Ways In Which My Mother Has Lied to Me #457: My Name

I've had two items at the top of my to-do list for some time now: change my name with Social Security and get my CA driver license. Well, it took a while to get the official marriage certificate, and then I had to make sure I had a valid ID while we were flying to UT, so they got put off for a while, but I started on them last week.

So last Wednesday, I went down to the DMV. I was somewhat nervous about the written test I was going to have to take (yes, I know how to drive, but I struggle with remembering numbers and such, so I'm concerned about my ability to regurgitate things like following distances), but I needn't have worried. After waiting for over an hour, I was informed that I couldn't get a license in my new name until after I'd changed it at Social Security, even though I had my marriage certificate with me. Of course, I'd not been told this on my previous trips, but whatevs. As Kyle pointed out later, is was only my third visit, so I shouldn't have reasonably expected to get my license.

Anyway, the lady offered to start on my temporary license, in my maiden name. There'd be no charge to get it finalized in my married name, and I figured sure, why not? In case you were wondering, this is where this post transforms from mildly annoyed venting to mind-blowing craziness. She's typing away on her computer and pauses to look down at my application. "Are you sure this is your social security number?" "Ye-e-es." She gives me a weird look, so I reach into my wallet and pull out my social security card and show it to her. She looks down at my birth certificate, declares, "Oh, that's the problem," and starts scribbling things out on my DL application. A little exasperated, I say, "What's my problem?"

Apparently, my problem is that I was born in Puerto Rico. And now DMV Lady is rewriting my name as follows:

First Name: Jessica Holly
Middle Name: Olsen
Last Name: Johnson

For those who don't know, my actual name is Jessica Holly Johnson. Olsen is my mother's maiden name. Which has never been part of my name. Evar. And even on my crazy Puerto Rican birth certificate, it's labeled as such: Mother's Maiden Name. So I'm not sure why DMV Lady was so convinced that it needed to be part of my name. Well, except that she kept saying that she couldn't find me in The System unless she put in Olsen. I don't know which system this was. When I finally got to Social Security (more on that later), they didn't show Olsen as part of my name, which makes perfect sense because the card I pulled out of my wallet to show her my number shows my name as Jessica Holly Johnson. But in The System, my name is Jessica Holly Olsen Johnson. So that's what she wanted to put on my license. I tried explaining to her that that was not my name, and that that's not what the birth certificate said, but that didn't matter because that's what The System said. [sigh] But she said it didn't matter anyway, because I was going to change my name in any case. So I left, not getting a silly temporary license with not my name on it. Stupidstupidstupid.

My favorite part is that when I went home and called my mom to harass her (just in fun, y'know?) about how she'd lied to me all my life about my name and now I was having an identity crisis because my name was actually Olsen, she said and I quote: "I know. But only in Puerto Rico!" There may have been yelling at this point. Apparently, she had to fill out all sorts of paperwork with both her maiden and married names there. Go figure. Of course, none of this makes any sense at all, given that this is the third driver license I've applied for, and this has never been an issue. I'm almost 29 years old, for goodness' sake. Kyle's theory is that this is some Homeland Security database that got put together since the last time I applied for a license, and some flunky put the data in screwy. It's a possibility, I guess. I certainly don't have a better explanation.

The next task, then, was to get to Social Security and change my name. With a print-out of Google directions to a closer office in hand (my last attempt sent me into an apparent black hole, which caused obvious problems when I tried to re-cross the event horizon and come back home), I set out on Thursday, full of confidence that now that I had an official marriage certificate, this would be simple. Wrong! Though the lady helping me was very nice and she was able to confirm that Olsen was not part of my name according to Social Security (which actually makes me nervous; if theirs is not The System, how am I to get Olsen out of my name and off my driver license?), she couldn't change my name. See, though my marriage certificate does have official seals and signatures, it doesn't have a certificate number. Not, like, it's blank; there's isn't even a place for one. Of course, it was 3 pm in CA, so it's not like we could call anyone in Massachusetts and figure anything out. She asked if I had the marriage license, though, and I said yes. She said to come back on Monday (she wouldn't be in on Friday), and she could use that number to process it.

I got home and told Kyle all about it, and he called me a liarface. Not about what had happened, but about having the marriage license. And he was absolutely right; we'd turned that in at the temple. Silly me. So I called the Belmont town clerk on Friday morning to ask them for advice; it was their marriage certificate, right? Surely they could help me out. Not so much; that was the only kind of certificate they issued, and they'd never had this problem before. Of course not. He did say that the social security office could call and talk to the actual town clerk on Monday, though, and gave me her contact info. Lovely.

