Friday, December 28, 2007

7 Hours at Sea-Tac on New years Eve

So, on New Years Eve, due to the vagaries of modern air travel, the family will be spending seven hours at Sea-Tac waiting for the second leg of our trip home.

For me, this is usually not an issue, as I can huddle up in a corner with my wireless connection and while away the hours with work and general interest. However, we will be a one laptop family, and my children need to be entertained.

Likely at least an hour of the trip will be handled by immigration as they subject us to the joys of entry with our Advanced Parole documents. It's now harder for us to get into the US via air as late process Green Card applicants than it is if we were simply visiting the country.

After that, who knows.

Does anyone out there in blog land have any great suggestions for entertaining a family for seven hours at an airport?

Monday, December 24, 2007

There is a 12-step program to help even you...

I am often chided for my 5-shot, Venti Latte.

Then I saw this.

Yup, it's a "a 13 shot Venti soy hazelnut vanilla cinnamon white mocha with extra white mocha and caramel".

Lord help this person when they wake up in the alley behind Starbucks on Christmas Day.

Original image from Core77.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

So you think you're getting a better deal...

Landed in the US on a one-day business trip today. The family is enjoying Christmas with the grandparents in Victoria, BC, and I need to work remotely to cover the time.

I flew into Seattle for a one-day trip, with my brand-new Advanced Parole documents. Figured it would be speedy.

90 minutes later, they let someone who has gone through a number of security checks and other body scans into the US.

Have to wonder what people from other countries have to go through.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Fingerprints and Pictures. Big Morning in Boston

This morning we dragged the family out of bed at a ridiculous hour for an adventure into downtown Boston.

It was a big day in the Green Card Process: We were off to get fingerprinted and have our pictures taken. This is a big step, as we can now be cross-referenced against all of the major security databases to verify whether we are criminals or not.

However, the biggest step came about 10 days ago when we got our Advanced Parole documents.

For those of you who have managed to avoid this happy process, an Advanced Parole document is a document that states that I have the rights and privileges of a Green Card holder, but I am on double-secret probation.

The other big deal with this is that I can take on contract work, and Samantha can get a job if she so desires.

Our fortunes may be looking up?

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Cyber Monday: Tiger Direct today's victim

Want to follow all the Holiday Retail Fun? Check out the GrabPERF Black Friday Dashboard! Follow the Web performance of your favorite retailer all the time!

New and updated for 2008!

This morning, Tiger Direct effectively imploded.


Bad day.

UPDATE: Looks like they found the solution to their problem.


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Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday: Sears

Today's biggest victim of Black Friday appears to be Sears


Sears measurement data for the last 8 hours can be found here.

UPDATE: It gets worse for Sears.


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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Off to...Columbus?

Ok, for my birthday (November 14), I am going to Columbus, OH.

Could be worse.

Couldn't it?

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Monday, November 5, 2007 Outage, a service which also provides free Web performance measurement services, appears to be having a wee problem.

The most recent GrabPERF data on this site is available here. The issue may be corrected by the time you look at the data.

I don't wish suffering like this on anyone. GrabPERF had it's own 3-4 day outage a few months ago. It's just sad to see when monitoring services go down.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Larry. To hell with them all. Elect Larry.

I am a sucker for dogs.

It's pretty much a global statement. Ok, excluding genetic freaks that appear on the arms of Paris Hilton and ladies who lunch.

However, the rule is: the goofier the dog, the better.

Samantha and I use the laugh factor when selecting our dogs. If we see the dog, and it makes us laugh, we take it. That's how we ended up with Wiggles, the Damnation Hound (Half Basset, Half Dalmatian).

Well, I have met my Dream Dog. Meet Larry.

You can see a LOT more of Larry here.

The best times on a business trip...

Part of the problem with making a lot of East to West trips across the US is that the flights back are a nightmare for timing. You either lose most of a day or have to take a red-eye.

Well, taking the red-eye has only one advantage: you get to camp in the airline lounge and get some work done that you have been too tired/jetlagged to deal with.

I am in the United Red Carpet Lounge. It is 18:33 PDT, and my flight boards at 22:00 PDT. I have been here since 15:00 PDT. I have caught up with a client project, completed my (dreaded) weekly timesheet, booked accommodation for my Columbus, OH trip, and tidied up an analysis script that I use to process client measurement data.

Seems odd that this is the most productive time of the week.

This trip is a 48-hour turnaround from Boston to LA to finish up the project for a large client. The first half was handled by some colleagues, and was detailed here.

Then,when I get home, I have to go to NYC (Long Island City actually) for the day on Monday. And, as I mentioned above, Columbus which is set for the middle of the month.

Compared to some jet-setters out there, this is nothing. But I travelled so much between August 15 and November 15 that I went from 2,000 miles on United to well into Premier (24,000+ miles). This trip makes the fourth cross-country trip in 2.5 months. Not bad for a homebody.

I have three more hours. Think I will sit back and watch Trois Couleurs: Blanc.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Unwanted Windows Live Weather Alerts

We got Samantha a new T-Mobile cell a few weeks back. But it came with an unwanted and expensive feature: every morning at 11:00, she receives a weather update from Windows Live Alerts.

Apparently the previous owner of the number had these alerts programmed. And of course, there is no way to shut them off because we have no clue who this person is/was.

If anyone out there from the Windows Live team or the T-Mobile support team can try and help us, it would be very much appreciated.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Email returns

All mail to addresses should be working now. I moved to a new registrar.

