Batman Begins

So, I saw the original Batman once all the way through in the theaters. Every other time I’ve tried to watch it, I’ve gotten bored or fallen asleep (no, I’m not kidding).

I remember Batman Returns as much because I saw it with Anne and Dave McGhee just before he left town for another co-op stint that was going to keep him out of town beyond when I was planning to graduate (let’s be honest about my level of certainty 🙂 as anything else. It was certainly more interesting than the first, but kept a cartoonishness that I found a little off-putting.

I have only vague memories of Batman Forever. Mostly they revolved around how much Tommy Lee Jones should have sued his agent for. Joel Schumacher seemed to me to have no respect for the characters, wanting to make something more in the vein of the 1960’s TV show, which also annoyed me. I may have noticed Nicole Kidman’s heaving bosom, too.

Batman & Robin I saw during some downtime at Patrick’s wedding. I was amused when George Clooney was on The Tonight Show a couple of weeks ago, and Leno made some comment about how Clooney had produced his fair share of dogs, and Clooney made some comment about having given his best shot at killing the Batman franchise.

So–and I say this as someone who’s never been a huge Batman fan, really, outside of The Dark Knight Returns–I was somewhat cynical about the level of praise that Batman Begins was getting. I mean, I TIVO Ebert & Roeper, and enjoy their reviews, but I decided their notion of good comic book movies was a bit different from mine when they heaped tons of praise on Spiderman 2, a movie I thought it was OK, but certainly not great.

Anyway, my expectations were high, and I was prepared to be disappointed, especially knowing that the screenwriter was responsible for the Blade movies, of which I do not have a high opinion–I also note that he worked on The Puppet Masters, and plays a (basically positive) part in the long essay about PM making it to the screen. Christopher Nolan could direct the hell out of the movie, but if it had a bad screenplay, it was still going to suck.

It did not suck.

Not only did it not suck, it exceeded my expectations, high as they were. Sure, Katie Holmes’ character could have been a little less of a cypher, or, in fact, acted by someone other than Katie Holmes. And there were various other small things that could have been different.

But, really, I think it succeeded in capturing a huge swath of the character without feeling like it was being crammed full of exposition like a duck intended for fois gras. The look was surprisingly down-to-earth, and Christian Bale is just one hell of an actor.

I mean, from American Psycho to this?

Actually, the really weird thing I notice on IMDB is that at 13, he was the lead character in Empire of the Sun.

Constantine

Well, I expected watching this movie to be a bit of a chore, and it was. I guess you could argue that such expectations are self-fulfilling, but getting Keanu Reeves to play a character who was originally modelled on Sting–both in his blondness and his Britishness–was just stupid.

That said, Rachel Weisz sold the absolute goddamn fuck out of her role. Shame it was in such an otherwise mediocre movie.

Implementing VERP for AnteSpam v2

My big accomplishment today–it was an otherwise fairly busy day, still catching up from the last couple of weekends–was adding VERP handling to the AnteSpam daemon process.

Those of you who don’t hang out in email handling circles probably don’t recognize the acronym1, but if you’re subscribed to a mailing list these days, you’ve probably seen it in action.

What happens is that during the SMTP delivery process, when the mailing list server hands the message to whatever server hosts your mail, it is given a special address as the originator of the mail. This is often, but not always, of the form bounce-mdorman=tendentious.org@bounce.antespam.com–the important bit is that the address to which the mail is being delivered is included (albeit mangled) in the address from which the mail seems to be coming.

This might seem weird, but when you send to a non-existent address, any bounce message is almost certainly going to be delivered to that specially encoded address, and modern mail transfer agents make it easy to route all mail for bounce-*@bounce.antespam.com to a program which can then extract the address whose delivery failed and behave appropriately–in the case of mailing lists, by removing the user from the list.

Now you might ask why we would want this–it’s not like we’re running mailing lists, we’re checking for spam.

There’s two reasons.

First and foremost, this will allow us to recognize, in an automated way, that an address doesn’t exist on the destination server, and we can mark that address as non-existent in our database, and refuse to even accept mail for it in the future. This cuts down on the load on our servers and our customers servers.

Second, this means our system will not run afoul of senders who have implemented SPF and customers who pay attention to it. Right now, if a sender has SPF records, and our customer honors them, we will probably not be able to deliver the mail from that sender because when we try and do the delivery we use the original sender address during the SMTP transaction with the customer’s mail server, and we aren’t cleared to send mail for that sender. If we’re using an address that’s in our domain, we are certainly allowed to send it.

Both of these are important quality of implementation issues.

