Saturday, January 30, 2010

Nobody Expects Automated Expect!

While I was trying to fix some issues with an expect script that runs checks on a server I found out that instead of having to write the scripts or having workstudys learn about expect on top of everything else I want them to do we can use autoexpect to basically create a script for us. When autoexpect is run it enters all the commands that were typed into a script.

I am always glad to find software that works hard so I don't have to, maybe later I will play with Pyexpect

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What is This Diversity of Which You Speak?

While I was at a house rave I ended up having a talk with an eager engineer about what is seen as good public policy, my conversationalist was not happy that the politicians were not able to sit down and do what is right for the country. I simply told the lady who was very proud of her engineering degree that there is disagreement about what people think is best for the nation so of course there will be debate, obstruction, gridlock and fighting because for one thing how do you define what is best for the country let alone on the means of achieving that end. This is a problem that I have noticed when folks about things like political parties in America, both the major parties talk about being democratic but they never have been. Foe example prior to the 1972 convention the democratic ticket was determined by machine politics that did not cater to the wishes of people who were racial minorities, women, nonchristian or nonheterosexual. By the 1972 convention people left out of the Democratic party's decision making process took over the organization and suppressed the ward heelers and machineites in the name of democracy. I guess that this problem occurred partly because both sides had different views of what a democratic process was. More recently when there was Michigan & Florida's democratic primaries were overturned there was a great deal of electrons loosed about how undemocratic that was. However having those primaries in the first place was undemocratic as well as the fact that most people never have a say in who their party's nominee is. But I only brought this up because the fact that so many people disagreed about what is a democratic process is similar to my question on what is diversity.

I first really thought about this when we went to a dinner in Homer, one of the things that makes Homer different from the rest of Alaska is that it is the only town in the state that the Republicans do not dominate in. Normally I would like such an accepting place except for the following problems. The first problem with Homer is that real estate is incredibly expensive a plot on a mountain 10 miles from town, with no amenities and a dirt track can sell for a million dollars, so a town that started out as a fishing village and a peninsula whrer hippies lived has now become a place where wealthy tourists come to live for three months. I met some of the wealthy Homerians, they are very nice, personable, and have good values and I really enjoyed their company. Despite how much I liked Homer's wealthy former hippies and salty fisherfolk Homer is one of the least ethnically diverse parts of Alaska, throughout the state there are lots of Alaskan Natives, Filipinos, Africans, African-Americans and others but I ran in to so few people of colour there. Though Homer is very welcoming to diverse lifestyles and different ways of thinking it is racially very homogeneous as well as being a place where most middle or working class folks will have to go outside of town to get work which is truly unfortunate.

In Anchorage there is a great deal of racial diversity but when it came to political diversity I did not run into that as much. I met a number of Alaskan Natives, Pacific Islanders, and Black folks who were all right wing. One example of a conservative person of colour was the President of Eklutna Inc, he had a plaque from a Republican party fund raiser. Even though I completely disagreed with these people about social policies, fiscal matters, and the role of government I was very happy to see that they were not of one mind as many left wing Caucasian people would assume about people of colour's political views. Most of the people that I met did not want restrictions put on fishing or hunting, were in favour of increasing the number of mining operations, and strongly against taxes and government oversight of industries. These views should not be surprising in a state that is as remote, rural, and conservative as Alaska, but one of the issues that it made me think about was what type of diversity do I value most? Would I prefer a place with more ethnic/racial diversity or somewhere that is racially/ethnically homogeneous but is culturally and politically heterogeneous.

After thinking about this for about a year I have come to the conclusion that neither situation is optimal for me, I wonder why can't we have both? I would prefer to live in a place that is diverse in diverse way, anything else will seem like a sham to me. Now that I am done with this post for now I will probably spend a year thinking about how Nigeria with its hundreds of languages and cultural norms which sometimes differ completely from each other there is no real diversity.

With Just The Right Bullets Tom Waits Will Drink Your Blood Like Milkshake!

For some strange reason I have started posting again, hopefully I can make an entry a day. As the blind man said to the deaf mute, "We shall see!" When I started this thing called blogging I would post a Tom Waits video every Thursday, I guess I was trying to be like Driftglass. If I can ever right as well as he does and as often I will be a happy man. I first hear this album in 2000, when I borrowed it from The Ames Public Library. At that time I did not really care for it. However, eight years later it became one of the albums that I listened to the most. I find that each time I listen to Tom Waits' work I find a new song to appreciate, even though I have heard most of his songs about a hundred times already.

