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Saturday, April 29th, 2006

Back from North Dakota

I got in yesterday from my trip to Minot, on schedule and with all the data we needed. We managed to work around the NORI – Nuclear Operations Readiness Inspection – and got access to all the sites.

I stopped by the office to drop off equipment and talk to my supervisor before he leaves tomorrow for two weeks in Guam, and met our new hire. Later, talking to Pat, I found out that he had been authorized to hire four new engineers. So if you’re in cathodic protection – hell, even if you’re a newly minted engineer or materials science grad and are interested – you like about a 50-50 mix of working in the field and writing reports/design, want to travel, and live in or are willing to relocate to San Diego, California, then contact me and I’ll pass it on. As I’ve written before, we’re not getting enough people into this field, and it has a strong demand, steady growth, good job security, and for those interested, it’s pretty easy to start working for yourself after you put in some years and gotten a few certifications. It seems that every corrosion engineer I’ve met has a different story about how he or she got into it (and we need a lot more shes). Nobody ever seems to have planned on becoming a corrosion engineer, but the job is so varied and interesting that we lose few after we’ve gotten you hooked.

Posted by Greg as Corrosion Control at 06:57 PST

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Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

Arrival in Minot, ND

Current meatspace coordinates: 48.206° N, 101.316° W

I’m here for the week to survey the cathodic protection on the fueling systems at Minot AFB. Of course, there’s an unannounced exercise going on that will restrict our access to some areas that we need to test. I can’t complain – the needs of the military outweigh the needs of their civilian contractors. I just hope that we can get in in a couple of days, and that we can accomplish the necessary testing without delaying our return.

It was a hectic weekend – the closing of my daughter Chelsea’s Winter Guard season, and yesterday was the Championships. Her team finished fifth out of eighteen teams in her division. With a party Friday night, driving up to Fontana, and a dinner afterward, I was either involved or watching the baby, and I didn’t finish packing my stuff and my testing equipment until two hours before I needed to get up to go to the airport. With such an eventful weekend, there’s been plenty of “I need to put that in my blog” moments, but now I’m just exhausted. Northwest Airlines busted my equipment case, but I already had problems with some of the specialized pieces that I have been trying to diagnose and fix (I brought a soldering iron). I traded my smoking room reservation for a nonsmoking one that included a refrigerator and microwave. A couple of days ago, I had checked the long range forecast, and it had said highs of 19-25°C with possible rain on only one day, so I packed a lined rain jacket and, just to be safe, threw in some heavier long-sleeved shirts (I’m very partial to short sleeves).

About half an hour ago I stepped outside for a smoke. It was snowing. Welcome to North Dakota.

Posted by Greg as Family & Friends, Posts About Me at 20:45 PST

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Friday, April 21st, 2006

Forward Links

At first I hated the way WordPress sent pingbacks to itself – if I put a link on a new post that referenced back to something I wrote earlier, the pingback registers itself as a comment on the original post, and takes a stab at a relevant quote from the new post to include in the comment. But after browsing the WP Support Forums, trying to figure out a way to turn this function off, I saw it tauted as a feature – the pingback notified the reader that there was more information posted, and I could see the utility in that. So I learned to live with it, stopped deleting the pingback comments, and just checked the quote so that it was no larger than it needed to be and gave a good idea of what the new post was about.

But it’s still annoying, primarily because of the way my blog and most others are formatted. My main screen, the blog home, shows the last ten posts on the first page, most recent first. As you can see, each post is formatted something like this:


Title (which links to a page that shows the post, all its comments, and space to enter yours)
/ – –
{Body of Post}
– – /

Posted by Greg as {List of Categories} at {time}

{#} Comments (the number of comments and the same link)

I don’t think that’s a good arrangement, primarily because, in my experience, it takes a lot to get the casual visitor to click any link once they arrive. They are more inclined to just read the post and determine whether it contains the information they came looking for, and if it doesn’t, they leave. They don’t know that the comments might contain a link to a more recent post that has more information – as far as they know, it’s just some drongo saying “so what is the solution to the problem?”, when in actuality it might be a link to the answer they also want.

