mdorman is currently certified at Journeyer level.

Name: Michael Alan Dorman
Member since: 2000-04-28 18:47:07
Last Login: N/A

FOAF RDF Share This


Freelance geek, Debian maintainer, Perl Hacker, guitarist, painter, bottomless well of useless factoids.


Recent blog entries by mdorman

Syndication: RSS 2.0

Quite a day

I haven't been peripherally involved in a terrorist attack in nearly twenty years.

That time I was in a school bus outside of Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, sitting for several hours because a car-bomb had gone off in front of Headquarters USAFE (United States Allied Forces Europe). I was twelve.

For the next five years every day my school bus stopped at the gate to the base, and a dour looking armed military policeman would enter at the front of the bus, walk down the aisle, and exit at the rear of the bus.

This time I was in a plane bound for Minneapolis, MN, to catch a flight from there to San Jose, CA to do a week and a bit of on-site time for the company I contract with---a trip I make roughly once a month.

The captain had just gotten off the intercom saying we were about an hour out of Minneapolis ten minutes before when we obviously started to descent, and the captain came back on and told the passengers that we were being grounded in Milwaukee, something had happened at the World Trade Center. I couldn't imagine what difference a bomb at the world trade center could make to our flight---at least, what could warrant making an early landing.

The first call I made was to my father, the ex-Air Force back-seater to find out what happened---but I wasn't able to complete the call, and when I heard something about a plane hitting the WTC, and I called my wife and left her a message that I was OK, still thinking that it was some sort of air traffic control problem. So I called my father back, and that's when he told me what all had happened.

I don't think I knew anyone who was hurt or killed. My sister's parents-in-law both work in the Pentagon, but they were OK. I don't have any real ties with anyone in NY. I guess in a way I escaped unscathed.

While I feel badly for the people who died, and the people who were hurt, I have to wonder, though, what possible response we can make that isn't just going to continue the odious cycle of hatred and death.

2 Aug 2001 (updated 10 Sep 2001 at 15:00 UTC) »


Wow, more than a year. Must do this more often

I'm out in California right now, on-site at the company I work for, which means I'm working like a fscking dog, days, nights and weekends. This has been the story of my life for the last few months---I actually spent more time away from home than I did at home during April, May and June.

However, I've had a bit of a respite this month (I'm only out once, and that for just one week), and I'm actually looking forward to next month, when it looks like I'll be able to arrange my time out here to overlap with LinuxWorld Expo, which means I'll be able to meet a lot more Debian developers---for instance, it looks like Wichert is going to be out here (as, presumably, is Robert van der Meulen, who's diary entry that is).

It's funny, but when I first met a bunch of Debian people in the flesh a few months ago, it came out that I was probably one of the longest-running still (ostensibly) active developers around. Wierd.

Got up at 5:30am, went out and walked for an hour. Better than coffee.

The Joy Of Being An Independent Consultant

For the last two days, I spent a fair portion of the day writing an email to the people I'm working for, explaining why I thought the software they had selected to run their corporate web server (Netscape Enterprise Server) was poorly matched to their desires (to run a dynamic corporate site for a .COM).

This is not my idea of fun. Nevertheless, I've spent the better part of a week reading the documentation on Enterprise Server, and Server-Side JavaScript, while perfectly adequate for many things, doesn't have the facilities that you can get from Apache + any number of extensions.

And the only other options are CGI (not even really worth mentioning) and Java Servlets---which I don't have an intrinsic problem with, but the lack of a community building free frameworks drives development time up, and makes this unattractive for what is supposed to be a fast-changing easy-to-maintain marketing-oriented web site.

So, I wrote the email It may cost me the contract, but if I had been told that I was going to have to use these tools before starting the contract, I might not have. Life is too short to fight against tools that aren't suited to the task you need to accomplish.

And who knows, maybe they'll agree with me...


I went to my first baseball game ever last night.

I think the thing that I like about baseball the most is that it so obviously rejects the change in the pace of life that has dramaitically reshaped our society in the last five or six decades.

Baseball doesn't have a set length---there is no play clock or time limits on inings. There is remarkably little violence, at least since Ty Cobb died (although the catcher did once look like he got nailed in an indelicate spot). And at least in the minor leagues (as we have here in Durham), the point for the players seems to be the game.