I wish you all a wonderful Thursday and maybe next week I will be a Black rider again since that will make me happy, with fifteen silver wishes left.

Just Another Day Running Past Luka's Paradise

In the past I would use the treadmills at the university club, but, sometimes the machines would loose power in the middle of my run, or would not start at all. One of the most unpleasant things that you can experience is to have your workout come to a halt when your blood is up. These things happened so many times that I stopped running for five months and only swam. Though swimming 60metres is more tiring than running a 5K I was still not getting the best workout possible since I usually get bored with swimming after thirty minutes, and a better workout would involve 30 minutes swimming/ 30 minutes running, with me increasing the distance covered each week.

Anyway, after thinking about it this week I decided to run around Yola every morning to greet the sun, for added bonus points I would sing My Blue Sky continously, and reminisce about my favourite software commercials. This would be a difficult task since I do not know the lyrics to the aforementioned songs and tend to dislike software commercials. As a result of these problems I decided to make the task easy and only sing SwordFishTrombones during my half hour jog. So far it has been going well though the hamarttan dust, odour of burning plastic, smell of decomposing shit, partially burned petrol, get my allergies going at the rate of drunken cyclist who is pedalling on a foggy night. The actual running is not so hard, though I am trying to achieve a five minute mile, normally I run at a relaxed pace so I can do a 5K in 30 minutes, but to push myself and reach that higher level I am trying to do speed work each week.

At 6:30 am the water sellers are loading uo their carts and pushing them along. The wandering lunatics are psyching themselves up for a day full of rambling and ranting, The ackara lady is heating her wok full of oil while the little boy mixes the bean paste one last time. The early risers are on their way home from the mosque, street dogs are getting ready for a day of sleeping in the dusty, eroded road, and meanwhile the sun's shines on me. At seven I jog home with my lungs aching, my legs aching, my nose running and eyes bloodshot, like the day Steppin' Razor yelled "bumbaclot!".

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hemispheric Phonesick Blues

One of the things that still surprises me is the variety of cell phones that people have here. So many people carry multiple phones so that if one provider's network is bad you can use your second or third phone to complete your call. However, it can be inconvenient to carry 2, 3, or four phones, but the Chinese made an app for that, a phone that takes two sims! I am waiting for the day when the mobile phones will be able to take 3 and four sims.

Apart from folks having two phones there are many smart, yesterday I bought a Tecno 0707 for $64.00, it has some nice features such as a qwerty keyboard, it takes two sims, has GPRS, and various VoIP and internet features. I think that it would work beautifully if I was running WindowsXP instead of FedoraCore10. As it is I think it compares favourably with the Smartphones that we were issued at Tekmate. One of the reasons why I think it might be cheap is the Tecno Telecom does not use WindowsCE, PalmOS, or any other well known, commercial embedded system. I would guess that its either some version of Linux or an off the shelf OS from China or India. The only thing that I am having problems doing is adding duplicate phone numbers to my contacts. Over here many folks have more than two numbers since the networks are so bad so you need to store all the numbers. Unfortunately I have not been able to add a second number to each contact, even though the phone support vcd version 3.0.

Some of the brands that I never heard of before are Itel, Tecno, there are many others that look very nice, in the states many of these would be popular but they are not available either because of tarrifs, Americans would not care for the features since they have full fledged laptops and desktops that masses of Nigerians use their phones for. There is also the possibility that they do not meet the technical and safety requirements that are enforced in the US, though I really do not think the phones are badly made at all.

Some of the things that are different from the United States is almost no one buys a phone and a plan. Everyone uses prepaid sim cards and they buy their phones separately. Some folks will keep the same mobile for six years and kust switch sims. As a result of this all the phones sold in Nigeria are unlocked. To add minutes you will buy a recharge card, phone calls in Nigeria are some of the most expensive in the world even though the networks are so unreliable. Another thing that is different is that since masses of the people do not have electricity they take their phones to phone charging shops where they will leave their phone for a couple of hours so that it can charge. It is also a good idea to keep a spare battery sometimes and buy a phone battery charger. The last thing that I will mention is that 90% of the phone have their volumes turned up to 11 so that you can feel the awesome awesomeness of the each humble stranger's ring tone, but then again this should not suprise me since the average Nigerian loves tweeter shattering bass.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Theory of Social Revolutions

One of the things that I like about Librivox is that there are lots of free audio books on the site. With my work I do not get to read as much as I used to, lot of the time I am reading papers or textbooks for my lectures. Lately I have also been reading lots of papers on distributed computing or other things from Redhat about LDAP, Apache, Subversion, Nagious or other things having to do with sysadmining. As a consequence the only times I get to read for pleasure nowadays are usually in bed or in the toilet. In both cases I am usually done in less than five minutes. As a consequence of this it can take me 2 months to read 200 pages, whereas, I used to be able to read 130 pages a day. One of the audiobooks that I finished listening to in December was Brooks Adam's The Theory of Social Revolutions, aka TTSR.

