25 Jan 2012

Tradition versus the heart (guest post)

By Bonnie Lundblad (my girlfriend)

Foreword (from Dan): This is, in part, a response to the now-infamous Christian video, “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus.” While the basic idea of the video is good, Bonnie and I both had concerns over its message. To summarize, we feel as though it goes a bit overboard and extreme in the way it defines and characterizes religion, although the underlying message continues to carry some validity.

1 Then from Jerusalem came scribes and Pharisees and said, 2 Why do Your disciples transgress and violate the rules handed down by the elders of the past? For they do not practice [ceremonially] washing their hands before they eat. 3 He replied to them, And why also do you transgress and violate the commandment of God for the sake of the rules handed down to you by your forefathers (the elders)? 4 For God commanded, Honor your father and your mother, and, He who curses or reviles or speaks evil of or abuses or treats improperly his father or mother, let him surely come to his end by death. 5 But you say, If anyone tells his father or mother, What you would have gained from me [that is, the money and whatever I have that might be used for helping you] is already dedicated as a gift to God, then he is exempt and no longer under obligation to honor and help his father or his mother. 6 So for the sake of your tradition (the rules handed down by your forefathers), you have set aside the Word of God [depriving it of force and authority and making it of no effect]. 7 You pretenders (hypocrites)! Admirably and truly did Isaiah prophesy of you when he said: 8 These people draw near Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts hold off and are far away from Me. 9 Uselessly do they worship Me, for they teach as doctrines the commands of men.

Verse 6 jumped out to me at first: “for the sake of tradition you have set aside God’s word.” This struck me as not only applying to the Pharisees or Jesus’ day, but also can be applied to many religions in today’s world, especially Christianity. How many people call themselves Christians and attend church ritually, but don’t read and follow the Bible? The Pharisees were very traditional, but they were so ritualistic that they missed the point. Verses 4-5 say the Pharisees were claiming to give what they have to God, but in doing so, they neglected their parents, which breaks one of God’s commandments. In trying to appear more holy through devoting all they had to God, they failed to keep the commandment about parents, thus doing worse through attempting to appear better.

Verse 8 and 9 is a quote from Isaiah 29:13. “These people draw near Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts hold off and are far away from me” (verse 8). They worship God outwardly, but their heart is not in it. The way I see it in today’s world, there are Christians who do the same. Matthew 7:21 says that “not everyone who calls Jesus Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Not everyone who appears Christian will actually be part of God’s kingdom. This verse always reminds me of Philippians 2:12, which says to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” I sometimes question my salvation and if my own heart is in it or if I am just following out of obedience. I have seen Christians in tears, one just a few days ago in fact, because they do not feel the love of God in their heart.

Allow me to elaborate on the heart. The heart referred to in Matthew 15:8 refers to the inward feelings and intensions. Just as love for a significant other cannot be explained, so is it with the love of God. The heart is that inward love for God that the verse references. The Pharisees make a show of their religion through the rituals and traditions handed down to them, but in their heart, they would rather have something else. I am guilty of this too. I have longed for sins that I know are against God, and have given in to those temptations even after being baptized. I have wanted the sin more than God. With God’s help, however, I am working hard to resist those temptations and put God in my heart in the places where desire for sin is being eradicated. I am declared righteous (in right standing with God), but I am still in the process of being sanctified (being made holy, or set apart). I think of sanctification as the state of being perfect. In my current state as a human living on earth, it is impossible to be perfect, but with God’s help in the process of sanctification, I can get closer and closer.

I know there are some Christians, especially the non-denominational ones, who think of religion as a bad thing. just look at the fact that they are called non-denominational… they do not want to call themselves a sect of religion. Religion itself isn’t necessarily bad, but unfortunately it has been corrupted in our day, just as the Pharisees had corrupted it in their day. Matthew 15:9 says “they teach as doctrines the commands of men.” The Pharisees did this in being so religious as to consider Jesus’ act of healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath bad because Jesus was working on the Sabbath. Jesus performed a miracle, yet was considered a sinner simply because of the day on which he did so! They corrupted the original meaning of scripture by lifting the Sabbath day up so much as to overlook the love your neighbor yet again.

I have heard some churches ignore the scripture they are supposed to be teaching in order to push their agenda. The particular instance that comes to mind is a year ago when I attended a Catholic service with a friend. Though there were hymns and scripture reading, the main sermon was about making sure your kids get into religious education. Where did the scripture go? Isn’t hearing God’s word what church service is about? (I have nothing against Catholics and know a handful who worship God even more because of the tradition they keep. This example is just an illustration of Matthew 15:9.)

