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Tuesday, July 30, 2002

The Dangers of Seeking New Blogs

Hmf. The ol' site is looking kinda natty. I've had a redesign idea in my head for a few months now, and I may just be building the impetus to up and do it.

A Day of Pondering and Cross-Pollination
It's been one of those "not much to do so it's time to keep the brain busy" kind of days, and as such I've been cruisin' for new blogs worthy of note. I've found one or two, and tacked them onto the blogroll, but there've been one or two other benefits as well. For one, there's the building desire to remodel as mentioned above, and for another it's been really informative to take in some weblogs outside of the dozen or so I hit daily. Stretching and expanding; there're some people out there who've been doing this for a while. I also put myself on the "Hot or Not" site, and as such there've been lots of new eyeballs around here. Pretty spiffy. :-)

(And, oh by the way, there are some women blogging out there whom I'd love to get to know; that late-twenties, early-thirties, frank and wellspoken thing, typically with glasses [oh, I'm one who definitely makes passes at girls who wear glasses; or I would be, if I made passes at all - whatever]. Would that I had any sort of chance, but I'm sure any woman who has the temerity to speak up online gets deluged with attention.)

Hell, I may as well make friends, influence people... Never hurts to be cordial and friendly-like.

I'm trying to cultivate an attitude of plenty as opposed to scarcity where females are concerned (y'all do make up 52% or so of the population), but it seems like every time I meet someone interesting who happens to have been born with a "slot" instead of a "tab" I get stupid and forget that the person is in fact a person, just like everyone else. God, it's annoying. The reproductive drive just feels like an illness sometimes.

Hi, new people! Honest, I'm normal and not creepy! Really! :-D

-Rich

Looks Fixed

blogrolling.com appears to be back up. Auto-blogroll back in operation.

-Rich

Blogrolls

I was thinking late last night about how fame and fortune (or the closest things thereto) are achieved in the blogging world, i.e., by how many people link to you, and by the number of people to whom you link.

I recently installed an automatically-maintainable "blogroll" (the list at left in which I p1mp the blogs I think are cool and worthy) at left that uses the engine over at blogrolling.com to ease list maintenance. Worked like a champ.

...Until this morning. blogrolling.com appears to be down, which slows Squeezings' page loads dramatically. So I edited my template and reinstated my old, moldy, manually coded blogroll. So reliability seems to be an issue. Then again, one gets what one pays for, and blogrolling.com is free. :-\

I also got to thinking. The source HTML for my page only lists the javascript for the blogroll (not the individual "a href" tags), and I'm only pretty certain that when a person clicks on the automated blogroll, I receive credit for referring them. (I just checked my stats, and Kate's site is listed as a pretty frequent referrer, and she uses blogrolling.com too, so I suppose there's no real worry there after all.)

So anyway, blogrolls are cool and necessary, but getting someone to do your dirty work for you appears to be fraught with peril.

-Rich

Monday, July 29, 2002

Sunday, July 28, 2002

Worm-Eatin' Weekend

Feh. Shut myself off from the world over this weekend, giving myself some time to think, ruminate and actually enjoy some solitude. Actually did it, too, instead of watching DVDs, or pouting. Concept!

Oh, and Mary, sorry about not getting your e-mail. I'll get you material tomorrow.

Writing
Yep, this actually translated into some productiveness. Stealing from Wendy's example, I'm gonna post progress here as I make it.

Most of the time when I've started any sort of writing project, I try to hammer out every detail of a world, set of characters, and plotline before writing a line of prose. Sufficiently paralyzed by analysis, I then get nothing done.

This time around, I've taken two of the frameworks I've worked on in the past, thrown them in a blender, roughed out some characters, and stitched together a Chapter One, or Prologue or something to that effect. Got more concrete color and personality in than any amount of brainstorming has accomplished so far.

I have no idea where the plot is going, no idea what the characters are going to say to each other, and no idea how I'm going to work in some of the stuff I want to. The characters are already doing things I didn't want them to, and going better places than I could have imagined.

I'm scared out of my mind.

-Rich

Friday, July 26, 2002

In Search of Blogging Identity

Hmf. Just finished catching up on GUT RUMBLES, an outstanding blog by the ever-ascerbic, occasionally heartbreaking Acidman Mars, and I'm left admiring the coherence of spirit with which he makes his daily points. Then there's minutiae, by Mary, who puts her own spicy perspective on things from day to day with commendable energy, despite her having started new schooling and a new job simultaneously. There are others: from Tripp, who's matured into quite the questing acolyte, to Wendy, whose calm if infrequent posts convey the straightness with which her head appears to be screwed on, to Kate, whose sunniness and grit combine wonderfully from day to day.

