Sun, 22 Jan 2006


— SjG @ 11:28 pm

Angela Carter, 1987, Penguin Books

Reading a book by Angela Carter can be compared to having a dream where you are reading a book by Jeanette Winterson. Actually, that’s not strictly true. Carter’s books have a strong dream logic, but also a disturbing undercurrent of emotion that makes me, as the reader, feel like I’m tottering on the edge of sanity.

Love is no exception. Ostensibly a simple tale of a dysfunctional relationship, it is simultaneously detached and emotionally intense. It’s difficult to connect to the characters, and yet they are strangely compelling.

Dreamlike? Maybe it’s more like an unsettled awakening. Hours after putting the book down, I felt like I’d been wrested suddenly from a dream, which had quite evaporated except for a few shadows of inexplicable but profound dread that still flicker in the corners of my vision.

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Richard III

— SjG @ 11:12 pm

William Shakespeare, circa 1592, read as an eBook from

This is Shakespeare’s famed hatchet job on old Richard Three, conjuring him as an evil genius and unparalleled manipulator, who is brought down (unsurprisingly) by his own crimes.

The play made me think of Firdusi’s Satire on Mahmud, where he instructs the ruler on how it is the writers who create great heros — or, in this case, tear them down. I don’t care to speculate on the virtues of anyone who managed to claim the bloody and oft-contested throne of England; I have no doubt that any ill things said of them have more than a kernel of truth. But Firdusi’s claims have weight here. What I know of Richard III is based upon Shakespeare alone, and Shakespeare tells me that he was an evil, twisted man.

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Thu, 12 Jan 2006

sa-exim config tweak

— SjG @ 11:13 pm

This is probably obvious to everyone in the universe but me, but I was having a problem where my outbound email was being scanned by sa-exim, in addition to the desired scanning of incoming email.

The trick is in setting your SAEximRunCond in sa-exim.conf correctly. This is probably documented somewhere, but I totally missed it. In any case, assuming you want to skip scanning of email originating in your local network (e.g., IP address of and that you changed the secret SA-Do-Not-Run header’s name to SA-Do-Not-Think-Of-Running, you would use the following line in your sa-exim.conf:

SAEximRunCond: ${if and {{def:sender_host_address} {!eq {${mask:$sender_host_add
ress/24}}{}} {!eq {$h_X-SA-Do-Not-Think-Of-Running:}{Yes}} } {1}{0}}

Voila, outbound emails are no longer checked. Of course, if you are sending spam, please do not make the above change, but instead please swallow whole six to ten large, unpeeled pineapples.

Misquoting Jesus – The Story Behind Who Changed The Bible and Why

— SjG @ 12:34 am

Bart D. Ehrman, 2005, HarperSanFrancisco.

There are people who take the Bible to be the literal word of God, and then there are people who don’t. With the exception of some way-out whacked delusionals who believe that the King James translation is the literal, unaltered word of God (presented in Jesus’ Own English), both those groups have an interest in the history of the text itself.

Ehrman tells the story of how the text (specifically of the New Testament) has been altered through the course of the last few thousand years, and how scholars try to find what the original text read. It’s a fascinating problem, regardless of one’s religious beliefs. Even neglecting the fact that the Bible was part of an oral tradition before it was first written, the problems of propagation of unaltered information are many, and, coupled with translations between ancient Greek, Syriac, Aramaic, Latin, German, and English, are extreme.

This is not only a history of some of the major milestones in the translation of the Bible, but also a lightweight introduction to the techniques of textual criticism. The example blend in some critiques of the King James Bible, and also give something of a view into the early Christian world. Combined with Elaine Pagel’s book The Gnostic Gospels, I feel I’ve gotten a scholar’s glimpse of the early development of the Church.

As an aside, it seems that textual criticism has some of the greatest words. There’s hapax legemmenon, a word that is found only in a text (or the collected writings of an entire language), a word which Lisa had introduced me to. Ehrman adds “periblepsis occasioned by homoeoteleuton, which is the accidental skipping of a line when copying a text because two lines end similarly (and fool the scribe’s eye into thinking that the second line has already been copied). Phrases like this are sufficient reward for reading this book.

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Sat, 7 Jan 2006


— SjG @ 12:03 am

So, courtesy of the DWP, the Meier Quagg was without power for about 7.5 hours today. It’s not clear what was wrong. The other side of the street had power, as did several parallel streets nearby, but this side of Meier was out, as were patches of Venice like the Oakwood.
Anyway, when the power came back up, most of the servers came back with it. Intervention was required for the Golem, Pylonhead, and Sekhmet. Sekhmet was the worst. I only got the “LI” of LILO, which says that the /boot/boot.b file was bad, or the drive geometry was hosed.

So I tried my trusty Debian rescue disk. Typed rescue root=/dev/hda1 at the boot: prompt. The boot failed with a complaint that /dev/hda1 was an MSDOS partition. uh-oh… MSDOS?

Of course, it turns out that I was using the wrong rescue disk. I was using a Woody ISO, and I had upgraded the machine to Sarge — and EXT3, which evidently was not compiled into the rescue disk. When I finally tried the correct rescue disk, it came up neatly, repaired the journals, and gave me my precious root prompt.

I did the LILO replacement trick (lilo -u /dev/hda; lilo), popped out the CD, rebooted, and held my breath. Then I decided to breathe. It’s my second fastest server, but it’s still a four-plus-year-old Dell Optiplex. In any case, it came up cleanly and there was much rejoicing.

Now it’s just a matter of waiting for the mail secondary to forward on all the queued up spam.