Wednesday, August 06, 2003

On Hiatus

Blah. Yuck. Phooey!

I've looked over the blogging I've done lately and can't stand it. Bland, namby-pamby, sanitized snapshots-of-life that (surprise!) fail to draw many people here to read. They wouldn't draw me, either.

I've got a lot of stuff bubbling in my head, but I don't post it here because I don't feel like fighting over it, or shocking or offending people, or otherwise letting myself in for grief, worry and/or criticism I'd otherwise not have to deal with. I'm afraid to be honest on my own website, and much as people insist it's no problem and tell me to go ahead, my internal censor has taken over here, and from where I'm sitting that's an unhealthy state of affairs.

The crux of matters is this: I need to write, and my activity here has served to scratch the itch - but only partially. Time to scratch it for real. William Gibson (an author whom I respect) feels like it's difficult for him to reconcile the activity of blogging with that of writing; they create distinct internal "landscapes" that work out to be incompatible in his head. I'm not sure it works that way for me, but I do know that the writing I do here isn't really the kind of writing I want to do, or to be known for.

So: this isn't good-bye; I'm sure I'll post updates here from time to time, because there are several people who have become accustomed to keeping up with me through Brain Squeezings. Heck, once I get a better picture of who I'm turning into and what I want to say to the world, I may well come back here, renovate the place, and take it in a new direction.

...But this is my line in the sand. Brain Squeezings has been a lot of fun, and I've met some wonderful and fascinating people through it, but I'm not going to take my half-measures here as a primary writing outlet any more.

By the way, any of those wonderful and fascinating people who want to contact me via e-mail are of course welcome to do so: is still alive and well, and I think personal, one-on-one communication is probably more in line with what I'm trying to do anyway.


Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Headphones at Work

Funny how such a little thing can help with focus. Between talk radio of various flavors and some NPR for a classical fix, it's been a relaxing and productive day. Still, this is bandwidth-heavy activity, so I really ought to dig out my own CDs and listen to them instead. That or invest in an iPod or some other MP3 vehicle to listen to my ripped stuff.

Conversation I've been having with more and more people lately
Conversationalist: Dude, you're bored, you've settled into your house (mostly), and you're out of sorts.
Rich: Dude. Yeah, that's true.
C: So, when was the last time you wrote anything? Outside of e-mail, blogging or journal entries?
R: Been a while. Well, there was that one blog entry with the smartoff kids...
C: Dude, weak, write something.
R. Well, yeah, I suppose I should.

(Time passes)

C: Well, have you written anything?
R: (Insert excuse here.)
C: Dude, weak! (Shakes head sadly.)

Okay, okay, I get the point...


Sunday, August 03, 2003

On a Roll

In keeping with my pattern of increasing cleanliness, I vacuumed today. The dogs are, of course, traumatized, and I haven't seen the cat since midday. I fully expect there to be a reckoning at around three this morning. For cats especially, I suspect revenge to be one of those dishes best served cold: early in the morning, when your target is asleep and particularly vulnerable to a tail under the nose, or an "accidental" stomp on the head.

Saw The Italian Job last night - decent flick, and especially good on the big screen. Otherwise it was a pretty uneventful weekend.


PS. Oh yeah, the backyard mowing-perimeter worked like a champ once I got it spliced and fully staked. It's all coming together now...

Friday, August 01, 2003

Disrespectful to Dirt

It's the annual office clean-up event here at Books-A-Million today, and Lemon Pledge is in the air like unending subliminal audio: I'm cleeean; I'm cleeean.

<ObscureSimpsonsReference episode="Mr. Sparkle">
"I'm disrespectful to dirt! Can you see I am serious!"
In other news, I got my back yard mostly perimeter-wired last night, but I figured the world was trying to tell me to stop for the evening when one of my splices broke as I hammered a stake down next to it, at which point I felt a series of sharp tingles begin in my right foot, which, upon close examination, had been planted in a fire-ant hill.

Ah, nature.


Thursday, July 31, 2003

Demo Day

Today was the day that the app (a prototype that I've been working on for the past few weeks) was shown to the management team. The demo went decently, except for a technical glitch that was out of my control. Well and good. So now I find myself back working on the Urgent Project of the Moment from a month ago, until I hear the verdict from today's viewing.

C'est la guerre. I just builds 'em, I don't designs 'em. It's nice to be able to (to a certain extent) leave this stuff on my desk when I head for home. It wasn't too long ago that I would have poured myself heart and soul into project after project, and risen and fallen emotionally with the current status of each one. I still give my due at work, but my emotional investment is much saner now. After working on (by a rough count) twelve more-or-less-major projects over the course of the past eight years, and delivered something like three, I've learned that projects come and go.

(I seem to be the type of person who's always given the high-profile, high-risk, low-probability-of-success nuts to crack. Flattering, after a fashion, but after a while you get to be sort of inured to the final result, especially faced with so much raw incompetence at the managerial level. Not that that's what's happening in my current situation, but good management is much less the norm than it should be.)

Anyway, so long as you're happy with your contribution to each, and you grow a little and learn something from each, moving from project to project ain't so bad. There're certainly worse situations to be in.

Da Good Life
Finally took the time to set the Robomower (tentatively named Munch or Muncher) to work last night; ran with nary a problem. Did laundry at the same time, and caught up on some backlogged TiVo. I've yet to try a homemade Chai recipe (things keep coming up in the evenings), but I may do so tonight. In the meantime I've gotten better at mixing the instant stuff, and it's not half bad, done right.

At long (long long) last, the airlock has stopped bubbling for my Sweet Home Alabama Stout. It's been over four weeks in the fermenter, which is very weird, but I'll finally get to bottle it this weekend. Here's hoping!


Tuesday, July 29, 2003

The Pathos of Instant Chai

My box of dozens of little packets of instant Oregon Chai arrived yesterday, and after procuring a little quickie electric kettle I made my first batch. Not bad... But not great either.

