Sunday, October 26, 2008

Obama: Photo + Door-Knocking

Here's one of the most moving Obama photos I've come across this campaign:

The image is by Callie Shell, and there are lots more extraordinary photos from the campaign trail at her website. The caption reads:
These two boys waited as a long line of adults greeted Senator Obama before a rally on Martin Luther King Day in Columbia, S.C. They never took their eyes off of him. Their grandmother told me, "Our young men have waited a long time to have someone to look up to, to make them believe Dr. King's words can be true for them." Jan. 21, 2008.
What kind of future do young black men have to believe in if we elect Barack Obama? The Presidency of the United States. What kind of future if we elect John McCain? Prison.

(One in nine black men between the ages of 18 and 34 are currently behind bars. That's appalling and shows a total failure by all of us, collectively.)

In other news, I spent a few hours door-knocking for Obama's final-days get-out-the-vote effort. This task is not for me; I found it extremely difficult and emotionally draining, and this is in a heavily Democratic area (79% for Kerry in 2004). I don't think I'll be doing it again; it's just not me.

My respect and gratitude to those who do this day after day. I know that many people have different personality types and don't find it as difficult, but still.

One cool thing was that I got to meet Mayor Rybak and Jim Davnie, my state House Representative. Now, in a district like mine, Davnie is extremely safe. I asked him about this (he is actively campaigning even though he could probably win doing nothing) and was quite impressed by his answer: "The people deserve a race." Jim Davnie is a good man, and you should vote for him.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

496 Obama Buttons

This is what 496 Obama buttons looks like:

I counted them. We'd ordered 500 and had given away 7 before this pic was taken.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cyclopath Writeup in the Minnesota Daily

An article about Cyclopath was published on Tuesday in the Minnesota Daily, the University of Minnesota student newspaper. Brief excerpt:

Loren Terveen, associate professor in the computer science and engineering department, worked with Priedhorsky to get the project off the ground.

Terveen said Cyclopath creates several technical research challenges, including figuring out how to monitor geographic editing in a wiki and what tools are needed to edit a geographic entry.

“The tools you need to edit a map are more complicated than those for a text wiki,” he said.

p.s. It's getting cold, which means that the cat it getting cuddlier. The cat likes to sit on my lap even if I'm trying to type. This makes typing somewhat more difficult.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Reid on KMSP

I was interviewed about Cyclopath by KMSP ("Fox 9"), one of the local TV channels, for their 10:00 news on 10/14. Here's the video:

Some thoughts, carefully numbered but in no particular order:
  1. The news people at KMSP, as a whole, know nothing about bicycling -- pedal misspelled as peddle, intro refers to the map as a way to "get off the streets" (the whole point of the cycling movement is to get accepted as traffic).
  2. Talking to the press is fun.
  3. Being interviewed by local TV news is extremely cursory. Few follow-up questions; basically it was "Tell your story. Go."
  4. If you're interviewed for TV or radio, observe whether the interviewer is miked: if not, then remember that the questions will not be included in the final cut, and adjust your answers accordingly.
  5. Overall, I thought the story was decent. Good publicity.
I also have a piece coming out in the Minnesota Daily on Tuesday. I'll blog about that too when it's out.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pinto Beans

Erin graciously helped me put in a 32x2 bean patch along the side fence this spring. We planted pinto beans and sunflowers. The beans were plain old bulk pinto beans from the co-op.

Between the bunnies and the slugs, it was a hard life for the beans. Erin says pinto beans are bush beans, but the happiest plants were the ones that climbed up the fence before being eaten by the slugs and bunnies.

I harvested 346g of pinto beans, about 1-3/4 cups beans or roughly a week's supply for Erin and me. That's 920 beans, or 14 beans per square foot.

We originally planted three rows of beans with a spacing of something like 6 beans/foot, i.e. 18 beans per square foot or about 1150 beans planted. Hmmm....

However, I feel like I've learned a lot and have high hopes for next year.


