January 1, 2004 (Thu)
I've started reading Iain Banks's new book, Raw Spirit, a nonfiction, semiautobiographical tale of a tour of Scotland's whisky distilleries. It's wonderful—everything you'd expect from one of Banks's novels combined with real life and sprinkled with interesting titbits of information about Banks himself.
I just stumbled across Fathom, an online archive of lectures, articles, interviews, exhibits and free seminars, hosted by Columbia University and with content from some big names (RAND, Science Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, and more).
In particular, they have a bunch of material on Victorian England.
January 20, 2004 (Tue)
I was hoping to be able to get LDAP working over the break, but it turns out that LDAP is so amazingly general that you can pretty much do anything you might want. Alas, that also means that there's not much in the way of useful information for just doing specific things. So I finally ended up shelving it until I manage to figure out what I need.
I also had vague hopes of getting Postfix running, and I didn't really even get to that. Not that there's anything wrong with our Sendmail installation, but Postfix seems to be a bit simpler, more secure, and maybe a bit cleaner. Sendmail still has a lot of cruft from the good old days, when it was able to connect systems using a myriad of protocols. All we really need to worry about these days is SMTP, so we don't need some of that complexity.
On the other hand, I did manage to get our server upgraded to a supported version of Red Hat Linux. I also got the web server shifted over to a new machine. I'm still not sure if I'm going to be sticking with Red Hat or not, but now I have until April before I have to worry about it again, and I should be able to keep going using Fedora Legacy for a while longer before I really need to make a decision.
I finished Banksie's Raw Spirit over the weekend, and managed to talk M into letting me buy a bottle of twelve-year-old Macallan single malt whisky. It's amazingly strong. I, of course, had to promise to drink it, and I imagine that by the time it's 24 years old I will probably have managed to do so.
No, it's not really that bad. Growing up in the States, though, I've clearly picked up the `slug it back” habit which can be dangerous with something as strong as whisky. We don't really have the right kind of glasses for whisky, so when I poured what seemed like a reasonable amount (about an ounce, I'd guess) I poured what was effectively a double. Sipping is the key. Small sips. Very small sips....
M, the Apple fanatic, bought herself a copy of the new iLife so she could get ahold of GarageBand, Apple's new application for creating music without really having to know what you're doing. She's put together a few songs, some of which are quite good. The problem, of course, is that getting something that sounds okay is remarkably easy, whereas getting something that sounds really good is tough, and potentially requires hours of tinkering and fiddling. It's like a SimCity for wannabe musicians.
If you're not happy with Apple's loops, you can create your own by recording real instruments or playing bits into the application with a MIDI controller. I'm amazed by the fact that you can now buy a keyboard with velocity sensitivity for $100, which is a damn sight cheaper than the $600 or so I paid for a Korg Poly-800 (so called because it could play eight notes simultaneously!) back in the early 80s.
Saturday night, we saw Monster, in which Charlize Theron gives an amazing performance as the serial killer Aileen Wuornos. The film is definitely slanted in Wuornos's favor, at least based on CourtTV's story about her. Of course you probably can't entirely believe CourtTV's account, either.
PBS has had some good programming on for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, including a three-hour American Experience on the Reconstruction period, making the argument that while the Confederacy may have lost the Civil War, they won Reconstruction, prolonging the racism and related bullshit that was only addressed with the civil rights legislation finally passed in the 1960s.
I was pretty disgusted by the whole thing. I'm not a big fan of the south, and especially not of the whole “south will rise again” yahoo, rebel, racist bullshit that still seems to rule down there. It's clear that Lincoln's assassination led to the North missing its chance to really clean house and maybe make a difference in attitude and power in the south in the 1860s and 1870s. Unfortunately, it's not necessarily the case that fundamental forced change would have worked, either. Freeing the slaves was more of a harassing tactic than a considered choice, and once the war was over, the U.S. government seemed to have as little regard for the former slaves as the Confederacy—maybe even less, as the Confederacy's elite were dependent on their slaves for economic survival. Well-meaning policies were overturned in the rush to reconcile the white South with the white North, and blacks trying to put together their own communities on land given to them by military dictates found their attempts undermined by the return of southern aristocrats waving presidential pardons and with the full force of the U.S. Army behind their demands.
The United States was based on a fundamentally flawed agreement to pretend the slavery issue didn't exist, and, as far as I can see, that flaw still runs clear and true through American society. I don't know what can repair it once and for all, but whatever it may be, we're a long way from implementing it.
As I've gotten older, I've found myself getting more and more interested in history. I continue to be amazed by the often dramatic differences between “real” history and the version of history they teach in grade school.