(For those who've never bumped into chai before, when I use the term here, I mean a variety of tea that's fairly sweet, generously spiced with cardamom, cinnamon and other spices, and served mixed in milk. Chai's got a warm, homey smell, and just a little kick of caffeine; it's a drink that makes you want to stop, put your feet up, and read a book inside on a rainy day. Or at least that's what it does for me. :-D )

As I've followed my standard "ooh! shiny!" footfirst jump into the world of chai, I've come across a number of excellent recipes for making homemade versions. In the wake of dumping rather-pricy powder into ordinary hot water for this morning's chai fix, I've come to the conclusion that chai is something that needs to have some care taken over it. Not just for accuracy of taste (though it would certainly help), but because it's that sort of drink, where process is nearly as important as product, like a good cup of coffee, or a martini -- and thanks to Mary (whose blog is still MIA) for this insight.

I could wax poetic about what our society loses in its constant quest for faster, more mass-produced stuff, but I won't.

The trick is what we choose to do with all the time our labor-saving devices and massive prosperity give us is as important as obtaining that time in the first place. Save time making instant, though mediocre luxury drinks, or use time saved elsewhere to make a luxury drink properly. :-)

So tonight (after having to work late, unfortunately), I'm going to sip some fresh homemade chai and read another good book while a robot mows my lawn, a distant bank's computer pays my bills, a machine maintains the temperature of my house, and my TiVos record TV shows so I can watch them when I feel like it.

I'm reading a lot more in the way of good books lately. It's nice.


Saturday, July 26, 2003

Saturated in Bandwidthy Goodness

Well! Had a good day. I started off early, heading over to a used furniture sale that Books-A-Million put on for its employees early this morning, and scored myself some plushy chairs and a nice long table (called a "rolling oak," for the obvious reason, and because it's on casters). LAN party, here I come! I also grabbed a decent table for my kitchen. Half of the stuff is still waiting for me at one of our warehouses, because...

...I got my cable modem installed today! I was hoping to get back to the warehouse before they closed up shop at 1 PM, but the installer was held up at the appointment before mine, and on top of that they apparently had a rhesus monkey at the switch back at Charter Communications Central, because it took an extra half hour of futzing for the broadband signal to turn "hot."

In any event, I'm gettin' my megabits on wireless-style, courtesy my new Apple AirPort Extreme. Yes, I bit the Apple again, but it's primarily because it offers what I need today, at comparatively low cost, with the ability to upgrade to 802.11g (even higher bandwidth) when the prices come down. It also offers the option to hard-wire the cable modem's connection to my primary computer, so there won't be any of that awful WiFi latency problem when I go online to game with that box. Now all I need is a 100baseT hub or router, and I can share that wired connection among as many boxes as need it. :-)

Part of today's agenda was to set up a perimeter wire around my back yard, facilitating its mowing, but it seems 18-gauge solid-core wire isn't as plentiful as I expected. I had to head to Home Depot for the small amount of 20-gauge I did find, and that's unlikely to be enough. Oh, and I was short on stakes. Sigh. Luckily more stakes are coming in the mail soon...


Friday, July 25, 2003

Glowing Mowing

After much tweaking of the perimeter wire, last night saw the first perfect mow of the zone I've got set up in my front lawn.

I read the first few chapters of The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume II as I lounged in a chair and (ahem) supervised the process. Three hours without a cut wire, lost mower, given-up slope or other "gotcha." C of C is a good book, but the bugs were a distraction. I'll have to get a citronella candle or two for next time (or a cooler of dry ice, a bit away), and a table with a beer on it. Perhaps a hat. There's always tweaking to be done. :-)

The neighbors are beginning to talk, evidently, because I'm getting waves and pretty reliable thumbs-up from the husbands.

This weekend will see me set up a backyard perimeter (which will be much simpler and quicker because it's completely flat) and a small perimeter for the grass to the left of my driveway. I may need more wire, but my stake supply is decent, and 18-gauge, solid-copper-core wire from Radio Shack is relatively cheap.

Dating Aftermath
Sounds strange to say it, but the past day has been very relaxing - moreso than it would have been otherwise. Vindicates the decision, I suppose. Joining a local health club this weekend -- no pool, so it's going to be good old iron-pumping (free weights only, please), leavened with some treadmill work.


Thursday, July 24, 2003

Thorny Road

This is why I hate dating so much.

A few weeks after I moved into my new house, I received an e-mail from a woman who was interested in one of my online dating profiles. We met, saw a few movies, had a few dinners. She liked me a lot, and began cooking me meals, driving me to the airport, and engaging in other acts of kindness and fondness.

Problem is, I wasn't able to reciprocate those feelings. Maybe, given world enough and time, but not now, and not, in all honesty, likely in any reasonable period of time.

So last night I was constrained to hurt someone who'd never been anything but wonderful to me. She wasn't interested in continuing as friends (and I understand, as someone who's been told "but I don't like you that way" too many times), so it was time to take the honest road and break things off.



Friday, July 18, 2003

Clean Livin'

It's been a week of hither and yon. Monday, Tuesday and yesterday evenings were all spent tweaking the Robomower perimeter, which is code for "lots of bending, stooping, yanking barbed plastic stakes out of the ground, hammering pilot holes in different positions for replacement stakes, and then the new stakes themselves."

Bad news: I feel like I'm back playing football again, with the creaky knees, throbbing hands and pepperings of mosquito bites.

Good news: it's great actually to be out in the sun doing things, meeting the neighbors and tinkering with a new toy. :-)

Tonight or tomorrow, I plan to head out to Atlanta again to hang with Matt and Amy. His beer doesn't sound quite ready for bottling yet, but the dogsitter's paid for and it's not like I hate spending time with them -- we end up playing lots of strategy/board games, and I'm discovering a real love for them. This weekend may be the time for all three of us to learn Go, if we can find a board and stones by the time I leave.