I had thought the mushrooms were over -- declining yield, a failed flush, and then the sawdust block they're growing on was crushed.

But after waiting a rather long while (most other flushes had begun to emerge within 1-3 days), I got a flush. Here's the result.

The yield: 1oz. Not much, but infinity percent more than I was expecting.

On the suggestion of my friend Aaron, I began regulating humidity using dampened perlite. This is highly effective; humidity hovered around 85-90% with no spritzing, ever. Yay.

There were some fruit flies in the terrarium, which is kind of yucky. I hope that this can be avoided in the future.

Aaron has also promised me some oyster mushroom spawn soon. These grow on coffee grounds so I'm looking forward to that. Maybe they will be less finicky than the shiitake.

So, I'm going to continue with this shiitake block. I'll have to think up something to support the falling-apart sawdust block.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My Photo on a Book Cover (belated)

Way back in April, I received an e-mail out of the blue from the art director at St. Martin's Press asking if he could use one of my photos on the cover of one of their mystery novels.

Long story short, I said yes and made $800. Wow!!!

Here is the cover in question:

And here's the original photo (from one of my trip reports). It's Angleworm Lake in the Boundary Waters.

I sat on the news until the book was published in August so that I could mail copies to family and surprise them... but then I slacked off and didn't post about it here, until now.

I haven't read the book and don't know if it's any good. My mom says it's pretty good but not great. (I was paid a flat fee, so it doesn't matter to me if you buy it or not.)

Backscatter Spam Explosion

Wednesday morning, I woke up to a huge e-mail inbox. Both my inbox and my spam folder were clogged with thousands of unwanted e-mails, and the mail system (I run my own e-mail server) was groaning under the load.

What happened? "Backscatter". Someone had sent off a big load of spam with my e-mail as the return address, so I got all the bounces from the misconfigured servers out there that believed I'd really sent the junk -- 15,000-20,000 of them, I think.

So... I spend the morning cleaning up this garbage. I had to disconnect my mail server from the Internet (to stop the continued flood), and disable my spam detection (SpamAssassin) because that seemed to be a bottleneck.

One of the related problems was that if placing an e-mail in my inbox failed (which may did because the system was so clogged up), that would cause ANOTHER e-mail to be sent to me notifying me of the problem... sigh.

Here's a screenshot of Thunderbird in the middle of the mess. I had already sorted through maybe half of the unwanted mails.

Anyway... bottom line, it was a crummy morning. Lessons learned:
  1. is wonderful. This blacklist lets me simply ignore many/most misconfigured systems that want to give me backscatter spam.
  2. Do not, repeat, do not use a lockfile for your SpamAssassin procmail recipe. This is why mail was not getting through. SpamAssassin takes several seconds to process an e-mail, and because I had it set to use a lockfile, only one SpamAssassin instance would run at once. In other words, I could only receive ~1000 e-mails per hour on a sustained basis before some e-mails were at risk of being dropped, and in a backscatter or spam flood like this, the rate is much higher. Here is the recipe I use now:

# Send mail through SpamAssassin. Note that we do NOT use a lockfile (unlike
# many examples on the net) in order to avoid timing out delivery under
# sustained spam barrages (we do use lockfiles below to serialize the actual
# delivery into folders).
* < 262144
| /usr/bin/spamassassin

(Note: Yes, I should be using spamd, and I plan to, but I haven't gotten to it yet.)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Cyclopath Publicity (updated)

A couple of minor publicity items for Cyclopath:
  • An article written by Rick Moore for the University's internal news service: U researcher unveils 'geowiki' for cyclists. I'm not sure what the visibility of this is; I was told it would be on the U home page but have not seen it there in the past few days. This was the "Featured Article" in the Education and Outreach section of the (unfortunately Flash-based new) UMN home page; it never appeared on the home page itself, but was two clicks away.
  • Robin Garwood, staffer for Minneapolis City Council member Cam Gordon, blogged the project on the official Second Ward blog: Cyclopath!