All these, just to name a few. There are some great people out there. :-)

I've also been reading over my own stuff, and after a year I still don't think I know what I'm up to here. There's seldom any continuity from entry to entry; seldom any real articulation of who I am from post to post. I know who Acidman and Mary are, through the simple expedient of their having shown me. To a point, I don't think a person can make a year's worth of blog entries without revealing himself, but if that's so then the picture I paint is a pretty confused one. Which may be true, as far as that goes.

I wanted to post a long lament about the creeping edge of despair I feel, facing another empty weekend, and then realized that the feeling would likely pass before I'd fully emptied my spleen. Did I want to make people read that? Feh. It's not what I want to read on other peoples' blogs.

I find myself wishing I could muster the righteous bile toward Jennifer that Acidman has toward his ex, but of course our situations are different - in many ways she did me a favor by kicking herself out of my life. Hell, she's probably as lonesome as I am. And I haven't even had occasion to speak to her since February, so what'd be the point?

I find myself wishing for an ironic screed to spew, Mary-style, from my fingertips about government inefficiency, hot summers or something, but I find I don't really care enough, and if I were to go on some conservative tear against the idiocy of liberalism or some other damn thing, I'm just not feeling up to the shitstorm it'd kick up.

I want to throw a tantrum about my lack of companionship. I want to shake my fist at the heavens for making it so hard for me to do something as simple as meet a girl, of which there are 150 million or so on this continent alone.

I want, I want, I want... Well, it's a blog entry. It's me. It's true, if nothing else.

-Rich

Da Friday Five (Again!)

1. How long have you had a weblog? Brain Squeezings recently celebrated its one-year anniversary!

2. What was your first post about? Just saying 'hi,' really.

3. How many changes (name, location, etc.) of your weblog have there been, if more than one? No changes in name or location (been at Blog*Spot since Day 1), but I've made several enhancements to the template for color, links, additions like YACCS commenting, the new (though subtly familiar) blogroll at left, a hit counter, BlogChalk, etc.

4. What CMS (content management system) do you use? Do you like it or do you want to try something else? Blogger, again since Day 1. It ain't perfect, but it has the advantage of being simple and free.

5. Do you read people who have both a journal and a weblog? Or do you prefer to read people who have all of their writing in one central place? You mean you can do both? :-) Most of the blogs I read double as journals; that or I've utterly missed their links to any separate journals.

-Rich

[Edit: I just found out that Blogger did something weird to my archiving scripts such that they'd been broken since mid-June or earlier. I fixed the problem, but now anyone who's linked to my past rantings has broken links. :-p]

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

<Witty Headline Here>

The high-tech strategy of not turning my computer off any more seems to be working well for the time being. I'm sure that in some all-power-wasters-go-to-hell scenario I'm being a horrible person, but I'll wager I'm a lot more horrible in the wake of an hour spent fiddling with a balky motherboard while bookblog awaits my guidance and wisdom. :-)

(Speaking of which, there's been some lively discussion featuring lengthy tracts and big words over on Mary's bookblog. Check it out, if you dare.)

There's been much wailing and gnashing of teeth around here today thanks to the news of Virginia's continuing budgetary shortfall. Surprise, surprise - when you depend on the pockets of the prosperous, and then tough times come, public funds bottom out. At least they're not trying to blame it on Gilmore's much-needed killing of the "Car Tax" any more. Ah, well - my résumé's strong, should it come to that. :-p

And people finally discovered that stocks have become way cheap out there. Yay!

-Rich

Monday, July 22, 2002

Computer Drama

My primary machine has been on the blink lately. It's been flaky on initial boot-up for a while, but lately it's been refusing to boot at all without some sort of assistance, like wiping the CMOS or (oy) jiggling the CPU in its slot.

Time for a new box, yes, but now's really not great timing. Finances, all that.

The good news is that once I coax the thing into booting, it'll stay up for as long as I care to run it. So I'm just not gonna turn the box off for the foreseeable future. Maybe now Richmond'll get some rain. Thunderstorms, the works. :-p

In other news, my little Tangerine iBook, "Tangy Beep," has been upgraded to 288 MB of RAM, and Mac OS X. Pretty sweet, actually - I like OS X a lot better than I thought I would, especially at Tangy's 300 MHz in a world rapidly approaching 3 GHz. Never thought I'd see that sort of life breathed back into the old bot.

Ah well. Night all.

-Rich

Friday, July 19, 2002

Da Friday Five!