So today I set out again for the SS office. SS Lady didn't end up calling the town clerk, but she did call a SS office out near Boston. (The three-hour time difference between the two coasts really doesn't make arranging things any more convenient!) That worker basically snorted at the "quirks" of small towns (I hadn't realized Belmont was tiny or that they would be such a hassle; we just picked the town closest to the Boston temple!) and told her what she would have to do. So what's happening now is that she's submitted a request to have the certificate/marriage verified; somebody out there will have to go out to Belmont and make sure everything's legit, then get back to her, so we can change my name. No idea how long this will take, either. All because Belmont doesn't put numbers on their marriage certificates! Even Puerto Rico puts numbers on their birth certificates! Come on, people!!!

I wouldn't mind the wait, except that my current driver license actually expires on my birthday. In less than a month. So I'll give this a couple of weeks, but then I'll have to go get that temporary license. With crazy not my name on it.

Graduation!

My official graduation date was August 2009. So I used the one vacation day I'd accrued and Jess and I went back to Provo so I could walk in the convocation ceremony.
GraduatingAfter the ceremony we walked over to the Talmage building for food. This was vitally important because an 8:00 ceremony after flying in late at night, getting 4 hours of sleep, and not having time to eat breakfast means that by 9:15 we were starving. So that food was good. In the lobby there they scroll through the names of people graduating, so we took the obligatory picture of me in front of my name:
IMG_4622Graduation itself was fun, I got to wear a silly looking robe with a Master's hood. Somehow we managed to not get any really good pictures of the hood. But we wouldn't be done without a picture to show how silly the whole getup looks:
IMG_4628We stayed in Provo until Sunday evening. It was good to visit our friends and such. On Sunday evening we hopped back on the plane and flew home to California. Anyone using the Oakland airport should note that the airport economy parking lot calculates the charge as far in favor of the airport as possible. Something I was annoyed to discover when the $16/day parking charge resulted in a $60 charge for 3 nights.

America's Broken Laws

Do you remember Real Player? Huge in the late 1990s. They provided software for streaming audio/video over the Internet before Macromedia blew them out of the water with Flash. They've been quiet for a while, but recently they re-emerged with their latest product: RealDVD. It is software that allows you to make a backup of a DVD.

They knew that this was going to get them sued by the MPAA, and they were looking for the fight. As much as I (and millions of others) hated RealPlayer back in the 1990's I (and millions of others) have been on their side in this battle.

So what is the battle? DVDs are "protected" with the Content Scramble System (CSS). In 1999 DVD Jon gained his name by cracking this system; allowing anyone to access the data stored on DVDs without paying the fee required to get the code to decrypt the content. Yes, that's right. Any DVD player you've ever used; whether in your laptop, desktop, or connected to the tv; was only allowed to be produced after the manufacturer ponied up the cash for the license to legally decrypt the CSS and agreed to the demands that they wouldn't produce a product which allows the consumer to make a copy of the DVD.

So when DVD Jon reverse-engineered CSS, and let the cat out of the bag, the MPAA was not happy. Luckily for the MPAA they had already managed to pass the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Section 1201 (2) Says:

`(2) No person shall manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide, or otherwise traffic in any technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof, that--
`(A) is primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title;
`(B) has only limited commercially significant purpose or use other than to circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title; or
`(C) is marketed by that person or another acting in concert with that person with that person's knowledge for use in circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.

In short: If there is any kind of copy-protection measure on a piece of media then it is illegal to access the content without paying the proper people for access (and since the people authorizing access won't authorize any use allowing duplication we have our problem).

DVD Jon's work is illegal under the DMCA. Fortunately for DVD Jon, he lives in Norway and the MPAA can't really do much about it. The bigger issue for the MPAA is that the code necessary to break the encryption on a DVD is so simple it can be written on a t-shirt. Not exactly a big hurdle for people that want to use it.

So why is this an argument at all in the first place? Something is illegal, so you shouldn't do it, right? Well, the problem is this little notion of Fair Use (also see the Electronic Frontier Foundation's FAQ). The Fair Use doctrine says you can make a personal back-up copy of content you own.

