Archive for October, 2004

The Blog is Back!

Sunday, October 24th, 2004

Well, I’ve been out of commission for a while, but I’m back! The main problem was that my crappy old server (an old desktop machine) finally had a disk failure, and I decided the time was ripe to upgrade to a real machine. I’m now on a Rackable 2U unit, and I switched from Linux to FreeBSD to boot.

I was fortunate that I could bring up the old machine enough to copy off most of the data, and I do remote backups to my home machine via DSL, so I had a reasonably good copy of everything. Over a weekend, I was pretty much able to get everything back up and running. Of course, there are always a few gotchas!

The one that killed Movable Type for me was not that I needed to install Perl (I did) and not that I needed to change the config a bit for the new version (I did that too), but a basic problem with Berkeley DB hell.

Read on if you want the gory details. Suffice to say, after a few hours of struggle, I beat it into submission. Please also note that I posted a couple entries that I wrote while it was down, and backdated.

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Gorbachev Speaks Out

Thursday, October 14th, 2004

Louisa and I went to hear Mikhail Gorbachev speak down at the Flint Center. Unlike most politicians I am aware of, he does not attempt to speak English himself, but had an excellent translator with him. However, simultaneous translation makes the interview style very difficult, as interruptions don’t usually happen in the right place. He was interviewed by Michael Reagan, adopted son of Ronald Reagan and his first wife. Michael apparently runs a conservative talk show, and was not very impressive, but it didn’t matter – Gorbachev ran his own agenda.

Gorbachev was also unusual among politicians in that he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind – maybe he has nothing to lose. The topic was supposed to be a simple reminiscing about how great it was to work with Ronald Reagan to stop nuclear proliferation, and tear down the Berlin Wall. However, Gorby made a few veiled references to current events, and the result was that the entire question and answer period was about what’s going on in the world today.

Gorbachev pulled no punches. He said that “Americans are simple,” and then qualified it to mean that he meant more “equal”, i.e. that he admires that an American citizen can ask the President a question as an equal. He related a joke – Ronald Reagan asked him about human rights, and gave the example that anyone could go to the White House and yell “Ronald Reagan is a jerk.” Gorbachev responed that it was the same – anyone could go to the Kremlin and yell “Ronald Reagan is a jerk!”

In response to current event questions, he made some telling comments. He said the world has new problems, and we must face them together. America cannot be an empire, and particularly cannot be judge, prosecutor, and policeman for the world. Last time he checked, the rest of the world did not ask America to lead it.

When asked about Iraq, he said Iraq was a mistake, that he said that on first day, and he continues to believe it. Now it is a lesson, and we must recover frm it.

One more telling comment was that today more Russians view America as a threat than before we invaded Iraq. We are now considered a hostile country, instead of a land of opportuntity. Russia shares a border with Iraq, and they are starting to feel surrounded. America must work to unite not divide.

He was very clear that America has squandered a great deal of good will, and made no bones about his opinion that this election was an opportunity to try to find the road to regain it.

Queen Mary 2

Tuesday, October 5th, 2004

I had a magical late afternoon in Quebec City. We arrived by car at around 5pm and checked in to the Chateau Frontenac, which is a Fairmont property. It is huge, and spectacularly placed on the edge of the bluff overlooking the mighty St Lawrence.

Although it was cold and a bit blustery, John and I put on shorts and went for a run. First we headed down to the promenade and happened to see the Queen Mary 2. It is the hugest ocean lner on the planet, and awesome even from some distance. The people swarming on the dock and decks were like ants.

We headed along the promenade, not knowing we had to climb several hundred steps to get up by the Citadel. We huffed our way up, and then headed through the park, past battlements and cannons set in nicely manicured lawns. After a mile or two we turned around, and went back on the road, through the arch and into the old town.

John had to get back, so I left him and headed up and along the wall through the old city. After a few more sights, I came back up along cobblestone streets lined with old apartment buildings and tiny alleyways. It reminded me of an old European city, where people drive small cars because big ones don’t fit down most of the roads.

As I came back to the promenade, I saw more people gathered to look at the QM2. My high school French was just enough for me to get the gist that it was preparing to embark. I cooled off quickly in the cold – it was about 7 degrees (that’s centigrade – about 45 fahrenheit), but I stood and watched. I could see activity on the ship, and even some turbulence in the water, but it didn’t seem to be moving. Finally, glacially, it separated from the dock. Over 15 minutes – which is a long time in shorts in 7 degrees – it seemed to move about 100 yards. Finally it picked up a little speed, but still seemed hardly to be moving.

I was surprised that I didn’t see any tugs. There were police boats at 4 corners, keeping back a few pleasure boats, but she seemed to go under entirely her own power. There was a wake up near the bow when she pushed away from the dock, so there must be a screw or something for maneuverability. Just before I froze and had to go in for a hot shower, I saw a small boat pull up to the bow for a few minutes, presumably picking up the pilot to bring him home.

I was surprisingly excited by the whole event. It reminded me of the beginning of Titanic, where everyone is so excited to be taking the trip of a lifetime to the new world. There was a mixture of anticipation, excitement, and finality in the whole thing – once the ship has sailed, you can’t go back.