I do not want to err in the same way the Pharisees did and follow a tradition without God’s word. I would rather follow God’s Word and have God in my heart. When the heart is good, the rest of the person will be good. All it takes is the proper object of the heart’s desire; that desire being for God.

Scripture quotations taken from the Amplified® Bible. Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation; used by permission.

Posted in Uncategorized
1 Jan 2012

MSCHAPv2 against MIT Kerberos… yes, you can.

Updated Nov 16, 2015: Fixed AUR links

This was probably the biggest frustration when trying to figure out the maze that is setting up WPA Enterprise on my primarily Linux-based network. By “primarily”, I mean if it’s a production machine, it runs Linux. All user accounts are in OpenLDAP (formerly NIS) and MIT Kerberos. This presented quite the challenge when I wanted to set up an enterprise network with 802.1x authentication.

Prerequisites

This guide assumes you have a working Kerberos setup, preferably with something like OpenLDAP on top of it. Remember, this guide only gets MSCHAPv2 authentication working – you still need to support other authentication methods like EAP-TTLS! I recommend you configure OpenLDAP, saslauthd, Kerberos, and FreeRADIUS completely and ensure you can log into your network with 802.1x before moving into this stuff. Setting all that up is way past the scope of this blog post, and there are countless resources on the Web to help you get to this point.

I am also assuming a basic knowledge of shell scripting.

Why MSCHAPv2 is needed, and the Linux answer

Now, first of all, 802.1x uses RADIUS. That means you need a RADIUS server and then some actual user management backend unless you want to put all your users in the config file. So, getting RADIUS to talk to OpenLDAP is pretty straightforward: enable the module and have it used for authorization and authentication, and everything Just Works(TM). Right?

Wrong. There’s a wrench in the gears: Windows clients.

While Linux and Mac clients are perfectly okay with standardized, reversible-encryption-based authentication methods like EAP-TTLS, Microsoft in their everlasting wisdom have decided to support 802.1x only with their own handshake protocol, PEAP-MSCHAPv2. Things get ugly when you realize that MSCHAPv2 isn’t your typical fetch-password-and-compare authentication; it requires the server to interact with the incoming challenge data. MIT Kerberos, of course, has no business doing this, and in fact does not by default store passwords using a hash that MSCHAPv2 can use.

So we’re stuck. Windows clients, by default, cannot authenticate to MIT Kerberos using Windows’ preferred method of authentication. We are presented with two choices:

  1. Install a third-party supplicant on your Windows clients that can talk EAP-TTLS or so
  2. Teach Linux to speak MSCHAPv2

Well, I don’t like making Windows clients install additional software just to get on my network so I chose the latter.

It turns out MIT Kerberos has a name for the MD4 hash MSCHAPv2 uses as the on-disk format for password storage. This is “arcfour-hmac:normal”. So, for starters, you’ll need to edit your kdc.conf (typically in your Kerberos database directory, /var/lib/krb5kdc in my case) and add the above string to the supported_enctypes field for your realm. Have any users who want to connect change their passwords; new users are covered. No way around that, sorry.

Next you need some additional software. KCRAP (Kerberos Challenge-Response Authentication Protocol) is a daemon that sits on your KDC and sticks its fingers into your Kerberos database to obtain the above hash. Then it does the crypto math that MIT has no business doing, and sends the result to whichever client wishes to authenticate.

BUT WAIT! There are a couple of critical pieces missing from KCRAP.

First, it doesn’t support MIT Kerberos 1.9.

Second, it doesn’t send back the “nthashhash” (the hash of the hash… wtg MS), which is a field FreeRADIUS’ MSCHAPv2 module needs for building the final session key used by 802.1x.

Both of these oversights are remediated in my Arch Linux AUR package of KCRAP. If you aren’t using Arch, my fake makepkg script will build and install the package for you, just make sure you have the Kerberos development libraries installed from your distribution’s package manager. If you’d rather do the building yourself, just look through the PKGBUILD file and it will make clear what needs to be done to patch and build the KCRAP server.

Now we need to configure KCRAP. That’s easy enough: Arch users can just enable kcrap in rc.conf, while users of other distros will be able to write an init script based on the one included in my Arch package easily enough. Once you have an init script in place and set to start on boot, construct a KCRAP config file (/etc/kcrap_server.conf):

[kcrap_server]
	port = 89
	realm = FUHRY.US

[realms]
	FUHRY.US = {
		database_name = /var/lib/krb5kdc/principal
		key_stash_file = /var/lib/krb5kdc/.k5.FUHRY.US
	}

Finally, update the realms section of krb5.conf on the server running FreeRADIUS (additions in bold):

[realms]
 FUHRY.US = {
  admin_server = kerberos.fuhry.us:749
  kcrap = kerberos.fuhry.us:89
 }

You’re ready to start KCRAP. The first time you should probably run it with -D to make sure it starts, then kick it off from the init script.

