All posts by rbowen

The Umbrage Industry

I heard the term “The Umbrage Industry” used recently, and now I can’t recall where that was. If you’re not familiar with the term Umbrage, it means, to put it simply, being offended. We, the people of the United States of America, have perfected the art of umbrage. We manage to get offended at anything, and we manage to see offence taken by people who are merely commenting.

I probably should not mention any names. You probably either know who I’m talking about, or you don’t. Dude, lighten up. If you can’t take a little constructive criticism, then don’t post your ideas in public places where the whole world can see them. Nobody is calling you a sh*thead, as you claim. And, unless this is something that is unique to your little corner of things, which, after all, came out of a big organization into a little one, not the other way around, nobody is abandoning trust.

You seem like a nice guy. I enjoyed meeting you, and I enjoyed talking to you, but you’ve got to quit acting like every issue is a matter of Good vs Evil, with you the sole defender of All That Is Right. It gets a little old. Some things are just matters of opinion, and there’s a chance, however slim it might be, that you’re not always right. Getting offended every time someone disagrees with you is a great way to get a stomach ulcer, but accomplishes precious little else.


The phrase was actually in a piece in Newsweek (or was it Time) that my Dad read to us on Christmas, about the ACLU furur surrounding Christmas. Here are some relevant links:

Kenya election

I managed to spend the entire day so far watching the Kenya elections. Which was made harder by the fact that information is extremely hard to come by, so I spent most of that time watching my own web site.

The results are unsurprising. Kibaki has somewhere around 65% of the vote, and seems sure to win, unless something surpassingly surprising happens in Rift Valley and the various other, smaller, districts that have not yet reported in. Counting could take as long as late tomorrow to be completed.

The most important things now seems to be:

How Kenyatta responds. If he challenges the vote, or hints at impropriety, it could spark discontent and violence. If he concedes gracefully, and offers his help and support to the transition, it could signal an era of cooperation and peace. So much is up to the reaction of this one young man, who has so little experience in politics it is really very alarming to watch.

How the transition is handled. Moi has set some very good first precedents, and we should be very grateful to him for that. He is removing himself gracefully from the scene, offering no resistance, or even nasty barbs, and has very publically said that he will step down gracefully when Kibaki wins. The period of transition can be handled cooperatively, giving the new government pointers they will need to do a good job, or it could be handled beligerently, setting the stage for a future in which nothing can be accomplished.

The makeup of Parliament. I am actually glad to see 25% of the seats going to KANU. If they were utterly removed from the scene, I actually think that it would cause a rockier transition, as there would be no tie to the past. Now, clearly, we want to distance ourselves from an unpleasant past, but completely severing that link would be dangerous, in that the new government is so inexperienced that it might make all the same mistakes that we are trying to distance ourselves from.

Communication. Things will not change in a day, or a month, or even a year, however well intentioned Kibaki and his government will be. It will take time. And communicating this to the people, and keeping them updated on progress in a completely open manner, will be crucial to reducing the frustration, and subsequent discontent and violence, that comes from a populace that expects immediate change and does not get it. Next week, and next month, and so on, there will still be high unemployment, high crime, high illiteracy, lots of corruption, street people, tribal unrest, and other results of the last 10 years of misrule (giving Moi and Kanu some credit, the first years of their rule were not so terrible), and these things will take lots and lots of time to overcome. In the best of situations, we’ll see these things changing immediately, but even then, it will take years before they are at the state that they were before 1986, let along making real progress.

God bless Africa. God bless Kenya.

Kenya elections

Well, in just a few hours, the polls will open in the most important election in Kenya’s history so far. Daniel Moi, president since 1978, will step down and let someone else have a shot. The numbers seem pretty clear, with Kibaki expected to take 55-60% of the vote, and Kenyatta taking about 35%, but who knows how accurate those polls are, and how much of a roll vote-buying and other corruption will play.

Ironically, now that it is almost over, I think I might actually finally believe Kenyatta’s claims that he would break from the former administration, and that Moi would not have influence over him. However, all along, people have believed that the opposite would be true – that Moi would still rule through Kenyatta, and that we would just have another few years of the same thing.

It will be interesting to see what Moi does – whether he actually retires to his country home to take it easy for a while, or whether he remains actively involved.