I think it’s a better approach to distinguish between when the blog pings itself back and when someone else comments or sends their own pingback or trackback. I’d call these self-pingbacks “forward links”, and although I have no desire to get into the trackback/pingback standard debate to suggest making forward links identify themselves, I think we can do something with WordPress. I have in mind something that looks like this:


/ – –
{Body of Post}
– – /

Posted by Greg as {List of Categories} at {time}

Updates: (or “Forward Links” or something configurable)
{Date-time} {Forward Link, showing Title} {Excerpt/Summary?}
{Date-time} {Forward Link, showing Title}

{#} Comments (not including forward links)

or the Forward Link section could look like this, relying purely on the linked post’s title:

Updates: {Forward Link}, {Forward Link}

Off the top of my head, I don’t know whether this could be achieved at the plugin or the theme level (probably both), or if it would require a core files hack. Although I think I could figure out how to do it, I just don’t have to time to do so. But it sure would be nice. I wonder if someone else has already figured it out? If someone knows of a plugin that already does this, please let me know.

UPDATE: I posted virtually this entire post in the WP Support Forums. Let’s see if we get a response!

Posted by Greg as My Website, Software at 21:40 PST

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OpenID for WordPress

Progress on the OpenID front in implementing an OID plugin, as reported by PhotoMatt. I found links to two additional projects in the comments, but the reviews aren’t encouraging. I’ve upgraded to WordPress 2.0, so I know some of this won’t work for me.

I have my own OpenID profile, but so far I’ve only really been able to use it for commenting on LiveJournal. I participated in the requests for integration into WP 2.0, but the developers ruled it not widespread enough for inclusion, and wanted to see whether it would take off. So far, that doesn’t appear to be happening, but how could it if other sites/blogs aren’t accepting it?

Posted by Greg as My Website, Software at 06:07 PST

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Thursday, April 20th, 2006

FC5 and Wireless Card

I got a little more time tonight to try checking the suggestions from cyclopropene, but not enough to answer his questions, so my FC5 machine is still not connected. I did go back and found that I had more notes that look like they went up to the point that I got the card working with the 2.6.15 kernel, but I’ve tinkered with so many things since then, I’m afraid I’ve destroyed any chances that I might be able to retrace my steps. I’m using a mix of line commands, hand edits of files, and the gui for system-config-network and NetworkManager, which seems a recipe for disaster for someone who doesn’t quite know exactly what they’re doing. I remember the last thing I did that made it all work last time – I used NetworkManager to “Connect to another wireless network” and typed in my SSID and WEP key. But at that point I must have properly loaded the primary and secondary firmware. I got my wish, but I’m still having a problem with wlan0 and wifi0 being disabled after running the firmware loader. And the configurations in system-config-network don’t match the output of iwconfig, either, which seems highly suspicious.

Thanks to my previous posts of frustration, if you Google fc5 dwl-520, now my blog comes up as the second website. So one of the experts I can turn to for help is – me! That’s soooo encouraging!

Posted by Greg as Hardware & Drivers, Networking, OS at 00:06 PST


Wednesday, April 19th, 2006

The Lump Is Not Cancer

It’s been a week of growing anxiety as I’ve gone through the process of doctor visits and tests, but I just got a call from my oncologist, who said that my recent PET scan results were normal. This means that no matter what the lump that I found in my chest turns out to be, it’s not malignant. Very good news!

The biopsy results aren’t expected until Friday, so I won’t know exactly what it is until then. My doctors have already indicated that it would be a good idea to take it out regardless; but now, instead of having to take out a huge chunk of surrounding tissue as well, it should only be the lump itself that will be excised, and the sense of urgency has declined.

I feel soooo relieved.

Posted by Greg as Melanoma, Posts About Me at 10:30 PST


Tuesday, April 18th, 2006

Blog as a Career Aid

Noticed an interesting story in the Boston Globe – “Blogs ‘essential’ to a good career”.