FreeRADIUS

So we’ve got KCRAP working, but that’s not going to magically fix anything. To make it actually work in FreeRADIUS, you need to patch FreeRADIUS’ rlm_mschapv2 module. Again, I have an AUR package that takes care of this with two patches. [Update November 16, 2015: You no longer need to patch FreeRADIUS! The new KCRAP package on AUR includes a new executable, kcrapclient, that emulates Samba’s ntlm_auth program. To use it, just add this to mods-available/mschap:

ntlm_auth = "/usr/bin/kcrapclient %{%{Stripped-User-Name}:-%{%{User-Name}:-None}} %{%{mschap:Challenge}:-00} %{%{mschap:NT-Response}:-00}"

As long as kcrap_server is running, this should take care of everything – FreeRADIUS will now perform MSCHAPv2 authentication using KCRAP.]

Follow the same routine as above to install the patched FreeRADIUS. If you’re feeling skimpy, you can probably get away with just installing the new rlm_mschapv2 module and leaving the rest of your distro’s package in place — just be warned, of course, that most distributions will overwrite the module when FreeRADIUS is upgraded.

Build and install your patched FreeRADIUS, and enable MSCHAPv2 authentication.

Success!

You should now have a working setup. This config file should work if you’re testing with wpa_supplicant:

#
#   eapol_test -c peap-mschapv2.conf -s testing123
#
network={
        ssid="example"
        key_mgmt=WPA-EAP
        eap=PEAP
        identity="testuser"
        anonymous_identity="anonymous"
        password="secret123"
        phase2="autheap=MSCHAPV2"

	#
	#  Uncomment the following to perform server certificate validation.
	ca_cert="/etc/raddb/certs/ca.der"
}
Posted in Uncategorized
21 Nov 2011

I don’t pledge my allegiance

I want to share an opinion on something which for so many of us was rote during our childhoods, but perhaps never stopped to think about: the pledge of allegiance.

For any non-Americans out there, the pledge is as follows:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

(Note that the presence of the prepositional phrase “under God” is debated, but that is well beyond the scope of this discussion.)

I hope you see the problem with this statement.

Starting in first grade, the vast majority of public schools in America begin each day with the recitation of this passage. This to me is a grave infringement upon our children, and upon American ideology in general. I shall go into detail.

First, I want to point out that the “republic for which [the flag] stands” doesn’t exist. The one that provides “liberty and justice for all”? For centuries, “all” didn’t include black people or women. Today, the groups fighting hardest to be included under “all” include homosexuals, students, and anyone who appears to be of Hispanic descent and lives in a certain area. Let’s face it: there never has been “liberty and justice for all” in this nation. So pledging your allegiance to a republic that provides it is a worthless ritual.

But let us suppose that “the republic for which it stands” does actually refer to our existing government. Young children recite it because they’re told to, without understanding its implications. To pledge one’s allegiance is to swear upon lifelong loyalty – any rising against it could be construed as treason. While it is extraordinarily difficult to be convicted of treason in the United States, a totalarian government of the future could easily twist any uprising against established government and practices (such as the Occupy movement) as treason.

In either case, indoctrinating children with this vapid expression of patriotism does nothing to help them; as an adult I regret each time I have recited the pledge, as my current understanding of our government was imparted to me by current events instead of ideological lectures presented during history and government classes. The fact that I at one point uttered these words disturbs me and it is lamentable that we are still raising children under obligation to do the same given the distinct possibility that they may arrive at the same conclusion I have.

Posted in Uncategorized
16 Aug 2011

Follow-up on that Christian Right thing

I was recently linked to a thread on Reddit by a gay friend of mine who frequents it and had a chance to see a really encouraging story which serves to strongly back up my previous post on the matter of how Christians deal with homosexuality.

To summarize the poster’s plight: he came out to his mom, who was a lifelong Jesus Freak(TM). She responded by prying the fish symbol off of her car, saying that it represented the wrong kind of Christian. She then proceeded to explain to him that Christians are supposed to love everyone, as Jesus did, and she would not be a part of any organization that believes or acts otherwise.

My comment on the thread generated the following response from user silverdrake3 (emphasis mine):

I love true Christians. If I ever see you on the street, I’ll give you a big hug and a jelly donut. Maybe some coffee to go with it.

Edit: I feel like telling you about my great Christian friend.

He, and Christians like you, are so different from what I’m used to seeing. You could talk to him about literally anything. Even though he might disagree with you (or play devil’s advocate– he seems to love doing that), he’s always the most respectful, kind man, and he obviously knows his stuff (scripture and more). If I possibly could, I would nominate him (and others like him) for sainthood, just because he is showing such kindness and love and showing people what it’s like to be a true Christian. Hell, if the whole church were like him, I’d even consider attending.

