How big of a place setting did you say you need?

I just got off of a weekly conference call for a biggish project we’ve been working on. We’ve had some unfortunate changes lately that have impacted the scope of the project in a fashion that would not be exaggeration to call “dramatic”. One of those changes dumped a fairly involved and possibly gnarly piece of work square in my lap, which of course left everyone else free to not worry about it. Instead, they’re all worrying about the other major change of scope.

As is my wont, I was blowing off steam by IMing one of the other participants in the call and mentioning that the only reason I’m not stressing about Major Change #2 is that I’ve got to focus on Major Change #1 or I’ll be completely overwhelmed (and in all honestly, I’m almost there just with Major Change #1). The response I got was this:

eat one elephant @ a time

That about sums it up perfectly. Now to find my elephant fork…

Down with Love!

One of the joys of Netflix is that you get some nice surprises in
your queue. Steph and I are watching the credits roll on a fantastic
movie, Down with Love (Widescreen Edition),
starring Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor. This movie is an absolute
blast of a romantic comedy, cast in the mold of the classic ’60s Doris
Day/Rock Hudson movies.

Renée and Ewan do a bang-up job reminding us why they are top movie
stars. The story is set in the ’60s and concerns the clash of wills
(and hormones) between Barbara Novak, the author of the brand-new
international best-seller Down with Love, and Catcher Block,
the top journalist for KNOW magazine (and all around ladies’ man).
Barbara’s book has introduced atomic weapons to the war between the
sexes, for she advocates that women find equality in the workplace by
giving up on love — not sex. In short, be the equal of a man by
adopting the man’s attitudes about love and sex. Hijinks ensue.

The hair and wardrobes are, well, frightening, although Renée looks
lovely more often than anybody deserves when they’re wearing those
godawful ’60s styles. Ewan was born to play the suave and sexy Catcher
Block, “ladies’ man, man’s man, man about town”. There are some great supporting performances as well; David Hyde
Pierce (Niles Crane from TV’s Frasier) is Peter MacMannus, Catcher’s editor at KNOW. Jeri Ryan (7 of 9 from Star Trek: Voyager)
is onscreen as one of Catcher’s many female conquests. Tony Randall adds the perfect crowing touch.

Although I’m told that the movie wasn’t a huge success when it originally showed, it
is a brilliant and witty homage to a classic Hollywood era,
intelligently remade and updated for today’s world. The movie is fantastic, with a few musical numbers and a load of pop
culture references, but the documentaries and extras really add to the
experience. You cannot miss the blooper real, and you
have to watch the full version of the final music video with Renée and
Ewan — you can tell they are having the time of their lives. The
documentaries are short, sweet, yet fun and informative.

Down with Love is a wonderful celebration of some of the
best and zaniest tropes of Hollywood cinema. If you’re a fan of the old
Doris Day movies, you owe it to yourself to watch this flick.

Uh, okay….but SEVEN?

I’m running the kids through the shower while Steph is off running a
favor for a friend. I’d hoped to have a nice surprise for her when she
got back — kids both showered. Along the way, Treanna managed to use seven separate washcloths. For a five minute shower. (I know it was five minutes; I stuck a timer in for her.)

Sometimes, I have no clue whatsoever
what my kids are thinking. She says that she just had to keep scrubbing
more and more. Apparently, she didn’t realize she could rinse the first
one out and reuse it; once it got dirty, that was it! Laundry time. Now
she knows better, and I hope having to do a special batch of laundry
tomorrow will help make it stick (yes, I’m a firm believer in making
punishments and admonishments fit the original incident).

Seven washcloths. This will be funny in a couple of days, I’m sure. Right now I’m just befuddled.


I hate it when I blow a deadline.

I will point out, however, that it’s hard to keep a deadline when one’s editor fails to inform you of it. Looks like I’ll be writing another magazine article this weekend. The last one was for Exchange anti-spam tools; this one will be on mitigating Exchange directory harvesting attacks.

Must-see SF: Doctor Who

While all of my friends and LJ contacts (or so it sometimes seems) wax lyrical about Joss Whedon and Firefly, I decided to step ahead into what’s new in SF. I got the opportunity to watch the new season of Doctor Who, the classic camp SF show from the BBC. For those of you who don’t know what Doctor Who is, it’s a story about a Timelord known solely as the Doctor. The Doctor is from a planet called Gallifrey, and I’m not clear on whether all the inhabitants are Timelords or merely some of them, but the Doctor is a bit of a renegade. The Timelords are supposed to protect time from being changed and are generally sticks-in-the-mud. The Doctor, on the other hand, runs through time in his TARDIS, accompanied by one or more companions, at least one of whom is usually a human. They travel back and forth across the reaches of space and time, saving the universe and putting right wrongs, opposed by a regular lineup of foes such as the Daleks, the Cybermen, and arch-nemesis The Master.

