session three | Oblivion

I went to another local shopkeeper to sell off the plate armor I'd found. I made 80 gold! I was about to sell the sword I found as well, but upon further examination I realized it was truly a sword of rare make. Fine craftsmanship, and magical qualities were instilled in this blade! I may sell it later, but for now I shall see how it feels to use it in my own hands. I visited a few more merchants and then decided it was finally time to leave Imperial City.

Just outside the city, I used the letter I had about horse armor to earn not only armor, but also a free horse! It's an old nag and not very quick, but I'll take anything if it's free. Besides, I can always use the armor on a better horse if I decide the old nag isn't for me. I little ways down the road, I decided to stop at an inn to rest up from my grave robbing adventures. I had an awful dream about getting chased down by an Imperial soldier. All I had done was examine a worthless broom and he chased after me with his sword calling me a thief! Over a broom! I was very glad to wake up from THAT dream indeed. The next morning I talked to the Inn keeper again who convinced me to look for some rare wine for her collection. She said she'd pay me well. I always like to be paid, but I'm not sure how excited I am about searching old forts for it.

I headed out on my horse and ran across Fort Ash pretty quickly. I decided it could be interesting for a look and that I had the wine on my mind anyway, so I got out to look around. It went much deeper than I thought! Full of goblins too, and no wine that I could find. Ah well. I picked up a little gold and some more wares to sell. The stupid place was booby trapped well, and had a tricky series of gates that I had to sort out to get through. I really hadn't meant to spend much time there. I DID manage to find some jewels that might be very worth my time, so I'll cling to that.

On my way out of the fort some idiot bandits tried to hold me up! Imagine, making your living that way. I'll take gold off someone stupid enough to give it to me, but thieving is not the way. It requires so little cunning. Even pick pockets are more clever than these road side thieves. I didn't bother with them. Even my old nag out ran them without any trouble. I made it to Waynan Priory without seeing them again.

I was greeted at the Priory by a Shepherd named Eronor who pointed me to Jauffree. Jauffree was glad to see the Amulet, but told some spooky stories about what it could mean for the Empire. He seemed to think that we might be under threat from Oblivion if a new heir isn't found to relight the Dragon Fires. Oblivion! That's something I do without when I try to sleep at night. He told me about an unknown heir named Martin in another town. I certainly hope no more of the Emperors enemies know about him. I must find him quickly so that I can rest easy and get out of this foolish royal mess. Now that I'm out of prison it would be nice to be out for my own adventures and profit once more. Right now, escaping prison seems meaningless with this weight on my shoulders.

Jauffree provided me with some free armor and weaponry to help me on my way. I should think it's the least he owes me if I am taking the safety of the Empire, maybe the world, upon my shoulders. If this was planned by the Nine, I have some thoughts for the foolish gods who thought it was a good idea to use me in their plans. I guess all I can do is continue with the quest.

session two | Oblivion

I paid my fine (an annoying five gold pieces) and returned to the city. Wandering around the city yielded little gossip... mostly chatter about the emperor and the dark brotherhood... but nothing about Thorimir. I found him in the city, talking with someone that a local told me was named Agramir, but their demeanor was closed and I was unable to discern anything about their relationship (beyond the very fact of a clandestine midnight meeting).

I spent another day in town, lounging about shops and again listening to local gossip... nothing new. This time, when Agramir noticed me following them he shouted, "Thief!" Before I knew it, I was in irons on my way back to the prison. Another trip, another fine.

It worked out to my advantage, though. Agramir was apparently satisfied that I would be occupied for longer than I was: neither he nor Thorimir noticed as I caught the end of their conversation: they argued over shipping and the diversity of goods available between them.

I followed Agramir hack to his house in the Talos district. I waited for him to leave, then entered his house to find evidence of grave-robbing: bones, dirt, shovels... even a manifest of what he had exhumed.

I took this evidence to Thorimir, who was agast at the thought. Eager to help, he directed me to the cemetery, where he believed Agramir would be plying his trade at that very hour.

I found Agramir in the Tirentius family mosoleum, but I had not evaded his notice: he was waiting for me, and with an armed guard. It was a harsh fight, but I prevailed, recovering proof of his deeds.

When I returned, Thorimir had donated his profits and the remainder of his inventory to the temple, and had joined the merchant society. He even gave me a ring of elemental resistance in thanks.

Jensine acknowledged and appreciated my involvement. My reward was 100 gold pieces.

Now to sell that plate armor...

session one | Oblivion

Lion with a Jeweled Headress


"Hey kitty kitty"

After my fellow prisoner teased me and offered some rat treats I was met with a surprise. The emperor showed up blathering about some secret passage. I better follow. It may be my only chance for escape. It looks kind of creepy.

Our party was attacked and I ran for cover. The crazy emperor can fend for himself. He was fine anyway and I got this sweet cloak. The guards are jerks. If more fall maybe I can get more loot.

I've grabbed some stuff from the passage. It sure is creepy down here. And cold. the rats are huge!

