I hate hippies. They smell bad, they disregard the laws of this nation, support terrorism, are lazy, and are a general nuisance. Hippies should be treated like Kudzu, they shouldn’t be allowed in most states, and where ever we find an area infested with them, we ought to call in the Army Core of Engineers to help us solve the ecological disaster created by their presence. After all, I’m sure that the Army Core of Engineers know the answer to my favorite joke: “What’s orange and looks good on a Hippy?” But this article isn’t about hippies, or rather it isn’t about ALL hippies. It’s about a special breed that call themselves Vegetarians, Vegans, and other such monikers. These folks have one thing in common, a dastardly sinister plan.

They seek to cause the extinction of the noble cow.

Yes, you read that right, and whether the Hippies are aware of their plan, or not (because let’s face it when you smoke so much Mary Jane, are you really aware of anything anymore? Do you even still count as intelligent life?), make no mistake, this is their goal. Cows, or more properly, Cattle, are not a natural animal. Much like modern corn has strayed so far beyond its Teosinte origins, so have Cattle. They are dependent on us for their livelihood and cannot survive in the wild without us, just as we are dependent on them for their tastiness, and could not have a hamburger without them. But some people hate Cows so much that they want to see an end to our symbiotic relationship, and thus an end to Cows. They won’t stop till every last Cow in the world is deprived of its purpose and cast into the wild to die painfully. Their goal is for cattle to join the Dinosaurs in oblivion.

But we are not helpless against the Hippie menace! No, far from it! If we act together we can reverse the tide and save the future of cattle everywhere. A solution has been discovered by another writer who has put together an elegant but simple plan on his website. To help his plan succeed all we need to do is sponsor a vegetarian. It’s simple, effective, and fool proof. Simply find a friend of yours who refuses to eat meat and inform them you are sponsoring them, and then eat three times as much meat as you normally would. By doing this you not only counteract their part in the Crusade Against Cows, but push the tide backwards even further, helping to preserve a Bright Bovine Future. Once they see the light and agree to help preserve the future of our cattle, you can then either go back to eating a normal amount of delicious cows, or sponsor another vegetarian.

Act now! The future of our tasty and noble friends hangs in the balance!

-Angry Midwesterner

As a bit of variety for our readers, I’ve decided to throw together a periodic humor piece inspired by Simon Travaglia BOFH. It’s not exactly an angry rant… but it is Friday — you deserve a few laughs. For those new to the HoS series, the first episode is here.

I’m sitting in Hellalate shotgunning espressos, staring at a blank sheet of paper, trying to figure out what I can possibly do to force Li to confess. If I had weeks to perform this task, there are a myriad of things I could possibly do to “persuade” Li. But as it is, I am very short on time as the Expulsion Committee is hearing my case in two days. As I stare at that blank sheet, I a single question comes to my mind:

“What Would Jack Bauer Do?”

Realizing that shooting Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum in some sort of overly dramatic gun battle would likely land me in the pokey, I start reading the bog-paper better known as “Uni News and Views” out of shear frustration. Turns out the Uni Basketball team lost badly (no surprise) and that some bra-burning feminist group called “Womyn Against Male Oppression” is handing out pepper spray and contact info for the local abortion clinic as part of their most recent PR initiative. How typical of the Uni. The campus police forcibly busted up the AK-47 benefit raffle for “Americans for Private Ownership of Crew-Served Weaponry,” but those pinkos allow Gloria Steinem wanna-bes to hand out real weapons on camp…. hang on. What would Jack Bauer do, indeed.

In a flash, I’m out of Hellalate (which is good, because their coffee has a 75% chance of causing gastro-intestinal distress in those who have not yet mastered the Shaolin art of “Iron Colon”) and onto the Quad, tucking in my tee-shirt and putting on a pair of those ultra-dorky librarian glasses that now seems all the rage. I pause for a moment to get into my new ultra-wimpified persona as I approach the WAMO desk.

“Pardon me,” I whimper, trying my best to sound the emasculated puppy these man-haters view as the only tolerable lifeform with a Y chromosome. “I was contemplating my own tragic failings in preventing the true liberation of womyn from The Patriarchy.” Eyes perk up. I continue laying it on as thick as I can as I inch closer to the box of pepper spray. “I know that as a man, I cannot truly be part of the solution, which must come from the power of womyn themselves, but what else can I do to help other men see the light as I have? How can I help free my sisters?” The three women at the desk, two of which appear to be typical man-hating lesbians (the matching “Dyke & Proud of It” tattoos on their arms give that away), seem to be spellbound by my rhetoric. I slip into a more inspiring voice and start employing exaggerated gestures as I start slipping canister after canister of pepper spray into my pocket. “How can I join the fight against the oppressive phallo-centric system that condemns my sisters to
violence? How can I convince other men to abdicate their position of power allowing womyn to bring an end the war, injustice and violence that are rooted in the oppression that comes part in parcel with men? How, my sisters? How can I do this? Teach me your ways of wisdom!” I end with crescendo and flourish, reducing the two lesbians to tears, and leaving the third, a quiet brunette with a WAMO t-shirt, with a puzzled look on her face. Unlike the dykes, she probably saw through my act, but lucky for me, she didn’t see my slight of hand.