I've also developed a Chai Latte problem. One of the benefits of working for Books-A-Million is that I get a discount at Joe Muggs Coffee, which is sometimes part of a BAM store, and sometimes its own building, like a Starbucks would be, and Joe Muggs is a great source for the stuff. I've grabbed my own little 20-oz. Thermos-style carafe, and am now wrestling with the fact that the standalone Joe Muggs establishments (the ones that open early enough to get a hook-up before work) are far enough off my path to work that I have to leave 20 minutes earlier in order to avoid being late. Tough to do without the caffeine that was the point in the first place. I'll have to look into getting my own Chai concentrate.


Monday, July 14, 2003

Back in Town

Had a good, if ambivalent, weekend with the family. Lots of cousins, uncles and aunts to hang with and catch up with. Lots of good memories relived and made. Much sushi eaten, much pool played, much travel done.

I'm ready for a vacation.

But no, tonight's the night I install the perimeter wire around my front lawn for use by the mow-bot, which has been charging since last night. The neighbors will love me for it, because in the interim the grass's gotten to look pretty ratty.

Haven't you used that thing yet?
I had the chance to drive the Robomower around manually last night, playing and calibrating, and it's a slick machine. It's definitely a no-frills design, but sturdy, and overengineered where necessary: safety, battery use, and motor power. It talks to you, too: certain alerts and safety messages are announced in a pleasant synthesized baritone voice, like "Please do not lift the mower without removing the battery pack," and "Remember to follow all safety instructions when using your mower." Thankfully, when these messages get old (and you know they will), there's a menu option to disable all but emergency sounds.

Installation of the wire involves tacking it down with plastic stakes, not unlike those for a camping tent, except these are made to lie flush with the ground when hammered in. I have several good steel hammers, but I think I may want a hard-rubber mallet to get this job done - I've broken too many tent stakes over the years.

Wasn't this guy making some beer?
Yep, the sweet stout is still fermenting after two weeks and two days. I need to bottle soon (yeast willing - it's still going fairly strong), or else rack to my glass secondary fermenter before I start getting some off flavors from the long sit on the trub.


Thursday, July 10, 2003

Family Time

Well, the Robomower arrived last night (as well as some choice morsels from Cheapass Games), but I'm not going to have the opportunity to play with the mower for a while yet.

This is because I'll be heading to Detroit tomorrow morning for the viewing and funeral of my sole remaining grandparent, Christine Heliste. Grandma Heliste (pronounced "HEL-iss-tee") was the matriarch of my mom's side of the family, which has, from her three daughters and son, yielded eight grandkids, and the great-grandkids have been popping for a few years now.

She was born in 1913, so she saw two world wars and experienced the Depression and the incredible prosperity of the United States over the past century. She was very insistent about her grandkids flying an American flag and doing our duty by our country, and was the picture of unflappability and steadfastness while we were growing up. My childhood memories of rhubarb pie and chocolate-chip cookies from an apple-shaped earthenware jar come from her example.

She did a lot of mothering and a lot of living in her life, and her quirky, garrulous family is very much the better for her hard work and example.

Catch y'all on Monday.


Tuesday, July 08, 2003


Schedule... So utterly destroyed... Where have the weeks gone?

Life in Birmingham is going well. Work has kept me busy, as has the beginnings of a social life. I am also driving something like 40 minutes to get anywhere other than the grocery store or gas station. Fortunately I've been able to get the Taurus serviced, so the travel isn't as painful as it would otherwise be.

What else? I've been given a gas grill by a friend, visited Matt and his sweetheart in Atlanta, put a beer in the fermenter (and got Matt started on the hobby as well), and am now waiting for my just-ordered RL-800 Robomower to arrive.

"Robomower?" Excuse me?
Yep, that's a robot lawn mower. Just set up a wire around the perimeter of a yard, and turn it loose. It remains to be seen how well it'll handle the nontrivial slope at one edge of my front yard, but there's a walk-behind manual mode if the automatic one balks. Steers with a D-pad, just like the one on a PlayStation controller.

I really hate yardwork. :-)

Unpacking: Still?
Yep, much of my stuff is still in boxes, but the essentials like the kitchen and bathroom stuff and much in the way of books and miscellaneous equipment are unpacked enough to be functional. Part of the problem is all the driving I have to do. I'll have to be more careful scheduling my outings.

A Day in the Life
Am emphatically not on all four cylinders today; the battery in one of my smoke alarms died last night at around 3:43 a.m., which caused the alarm to emit a loud "chirp" every 30 seconds or so. This sent the dogs into a truly remarkable paranoid frenzy.

Oh, did I mention that this was the smoke alarm that's at the highest level of a twelve-foot vaulted ceiling?

So I found myself walking, forlorn and muttering, down the aisles of my local Wal-Mart at four-fifteen in the morning, and ultimately purchasing an eight-foot stepladder and a single 9-volt battery. The problem was resolved by five a.m., but by then the sleep damage was done.



Thursday, June 26, 2003

On The Potter

Sarah has asked my opinion on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and I thought I'd chime in. I'll try my best to keep it spoiler-free, but if you're waiting to read the book, you might want to skip this entry.

Sarah feels like the book's not well enough edited (could be lots shorter), and that Harry needs a good smack upside the head. As for the editing, I didn't see too many problems, but then I didn't read it from an editing standpoint, so it's possible I could have missed a few things. I certainly didn't feel the "jeez, this is going on too long" or "she could have said that in half the length" feelings, though. I suppose I'm one of those people who could read Rowling day in and day out: I was hating making progress through the book, because every page down was a page I couldn't look forward to any more. What can I say? I'm a fanboy -- I like her writing "voice." :-)

As for Harry being insufferable, well, try being fifteen and male sometime. That's the way it works. For that matter, I liked Harry passionate and hair-triggered; for a guy who's been through as much trouble and familial humiliation as he has, it was getting old that he took everything nobly and in stride. I was surprised that Rowling wrote Ron and Hermione mature enough to stand fast in the face of Harry's freak-outs, though; that might be the only believability chink in her characters' armor.