The cool part is that, after an hour of investigation and testing, the actual diff turned out to be a one-line change–we were already using the QMQP protocol to hand clean messages to the postfix system for final delivery (because it operates well over unix sockets, and I was sick of having postfix listening on non-standard TCP/IP sockets for what was ultimately an entirely internal transaction), and it turns out that, because the postfix QMQP service strives to be compatible with qmail’s QMQP service (it was written, I understand, because securityfocus wanted to keep using ezmlm, which depends on QMQP, but wanted to move away from qmail), you just have to use a specially constructed sender address, and postfix will do the hard work for you.

1 VERP stands for Variable envelope return paths, and was pioneered by the qmail MTA, largely for automating bounce handling in its companion Mailing List Manager, ezmlm. Yes, I just wanted to try out the footnoting.

Perdido Street Station

because of the Mieville Seminar (or perhaps more accurately, the knowledge of its existence). Enough interesting stuff was said in the bits I read that I figured it couldn’t be a bad book.

And, indeed, it’s not. Neither, though, is it a great book. I’m hard pressed to articulate the things I didn’t like about it. I think it’s the prose. It’s not that the prose is bad, it’s just…too much. There’s so much going on, and sometimes the prose gets in the way of the story–not by clanging and making one cringe, but just by being a little too self-obsessed.

Still, if you’re willing to overlook some missteps and aesthetic quibbles for a book that has boundless ambition, you could do a lot worse.

So: 35 (An assessment of the last year)

Well, 34 started off pretty horribly, really–the last half of October was a blur of work and yoga, with maybe some sleeping in there, leading into disaster on November 2, for which I had a sleep-deprived ringside seat. I basically came home and hibernated for two months, without even the comfort of some good yoga classes–while I had been gone, our yoga teacher started teaching at a new studio with whose proprietor we had some problems, and I ended up putting the ten pounds I had lost in DC back on. On the upside, Chet and Erin got engaged that month knew about it, say, four hours before Erin did.

January saw Anne and I go on a short trip to San Francisco. We found an Anusara yoga teacher, and I started working on a big rewrite of AnteSpam, to incorporate two years worth of experience with what we were dealing with (still not done, I’m afraid, but soon, soon). I started getting back into doing some small jobs for i.e. Marketing. I ordered a new laptop which wasn’t to arrive for six months.

February came, Hunter S. Thompson went, and I spent a few days writing my own blogging software.

March saw the replacement of almost all of i.e.’s machines–which wasn’t exactly how we’d planned things–and I had about as much dental surgery as I think you can have while still having all of your own teeth at the end of it. Ajax started to show up as a topic on geek blogs.

April brought with it a surge of productivity on the AnteSpam rewrite, and a corresponding lack of blogging–I’ve never been as consistent as I’d like, and never as prolific as Chet.

The blog drought dragged on through May. We celebrated Anne’s birthday. I read some books, I watched some movies, and generally tried to be ignorant of the outside world.

June had the first of my younger cousins getting married. Anne and I had an actual vacation in Panama City, FL. Debian got a release out the door. I made some further progress on the new AnteSpam back-end, but still hadn’t begun to touch the front-end.

In July, I started playing with Catalyst, with an eye to using it on a project for Bad Boy Records. Although that project has subsequently stalled, I realized that it was the perfect medium for building the front-end for AnteSpam, so I started work on that. That’s taken up a bunch of my time since then–it’s taken a while, but I’ve been learning the toolkit, and arriving at ways to do things that I’m comfortable with (everything’s been rewritten at least three or four times), and I’m really approaching the endgame now.

August was more work on AnteSpam, and pizza every week thanks to the astonishingly good tomatoes available at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market. Who needs more?

September was kind of tough. First Katrina, then the news about my cousin, and then Ford, our acromegalic cat, had a small medical crisis that meant I had to miss Chet’s Bachelor Excursion–though, honestly, my liver thanks me. I totally rebuilt i.e.’s email infrastructure as part of a project to add some features. I made further progress on AnteSpam.

October has been “wedding month”, and here we are, all caught up.

Funny enough, what this summary has made me realize is that I really ought to keep a journal. A lot more stuff happened than this, but, you know what they say: if you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen.

Is it a beginning,
a continuing,
or the end?

> (Adrian Belew, Face To Face)

Back from “October Weddings” Part Deux

Back from a cousin’s wedding in Birmingham. It was, as our travel down to Alabama often is, a whirlwind of seeing everyone we could, if only fleetingly.