After moments of taking all of WAMO’s literature and consoling the crying lesbians, I high-tail it away from the desk before they can realize their pepper spray supplies have been decreased by about 45%. After a half-hour long session in the can (curse you Hellalate!), I finally stagger to freedom. Despite my crunch for time, I swing by the gym to take a shower, because after all that (and I’m not referring to the side-effects of the espresso) I feel seriously dirty.

Equipped with more pepper spray than I would need to neutralize the national guard, I head over to Ray’s Music Exchange to pick up a copy of the 1995 re-release of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, and not just because I’m a fan of Iron Butterfly, but because Li really, really hates the song. I also pick up a really, really cheap mp3 player, extra batteries a pair of crappy speakers. Two more stops and I’m almost ready: the local hardware store for some quick-drying glue and the local auto-parts place for a cheap car battery. After raiding the lab for a soldering iron and several other key pieces of equipment, I’m off the The Love Nest to do some assembly.

What’s my plan? Well, you’ll just have to wait for my next installment to find out, but to give my readers a bit of excitement before the next episode comes out, I encourage you to post your favorite plan of revenge using the tools listed above, plus anything that I can find in the lab. If it’s better than mine, I’ll credit you and adjust my plan accordingly. Who says that Hell’s Own Scientist isn’t flexible (at least when his academic status is on the line)?

As a bit of variety for our readers, I’ve decided to throw together a periodic humor piece inspired by Simon Travaglia BOFH. It’s not exactly an angry rant… but April Fool’s is over, and you still deserve a few laughs… For those new to the HoS series, the first episode is here.

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It’s about 9:30 in the morning when I roll into the office (so sue me, the sun woke me up and I couldn’t get back to sleep), when to my shock and horror I see the department’s two morbidly obese systems administrators (I’ll call them Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum) leaning on our lab table.

“Excuse me, gentlemen,” I lie, oozing charm. “What seems to be the cataclysmic event which has caused you two troglodytes to risk exposure to the dreaded day star?” Oh well, no charm after all. Drat.

“Very funny,” snorts Tweedle Dee. His cheese-it devouring PLP continues, “You know why we’re here.”

“No, I don’t,” I respond, because I honestly have no idea whatsoever.

“Yes you do,” responds Tweedle Dee, tapping his softball bat against his empty palm. When the last time he could run to first base without having a coronary was, I don’t know. But I don’t like the mafioso-style intimidation.

“Listen, here junior hitmen. Either you tell me why you’re here, or I’m on the phone to the university EEO to complain about the ‘hostile and abusive’ workplace environment you’re creating,” I snip back.

“We’re here about your Nessus activities,” counters Tweedle Dee.

“I don’t know anything about…”

“Save your lies for the expulsion committee. We know you ran Nessus against the departmental servers.”

“And you know this how?”

“It was coming from your server.”

“Which anyone in the research group has access too.”

“Yes, but it was running scans that require root access.”


“Pretty damning, isn’t it?” adds Tweedle Dum, obviously salivating over the thought of finally getting the best of me.

“No. It wasn’t me, but I’ll find out who it is. Nobody roots my server and gets away with it.”

I storm out of the lab and head for The Love Nest, dialing my old college roommate on my cell phone. By the time I get down there, I’ve got him on the hands-free as I’m busy sifting through the server logs.

“Well, it looks like I got myself rooted,” I gripe, staring at what looks like Martian poetry in what should be my /var/log/messages file.

“What great joy,” says the disembodied voice over the phone. “Local or remote exploit?” the voice continues.

“Well, assuming the logs haven’t been doctored, there were three users on. One of which was me.”

“And the other two?” the voice asks.

“One was Amy, and there’s no way she’d know enough to root my box, and the other….”

My face darkens.


“And this should mean what to me?” inquires the voice.

“He’s the cowboy who cracked my memory chip in half a few weeks back.”

“Well, that’s pretty damning. Any router traffic logs?”

“I can’t get those without the cooperation of the very admins who are trying to get me kicked out of school in the first place.”

“True. But it is unlikely they’d fake those just to get you thrown out. If they’re even half-competent, they would have checked those to rule out external penetration before coming after you.”

“You give them too much credit.”

“Perhaps,” notes the voice. “But if they want to get you, a smoking gun pointing to an external source won’t be good enough. Even so, they have you where they want you.”

“Come again?”

“Think. Since there was no external penetration, someone with root access did the dirty deed. You have a log that strongly suggests Li did it, but they can claim you doctored it to save your own tail. Your historical animosity towards Li will aid their case.”

“So? They’ve got no proof. I get off scott free.”

“No. They can’t get you expelled, but they can question your competence as an admin, and make a compelling argument that you’re a security risk…”

“Bloody hell! What they really want is root on my machine for themselves,” I exclaim.

“Correct,” the voice responds. “Which means that unless you can give them an ironclad case against this Li fellow, you’re hosed.”

“Bugger all! How the heck do I do that? As you said, any evidence I present will be suspect.”

“Correct. Consider this thought exercise. Say you wanted to invade a country.”

“You mean, like Iraq?”

“Precisely. You need casus belli, otherwise nobody will buy it. How do you get a reason for war, if the other party isn’t going to give it to you?”