After more than a decade on the Internet, in the last two weeks, I've actually spent a fair amount of time on IRC.

I'm not sure it's worth it. While hanging around #debian-devel has been interesting (and has given me a much better picture of some of my fellow developers), I'm not sure it's all that good a use of my time.

Perhaps I'll give it another week or two.

I had this great ambition of doing this daily, but, well, I probably wont. Once a week at least, though.

Lifestyle Commentary

  • Olive oil
  • Slightly more onion than you think wise, chopped really fine
  • Lots of sun-dried tomatos, cut really fine
  • Tons of garlic
  • A bottle of wine, doesn't matter what color
  • A can of diced tomatos, unless you're cool enough to have good fresh ones on hand, and the time to skin, seed and chop them. If you do, kudos, if not, Muir Glen does mighty fine

Turn the burner on high. Yes, high. Well, if your burner gets really hot on high, go for medium-high, but don't be a wimp. Take a drink of the wine---if you won't drink it, why the fsck are you cooking with it? Wait a minute, put in the olive oil, let that heat until you can see the ripples below the surface, and then add the onions. Stir constantly. When the onions start to get translucent, dump in the garlic and the sun dried tomatos. Stir for a minute or two seconds, then start putting wine in, about 2T at a time, letting it cook back down before adding more. Add the tomatos, stir thoroughly for a minute or two, then reduce the heat to low, and keep stirring until it's obvious that you're not likely to let things burn. Put a top on the pot and go watch South Park stirring occasionally. Serve with your favorite pasta.

Traditional? Hell, no. But that doesn't matter---you just spent ten minutes making sauce that's a billion times better than anything that has ever seen the inside of a jar or can. Wasn't it worth it?


My reading for the last couple of weeks has been Allison Weir's histories of Tudor England (well that and a book on consulting contracts), The Six Wives of Henry VIII, The Children of Henry VIII and I just started The Life of Elizabeth I. I've already read another biography of Elizabeth, originally published in 1932---amusingly, a second edition was put out in 1950 so they could emend the title to read Elizabeth I, rather than Elizabeth. Which further made me realize that Elizabeth II has reigned longer than her namesake.

Anyone who thinks politics today is just one step above mud wrestling for fulfilling the purpose of government, please read some history. If anyone feels disenfranchised, likewise. This is nothing.

If you read about Elizabeth, you may also come out amazed at this woman's capacity.

Another possibility, if you want to be really depressed, is Richard Pipes' The Russian Revolution.

Would you like to know the secret of Lenin's success?

Spend life carelessly. Kill anyone who shows the slightest hint of opposition, without morals or conscience.

Abusing Amazon

I wonder how much it hurts Amazon that I use them as an excellent way to look up books, but never buy from them (and I'll buy a couple of hundred dollars in books each month).

DVD hypocracy in the ranks

Why is is that so many people who're so up in arms about the DeCSS lawsuit also seemed really disappointed that The Phantom Menace isn't coming to DVD? I mean, certainly you wouldn't do anything to support the people who are bringing bullshit frivolous lawsuits against innocent coders, would you?


Of course, this just supports an old theory that sprang out of some bull-session in college---that people have never really been better, and people have never really been worse. Only circumstances change.

The obvious conclusion, if you look around for more than five minutes, is that People Are Just No Damn Good.

I wonder how liw will make of that statement?

Sorry aj

Didn't mean to disappoint you.


The secret to arguing: don't.

This comes in part from a political theory class I took in college (yes, my degree's in Political Science, but I took more credits in the English department, and I work in the computer industry. Go figure). The professor, Dr. Pound, at the beginning of the course proclaimed that he had, "never taught a student anything except perhaps a better vocabulary with which to express his or her pre-conceived notions."

And it's true. You'll never convince anybody of anything they are strongly opposed to. You'll just rant and rave and piss everyone else off.

SO DONT! Sure, bring the matter up, but be calm, and reasonable, and try not to write everything so that someone taking the other side of the issue can't address the question without self-incrimination ("Have you stopped beating your wife?").

