Wednesday, November 30, 2005

25:38 Ben Franklin Bridge (big fall) - Zap Mama/Seven

I was really cooking on this one-- something about Zap Mama that makes you run fast. It made me remember the stuff we used to listen to when I was in Peace Corps two zillion years ago. Actually, I started my Peace Corps tour in 1991, so its been 14 years. That means that I've been out as long as some of the returned volunteers were who gave me recommendations (who has started their tours in 1977). My entire life conspires to make me feel ancient.

Anyway, I got enthusiastic about running back the downhill side of the bridge and was just about to go into red-shift when I tripped over my feet, fell, and left a nice red skid mark on the pavement. I rolled when I landed, which is lucky. I knew I had hurt my knee, but didn't want to look down, so I just got up and kept running.

I passed a lady in the street who looked down at my knee and winced-- then I knew that I had done a pretty good deal of damage to it. In the end, I took a lot of skin off of the kneecap. Yipee.

Zap Mama is great. She does a lot of vocal instrumentation (like Petra Hayden). My favorite tracks were "Nostalgie Amoureuse" and "Telephone".

Monday, November 28, 2005

40:00 Center City - Prayer of St. Francis

I ran a big loop, down 3rd to South Street, down South to Broad, up Broad to Arch, back to work. It's a little less than 4 miles.

By rights I didn't listen to anything. I was thinking about the Prayer of St. Francis-- I should preface this by saying that I'm not a Christian-- I guess I'm not really anything, but I'm pretty spiritual, and I'm kind of at a spot where I need a little boost. A friend suggested this prayer:

Make me an instrument of your peace

that where there is hatred I may bring love

that where there is wrong I may bring the spirit of forgiveness

that where there is discord I may bring harmony

that where there error I may bring truth

that where there is doubt I may bring faith

that where there is despair I may bring hope

that where there are shadows I may bring light

that where there is sadness I may bring joy.

Grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted

to understand than to be understood

to love than to be loved.

For it is in self-forgetting that one is found

in foregiving that one is foregiven

in dying that one awakens to eternal life.

I just thought about that while I was running, with the idea that a lot of what I am faced with will not respond to a frontal attack-- maybe it won't respond to any attack at all.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

How to create MAN Pages in AIX

Purpose (was aixmanpages

This document describes a simple method for creating man pages on an AIX system so you can document locally created programs.

  1. You need system privileges on the AIX server to do this. Sign in.

  2. If there is no directory called /usr/share/man/man1, create it. It should have 755 rights (chmod 755 man1)

  3. For each command you want to document, create a file in the man1 directory called command.1. where command is the name of the command.

  4. Enter the man page in nroff format in this file. See the sample file section for an example.

  5. Run man on the file from any user (man foo). This will parse the file and place the output in /usr/share/man/cat1 as parsed nroff. It will also display the man page.


The following nroff commands can be helpful:
.THTable Header
.SHSection Header
.TPTable Point (list item)
fBStart Bold
fPStart Plain

Sample nroff file

.TH CI 1 "21 February 05"
check_server - Check an AIX server
fBcheck_serverfP [ -e -p ] [aix_server]
fBcheck_serverfP attempts to connect to an AIX
server. If there is no error, it returns
a message that the server passed. If not,
it returns a message that the server failed,
and optionally can send emails, a page, or both
to alert the sysadmins of the problem.

If there is an error and a message is sent to
the sysadmins, the ORA- error is included with the message.

If no server is specified, a usage message is produced.

If neither fB-efP nor fB-pfP are specified, output
is sent to the screen only, to avoid sending erroneous
.SS Options
send error results to the sysadmins via email.
send error results to the sysadmins via pager.
A directory containing the error logs for each AIX server.
Timothy Chen Allen, , 504.555.1212
If the server specified does not exist or is mispelled,
fBcheck_serverfP will attempt to connect to it anyway. This is
generally not a problem, since fBcheck_serverfP is normally run
from a crontab. However, for this reason, fBcheck_serverfP
normally should not be run from the command line with the
fB-pfP flag, to avoid sending erroneous pages.

Friday, November 25, 2005

23:00 South Street to Market with Daniel

Since Daniel was a very little baby, I have gone running with him. pushing him in a baby jogger. We used to do two hour runs from Guinardo to Parc Güell in Barcelona: he would sleep, I would run, and his mom would get a welcome rest-- win-win-win.

So one of the things that I was really waiting for in our truck from New Orleans was our baby jogger.