Wait a second… did you catch that? If more Christians were like Jesus, there are real live atheists out there that would just walk right into church with you. HOLY CRAP GUYS! This is so unbelievably important. Your display of Christ-like love to the gay and atheist communities has the potential to win them over for Christ instantly. In a way, that’s how it should be: if our actions and attitudes truly reflect Christ, you should hardly have to lift a finger because the Holy Spirit will direct people to you. At a minimum, this goes to show that even the greatest of skeptics notices a true Christian and can’t help but respect him/her. This phenomenon is summed up quite elegantly in 1 Peter 3:15-16:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. [NIV]

To paraphrase: if Christ really is your Lord, and you answer respectfully even to those who disagree with your faith, it will stick out. Anyone who slanders you will be forced to do so in bad faith, meaning they will know they are wrong and will probably get called out for it, and not even necessarily by a Christian.

This is something I’ve had to work on and think about a lot. By no means am I perfect at it, although lately I believe I’ve gotten a lot better at befriending those who I was sadly raised to hate. Heck, my girlfriend was bi in a previous life, before becoming a Christian. Three years ago, I would have shuddered at the thought of speaking with a real live homosexual. My parents still do, and despite my repeated attempts to convince them to change their ways, they have not.

Thankfully, I think this is changing as my own generation reaches adulthood. I think the modern issue of gay rights is quite similar to the issues of womens’ or black rights that my parents and grandparents grew up with. They were the first to reject the ideas that a Y chromosome is required to vote, or that dark skin means you have to use the shitty water fountain. Of course, the Bible doesn’t say that it’s wrong to be a woman or be black.

The issue with the previous generation is that they hold on to the view that because their own religion prohibits a certain activity, that they are entitled to block others from committing it. I’ve been fortunate enough to be exposed to both conservative and liberal viewpoints on this matter, and have come to the belief that any rational person ought to think beyond his own system of beliefs because there is more out there. It’s not too different from culture shock anywhere else – did you know the Mayans hung a bead in front of babies’ eyes to make them permanently cross-eyed because they thought it looked cool? Different cultures do things that seem strange to us, but (excluding religious mandates) are not inherently wrong. A responsible, mature adult should realize what is and is not his or her business, and what a non-Christian does in bed with other non-Christians is outside of a Christian’s business.

But now I’m repeating myself from the last post.

The point is, by now I think most young adults have realized this and adjusted their approach to relevant situations accordingly. The Myspace Generation (I’m so ashamed that we’re called that, I’d prefer The Wikipedia Generation) have extended the liberal views of their parents and recognized that all religions and faiths have their limits as to who can be reached without divine intervention, as well as the danger of shoving anything religious down someone’s throat. Many of us have been subject to this and have turned from religion altogether, while those that remain have chosen to adopt it in such a way that they can be respected for both their uncompromised faith and uncompromised treatment of others.

And now for my three-part conclusion…

To the Christians out there: we’re gaining ground. The LGBT and atheist communities have seen those of us who truly love Christ. We NEED to keep this up, and preach this message to other Christians, especially the older ones among us. It is absolutely imperative that you follow what 1 Peter 3:15-16 says. I’ve quoted that verse to several atheist friends already (including the friend who linked me to that Reddit post) and all have said they’d be more open to Christianity if every Christian simply did as those verses instruct.

To the fence-sitters who identify as Christian but don’t act like it: seriously, bug off. Stop calling yourself something you aren’t because you are too uncomfortable to say you’re not really a Christian at all. You’re making us look bad. Really bad. It’s embarrassing to the non-fakers. Either take up your cross for real, or go away. Specifically to my parents and their friends, I’m starting to question your faith based on your attitude towards others who are different than you. I rarely see you pour out the love of Christ on someone that truly needs it.

To the atheists: step up your game with calling out hypocrites and those who claim to be what they aren’t. Help us weed out the bad Christians; they really don’t help either of us. Know that there are Christians who you wouldn’t want to stab with a rusty spatula at the end of a conversation.

Posted in Uncategorized
27 Jun 2011

Nord Stage 2, preliminary review

The premise: I just dropped more on a digital piano than I did on my first car. Yay summer internship!

The model I chose is the Nord Stage 2. I went for it because it’s said to be a boon to user interaction design as far as keyboards go, does one thing and does it well, and combines serious synthesis power with a really good hammer-action keybed.

The good:

  • It’s red.
  • Keybed feels great – somewhat light, decent velocity curve (some say it bottoms out too fast)
  • All of the controls update the sound real-time – a major selling feature of Nords. You don’t have to even release the key.
  • Minimal use of menus; dedicated knobs and buttons for nearly everything. Another distinguishing feature of Nords.
  • Everything sounds accurate.