I consider TTSR to be somewhat similar in scope and approach to Charles Beard's An Economic Interpretation of the United States Constituiton in that he does not simply accept the notion that the founding fathers did not have a class or factional interests that might have differed from the masses of Americans who were supporters of the revolution. One of the themes of the book is that laws are created and enforced by people who have a partisan goals. He gave examples of how the constitution was created by agents such as Danton and Robspierre so that they could kill their political opponents. Prior to the republicans taking over the French government the first two estates made laws that suppressed the middle and lower classes. There were other examples of George "Hanging" Jeffreys used his position to kill the enemies of Charles I.

After showing how such politriking hurts the judiciary and civil society Adams discussed methods of keeping political actors from affecting legal decisions. He thinks that in some ways a British style constitution is better than an American one which relies on a single document.
Being that Adams was a constitutional lawyer and historian I figured that he is more aware of advanatges of various legal systems, even as recently as four years ago judges in the US Supreme Court were trying to decide if they should look at trends in other country's legal systems to see if American laws are consistent with best practices. I tfound the book fairly interesting and enjoyed the sections on the French revolution as well as the interactions between the first three US presidents and the judiciary.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Books I Would Love To See Written

Maybe I will have to try and write this myself sometime or maybe not. BUt I would really enjoy a science fiction novel about archeologists, twenty thousand years from now, searching through the digital archives of the early 21st century and looking at emails, political blog posts, jokes, youtube videos and coming up with theories about trends, literature, social movements and history of that time based on the little information that they have now. This will could be very funny since most historians look at old writings and try and interprete what happened and what the events mean. Unfortunately many primary sources are lost and frequently researchers rely on secondary and tertiary sources. To make it even funnier I would like to have an obscure, kook be considered an authority by the scholars in the future because their writings are the only ones found. Other ideas for this are to have the futuristic text and form critics do the thing on blog posts that were meant as jokes or on the form critics of our time.

My second idea is to have a book about a man who hitchikes to Spain from eastern Nigeria all because he is obbssesd with a picture of a Republican soldier who died during the Spanish civil war. I would love it if it include tales within tales of all the people he encounters on his trip.

The Sleeper in H G Wells

I read the Time Machine when I was about 12. It was nothing like I expected it to be with its Morlocks & Eloi. With what I know now about literature I feel comfortable classifiying The Time Machine as both science fiction and modernism. In the end it shows us a brave new world that is a terrible place, a place where humanity has degenerated on the way to progress. I really like the book and have read it twice. I read about Wells on Wikipedia and found a lot to be impressed about. In his later life he was a kook who had odd ideas about aeroplanes. But that is okay. Along with the Time Machine I read The Chronic Argonauts, The Invisible Man, The Island of Dr Moreau, The Food of The Gods, lots of his short stores and The Sleeper Awakes.

The Sleeper Awakes is an obscure preqeul to the The Time Machine with a man who wakes up to find that he has slept for hundreds of years and is now the owner of the world since his stock holdings have grown to incorporate everything that can be owned . Furthermore, the managers of his vast fortune have become the world government. In this world there is now racial equality of a sorts with Africans being used to police and supress worker unrest in England, this causes a great deal of anger in our humble hero who believes in white supremacy to the very core of his being and he is willing to do everything he can to prevent it. Ultimately he fails when his plane crashes to earth. There are some interesting things in the novel such as aerial dogfights, strafing and bombing before anyone had built a working plane let alone used one in war which is very interesting.

The prose in the book is very dated to a modern reader and it has all the faults of most Edwardian/Victorian age science fiction. I think the biggest thing is the casual and blatant white supremacist views that Wells advocates in the book. I migh blog about this some more late or maybe not. The pattern is similar to what you can find in Bulwer Lytoon's The COming Race.