If they work out, I will be migrating away from Namesecure.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mail to

If you have been trying to send me stuff at my personal email address, it seems that has decided to take it's sweet time setting up my new email services.

Right now, if you try and send mail, the MX record reports that there is an NXDOMAIN.

I am not happy.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Safety? We don't need Safety! We have NASA!

Apparently our friends at NASA are sitting on a report that clearly details the true state of air safety in the United States.

NASA Sits on Air Safety Survey

I want this report, NOW!

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Travelling with Bill

My colleague Roger went on his first business road trip last week.

It was from hell. He spent some time detailing the whole hellish experience here.

On November 14-15, I am travelling with Roger to Columbus, OH. I have promised to make it a much more...enjoyable experience.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dear Sprint (PCS): You suck!

Samantha's second Samsung A560 died last week, so I got mad and called Sprint to try and get out of the contract. No way -- a kidney and my eldest child is the only way to get out of this deal with the devil.

So, until March 2008, the phone will be powered down and stuck in a drawer. We will grudgingly pay the bill, knowing that we can then tell them to take a long walk off a short pier and not re-subscribe.

On Sunday, we added Samantha to my T-Mobile plan and she now has several fine phones to choose from out of my existing collection. I really don't see us going back to a CDMA service...ever.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Rizr Mod -- Debranding and Speed

Got my T-Mobile Rizr Z3 unlocked yesterday and it is now running the stock Z3 Software...looks like for Malaysia! :-)

I hated all the extras that came with the T-Mobile Software. Now, I am happy.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

GSM Phones are my weakness...

I have a problem: I like to collect GSM phones. Right now, I have seven.

"Hi, my name is Stephen, and I have a problem"

From left to right.

  • MOTOSLVR L7i (current phone in use)
  • Motorola V188 (running V220 software)
  • Sony Ericsson K700i
  • Nokia of some description
  • Samsung T619


Thursday, September 20, 2007

GrabPERF Return to Service

GrabPERF returned to service at approximately 17:30 GMT (13:30 EDT -- 10:30 PDT) September 20 2007. The database server was on all night, but an esoteric choice of primary interfaces (i.e. the least obvious one!) meant that it was taking to empty space.

Have fun and enjoy the data!

Where there's smoke, there's poor fireplace design

The boys wanted a fire last night, so we fired up a pressed log, and all was well.

This morning, Samantha prepared the fireplace for a repeat tonight. We kept smelling the remnants of last nights fire smoldering, so we just lit the thing.

Guess the logs were lined up wrong.

Living Room full of smoke, billowing out the front of the fireplace.

I love home ownership.

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1 for 1

This morning, the Canadian Dollar was briefly worth more than the US Dollar on international money markets.

Skating on the River Styx, anyone?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

GrabPERF Datacenter Move

GrabPERF has been offline all day, and will likely be offline for the remainder of the day as Technorati relocates the servers to their new datacenter.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Boston Globe: "Why Facebook went West"

In today's Boston Globe, there is an article discussing why Facebook went to the Valley instead of staying in the Boston area (article online).

Having now lived in both areas for nearly equal amounts of time, I can tell you that there are substantial differences between them. People from Boston may violently disagree, but I have found that the innovative spirit of the Valley, the one that drove the creation of the commercial Internet, does not exist here.

I am, however, someone who now laughs at the insular culture of the Valley, a place that still considers itself the center of the Internet innovation universe. I had a chance to meet with a growing Internet firm while I was out there on business last week (not Technorati), and I found the hubris and ego in the meeting that I attended laughable.

I was not laughing at this firm's success, which has been great. I was laughing at the fact that the mid-level managers that we met with had the gall to effectively state that having their name on our customer list entitled (and yes, entitlement is also a large part of the culture) them to demand a deal that none of our customers get.

I can't be sure what the sales guy I went with thought, but I left the meetings laughing. This company, which is younger than my youngest son, thought it had more pull with us than the multi-hundred billion financial firms we deal with daily. Thought that it had more pull than the large, first-generation Internet companies that we work closely with.

Yes, Boston does not generally fund and encourage a culture of innovation (yes, there are always exceptions). But those who seek to take the next great idea to the Internet should beware the hubris of the Valley.

Monday, August 27, 2007

GrabPERF: Met with the Technorati Team

Had an on-site meeting with Dorion Carroll and the Technorati team. We discussed some ways to extend and expand the GrabPERF infrastructure, and improve the measurement gathering.

Look for changes in the next 6 months that could radically improve the system you know and love!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

IP Registry Statistics - August 2007

My system has a daily job to collect and aggregate the IP Blocks distributed by the five registrars into a single database, and then provide high-level WHOIS information for this data. If you want to try this yourself, the interface here.

On an extremely irregular basis, I aggregate the statistics from this data, and present it to the masses for the examination. I might actually automate this data someday!

So, for August 2007 (as of August 21, 2007), here are the aggregated IP distribution statistics broken down by registrar and country.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

State of the GrabPERF Update -- August 2007

It has been at least a year since I last updated everyone on the state of GrabPERF. That's because for most of the last year, the system has been rolling along without a hitch or a major systemic change. The last major change to the agent code was alomost exactly a year ago, when I added the ability to capture text matches.

It wasn't until last week, however, that I allowed folks to be able to see the results of these text match failures. Let's just say that motivation has been low and my real job has been keeping me busy.

I did want to share the growth, and mellowing of the system as it progresses into year three.