Put simply, I liked it. But, bummer: we've got to wait another year (or two, or three) for the next, and the series is scheduled to end after only two more books!


Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Free at Last

Bloody J. K. Rowling and her bloody Harry Potter books. I finally finished Order of the Phoenix last night at around 1:45 a.m., which means that starting today I can get back to a normal schedule. :-)

I want to write books so good people will lose sleep rather than put them down. I'm not sure I'd want the toothpaste and action figure deals, but I'd put up with a movie offer or two.


Monday, June 23, 2003

My World is in Boxes

Cardboard walls everywhere, strapping tape holding the pressure at bay...

The Move
Slowly but surely the fallout from the move is settling; I was able to get a sweet stout ("Rich's Sweet-Home-Alabama Housewarming Stout") into the fermenter yesterday, which was a welcome domestic task.

Enough has been removed from boxes that I'm able to live quasi-normally now, but things were touch-and-go for the preceding week. The move itself was astoundingly quick; the burly gentlemen who boxed up all my stuff and got it onto the truck performed a single-day miracle. Getting everything out of the boxes again is proving to be a much bigger job (especially considering it's only me this time. Heh.), but the theater room and kitchen are done for the most part.

So far the bed has stayed in the master bedroom, and the theater stuff in the smaller one, for lack of any idea how I'd move that bloody TV by myself as much as any other reason.

The fridge, washer and dryer arrived late Friday afternoon, and it was very good to be able to tackle things like laundry without a trip to the laundromat, and refrigeration without bags of ice in coolers (but the cooler you and Amy gave me will have an exalted place forever, Matt - a gift of excellent beer is always remembered here). :-D

I'm still riding the work-waves of the final trip to Richmond a week back; lots happened while I was gone, and lots is happening now that I'm back. (Thus the lack of recent blogging - there's been some late work, and of course lots to tire me out around the house.)

So yes, there's a lot going on, but becoming more easily handled by the day. :-D


Monday, June 16, 2003

Wotta Week

Life is beginning to smooth itself out again after the craziness of last week's move. All my stuff has made its way south (as have I), I've got my telephone and power and satellite TV and water and trash pickup arranged, with Matt and Amy's assistance I've got the computer desk, home theater and most of a bookshelf of books unpacked, but there's still a truly intimidating amount to do.

Ongoing Developments
Several appliances are winging their way to me (washer, dryer and refrigerator), and I'll need to buy and/or build several new bookshelves to handle the book overflow that I no longer wish to keep in boxes. Furniture in general is going to be interesting over the next year or so; my old blue sleeper sofa was left in Richmond quite on purpose (as it was held together with approximately a pound's worth of duct tape and incorporated cinder blocks in its final design), so it's high on the list of stuff to replace ASAP.

Refrigeration will also be interesting through this Friday. A sizeable cooler/mini-fridge followed me from Richmond, and I've acquired two new coolers since arriving here (one courtesy Matt and Amy, and filled with excellent beer no less), so I can keep matters afloat with occasional infusions of ice, but I have to take care not to end any meal with too much perishable food.

But the place is very close to functional, and as a result I've taken several opportunities to stop and smell the roses. My cute little back yard (best term for it, I'm afraid) is aching for some sort of grilling apparatus, and so far only about half of my beer-brewing equipment has surfaced. I'm itching to get a brew moving, though, so I'm going to make a concerted effort tonight to get all the gear, well, in gear, so's I can hold a proper housewarming event once I thrash the bigger piles of boxes into submission over the next few weeks.

Space Utilization
The house is holding up to repeated inspection; the high ceilings (10+ feet) and big master bedroom are wonderful to have and use. The guest bedroom is a bit small for my home theater needs, though, and it's taking a great deal of self-control to avoid switching the master bedroom's contents for those of the theater room for the better space. I'm probably thinking too much, but here's my worry: what would it say about me if I were willing to bump myself into a smaller (more cramped, actually) room in order to have more space for my audio-visual stuff?

But there's so much more room in the master bedroom! I could entertain if the theater were in there! But then there'd be the matter of that spiffy master bathroom going to waste...

Of course it'd also mean moving that 260-lb. TV set again...


Sunday, June 08, 2003

Wastin' Away Again in Memory-Lane-A-Ville

Weird how environment can affect mood. I've only been back in Richmond a day, and I can already feel old attitudes, old views, old thought-paths reasserting themselves. I feel like lounging around, playing videogames and watching TV all day instead of getting after life or discovering my surroundings.

A better vindication of the decision to get the H-E-double-hockeysticks out of Richmond is difficult to imagine. :-)

Still, it was good to visit with Chuck and chat with Bob; tonight and tomorrow (between social visits and other errands) will be devoted to breaking down furniture for the movers and doing a spot of cleaning.

Dinner time!


Friday, June 06, 2003

Rich is Once Again a Homeowner

Got all the signing done today, and I have now closed upon the house! The whole process was refreshingly painless, except for some confusion about exactly what city/town I was physically located in, versus my mailing address (which we knew was different).

Things eventually got straightened out, but not before an hour'd been spent. Oh yeah, and *I* was the person who discovered the error. My realtor's been wonderful, but my loan broker seems to need some help with his firm's attention to detail. Didn't help that the person we had on the phone from the lender was being a cast-iron jerk about the accuracy of the address, either.

But the deed is done, and had I my stuff, I could move in over the weekend. Since I don't have my stuff, I'll be flying to Richmond tomorrow to go get it. :-)

Pictures to come!