1. Where were you born? Lancaster, California. Specifically, Edwards Air Force Base. My dad was in the USAF back then, and left to pursue his corporate career not long aterward.

2. If you still live there, where would you rather move to? If you don't live there, do you want to move back? Why or why not? I only lived there for three months or so after I was born. This would be the "not long" referenced above. Having no memories of Lancaster or Edwards, I'm not really disposed to go back one way or another. It'd be interesting to see everything, I suppose, but it's really just idle curiosity.

3. Where in the world do you feel the safest? Wherever I am, generally. I don't attach safety to places so much as people.

4. Do you feel you are well-traveled? I like to travel, and I've been all over the place (living with a host family in Leutershausen, Germany would be the furthest, but that was back in 1987 or so), but it's been forever since I've really traveled to travel.

5. Where is the most interesting place you've been? Well, Leutershausen was certainly up there (beer, cathedrals and castles), but I'd have to say that another close contender is Orcas Island in Puget Sound off the coast of Washington State [map]. Gorgeous, and I'd go back in a moment. All the San Juan Islands were beautiful, but Orcas has a certain charm the others just didn't seem to.

-Rich

Thursday, July 18, 2002

Whew

Sorry for the lack of updates, but after last Friday's entry all hell broke loose on one of the projects I'm working on; I worked through the weekend, and have been stitching the rest of my life and workload together since then. Quite discombobulated.

But not in a bad way. I got my portion of the project to the client on time, and as of right now they have yet to find any problems with my portion. Feels good, though there's always the possibility that they're just not using the thing yet. :-)

Anyway, not much pithy to say right now, so I'll just consider this a status update and try to be more interesting tomorrow. :-)

-Rich

Friday, July 12, 2002

Hmmm... Blogchalking!

Thanks to gigglechick for the link...

Google! DayPop! This is my blogchalk: English, United States, Richmond, Henrico, Rich, Male, 31-35!

-Rich

Thursday, July 11, 2002

On Permanence

Read an article linked on Slashdot recently about the long-term deficiencies of most all digital storage methods, and started considering my own life's wake through the ocean of information.

On the one hand we have the paper records I generate: official documents, bills, statements and the occasional tangible letter or card I get mailed. Pretty heavy on side of the bills, actually -- if not for the possibility of a tax audit, I'd just as soon use the stuff to heat my apartment a la Dilbert. Dead weight, mostly, and as interesting as curling up with a copy of the tax code.

On the other hand we have the ephemeral, optically-or-magnetically-stored rest of my life -- the code I write, e-mails I type, diary entries across several machines, bank account balances, credit ratings, traffic tickets, videogame saves, TiVo shows, CDs and CD-ROMs I've bought or burned; i.e., the (relatively) interesting stuff. The article above makes the good point that the typical consumer hard drive comes with a single year's warranty; I've only had a hard disk fail on me once (and that slowly enough to copy everything important off before anything was lost), but that probably means I'm due.

CD-ROMs aren't much better: the typical compact disc (outside of a climate-controlled vault, anyway) can be expected to experience nontrivial problems with chemical degradation (pitting, "bit rot", etc.) inside of a single decade, and I've heard of late that problems with delamination (the layers of a CD separating from one another due to solvent breakdown) are much worse than originally forecast. There are many promises being made with regard to holographic and/or crystalline storage, but as yet none have come to market. There's been a suggestion or two made that we just encode everything in XML (standardized plaintext) and print it all to microfiche (which someone said is expected to last for centuries[?!?]), and then OCR-scan it when needed, but that seems pretty darn inefficient.

On the gripping hand (Pournelle reference!), I've still got files from 1990 or so --over a decade old-- on my current machine's hard disk. Here's the catch, and the possible saving grace of digital media: it's not the hard disk upon which the files were originally written. The files are all perfect copies of the originals, but God only knows where the HDDs I was using in 1992 are today. I certainly don't know, or care. The few web pages I have out there (most notably this blog) aren't really my problem to back up, though I certainly could snag an archival backup if I felt like it. The arms-race obsolescence curve of the computer hardware industry (combined with my geeky need to remain near its leading edge) has introduced enough redundancy into my digital existence that I haven't lost a single personal e-mail from my home system since I started keeping them in 1993.

None of this addresses the question of how much of this junk actually merits saving, or what happens five years after my stuff stops getting copied from machine to machine, but for now my infosystem works. :-)

-Rich

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Reflecting

One of the things I love about hanging out with Matt is that he reminds me of how good it can be to just up and act male from time to time. Not burping, farting, or leering drunkenly at females (though that can all certainly occur from time to time), but everything from listening to music, talking, and hanging out, to more specific things like grilling steaks, going to a game, catching a movie, driving for three hours, or stocking an apartment with groceries.

