My Best Teaching Is One-on-One


Of course, I team teach and do special lessons, etc.


But my best work in the classroom is after the lesson is over --
going one-on-one,
helping individual students with their assignments.


It's kind of like with computer programs, walking the client through hands-on.
The job isn't really done until the customer is using the program.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

solved grub_divmod64_full not found on upgrading squeeze to wheezy

I have been moving my desktower from Debian 6 stable (Squeeze) to Debian 7 stable (Wheezy) using the apt-get method.

I keep two OSses installed, one of which is primarily to hold the boot manager and as a rescue system when I botch the other. These are on two different disks and, in fact, two different disk controllers.

Grub thinks I must have RAID since I have an external controller that is known for being used as a cheap RAID controller. So it continually messes up its guesses about which drive is which. So, affter I upgraded the rescue/boot system, it tried to set itself up to boot that system from (hd2), but it should have been trying to set itself up to boot from (hd0).

Now, you'd think I could edit the boot command in grub and go, but, no. The arrangement of three hard disks spread across two controllers causes grub to wander off into never-neverland.

The upshot of all this is that it gave me this message:
symbol not found: grub_divmod64_full
and dumped me into the grub rescue shell. (And induced this rant when I went looking for answers and found more questions.)

After more mucking around in the internet, I just burned a copy of the XFCE install disks for debian 7.1, booted the resulting CD, and used the included rescue functions to re-install grub.
  • (got a shell,
  • mounted the botched boot partition to /mnt or /target, 
  • edited /mnt/etc/default/grub, but did I actually change anything important?
  • returned to the install functions,
  • selected the re-write grub option in the CD,
  • re-booted.)
 And that fixed that.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

grub rescue surprise for MSWindows users

Okay, so you got a laptop or PC from somewhere, cheap, or even free.

It has the entry-level MSWindows OS on it.

It has a moderately large hard disk, say 320 MB. But when you look at the hard disk's properties, it says that there is a nice chunk of it that seems not to be in use. 16 MB or even 100 MB.

And you think, "Huh? I want more space for my movies and songs!" And you format that space. And suddenly part of your laptop is no longer working. Maybe you can't even boot it at all.

You are not alone.

To understand the solution, you need to understand what happened.

There was probably another operating system in there, and it was hiding in the partition you thought would be great to use for your movies. Not just the other operating  system, but the program that lets you choose which one to boot.

So, no way to choose. No way to boot. Now what?

If you have a BIOS that is not locked down, you can boot a live CD from one of the Linux distributions. Knoppix is pretty good for this kind of thing.

You'll probably need a real-world friend to help you get the live CD and then to help you walk through the steps.

Oh, you'll need a CD or DVD drive, too.

Boot the live CD.

Launch a disk utility program. This is scary, because the one you want is also able to wipe your whole hard disk clean.

Select the hard disk.

Set the boot flag to the partition that contains the MSWindows boot programs. It will likely be the very first partition, unless the first partition was the one that was supposed to have Linux in it.

Quit the utility program.

You say, that's scary.

Okay, then here is the better solution:

Just install the OS from the live CD. Tell it to use the partition that you erased. The installer will most likely find your MSWindows partitions and set the new boot manager up for you.

And you'll be back in business with a reboot.

I mean, seriously, the only other alternative was to buy an official, high-priced MSWIndows package and try to install that. Just as dangerous and more expensive.

Just don't erase that Linux partition again. In fact, when you have time, boot the Linux OS and see if you can see anything that makes sense. A little bit at a time, and you can be amazed at what Microsoft won't let you do.

*GRUB* ISSUE in microsoft's help forums?

Got bit by grub2 again. This time it was being dumped to the grub "rescue shell" with a
symbol not found: grub_divmod64_full

Looked it up on Google. One of the hits was on Microsoft's help forums, "GRUB ISSUES". I had to go take a look.

Irony abounds.

A user has MSWindows 7 and "Linux Boss" installed on his/her laptop. (At first, I thought, some new or custom boot manager, but maybe Boss Linux?)

And the user seems unaware that a Linux OS needs its own partition, among other things. And so, when MSWIndows disk utilities tell him he has 100MB unused, he takes the message at face value and reformats the partition for MSWindows.

Thus deleting most of grub. Thus deleting his boot manager. Thus the complaint from the part of grub that remained, telling him that grub can't find itself.

The first post is a partial answer, explanation that the Linux OS got wiped, and giving a pointer to the grub project's on-line documentation.