Fair Use says you can make a backup copy of any content you own, the DMCA says it's illegal to make that copy if the content has any type of copy-protection system in place. Take a guess which side wins in these arguments. I'll give you a hint, it's not us, the individual citizens of the country. If we want to make a back-up of The Fox and the Hound so that when the DVD gets all scratched and destroyed we don't have to buy it again, we can't.

This is the current state of the law in the United States. Absolutely ridiculous and inconsistent. The RealDVD case was decided today by U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel in San Francisco (ruled against Real). In her remarks she made this absurdity very clear:

So while it may well be fair use for an individual consumer to store a backup copy of a personally owned DVD on that individual’s computer, a federal law has nonetheless made it illegal to manufacture or traffic in a device or tool that permits a consumer to make such copies,

(For a complete article on the matter see Wired's Judge Rules DVD-Copying Software Is Illegal)

Django - Cronjobs Made Easy!

For those that have no interest in reading about my nerd-ventures, you can stop reading this post now.

If you're still reading, don't say I didn't warn you.

As has been mentioned previously (mainly on my previous blog), I've been doing a fair bit of side project work using the Django Framework. Sadly, the out-of-the-box Django doesn't provide a solution for running cronjobs (for tasks that need to be run within the Django environment).

Since that's a fairly common requirement I didn't think it was going to be a big deal, but there wasn't a really solid solution out there. There are a few different attempts, but they each have some limitation. There's django-cron but that just skips over the native cron entirely, which I felt was a bit extreme. Cron can already do a good job of waking up and running a command, so duplicating that functionality doesn't seem necessary. It also self-declares that it is designed for frequent tasks (hourly or more frequently), which doesn't work for me. Tasks on the Board need to be able to run from a minute scale to a daily scale and beyond.

Then I found this guy's method, which works, but I'd like a little more integration. That way when developing apps the "go add cron job" isn't a separate step. I want the job information to right in with the rest of my app information. That way I can see what should be happening and when.

That's when I came across Django-Chronograph. This solution was 95% of what I wanted. It provides a nice interface to the system to monitor your jobs and view logs. It requires only a single crontab entry. It uses the iCalendar style of task declaration so you have total control of when your jobs run. However, it is limited to running commands through the Django Management system. I wanted something a little more programmatic. Such that I could just point at whatever function I wanted for my jobs.

So I took Django-Chronograph and started my modifications. The result is Django Cron Manager. Setup is very similar to using the Admin system. You call the cron_manager.autodiscover() function from your urls.py file. This goes out and inspect your installed apps and registers any Cron Jobs they declare. Then, using the guts of Django-Chronograph, it keeps track of these jobs in the database and monitors when they need to run.

I'm planning on posting all the code with an example at some point, but I'm going to try to get in touch with Weston (the guy who wrote Django-Chronograph) to see if he just wants to roll my changes into his system permanently. If you stumble upon this post and the changes aren't in Django-Chronograph, and I haven't provided any further information. Just leave a comment that you're interested in the code with a way to contact you and I'll get something to you.

*** Update ***
I've posted the code here: http://code.google.com/p/django-chronograph/issues/detail?id=15

It's a start!

Okay, I've promised pictures of the apartment to some people. We've finally gotten mostly settled in, so here they are!

This is what you see when you walk in the front door:living room/from the front doorLike our couch? Yeah yeah...we're working on it. But the air mattress is filling in as a comfy way to watch TV. Just slightly to the right, we have this:

living roomWe're actually rather proud of those photo collages. We spent a long time on them, and if you hate them...well, please don't tell us. 😉 A bit further to the right of those pictures is a sliding door out onto our patio (I didn't take a picture because it's not very large or very pretty). And then you get back to the front door.

Continuing past the front door, we get the TV wall (so we're now opposite the air mattress):

living room...the dining area...

dining area...and the kitchen (which you may recognize from the popcorn fiasco). (The laundry room is through that door.)

kitchenThe hallway we skipped led to the spare bedroom, which we're using as an office...

office office office...and the other hallway leads to the master bedroom.

master bedroomSo there's actually a little bit more space in here than I managed to get in the picture, but it was difficult to get in, and I decided it wasn't worth it since there isn't a single bit of furniture in there other than the bed. Like the couch, a dresser and nightstands are on the list of things we've yet to purchase.

And, last but not least, the master bathroom:

master bathroomFor unknown reasons, this bathroom is smaller than the guest bathroom (that I didn't get a picture of).

And that concludes our tour.