I pray for peace and calm. I’m concerned that, whoever wins, there will be violence in Nairobi, and that many people will be killed. I pray that the people can recognize the solemn importance of this, and that whoever wins, that the transition will be a smooth one, paving the way for a peaceful future. If this transition goes well, it will bode better for the next one, and the next one, and perhaps in a few decades, Kenya might be able to drag itself up out of the pit that it has sunk into over the last few decades.

I’m also concerned that people will expect immediate results, and that, in 6 months, when things are still terrible, that they will lose patience with Kibaki (or, I suppose it is still possible, Kenyatta) and demand something different. If people can be patient for a few years, perhaps things really will change. If not, Kenya might fall into the cycle of coups and bloodshed that has plagued so many other places.


She certainly needs it.

Tons ‘O Spam

I’ve started monitoring SpamAssassin via mrtg. (Google for spam and mrtg. Configuration information is 3rd or 4th on the list.) Turns out that 58% of all the email I have received in December has been spam. And that doesn’t count all the stuff that made it through the filters because it was not quite spammy enough for Spam Assassin, which would probably make it up to the 60% mark. This is really quite shocking. Email is still one of the primary uses of the internet infrustructure, and 60% of that traffic is complete poop.

I found it additionally interesting that my parents, who are normal internet users, and are not paranoid about filling out forms (or at least, not as paranoid as I am) with their real information, get nearly 3 times as much spam as I do.

root@buglet:/var/spool/mail# grep -ic "^to:.*[dad's address]" spam
root@buglet:/var/spool/mail# grep -ic "^to:.*[mom's address]" spam
root@buglet:/var/spool/mail# grep -ic "^to:.*[my address]" spam

That’s just today’s spam, which I’ve been redirecting off into a file for the purpose of stats.

Anyways, the actual graphs are uninteresting, as they chart total messages vs total spam for the month. They will saw-tooth at the beginning of each month when I rotate the log files

Backups? Bah, Humbug!

It appears that the CD-RWs that I’ve been using for nightly backups have *all* gone bad. I’m not sure how long it has been since I’ve had a good backup.

Note to self: Weekly restore tests.


Christmas wine selection

Chrisman Mill 2001 Mead (Kentucky) ($8 for a 375)
J Pinot Noir 1999 (Russian River) ($28)
Tohu Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, 2001 (New Zealand) ($18)

I am sure that other folks will spend a lot more on wine for Christmas, but, for me, this is a *major* splurge, so they better be good.

The Siege

I saw “The Siege” today. It’s kinda frightening that we spent millions of dollars giving folks ideas like this. But I suppose it was nothing particularly new, except that it was happening in NYC. Worth seeing, but very disturbing, considering what has happened since the movie was made.

2000 Concha y Toro Xplorador

Concha y Toro
Cabernet Sauvignon
Maipo Valley, Chile

Had this with spaghetti, good friends, and good conversation.

Made to drink young – it had some tannin, but I would not think that you would want to keep this much more than a year or two. At first, the tannin seemed pretty strong, but after just a few minutes in the glass, it was not particularly perceptible, which seemed odd to me.

A good peppery backbone, black currant and other dark berry flavors. A very slight unpleasant chemical taste in the finish – almost metalic. Fairly long finish. Deep burgundy color – very dark

Recommended, with food. Not so great by itself, but a great compliment to tomato-based foods, or beef.

Friendship, like fine wine

May friendship, like fine wine, improve as time advances.
And may we always have old wines, old friends, and young worries.

This is the toast that I usually give at annual gatherings of friends – at our annual (or, sometimes, twice-annual) meeting of Sams authors; at our new-years/Christmas dinner of some of my dear freinds, which I suppose may not happen this year; and at a few other select events.

This year, friendship, like fine wine, has shown some unexpected qualities. Some, which have been mediocre in the past, have proven themselves to be of enormous depth and value. Others, thought to be wonderful, have shown themselves to be plonk. Still others, cellared and forgotten for 10+ years, have been discovered and found surprisingly sweet, and that much of the cloudiness that was there before has settled out, leaving a sharp clarity.

So, enough analogy.

But, as Solomon said, woe to the man who falls down and does not have a friend to pick him up.

And, so, to my dear friends, old and new, thank you, and may you always have old wine and young worries.