The bride was beautiful–the prerogative of all brides, but Corley was especially so–the groom, in his Navy whites, was handsome, and the ceremony was faster than I’ve ever seen before–something about which the bride privately expressed satisfaction–while also being attended by more people than I’ve ever seen at a wedding.

The reception, at Shoal Creek Country Club, was a little over the top. The food was good, though Chet’s caterer has nothing to worry about–I’m not sure, though, that she could have catered 300+ people at the level she achieved for Chet.

At least for immediate family, though, the wedding was under a bit of a pall, because it’s probably the last time most of us are likely to see the bride’s mother. She’s got terminal cancer, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that she’s made it this long through sheer will-power.

Actually, I find that I wrote about all of this the last time one of my cousins got married. The perceptive among you will note that at that time the wedding was scheduled for December.

I wouldn’t say much more, but in the intervening time, I realized the enormous debt I owe Nan, because if she hadn’t organized and hosted a Christmas party for my Dad’s side of the family every year for the last dozen years or so–pretty much since my last year of college–most of that side of my family would be much more distant to me than they are.

I don’t know any way to repay that, but I hope that wishing her peace and comfort might make a start.

Oh, and another thing…

Chet and Erin’s wedding had, without a doubt, the best food of any wedding I’ve ever been to. I mean, even though I think my wife took to feeding me cake to stop me from talking to other women, I didn’t really mind.

Nostalgia, AKA misplaced friends

This is a post I started writing several months ago, but never quite finished. A recent post of Patrick’s, plus the occasion of seeing people I literally hadn’t seen in a decade at Chet’s wedding made me think to give it a quick brush-off and shove it out the door.

Someone stole the name of an old friend of mine.

At least that’s how it feels. Occasionally, over the last decade, someone would occasionally post a message to one of the numerous Debian GNU/Linux mailing lists I read under the name Damon Buckwalter.

The first year we lived in Germany–6th grade–my closest friend in the world was named…you guessed it, Damon Buckwalter. And it’s a fairly unusual name, so, at various times I would send this person a message of the, “Hey, are you…?” variety. Never got a response.

This last time, I had the good sense to drag Google into it and settle down to do some serious investigation, and I can say for sure it’s not him. I located the website of the guy on the Debian lists, and I can tell you that the person in that picture is not my friend. In fact, you don’t have to take my word for it–you can see a couple of pictures of my friend yourself. It’s not him.

I saw Damon once after he moved back to the states in ’82–his High School Math team was competing in Pensacola, and I was in Ft. Walton, and somehow he was able to contact me, and I drove over and hung out for a couple of hours. In a weird way the decade and a half gulf there seems to have passed in no time at all.

There’s someone in Columbus, OH, named Damon Buckwalter, but I can’t find any pictures, and without some actual photographic evidence, it’s hard to work up any enthusiasm for cold-calling (or cold-emailing, as it were).

After Damon left, I fell in with Neil Butt, who may be in Cleveland, at John Carroll University. Biographically it’s all feasible–I believe his dad was assigned to the Pentagon when they left in, err, 1984, which would mean GMU was an easy choice for somewhere to go to college.

Is it the same person I last saw more than two decades ago, though? Shit, I just don’t know.

Another friend–and the last person I’ve stalked, I guess you could say–from that time-frame was Adam Klipple. I am 95% certain that this was Adam Shea Klipple, listed on this extensive genealogy page. The birth date is the right time frame, and I have vague memories of his being a couple of months younger than I, his middle name being Shea.

I don’t remember ever hearing about his sister-to-have-been, which is the only way I can interpret the ‘U’ next to the name below his. If it’s the right person, that’s a grim sort of thing to find out twenty-odd years later, since it would have happened just shortly before we became friends.

The more frustrating thing is that I can’t decide if he’s the same person as the jazz musician of the same name. I think it is. Ignoring the fact that I wouldn’t want to see pictures of me from when I was 11, I’m not sure I would be able to draw a line from that child to what I look like today. I remember Adam as looking like Stewart Copeland.

Of course that could just be the power of association–I would swear that he gave me Synchronicity as a gift, but I’m hard pressed to reconcile that release date–June 1983–with the fact that I remember him leaving midway through 7th grade. But if I had to make a judgment on which one of those memories is more likely correct, I would go with Synchronicity.

I don’t have the album any more–it went the way of all vinyl–but I do still have three novels he gave me.

But, as Patrick, notes, you have to wonder when it’s time to close the book–where he wonders about acrimony, though (and, BTW, sorry I haven’t called :), I just chalk it up to a character deficiency; I moved a lot, and even when my family wasn’t moving, the people around me were. This implied friendships were inherently transient, and I never developed the skills to make them work over long distances. Too few letters, then too little email, and damned few phone calls.

