Saturday, April 30, 2011

postdrop: warning: uid=1234: File too large
sendmail: fatal: message file too big
fetchmail: MDA returned nonzero status 75

I'm an old Luddite™ who still has email on their ISP and uses fetchmail(1) to get it onto the home network, as previously confessed. So last night I saw this on my ISP's server under /var/spool/mail/12/24/myuserid, much to my dismay:
$ ls -o
total 37760
-rw-------    1 myuserid   13404171 Apr  5 16:29,S=13404171
-rw-------    1 myuserid   13404127 Apr  5 16:59,S=13404127
-rw-------    1 myuserid   11769582 Apr 17 15:07,S=11769582
Right, two messages over 3 weeks old, and one almost 2 weeks old. But why?
$ fetchmail
3 messages for <me> at (38577880 octets).
postdrop: warning: uid=1234: File too large
sendmail: fatal: message file too big
fetchmail: MDA returned nonzero status 75
reading message myuserid@localhost:1 of 3 (13404171 octets) not flushed
postdrop: warning: uid=1234: File too large
sendmail: fatal: message file too big
fetchmail: MDA returned nonzero status 75
reading message myuserid@localhost:2 of 3 (13404127 octets) not flushed
postdrop: warning: uid=1234: File too large
sendmail: fatal: message file too big
fetchmail: MDA returned nonzero status 75
reading message myuserid@localhost:3 of 3 (11769582 octets) not flushed
So these messages are too big for my Mac OS X's MDA. But apparently they're not too big for my ISP's MDA/MTA.

I searched on postdrop: warning: uid: File too large mac os x and found the answer here on Fortunately, postfix (which is what we have) has this parameter in the right place:

mini1:~ postman$ uname -a
Darwin mini1.local 10.6.0 Darwin Kernel Version 10.6.0: Wed Nov 10 18:13:17 PST 2010; root:xnu-1504.9.26~3/RELEASE_I386 i386
mini1:~ collin$ grep message_size /etc/postfix/
message_size_limit = 10485760
mini1:~ collin$ 
So I'll just double it.
mini1:~ collin$ sudo vi /etc/postfix/main.cf663 mydomain_fallback = localhost
664 ### message_size_limit = 10485760  ... a bit too small
665 message_size_limit = 20971520
666 biff = no
667 mynetworks =
"/private/etc/postfix/" 669L, 26491C written
Then I guess I need to restart... Oh, but wait! On Snow Leopard postfix doesn't run continuously -- only when somebody tries to connect to port 25. So in the time it took me to think about this, fetchmail ran and connected to port 25, restarting postfix (Should have read my own posting first; it actually runs /usr/sbin/sendmail) -- which read the new message_size_limit, and accepted the messages, as I saw on the ISP's server afterwards:
$ ls -Ro /var/spool/mail/12/34/myuserid
total 36
drwx------    2 myuserid   4096 Apr 30 11:01 cur
drwx------    2 myuserid  28672 Apr 30 11:01 new
drwx------    2 myuserid   4096 Apr 30 11:00 tmp

total 0

total 0

total 0
Yippee! Fortunately these weren't anything urgent or dire, but hopefully it'll be a long time before something like this happens again.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Newark Airport to Long Island

Impatient? Click here.
So we're staying on Long Island, and I spend two days in Pittsburgh. The plan was to fly back Tuesday night, 7:30, arrive JFK 9:19pm and take LIRR to Ronkonkoma. But then I get a text message from Delta: flight delayed to 8:53pm, arrive at JFK 10:47pm.

OK, whatever. Our future son-in-law emails me with the LIRR departure times. But then Delta sens me another text message: 9:53pm departure, JFK at 11:47pm. Well, as they say in Japan, shikata ga nai (nothing to be done for it).

The cab's a little late picking me up from the office, but so what? I've got a two-hour wait -- minimum? So we get to the airport, I pick up my boarding pass (it still says 7:30pm departure) and go through security. I'm sitting at the gate and then: "Attention, Delta passengers on flight 4326: your flight is canceled. Please proceed to a Delta ticket counter..."

You don't have to ask me twice. "We have you protected on a 6:00am flight tomorrow," the lady says. Just what I want -- another night away from the lovely Carol. Not. It's hard on me not to be able to reach over in the night and enjoy the feeling of her perfect curves... OK, that's not going to help me now, I think...

Back to the current problem: "Anything to LaGuardia or ISP?" I ask. No, but there's a Continental flight to Newark, leaving at 8pm. Where do I sign up?

She does the needful and I walk over to the Continental gate. The Continental lady gave me a new boarding pass -- hooray! and said "Update at 8pm."