“Get someone else to manufacture one, like WMDs!”

“But who? Someone like…”

“George Tenet,” I exclaim, knowing full well the price of a Presidential Medal of Freedom these days.

“Who has…”

“The credibility I lack. After all, why would he be making this crap up?”

“Back to your case: Who has the credibility to condemn Li which you lack?”

“The Advisor?”

“But would he really back you over his Chinese slave labor?” the voice questions.

“Uh, no.”

“Right, so the only other person who could condemn Li would be….”

“Li himself!”

“Correct again. You need a confession.”

“Thanks, you’re a lifesaver, man,” I say as I hang up, grab my coat and head to Hellalatte, a coffee bar who’s only redeeming quality is that it’s not in the building. If I’m going to get Li to turn himself in, I’m going to need one heck of a plan…

To be continued…
Thanks to longtime reader, Angry Sysadmin for providing the inspiration for this story

Spinal Tap once again proves that truth is stranger than fiction:

Recently, ABBA’s former drummer died in a bizarre gardening accident.

The late, great Jeff Porcaro‘s widow claims to this day that her husband died from a heart attack brought on by an allergic reaction to the pesticide he was using in his garden, not a drug overdose… that’s right, a bizarre gardening accident. (Decades of drug use must have counted, though.)

Jim Hodder, also a former Steely Dan drummer (he and Jeff both played with the Dan—at the same time—back in the mid ’70s), drowned in his swimming pool. Not quite a bizarre gardening accident but within spitting distance since the backyard is what the Brits call “the garden”….

So what is it with drummers? Or is it musicians? Or is it all “man bites dog” publication bias? Discuss!

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ObFascism Tag: If it were up to those hateful fascist safety regulators—who Hate America and Everything It Stands For!—there would be no more bizarre gardening accidents.

As a bit of variety for our readers, I’ve decided to throw together a periodic humor piece inspired by Simon Travaglia BOFH. It’s not exactly an angry rant… but it is Friday — you deserve a few laughs. For those new to the HoS series, the first episode is here.

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It’s about 10am on Friday when I finally wander into the office. The Greek grad student union had one hell of a bender last night where the ouzo was flowing like water. Those Greeks (as in Athens and Sparta, not as in Lambda Lambda Lambda) evidently like to start the weekend early! anyway, in addition to 16 v1agra emails, 3 “natural male enhancement” emails and 2 “h0t st0ck t1ps”, i finally get down to the only email that actually matters, the one from the department office. “Effective immediately,” it reads. “In light of security concerns, all external building doors will be keycard access only.” The note was signed by Professor Chain Smoker, head of the Facilities Committee for the Department. Now I’m for security as much as the next guy, but these ham-fisted policies often create more inconvenience than they do security. Like the inconvenience of having to walk all the way down to the doorway to let in the pizza guy when we’re having a LAN party in the office. Now under other circumstances, this
email would probably trigger a “Well that sucks” and I’d move on with my life. Unfortunately for Professor Chain Smoker, however, I have a massive hangover and I’m in a completely foul mood because of it. And lets be honest, does Hell’s own Scientist really need a reason to wreak his revenge?

I’m thinking not.

My more altruistic readers might feel it inappropriate for me to retaliate against a poorly thought-out policy which only accidentally inconveniences my non-department-sanctioned video game hobbies. To them I respond that I’m not “seeking revenge,” but rather helping certain key individuals, specifically Professor Chain Smoker, to learn to empathize with the pain of others, specifically my pain.

Feel my pain, big boy.

I grab Javier for a quick lunch (and hangover fix) at The Golden Calf, my favorite sports-bar-cum-burger-joint and we start to plan.

“What we need is a way to blackmail Professor Chain Smoker into revoking the policy,” I say, biting into a bacon cheeseburger with genuine aged Wisconsin cheddar.

“By ‘we,’ you mean, ‘you,'” Javier notes. “After all, I’m not a fan of computer games. I prefer consoles.”

He’s playing hardball. The only reason Javier does that is because he has something I want.

“Another imperial stout?” I offer.

“Make it two.”


Coming back with the beverages, I sit down to hear what sort of wisdom Javier has to offer. And for two beverages of the quality to which we’ve become accustomed, it better be good.

“Blackmail is dangerous,” Javier notes in his sage-like fashion. “It can have legal implications and can be easily traced back to the source if the blackmailer engages in liquor-induced bragging. It is far better to convince the gentleman that revising the policy is his own idea.”

“Go on.”

“What would convince him of that?”

“If he himself were inconvenienced by the policy.”


“But he doesn’t order pizza and if he did, he’d get one of his grad students to go down and pick it up.”

“But what if the professor is at the door?”

“He calls his wife or his secretary or his students and gets them to let him in. I bought two stouts for this?” I was getting tired of this Socrates shite out of Javier very quickly.

“Patience, grasshopper. What if he can’t make the call?”

“What, you mean we jam his cell phone? He can walk out of the range of the jammer, or just wait until someone comes by to let him in?”

“But what if he can’t?”

“That’s not…” Light bulb turn on! “That’s absolutely brilliant! Barkeep, get this man another stout!”