Total Measurements Per Day


Unique Tests Measured Per Day

Back in July 2005 when I started this grand experiment, I was gathering 10,000 measurements a day from less than forty tests. The system spiked at 390,000 measurements per day (April 2006) and 147 tests (June 2006).

Starting just after that, I started reducing the number of tests to improve system efficiency, and began developing the text match capability.

There have been some changes to the number of measurements, but on the whole, the system has been completely stable for the last 12 months.

As some of you may have noted, I have add some new features in the last 10 days, and re-organized the structure of the system to allow for better tracking of usage. Over the next few months, I will be attacking the code to make it process things more efficiently, but not substantially change the appearance or functionality of GrabPERF.

It has been noted by some commentators that the design doesn't pop and sizzle. No AJAX, DHTML, or other flashy gizmos. Guess what? The system is designed to deliver data efficiently and effectively. And as someone who has seen the performance fall-out from badly delivered Web 2.0 implementations, I will stick with clunky and effective, as, in the end, you gotta put all those bytes on the wire.

For those that have stuck with the system over the last year, thanks. I enjoy delivering the best measurement data money can't buy, and hope you stick around for the ride.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

GrabPERF: Content! Watch your content!

Last night, I got motivated.

Ok, I got manic. Goes with my life.

As a part of that mania, I had a breakthrough on how to present GrabPERF data that I've actually been collecting for nearly a year: text match failures.

GrabPERF has the ability to match text on page results using a standard PERL regex. By putting a regex into the measurement configuration, I can confirm that the data downloaded matches what should be there.

If there is not a match, the headers and page text are captured and inserted into a table. Up until yesterday, I was the only one who could view the data. Now, if you go to the graph configuration page ([insert test id here]), and see the following type of result, then click through the links.


If your graph configuration page says no text match configured, and you want one, let me know!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

GrabPERF: Ads Gone

As a part of the reworking of the GrabPERF code, I removed the Google ads from all pages. They were an annoyance, and displayed items were incredibly irrelevant for the site.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

GrabPERF: Substantial Navigation Changes

If you use GrabPERF on a regular basis, the somewhat flaky navigation method has become second nature to you. In fact, to circumvent some of the idiosyncrasies, you have probably bookmarked your favourite pages.

Yesterday, I broke your links.

When I redesigned GrabPERF in February 2006, I had just discover the require function in PHP, and decided to build the entire the structure using a single container page as the framework, and individual functions called using URL parameters.

As time went on, my own "brilliance" started to get in the way of maintaining and updating the code. It took me 10-15 minutes to figure out how I constructed pages, and then find the right code to fix or update.

Yesterday, I got completely fed up with this structure.

Now, all functions have their own unique pages, making maintenance a snap. And as an added benefit, I can now effectively track the usage of individual pages, so I know where to through development efforts.

Some of the changes.




I apologize for the confusion that this may cause, but in the long run, this will help me make the code better, and more robust.

Friday, August 3, 2007

YSlow: Cool idea, performance inhibitor

So, a colleague of mine told me about the YSlow plugin for Firebug yesterday. I had a look at it and it does do an amazing job of analyzing Web pages according to Steve Souders performance rules.

The only hitch in the get-along: a number of pages I visited when the plugin was activated were effectively unusable for up to a minute, presumably as YSlow analyzed them.

Great idea, all Web developers whould use it to put me out of a job. But the overall performance of the plugin will need to be improved before I re-install it.
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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Tour de France, EXTREME EDITION!

A colleague of mine suggested that the Tour de France give up all pretense of being drug free, and embrace the performance-enhancing image it has developed so carefully over the last quarter century.

His idea was to have the racing teams sponsored by the major pharmaceutical firms, pitting one performance-enhancing approach against another, in a competition to demonstrate not the strength of the human spirit, but the power to manipulate the human body.

Samantha further suggested that they then abandon all of the rules that make the race civilized, and turn it into a free-for-all, a Tour de France, EXTREME EDITION!

That would get the le tour on Spike.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

GREEN CARD: Run in circles, scream and shout

Well, now that I'm certified, the slope gets slippery very quickly.

We have until early August to get all of our docs to the lawyers before the August 17 deadline.

Many calls, pictures, doctors appointments, and huge expense.

Going to be a fun month.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Green Card: I'm Certified

Well folks, I got the good news last night: I am Department of Labor Certified.

This means that I can now actually apply for a Green Card.

Oh yeah, and based on some of the other happenings in the world of US Immigration (here and here), I am part of the group that is either going to be royally screwed over, or be part of some sort of general amnesty due to political manipulation and greed entering into the process.

Could be a fun month.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

USCIS, Green Cards, and Greed: Your (United States Federal) Government at Work

It seems that more than the usual immigration backlog reduction process has been at work in the USCIS. There are two likely scenarios that appear to be running around immigration circles these days, regarding the Green Card slot tease that has turned into such a furore.

The first is that the Department of State, which issues the Visas, was pressuring the USCIS to fill the Fiscal 2007 Green Card quota, something that has happened rarely in the last few years. What most people in the US don't know is that most years, thousands of eligible Green Card slots simply disappear because the applications can't be processed fast enough by the USCIS.

Recent events have highlighted this, and the Department of State may have applied pressure to USCIS to completely exhaust the 2007 pool, to avoid the embarrassment of having to explain to Congress why they can't process applications faster.

The second reason is greed: as of August 1 2007, the government fees for Green card applications increases massively. For a family of four, the cost will increase by $2,500. So, by not allowing the flood of applications from all of those expectant people, they have guaranteed themselves a higher revenue stream for next year.

All things considered, the whole event smells.