Wait. Update--what's that mean? It meant that Newark is on a "ground stop" -- at 8pm they'll tell us whether the flight is actually going. The airplane was already at the gate, but there's no point in getting on until we know it can take off!

I informed our future son-in-law, who got back to me with extensive information on how to get from Newark to the LIRR. Meanwhile, as I looked over at the flight status, the departure time changed from 8:02 to 8:03. I looked again after a while to see it change from 8:21 to 8:22. "Update at 9:00pm," they said.

Eventually, we took off on a propeller-driven plane, flying near a thunderstorm (it's weird seeing nearby clouds light up -- from lightning -- while riding in an airplane) to land safely at Newark right around eleven.

Newark to LIRR

Once at the gate, I exited security and followed the signs to "AirTrain" and took the one that went to "RailLink" (trains go in two directions; check electronic signs).

At the RailLink station I had the opportunity to transfer to Amtrak or New Jersey Transit, maybe some other options. I couldn't tell whether the ticket machines were all alike. By now it was after 11pm; whatever intelligence I'd had in the morning was gone. I did, however, notice a slender young woman, an employee, chatting with another agent, a young man. I walked up to her, and she turned toward me. "I have no idea what I'm doing," I said, giving her my helpless middle-aged uncle look.

"Where are you going?" she asked, as she walked me to the nearest ticket machine. I was going to Penn Station in New York; I may have mentioned that I wanted New Jersey Transit (I'd read somewhere that Amtrak was a lot more expensive). "It'll be $12.50," she told me, adeptly selecting "N" on the screen and tapping "New York - Penn Station." Next she asked me about payment type: "Cash, debit, or credit?"

I inserted my credit card, and removed it smoothly, per her instructions. The machine spat out my ticket, and a credit card receipt. "11:34, Track A," she said, and I thanked her as another middle-aged guy approached her with a puzzled look. I'm sure she gets a lot of that.

Through the wicket (or however you say "かいさつぐち" in American) and down the stairs, I saw a waiting area with a lot of empty chairs. A big screen showed when the next trains were coming; one was canceled but mine was showing on time. The P.A. system announced that a train for New York Penn Station would be arriving in ____ minutes, with the track number, etc.

It pulled in, right on time. I saw a car with lots of empty seats -- it looked good to me, but a dour conductor called out: "This way. This way!" Sure enough, doors on the empty car weren't opening. The car wasn't full, but neither were there many quiet seats.

It made just a few stops -- Newark Penn Station at 11:41, Secaucus (?) Junction, maybe one or two more. Near the end, we stopped for a while and I heard an announcement that we were single-tracked into New York. A few minutes later a train passed going the other way, and we started moving. We arrived at New York Penn Station right on time, 12:06am. I followed the signs to the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), and found the 12:14am Ronkonkoma-bound train waiting at the platform. I took a seat and we were on our way in a few minutes.

Really, it wasn't hard, but I was glad to have schedule info from our future son-in-law.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Remembering, Phaedrus, and other IT issues

Last night I had dinner with Bob and "the Doctor", and the conversation turned to videoconferencing -- more broadly, the impact of technology on how we do our jobs.

The doctor asked us, when you visit another office (Waltham, Durham, etc.), what's the main purpose? Is it to see people face to face? You use video conferencing sometimes, yes?

Well, yes -- but it's really not the same. For one thing, it doesn't work all that well. Bob and I then went into all the ways it doesn't work. It's not full-motion video; sometimes it's just a few frames per second. Sometimes the video doesn't work at all. The audio is often fuzzy.

The Doctor talked about remembering patient histories and so on. In the old days, charts were hand-written. "I'd write the patient information," she said, "writing" with an imaginary pen in her right hand, "and the act of writing is what helped me remember." The physical motion, in other words. Kinesthetic memory.

Then came printouts. She'd circle this or that piece of information on the printout, and that would help her remember. Now everything's on a screen, and she's got a different way of remembering that information.

This put me in mind of something Plato wrote (!) about writing. In... Phaedo? No... eventually I found Phaedrus. In this dialogue there's a discussion of how, once some young punk learns how to read, he will sound wise, but he won't necessarily be wise. He won't have had the experience of hearing words in context; he'll see only what's on the papyrus. It has, in other words, lots of disadvantages.

And so it's been with every information technology ever invented. Personally, I think writing was the greatest invention of all time. How about electronic calculating-machines? Is google making us dumber? Smarter? Both?

This blog is in favor of new technologies that improve learning outcomes; who could disagree with that? Personally, I'm afraid of technologies that leave one always connected. I suppose it could become like a drug -- hard to quit. (I don't have an iphone but I'm using a mobile wifi device on the train as I type this.) Always the balance...

Seeing or Being...