I drop some cash at the bar and leave Javier to deal with the effects of a four stout lunch while I rush back to the office to grab the cell phone repeater we use because the reception is terrible in the office. A few warranty-voiding modifications later and I have a working (and highly illegal) cell phone jammer. Another hour of electrical engineering later and I have a working battery-powered electromagnet capable of scrambling the first year’s student ID from about two feet (Hey, I need to test things somehow, and he carelessly left his wallet in his back pocket, how foolish of him!). After a few hours of actual work (the horror) it’s almost quitting time… and almost time for Professor Chain Smoker’s last smoke break of the day.

You see, the department policy applies to all doors external to the building, no matter where they are positioned. This, of course, includes the doors to the second and third floor balconies that have no other exits. Well, unless you were a ninja or had a grappling hook on your person when you got locked on the balcony. As the webcam shows my new favorite professor heading out on the balcony for a smoke break, I rush to the common area near the balcony and plug the jammer into one of the wall outlets (leaving the actual device in a nearby potted plant). With a piece of old pipe, I prop the balcony door ever so slightly ajar, so Professor Chain Smoker won’t notice it stays open after I come out) and walk out to get a nip of fresh air.

“Hi, Professor.”

“Uh, hello.”

He has no idea who I am. Excellent.

“Ooh, what brand do you smoke? I’m a Marlboro man myself,” I lie.

As he starts to show of his fru-fru cigs and tell me about his favorite smoke shop, I wander over just close enough to…. ZZZZZZ.

“What was that?”

“Probably just Jimmy starting the vacuum cleaner,” I reply innocently. “Anyway, I need to head out. I’ll be sure to check out that smoke shop.”

As I walk out (and un-prop the door), I wonder how long it will be until Jimmy finds the jammer and unplugs it. Well, I suppose I can watch the live, streaming video on the department “look at our new building” webcam to find out.

As a bit of variety for our readers, I’ve decided to throw together a periodic humor piece inspired by Simon Travaglia’s BOFH. It’s not exactly an angry rant… but it is Friday — you deserve a few laughs. For those new to the HoS series, the first episode is here.

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It’s group meeting time: an hour and a half of boredom (if you’re lucky) punctuated by The Advisor spewing out a litany of things that you need to try in your research (even though some of them are so obviously nonsense that you wonder whether the old man is reading any of the updates you send him). Since Javier and I nearly got busted a few weeks back for playing Spellcast (right before I cast Finger of Death too!) on our laptops during the group meeting, we’ve been playing it safe and actually paying attention during the meeting.

I have no need to tell you how painful that is.

After listing to The Advisor politely discuss research with Amy, he and Sasha nearly come to blows over a new idea that he’s proposing. Sasha is firmly convinced it won’t work, while the old man thinks its a sure thing. Finally, Sasha storms up to the whiteboard and slams out a few lines of math that’s utterly incomprehensible to mere mortals (and barely comprehensible to me) and The Advisor is suddenly left speechless. Sasha was right and he was wrong. After a embarrassingly long pause, The Advisor suddenly squeaks out, “Uh………. continue on as you proposed, I guess.”

I suppose that’s what happens when you get nailed dead to rights. Or strictly speaking, when you nail the old man dead to rights. When you nail me dead to rights, I get revenge a few weeks later.

After a quick round with Javier and the first year, the old man finally gets to me.

“I found this paper in PRB. I think its a good idea and you should implement it.”


“That’s that. I have a faculty meeting that I’m already late to,” as he leaves the room in an awful hurry.

After a nice long lunch and several margaritas with Javier at Relleno Caliente (Mexican food is the fifth food group), I head back to the lab to look over the paper. Now, perhaps it’s just the margaritas speaking (but on “Dollar Margarita” day, is there any other option?), but while the paper has some pretty results, I can barely figure out what they’re doing, let alone reproduce the results or integrate them into our work.

Actually, it’s not me (or the margaritas) at all, it’s Phys. Rev. B. As a service to various physicists looking to artificially inflate their publication counts the APS has graciously obliged by providing a “Rapid Communications” section in their various Physical Review journals. Designed to help get “breaking” results into print, the crafty editors limit the article length to four pages…. which once you’ve included the title, the abstract, and the list of references you’re down to about three. As a result, there’s about enough room to say, “We did something cool, here’s a pretty picture and trust us on the details.”

Caveat lector.

As far as I can tell, the authors are obscure Bulgarians, from some equally obscure school known back in the Soviet days as The People’s Glorious University in Dobrich. None of these Bulgarians have managed to publish a more substantial paper in English any time since the fall of the Berlin wall. Sure, they have long treatises in Russian and Bulgarian, but that does me no good whatsoever, since my foreign language skills are limited to being able to order a beer. Reading their paper leaves me only leaves me with more of a feeling that these guys are charlatans, and even if they weren’t, the idea is useless for us anyway.

So why did the old man give me the paper? A careful reread of the abstract reveals that the authors’ poor command of the English language might accidentally confuse someone who didn’t read the paper into thinking it was relevant to our work.

Statement 1: Anyone who read only the abstract might think the paper is relevant.

Statement 2: Anyone who read the paper would know the work isn’t relevant and would have a strong suspicion that the authors are crackpots.