In the next post, the original poster clears things up. He got the laptop free from "the government". (Free? from the government? hmm .... Boss Linux seems to be an India-centric distribution.) Without install disks. Apparently without much instruction as to dual-booting and such.

(Kind of like with my Lenovo, partial steps that almost seem calculated to make users feel betrayed by Linux.)

Well, I started to get a hotmail account so I could go post over there some time back, but started reading the legalese and thought better of that idea. So I can't add my 50 cents to the discussion there. So I'll rant about it here. (Which delayed, by an hour, maybe, the fix.)

First. The bug is in Microsoft's tools. There should be stronger warning about the possibility of deleting something you actually needed when you decide to format a partition that does not contain a file system recognized by MSWindows.

Actually, if Microsoft wants to save its sinking ship and start learning how to cooperate with the rest of the world, MSWindows, even the free-as-in-free-beer "Home" version, should go to the minor effort of reporting the one-or-two-byte partition type flag that is part of their own partitioning scheme. A simple,

This partition appears to have data written by another operating system in it. You might want to check before you format it.
would be much more helpful than the current
 This partition appears to be empty. Do you want to format it?
Second. I'll offer some solutions, since it looks like other users are ending up in the same fix. But I will offer them in a separate post, to make them easier to find.

Third. The real fix for Microsoft's problems is something I've ranted about before, here, for instance.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The English Class Blog for the Otemae group, summer 2013

The English Class blog is set up. Not a lot of content yet.


See the blog here.


How many friends should you have?

This is a question in an English-as-a-Foreign-Language textbook that I will be teaching from for several months.

And the correct answer is ---


One to listen to me when I'm happy.

One to listen to me when I'm sad.

And one to talk to me when I'm too busy.

How's that?


To my new friends, I've changed my mind. I will set up a blog just for the class.


For the homework, something like the above is okay. Something not like the above is okay, too.


More on Monday.


Hang in there.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Tax season? Geo^H^H^H US-centric universe?

When you live oversees, the US tax office (the IRS) gives you an automatic extra two months to file. So my final tax deadline for 2012 looms close.

Now, my present past employer (The staffing agency law has taken effect on the three year cycle, leaving me with three months forced downtime -- technically laid-off -- and the not-exactly welcome opportunity to seek better employment.) is pretty reliable for tax records and such. It shouldn't take me this long.

But I find that reading the new tax reporting rules for Americans living abroad is always an adventure. I have to read the rules, make sure I'm looking at all the relevant forms and instructions, try to figure out if something that changed this year fits in one category or another. All the stuff you guys who can't afford, or don't want, to rely on a tax professional have to put up with, but with two or three more publications and forms that are just for us who live abroad.

This year, the rules have changed again. I never had to mess with schedule B in the past, but now it's not just the interest that requires using that form. Having any foreign bank accounts at all means you have to list them all up on schedule B.

And while I'm on the subject, have you ever heard about TD F 90-22.1 (the poignantly named FBAR)? Did you know that certain kinds of insurance (the "smart" kind, where you get extra coverage, but get a bit more than half back if you don't use it, so-called universal life insurance) will put you in the range of being required to report all your accounts to the US government?

The currency equivalent of $10,000 aggregate in your foreign accounts will put you in the range of having to report all foreign accounts to the US government. And they mean basically anything that could possibly be converted to money. And they expect you to add the maximum in each of your accounts over the course of the year.

If you have one account for your pay to be automatically deposited to and another to have your bills automatically paid from and you make JPY 500,000 a month (Roughly $5,000, how would it be?) you likely bump over the limit without even having any savings.

And if you are sensible and put a month's wages away for the inevitable unemployed periods, or put enough money away to get the family back to the states, that and your regular day-to-day operations bump you into the required reporting range. Any sensible money management will put you over.

If that limit is meaningful at all, it should have risen with inflation over the last thirty years.

Then there is the business about trusts. Trusts are still somewhat protected from taxes, so you can still sort of afford to save up college money for your kids. But if the trust is a foreign trust, the IRS thinks you must absolutely tell them about it. Every foreign trust. I spent a good eight hours trying to figure out whether my kids' insurance policies were trusts or not, including a couple of hours at the insurance company. They aren't, but they could have been.

New rules, except for the FuBAR. I don't know where I'd have squeezed in the time to figure them out if I weren't laid off.