Yep, all the silly mundane stuff from which life is knit. Otherwise known as the important stuff, to one extent or another.

Bear in mind: I have no best friends local to me any more, so this is stuff I haven't really had the chance to do with anyone since I was married, and with a guy since Matt last visited a year and a half ago, or since Tripp was in town several years back.

It's not like there's anything particularly aromatic, loud or swaggering about the two of us when Matt and I hang out, but it doesn't matter: we're just guys, and for once I don't have to apologize for that. There's a different dynamic when, say, grocery shopping alone, and you enter the cereal aisle and there's already pair of women there; from two guys, chatting and BSing about life, happening along the same situation. It's more relaxed; less ambiguous. Or at least it is for me, and that's, I guess, what I'm talking about.

Matt has the immense social asset of not giving a running jump what the rest of the world thinks, and this expresses itself through all sorts of third-order niceties like always having a kind word, a ready smile and a confident handshake without having consciously to remember; like having it cross his mind to pick up some fruit or sammich fixin's (read: healthy food) at a dull moment; like being able to do pretty much anything he wants without a lot (or at least without my level) of annoying second-guessing. And the good news is that it's infectious: I've felt more at ease with myself and life after my vacation than I have in a long while.

Being proud of oneself and approaching the world on one's own terms is a magical thing for those who aren't naturally given to it. I hope Matt realizes what he's got -- or perhaps, like the millipede when asked how he manages all those feet, I hope he never does.

-Rich

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Having Embarked on the Week

Whoof. The work has come back with a vengeance, but spirits remain high. It's looking like a week of ten-hour days will be necessary to get all the work done that needs doing by Friday. At least most of the work involved is challenging and fun, unlike some I could mention.

One of the projects I'm working on involves scoring fill-in-the-bubble tests a la the SAT and aptitude tests of yesteryear. You remember -- #2 pencil only? :-) Today's desktop scanner technology makes the hardware end trivial, but I have a new appreciation for the software problems one has to solve. Remember how there was always a pattern of black blocks, and usually a lopped-off corner or even holes at one edge of the page? That's all to minimize the possibility of misaligned pages, because most of the generic mark-detection algorithms out there aren't nearly good enough to compensate for even a few degrees of skew. God help you if there's any (inconsistent) warping introduced by a sheet feeder. The scanner we're using has a sheet feeder, but thankfully it warps consistently so we can just draw our little sensor rectangles in line with the warpage.

I'm using Visual Studio .NET and C# for the job, and I'm liking the tools better the more I use them. Like playing with Tinkertoys. :-D And yes, it really is that much like Java.

<ChrisRock>I think Scott McNealy's gonna sue somebody!</ChrisRock>

Anything else going on? Not much, considering the long hours, but I'm sure I'll get back to a routine soon enough.

-Rich

Saturday, July 06, 2002

Posting from the Field

Hello! I'm typing from my brother Matt's apartment in Marietta, GA (just north of Atlanta), squirting the bits over his dialup connection.

Between staying up late experiencing one aspect or another of Atlanta's night life, sleeping until the crack of noon, and repeatedly being fed within an inch of my life, it's been a great week. I've been called upon for my computing and grilling experience upon several occasions, but I don't mind occasionally singing for my supper. :-)

Let's see, in addition to catching an arena football game (the "Georgia Force," or "G-Force"; get it?) and hanging out with Matt and his friends, the two of us headed over to Hunter's place in Birmingham, AL for the day of the Fourth, and much fun was had by all - there was much computer gaming (Diablo II and Warlords: Battlecry II), movie watching (Men in Black II - fun, but with a slight 'meh') and socializing, culminating in a homegrown fireworks display, as full-blown fireworks are legal to purchase in Alabama. %-D

This afternoon (evening) is the first since I've been here that I've felt the inclination at the same time I've had the wherewithal (now that Matt's new CPU's been installed; FYI, Hunter, it went flawlessly) to reconnect with the online world: 76 messages waiting on Net@ddress, and only 30 non-spam. :-) Ah well.

I've finished rereading Noir, and am ready to step up to my duties as moderator over on Mary's bookblog. Twisted book -- I'm curious to hear the reactions over there.

Anyhoo, I'm running short, both on time to blog (got sushi for dinner tonight before I head out tomorrow) and on stuff to say, so until later,

-Rich