I was right about the loot - but I'm al title worried about how it all got here…there have been bones and bodies. I also met a man down here. He didn't seem right. He was groaning and smelled terrible. Almost as if his very flesh was rotting away. I killed him quickly, but now I can't help but look behind me every now and then…I better drop some stuff. It's slowing me down.

I found some goblins cooking rats. Blech. How did so many get down here? I keep picking up all their rusty weapons, but I need something more suitable. The little goblins have a mage! Well, had one. I wonder what happened to the emperor?

I found the emperor again. He spoke again of gods and the mysteries of the heavens. He speaks of his own death and treats me as a trusted friend. He must be mad!

More attacks! The Emperor may not be wrong about his emending death, but I won't be part of it.

The Emperor gave me the Amulet of Kings, and then he was killed. Why would he trust me so? Even I don't trust me, but somehow I'm compelled to do as he asks. He was kind…and such an adventure is bound to be profitable. Besides, the Amulet is heavy, a strange burden. Only a fool would sell it or abandonit. Best be rid of it properly…

Finally! Fresh Air! Maybe I should fill out my provisions a bit before I do anything serious-perhaps some shopping with my new found gold. These shop keepers are suck up! They have a thing against the cheapest store in town. They've asked me to spy on him. What a silly squabble! However, there has been an offer of gold shish I might be interested in. I suppose follow the guy couldn't be too hard.

Aaaand arrested.

birthdays | leaving Facebook

I’m in the process of closing my Facebook account. I never really used it: I’m just not that sold on the idea of a fake social network that rules your life. There are three use cases for me, though, and I need to port the relevant data (or service) elsewhere: the birthday calendar; the instant messaging service, and the photos that are already there.

The birthday calendar

I don’t want to lose track of the birthdays that people have published on Facebook. Going forward, I’ll have to maintain the calendar myself, and that’s fine; but I need to port those birthdays to something more standardized. (That is, likely a regular calendar with iCalendar support.)

Much to my surprise, Facebook makes an iCalendar file available explicitly for birthdays. It’s under Events→Birthdays→Export Birthdays. This link provides a webcal: url, which wikipedia tells me is an unofficial url for serving iCalendar files. In OS X 1.6, this url was automatically parsed by iCal, which wasn’t precisely what I wanted, so I just addressed the same path over http: and got a standard .ics file in my Downloads.

I already have a ‘Birthdays’ calendar in Google Calendar (which I’ll probably be trying to move away from at some point, too) so I just imported this .ics file and merged it into the existing calendar. There’s definitely birthdays in there that I don’t really care about (sorry, peoples!), but I can filter those down as they come up.

I thought I understood Unix filesystem permissions

I’ve been using ’nix operating systems (mostly Linux distributions) since my freshman year of college. I’m mostly self-taught, fair enough, but there was an appreciable quantity of ’nix in my coursework as well. I’ve worked in HPC since 2006. I use Apple OS X as a primary desktop OS because it’s a BSD that I don’t have to get working myself.

With this in mind, imagine my embarrassment to today discover a fundamental misunderstanding of ’nix filesystem permissions.

We, at the KAUST supercomputing laboratory, use a central LDAP directory for authentication and authorization. Predominately Linux hosts use a combination (not necessarily all at the same time) of nss, pam, and sssd to communicate with this directory.

Way back in time immemorial, a coworker designed a series of scripts for doing basic CRUD operations; e.g., create an account. This solution not only creates a posixAccount object, but also creates a posixGroup object. This group has a cn equal to the posixAccount’s uid, and a gidNumber equal to the posixAccount’s uidNumber. This posixGroup is used as the primary group for that account: it’s gidNumber is stored in the posixAccount’s gidNumber. The intent here is both to simplify management of “project groups” such that none of them are used as the user’s primary group and to protect user files from other accounts on the system.

For reasons based mostly in my own compulsive desire for neatness, we decided to eliminate these user-private groups in favor of the universal primary gid “100” (or “users”). The CRUD script was updated accordingly, and the long task of updating the existing filesystem began:

find /gpfs \( ${long_series_of_groups} \) \( \
    \( ! -type l -exec chmod g-rwx {} \; \) , \
    -exec chown -h :100 {} \; \)

The intent here is to chown any file currently owned by a user-private group to the new users group, and to chmod group rights from such files (since effectively no group rights were granted, given the ownership by a user-private group).

I was met with surprise when access was later denied to such files.

Apparently, ’nix filesystem permissions are disjointed. Access by the file owner is only mediated by the owner bits; access by group members (other than the owner) is defined only by the group bits; and the other bits only apply to users that are not in the first two categories. This means that a file like testfile:

-rw----r-- 1 root users 0 2011-07-03 07:38 testfile

is not readable by members of the users group, even though the r bit is set in the lowest order.

It seems that, rather than chmod g-rwx, I should have copied group permissions from the “others” access rights.


