Archives for October 2004

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indigo magic

Yesterday I finally got around to doing something about the SGI Indigo I had sitting in my living room. If you remember back to July you'll note that this box had a dead clock battery, which thanks to some smart design work, made it completely inoperable. And, oh yeah, the battery was soldered onto the motherboard.

But that didn't stop me. I used my trusty soldering iron to loosen things up and get the old battery out, and then yesterday I went to Radio Shack and picked up a new 3.6V battery, some paired wire, and some electrical tape. You can see a few pictures on my buzznet site.

So the machine now boots. Here's my hinv output:

clu 10% hinv
CPU: MIPS R4000 Processor Chip Revision: 2.2
FPU: MIPS R4000 Floating Point Coprocessor Revision: 0.0
1 100 MHZ IP20 Processor
Main memory size: 64 Mbytes
Secondary unified instruction/data cache size: 1 Mbyte on Processor 0
Instruction cache size: 8 Kbytes
Data cache size: 8 Kbytes
Integral SCSI controller 0: Version WD33C93B, revision C
  Disk drive: unit 1 on SCSI controller 0
  Disk drive: unit 2 on SCSI controller 0
  Disk drive: unit 3 on SCSI controller 0
  CDROM: unit 4 on SCSI controller 0
On-board serial ports: 2
On-board bi-directional parallel port
Graphics board: GR2-Elan
Integral Ethernet: ec0, version 1
Iris Audio Processor: revision 10

The cool part is that GR2-Elan line. The three hard drives are all really small (1gig and 2 .5gigs), so that makes life fun (though I installed a clean IRIX inside a gig yesterday). I think I might have some memory lying around that I can try to bump that 64meg up with.

big city efficiency

I was driving into work this morning when all of a sudden I had a very "doh!" moment. It occured to me that I had a wedding to go to tomorrow, and that suit that I really needed to take to the dry cleaners was still sitting rumpled in my closet.

No fear, though. A quick look at the now useful google local (dry cleaner near 90014), a few phone calls, and I had soon found Sloan's Dry Cleaners in the Wells Fargo Center. They weren't the closest, but when I called them and asked about getting my suit done before the wedding tomorrow they gave me an unequivocal "No problem." I went with their confidence.

So I left JPL around 3:30, came back to Premiere Towers to pick up my suit, and checked the mail. In it was my North Muskegon, MI, absentee ballot, due back by the close of polling on Tuesday. Now, it's not North Muskegon's fault it's so late; I did just fax them the form late Monday. So I grabbed the ballot, walked over to the dry cleaners, dropped off my suit, and found a place to sit down and make a phone call. I called my mom and told her I knew nothing about any of the Michigan races. Together we went through the ballot and she told me what the Michigan buzz was for each of the races. I didn't vote for regents for U of M or MSU, but I came to a decision on most of the rest. Then I went next door to the Fedex store and sent the ballot back 2nd day. They tell me it'll be delivered Tuesday between 12 and 4.

Now to finish a little of the work I left to come home early, and then to head out somewhere to go pick up a gift for the wedding tomorrow. They're registered at Macy's, so I think we might go see what we can find at their downtown location. I've never been in there.

"God to Run DWP!"

There's a lot about LA politics I don't know or understand, but there's one thing I'm pretty sure of: Ron Deaton is a powerful man. Now the long-time city hall guru is Hahn's choice to take over as top man at DWP. I first read the story last night on LA Observed (today's followup has links to the Times and Daily News).

My first Ron Deaton experience was at the meeting over the new LAPD headquarters held a month or two ago at City Hall. Deaton was there answering questions and responding to public comments. I vividly remember an exchange after someone had been particularly forceful about asserting that the Caltrans site had been promised as a park. Deaton went to the mic and responded something along the lines of "Go back and look at who negotiated that contract for the city. I did. Don't try to tell me what the contract says. I wrote the contract." Obviously his response was a little more political, but you get the idea. I was standing in the back of the room next to Brady Westwater and I turned and asked him who this guy was. Brady's response: "I'd call him god, but I don't think he'd accept the demotion." (Brady today sent an email to the newdowntown list titled "God to Run DWP!")

From Hahn's email (available at the LA Observed link above):

We all know of Ron's commitment to the success of LADWP, and his even deeper dedication to the City of Los Angeles. Because he began his career at LADWP and has a long record of support for the Department, Ron is perhaps one of the only people who can successfully bring the Department into the City family.

I think that's important. From my limited perspective of just watching through the news it does often feel like DWP is out doing its own thing separate from the rest of the city. It'll be interesting to see if Deaton is the one who can change that image.