Conclusion: The Advisor didn’t read the paper… and it’s only four pages long!

Theory: The Advisor doesn’t read any of the papers he gives us…

… and the only way to test a theory is an experiment. I wander down to The Love Nest, since I don’t want anyone disturbing the work I’m about to perform. It takes me a few hours, but I manage to knock together a quick theory paper. It begins with an impressive abstract, a few convincing looking plots (should The Advisor actually flip to page three) and is filled out with incomplete, contradictory and poorly written theorems. Overall, it would fit in quite nicely at the “crackpot session” of a conference, except for several choice lyrics from the musical artist Gunther (Link is NSFW -ed.) which I have scattered throughout the text.

Another half-an-hour gives me an fake “new issue” announcement from a Phys Rev journal I know the old man publishes in, faked sender and all. A week later, at the next group meeting, he hands the article to Sasha telling her to “study it carefully.” Within the hour she’s at his office cursing in whatever language it is she speaks (and no, it’s not Bulgarian). All I can make out is something about a “Tra la la.”


As a bit of variety for our readers, I’ve decided to throw together a periodic humor piece inspired by Simon Travaglia BOFH. It’s not exactly an angry rant… but it is Friday (well, Saturday this time, but nobody really cares about those details if they know what’s good for them) — you deserve a few laughs. For those new to the HoS series, the first episode is here.

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It’s Saturday night and I’m in the lab. Javier and I are sitting at the lab table trying to figure out exactly how I’m supposed fulfill my part of the bargain with Jimmy the Janitor. Our preliminary recon only served to enhance the immensity of the problem — ever since a disgruntled grad student tried to shoot him about a decade ago, the Columbian Slave Driver’s door (I’ll call him the CSD for short) has been reinforced and alarmed. Even if Javier or I could pick the lock, we’d have a few minutes before campus police arrived and hauled us off to the county jail for the night. The only other door is into his lab, though it’s not alarmed, it’s hinged to make it impossible to enter from the lab unless we drill out the whole lock mechanism.

“This does not look good,” I complain.

“No kidding. There’s no way in the world to get inside that office without seriously damaging either the wall or windows,” notes Javier sadly.

“Yeah, and neither of us can dry wall for shit.” We found that out the hard way at Habitat for Humanity a few weeks back, which we both volunteered for quickly after finding the grad student association (GSA) was shouting drinks afterwards. “If only there was a way to distract him…”

“Well, he’s become a serious skirt chaser ever since his third wife left him.”

We both pause for a moment, and look at the portion of the wall on a direct line to Amy and Sasha’s office.

“I’m not talking to Sasha if I could possibly avoid it and Amy wouldn’t do it,” I protest.

“But she doesn’t have to know,” responds Javier with a sneaky gleam in his eye.

“What do you mean?”

“What if Amy and I go to the CSD’s office about 10 minutes before class to ask for help on an assignment and she has an ‘accident’ to attract his attention?”

I’m sure there’s no way in the world I could bring myself to do this to Amy myself — she’s just too unbearably cute to use as a pawn in my personal wars. But fortunately for me, Javier has fewer scruples than I (not to mention that he doesn’t have a soft spot for midwestern farmer’s daughter types like I do), and he’s willing to do the dirty work, so…

“Excellent. I’ll dash into his office while you and Amy keep him busy.”

Monday afternoon comes and phase one of the plan executes perfectly. Javier and the unwitting Amy head up to the CSD’s office while I wait around the corner, with my backpack full of “operational supplies.” Javier and Amy engage the CSD with some inane homework question, when Javier “accidentally” trips, spilling Amy, her books and all of Javier’s coffee all over the hallway floor. The CSD, not missing a chance to impress a lady, hops up from his desk to help the damsel in distress, while I sneak behind him into his office and dive under said desk.

The next 5 minutes are shear and utter hell as Javier fast-talks the CSD and I try desperately not to make a sound. Soon the door slams shut and I’m off to work. I pop a few ceiling tiles to find that the satellite feed runs right next door into the CSD’s lab. But before I follow the line, I feel obliged to strike some revenge for grad students everywhere.

Into the CSD’s top-left drawer, where he keeps his pens, go about a dozen prophylactics strategically placed to be visible from the other side of the desk. A swimsuit calendar goes up on the back side of the door and a few lad’s mags get placed on top of the stack of unread journal articles on the shelf by the window. I drop a few empty bottles of booze in the trash and open up his bottom right drawer to put in a half-empty bottle of booze only to find, well, a half-empty bottle of booze. I didn’t realize the CSD was actually boozing it on the sly, but in retrospect, I’m not sure that I’m surprised. Realizing that internet traffic logs could give my presence away, I do nothing to the CSD’s computer (which he carelessly forgot to log out of), except (a) leave a trojan which will start visiting http://www.dirtynunsinleatherhosery.com during all of his office hours for the next week before deleting itself, and (b) leave a nice (backdated) thank-you-for-donating letter from Manuel Marulanda Velez, the generalissimo of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). I’m sure supporting a known terrorist group will go over very well with the uni police when they show up after the CSD’s impending sexual harassment complaint. Perhaps he’ll even win an all-expenses paid vacation to Gitmo when the Feds find out (one can only hope).