And, as when you're purchasing a car, you had better be prepared to walk. Sorry, but it's as simple as that. If being reasonable doesn't get you the satisfaction you're looking for---and you might be suprised, sometimes people apologize if you don't immediately harangue them---then you need to decide whether the issue is important enough to you to use the only real card you have available: leave. Express your disappointment and get out of there. It's the flip side of volunteering---when things get bad enough, there's nothing to keep you.

Anything else is unhealthy and unproductive. Quit trying to be right, and try to make things work, and if you can't, get out.

Alex Chilton

Caught the last 20 minutes of Fresh Air on NPR the other day, and I was amazed to find that they were talking with Alex Chilton.

Alex Chilton has been a cult favorite for 30 years, ever since the first Big Star album---perhaps only because of the first two Big Star albums. If you've seen That 70's Show, well he wrote the title song---although that particular rendition is Cheap Trick.

Several friends and I lived on Big Star for quite some time during college. It isn't perfect---some of the tracks are terrifyingly early 70's---too many strings, too much earnestness---but some of it is gold. Oh My Soul is a perfect pop song.

I also got to see Alex play once. Even gave him a cigarette. And My Friend Chet got him to play Proud Mary out of the blue---in part because at this point, he wasn't taking requests for old Big Star tunes.

Anyway, go fire up Napster and see if you can find some Big Star. Go! Do It!

And then, if you like it, BUY THE DAMN ALBUM, because if you don't you're working against your own damn interests---artists have to make a living, too, and if you don't pay them, eventually they will stop producing. Why do so many people have problems with this simple economic principle, much less the moral principle of not stealing that which the owner doesn't wish to give away?

Damnit, if you don't respect Metallica's right to claim ownership of its music, how can you expect anyone to respect the copyrights that form the bedrock of the GPL? Just because you don't like the license, or find it inconvenient, doesn't mean you can ignore it, just like we expect nVidia and Be and others to respect the GPL even though it's inconvenient for them.


Finally, Red Rock Eater.

If you don't know who Phil Agre is, well, let's just say he's damn smart, and he has a mailing list.

Although he started as a geek at MIT, he has since moved to UCLA, doing cross-discipline work on a topics concerning technology's effect on society. He also has a legion of people sending him interesting stuff.

Apropos of Nothing: Why I don't like ESR

I was going through my enormous email archive a couple of weeks ago, and it dredged up some old memories for me

Several years ago, I maintained ncurses for Debian---this was around the time 3.4 was supposed to be coming out---before the incident that finally made me give it away.

ESR and Tom Dickey---who, to all appearances, had been doing most of the subtantive work for quite some time, with ESR keeping the terminfo stuff up to date (and spelling my name wrong in the file) and doing the occasional fix---had a big disagreement about something. ESR claimed that Tom was hijacking the project, yadda, yadda, yadda. So what, right? This sort of shit happens.

But I will never forget the glee with which ESR pointed out that because of the license, Tom Dickey no longer owned his own code, it all belonged to him [ESR], and there was nothing he [Tom Dickey] can do about it.

That's not Free Software, and I've not really trusted ESR since.

1 older entry...


mdorman certified others as follows:

  • mdorman certified jwb as Journeyer
  • mdorman certified mdorman as Apprentice
  • mdorman certified drow as Journeyer
  • mdorman certified branden as Journeyer
  • mdorman certified chip as Master
  • mdorman certified bfulgham as Journeyer
  • mdorman certified dmz as Apprentice

Others have certified mdorman as follows:

  • mdorman certified mdorman as Apprentice
  • bribass certified mdorman as Journeyer
  • joey certified mdorman as Journeyer
  • ajt certified mdorman as Journeyer
  • davidw certified mdorman as Journeyer
  • drow certified mdorman as Journeyer
  • Joy certified mdorman as Journeyer
  • andrei certified mdorman as Journeyer
  • cdent certified mdorman as Journeyer
  • wichert certified mdorman as Journeyer
  • jpick certified mdorman as Journeyer
  • bfulgham certified mdorman as Journeyer
  • psg certified mdorman as Journeyer
  • mdz certified mdorman as Journeyer
  • fxn certified mdorman as Journeyer

[ Certification disabled because you're not logged in. ]

New Advogato Features

New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.

Keep up with the latest Advogato features by reading the Advogato status blog.

If you're a C programmer with some spare time, take a look at the mod_virgule project page and help us with one of the tasks on the ToDo list!

Share this page