Where somebody at the BBC got brilliant, back in the Sixties when the Doctor first appeared on the screen, was with the concept of regeneration. Under certain circumstances (such as death, but it can be forced by other factors), a Timelord can regenerate. What this meant practically is that the BBC could easily replace the main actor at any time, because the Doctor regenerated. They gave Timelords 13 regenerations, thinking that would probably be more than enough. Over the years, though, there have been a succession of Doctors. The show finally went off the air in 1989 after 26 seasons and seven Doctors. Some Doctors were beloved, some were not, but the show had become a not-so-underground cult classic. Books, magazines, audio episodes, and more kept the Doctor alive. There was a single American made-for-TV movie with an Eight Doctor that was not well received; it was too American to please the regular fans and too British for the average American viewer to understand.

Finally, though, BBC Wales brought back the show by casting Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor and Billie Piper as his companion Rose. So how is it?

Those of you who have seen any of this season will understand what I’m about to say: Fantastic!

Although the campy special effects and often weak characterization have been left behind, this show cuts to the heart of classic Doctor Who and revitalizes it for modern viewers. The stories are much more character-based; the writers have some spectacular material they’re using. Eccleston and Piper shine with the wonderful scripts they’ve got to work with — even the episodes I’ve liked least have been good shows — and the look of the show is stunning. This Doctor has been around the block a few more times than when we last saw him, and his emotional armor is a bit thinner. He’s more vulnerable and more brittle, more in need of a smart and confident companion to backstop him and confront him. Rose is that companion. Their onscreen chemistry is undeniable and the characters are clearly comfortable together even as the exact nature of their relationship (900 year old male Timelord and a 19 year old female human) remains undefined through the season’s journeys. They clearly care for each other, but it’s not a shallow romantic interest; they’ve recognized in each other a kindred spirit and grow to a deep friendship throughout the season.

I’ve not watched the last episode yet, as Steph hasn’t caught up with me. We’re saving the last one to watch together. I can already tell you I’m not looking forward to it, as Eccleston will not be returning for the second season of the new show. After turning in a performance regarded by many (including myself) as the best Doctor yet, the second season will open with a regeneration into the Tenth Doctor. Regenerations have always been a difficult time for the show; the Doctor’s character usually changes dramatically, giving the new actor room to establish himself. I like Eccleston’s Doctor; he has Tom Baker’s good cheer and joy in life, Peter Davison’s innocence, combined with hints of an unbearable weariness and emotional trauma that we’d expect a 900 year old exile with a tarnished past to have. Several of the episodes have brought tears to my eyes (Episode 8, “Father’s Day,” is a particularly good one) as the writers focus more on tying together the events of the season to show us how these characters are affected by the events of their time-hopping lifestyle.

In short, this is some of the best SF being made today. Doctor Who has grown up. I am scared of yet hopeful for the Tenth Doctor and the necessary changes he will bring, but I’m confident that the producers and writers will be able to do as marvelous job with the new season as they did with this one. Watch this show.

Exchange and 64-bit support

The Exchange development team has given us the authoritative word on using current versions of Exchange on 64-bit versions of Windows. In short, that word is “No.” However, the way the worded their response left one slight ambiguity, so I used the comments to ask — and receive — the answer.


  • You cannot use Exchange on a 64-bit version of Windows Server 2003 (x64 or IA64).
  • You can use Exchange on a 324-bit version of Windows Server 2003 that is running on 64-bit hardware (necessarily x64, since the Itanium isn’t backwards-compatible).

What holds you back? The Installable File System (better known as the infamous M: drive), which requires a kernel module. This module is a 32-bit driver. 

Using the 32-bit version of Windows on a 64-bit machine of course places limits on how much of a performance increase you’ll get out of your spiff new Opteron server (only 4GB RAM, etc.), but what it does do is get you nicely placed to upgrade to E12 when it comes out. According to Paul Thurrott’s sneak-peak at E12, 64-bit support is definitely in the offing:

Additionally, E12 will ship in various x64 versions, which are compatible with new 64-bit hardware platforms, including machines based on the AMD Opteron processors and Intel’s Xeon EM64T designs. Although Microsoft hasn’t committed to specific Exchange editions as I write this, I’ve learned that each Exchange edition would ship in both 32-bit x86 and 64-bit x64 versions.

Good stuff, as there have been persistent rumors that E12 would only offer 64-bit support. As much as I think 64-bit hardware (now that it has finally hit the Windows world; the UNIX world has had 64-bit hardware and operating systems for years!) is the only sane choice for the 3-5 year roadmap, you have to have OS and application support for it and vendors should not be dropping support for 32-bit platforms until 64-bit support is more ubiquitous and stable.

A bit of this and that

Did some much-needed housekeeping on my website,
which mainly involved generating a new image, updating the content, and
tweaking the CSS. The main-level site is now consistent in
feel with my personal site
(I do not consider to be my personal site, as I use it as
the launchpad for all sorts of sites). On my personal site, I finally
retired my resume and updated some of the content, including taking
note of the fact I’m now a published author.

On that note, I got my author copies at the end of last week, so now I have photographs:

It's real!
It’s real!

My first signing
My first book signing party

In case you’re wondering, my parents got the second signed copy; a
co-worker got the first, merely by virtue of being present when I
picked up my copies from work.