A quick call to Jimmy to trigger a fire alarm has me escaping the CSD’s office via the CSD’s lab (after I use the rangefinder to figure out exactly where the satellite feed drops through to second floor). I run back to my lab and check the blueprints on my way out and I notice that the feed drops to an instructional lab on first floor, where Jimmy and I could easily use a masonry drill to run a line to the basement. Excellent. I finally wander outside and catch up with Javier and instruct him to use his newly found tactical tripping skills to ensure that the department’s own Man-Hating Dyke is the first person to make her way up to the CSD’s office after we’re let back inside.

Javier doesn’t even ask any questions as we walk back into the building and the stream of profanities soon heard from the direction of the CSD’s office make me grin. It appears that Operation FARC You has been a success…

As a bit of variety for our readers, I’ve decided to throw together a periodic humor piece inspired by Simon Travaglia BOFH. It’s not exactly an angry rant… but it is Friday — you deserve a few laughs. For those new to the HoS series, the first episode is here.

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The Advisor is pretty pissed about what happened to Li and seems to think that I was at fault in the matter, even if, to the trained observer (and the university police, for that matter), it appeared to be nothing more than an unfortunate accident. Despite spending the evening in university hospital, Li seems not so particularly worse for wear and is “excited about getting back to work.” This means that my offensive did not have the desired effect — instilling fear in Li. That must be rectified, but first I need to switch to defense mode. I must protect the server.

As the only guy in the group who does any computing beyond the “Excel” level, I use about 95% of the non-idle cycles on the server (yeah, ok, that counts BitTorrent), so protecting the server from idiots like Li is high on my priority list. As any decent admin knows, physical access is root access (or in Li’s case, break-memory-in-half access). Ergo, I need to come up with a better place of stashing the server than in the lab so Li and his ilk keep their bloody hands off. Seeing as I don’t really have an office — Javier, the first year and I work in the lab — there’s no obvious place to put it. The thought of leaving it in Amy and Sasha’s office makes me shudder… the prospect of putting in some spadework with Amy is overshadowed by the prospect of having to interact with Sasha at all. I will need another plan.

After finishing off a few rounds of Xevil against the first year and the condensed matter guys down the hall who’s advisor is gone all week, I grab my coat and head out to McSweeney’s for department happy hour. On the way out, I see the Jimmy the janitor and invite him along. Despite the fact that he’s on the clock, he joins us. I like this man’s work ethic. A few hours (and more than a few stouts) later, I’m sitting with Jimmy and Javier and discussing the server problem.

“… and you see, after the memory chip problem, I need to put the server somewhere more secure.”

“What about the department server room?” says Jimmy offers.

Javier and I laugh heartily. “Uh, No.” The departmental web site has been rooted 3 times in the last six months (OK, one of those times was me and Javier), so I wouldn’t trust those guys further than I could throw them (which, given their computer-user physiques isn’t very far).

Jimmy responds, “Well I suppose I could keep it in one of the janitorial closets.”

“Well, I don’t know. I mean, what about moisture?”

“I’ve got the perfect dry space in one of them. And nobody has access but me.”

“And if I need to get to the machine?”

“Come by any time I’m on shift and it’s yours.”

“Well, I’d need to see the facility,” I note.

“Not a problem,” smiles Jimmy.

Now Jimmy is probably about 50 with the libido of a 18 year old. Even the normally oblivious female grad students notice his naughty leer and make it a point to avoid him. Even given his Dirty Old Man status, I’ve made it a point to shout Jimmy a few beers — in the large, heartless bureaucracy that is the university, a janitor is one of the best friends you can possibly have.

After happy hour ends, I head back with Jimmy to inspect his proposed server site… in the basement. I wonder for a moment whether or not I’ve just stepped into a slasher flick when Jimmy opens the door to the room. Needless to say, I’m impressed. Ecce love nest.

Jimmy’s “closet” is almost as large as the lab, and it’s equipped with a large flat panel TV (so that’s where the screen from conference room 234 went), a mini-fridge, a fully stocked bar, the complete collection of the works of Ron Jeremy and a bed that’s so gaudily decorated it looks like it came from a motel with hourly rates. I whirl around to face Jimmy.

“Uh, man, if you’re a thinking that I’m…”

“I’m not a fuckin’ queer, you moron,” Jimmy retorts, “This is for the ladies.”

I ponder in disgust as to what kind of “ladies” would find their way here. Swallowing my doubts, I ask, “Where do you think I can put the server?” Jimmy responds by pointing to a nice area in the corner, near a powerpoint where I could easily place the machine and have it completely undisturbed.

“Well that will do quite nicely. What’s the catch?”

“Come again.”

“I know I was buying drinks, but if there’s an off chance I might be interrupting your escapades, this is going to cost me a lot more.”

Jimmy smiles and says, “Son, you definitely have your head on straight. I’ll tell you what I want. The department just installed a satellite HDTV feed up on the roof, and I’ve heard they have all the special channels. You’re going to get me a feed.”

I shudder to think exactly how many porno channels that thing will carry. But it’s either give the man his porn or have Li’s hands all over my server… an easy choice, but a tough job. I’ll need to tap the line, run cable all the way to the basement and do all of this without anyone noticing or caring. I pause for a moment.