Blade Runner

We watched the film Blade Runner in my speculative cinema class today. Oddly I hadn't ever seen it before. I liked it.

What fascinated me, though, was the footage in the Bradbury Building. On its own this is an amazing building, but seeing it put so artfully on film is amazing. I was particularly captivated by the shots through the roof showing the advertsing blimp overhead. You can see a great example of that shot on the linked site. I can't begin to fathom the lengths they had to go to in order to film with so much water and yet preserve the interior of the building. It's interesting too that they chose to keep the Bradbury name on the building -- making it the Bradbury Apartments and totally redoing the exterior -- and also chose to keep the Million Dollar Theater across the street.

I also correctly identified the police headquarters as the closed off wing of Union Station, and the tunnel as 2nd Street.

DLANC: Transportation Meeting #2

Last night I braved the rain to make my way from USC up to 1st and Figueroa for my second DLANC Transportation & Public Works (hereafter T&PW) Committee meeting. Getting to the meeting was more than half the battle.

Tuesdays nights are my latest school nights. I have class until 6:45. Yet somehow all the DLANC meetings I attend (board, AACE, and T&PW) are all Tuesday nights. T&PW is at 6:30pm, so I left class at 5:50 or so to go catch the DASH F and head downtown. I made it to the stop by Jefferson and Hoover around 6pm and waited. And waited. Around 6:10 a guy in a suit showed up and started waiting with me. We made small-talk about how the F always seems to take a little longer than the 12 minute headways (the time between buses or trains) they post on the signs. He waited 10 minutes or so, then gave up to go take the USC shuttle to Union Station.

At 6:30 I decided that I didn't know for sure that the bus was even going to be coming. Sure it rainy and that slows down LA traffic, but I had been waiting about a half-hour for a bus that claims to come every 12 minutes. So I got on my skateboard and started riding, periodically looking behind me to see if a bus was going to catch up to me. Finally, looking back from Figueroa and Washington, I saw an F. The time? 6:42.

So I paid my $0.25 and got on. Downtown traffic was horrid. The bus inched along, and took about 10 minutes to make it 8 blocks to Fig and 11th. Looking at the sea of cars ahead I asked the driver to just let me out. He said it was probably going to take him 20 minutes to make it the remaining 5 or 6 blocks on his route. I figured I could do better, and I did. I left the DASH behind me and rolled uphill on my wet wheels. I finally made it to the meeting at 7:07, 37 minutes late and a sweaty mess.

The meeting itself was a bit of a plannnig session. We didn't have a quorum, meaning we couldn't conduct official business, so we took the time to lay out some priority projects for the upcoming year and to assign oversight for these projects to members of the committee. Now, obviously this "oversight" isn't in the sense of actually getting the project done -- we leave that part of things to the MTA, LADOT, etc. Instead it's more of a reporting role; the committee member "in charge" of a project is tasked with keeping on top of all developments and making sure the committee stays informed on status and issues that need support or disapproval. I came away in charge of keeping track of two projects.

One of the big picture things Metro (or the MTA, if you prefer) is working on right now is a redevelopment of the entire bus system. They believe they can reduce bus traffic while keeping or increasing service by moving from a destination-based system to more of a hub-and-spoke structure. I think the simplest way to picture this is to look at the airlines: I can't fly from Los Angeles to Muskegon, MI, but what I can do is take a flight from LAX to Detroit. From there I can catch a smaller plane to Muskegon. When I walk outside my apartment I see a street that's overloaded with buses. The stop at my corner must get serviced by 8 - 10 different routes. What Metro would like to see is those routes get replaced by one or two that would then feed these other routes at logical tranfer hubs.

The common complaint about a system like this is that people don't want to transfer -- they want a one seat ride. I say that's just not true. Speaking as a frequent transit rider I don't care about a one-seat ride. I care about moving. If you can give me two shorter lines that'll get me where I want to go with a transfer and 5-minute headways I'd gladly take that over a single route with a 20-minute headway.

To a large extent this same complaint carries over to my second project, DASH service on the Figueroa Corridor. Currently Figueroa is served by two routes: the F and the A. If you look at the Downtown DASH system map you'll see that the two follow an identical path between 4th and 11th. Then, however, the A makes a long run off to the Arts District and the F makes a run down to Expo Park/USC. That seems redundant to me.