Now, for the long-term affect on skilled immigrants, Microsoft has set the trend by announcing that it will be moving development over the border to Canada [here]. As a country with a skills-based immigration policy, highly-trained technical professionals feel welcomed and wanted in Canada, something that is not the case with the archaic and glacial immigration policy of the United States.

In the next 5-10 years, US companies will face a serious inability to recruit employees from anywhere other than the United States. Skilled professionals will simply not come to a country that actively discourages them from staying permanently and making a contribution.

The US policy policy will be a boon to Canada, Ireland, and other countries who actively seek and encourage skilled professional immigrants.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

GREEN CARD: USCIS is apparently in deep trouble

I have been reading Greg Siskind's blog, and he has many articles on the growing hue and cry over the USCIS Visa debacle. [here and here, as examples]

Based on everything I have read, I might benefit from this scam. However, it makes me ill to think that a group of bureaucrats broke their own rules in order to boost their Visa acceptance rate, which is what it sounds like.

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GREEN CARD: "It's no fun, being a legal alien"

As many readers know, I am going through the process -- if you call filing a bunch of paperwork and not hearing anything for 2 years a process -- of obtaining Permanent Residency in the United States, often referred to as the Green Card.

This morning, on NPR, there was a story about a foul-up in the processing of Green Cards that is suspicious, to say the least.

I have started referring to this process as the Dream Card because it leaves one thinking that the application they completed was done in a dream, a long time ago. An like most dreams, it is a fable of the subconscious mind and as likely to come true as those blue, flying penguins in my dream last night.

The degree of complexity that accompanies the application process has made bureaucrats from the Byzantine Empire write letters of complaint to their members of Congress, saying that the USCIS is giving them a bad name. Kafka has been seen rising from the dead at night, and penning a new tale based on this experience.

Other people covering this story.

NY Times
The Guardian
Times Of India
Miami Herald
San Jose Mercury News
Sacramento Bee Editorial

A few media outlets have grabbed this story as an example of just how broken the US system is when it comes to immigration, especially given the irony of the recent debate over the immigration bill that was tossed out of Congress. How could the immigration system have hoped to deal with the new regulations, if thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of valid visas go unused every year, due to government inefficiency.

Why would an illegal immigrant bother to go through a legal process that punishes the very people who are taking the time to follow the rules?

I would raise my voice in protest; but it would do no good. Drawing a pool of highly skilled, well compensated indentured servants from around the world to these shores to keep the wheels of innovation and development rolling appears to have become the American way.

And like indentured servants everywhere, we are a disposable commodity, to be teased by the promise that some day, we could, we might, just maybe be able to live here (and still not be able to vote) as Permanent Residents.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

And poof! In a puff of smoke, it was gone.

When I got home today, Samantha pointed to her computer and said it wouldn't go. And it won't

Dead. Deceased. Demised.

Likely a dead motherboard, and on a Dell, it's not worth repairing. Now good for spare parts.

New refurb from Dell on the way.


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Friday, July 6, 2007

GrabPERF: Yahoo issues today

Netcraft noted that Yahoo encountered a bit of a headache today. So I fired up my handy-dandy little performance system and had a look.

yahoo issues july 06 2007

Although for an organization and infrastructure the size of Yahoo's this may have been a big event, in my experience, this was a "stuff happens on the Internet" sort of thing.

Move along people; there's nothing to see. It is not the apocalyptic event that Netcraft is making it out to be. Google burps and barfs all the time, and everyone grumbles. But there is no need to run in circles and scream and shout.


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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Happy Canada Day, 2007

It's July 1, meaning that it's time for Canadians around the world have launched into their recently re-invigorated day of jingoistic pride. Living next door to the definition of jingoistic pride has set the bar pretty high, but based on the last couple of trips north, great strides have been made since we left our home country in 1999.

This morning, the Canadian flag is flying outside Giant Birch Manor. The one day a year I risk offending my neighbours in a demonstration of my national pride.

In some ways, Canada Day serves as the start of my new year, just as much as the start of the school year in August/September does. It divides the year in half, and provides a celebratory marker when the weather is likely good enough to have a good party.

I had a look back to see what I posted on July 1 last year, and found that the only post was one related to GrabPERF, announcing the termination of the PubSub measurements, as that company was in the midst of its death throes.

Over the last year, I have seen significant personal upheavals and changes, most notably the diagnosis of my mental condition as Bipolar 1. After talking with some people I know who also suffer from this disorder, I realize that I have a very mild form of it, but even in its mildest forms, it can be crippling. I can say that having access to better medication (I AM PAXIL FREE!), and the world's best therapist, I have come a long way in understanding what in this life I can and cannot change.

Watching the red and white flag fluttering in the morning breeze, I realize that there are days that I really miss Canada, and all of its foibles and unique cultural issues. But for now, I live where I am, and I have come to accept that, even with all of its uncertainty (still no closer to my Dream Green Card).

So, I wish you all a Happy Canada Day, wherever you raise your maple leaf.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Gizmo: One more advantage -- slow connection performance

This morning, I noticed that Gizmo has one more advantage over Skype: substantially better performance over slower/less optimal WiFi connections.

Skype is slowly getting the can from me. Sorry kids.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Dog Friendly Hotel: Comfort Inn -- Syracuse Airport

Ok, we are back from Wasaga Beach. We crossed the border in a ridiculously easy manner -- when you have a work visa, you always expect the body-cavity search treatment -- and made a run for Syracuse. We picked a hotel out of the air and lucked out with the Comfort Inn near the Syracuse Airport. They said they were dog-friendly and they weren't kidding. more hotels need to learn how to treat people who travel with pets from this place.