Exceptions to exceptions to exceptions. Reminds me of the math astronomers used to use to explain the motions of the planets, back when the government required them to toe the line on a geocentric universe. You know, Galileo's time and before, when a too-literal interpretation of the Bible verse, of the sun standing still during a war, induced strange impositions on orthodox science.

And it occurs to me that the current mess of the US government grown too big is, in many respects, precisely a problem where laws are trying to match misinterpretations. Such as the idea that increased surveillance will help to reduce "terrorism" events.

(It won't. Attention generally encourages bad behavior, especially inappropriate attention.)

Or the idea that the costs of enforcement in a compulsory tax system won't exceed the costs of non-optimal collection in a voluntary tax system.

Or that a people who refuse to support their own freedom can somehow be forcibly saved from the loss of freedom they are trying to choose.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


I'm re-reading the instructions for the 2012 1040.

And I'm reading the instructions for the FBAR and realizing I'm in breach of the reporting laws. And the government is threatening to fine me $100,000 for not realizing I should be reporting my maybe $20,000 Japanese life insurance policy to the feds.

I have a hard time understanding why I should be reporting all this information to the US government when I live and work outside the US and properly pay my taxes, mandatory health insurance, and mandatory retirement here in Japan where I live.

And my children see me struggling with the reporting laws and wonder why they should have any interest in claiming their US citizenship "privilege". (My wife gave her green card back precisely because of this nonsense.)

And the irony of ironies, I have to use proprietary software owned by Adobe to report it in a proprietary format owned by Adobe ... on a machine whose operating system Adobe does not deign to support.

Most tax documents can be viewed and printed using free/libre or open source software. Adobe has "graciously" refrained from suing the viewer projects so that this can be done. But the FuBAR is different. You have to fill it in and submit it electronically. That requires Adobe's PDF viewer. But Adobe's PDF viewer for Linux is old and has dozens of known vulnerabilities.

And, if, like me, you choose to run a secure OS like openBSD, not Linux, Mac, or MSWindows, you're sold up the river.

What's the use of using a secure OS if you have to tear huge holes in it to send your reports to the feds?

I can't afford a throw-away computer.

Why is this ironic?

You don't really need even a PDF reader to organize a small financial report like tax reports or bank account reports.

Colon-tagged plain text, signed and encrypted with gnupg or pgp should be all you need. And it would be infinitely more secure, and the signature would be orders of magnitude more reliable. And the size of the signed report would be about an order of magnitude smaller.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Okay, so what are dignities?

Okay, so if dignities are not dignitaries in 2nd Peter 2, and in Jude, what are they?

Heh. The dictionary only helps a little on this one.

Let me ask you, what is an indignity? You know when you have suffered an indignity. Sometimes you think you are foolish for feeling indignant about it. Sometimes indignation is foolish.

Indeed, he who will not forgive his brother, especially when his brother really is trying to make up for the offence, "in him remains the greater sin".

But, "It is inevitable that offences must come, ..." Truth is a two-edged sword. "... but wo unto him by whom they come."

Making fun of people is only interesting for a moment. It comes at great cost to all involved -- lost friendships, lost confidence, loss of judgement by those who use it inappropriately, an so on.

A teasing word can go either way. It can stop at a playful jab, it can be followed by words of friendship, or it can decay quickly into making fun.

The bad side of irony and sarcasm is that what was intended to be ironic or a joke sometimes becomes all too real.

Dignities. I'm not talking about pompous behavior, although that can also be an attempt at dignity. I'm talking about our efforts to find or bring meaning into our lives, to do something meaningful.

Truth is two-edged sword. It cuts both ways. Be careful how you swing it or it will cut far more than you intend.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

speaking evil of dignities or dignitaries?

Yeah, I've been killing time on the train thinking about this. Silly? Maybe not.

Let's look at the scriptures.

Jude: 8: Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.

2 Peter 2: 10: But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.

Many sermons and lessons I have heard take up these verses and substituted "dignitaries" for "dignities". That seems to fit in with the idea that they despise dominion and government. (But who are they?)

But two verses after both verses, the speaking evil is brought up again:

..., speak evil of the things that they understand not ...

And the grammar of the verses in question in no way indicates that the speaking evil of dignities is equated with despising authority. Concurrent with, but not equated with.

And if we consider the meaning of the word "dignities", there is a broader meaning here. Government and authority include some dignity, but dignity is by no means limited to government and authority (or even dignitaries).

I think these verses should only be used to preach against criticism of government or authority by those who wish to call their own understanding of both government and authority into question.