because that was how Akamai's business works fell on deaf ears. Finally, I got them to escalate the problem by giving them a numerical IP address for a server and pointing out that it was on a Verizon network (I had to show them how to use the whois page at Even then, they insisted that I boot up a windows machine so they could use their Citrix remote desktop tool to verify it for their own eyes.

Finally I got to talk to a guy in "DNS Support" (this doesn't look like a DNS issue to me, more likely a routing bug, but whatever...) who, although he still didn't know what Akamai was or how to spell it, verified the issue and promised to get back to me. He hasn't yet.

Deep inside, though, I always knew that Verizon's support was going to be awful. They're a phone company, and they always will be. So there's nothing surprising here: I picked FiOS knowing that I'd have to deal with this sort of thing.

But there's another lesson, and it's not for Verizon customers but for ones of Akamai: you need to realize when you buy this sort of content delivery network service that not only are you buying accelerated content delivery, you are buying a new failure mode. And one that has nothing to do with you or Akamai, but with the ISP at the customer's end. Does that sound like a good bargain?

0 comments posted by andy on Monday 2 April 2007 07:48am

Obligatory blog post

OK, well, since Andy has his workbench (hey, I helped out there too!) and FIOS posts, I suppose I should put something up.

So... most bloggable thing we've done recently was go to Bend, OR this past weekend. It was sort of for my birthday the week before (we had a wedding to attend here in town that day, so couldn't get away on the actual date), and sort of "just because" we haven't taken a mini-break in a while.

We stayed at the Lara House B&B right in downtown Bend. It was quite nice to be able to walk to the movies, the art galleries (well, only 1 or 2 since Andy is not the biggest fan!), dining, and the river park.

Hmm, before this turns into the most boring blog post ever, let me present some pictures from the great high desert Badlands geocache that we did: Bushmaster

Volcanoes (and spots on the lens) seen from the high desert

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(Mt Bachelor, Broken-Top and the Three Sisters)

Andy navigating towards the initial waypoint (the map cache):

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Alison, in lava:

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Andy, in lava:

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Anyone want to guess what the black shiny stuff is? Kind of ew, but pretty interesting. Of course, we had no idea when when we posed the "Evil Duck" travel bug on it at the final cache location:

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This was a great cache, and we look forward to returning to the area. Upcoming post: our caching attempt in the practically opposite ecosystem - old growth forest!

0 comments posted by alison on Tuesday 27 March 2007 10:14pm


Here's a shot of the workbench mentioned in the previous post:

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(Note the Verizon FiOS battery unit in the middle of the wall! See the FiOS post for details.)

The work surface (a laminated MDF board) is 30 inches high and wide, which Alison feels is just slightly too large for her to reach across comfortably. The framing is plain old 2x4 fir lumber, screwed into the studs along the back, and with the supports being attached to the concrete floor with steel L brackets and concrete anchors. It seems quite solid for something built by a software engineer, but I'm sure many will have comments. One of my coworkers has already alerted me to the need for pressure treated lumber and a vapor barrier between the wood and concrete; apparently typical garages get quite damp. To the kibitzvolk out there, I can only reply with a classic software adage: not every job worth doing is worth doing well. We ripped out a previous workbench, which while ugly and amateurish (far more so than this one), was still a useful table and cabinet. I'll be happy if ours meets the same standards for the next owners who rip it out in the decades to come.

The anchors are a fun story: drilling holes in concrete requires the use of a hammer drill, which can be rented for about $40 from the local Home Depot. The drill, however, comes with no documentation whatsoever, so I just followed the instructions of the Home Depot employee to leave the little rotary mystery dial set to the rightmost position (with an icon that looks a little like an oil rig). I put the bit to the concrete, pressed the trigger, and ... no joy. The drill spins, digs out a dimple in the concrete, and gets very hot. But there's no hole! So on a hunch, I flip the mystery dial to the icon that looks like a hammer and try again. Zzzzip! The thing cuts through to the depth of the anchor in about half a second. So much for the expert advice from Home Depot...

Since this photo was taken, we've installed pegboards on the left hand corner, and eventually plan on having modular shelving tracks on the wall (once we move the verizon box) for more storage.

0 comments posted by andy on Tuesday 27 March 2007 10:47am


This site,, migrated over the weekend from a Speakeasy 1.5M/384k DSL line to a spiffy new Verizon FiOS 15M/2M line. Our upload speed is now faster than the download rate used to be, meaning that things like the napha photo archive should be much more pleasant for non-local users.

Unlike Speakeasy, Verizon doesn't offer things like static IP addresses with their base package. You have to order "Business FiOS" for significantly more money to get that.

The install went pleasantly. A crew arrived a day early to install the fiber itself, trenching it under the front yard without any visible evidence at all (maybe they had a pre-installed conduit they could use?). The installer then arrived the next day, installed the "ONT" box on the side of the house, a UPS box for it on the interior side of the wall (more on that later), and ran a Category 5 cable to the room of my choice. The whole thing took less than two hours. Because it was a business install, he didn't even need to touch the existing analog phone line.

The network really is fantastic. I haven't yet found a transfer that can saturate the 15M link in isolation. I'll have to investigate using multiple simultaneous transfers to really exercise it. The upload speed can easily saturate the T1 line at my office.

The one complaint, though, is that the guy had absolutely no taste as to where to place the battery unit. We have just finished building a workbench in our garage, and the ONT lives on the other side of the exterior wall. Where does the battery unit end up? That's right: right smack in the middle of the wall above the bench. So now we need to detach it and move it at some point so we can put up the pegboard and shelving we were planning.

1 comments posted by andy on Monday 5 March 2007 04:20pm

Testing the web-sized photos

Here's a great volcano shot:

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Looks like a decent size to me... this work ok in everybody's browser? :)

0 comments posted by alison on Monday 30 October 2006 08:18pm

It's live!

This is the first post to the "real" blog running on It will no doubt be removed soon, owing to the fact that it has no meaningful content. But it's real, and live.

The final trick, as I discovered, is that sqlite requires write access to the directory in which the database lives or else it will fail at the first update to the database with "cannot open database file" error. This is odd, given that the database file has already been opened. And especially odd, given that sqlite doesn't actually need write access to the directory to do its job: just the file.

5 comments posted by andy on Wednesday 25 October 2006 04:29pm