[Edit: Blogger confused itself royally on Thursday/Friday, so this is only hitting screens Saturday.]

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Trundling Along

Not too much to report lately; work has gotten interesting (lots of CSS knowledge entering the brain in a short period), the Day of Closing continues to approach, and otherwise all's right with the world.

I do need to make an appointment with the vet so Sushi's got a place to stay while I zip to Richmond and back, and get the apartment packed up, and coordinate the last few basics with the moving company, but otherwise life is steady and moving forward.

Sorry posts haven't been more interesting, but it's been right busy around here...


Monday, June 02, 2003


I just spent two hours chasing down a stupid JavaScript bug I introduced when I tried to get cute and making an HTML form work spiffily rather than simply.


Weekend Recap
I did not make it to any splendiferous beer places Friday night - I had some errands to run, and by the time I got home I wasn't in the mood for much more in the way of Friday crowds.

Had a good weekend - Saturday was a big day for reading (I'm working through The Book of Jhereg, which was given to me for my birthday last month) and doing fun things like laundry and tidying up the apartment. I did catch another showing of The Matrix Reloaded after Tripp called, having seen it and had inordinate amounts of fun. :-)

Yesterday's golf game was quite enjoyable too, if only because I was one of the less-skilled people there, and thus a great source of comedy material. But nevertheless I had a great time! Why is everyone so down on golf? I didn't find it boring at all; trying to get the ball going where you want it to is hard, and as such it was a constant challenge. Boring to watch, certainly, but playing it was tough and fun.

So there.

The Weeks Ahead
Should be an interesting week -- there's plenty on the work slate, including another demo tomorrow morning, and then lots of revision to do before Friday, when I close on the house. I fly back to Richmond to supervise the move on Saturday, and will be there through Tuesday cleaning up the apartment as best I can before releasing it to the rental office. Then I fly back to Birmingham on Wednesday to supervise the offloading of everything into the new place.

Urf. Lots to do. Anyway, it gets interesting from here. :-)


Saturday, May 31, 2003

Test Post

A bug developed in the RSS feed. With any luck, this post will allow the fixed version to build itself. :-)


Friday, May 30, 2003

Wow, a Worthwhile Friday Five!

1. What do you most want to be remembered for? This is something of a tie with me, between A) raising a solid, healthy family of good citizens, and B) writing a book whose importance will outlast me. I'm still kind of getting started on both of those. :-)

2. What quotation best fits your outlook on life? "Life is too short to waste time hurrying."

3. What single achievement are you most proud of in the past year? My move to Birmingham, currently in progress.

4. What about the past ten years? Hmm. Surviving my divorce, probably.

5. If you were asked to give a child a single piece of advice to guide them through life, what would you say? No matter how important or insurmountable you think your problems are, you're probably wrong.


Blogger Slow, BlogSpot Flaky, Comments Crashy
-- Must be Friday :-(

I've finally hammered the CSSier version of the template down the throats of BlogSpot's servers; it only took downloading w.bloggar, as mentioned in the previous post. Looks like a good utility - so far I'd recommend it to anyone still stuck on Blogger/BlogSpot - it can really ease the daily posting pain.

Netscape 7/Mozilla and IE6-Windows test fine with the new template; IE5 for the Mac wasn't doing too well with the new template last night - I'll have to check again tonight, with the latest changes in. Netscape 4 is a total loss. But then it was with the prior version of the template, too - I checked. Moral of the story: upgrade your browser!

This town continues to surprise me. I keep expecting oppressive heat, and we're still piddling around in the low 80s, with June right around the corner. Now that the rain's stopped, what's supposed to impress? ;-) C'mon, bring it!

Yawn. I realized this morning that, since I'm between domiciles and trying to conserve funds, I've allowed myself to fall into a routine, and this has in turn brought me to the brink of a stagnant attitude.

Fortunately this is fixable. Armed with sugarmama's list of beery places around town, I shall endeavor this evening to sample the wares of a few. :-) I've also been invited golfing very early Sunday morning -- should be fun, in a bleary, AM sort of way. ;-)


Test Post

I'm trying out a new utility called w.bloggar to compose and upload posts. It's still Blogger behind the scenes, but this may allow me to bypass Blogger's not-entirely-stable web interface.

It'll also ping for me (letting the world know when I've updated) if everything works as planned.


Thursday, May 29, 2003

Behind-the-Scenes Updates

Did some tweaking on the template behind Brain Squeezings today. If I did what I did well, then there should be absolutely no difference in the look or feel of the site.

The changes involved making all the blogrolls at left into CSS-formatted boxes instead of HTML tables, which ought to be smaller and faster.

The problem is compatibility with older browsers. It looks like Netscape 4.x is completely unable to display Brain Squeezings now; on the other hand I'm not sure it ever was once I went to the current page design. Netscape 7 seems to do okay, but the blogroll boxes at left are all supposed to be the same width. Netscape's bug or Microsoft's? Hard to say.

I also found some bugs wherein I closed a table cell twice, and closed a DIV tag after the table cell that contained its start. Amazing that Internet Explorer could display the page at all.

Just goes to show how much slack Microsoft had to build into its HTML parsers to accommodate sloppy coding. Still, I almost wish they hadn't done so well; that way I wouldn't have had a buggy page for the past year or so.

Please let me know if the browser you use barfs on the page.


Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Home Ownership, Beer

I got things set up for my homeowners' insurance today, and barring some unforeseen occurrence, there's nothing left in the way of my taking possession of the new place on June 6 [not July 6!]. Exciting!

Aaaand, Back to Beer
I've been maintaining the "Amber Waves" episode of the Food Network show Good Eats (in which Alton Brown shows us how to make homebrew beer; it's show that put me over the beer-making "edge" and got me started) on my TiVo since I first caught it. I mention this because I watched it for the first time in a while last night, and it got me excited about the beer I plan to make once I get moved into the new place, June thirteenth or so.