”It’s the new public relations and it’s the new home page. Instead of a static home page, you have your blog,” he said. It’s a way to let people know what you are thinking about the field that interests you.

Employers regularly Google prospective employees to learn more about them. Blogging gives you a way to control what employers see, because Google’s system works in such a way that blogs that are heavily networked with others come up high in Google searches.

And coming up high is good: ”People who are more visible and have a reputation and stand for something do better than people who are invisible,” says Catherine Kaputa, branding consultant and author of ”Blogging for Business Success.”

Posted by Greg as My Website at 12:45 PST

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Mysterious Lump Update

Yesterday morning I was back at RMG for another PET scan, just six months after my last one, to investigate the lump I found in my chest. The experience was similar to last time, although I learned a couple of new things. One, that the fluorine-18 radionuclide tag used by RMG comes daily from a cyclotron in Las Vegas, even though there’s a cyclotron in San Diego county. That facility was purchased by another medical imaging company, who apparently doesn’t want to sell the radioisotope to competitors. That’s unfortunate, because it’s my understanding that production of the short-lived (half-life, 110 minutes) fluorine tag is a major portion of the high cost of PET scans. Second, that during the scan, I was also getting bombarded with gamma rays from an external source. I had thought the PET scan was completely passive, but apparently the gamma ray bath helps define the image of my body and its internal organs, making the scan easier to read. I guess it doesn’t really matter whether my exposure is from a source inside my body or outside, it’s still only about 7 milliSieverts, about 7-8 times the normal annual background radiation level in San Diego. My doctor should get the results later today.

In the afternoon I went in for a biopsy of the lump. Twice, I had a needle inserted into my chest, and the doctor moved the tip around vigorously as he sucked in a tissue sample. It wasn’t really very painful, but the first time I bled all over the place. He said the results should be available by Friday. I can see why he wanted to wait after the PET scan to take the sample – after this rude treatment, the semi-firm lump now feels like a hard knot.

The PET scan should be a good indication of whether the lump is malignant or not, and the biopsy should determine whether I have a metastasis of my melanoma, male breast cancer, or nothing serious.

Posted by Greg as Melanoma, Posts About Me at 08:54 PST


Mozilla Vulnerabilities Reported

To be fair, with all my MS Internet Explorer bashing, I have to pass on a report from US-CERT that Mozilla contains multiple vulnerabilities. All of them have been addressed, and the recommend solution is to upgrade.

I’ve often expressed my preference for Mozilla over Internet Explorer, although I’m trying out Seamonkey on my Linux box. I’ve never tried to say that it is completely free of problems, but I think that vulnerabilities are addressed much faster, and they’re much less likely to be exploited.

Posted by Greg as Software at 07:05 PST

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Monday, April 17th, 2006

FC5, Prism2.5 News

Well, I was right. Once I rebooted, I could not get the D-Link DWL-520 rev E wireless network card running again.

I was following the most optimistic instructions I could find, which specifically addressed this card under Fedora Core 5. I installed the hostap-utils rpm, the firmware files, and made the edits to /usr/sbin/hostap_fw_load, and ran the firmware loader. I wish, wish, wish that I had have recorded the output of host_fw_load the time when it actually worked, because I’ve noticed the output vary, and give different reasons why it didn’t work.

After I upgraded my packages while the card was working, I rebooted with the newer kernel, 2.6.16. I don’t know why it was 16 instead of 20, which is the 2.6 kernel I’m running on my FC4 machine, but switching back and forth hasn’t helped. I never used make to compile anything, so I don’t see how changing the kernel has created more problem for me. Perhaps firmware incompatibilities?

Now, every time I run the firmware loader I destroy something. If I run iwconfig when I first start the machine, I see the card both at wifi0 and wlan0. When I run hostap_fw_load once, it reports loading the primary firmware, and wlan0 usually disappears. If I run it again, it reports loading the secondary firmware, it says it doesn’t work because there’s no such device as wlan0, and wifi0 disappears. The only way I know how to get them back is to reboot.

Posted by Greg as Hardware & Drivers, Networking, OS at 12:09 PST

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