the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

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What's That Awful Buzzing Sound?

This is an experiment to see if Google Buzz (in its infinite wisdom) will stop posting my last blog entry every three hours if I give it something new to chew on, or if I will just have to have a Very Serious Conversation with it or any Google folk who cross my path in the coming days.

*stern look*

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Hotmail Can Kiss My Lily-White Ass

I pretty much never check my Hotmail account any more; it's become my default spam bucket ever since Hotmail gleefully deleted a bunch of mail on me after I failed to log in often enough during a very busy period a few years back. (That and it seems to currently enjoy sending Safari into an infinite redirect loop, which is just super-awesome--thanks, guys!)

My inattention to my Hotmail account has caused me to just have a series of domain transfers fail because I have my domain contact info pointed to it (again, since I figure spammers will just harvest it from the whois info). But missing the domain transfer emails... well, that's a pain in the ass, so, fine, it's time to set up auto forwarding as I have with other accounts that don't filter the spam so well.

Hotmail's forwarding page says:


You can forward your mail to one other e-mail address that ends in,,, or custom domains. You'll receive an e-mail at that address asking you to verify your account. [Emphasis mine.]

Note the "or custom domains"...

So I punched in my gmail address, and it tells me:


You're only able to forward mail to a custom domain or an e-mail address that ends in,, or Please try again.

Now wait just a goddamn minute there--where'd the "custom domains" go?

So I can only forward my shitty Hotmail email to some other waste-of-bytes piece of garbage email account that Microsoft owns? What kind of bullshit is that?

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Going Postal

I spent the better part of today cooking up a nice little interface to the US Postal Service's rate calculation APIs, and like a good little dev I've even been writing little py.test cases to poke at it. But once it came time to stop stubbing out the live IO and see if their test server would yield up any joy, my hopes were dashed and torn asunder. Because as lovely as all of the API documentation is, no matter how thoroughly they describe the input and output XML schemas, no matter how slick and (literally) head-turning their diagrams are, none of it matters two hoots when the test server says that there's no service with the API name that the docs tell you to use.

Even better, all of the preliminary canned example requests that are supposed to be no-brainers to bounce off of their test server get a lovely and oh-so-enlightening "the parameter is invalid" response. Yes, thank you, it's all clear to me now! Clearly--the parameter... It's invalid! What was I thinking?

United States Postal Service... you're on notice.

Seriously, though, if anyone else has had to integrate with the USPS APIs and has advice, I'd love to hear it. I did encounter some rumors and hearsay that "some" of the APIs were recently "broken" and "undocumented," but I'd really like to believe that there's a simpler (and friendlier-to-deadlines) explanation than that.

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Adios, Annoying AT&T; Yahoo Banner!

I'm sort of stuck on AT&T; for internet access (after they clobbered my nice Speakeasy hookup), which means I get the wonderful benefit of "AT&T; Yahoo" services. Mainly this means that I get extra "AT&T; Yahoo" banners slapped on any of Yahoo's services that I happen to be a member of. I mostly don't use my Yahoo mail account any more except to give out to places that I expect will spam me, but I have become quite the Flickr addict, so the recent arrival of one of these little banners really, really annoyed me.

So, I decided to finally give Greasemonkey a try, and in a matter of moments whipped up this little gem to remove it from my sight.

And there was much rejoicing. :-)

Here's the script:, [.js, 340 bytes]

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Back in DSL Hell

I am learning to hate my phone company all over again.

We haven't had voice service for two weeks. Sometimes calls in would ring forever, sometimes the line would show as permanently busy. Outgoing calls, forget it. Liz has been going back and forth with them trying to get it fixed. AT&T; keeps promising to take care of it. Nothing happened.

Eventually, I decided it was time to start getting involved, which was apparently a good thing because the tech they sent out went to the wrong address, said "no access," and closed the repair ticket.

Tuesday night: AT&T; says they'll have a tech out between eight AM and noon Wednesday, with instructions to call Liz's mobile on approach to receive proper directions.

Wednesday: No tech. I call AT&T;, AT&T; says, "oh, we meant to say Thursday," and promises a tech for the same bat-time, same bat-instructions as before.

Thursday: No tech, but a van was spotted down the street. Late in the afternoon, we suddenly have voice service again, but with a terrible buzzing sound on the line. Oh, yeah, and my DSL won't sync up any more.

