You are .inf You are informative. When you are gone you make life very difficult for others.
Which File Extension are You?

I usually resist jumping into these meme-fads, but somehow I did it anyway this time. The result is strangely accurate.

Number 31

I voted this morning in the Boston Primary Election. We have a semi-old-fashioned “fill in the box on the ballot card” voting system that worked perfectly well. It turns out I was the 31st voter today for my precinct, which means either I got up pretty early or there aren’t that many people voting in the primary.

As I approached the polling location, I was accosted by supporters of about six or seven candidates, making a last minute pitch for their guy (I didn’t see anyone lobbying for the female candidates, unfortunately). I have some vague recollection about laws restricting lobbying near the vooting booth, but apparently in boston it’s okay up to about 3 inches from the entrance to the building.

Rob Consalvo, our district councilor, was also handing out pens by the polling place, although there is no primary election for his seat. I asked him if he was endorsing anyone, and he said, “officially, no,” but then told me everyone he liked… which ended up being a good deal more than you can actually vote for.

The most moving plea was from an older lady: “Vote for my son, Ed Flynn, he’s a veteran!” (Ed Flynn is one of the few conservatives in the race. He also has no website.) I told her I would, but I lied.

City Council Primary Endorsements

The Boston City Council Primary Elections are tomorrow. This is an unusually contested race, with fifteen candidates running for the four at large seats. The primary will reduce the field to eight candidates. At least nine of these candidates have websites, and a few have blogs.

If any of my readers are Boston Primary Voters (you just need to be a registered voter in the City of Boston—you can check here), I’d urge you to vote at least for Félix Arroyo and Matt O’Malley. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference between the candidates based on their platforms, since they are all pretty progressive (jobs, education, economic development, focus on the neighborhoods, race/gender equality, etc.), but these two guys have somehow managed to convince me that they’re better than the rest.

In the Boston Primary, you have a total of four votes to distribute among one to four candidates. At this point, I’m uncertain whether to give my four votes to Félix and Matt, or perhaps also include Sam Yoon and maybe… Particia White or John Connolly. I’m open to being lobbied in the next twenty-four hours.

Good discussion of the pros and cons of bullet voting.

Update: I’ve been lobbied to cast a vote for Kevin McRae as well. His “publicity hound” reputation had turned me off a bit, but someone-in-the-know suggests he’s got a good critique of the local elite’s undue control of the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

Bush Braces…

Conference Bike

I just received what I guess is not a spam message about ConferenceBike. This is one of the strangest transportation-related things I’ve seen. Check out this QuickTime movie of people riding one around a park (you’d think it was actually the 1960’s).

salonify 0.82 released

The latest version of salonify allows the web user to download each entire photo album as a ZIP file; also has better error/sanity checking and reorganized documentation.

Boston Vignettes

My friend Susan just moved to Boston from the Left Coast and is gradually learning the ropes. She wrote these two vignettes about her first couple of days in the city—anyone planning on moving here should check these out. Having lived here for the past six years (and being born here), I’ve forgotten what it looks like to see our city with “new eyes”:

I went to get my car insurance. This took a long time. First, I got lost. Second, no one at the AAA office seemed to be in much of a rush, despite the fact that it was going on 4:30pm and they closed at 5pm. The insurance agent had the typical Boston pace of getting things done (other than driving) in which every act seems to require a kind of measured heaviness. It is as though official acts in Boston bear the weight of history and that history weighs heavily. When Mr. X saw that the car was a gift, he explained to me, in an offhand tone, that we were going to say that the car was a gift from my mother or my sister, not from my aunt, because did I see this gift form? Aunt is not one of the seven family member options. “So we say sistuh — yuh see?” Then he checked with his supervisor.

“Jean, this girl heuh, the car is a gift from her ant, so we should say muthuh or sistuh right?”

The woman spoke in rapidfire Bostonese. “Oh yeuh. Remember how much trouble we had with that udduh one? They won’t take it! It kept getting sent back. Say sistuh.”

He turned back to me at a measured pace. “Okay, we’ll say sistuh. I mean, as long as the age difference isn’t too much, it should be fine.”

Jean yelled from her desk: “Say muthuh! If you say muthuh, they NEVER question it! NEVER!”

He turned back to me. “Well, they don’t ceuh. It doesn’t matter.”

I was confused, as I listened to two insurance professionals loudly discuss how to violate insurance law. I mean, granted, Massachusetts seems to have an inordinate number of rules and regulations, but I assumed that was because people LIKED rules and regulations. This appears not to be the case.

I can’t remember whether this was to save me a substantial amount of money on sales tax (gifts are not supposed to be taxed) or a 25.00 filing fee, but it didn’t seem to matter. What mattered was discussing the rules at great length and then figuring out the best way around them.

I imagined being called up by some insurance commissioner who noticed the discrepancy between the Massachusetts form that said “Sister” and the California form that says “Aunt”. What would I say? That my aunt is like a sister to me? That my insurance agent told me to lie?