The bad:

  • Support for a second keyboard is an afterthought at best. Nord clearly does not yet understand the importance of saving MIDI settings along with the rest of your program. I like to layer two or three sounds and assign them all to the top keyboard (an Axiom Pro 61, quite programmable) and then switch to another configuration with the press of a button on the upper keyboard. The problem is, your MIDI channel assignments aren’t saved with the program on the Nord. What a blow. That means I have to go into the MIDI menu and configure input channels whenever I switch between complex programs.
  • The limitation of two slots each for organ, piano and synth are something I’ll need to get used to. I have on occasion wanted to layer three or even four synths.
  • For that price I could have bought a DSLR, a sub for my car, and an X220 tablet.

I think it’s a keeper so far – I mean, the pianos are downright beautiful, it looks awesome and it is clearly a very well built instrument that has the potential to last me 10-15 years or more. I did e-mail their feedback address asking them to change the data structure for programs to include MIDI settings. Let’s just hope they left 5 reserved bytes in the structure for future expansion such as this. If they address the MIDI limitation, I’ll be a whole lot happier.

Edit: Nord’s Product Manager, Tomas Johansson, responded to me, saying this feature would not be included:

Hi Dan

We do not plan to included programmable MIDI channel selections.

I think your example scenario can be achieved with a little bit of planning and the use of the MIDI Input Only and the Dual Kb features.

[…] (information on how to implement the two scenarios I described)

This may of course have consequences for the rest of your rig and programs, but this is as far as we are willing to “take” the Stage 2. If you need complete control, all the time, of everything, you are in the market for a separate MIDI processor that controls every aspect of your setup.

Best regards,
Tomas Johansson
Product Manager – Clavia DMI AB

There are limits on where you’re willing to “take” your top-of-the-line, flagship product? OK. I mean, I can tell that as a highly technical user, I’m stretching their target audience a bit. But at the same time, I think such a change would help my demographic out while not significantly impacting their existing audience.

I should note that I was able to work around the issue by clever assignment of my zones and channels on the Axiom. Zones 1, 2, 3 and 4 are Organ B, Piano B, Synth B, and Synth A, respectively. The only real restriction here is that I would need to change settings in order to assign both piano slots or both organ slots to the Axiom, which should not be needed.

Other discoveries/tips and tricks:

  • If you don’t have two expression pedals, you can assign your one as a rotary speed controller with Morph, and yes it does have full variability, not just a switch between slow and fast.
  • If you, like me, prefer physical sliders for drawbars, assign MIDI CCs 9 (drawbar 1) and 14-21 (2-9) to your sliders on your upper controller. As long as they’re mapped to the right channel, you now have true physical drawbar functionality. The Axiom Pro deserves a specific honorable mention here because it even has a “drawbar mode” wherein zero is represented by the slider being all the way up, and it increases as you pull the slider down, akin to a real B3.
Posted in Uncategorized
21 Mar 2011

