Do Not Call Me

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

After a few years of relative peace, the phone spammers seem to have discovered my home number again. I’ve gotten two calls in the last fifteen minutes, one from Mark Marshall at Ambit Energy (though I’m certain he lied about his name) and one from Daniel of the Police Conference of New York (one of those scummy organizations that tries to sell you stickers to put in your car with the implicit promise that this will keep you from getting tickets). There have been quite a few others in the last few weeks too.

I suspect some of these are jumping the gun on the expiry of the federal Do-Not-Call list. The FTC claims:

Your registration will not expire. The Federal Trade Commission will not drop any telephone numbers from the National Do Not Call Registry based on a five-year expiration period pending final Congressional or agency action on whether to make registration permanent. Read more about it at

I think it’s time to start filing some complaints. In fact, I think the next time this happens I’m going to hold the caller on the phone while I fill out the complaint form.

Buy Nothing Today

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

Today on Buy Nothing Day we remind ourselves that:

  • It’s far more comfortable to sleep in your own bed than camped out in a big box parking lot.
  • Cashiers deserve a holiday too.
  • Mall food causes heart disease.
  • You may save $100 on a big TV if you buy it today, but you will save $1000 if you don’t buy it at all.
  • Wal-mart is not our family.
  • Ronald McDonald is not a real person.
  • Going to the mall is not a patriotic duty.
  • Credit card debt is not a sign of God’s favor.
  • The Grinch can’t steal Christmas if you don’t buy it in the first place.

#391 Pine Siskin in Prospect Park

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

I don’t usually carry my cell phone with me, but for some reason I took it with me to lunch today, and it was a good thing I did. Halfway through my pork souvlaki Peter Dorosh texted me with news of a Pine Siskin at the Breeze Hill feeders in Prospect Park. Siskins are regular in the park in the fall but they’re usually only a few each year, and I’d managed to miss them all before now.

When I arrived at the feeders I ran into Rob Jett, who had arrived fifteen minutes earlier and promptly pointed out the bird to me. It immediately became apparent why I had missed it for the last several years: a Pine Siskin looks almost exactly like a winter plumage American Goldfinch, and it was hanging out with maybe ten goldfinches so you had to look close to realize what it was. Rob’s scope helped. The upper back was somewhat striped on the Siskin and more plain on the goldfinches. The bill on the siskin was also thinner than the thick finch bills. However that wasn’t always easy to see.

Nonetheless I’m confident I did have the bird. In the future I’m going to have to pay more attention to the goldfinches in winter. Who knows how many siskins I’ve overlooked in the last four years?

Error occurred during initialization of VM java/lang/ClassNotFoundException: error in opening JAR file /usr/local/java/jre/lib/rt.jar

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

Just a little Google fodder. Should you encounter this uncommon error message when trying to compile or run a Java program:

$ javac -version
Error occurred during initialization of VM
java/lang/ClassNotFoundException: error in opening JAR file /usr/local/java/jre/lib/rt.jar

it means that your installation of the JDK, and likely your original download is corrupt. Delete it, download again, and reinstall. This can occur with essentially any Java program: the interpreter, the compiler, jar, or a program merely written in Java such as LimeWire.

For reasons that aren’t especially clear, this bug seems to occur most frequently on Ubuntu Linux 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon when running in a virtualized environment such as VMWare. At least those seem to be the common factors for everyone else I found with this problem when googling it myself.

Hack of the Day

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

So I have an article due about Java 7 two days ago, and I discover that my Linux box has a bad Ethernet card (or port, or some such). I don’t have time to run out and buy a new one; but fortunately I have just purchased a new Intel MacBook so I grab a demo copy of VMWare Fusion and an Ubuntu 7.1 Gutsy Gibbon Image and install that. However, I don’t have the MacBook setup with all my files yet so editing, the keyboard is a little wonky, and the screen is small. I don’t really want to type on that system just yet. So instead I turn on terminal sharing in Ubuntu running in the VM and log in over the wireless network from my main desktop PowerMac using Chicken of the VNC. I’m now running Java 7 on my PowerMac G5 over the network! Shockingly this all works.

Unfortunately there’s a at least a two-second delay between when I type a character on my end and when it shows up on my screen. So install sshd on Ubuntu using Synaptic (all over the network from Chicken of the VNC). I do a quick “ifconfig -a” in an Ubuntu terminal to determine my IP address, and then login from the Mac terminal. Now I can do xtermish things from my regular monitor and keyboard, and performance is acceptable.

What a brave new world we live in. :-)

Great Blue Heron

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

Great Blue heron on rock
Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 2007-10-21