If you are on the New York State Thruway, and need to crash with your puppy, make it to Syracuse and this place will treat you like a normal person, not someone who wants to destroy their hotel.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Wasaga Beach: Life? What Life?

We have been in Wasaga Beach, Ontario for the last four days, and it is a wonderful place to turn off your brain.

So far we have spent the weekend celebrating Samantha's grandmother's 100th birthday, then we have decided to do as little as possible. Shopping in Collingwood (without the boys; go Grandparents!), and hanging with the family are the plans for the rest of the week.

If you need me, I'm dead. :-)

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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Dear Apache Software Foundation: FIX THE MSIE SSL KEEPALIVE SETTINGS!

Dear Apache Software Foundation, and the developers of the Apache Web server:

I would like to thank you for developing a great product. I rely on it daily to host my own sites, and a large number of people on the Internet seem to share my love of this software.

However, it appears that you seem to want to maintain a simple flaw in your logic that continues to make me crazy. I am a Web performance analyst, and at least once a week I sigh, and shake my head whenever I stoop to use Microsoft Internet Explorer (MSIE) to visit secure sites.

I seems that in your SSL configurations, you continue to assume that ALL versions of MSIE can't handle persistent connections under SSL/TLS.

Is this true? Is a bug initially caught in MSIE 5.x (5.0??) still valid for MSIE 6.0/7.0?

The short answer is: I don't know.

It seems that no one in the Apache server team has bothered to go back and see if the current versions of MSIE -- we are trying to track down the last three people use MSIE 5.x and help them -- still share this problem.

In the meantime, can you change your SSL exclusion RegEx to something more, relevant for 2007?

Current RegEx:

SetEnvIf User-Agent ".*MSIE.*" nokeepalive
downgrade-1.0 force-response-1.0

Relvant, updated REGEX:

SetEnvIf User-Agent ".*MSIE [1-5].*"
nokeepalive ssl-unclean-shutdown
downgrade-1.0 force-response-1.0

SetEnvIf User-Agent ".*MSIE [6-9].*"

Please? PLEASE? It's so easy...and would solve so many performance problems...


Thank you.

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Sunday, June 3, 2007

Friday, June 1, 2007

BIPOLAR: "There’s no need to ask directions if you ever lose your mind"

There’s no need to ask directions
If you ever lose your mind
We’re behind you
We’re behind you
And let us please remind you
We can send a car to find you
If you ever lose your way

Cake -- Comfort Eagle

So, last week, I did it. I dropped Paxil/paroxetine/seroxat completely from my medicines. Seems that other medical issues I am having are aggravated by the stuff, so after 7.5 years, it's gone.

The withdrawal shouldn't be as bad for me as it is for most people, as I am on pretty high doses of the mood-stabilizer Trileptal. Still, it should be an interesting couple of weeks.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Skype Degrading, Trying Gizmo

I have been using Skype as a landline pretty exclusively for the last 6 months, but the quality of the service has been degrading rapidly. Today, I called Samantha from the office and she said it sounded like I was calling from inside a tin can.

So, on a recommendation from a co-worker, I am giving Gizmo a try. Pretty immediately, I noticed a quality improvement over Skype, and people on my conference calls said it was much better.

So, if you want to reach me, try spierzchala on Gizmo, or +1-508-635-4420.

And Skype, let me know when your quality improves.

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T-Mobile: Redemption is yours

Last night, I spent over an hour on the phone with three very friendly and helpful T-Mobile tech support representatives, and guess what? The troublesome Samsung T619 I slammed a couple of weeks ago is now able to send and receive text messages.

I was impressed with the efficiency of the T-Mobile team, and the Tier 2 team I ended up with was thorough. It took two Over-the-air updates to fix the phone, but it's done and I'm happy.

Can't take back the bad comment, but hope I can counter it with some good words.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Maine: What did you do with your Saturday afternoon?

I spent mine helping to bottle 65 cases of custom peach wine up here at the Sweetgrass Farm Winery. Keith and Constance are having a local open house tomorrow, and the doors open wide on Memorial Day Weekend.

They have apple and peach wine, and blueberry gin.

And the peach wine? Yummmmmm.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

T-Mobile: Drop the Cheap Samsung T619

I actually upgraded my phone through T-Mobile about a month ago, and it was a mistake. I went with the Free upgrade (mistake number one) and chose the Samsung SGH-T619.

It's a piece of crap. I guess I should have known that when I chose the free upgrade.

My biggest complaint: it won't send text messages. That's right, one of the core features of any mobile phone, and this lousy hunk of plastic won't do it. Every time I try to send a message, the phone says it couldn't do it, retry?

So I send an email to the customer service at T-Mobile. Complete form letter reply.

I'm going to throw this lousy phone in a drawer, and likely pay the penalty to switch to Cingular/ATT Mobile.

I am finally fed up.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Trillian: Goodbye, and thanks for all the fish

I have finally given up on Trillian releasing a new version anytime before the next ice age, and switched to the the messenger client formerly known as GAIM, now known as Pidgin.

Solid, functional, and showing signs that it is in active development. Unlike Trillian, which is slowly becoming the Duke Nukem Forever of messenger clients.

I'm sorry, but promising a cool new product, and then not letting anyone try it leads to scores of new Pidgin users.

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The client visit this week (and don't expect too many details) was to MySpace. It is interesting to get an inside perspective on their performance challenges, as well as their beyond unique infrastructure.