Daniel and I just took a spin up Juniper from South Street to Market and went past the Marriott Courtyard hotel that was our home for a few weeks after we evacuated New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It was really cold yesterday, about 27F, so Daniel was bundled up and under a blanket. I love running with Daniel. He encourages me to run faster, and we make up crazy dinosaur stories, though now he really wants to talk about Power Rangers. My consession to all of this is that I've taught him to say, "violence doesn't solve anything" (Me: Hey Dan, what do you know about violence? Dan: It doesn't solve anything). To be perfectly honest, it's one of those sayings that I really don't understand, and I'm hoping that it Daniel gets started thinking about it early enough, he'll have a grasp on it by the time he's my age. One of the nice things about being a parent is that I get to impart my values on Daniel-- even the ones I'm not sure I've understood well myself.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving Dinner at Linda's

We had so much to be thankful for this year.

Linda was the woman I met our first day in Philadelphia who stuck out her hand at a Starbucks and told me she wanted to help Katrina survivors. Two months later Sònia and she are friends, and she invited us for Thanksgiving dinner. We brought with us two friends from Spain who we had known in New Orleans, Luis and Chari. Luis had evacuated with us as far as Houston.

We ate like pigs and talked about what a year this had been. There were blessings in Hebrew and thanks in Spanish and some awful jokes. We drank pink lemonade and talked about reuniting the group of Spaniards with whom we evacuated for Sònia's birthday in March.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Boxes moved in (trouble and strife)

The Katrina episode is starting to end-- we have all of the boxes in the house now and almost all of them put in place. We work fast. Too fast. I think we expected too much of outselves here, trying to get everything into place as soon as possible. On the other hand, it's nice not to live in a jungle of boxes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

1:00:01 Ben Franklin to Camden City Hall - Duncan Sheik - MatthewSweet/Altered Beast

I really didn't want to go running today, but kind of kicked myself out the door expecting to do about half an hour, max. But when I got to the peak of the Ben Franklin bridge, I decided to run out the hour. This is the first hour long run I've done for quite some time, maybe since I was in New Orleans.

The run took me into downtown Camden. What an ugly city. Philadelphia seems to have retained some of the charm of each of the Centuries it has lived through: a little colonial architecture, nice new buildings, etc. But Camden looks like it was born in 1955 and died in 1970, and no one told the inhabitants yet.

I bought the eponymous Duncan Sheik CD back in 1997 based on having heard "She Runs Away", which really is a very nice song that is very representative of that era. But for some reason I could not remember listening to it all the way through.

Now I know why. It is maudlin from start to finish. Excellent maudlin music, but maudlin. After about three songs I wanted to kill myself, but kept hoping for an upbeat song. It never came. I suppose this is a good album to listen to if you are feeling too good about yourself and want to feel rotten.

I read a review of this album and it kept going on about how Duncan Sheik picked up where Nick Drake left off. No, no, no. I believe that Duncan Sheik was influenced by Nick Drake: listen to the descending chromatic scale on Sheik's "Little Hands" and then to Nick Drake's "Chime of the City Clock" from "Bryter Later" and you can hear that. But Duncan Sheik just did not get the quirky, bittersweet feel of Drake's work.

Fortunately, I ran so long that the album ended and I went to the next one on my MP3: Matthew Sweet's "Altered Beast". Magnificent. First off, after my 45 minute maudlin-fest with Duncan Sheik, the first few crunchy distorted guitar chords of "Dinoasaur Act" were a welcome breath of fresh air. And "Devil with the Green Eyes" covers some of the same material that Sheik does, but does it in a more appropriate, "NRRRGGG ROCK AND ROLL!!" style that makes you run faster, not throw yourself off of the bridge.

This is the album with "The Ugly Truth", which is pretty well known. There are two versions, the first one kind of a tongue-in-cheek hill billy version and the second a tongue-in-cheek rock and roller. I don't know which one actually released, but I like both and believe they should not exist separately.

I read a review that gave Sweet some grief for his song "Holy War" (from "Girlfriend") saying that it was dated because it protested Gulf War I. How lucky for Sweet that his song is completely appropriate again. Maybe if we keep electing members of the Bush family into office, we can continually come up with half-assed excuses for attacking Iraq every ten years or so, and Matthew Sweet will never go out of style.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Daniel Clapping/Power Ranger

This is just a nice picture of Daniel. We were at the Renaissance Festival a few weeks ago and some knight whalloped the daylights out of another one. Daniel Clapped.
This is how Daniel dressed for Halloween. We wanted to make his costume, but he *really* loves the Red Power Ranger, Jack.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Sarah McLachlan/World on Fire

Check out this: A music video by Sarah McLachlan. The video cost $15 to make-- the rest of the $150,000 it would have normally cost was given to charities:

I've always liked Sarah McLachlan. The first time I heard her was on a Nettwerk Cassingle with their up-and-coming artists (wish I could get my hands on that again).