After talking to the realtor, I called my mom and had a distracted conversation while desperately trying to eat dinner at 7pm while also waiting for the bus. I took the 66 bus all the way to Roxbury Crossing and successfully managed to get off (it helped that the bus said loudly “Roxburry Crossing”. And that someone else had hit the yellow strip to stop the bus). As promised by www.mbta.com, Roxburry Crossing is on the Orange Line (read: subway) to Forest Hills.

I decided I should get a “combo pass” — good for bus, subway, and commuter trains, and that this would help me feel calmer about Boston. Although it was still unclear to me whether work would pay for the pass or just let me pay with pre-tax dollars, I decided it was worth the 71.00 to be able to go anywhere I wanted to without the annoyance of constantly getting lost. So, I asked at the booth. The guy told me they didn’t sell them at Roxbury Crossing, they only sold them at Back Bay.

Then he complimented my necklace and we talked about it for a bit and he then refused to sell me a token, but told me to put .50 in the disabled/retired slot and go through. He asked me if I was going there now to buy a pass, and I said no, but once I reached the platform, I thought, “Why not?” I’d already eaten dinner and it had to get done, so why not do it? He wouldn’t have asked me if the place wasn’t open, right?

This turned out to be very wrong indeed. He probably asked me because he knew, along with everyone else in Boston, that monthly passes are only sold on the first 10 days of the month. After the 10th, no one can buy a monthly pass, at any price. All monthly passes are returned to MBTA and are no longer in circulation. Also, you cannot buy an annual pass, or have a pass automatically sent to you each month. No, no, no — each month you must buy a pass within the first 10 days of the month.

Boston is a major American city, by the way, just in case you were wondering.

The monthly pass rule was explained to me at the Back Bay station commuter rail window after I had been bounced around twice. I just looked at the man in disbelief as I tried to hear him over the very loud loudspeakers echoing through Back Bay at 9pm at night.

Susan: But WHY can’t I buy a pass for September? I’m willing to pay for the whole month!

Man at Booth: We return them all, like I told you. Honey, I’d GIVE you a pass, but I don’t have one.

Susan: But WHY would they DO that? Are they afraid that too many people will ride the subway? Are there a limited number of seats?

Man at Booth:

Susan: Is there ANY KIND of a pass I could buy?

Man at Booth: Well, they have this weekly pass.

Susan: Okay, great! I’ll take one.

Man at Booth: But we don’t sell them here. Here.

Susan: Okay. Thank you very much.

I look at the paper about the weekly pass. It gives the hours they are sold. It informs me that passes for the current week are sold on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday, I can buy passes for the coming week, but no longer for the current week. The weekly pass is only sold at two stations — the two stations furtherest away on the Red Line (ie, nowhere near where I ever need to go).

I throw the piece of paper away, give up, and take the Orange Line back to Forest Hills, where at least I know how to get home, and where Adam and Rachele can very patiently listen to me rant about Boston.

Sid Annoyances

A couple of annoyances that have appeared with recent upgrades—any suggestions? A quick scan of debian-user archives suggest others have similar problems but I haven’t seen a clear solution:

  • udev no longer creates CD-ROM symlinks. /proc/sys/dev/cdrom/info and /etc/udev/scripts/cdsymlinks.sh are in place, and everything appears to be configured properly, but it’s just not happening. Why aren’t they created under the default configuration?
  • NFS drives no longer automount at boot-up. I have no idea why this is happening—they mount fine manually. Any clues?

JP World’s Fair

Yesterday, Esther, Rachele, and I attented the Jamaica Plain World’s Fair. This is an annual street party in our former neighborhood (just a couple miles from where we live now). Lots of street vendors, live music, arts and crafts, and people dancing in the streets.

This Latin/African diaspora band, zili roots, was great:

You’ll notice that Turkey Hill, the provider of the cow, had a big presence at the festival. We also got a huge plate of Indian food from India Palace for $3:

Unfortunately, most of the food is obscured by the chappatis, but rest assured there was a lot of it. My daughter Esther slept through the whole thing:

Toward the end, I saw a dreadlocked Jamaican Rastafarian driving a big van who needed to get past a road block into the pedestrian area. A crew-cut Boston cop approached the van, and I was bracing myself for racial profiling and intense scrutiny. I was pleasantly surprised when the cop just waved the guy on after he indicated where he was headed.

This is what I like so much about Jamaica Plain—it’s as progressive as any of the more lefty areas of the country (Ann Arbor, Madison, Berkeley), but quite racially and socioeconomically diverse.

(By the way, if you’d like to see more photos of Esther, drop me a line—she has her own blog but I decided to keep it out of public scrutiny, at least until she’s old enough to decide for herself).

randomplay 0.47 released

I’ve released randomplay 0.47. randomplay is my command-line ‘itch a scratch’ music player. It is most useful for maintaining a random shuffle over many sessions—for example, I use it to make sure I don’t ever hear the same song in any three month period.

The new version announces the current track and artist using xosd, if you have it installed. See this screenshot to see the effect (see lower right hand corner).