I am bagged, and off to write up a document for another client.

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Monday, May 7, 2007

Off to LA

I will be in LA Tuesday-Thursday this week on business. I will be around, so ping me in any of the usual ways.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

If you need me, I'll be dead...or in Tucson, whichever comes first

I'll be in Tucson for work next all next week, staying at the supposedly luxurious Loews Ventana Canyon Resort.

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New Agent Location: Zurich, Switzerland

Many thanks to Otis Gospodnetic of Simpy for putting me in contact with Benjamin Reitzammer. Benjamin has graciously set up the GrabPERF measurement script on his server in Zurich.

Now that the Europeans have a growing presence on the GrabPERF Network, we need some locations in the US and Asia-Pacific.

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Nigerian / 419 Scams: People are greedy

Ian Holsman was standing in the bank, when he overheard a woman getting a bank draft to send to the Netherlands to claim her treasure. [here]

Avarice, it is thy failing.

Stupidity is pretty high on the list, too.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

New Measurement Location: Gothenburg Sweden

Thanks to the generosity of Henrik Sjostrand of Netvouz, there is now a measurement location up and running in Gothenburg Sweden.

You will find it listed in the data as Gothenburg Sweden #1.

I have had a few other parties expressing an interest in hosting a measurement agent, but there is always room for more measurement locations! Send me an email if you can host a site!

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Pete Townshend said it best...

I went back to my mother
I said, "I'm crazy ma, help me."
She said, "I know how it feels son,
'Cos it runs in the family."

The Real Me, Quadrophenia

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Boston Marathon: Tom Longboat

The Boston Marathon is this weekend, in case you live in a cave. In honour of this event, the CBC has a great story about the man who won the 1907 running: Tom Longboat. [here]

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Monday, April 9, 2007

Leadholder Lust

Some would call it old school. I call it classic.

I love pencils. They have a depth of emotion that you can't get with any pen. But the highest standard in industrial pencils are not the 0.5mm mechanical pencils that everyone uses. No, it's the 2mm leadholder.

I first used these in my drafting overview in Grade 8 shop class. I sucked at drafting, but these felt good.

I just rediscovered them, and have found that there are many people who share my love of these old leadholders, including the folks at

The most prevalent ones are the Staedtler 780s, and their cheap copies.

The pinnacle of leadholder lust: the Caran D'Ache Fixpencil 2.

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Caran D'Ache Fixpencil: Where do you buy them?

I live in the Boston area. I want to buy one (1) Caran D'Ache Fixpencil 2mm leadholder.

Not hard, right?

The only place I can find them is from an online store in Switzerland.


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Thursday, April 5, 2007

Joost Sucks...CPU and Bandwidth

Got my invite to Joost today. Downloaded the app and tried to use it.

Channel selection is lame.

Response is slow.

And even on my reasonably powerful laptop, the memory, CPU and network usage went through the roof.

Yup. Uninstall.


Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Boston Verizon Measurement Agents Retired

This morning, after months of increasing performance issues, and connectivity issues, I have retired the Boston Verizon measurement location. This location hosted 2 measurement agents.

The machines, hosted in my basement, are connected using Verizon FiOS, which has become increasingly flaky over the last couple of months. As well, the machines are 7 year old Pentium IIs, and require a substantial amount of spoon-feeding that I don't have time for at the moment.

I have re-enabled the Technorati #1 Agent to fill the gap, but this leaves only 4 measurement locations running. I again put out my plea for more volunteers to host GrabPERF measurement locations. I have had one volunteer contact me about this (thanks Henrik!), and this location should be up in about 3 weeks.

If you have a spare linux box and a static IP, have I got a project for you!

PS: The contact page is fixed. It was set to auto-refresh and overwrite your e-mails. Ooooops.

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Sunday, April 1, 2007 Re-Design

I have been playing with my personal site,, and finally set the re-design loose last night. The last time I touched the layout was 2002 (I think), and it was all done in tables. The new design uses CSS, and makes controlling the layout so easy.

And, thanks to Matt Mullenweg, the header logo rotates for each visit. For someone who wants to improve performance, this is a simple attempt at vanity. Enjoy the home-brew headers.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Trillian: Mystery Product

Trillian, the multi-system messenger program I use, apparently has this really cool new product in development. However, they have taken the Joost approach to releasing things: make it exclusive.

This is making me angry, and I am considering switching back to GAIM, even though I find GAIM clunky and wheezy in it's latest version.

Trillian developers: open it up! Teasing me only pisses me off. By the time you release your hot new product, I won't care anymore.

I already don't care if Joost ever gets released; it's dead to me. Please don't do this with Trillian.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

GrabPERF Agent: Need More Locations

My side project, GrabPERF, is looking for a few good measurement locations.

Right now, there are only five measurement locations, two of which are in my basement, on my personal Internet connection. I am hoping, through this pledge drive, to find a number of additional locations. Areas desperately needed include:

  • East Coast, USA

  • West Coast, USA

  • Midwest, USA

  • UK

  • Asia-Pac

  • Southeast Asia

  • Australia / New Zealand

Yeah, I know. I am asking for the world. Can't hurt to try though.

Basic requirements are a Linux box with a static IP address. Additional requirements are documented here.

You can express your interest in hosting a measurement site by filling in the GrabPERF Contact Form or contacting me directly.

Thank you for your continuing support.

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Your Bipolar Cycle is now descending into hell. Please buckle up...