And there are odd dynamics in my life–where you might like travel to be something that can be done on the spur of the moment, or at least with relatively little planning, it just hasn’t worked out that way, so I’m bad about visiting people.

But I guess the big question is, “What are you going to do going forward?” And I think the answer I’ve arrived at–partly driven by the realization that Chet’s wedding is probably the last pending event among the people I know well from college before we start in on funerals (actually, even that’s not true, with Fred gone)–is that I’m going to be a little more active about keeping up with people.

So I’m going to go feed the cats, and answer this email from Dave McGhee that’s been sitting in my inbox for two days, ’cause it’s been too long.

I’ve been to hell. I spell it…I spell it DMV.

I’ve been to hell. I spell it…I spell it DMV.
Anyone that’s been there knows precisely what I mean.
Stood there and I’ve waited, and choked back the urge to scream.
And if I had my druthers, I’d screw a chimpanzee.

Well, OK, really, it wasn’t that bad. I got my license renewed in about 20 minutes from start to finish.

Really, the only bad bit was the realization that the next time I get my license renewed I’ll be 40.

Oracle vs. MySQL

I guess at a certain level, I’m only noting this in sort of a thumbing-my-nose-at-MySQL way, but the sale to Oracle of the company that creates the only transaction-safe storage back-end with referential integrity available for MySQL has some real implications for MySQL. I, of course, am largely unaffected because, well, I don’t use MySQL.

What can you say about Chet and Erin’s wedding?

Some might have decided against having their family photos done as human pyramids, but Chet and Erin were going to have no ordinary wedding.

Some might have shied from having jugglers hide the happy couple from the sight of onlookers behind a wall of flaming chainsaws during their kiss, but Chet and Erin were going to have no ordinary wedding.

Some might have refrained from having Mark Twain deliver a homily (or perhaps a jeremiad) preceeding the wedding regarding the dangers inherent in heterosexual behavior (viz. sex and death), but Chet and Erin were going to have no ordinary wedding.

Some would have built 17 foot high walls patrolled by Minutemen and laser beams to keep the paparazzi out, but just this once, they kept a respectful distance, and only took photographs that were flattering to the guests and the happy couple, for Chet and Erin were going to have no ordinary wedding.

Some would not have the fortitude to personally haul 1.3 metric tons of pristine ice from Everest to be used in constructing the ice sculptures and skating ring (opened, after the reception, to the astonished children of sub-tropical Houston, many of whom had never seen ice before) for the wedding pavilion, but Chet and Erin were going to have no ordinary wedding.

Some would have left Elvis to his anonymous retirement in a small stucco bungalow in Enseneda instead of spending years befriending him, gaining his trust, helping him work through the pain of commercial success and the price that it can extract from those desiring to create art, helping him slim down and update his look while still holding on to the innocent and youthful quality that made him the idol of millions, but Chet and Erin were going to have no ordinary wedding.

Sadly, the unexpected success of March of the Penguins led the penguins to demand more money after the contracts had been drawn up, but Erin understood the way that even the best can be changed by fame and fortune, and merely noted Black tie invited on the invitations, for, even without the penguins, Chet and Erin were going to have no ordinary wedding.

And you know what? They didn’t.

Congratulations.

Apologies to, oh, say, FafBlog and Harlan Ellison.

Wow, tough day for Aardman

Just a couple of days after Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit goes number 1, Aardman Animation lose their warehouse with props and historical material. Brutal.

We actually went to see the movie on Saturday, with Patrick and Diane. It was enjoyable enough, although I would have to agree with Richard Roeper that it moves along just a little too slowly.

And tomorrow…

I promise a painful reconstruction of Chet’s wedding.

It is painful, of course, because of all the alcohol that was liberally applied during various stages in the process. Self-inflicted pain being the best sort, of course.

Other than that, it was great. As I said, more tomorrow.

Beautiful woman

It never would have occurred to me to wish for an instrumental Daniel Lanois album, even though the music, rather than the lyrics have often been what attracted me most.

And yet, here it is, an instrumental Daniel Lanois album, Belladonna, and it is amazing and beautiful.

Hiliarous troll of the day

Seen on linux-kernel:

From: Ahmad Reza Cheraghi
Subject: Why no XML in the Kernel?
To: linux-kernel
Date: Sun, 2 Oct 2005 02:41:42 -0700 (PDT)

Can somebody tell me why the Kernel-Development dont
wanne have XML is being used in the Kernel??

Regards

Ahmad Reza Cheraghi