A word from Merton's No Man Is an Island hit me the other day:
The reason why men are so anxious to see themselves, instead of being content to be themselves, is that they do not really believe in their own existence. (118)
I see that I've written about this before but I have to ask: am I content to be myself, or must I "keep looking in the mirror for reassurance" (119)?

Am I at peace with the idea that I'm a finite human being, or do I busy myself in the hopes that it will make me Real? What is Real, and if I'm not sure I am real, what do I think I lack?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Certain Kind of Madness

In an earlier post, I mentioned an alarming critique of the (post-)modern church in North America: that the prevalent hyper-individualism of the surrounding culture has invaded the church and, like a beaver colony in a river, dammed up the flow of life.

I got as far as page 71 today before my head exploded again, as the authors pointed out some energy around the question: What are ...

... some of the simple but profoundly transforming habits that might shape us as a sign, witness, and foretaste in our neighborhoods[?]

This ... runs against the currents we have lived in to this point where the focus has been on our rights, our needs, our freedom to choose as we please, our freedom to cut and run whenever we get bored or it gets sticky and tough or things aren't quite working the way we expect. It is assumed that the appropriate means of living in a tolerant and open society is to create an environment that does not step on or over any specific set of personal rights, feelings, or desires. This is part of the madness of the needs-centered, seeker-driven mentality that has shaped so much of the church in North America.

Roxburgh and Boren, Introducing the Missional Church, p.71
Can you say "ouch"? I resemble this remark! Fortunately, the authors give us a cure for this madness, in the form of examples of how people have taken up some of these "simple but profoundly transforming habits": one is about a largely white church in a neighborhood that had become mostly black. A small group wanted to reach out to the neighborhood. After an initial rebuff, one couple went onto the main street to pick up litter.
They did this for a year as people watched and then began to nod at them as they went by. Twelve months later the shopkeeper who had told Mary to leave invited her in for coffee.

This is not the story of a church with a program to reach the community through its building; rather it is the story of Christians living in and with the people of their neighborhood so that the gospel changed everything. (73)
At this point you may be wondering what the definition of "missional" is. Well, I'll tell you: I don't know.

Here's what I mean: What if we read the gospels and ask, "How did Jesus define the Kingdom of God?" Well, he didn't. He described it in stories. He didn't draw a Venn diagram or give a Platonic characterization or a formula in the predicate calculus. So far I haven't read a definition of "missional" either. But the examples, the narratives, certainly make me think about what we're doing as a church, and what I'm doing as a follower of the Lord.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Modernity Infiltrates the Church: It's all about Me!

Reding Roxburgh & Boren's Introducing the Missional Church, I was stopped short by this on page 59:
Modernity replaces mission with self-actualization of the expressive, autonomous individual. When we attend to the way people talk about the gospel, it does not take long to discover just how much the focus lies on meeting personal needs. During testimony sessions about mission trips, people explain how it changed them or how it gave them an experience they will never forget. In modernity the purpose of life is to fulfill one's personal destiny, goals, or needs. … For moderns, it's almost impossible to read the biblical narrative without assimilating it to the modern categories of the self and the fulfillment of its needs.
OUCH! Their trenchant critique isn't just about missions, and just about modernity; there are, they say, two beaver-dams gumming up the works in the Church today: a modern one and a postmodern one (57). Self-centeredness, alas, is a key feature of both modernity and postmodernism; the very individualistic worldview prevalent in North America—yes, even in the North American church.

How can we fix this? We need to fix ourselves -- rather, we need the Lord to change us.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Is life a series of problems to be solved?

My mind was on problems as I steered my bicycle homeward. One problem was solved, but another popped up. Was life a series of problems (or since I took engineering classes, problem sets) to be solved?

Well, I've looked at life that way: from the time we're born, how to get O2 into the lungs, how to get fed, how to get changed, how to avoid needing to get changed, how to get around, how to get attention (this one never ends), how to get my point across, how to avoid becoming or causing red asphalt... One big category of problems that gets bigger after forty is how to keep the old ticker ticking.

Oops! That last one has only temporary solutions. Another issue with all this is that life becomes one damned thing after another.

Well, rather than indulge in denial or despair, let me consider a third way: redefine the problem! Rather than "how to stay alive (forever)" which can't be fulfilled in this life, take it up a level by saying "how to live well" -- including how to die well.

Of course, the catechism was way ahead of me: the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, so life has to be about that.

So life is not a set of problems or tasks, as I am wont to consider it; it's not a job. It's more like an adventure, a party. Or at least it can be. A quest?

This job business has its roots I think in the same corruption whence came the old Babylonian creation myth wherein the gods created human beings as a race of slaves. This is why the Israelites needed the Sabbath, and I still do today: to remember that life is more than work, that life is not work. Though life has work and tasks and problems, that's not what life is.

And thanks be to God for that!