I call AT&T;'s repair line and wade through the automated bullshit again. I very politely explain the situation to the tech, who apologizes and refers me to AT&T;'s DSL service line, which he assures me can help out with some line tests even though I don't have my DSL through AT&T; (because AT&T; refuses to consider offering it to me without first discontinuing my existing service).

I call AT&T;'s DSL service line, get some chick named "Lily" who is obviously not in my hemisphere (or, based on her ability to rub a few brain cells together and have a conversation, not from my planet), and spend a frustrating amount of time explaining the situation repeatedly, all while still trying to be polite. Five minutes on hold. Ten. Fifteen. Finally, she comes back, apologizes for the delay, and says that they can't do a line test on me because I don't have an account with them. Refers me to my ISP.

Luckily, I have some very old email with Speakeasy's support number on it, or else I'd be really fucked at this point (since I can't exactly hop online and find the number at the moment). I call Speakeasy, and can barely hear the tech because of the noise on my line. Explain the situation. He reports that he can see my DSL modem trying desperately to sync up, but failing. He runs a line test... And just like that, my solid 10000-foot loop that's had rock-solid 3M/768k service for the past six years has suddenly become a 24800-foot loop and any DSL whatsoever is technically impossible.


Speakeasy opens a ticket, but advises me that all AT&T; will do when they speak corporation-e-corporation is laugh at Speakeasy and say it's not possible. That my only hope is to dive back into the hell of AT&T;'s repair line and open a new complaint with them and hopefully get myself escalated to a manager or foreman or whatever the slightly-higher service line life-form is called over there.

So I call AT&T; repair. Wade through the automated bullshit. Deftly avoid getting all the menus in Spanish. Then I hold for a few minutes... Explain the situation all over again. Suggest that since I've been here before and know what I'm talking about that it's probably most expedient for him to just escalate me to a foreman or a supervisor or a what-have-you. Tech says no, he has to evaluate it first, even if that ends up being what happens. Fine. So I wait on hold a while longer. AT&T; dude says he is going to have to escalate it (no shit, Sherlock!) and asks for a number that I can be called at tomorrow, because apparently they might have phone monkeys on staff all night long, but at this hour of the night, the supervisors have gone and the inmates are running the asylum. By this point, I have just about given in, so I can only manage brief resistance to the idea of having to wait until "sometime" tomorrow to get a call back before I give up my callback numbers.

And that's when the phone monkey tells me that I can log on to AT&T;'s website to check the status of my ticket.


And with that, I think I am officially giving up all hope for the future of humanity.


Update: someone must have done something overnight, because my DSL modem seems a lot happier now and is able to sync up. Am cautiously optimistic that a fix for my internet addiction is now possible.

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Beware of Scrotum

Mildly incensed by a recent burp of stupidity from my home town, I sent this letter to the superintendent of the Durango school district and to the editor of the local newspaper:

I grew up in Durango and attended its excellent public schools from kindergarten through graduation from DHS in 1995.

It was with great embarrassment and dismay that I found my beloved home town of Durango in the national news this week.  Dana Nilsson's comments on the Newbery Medal-winning book The Higher Power of Lucky which appeared in February 18th's New York Times paint Durango as a provincial backwater and undermine the reputation and achievements of its students and schools.  No matter how well-intentioned those remarks may have been, nothing makes a town or its people seem foolish quite so effectively as censorship of children's books.

If the word "scrotum" is so egregiously radioactive in its medical correctness that a Newbery winner is deemed off-limits, then a deeper purge of the libraries is in order--who knows how much damage might be caused if a classic like All Creatures Great and Small fell into the wrong hands?  When I was a student in Durango's public schools, we regularly encountered dangerous, controversial books as a part of our curricula; often-banned works like Huck Finn, Bridge to Terebithia, and Of Mice and Men enriched our educations and made us better people.

The last time I saw Durango schools in the news, Smiley Middle School students were being strip-searched at a field trip.  It made a bit of a splash on CNN.  Are these really the kinds of waves that Durango wants to make in the world?

Do I have any illusions that it'll make a difference? Not really. But when one's home town shows up on Neil Gaiman's blog, one is forced to take certain measures.