“For that much work, I want a key. I won’t use the bed, I promise.”


After a quick trip to city hall in the morning, the next afternoon Jimmy and I are inspecting the dish — it’s a pretty nice system. I can only begin to dream about watching the Super Bowl in HD in one of the conference rooms. I jar myself back to reality by realizing that snow has started falling. Quickly I pull out the laser range-finder and find that the dish is precisely 465 feet from the west wall. Looking over the blueprints for the building (thank you Mr. Mayor!), I trace my finger across them to find out exactly where the feed will drop. A chill comes over me as my finger settles on the office of the professor known as the “Columbian Slave Driver.”

Gulp. This is going to be much harder than I thought.

(to be continued…)

As the Glorious Heartland is once again covered with snow to a depth sufficient to fill Southerners with eternal horror for the first time in the season, your gentle (but angry) author feels a burning need to once again rail against the greatest peril of the season: other drivers. So we proudly present this classic rant for your enjoyment and edification. If it forces even one horrible driver off the road, well, then, it’s all worth it, isn’t it. I mean, think of the children!

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These past weeks, we had our first major snowstorm of the year in the Land of Lincoln. Oh, not that there hadn’t been snow before, but this was the first snowstorm that truly deserved the “storm” part. Blizzard Warnings, Blowing Snow Advisories, and all that. Which meant, of course, it was time for Morons on Ice (well, snow).

There is really only one rule to driving on snow: Change is bad. Speeding up, slowing down, turning, changing lanes—these things cause trouble. Remember that, and you’re fine. Forget that, and, well, you’re a moron. This means of course that you can drive 50 mph perfectly safely, if the road is straight, and you’re not surrounded by morons who don’t know about things like braking distance on snow and ice. It also means that you can drive 15 mph and be a complete hazard on the road…apparently a very popular option.

There is a certain type of driving moron who thinks that by driving 10-20 mph slower, they have somehow “paid their dues” to the Snow Gods and are thereafter absolved of any need to modify their other stupid driving habits. So they’ll slam on the brakes, jam on the accelerator, weave through traffic, take turns abruptly, fail to signal and do all the other things that actually cause accidents on snow, ice, or for that matter perfectly clear pavements under a sunny sky.

And, on snow, this has the added benefit of jamming up traffic behind these fools, since often it’s not possible to pass at all, much less safely, due to snow and ice blocking parts of the road or requiring a much greater amount of time and distance to pass cars safely. As I was reminded of why I hate driving to work in the snow (hint: it’s not the snow, the road, or the wind), I compiled this handy catalog of Morons on Ice:

The Scatterbrained/Ungoverned Venturers (S/UVs) These drivers have chosen the “safest” vehicle for snow: a 4WD SUV of monstrous proportions. They then either drive that SUV in the exact same way they would on dry city pavements in Chicago—brake or gas pedal jammed to the floor at all times (these are the ungoverned venturers) or they creep along at 10 mph, despite having the vehicle best able to travel straight lines safely in snow (these are the scatterbrained). Since you can’t see around them, unless you too have decided to express your hatred of the Earth in your vehicle choice, you’re stuck wondering why they bothered to buy a huge SUV instead of the tiny rice burner they clearly think they’re driving.

The Oblivious These drive any sort of vehicle, though they seem to favor larger sedans. They drive fast or slow but either way have apparently decided that driving in snow removes any requirement to observe what other vehicles happen to be doing. I was nearly rear-ended by one of these while stopped, in the only open lane of a road, waiting for someone to turn left, at the end of a line of six cars! The moron never even stopped, but he was able to swerve left at the last moment, into oncoming traffic, and barrel past the line (including the left turning car, who had the presence of mind not to get in front of the charging idiot). You’d think that the driving conditions would indicate that you should pay more attention, not less, but you’d be wrong where these fools are concerned.

NASCAR Rejects Real NASCAR drivers are skilled professionals who are amazingly good at not crashing into other cars in the worst of conditions. But the rejects here drive like NASCAR drivers without the skill, training, or special tires. Every stop light is a starting line, and every intersection is a finishing line. Each start or stop requires full, pedal-to-the-metal acceleration or braking. Strangely this behavior doesn’t mix well with snow, slush, and ice. It does, however, lead to amusing results like fishtailing out of control and spiralling through an intersection into a ditch. Sadly, sometimes they wind up slamming into a car which is actually proceeding through the intersection in an orderly fashion.

The Post-Hoc Expert These are the morons who find themselves in an accident of any sort, clearly entirely their fault, and then make increasingly absurd arguments about why they weren’t really to blame and why they deserve a break from the usual consequences of being either stupid or unlucky on snow. Why everyone else should have to foot the bill for their driving habits is, of course, never addressed. They are the “whiny little bitches” of snow driving, and deserve the contempt reserved for such.

So there we have it, a brief catalog of the worst offenders, who turn a Winter Wonderland into the Demolition Derby, and bring to every snowy intersection the level of stress of a trip “outside the wire” in Iraq. Come to think of it, that’s probably a good solution: ship these people to Iraq and force them to serve convoy duty. After all, there’s not a lot of snow there, and in sandstorms nobody can see anything anyway. And most of their bad habits could be an asset in driving supply convoys, where mad dashes through crowded streets are a survival habit, not a muderous rampage.