That year I went out and got "Fumbling Towards Ecstacy". If you don't have that album, you should go out and buy it.

New topic: Barcelona

I've just put my old writings about my first months in Barcelona into the blog. Little by little, I'm going to try to move everything into the blog.

I did a fair amount of writing when I first moved to Barcelona. I had never heard of blogging, and actually started out by just sending emails to all of my friends. Eventually I realized I could move the stories to my web site.

Anyway, enjoy. The category is Barcelona: Spanish in 56,000 painful lessons

14:42 Chasing a Philadelphia Tour Bus / Marine Corps Birthday

I really didn't feel like going running today. After a week off during the move, I just had a hard time accepting the idea of going out in the cold and running. But as I told my boss on the way out the door, I could easily turn a week long hiatus into a two year hiatus. So I went running.

Nothing special about the run. I chased a tour bus for a while, which is fun. Once the carbon monoxide kills off the first thousand brain cells or so, you really don't mind anymore.

I forgot my MP3 player at home, so no music. I saw a flag at half-mast and remembered that yesterday was the Marine Corps birthday. So I thought about that for a while.

I was in my unit's honor guard for the Marine Corps birthday twice. The second time I did it I had already applied to and been accepted into the Peace Corps, which was just plain weird. I mean, both organizations have virtually the same purpose (extending policy via other means) but very different ways of carrying it out (killing the locals to get their leaders to change *their* policies vs. teaching the locals how to do better with technology so maybe the next generations' leaders will be friendlier to the US).

So here's health to you and to our Corps. What can I say, even though I'm a pinko tree-hugging pacifist, I'm proud I was a Marine. We did things other people just dream about. As Rocky Horror said, "Don't Dream It. Be it."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The drive back - Stephen Hawking/A Briefer History of Time

The drive back from New Orleans was at times fun, at times monotonous, once or twice hair-raising. I had hoped to keep the passenger seat of the car pretty much empty, but of course ended up with the car full to the gills with tchotckis that would not fit anywhere else. So I drove 1300 miles with one hand constantly pushing stuff back onto the pile in the passenger seat.

The first thing to strike me as I drove east on I-10 out of the city of New Orleans was the damage from Hurricane Katrina extending well east of the city. I did not realize how far east the damage went. There are not so many residential zones there. But I saw an entire car dealership flooded out, for example. I wonder what a car dealership does when it floods.

I drove about five hours the first day. I had only left the house around 3 pm on Monday, and was already exhausted by the time I drove out.
I stayed in a hotel in Atmore, AL. There were flyers advertising jobs in Pine County Alabama for Hurricane Katrina survivors at the checkout counter (no DBA positions I noticed).

The second day was really when I hit my stride. I drove all the way to the west side of Atlanta. By this time I had started listening to Stephen Hawking's "A briefer history of time" on CD. I enjoy this kind of thing, though I don't pretend to have understood the half of it. There were moments during his description of general relativity in which I was absolutely certain that I understood it, only to have it slip away in the next moment.

The last day was odd. The drive from Atlanto to Philadelphia is pretty, and you definitely cross the line frome south to north on this drive. I pretty much tried to just put as many miles as possible behind me until I got to the Washington, DC area.

I realized I was going to drive within a couple of miles of Glen Echo, MD. I had lived in a house there for a couple of years with Charlotte. I decided to drive out and see it.

I drove up and looked, and marvelled at what a child I was at that point in my life. We had lived there together during the first Gulf War. I was a Marine then, and it was a constanty worry that they might figure out that I was cohabitating with my girlfriend, because it was likely I would get shipped to Kuwait. I came back to this house after running the Marine Corps Marathon and after bicycling from Natchez, MS to Arlington, VA. I had turned 27 in this house (Charlotte would have been 44 at that point, though that was a well-guarded secret at the time). And I had left for my assignment in Seychelles as a Peace Corps volunteer from this house. This house meant a lot to me. I snapped a couple of photos and drove on.

The drive between the DC area and Philadelphia is short. I finished off the drive with my last ounce of energy. After a quick meeting I headed home and unloaded the car. It was fun seeing Daniel reaquaint himslef with his toys. He said, "Daddy, I really love you because you brought my motorcycle". I know, it's conditional love, but I'll take it.