A 1:1 map of the artists on my playlist to items in my room

After Forever: The Cup Noodles container on my desk, now reduced to just broth. The good part (the noodles) was gone a good while ago, and I pretty much forgot about them entirely.
Becoming the Archetype: My Bible (huzzah, only Christian artist on my playlist)
Between the Buried and Me: Box of actually useful computer parts (see iwrestledabearonce)
Bigelf: My gray button-down dress shirt. It’s classy, but plain.
Black Sabbath: The old Greenbriar DuraLamp I got from Grandma’s house. It takes a while to fire up, and it’s useful every once in a while but still a bit off-color compared to the modern stuff.
Delain: The Bluetooth adapter in my desktop computer: new, but kinda forgot it exists.
Disturbed: My pillow. Because everybody’s got one.
Dream Theater: My LCD monitors. I’ll never really understand how they work, but it’s beautiful.
Epica: A foreign language textbook (sure I have one somewhere).
Flogging Molly: The TV that came with the room. I never use it, but apparently other people use it a lot?
Guns ‘N Roses: See Flogging Molly, but an older TV.
Iced Earth: USB hub. They’ve got connections to everyone, and still manage to be really crappy.
Infected Mushroom: Subwoofer.
iwrestledabearonce: Box of random household items, ranging from food to dish towels to bath soap.
Kamelot: empty can of AMP Elevate. It was good, but looking back, there was too much power in it.
Klaus Badelt [of Pirates of the Caribbean fame]: Beach towel.
Lamb of God: The soft fuzzy blanket on my hiking stick.
Led Zeppelin: The old bag of dried cranberries in the food box.
Machinae Supremacy: My cell phone (LG enV Touch) that does a surprising amount considering its primitive electronics.
Meshuggah: ???
Metallica: My M-Audio AV40s. They’re old and beat up and sound a little distorted, also recently moved to my office at Datto Inc. when replaced by my BX5as.
Mushroomhead: 8.5oz can of Red Bull. It’s what Clevelanders consume because they don’t realize there’s Bawls out there. (See also Slipknot)
Nightwish: My laptop. I use it when I have to, and it works great, but my desktop’s just a lot better all around.
Opeth: The neatly organized cans of Arizona running along the shelf at the top of the room. Exactly 48 of them – that’s six times eight!
Pink Floyd: The little penguin plushie in a Santa hat that sits on top of my monitor. I look at it a lot, but it certainly doesn’t do much.
Poisonblack: Porn Nation
Protest the Hero: Hard Rock cafe t-shirt. I’m always surprised when I see another person wearing one, I thought I was the only one that cared.
PsyOpus: Hammer.
Rage Against the Machine: Hiking stick. (“Talk softly…”)
Scorched Earth Orchestra: The oatmeal cans propping up my AV40s.
Serj Tankian: My black beanie-hat. There was a time period where I wore it everywhere, more out of necessity than any obsession with the hat, but I was still known for it. Then I forgot it existed.
Slipknot: Bottle of Bawls. A slightly more thought out, refined product than Red Bull (see also Mushroomhead).
Streetlight Manifesto: The brightly colored reusable cable ties I fiddle with when I’m bored.
Symphony X: My PSR-270 keyboard (the one I solo on)
System of a Down: Leather jacket; see also Serj Tankian
The Agonist: Kiwi! Didn’t realize how cool they were until they were right under my nose. (Heard their music for the first time at the Epica concert)
The Hush Sound: My brightly colored BX5as: I listen to them a lot when I need something different. (Coincidentally, The Hush Sound sounds a lot better on the BX5as than the AV40s)
The Mars Volta: High school Spanish Club t-shirt.
Tool: The busted clock on the wall. It can’t tell time. At all.

Posted in Uncategorized
29 Jan 2011

How to IM Dan Fuhry

So, instant messaging. It’s kind of a big deal for me. I’ve been using it heavily for about 6 years now, for both personal and business purposes. I have multiple accounts on Google Talk, MSN, AIM, Yahoo!, and ICQ, and I’m currently connected to no less than 9 IRC networks. Yes, IM is rather a dominant presence in my life and occupies a significant amount of my time online.

Of course, there are some people I IM more than others. A few people out there wonder why I ignore them. So let’s go over some basic rules of IM etiquette.

  1. Learn the hell how to start a conversation. Let’s review the archetypical 2003 AIM conversation:

    Person A: hey
    Person B: sup
    Person A: nm u
    Person B: nm either
    Person A: u doin nethin l8r
    Person B: nope
    [long silence]
    Person A: well i g2g bi
    Person A has signed off.

    Um… yeah. I don’t have conversations like that. Yes, I’m one of those sad people that tends to use IM as a replacement for phone conversations or such. But I make it a point for it to be a real conversation. So, if you want to IM me, plan on chatting for a while. And open the conversation with something interesting. Saying “hey” and waiting for a response will likely generate none. Opening a conversation with “hey” is nothing short of my biggest pet peeve. It’s spam. I would break up with a girl over it. This is closely related to my second point…

  2. If your IM client says I’m online (that includes “available”, “away”, etc.), I will get your message. Period. I keep logs of everything, and always, always check for unread IMs before I sign off and then on again from a different computer. If I can’t check over VNC, I will typically use a script to find all recently modified chat logs. The chances of me missing a message from you are very low. If I’m away from my computer, send it anyway, and I’ll read it when I get back.
  3. Try to stay online, when possible. I believe that a good IM user is online 24/7. Yes, I understand if you have a power-hungry desktop PC, and you turn it off at night to save pennies. This isn’t a relentless demand, more like a request. Configure your client to properly report when you disappear from your computer. Then disappear from your computer. If I need to reach you, I know I can do it via IM without risk of the message getting lost. I also consider it highly discourteous to sign on, message me, then sign off almost immediately.
  4. Don’t rape the sideways man. Overuse of emoticons/smilies/whatever is pointless. You should be accomplished enough with English that you can express your thoughts without suffixing every single message with a smiley. Now, an emoticon here and there is quite beneficial — especially a well-placed “^_^” or “>_>”.
  5. Don’t rape your mother tongue. Use proper English. Capitalization isn’t that important, but ignoring spelling, grammar and punctuation makes your messages difficult to read. And if it’s difficult to read, I ignore it. Or block you.
  6. RTFSM. Please, please, Read The Friendly Status Message. It takes you half a second to hover over me and see “Please do not disturb.” I don’t set this status very often, but when I do, I’m serious. Don’t expect a reply. Even receiving a message can be quite distracting if I’m concentrating on something like a coding project.
  7. Nobody cares about your custom font and color. Honestly, kill the formatting. Send your messages in plain text. I use a Pidgin plugin to strip formatting anyway, but you should know that I use a dark desktop theme, and thus explicitly setting your text to “black” will make your messages very difficult to read. Instead, use the “automatic” or “no color” setting.
  8. I haven’t forgotten about you simply because it has been two minutes since I last replied. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Counting down my open Pidgin tabs right now, I have 6 conversations going. I’m in 11 different IRC chatrooms on almost as many networks. I can multitask, but often do so by spending 2-10 minutes on each individual thing, more if it’s a longer-term project or if it involves money.
  9. Use a real IM service. Meaning one that supports encryption. Meaning, not Facebook.