Shocking update! I received a gracious reply from Dr. Barter just seventeen short minutes later that clarified the matter of the book's treatment in the library in question--it has not been completely removed but shelved with the young adult section and available for checkout. So shame on the NYT for pulling a Daily Show maneuver and lumping my home town in with the scrotum-fearing book-banners.

Also--and I should know better than for this to surprise me, but it does anyway--thanks to the charming smallness of Durango, Dr. Barter recognized my last name right away and connected me to my parents. I must have gotten used to being comfortably anonymous after almost twelve years here in Cleveland.

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We Can Rebuild It (Slowly)

Another fabulous win for my productivity today--my cube was completely dismantled, moved a few feet to one side, and put back together again, allowing a new cubicle to be built in between me and a neighbor. I was told to expect "an hour or two" that I wouldn't be able to get anything done in... which turned into seven hours of downtime. Because, y'know, I didn't really have any code to write, or tickets to deal with, people to coordinate, or progress that needed to be made.

Unresolved rhetorical questions include: Why wasn't the construction done last summer, before I moved into that location? Why didn't they leave my cube in place and build the new one on the open, unoccupied space next to mine? Can the union guys who assemble cubes work on a task for longer than twenty minutes at a time?


And, as usual when Liz is out of town, I'm not even remotely interested in sleep. :-(

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688861 the number of unread messages in my inbox.

It turns out if your password expires while you're on vacation, Outlook decides to stop running your filters.

How convenient.

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The Week That Would Not Stop

Bleah. Totally run down. Stressed out, burned out, and all-around fried. But still clinging desperately to life in the hopes that it might all settle down at some point. (It has to settle down, right?)

Thanks to a bumper crop of ragweed, I have spent the last two weeks wanting to claw my eyes out. Puffy. Sore. Goopy. Crusted over when I wake up. I feel like someone has scraped sandpaper over my corneas. I feel like I haven't slept since the allergies really kicked in.

Work is a super giant happy fun ball of stress as I attempt to coordinate a lot of last-minute things, deal with incomprehensible bug reports, and generally attempt to save the world. So far... meh... I think the world's still in trouble. It's taken me until today to start working on the things I was supposed to be doing on Monday. I guess it would help if I could get more than five minutes of uninterrupted time, but apparently that's out of the question at this point. *sigh*

I'm way behind on dealing with some vaguely important email for Clepy. I have had a tiff with DirecTV over their habit of failing to send me a bill and then charging me lots of late fees. (Surprisingly, not the first time they've done that to me...)

And it doesn't help that I've had things to do every night this week: Clepy (and post-Clepy festivities) on Monday, wine group Tuesday, German class Wednesday, and an appointment tonight. Tomorrow, I expect I'll probably just stay late at work, except that the parts for the new closet organizer system thing have arrived and I want to get started on that too.

Good lord, it's Thursday, and I still haven't picked up the new Star Wars DVD's, with the Han-shoots-first-thank-you-very-much original cut. For those that know me, that should give you an indication of what a general shitstorm it's been lately.

On the plus side, I finished The Confusion over Labor Day weekend. On the minus side, I still have about a thousand pages (hardback!) of The System of the World still to go... by which point I suspect that I will need to re-read Cryptonomicon since it has enough bits that tie in with the other books. It'd be easier if my eyes didn't feel like they were about to explode out of my head (see above).

...And I think I might have finally hit the point where Gentoo in particular, and Linux in general, is dead to me, the way someone who crosses Tony Soprano ends up in the deli slicer, or taken out to the Pine Barrens and disappeared. Midway through my third (fourth?) day of trying to get the emerge -eav world step of the upgrade to gcc-4.1, I am just about at the end of my geek rope. I fell in love with Gentoo because its packaging and update system "just worked", freeing me up to waste my time configuring and tweaking everything else to be just so. But this update is just insultingly murderous, as all kinds of supposedly stable things just won't fucking build right--because, y'know, that would be too easy. So, even if I have to turn in my geek badge and live life as a lesser mortal, beholden to the software update whims of Apple, I think that'd be okay with me, because this kind of time-waste is something I simply cannot allow in my life any longer.

Grr. Argh!

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So it's "take your dog to work day" here, and I can't figure out what bothers me the most -- the yapping, or the smell.

Update @ 14:51: OMG, there's a dog with a squeaky chew toy on the other side of the wall from me. While I'm trying to code under a now very, very pressing deadline.


Somebody shoot me.

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