A coworker has advised that I post the find command that I’m using to fix this. Apparently using multiple -execs is convoluted or something.

find $fs -group users ! -type l \( \
    \( -perm -o+r -exec chmod g+r {} \; \) , \
    \( -perm -o+w -exec chmod g+w {} \; \) , \
    \( -perm -o+x -exec chmod g+x {} \; \) \)


We had a few days in Athens after we sailed the Aegean Sea with the crew of the Tahita. We didn’t have a lot of plans (aside from the obvious archaeological sites) so I asked Sotiris for some recommendations.

One thing that stuck out to me was Κωστας, which he described as, “the best Σουβλάκι in Athens.” In keeping with the rest of Mystic Blue, this place was the antithesis of tourism: a couple standing behind a counter, making up to two γύρος at a time.

It was, without a doubt the best Σουβλάκι we had. In fact, we went back again before we left.

things stolen from our house

Someone broke into our house and stole from us while we were on vacation in Greece. I had hoped that, when we returned home, I’d write a bit about our trip; but after the theft all I could think about is how broken my world felt.

I was upset about losing the things that were stolen. God has blessed us, and we’ll be alright, but I hate spending money. I didn’t like spending money to buy things in the first place, and it seems doubly wasteful to replace luxury items. Was it wrong to purchase these things in the first place? It certainly seems like it was a waste when they’re gone.

Before we left, a few emails were being circulated about break-ins on the KAUST campus. I usually think that such stories are overblown. People overreact, and panic, and I don’t want to be like that.

I felt like there was so little I could do to prevent this in the future. We’re on a closed campus, with photo ID’s checked at the gate. That gave me this implicit sense of security within these walls; but now I’m questioning everyting. One of the first things that we did was have key control replace the locks on our doors; but KAUST manages the locks: if someone in key control is stealing things, who can stop them? What if someone in the transportation department is targeting people that they know have gone to the airport?

I wrote all this pretty soon after it happened, when I was trying to make sense of my disconcertion about everything. A few days layer, though, we got a call from KAUST security telling us that they thought they had recovered some of our property. A group of four or five guys from the housekeeping service were using their positions to stake out houses that had things worth taking.

So there you have it: I got some closure. We didn’t get everything back (Andi’s necklace and my netbook, most disappointingly) but my relative peace with that makes me feel a little bit better about the materialism that I feared in myself. I think what I needed was an end to the story. That’s a different problem, but it at least disappoints me less than it would for me to find out that my material possessions possess me as much as they seemed to for a bit.

Here’s a list of what we’ve noticed missing so far:

  • Macbook Air ($1400) (returned)

    Part number: MC906LL/A Serial number: [redacted]

  • HP Mini 1000 netbook (approx. $300)

  • Fourth-generation, 8GB iPod Nano, green ($150) (returned)

  • Fifth-generation, 8GB iPod Nano, blue ($150)

    Part number: MC037LL/A Serial number: [redacted]

  • Nokia mobile phone for AT&T GoPhone service (approx. $40)

  • Nokia mobile phone and Mobily sim card (approx. $40)

  • gold necklace

    I got this for Andi last Christmas in Al Balad, but I don’t remember how much I paid for it at all.

  • yurbud Ironman earbuds ($50)

  • Nike+ iPod dongle ($30)

  • Foam laptop zipper sleeve (approx. $20)

  • 60W MagSafe Power Adapter for Macbook ($80)

    This was attached to an extended power lead (adapter-specific) that was also taken.

  • Olympus digital camera, waterproof (approx. $170) (returned)

    It wasn’t this precise model, but it was one of these Olympus waterproof cameras.

  • Power adapter for a Western Digital MyBook external hard drive (partial, unknown)

    I think this might have been taken by mistake for one of the phones that was taken.

  • Pocket watch (approx. $100)

    Andi got this for me when she was in Turkey.

Bible in a year

I regret that I’ve never actually read all of the Bible. It’s possible that I have, I suppose–I’ve been in the church long enough–but never intentionally. Never specifically and definitively have I read the whole thing.

Unsurprisingly and relatedly, I’m not very diligent in scripture reading. I know I’d like to be in the scriptures every day; but, for some reason, I’m not.

I’m picking out a reading plan. This particular one happens to be “chronological” (in order of events, not writing) which appeals to me, somewhat. I’ll start tomorrow, and maybe having a goal (read every day; write about it) will encourage me to stick with it. I sure hope so.

At the same time, I really want to know more about the history of the Biblical canon. I’ve got so many opinions about the scripture itself bouncing around in my head, but with no authority or knowledge to justify them. I’m less certain what the right move is to clear up that problem (just trolling the Internet is probably the wrong move), but I’ll look for a book or something.


I’m migrating to linode. I’m getting

  • Debian Squeeze

  • twice as much memory for the same price

  • IPv6

  • to avoid the forced migration to rackspace

I’ve already moved dns and mumble services, and that went smoothly enough. I’m afraid of moving http for some reason, so I’m just going to do it and fix problems when they arise.

Let me know if something breaks.

edit: Well, that seems to have gone well. Authentication even still works.

The only thing left is mail.

You, oh Lord, are a shield

You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.

I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill.

I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.

I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.