All these rules might seem a little daunting, but really, a lot of it is just basic common sense. I am generally very, very good at replying to people who at least make an effort to respect the above rules.

And if I ignore you, it really is nothing personal. Who knows — part of the reason I wrote this blog post is so that, in lieu of ignoring you, I can spam you with a link to it. If you got here because I replied to you with a link to this post, I don’t hate you, I just want to ask you to learn how the tricky beast that is instant messaging works.

Posted in Uncategorized
25 Jan 2011

ASL exams.

ASL (American Sign Language, in case you don’t know / need context) exams suck.

Normally, my test-taking strategy involves rereading the question 3-4 times. That’s in English, the language I’ve been able to read for 16 years. In ASL exams, everything is signed either once or twice. In addition, I’m an extremely auditory person; that is, I remember things I hear much better than things I see. So I can see and even process something twice, but I can’t remember it as well unless I hear it.

Oh, and forget going back to check your answers. Your best shot at the question is when it’s first asked. You can’t circle a question and come back to it later, or extract facts from the wording of other exam questions.

In summary: every wily test taking strategy that’s gotten me very nearly straight As pretty much goes to /dev/null in this class. If you ever take ASL, keep that in mind.

*sigh*

(Update 2011-03-02: I finished the class with a B; my test scores, to my surprise, were 68, 75 and 79 respectively, with a 98 on the online final exam which was in English.)

Posted in Uncategorized
18 Jan 2011

Correlation equals causation

WSJ recently published an article citing several examples of a growing trend in modern society which deeply and genuinely disturbs me: suddenly, there is a tendency to treat all males as pedophiles.

Let me start by establishing some credibility. I love kids. Their endless energy, their underestimated intelligence, their downright cuteness. I think it must have come from my mom, who worked as a nanny until she had kids of her own, and for years welcomed friends’ kids into our home, providing cheap daycare in lieu of working a day job. She and my dad continue to volunteer in the kindergarten Sunday School class at my church back home, something I also participated in, on and off at least, throughout my middle- and high-school years.

And now, just for being a guy, correlation equals causation: society wants to label me a pedophile, for being a guy who is good with kids. I’m sorry… WTF? That’s what the WSJ article says, and it certainly reflects some of the pressure I have felt personally over the past couple of years.

This is wrong on so many levels. It has been demonstrated time and again that kids need both male and female influences in their lives. Guys and gals interact with kids in fundamentally different ways. I’ve noticed that girls tend to focus on social skills and communication when working with kids, while guys lean more towards creativity, running around, and hands-on technical skills. Kids can’t grow up with only half of that. (That’s also why I think it’s statistically better for kids to be raised by heterosexual couples, but that’s a discussion for a different day.) Our society, however, dictates that working with kids is for the ladies, and guys should do… you know, manly jobs. Seriously, give me a break. Helping a 9-year-old assemble an advanced K’nex set isn’t manly enough for you? Can’t wait until you’re a dad, buddy, because building K’nex sets with your kid will be the most manly thing you do during the course of raising them.

Oh yeah, personal experience – one recent one, mainly. I had a lot going on over Christmas break. My dad’s college buddy Ted Spaeth came over from Hong Kong for a visit, and brought his two daughters, Sarah (roughly my age) and Stephanie (12 or so). We went up to Erie, PA on the 26th of December to visit the Bergquists, bringing together my dad and his three closest buddies from Miami U, a reunion that hasn’t happened in 10 years or so. The Bergquists have 4 kids: Marie (12ish), Matthew (9), Abagail “Abs” (6?) and Sarah (4? Not to be confused with Sarah Spaeth, of course). Marie was off with Steph and my own sister Katrina for the whole time, but Matt, Abs and Sarah didn’t have much to do. So the grown-ups spent the afternoon talking, and Sarah and I spent pretty much the whole afternoon hanging out with the kids.