My main computer with its beer-formulation software is languishing in Richmond, but so far I have two brews I want to get going ASAP once I'm settled.

A sweet stout. Lots of heavily roasted malt, lightly hopped and carbonated, mildly alcoholic (4.5-5.5% abv). Almost a chocolate-malt character; in fact I may well add some "chocolate malt" (a particular type of roast), and even some bittersweet chocolate if I feel the impulse.

A historically accurate 16th- or 17th-century English Ale. There's some research I need to do, but I'm aiming for something moderately hopped, lightly carbonated, with medium-high alcohol (6-7.5%), and lots of smooth malty character. For my friends in the Richmond Shakespeare Festival when they drop by Hoover this late Summer or Fall.

"...and I will make it felony to drink small beer."
- William Shakespeare, King Henry VI Part II, Act iv, Scene 2.

Birmingham's Beer, So Far
My new home town has proven to have gratifyingly good specialty-beer availability, at least to a relatively shallow depth: Pete's Wicked and Sam Adams are ubiquitous, and it's surprisingly easy to find Sierra Nevada labels as well, and not just the flagship brews, either; Sierra Nevada Porter, Stout and Wheat beers are in evidence, and I even found some Anchor Steam and Anchor Porter around, not to mention a Sam Adams Cream Stout that's heavenly.

I have yet to make the time to visit a local brewpub or brewery (there aren't many), but that's on the list.


Tuesday, May 27, 2003

RSS Feed Added

Wahey! Looks like Blogger finally got its act sufficiently in gear for me to grab, hold, and edit Brain Squeezings' template. This allowed me to head over to BlogMatrix (thanks for the linkage go to Tripp), and A) add their special blend of metadata herbs and spices to Squeezings' source HTML, and then B) throw their automated tools at the site and generate an RSS feed for me.

For those who aren't familiar with the concept of an RSS feed, I'll try to explain. RSS (view the specification) stands for Really Simple Syndication, and what it boils down to is an XML-based file format that is useful for representing a series of news stories, either in title-and-digest form, or all the way to full-blown HTML-formatted stories. Since weblog entries can look an awful lot like news stories when you squint, RSS listings wind up being a very useful method for representing the contents of blogs.

This allows special programs called RSS aggregators to read these listings and then present the contents of a given RSS-enabled blog as individual stories, complete with web links directly to each story, and the ability to let you know when a given site has been updated since the last time you looked at it.

It's possible to get almost all news everywhere through RSS feeds these days; I've heard of people who almost never open a news site any more unless they get there through an RSS link.

So anyway, Brain Squeezings has joined the 21st century at last; links to BlogMatrix and my shiny new RSS feed are at left, should you be inclined to aggregate me, or just view the XML.


Monday, May 26, 2003

Blog Modernization

One of the interesting things that's happened as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom is the thrusting into the spotlight of weblogs. Certainly my little squeezings don't merit anything like that sort of attention, but all the hoopla has made me think a bit about tidying up the place. In no particular order, here are the things I want to get done here:

  • Put together an RSS feed so I can be aggregated by the all the XML-based news collector programs out there. I can do this now with a third-party tool or two.
  • Move the bleeding hell off BlogSpot. It's been a trusty (and free) friend, but sometimes it's fast, sometimes it's slow, and sometimes it simply fails to send the page. One gets what one pays for. Oh, and I'm a paying customer (thus no banner ads), so so much for that.
  • Come up with homegrown (or at least locally hosted) replacements for YACCS, SiteMeter, Blogrolling and other third-party bangles. While, again, they've been good free/low-cost tools to get started with, I'll feel better when power's been given to the regional governors and their functions are under my direct control. :-)
  • (Eventually) move to my very own homegrown weblog software (in progress, but currently stuck on my server in Richmond), i.e., no Blogger, Moveable Type, Radio Userland, or Greymatter. If it breaks, I can fix it; if it needs a feature, I can add it. Gonna get me my Martha Stewart on.
I do like the current "Squeezings look" just fine, so there probably won't be too many visible changes, but with any luck over the next few months there should be a real increase in performance, reliability and general Good Stuff here.


Sunday, May 25, 2003

Memorial Day Thoughts

It's a day early, but I had the thought, and saving it for a day didn't make sense.

I'm about fifty pages away from the end of the book Corelli's Mandolin, and I expect to finish it tonight (don't worry, Hunter, I've already finished Canticle for Leibowitz). A good friend recommended I grab it and give it a read what seems like a year or more ago. I promptly grabbed the book via, but then it sat on my "to be read eventually" shelf until I was preparing for the move to Birmingham and I stuffed it into my travel bag.

(I do this - I have several dozen books that I've bought on the advice of friends [or had bought for me by family - thanks again for the Vereshchagin books, Matt!] and will eventually break out as the mood strikes me, months or years down the pike. I'm also known for being midway through as many as ten books at once; I'm not sure how I keep them straight, but I seem to, so long as I don't dip into more than one book per day. This buy-it-now, read-it-later habit has served me well; inasmuch as I allow for the action of karma or capital-F Fate in my life, this is it: I seem to read such books when they're most relevant.)

Corelli's Mandolin (I've never seen the movie Captain Corelli's Mandolin; I've heard both that it's awful and good) is the story of a Greek island as it's occupied by the Italians, and then the Germans, during World War II. Most of the main characters are either Greeks or occupying Italians, and it's a brutal and beautiful book; the kind I hope to write someday.

But on to what's relevant to Memorial Day. I'm a poor historian, but from the point of view of the author, Greece wasn't one of the major players or theaters of the war, and most of the crimes it had to endure were those of neglect and negligence, at least until the Nazis took over for the defeated Italians. It's at about this point in the book when lots of characters start being killed, being emotionally shattered, or getting permanently separated from one another, and the question is raised over and over: who will be remembered for what (if at all), and who will be left to do the remembering?