Sònia and I got in an idiotic fight over whether we gained or lost as a result of Hurricane Katrina (I think we came out slightly ahead, discounting a lof of hustling and inconvenience). I guess when you're due a fight any excuse will do. This must be normal after being together almost 24/7 since Hurricane Katrina and suddenly not seeing each other at all for 3 days (it still sucked, though).

Sunday, November 6, 2005

Katrina Survivor's Guilt

This morning I went to Sunrise Solutions and saw my old crowd. Hurricane Katrina is still the biggest topic of discussion here- up in Philadelphia, Hurricane Katrina was over about a week after the storm. People are sorry when they hear we came up from New Orleans, but it's not the topic of discussion on every street corner.

Here in New Orleans Hurricane Katrina is still very much alive. People are still dealing with evaporated jobs, insurance, house repairs, lost pets... Everyone is stressed. Relationships are breaking up and there are a lot more divorces.

My friends Val, Mari, and Isaac helped me move almost everything out of the house today. It looks like I will be able to finish this up by tomorrow morning. Mari and Isaac helped even though their house is totalled with 8 feet of water damage. They helped me tremendously.

We stopped for lunch and I talked about what I am feeling: survivor's guilt. Our house is fine. Once I pack up our stuff, I will drive back to our house in Philadelphia and the hurricane will be over for us. But the people of New Orleans will not get over Hurricane Katrina tomorrow or next week or even next year. Parts of the city will never be right again. And parts of many peoples' lives will not be right either.

So I feel guilty because we're out of here. I feel guilty because the worst that has happened to us has been a massively inconvenient emergency relocation. But we lost nothing. If our insurance comes through, we won't even have lost any money.

Friday, November 4, 2005

Mari and Isaac's house - Willie Nelson/Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground

I had Breakfast in Bucktown today early this morning, then drove back through Lakeview again to take some more pictures. I'll put some of them up when I get them developed.

I was driving along and snapped a shot of a particularly badly flooded car next to a particularly badly flooded house. As I drove off I noticed a lady drinking coffee on her front porch in the next house. I rolled down the window and asked how she had made out.

Myrtle (not her real name) had been employed by Tulane as an administrator. She lived in a middle class house in a middle class neighborhood up until Hurricane Katrina. Not that you could tell by the look of it now. She and her husband and dog were living now in the rotted shell of that house without electricity. All light was provided by a coleman lantern. She had made her coffee on a butane stove. When I first walked up, I was worried about the dog: it looked like it had once been a pit bull. But this pit bull was hungry and tired and dirty and was not ready to harm anything at all, much like Myrtle. Myrtle was dirty from head to toe and talked with an expressionless monotone about the endless bureaucracy that seemed to change what was required to get her out of this mess every day. She talked about a sister who had come from Tennessee to help and who left after two days because she couldn't handle living in the third world with her sister and who could not understand why her sister just sat there when there was so much to be done. She talked like her world had collapsed and she was resigned to living in that collapsed world for the rest of her life. I looked around at her destroyed house and the view from her porch of uncollected garbage and abandoned cars and houses and I also wondered how she would ever get out of there.

My friends Isaac and Mari called and wanted to get together. I said goodbye to Myrtle and tried to think of something helpful to say. I ended up just saying goodbye.

I drove out towards Isaac and Mari's house. I got a bit lost as most of the old landmarks I used to find it by were now gone. I drove past a little side street and saw a huge tree toppled over by a crushed car. It looked so bad that I pulled over to take some pictures. A car honked its horn at me and I saw that it was Isaac and Mari driving up the street. I pointed at the scene of devastation as they parked. Then I realized that the house I was photyographing was theirs. I could not recognize it. It was completely destroyed, a rotting shell of the place I had gone to with Sonia and Daniel for dinner and parties.

We entered the house and Mari handed me a dust mask. The floor was still mushy with water. The walls were covered with mold. It smelled like an old feed store. Their beautiful garden wsas lifeless, yellow, dead. Incongruously, their lemon tree was heavy with brilliant yellow lemons.

We looked at the destruction a while longer and talked about the labyrinth of insurance inspectors, FEMA inspectors, contractors, and corps of engineers inspectors they were having to negotiate to decide whether their home was completely destroyed or not. I could save them the trouble: their home is completely destroyed. But their spirits were good. After a few weeks of being in shock, they had realized that this was what their house was like and they would have to push ahead in spite of it.

We drove out to see the part of the levee that had been breached. It was an insane jumble of cars hanging from impossible angles (including three Volkswagens that looked like beetles on their backs that could not right themslves), houses that had simply exploded from the force of tons of water rushing out directly behind them, and mountains of trash.

I left them and went back to pack more boxes.