When you are bipolar, you get very sensitive to slight changes in your mood and surroundings. Well, I have been in a foul mood, wanting to sleep a lot. When I get like this, I check my biorhythm, just for a lark.

Mar 27 2007 Biorhythm

Yup, right on schedule.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ugh. Out of presentation shape

I did a six-hour presentation / training seminar today, with an encore for a second group tomorrow.

I now realize how frightfully out of practice I am.

I used to do these kinds of events all the time up until 3 years ago. Tonight, my voice is shot, I ache all over, and it feels like my face muscles are injured from smiling and looking positive.

And I liked it.

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Sweetgrass Farm Winery Trip -- March 16-19 2007

This weekend, we went to Maine and spent a wonderful time with the Bodines at the Sweetgrass Farm Winery. Things are rolling into high gear, and there is fruit in the vats, fermenting into fine wine.

I took the time to take some pictures in their old barn, and around the property.

Blue Rungs

If you like wine and are in Maine, you should definitely look for their grand opening in May

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Print v. Web: Which comes first?

Today, I want to talk about what happens when you aggressively adopt an online strategy, but leave your print subscribers behind.

I subscribe to a great architecture and design magazine, whose name I will exclude from this discussion, with a fantastic and informative online presence. The archive and articles available to subscribers are a fantastic resource for people just beginning to explore this field.

In February, I noticed that they had updated their site with the most recent issue's content and cover. I was somewhat miffed, as my print copy had not yet arrived in the mail. Immediate assumption: print copy lost; request re-transmission.

Today, I checked the site, and all of the content for the March 2007 issue is online. And I don't have my copy of this issue yet.

Based on the response to the e-mail that I sent to the circulation and publishing team, I may be the first person to bring this to their attention.

When you are in the dead-tree print industry, the Web (1.0 and 2.0) are crucial extensions to your existing business model. But the aggressive use of the Web channel to deliver your content to the rest of the world before the print subscribers receive their copies is doing damage to your business.

Subscribers pay extra in order to gain access to your magazine before the rest of the world can get it. This must extend to the Web channel. As a subscriber, knowing that someone can read the contents of the magazine online before I get my chance to look at the print copy is unsatisfactory.

Subscription content infers a level of exclusivity to those who buy the gold ticket. If you give everyone the gold ticket at the same time, then a subscription loses it sense of exclusivity. Then the magazine loses guaranteed revenue. Then the magazine is gone.

Information should be free. I chafe against the subscription gateways as much as the next person. But if you base your entire business on a subscription model, you better not undermine your own subscription business by giving the subscription content away for free.

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New York, New York

Taking the train down to NYC for two days of customer sessions.

If you are looking to collect money from me, I'm dead.

If you want to join me in a meal, +1.508.410.3865 or +1.508.471.3865.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Go to Maine for the weekend...

...and the only injury of the trip happens while we are shovelling out the driveway when we get home. Cameron accidentally hit Kinnear in the face with the sharp end of the shovel.



The ironic thing: he is wearing a t-shirt that read "It's my brother's fault".

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bye-bye Vista

I have one more call to make and then I am going to destroy my system and rebuild it using the local ghost image for the Latitude D620.

Vista has been a pain in the ass, and I am glad to see it go. It was a poorly thought through OS, and it was definitely not ready for release.

I will not be sad to see it go.

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Internet Explorer: Plan to completely support RFC 2616 anytime before the next ice age?

I am writing up a client presentation for next week, and I just realized just how flawed Internet Explorer is. Microsoft claims that the browser is standards compliant. Yet it still doesn't support HTTP pipelining.

And the frustrating part? They won't tell us why. I have my suspicions, which include TCP stack issues and a flawed HTTP handling mechanism that is still based on Windows 95 architecture, but an explanation from Redmond would be nice.

Every (and I mean every) other browser can do this.

Microsoft, it's time you detached your Web browser from your OS, like you've forced everyone else to do.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Vista: My list of RFEs

March 10, 2007

  • When I defragment a disk, I like to know how much is left. It doesn't have to be a graphical cue, but a percentage done can't be hard to add.

  • Why doesn't the right-click work in the message list in Outlook 2003?

  • Can you detect when a program is activated by an actual mouse event, versus a coded mouse event? The Security Theatre warnings are annoying.

  • Parts of OWA don't work in IE7, likely due to some arcane security setting.

  • When I double-click to open a folder, why does Explorer think about it for a few minutes? Or does it just take a lot of smoke breaks?

  • Hey, when you prompt me to determine if I actually want to run a "protected" program, why can't you take that extra microsecond and remember my choice for a couple of minutes. GNOME asks for credentials when you need to run a program as root, and holds those credentials for a while, making some processes that much more convenient.

March 12, 2007

  • Ok, the VPN software I have at work doesn't work, so it's ok to use Outlook Web Access (OWA) over IE7. WRONG. Apparently it's up to the IT department to patch and reboot a running Exchange Server to allow Vista IE7 users to access OWA. Technical people seem placated by this, but I am not. Microsoft, did you think this through. "Oh yeah, everyone loves to reboot their Exchange servers on a daily basis!"

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Friday, March 9, 2007

Vista: The new grey mare ain't what she used to be

So, it was time to re-build my laptop -- 4 months of cruft gets in the way and really slows things down. And since the company I work for has an Microsoft Enterprise License that includes Vista, I took the plunge.

So far, it's ok. Nothing that really rocks my world. And one serious hindrance: It seems that Juniper Networks / Netscreen don't seem to have bothered releasing a Vista compatible version of their Netscreen Remote software. This means I have a serious disadvantage when it comes to working from home.