That was too much fun. Abs and Sarah had a ball playing with my tablet PC, closely supervised of course, and Matthew and I did two projects: a whirlpool machine (you know, two 2-liter bottles taped together at the mouths, with about 1.5 liters of water inside them, and if you spin it right it makes a very visible whirlpool inside the bottles) and his new K’nex roller coaster, the instructions for which very nearly got the best of my engineering mind.

Towards the end, when picture time came around, I also got to be crowd control….. OK, not really. Once they got hyper it was more of me picking them up and throwing them on to couches, spinning them around, what have you. Yeah, not too many girls tend to do that part. In fact it’s almost always the guys who rile the kids up and get them running around, and the girls who scold us for winding them up. Whatever, they’re having fun and getting exercise… and I’m getting plenty of exercise too chasing after them. 🙂 We obviously enjoyed each other’s company, and I could tell they were getting an unusual amount of attention and activity, and they loved every minute of it.

We had a great time, both Sarah Spaeth and I, and the Bergquist kids. Abs and Sarah are above-average cute and they know it; Abs was described to me as “6 going on 16” which was a pretty damn good description.

Long story short: I think kids are awesome. If society adopts the way of thinking we are warned about in the WSJ article, it will hurt kids, and it will degrade our society, as well as affecting me personally. I take great personal offense to being treated like that. It is unjustified, unfair and really just downright rude.

And really, who can resist a face like that? Seriously Abs, you’re such a poser.
Abagail

Posted in Uncategorized
25 Nov 2010

Epica!

I went to see their show at Peabody’s Underground in downtown Cleveland last night. Ho – ly cow.

First off, I have a confession to make: that was my first metal concert. Not kidding. I’ve worked outdoor stage setups before and listened to live metal albums, so between the two I knew what to expect. I wasn’t all that surprised at the order and procession of things nor the faint smell of pot at various points during the show (it always vanished quickly within 5 minutes, indicating that security probably took care of it).

A few good things to say about Epica: they love their fans, like most metal bands do; they can play what’s on the CD (sans, of course, the choir, which is less portable); and they love what they do. I don’t agree with some of their messages, which express anti-religion opinions especially in their latest album Design Your Universe, but they are brilliant musicians – especially Mark Jansen, who as I understand it, is the idea factory for most of Epica’s music.

Just before they came on I caught a hold of Isaac Delahaye, their rhythm guitarist, and asked if they could play Fools of Damnation, one of their more complex songs which I spent a significant amount of time studying and learning to play this summer. I told him I was a keyboardist and my friend Cary plays 7-string electric guitar. He asked if I was in a band to which I had to reply no simply because a guitarist and keyboardist are a good start, but we lack a drummer, bassist and vocalist, so we’re not very complete at this point. I don’t know if it was because of my pre-show request or because it was already in their setlist, but Fools was the third song.

It surprised me how much Coen, the keyboardist, choreographed and pre-recorded his stuff. I’m guessing he would have been able to do more had he been able to bring in a second keyboard and rack ’em. That’s what I’ve always done and I can cover the rumbles, the strings and the piano in the intro to Consign to Oblivion through careful programming and deft execution. It is indeed possible to run on-the-fly settings changes for a complex intro too: InterVarsity’s praise band covered dc Talk’s “In The Light” during a musical gathering of the various Christian groups on campus. That song has no less than 6 instrument changes for the keyboards during the intro, and because of the key it’s in I can’t split the keyboard, however I was able to cut it to four changes through the use of multiple keyboards, and successfully (somehow) executed it live during the event even though I failed the first time we did it for our usual Friday night gathering. If I can pull that off, then so can you, Coen. 🙂 He does have his keyboard on a rotating stand though, allowing him to swivel and walk around a little during the show, which helps, although setting up a rack inevitably makes having the swiveling action more difficult. Up close his stand looks like it may be custom-built. (And after doing some Googling there seems to be a Patrick Slaats in the Netherlands who builds those rotating stands.)

I stayed afterwards and hung out until security made us leave. This is when it became apparent to me that metal bands are not pop stars. They don’t disappear in a puff of pyrotechnic fog at the end of their shows. They go backstage, cool off, then come down and hang out with their fans, many of whom are musicians themselves. Mark Jansen and a random girl were talking and I dropped in as they were exchanging Sharpie moustaches. Yves was hanging out and Coen showed up just as they were shooing people out. I think they expected that we would have been allowed to hang out longer… it’s rare that the venue is done dealing with fans before the band is, and that’s a great thing in my opinion.

All in all it was a great experience. Unforgettable to say the least, and I know I’ll be going back for many more.

Posted in Uncategorized