The whole time I was driving through the city of New Orleans, I was thinking of Willie Nelson's "Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground". It's a song about a man who falls in love with an angel who is somehow addicted to this world, and how his love heals her to the point that she can fly away and leave him forever. I kept thinking about the beautiful lady that this city had been, and how her wings now seem hopelessly broken.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

20 more boxes, un año más

I'm taking another break. I've go another 20 boxes packed and I'm still not done with the books! My brain is trying to hurt my back.

I put on an old Mecano album. I was packing a box when "Un año más" (One more year) came on. It's probably Mecano's best known song, and it always makes me think of the innocent kid I was when I decided to go live in Spain. I put down the box I was carrying and just started crying. I hate having to pack everything up one more time. I hate being here and knowing that hundreds of people died less than half a mile from here. I hate not being standing at my desk designing data models. I've only broken down like this once before since Hurricane Katrina: when I heard that the house I grew up in in Texas had been destroyed by Hurricane Rita. The fact is that I'm the luckiest hurricane survivor ever-- I ended up with a better job, a nice house, and undamaged possessions. Somehow that doesn't help.

Katrina's wake/packing up

I just got Blackberry coverage here in New Orleans, so I can blog a little. I'm in our old house, packing up. I've finished 25 boxes, and that's just about half of the books! I wish we would have gone to the library more.

Yesterday I landed at MSY airport at about 10 AM. I had left my car in the parking lot, so the bill was $670 dollars, but the airport waived all costs incurred after Hurricane Katrina, so I only paid $10! God bless Louis Armstrong International Airport.

I found that a ready way to strike up a conversation here was to ask how people's families had fared in the Hurricane. I've heard a little of everything. One fellow was just quiet for a while, then said, "Bad. We lost everything." Others were living with friends, or had managed to clean up the upper floor of a two story enough to live there. Some were sleeping at work. And some were like me: no damage at all, just a lot of hustling to get things back together.

I had lunch with my coworkers from East Jefferson General Hospital yesterday, since it's on the way back from the airport. It was nice to see them. Everyone had evacuated. One was living with a friend because his house was flooded, but the other three were in their houses. I didn't realize how much I had missed them until I saw them. They're a good bunch of guys. Life goes on at the hospital without me.

I was reunited with my computer manuals (you don't really know how well you program until you have no reference materials!) I said goodby and drove towards New Orleans.

One of the guys suggested that I drive through Lakeview on the way home. In Metairie, I saw some roof damage and garbage on the streets, but Lakeview was horrible. I drove down one block where I was the only living creature on the street. There was a pile of garbage at least 20 feet high occupying the entire median. Everything was uniformly grey-brown, the color of dust. Trucks and cars were abandoned in the middle of the street, no one able to move them inover 60 days. I saw a house with a waterline just under the roof-- then I looked around and saw the same waterline on every house, every light pole, every abandoned vehicle, about 9 feet up. It must have been hell.

I drove back through the French Quarter, the part of New Orleans that people most associate with New Orleans. It had not been so badly damaged, but there were a lot of houses that were completely destroyed, or had the roof caved in. There was a fine dust everywhere. It felt like a ghost town, or maybe an old mining town. It seemed like most of the people I saw were from out of town: carpenters, FEMA inspectors, Acupuncturists without Borders volunteers offering their services for free. There were also several large makeshift campgrounds set up, tent cities for the unexpectedly homeless.

I drove on to Algier's Point, our neighborhood. By this time I was delirious from sleep-deprivation (I had been awake since 2 AM central time) and was having trouble negotiating traffic. People drive terribly here anyway, but people are all driving around like zombies, distracted as I was. I passed a bad accident just past the Fisher housing project. The projects themselves were empty. I wonder where all those people went.

I drove down our old street and parked in front of our house. How very strange to see it. It was as we had left it-- no damage at all. The DirecTV dish was still on the roof. The palm tree in front was perfectly fine. Our garbage cans were where we left them. It was a bizarre contrast to the total destruction I had seen in Lakeview.

I caught a quick nap and started packing boxes.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

On my way to New Orleans to get our stuff

I'm in the back of a taxi, bumping along to PHL airport. It's early, 4 am. Aside from being very tired, I'm looking forward to being reunited with my stuff, a few friends, hitting a couple of meetings, and some alone time to think.

I'm a little apprehensive about what I will find. A lot of our friends tell us that New Orleans looks like a war zone. Of course parts of it looked that way already. But apparently there is a lot less vegetation, and the city has always been quite green.

I'm almost at the airport now. This driver is about to jump into hyperspace.