Some years ago, actress Dawn Wells visited one of the remotest islands in the already remote Solomon Islands; she was, in fact, the first non-native woman to set foot there. The chief’s wife stared at Wells in surprise when she came out of her hut. “Mary Ann?” she asked in amazement.

— "Madonna who?"

Sometimes it’s not the network


My job was Unix support for Corporate Services, which basically referred to everything in the company that wasn’t related to developing, selling, or training customers how to use our products. In practice, though, it usually just meant MIS, because HR and Legal were composed entirely of Mac people, who had their own support team.

The oddest exception started one day when an HR manager asked me to help him set up a beta-test of a Lotus Notes-based applicant tracking system. The application was being developed on OS/2 servers and PC clients, but we wanted to test it with a SunOS server and Mac clients, since that’s what we had.

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Backups? What backups?


A.J. was worried. For several months, he’d been growing more and more concerned about the reliability of the Unix server backup system that he operated every day. He was just the latest in a long string of junior contractors paid to change tapes, but he actually cared about doing a good job, and something wasn’t right.

He had raised his concerns with the manager of Core Services and the Senior System Administrators who were responsible for the corporate infrastructure, but they assured him that any problems were only temporary, and that he should wait until they had the new system in place. A.J. resigned himself to pretending to do his job, and grudgingly agreed to stall for more time whenever a restore was requested that he couldn’t accomplish.

And then the system just stopped working.

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Foods nature never made


No, not the genemod stuff. Frankly, if I could find a grocery that sold produce that was guaranteed genetically modified, grown with artificial fertilizers, sprayed with pesticides, and then irradiated, I’d shop there every day. Modern technology has done wonders for the quality and safety of food, contrary to the claims of people who confuse natural with safe and healthy. Don’t even get me started on their abuse of the word organic.

No, I’m talking about the single-serving can of fruit I’m holding in my hand. The label reads “raspberry-flavored peaches.”

What were they thinking?

Attack of the killer ants!


Brian Tiemann has an ant problem. No surprise there; I think it’s on the Universal New House Checklist, right after “otherwise quiet neighbor with yapping dog.” What surprised me, though, was that he was willing to accept their presence in the house as long as they didn’t get too aggressive.

Not me. Slaughter-and-sanitize is my motto, and their right to life ends with the very first bread crumb.

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Mystery Hill on the level


It happened in 1980, I think. My father and I were vacationing in Michigan, in the general vicinity of Manistee, when some of the local kids told us about a special place they were calling Mystery Hill, where if you put your car in neutral, it would roll uphill.

It’s a fairly common optical illusion that often results in the creation of a cheesy tourist trap. By happy coincidence, on the day we went out to see it, my father had a toolbox in the back of his truck. It contained a carpenter’s level. We set it down on the allegedly-uphill road and let the universe reveal the truth of the matter.

By their threats shall ye know them


Hey, what’s a web site without fraudulent threats of legal action? There’s a guy out there who has bullied and blustered his way into a business running pay web sites for Playboy models under various names, primarily “Alpha Interactive” (no links provided; after all, my goal here is to convince you to spend your money elsewhere).

This is old news, but I couldn’t resist the urge to yank his chain by reposting his threats and explaining his motive in making them.

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Adventures with NAV


It’s been about eighteen months since I bought my new car, a Lexus RX-300. It was basically a storage-and-comfort upgrade from my eight-year-old Camry, but what technophile could resist upgrading to the DVD-based GPS navigation system? Certainly not me.

It’s an interesting mix of pros and cons, features and limitations, but on the whole it’s proven to be both useful and entertaining.

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Custom RoboRally boards


I think everyone who ever played RoboRally has toyed with the idea of making their own boards. Indeed, a quick Google will turn up dozens of sites devoted to fan-made boards and editing tools. I tried using a few of them, but the tools were clumsy and the results uninspiring.

So I did it in Adobe Illustrator, and my first original board looks like this.

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