I won't spoil the book for those who haven't read it by giving away too many specifics, but a great deal of the drama of the book revolves around the personal cowardice and/or valor of individual soldiers and citizens rather than the international interplay of the war. It's a good perspective; one easily overlooked or ill-recognized when arguing about the rectitude of this cause or that.

Mine is one of several American generations that hasn't had to endure the loss of a sizable fraction of itself to conflicts overseas or at home, and unless we're in one of the few families with a soldier who's been killed in action over the past decade or so, the reality of Memorial Day is a dilute one for us.

My own grandparents wound up helping the WWII effort at home (my mom's father helped manage a plant that made tanks in Detroit, and my dad's father oversaw some of the plants and Bauxite mines in Arkansas helping make aluminum for aircraft manufacture - Dad and/or Matt, if I'm making a hash of the facts, please correct me), but I have uncles on both sides of the family who saw action in either the European or Pacific campaigns. But I had to call and ask in order to get my facts anything close to straight.

My dad was a Cold Warrior, it occurs to me, during his time in the Air Force -- doing solid-rocket-fuel research in southern California. Cool. :-)

But in terms of Fallen Soldiers, the remembered generations of my family have been spared the bulk of personal tragedy, so it's been with a strangely impersonal gratitude that I look at footage of Arlington Cemetery, or the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, or hear the figures for American dead in Iraq.

Appropriate that it takes a fictional book to make me think in terms of the individual horrors and sorrow of real-life war.

Anyway, enjoy the Memorial Day holiday, everyone. Revel in your freedoms, have a hot dog and salute a soldier, alive or dead.


Saturday, May 24, 2003

Dawg Time

I am at work. Blogging from work, to be sure, but at work, because there's just stuff to do.

Before I came here today, I stopped by the vet's where Reese and Sebastian are being boarded as time inexorably grinds itself down to the point that I can actually move into my new house-to-be and let them tear around the new yard. Both dogs were very happy to see me, and I am now properly covered in dog fur and smelling doggy as I should be. :-)

Reese was, and always has been, a love bug. He likes nothing better in the world (save harrassing members of species Sciurus carolinensis) than to sit, tongue lolling and eyes half closed, and have his head scratched by his Daddy. He's always hardest to leave, because he's big enough to escape from an inattentive handler and cower behind Daddy, keep-away fashion, until Daddy takes him by the collar and guides him back into Evil Handler's care. This is what happened today. Poor pup.

Sebastian is generally more standoffish and, well, catty. Once he had established that I was in fact the guy who usually feeds him (though what have you done for me lately, huh, Daddy?), he spent most of our visit skirting the edges of the clinic's back-yard fence, elaborately marking and sniffing as is his canine wont. He dropped by for rubs from time to time, but on the whole he managed to convey that he was glad to see me but didn't want to reward my absentee behavior by demonstrating this fact too strongly. Put simply, Sebastian's a wise-ass.

Anyway, it was good to see the boys and get my Dog Fix. I'm sure I will be given one hell of a sniff-over when I get home to Sushi tonight. :-)


Thursday, May 22, 2003


Holy smokes, when Acidman links you the hit-counter just roars to life. :-)

This is probably well behind the pressure-wave of new people stopping by, but welcome to my humble yet strangely verbose corner of the web.

(The chirp of crickets)

Hmm. I should really do something for all the new people dropping by.

(Pulls up a stool; a painted backdrop of a brick wall unrolls from above. Small children begin to sit within the gathering spotlight that falls as Rich sits on the chair. The lights dim.)

Gather 'round, everyone, while I tell you a story of a smart, shy guy who found himself suddenly single, right when he turned thirty.

(A small girl raises her hand) Yes?

My Mommy and Daddy got a divorce.

I'm sorry. That happens a lot these days.

Did you have any kids?

No, but I want some some day.

(She blushes) You're kinda cute.

Well, thank you! (Very flattered)

Kinda fat, though.

Thanks, kid. Can I tell my story?

My Mommy's looking for a boyfriend now, but she doesn't like fat boys.

Well, thanks very much for sharing that. I hope she finds someone skinny who eats leaves and sticks for dinner.

You're funny. You should probably play sports or something. I'm gonna be on the soccer team this summer.

Do tell. (Looks around for a distraught, daughterless Mommy to collect the kid)

I bet my ball control's better than yours.

Is anyone missing a little girl?

Sorry, mister. (She sits down.)

Ahem. Anyhow, the man was very sad for a long time. Then he started up a webpage when a few of his friends did, so they could share stories with each other. Since he was still sad, he said a lot of sad things when he was getting started, and his friends helped him feel better. Even saying those sad things helped him feel better, all by itself.

After a long while, he tried dating a few women.

(Catcalls from the kids) WoooOOOooo!

(A little boy stands up) Did you kiss any?

Well, one or two. Heh.

(A new little girl stands up and points at him sternly) Did you sleep with any?

That's none of your business.

(The little boy) Why not?

I thought I said that was none of your business. Sit down, everyone.

Anyway, it had been years and years since I--he had dated anybody, and he was out of practice at it. He was a very boring date, and tended to make a lot of silly mistakes, and forget to do things like compliment his dates on their dresses, tell them they looked pretty, or let them know he enjoyed spending time with them.

(A boy with glasses raises his hand) That was pretty dumb.

No kidding. Anyway, after a while he got tired of his dates not returning his phone calls, so he decided to just do things by himself for a while. One of the things he began to do was make beer.

(All the kids gasp) Beer?!?

Yes, beer.

(Soccer girl speaks up) My Mommy says beer makes you fat.


(Kissing-boy again) And it makes you burp! (He demonstrates, with gusto; kids giggle en masse)

Thanks for pointing that out. Everyone SIT! (They do)

So anyway, his apartment got to be too expensive, so he began to look around for a different job.