The initial issue, though, that I want to get addressed is those 12-minute headways. I just don't believe them. I would like to see data showing true measured headway times, and if those headways are different from the 12-minutes I'd like to see that difference shown in their advertising. I think it's a shame that a busy route like the F is only serviced every 12 minutes while the rest of the Downtown DASH system get buses every 5, but I think it would be even more of a shame if the real-life headway was greater than that already sluggish 12 minutes. This is a route that's only going to get more important in the next few years as more USC students move downtown, and I think it's something that can be addressed effectively without massive reworking. Sure, Expo light rail will carry a lot of this traffic in the future, but that's still 6-8 years down the road.

After the meeting got out Don and I got soaked walking back toward our places of residence. We ended up holing up under the overhang of the building on the southeast corner of Broadway and 1st. After deciding it wasn't going to let up I called Magilla and he drove my car over to pick us up.


I didn't eat dinner tonight.

I think it's probably too late for that now.

just for the record...

Just for the record, if you ever find yourself thinking

Hey, I bet I could just go write my own blog software. It would be cool.

ignore that part of your brain. It's not cool. Especially when you have crazy grand notions you get in your head and decide to implement. Just keep telling yourself that other people have probably already done it better.

And we're back?

If you've tried to visit this site in the last two weeks or so, you might have noticed that things aren't exactly up to speed at the moment. Here's the message I put up on the front page:

2004-10-19: Just to give a little better feel for what's going on, the hard drive on my web server gave up last night and is done for. First it started making some noises and the ext3 journal stopped (causing the drive to remount read-only). At that point I was able to copy off some data (most of my web stuff and my email), but not all. Notably messed up were some important mysql files. I have a backup that will cover up to about three weeks ago, but it's up in the bay area at the moment.

I hope to have at least a limited version of the blog back online later tonight.

Moral of the story? Don't forget your backups, even when you're just in a transition phase.

Well, it's taken a little longer than that night to get any kind of a blog back online. Some of this was technical, but some was that I took this downtime as motivation to get serious about doing work on the next version of eThreads. What you're seeing right now is being served off the new code. It's not done yet -- comments, categories, archives, the "this date" feature, and RPC pings all still need to be supported. But it's a start, and I still like the code, so I think that's good.

Different pieces of functionality will continue to roll in at different times. Currently this blog is missing a nice big 4 month chunk from June 11 to October 11. I've got June - September 25 in backups that'll be coming online within the next week or two, but if you happen to have Sep 25 - Oct 11 stuck in the cache of an RSS reader or something I'd love to know it.


I've been warily eying this rain, dreading when I have to make the run to my car. Not only is it rain, it's cold rain, and I'm ill-prepared for it (in short sleeves and sandals). I just found out, though, that there's an extra umbrella stashed in a cabinet in my office. I got the go-ahead to abscond with it today and bring it back Wednesday. My afternoon just got less chilly.


Talking about this weekend's Artistsalon event I mentioned that there was a painting I really liked. I found today that there's an image of it online, so go check out mOoBeTTah and continue to mourn the loss of mo' better.

From the Downtown News: Coffee and DLANC

The Downtown News this week includes a story on Groundwork, a coffee house in the art district. Particularly of interest is the fact that Groundwork roasts their own beans. My whole bean coffee supplies are running a little low, so I plan to head over and pick some up to try out in the next few days. I figure if I'm buying beans roasted about a mile away and then grinding them myself, that's got to be about as close as I can get to just-in-time coffee making.

Also in the Downtown News this week, two mentions of happenings from our last DLANC meeting.

  • "Financial District Goes Hawaiian" says that

Last Tuesday, the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council approved a liquor license for Roy's (the council does not have authority over the license, but acts in an advisory capacity to the city).

  • Then the oddly titled "DLANC Gets Keyed Up" talks about how we're looking to hire someone to take minutes at meetings. I don't really think the position we're hiring is quite looking for a "court room-style" transcription, but hey, that would be nice.

Alma at the Los Angeles

I've watched a Google news search for "alma mahler" with interest since September 30, when the roaming play Alma opened at the Los Angeles Theatre. After a decent number of pre-opening articles it's been hard to find good reviews to go off of. This reuters piece pretty much sums up what I've seen:

The main problem with "Alma," however, is Alma. All three of the younger Almas appear to be rather ordinary Viennese hotties ... The venue itself is the best part of the evening. The baroque interior of the theater is filled with bygone splendor ... Along with preshow drinks, there is a three-course Viennese dinner buffet and wine at intermission included in the $125 tab. Improvement here would be welcome as well.

I would love to go see the show, but for $125 I'd like to be confident I'm getting more than just a cool tour of the Los Angeles . The play runs through Dec. 5, so I think I should be able to make up my mind by then. It would be a shame for something like this to be visible out my bedroom window and not to check it out.