Other than that, it's the annoyances that bother that outweigh the cool things that impress. I turned of the CPU/Memory sucking Aero transparency and animation, and I am still looking at having to upgrade to 2GB of RAM.

Meanwhile, if I took the time to install Ubuntu, I could have a equally cool interface, higher security, and a smaller memory footprint.

It seems that Microsoft has gone out of their way, in the name of security, to compromise usability. I won't be recommending it for my friends and neighbours.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2007

My Design and Architecture Blog: blunderWERKZ Design Notes

I am spending most of my non-work time reading and discovering about modern design and architecture. As a result, I have started a new blog to isolate my thoughts and ideas on these topics.

Come over and join the conversation at blunderWERK Design Notes.

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Monday, March 5, 2007

Don't screw with the moose

I often joke that in a train v. moose situation, the train would be the loser.

But I have never heard of moose v. helicopter before. [here]
Instead of slowing down after being shot with a tranquilizer dart, a moose charged a hovering helicopter used by a wildlife biologist, damaging the aircraft's tail rotor and forcing it to the ground.

Don't screw with the moose.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Flip Flop: Back to Qumana

After months of using Live Writer, I am back to Qumana. Simple, lightweight, does the job.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Dwell: One more thing on the new site...

Did we mention that the layout doesn't work in Firefox or MSIE 7?




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Dear Dwell: A blog needs a feed

Just found that Dwell magazine has a blog.

Dwell's "blog" has no feed

Ooops! A pseudo-blog. No feed.

Dwell: Get with the program.

UPDATE: Apparently it does! There is an RSS graphic at the bottom. But that's not the feed link. Oh no!

You have to click the image to go to a page that has the page that has the RSS feed in it.

No. The feed is part of the blog. It MUST appear on the same page as the blog. Making it hard to find defeats the point of the process.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Hey! Do we have a Pledge Week to remember for you!

David Parmet pointed me to these Pledge Week extravaganzas.

My fave:

Surviving members of every 50s doo-wop band fight to the death with clubs — shirtless and totally coked-up — in massive Thunderdome-like arena

Merlin Mann is a god. One of the minor deities, but a deity nonetheless.

Some additions:

  1. Celtic Women v. The Three Tenors in a massive glass-breaking, heavy metal tribute to Metallica!
  2. Civil War outtakes -- "Dear Ma,... General Grant has given the soldiers with one leg the afternoon off from ditch digging, god bless him..." (David Parmet)
  3. Ken Burns vs the Celtic Woman in a nude mud wrestling match.. with fire!!! (David Parmet)
  4. Cirque du Soleil performing with live wolverines
  5. Ken Burns and Bill Moyers fighting for the right to interview what's left of Nixon


Bacon! I smell Bacon!

Sorry to quote a hideous dog treat commercial from eons ago, but this post at the Core 77 Design Blog reminded me of it.

An alarm clock that reminded me of my halcyon days, when carcinogens and fat mattered less to me.

It also reminded me of a passage from Neal Stephenson's Zodiac describing the all-black breakfast. My copy of this hilarious book is in a bin in the basement, so I can't quote it directly.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

This Pine Cone is Empty

This Pine Cone is Empty

Originally uploaded by spierzchala.

A shot inspired by Gosiak's Pássaros set.

Glaring Moon

Glaring Moon

Originally uploaded by spierzchala.

This is a garden ornament that was at the mini golf centre where we had Cameron's birthday party.

WGBH: Are you listening?

Dave Sifry launched a few great ideas that will be studiously ignored by PBS execs because they know better. [here]

I have said this many times in the past [here, here, and here]: asking me for money while showing "Lord of the flies dance to 60s motown classics sung by Celtic women" is not helping your cause.

Micropayments texted in by SMS, that's brilliant. It might show PBS what their viewers what they TRULY watch.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

What's an architect?

I am fascinated by architecture and design. I have no idea how an architect does what an architect does. I can truly say that I have not knowingly met an architect in person.

How lame is that?

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Metropolis Magazine: WHERE ARE YOU?

I hear the February 2007 issue is great.

I'm a subscriber.

Where's my copy?

UPDATE:  They are sending out a replacement copy. Yay!

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Of course data security is (NOT) important in the US

James Governor of RedMonk covers the serious fine Nationwide just got in the UK. [HERE and original post HERE]

This post immediately left me with the feeling (and it's an oogie feeling) that the country in which I reside is completely borked when it comes to data security.

Private companies would get slammed by leaking private information in every country, except the US.

And if a financial institution compromised or lost personal information, they would face real fines, except in the US.

These must be gross generalizations. So prove me wrong.

Monday, February 12, 2007

One toke over the line, oh Buddha...

After suffering with some negative reactions to my medications this weekend, I decided to do some research. It took a little longer than I expected because the information is gloriously hard to find, and I was drooling like an ether fiend in a wolverine pen.

It turns out that Bupropion inhibits the effectiveness of Paroxetine and magnifies the effectiveness of Trileptal. Of course the drug interaction studies are buried right next to Hoffa, and only a few of us lunatics actually blend this mindful cocktail to produce enhanced states of sanity.

So, off I go, down the path of medication adjustment once again.

Maybe if I fly off to Switzerland and check into one of those very private clinics I can get all of my bodily fluids flushed. Have my body completely dried out...look like Reagan on a bad day...then have them added back in the proper order, and the proper amounts. Then maybe the madness will end.