But whatever you do, get these people off the streets of the Heartland during Winter!

As a bit of variety for our readers, I’ve decided to throw together a periodic humor piece inspired by Simon Travaglia BOFH. It’s not exactly an angry rant… but it is Friday — you deserve a few laughs.

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It’s about 9:30 on Tuesday when I roll into the lab. We had a wicked bender last night at the little Irish pub in convenient stumbling distance from my couch, and so I’m pretty hung over (dark sunglasses and all). Disregarding my now fading headache (pounding 4 aspirins does make a difference), I plop down into my chair and try to log in to my account.

Only to find that I can’t log in at all.

Or for that matter ping the server, once I’ve rebooted into single user mode.

Not good.

I wander across the lab and give the server the ol’ three finger salute.


A hard reboot is equally as ineffective. Drat. I was actually intending on getting work done today — after I spent a little while getting caught up on friday’s BOFH.

After a quick stop by the hideously overpriced coffee shop down on the first floor for a half double-decaffeinated half-caff with a twist of lemon (which somehow came out as an Americano with a slice of orange… the bastards), I clear off a table in the lab by dumping the scattered papers into one pile in the corner. I’m sure the first year didn’t have any particular ordering scheme in mind for his paperwork. Within half and hour, I’ve completely field-stripped the server and have nearly busted out the multimeter when I see something a tad bit odd — a memory chip that’s clearly been cracked in half.

Say all you want about “thermal fatigue,” but memory chips don’t do THAT… which leaves me with one conclusion — somebody else did. But who?

Was it Amy, the theorist best described as an idiot savant — brilliant about theoretical physics and high-falutin’ mathematics, but utterly clueless about anything else in the world? No, it’s unlikely that she could figure out how to open the case, even if I showed here where the quick release was on the side panel.

What about Sasha, the surly Eastern European theorist? Also unlikely. She’s evidently just found Jesus and has been off partying with him all weekend. Not the sort of partying I’ve been doing, but if it makes her any less surly, I’m all for it!

What about Javier, the Puerto Rican experimentalist? No. Javier’s the only guy in the lab who works less than I do… and over a three day weekend, there’s no way Javier would’ve stumbled into the lab… unless he’d had enough booze to forget where his apartment was.

No, it could’ve been the first year… what was his name again? But he seemed to not realize that he was in grad school yet, and was probably boozing it up with Javier.

No, there’s only one other option — Li, the stereotypical workaholic Chinese grad student, who’s deathly scared of the commies revoking his visa. Now, I don’t like Li to begin with — workaholic foreigners are bad for us more laid-back American types. By having no life outside the lab (at least Li showers), they slowly convince professors that 16 hour work days are “normal” and suddenly your whole office is speaking Mandarin and you’re getting the pink slip for putting only 8 hours in a day. As I only put in about 4, this would be a big problem. Thankfully, Li isn’t all that good at science, so his overall productivity isn’t that high, but he’s still a threat. And if Li broke the server, I’m a threat… to him.

A trip by ECE stores has me billing a new memory chip to The Advisor’s grant. By lunch time the server is up and running, so I can check my email before I head down to Burrito Mucho Grande for my traditional Monday lunch (yes, it’s Tuesday, but three day weekends reset the lunch schedule). The internet was out all weekend because some idiot down in Central Computing gas-axed through the external line. You could almost see the light bulb above my head as I pour a bunch of dust in the card reader and headed to Burrito Mucho Grande. Whoever messed with the server did so because the internet was out… and thought it was a problem with the server… *my* server. And whoever that someone is will pay.

Upon my return (and after I pick up my next cup of coffee), the card reader is out — who would have known — so I head down to the office of the only secretary in the building with actual keys to the rooms (the university having moved to card readers to “save money” and not just because the chancellor’s cousin owned a card reader business in Skokie). She sighs and walks me back to the lab and is about to let me in when I trip, spilling my coffee and grabbing her swipe card (carelessly left inside her purse). I apologize profusely, she lets me in and I duplicate her card before leaving it by the potted plant outside the lab (so she can find it when she retraces her steps after realizing she “dropped” it).

The rest of the day passes fairly uneventfully as I restock the lab’s chemical supplies from central stores. The clerk wonders why I’ve ordered so much liquid nitrogen, but I tell her some cock and bull story about a new supercooling experiment until she lets me go my way. After 6pm when most of the building staff is gone, I head down to the secretary’s office and let myself in. Within a few minutes I’ve broken into her NT box and I’m loading up the cardkey log software. Thankfully it’s web-based and Miss Secretary has chosen the “remember this password” option in her browser, so within no time I’m looking over the access logs to the lab, which confirm my suspicions — Li was the only person in the lab this weekend. And now he needs to be taught a lesson.

I head back to the lab (who’s door I propped this afternoon) and rig up a tripwire with some fishing line tied to the valve on the liquid nitrogen canister. I pull the patch cable out of the server and quietly lock the door and walk down to the lobby, chatting with the janitor about the Uni basketball team when…


It looks like the server is down… and Li’s feeling worse. That’s what you get for messing with