Speaking of books, Treanna and Alaric continue their summertime reading. Treanna is currently enjoying The Princess Bride: S Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure (yes, the book, not the movie), while Alaric is perusing The Dark Side Sourcebook (Star Wars Roleplaying Game), which arrived today courtesy of fellow PyraMOOvian Ryan Macklin‘s generosity. The Star Wars RPG sourcebooks he sent will be of great use in our ongoing family game.

I’ve finally decided to get off my ass and do something with my
three years of high-school Spanish, which have been neglected ever
since. A local Hispanic church is providing conversational Spanish
classes to the community on Wednesday evenings; I’ve decided to go. It
looks like we may take the whole family along; it certainly wouldn’t
hurt the kids to be bilingual.

London hit by explosions

Thoughts and prayers to the dead and wounded in London (and their friends, families, and fellow countrymen) after this morning’s series of explosions on the Underground and bus network. The blasts, which are almost certainly the work of organized terrorism, brought London’s transport grid to a standstill during rush hour and prompted Tony Blair’s early return from the start of the G8 summit in Scotland.

As The Register and the BBC point out, there’s already at least one website, linked to radical Islamic groups, claiming responsibility on behalf of al-Qaeda.

To the law enforcement officials: Godspeed and happy hunting. May you swiftly catch the bastards responsible for this atrocity and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. And may you do so in a fashion that can show my own deranged government that you don’t need to set aside the rights of your own citizens, nor act in a reprehensible fashion, to catch and convict the bad guys.

People Whose Asses I Need to Kick #2: Followers of natal horological astrology

I think Robert Heinlein said it best in “The Happy Days Ahead”, an essy from his 1980 collection Expanded Universe:

Baseline: fifty-odd years ago astrology was commonly regarded as a ridiculous former
supersition, one all but a tiny minority had outgrown. It is now the orthodoxy of many, possibly
a majority. This pathological change parallels the decay of public education.
….Today natal horological astrology is so widely accepted that those who believe in it take it
for granted that anyone they meet believes in it, too — if you don’t, you’re some sort of nut….
I don’t know the percentage of True Believers but it is high enough that newspaper editors will
omit any feature or secondary news rather than leave out the daily horoscope.

Heinlein may have been a opinionated old fart, but he usually put a lot of thought into his opinions, and he draws a completely valid distinction between what he called natal horological astrology and the type of astrology that was the historical precursor for modern astronomy. The former is the belief that “the exact time, date, latitude, and longitude of your birth and the pattern of the Sun, Moon, and planets with respect to the Zodiac at that exact time all constitute a factor affecting your life comparable in importance to your genetic inheritance and your rearing and education”, while the latter was a branch of descriptive astronomy that could make repeatable and accurate predictions about the positions of planets, stars, the sun and moon, and related phenomenon such as eclipses. Granted, many ancient astrologers probably traded on their scientific knowledge to enhance their own status as counselors, but the art of astrology was initially founded on some extremely impressive math skills.

So what draws my ire today? This story in which a Russian astrologer is suing NASA for $300 million because they crashed a probe into the Tempel 1 comet:

“It is obvious that elements of the comet’s orbit, and correspondingly the ephemeris,
will change after the explosion, which interferes with my astrology work and distorts
my horoscope,” Izvestia daily quoted astrologist Marina Bai as saying in legal
documents submitted before Monday’s collision.

Well, guess what, lady? Your precious ephemeris is a load of bunk to begin with. While astrology may be based on some live genius-level mathematics, the whole system depends on mankind’s collective knowledge of the Solar System to begin with. The modern system of 12 signs of the zodiac, based on constellations in the ecliptic of the Solar System, only stablized around the 1930s (and oddly enough, there are actually 14 constellations in the ecliptic, not 12, and they are not even close to being distributed perfectly in 30 degree arcs). We know about a lot more asteroids, comets, and even planets nowadays than we did; astrologers have had to take all of these changes into account. The fact that we discovered existing celestial bodies means that all previous astrological charts were bunk. Since we still don’t have an accurate catalog of all bodies in the Solar System, future discoveries are guaranteed to continue to invalidate current astrological charts. So your stupid-ass lawsuit is a waste of time and money. I hope the courts laugh her out of the building. Sadly, however, I fear that NASA will have to waste time and money fighting this idiocy.

Brainlet: Is Peter Jackson poison or venom?

I was reviewing the difference between venom and poison with Alaric and Treanna earlier:

Me: Okay, so if you got stung by a bee, is that venom or poison?
Treanna: Venom!
Me: Right! If you got bit by a snake?
Alaric: Venom!
Me: Very good! What if you drank a jar of formaldehyde?
Treanna: Poison!
Me: What about eating toadstools?
Alaric: Poison!
Me: What about a scorpion whacking you on the foot?
Treanna: Venom!
Me: What if a big guy with a beard kisses you on the forehead? [kisses Alaric on forehead]
Treanna: That’s not either!
Alaric: That’s a good thing!
Me: What if the guy is Peter Jackson?
Alaric: [thinks for a moment]…venom!