(A long-haired blonde girl raises her hand) Are you a computer guy?

Yes, I write web pages and other programs.

You look like a computer guy. My Daddy says all the computer guys are broke now because the computer bubble popped. Are you broke?

Well, it's more complicated than that, but yeah, I got caught up in the whole dot-bomb thing.

(The kid with glasses speaks up) You don't look so smart. I bet you don't even know how to use protected Java methods.

Shut up, kid. I moved to C# and ASP.NET a year ago.

(Sniffs) Please. Like that'll ever take off.

(Blondie is bored) I know why your wife left now.

As I was saying... Hey! I'll have you know that ...this man... is a very nice, very romantic guy.

Did you buy her flowers?


Remember her birthdays and your anniversaries?


(Looks him over critically) Pooh. I don't care. You're still boring.

Well, thank you so much. Sit.

None. Of this. Is. The point. Anyway, the man found a job in Alabama, working with a very good friend of his, and is in the middle of moving there now!
(He smiles at the kids)

(Soccer girl) That's it?

Well, yeah. He's buying a house, and he just got new glasses...

That was a pretty boring story.

Well, it's true. (The kids begin to disperse)

(She turns around) Mommy! I want to see the puppies at the pet store again!

(He shrugs, picks up the stool, yanks the bottom of the brick-wall shim so it rolls up again, and the lights come up)

Huh. I suppose I can catch a matinee of The Matrix Reloaded again...


Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Okay, Wow.

I've been wearing my new glasses for about three hours now, and it's clear that I need them. Funny how the brain makes up for loss or inaccuracy of vision - now that it's been corrected, everything looks blurred and crappy with the glasses off.

I understand now how big a deal it was when glasses (and lenses and optics in general) were invented and the principles worked out. I've gone from the inability to read small text at five feet away to the ability to read the same text easily at eight. Patterns in cloth, the spatters of raindrops, lettering on newspapers lying on the ground, all clearer. The edges of large letters are sharp instead of soft; logos on equipment, easily ignored before, pop out at me. The textures of lampshades, the nap of carpet, the fur on my cat Sushi. All sharp, all clear. All beautiful. :-)

Heh - I wonder now if I've ever seen this well. Probably, but certainly not in recent memory.

It's not perfect - I have a small amount of vertigo when I walk (I'm used to things passing in and out of focus at much smaller distances - it's messing with my depth perception), and there's the faint brush of a headache behind my eyes. There's certainly more texture information getting to my brain than before (think of it as moving from a PCI video card to AGP 2X, Hunter), so I feel slightly overloaded when I look around.

Also (and I think this is because of the astigmatism correction for the left eye), nothing's quite parallel any more. Or at least what I recognize as parallel; my brain should adjust soon enough. All the corners and angles of squared-off objects look slightly wrong, but I understand that's part of using optics as a solution - they function by distorting images, and it's difficult if not impossible to get the distortion perfect.

Still, I can read license plates clearly at seven or eight car lengths now, and the world is much more vibrant and visually complicated than I remembered. The glasses are here to stay. :-)

Oh, and they don't look bad, either. :-D


Leaping from Topic to Topic

Things have been progressing apace here in Birmingham: I just received the call that my new glasses are waiting for me, I signed off on my home inspection results last night, and am now shopping around for homeowners' insurance.

In other news, my realtor wants to set me up with her assistant, which strikes me as not-a-bad-idea-at-all. Definitely need to wait until the house has been closed upon, though -- don't want either endeavor distracting from the other. :-)

One of the odd things about my move to this town is that it's rained disproportionately since I got here. I mean, we've had fifteen inches of rain so far this month, and the historical average for May is just shy of five inches. An additional inch was forecast today, and we've had the requisite deluge. My lawn-to-be is holding up well, but I have to find some way to handle the gutter-downspout that "lands" trapped behind a curve of my sidewalk. There's no pooling, but the rain's washing mulch away, and a simple splash-plate doesn't look as if it'll solve the problem.

Also notable about Birmingham is how humid it is, all the time. In Richmond, which I considered to be pretty darned humid, if you were in an air-conditioned building (which dries the air by its nature) and you set a cold drink on your desk, you wouldn't get very much condensation on your glass - some, but hardly enough to merit mention. Here, a cold glass will create a small puddle inside of twenty minutes, and if you set it close to a computer, you're flirting with a short. Coasters are pretty much mandatory.

But then we've had triple normal rainfall of late; that might have something to do with it, but I'm honestly not sure.

I can't wait to move into my new place (closing is June 6!); I want to brew beer again, and try my hand at making some wine. And I want to sit out on my back patio and sip a cold drink and watch my dogs play in the yard. And I want to surf outside with my wireless laptop. And blast a DVD without anyone caring. It's going to be good to be a homeowner again. :-)


Monday, May 19, 2003


Once again I look around at my blog and find it lacking, primarily when it comes to lucidity, and interest. Blogs like Tripp's are consistently about one theological issue or another - debate is his watchword. Sarah is consistently snarky or existential about working from home - in a word, funny. Acidman's opinion-a-day has great consistency of tone, as does USS Clueless.

They also engender a fair amount of daily discussion, whereas I (even at my most lucid, during the beer-obsessing days for example) seldom do.

I've been down this path before, and my "core group" of visitors always reiterates how they love me and drop by for who I am, and that's appreciated - it's nice to be accepted.

But I want to spur people into more discussion. Though my hit counter shows that people drop by, I want to get y'all to comment.

...So I shall attempt to do so. I'm not sure how yet, but I'm going to try a few things. Perhaps trolling obscure news, or leaning more toward opinion than narration, or something similar. I'm bad at controversy, but we'll see what other trouble I can get into.


Sunday, May 18, 2003

Central Standard Time

Duh. I finally thought to find the setting to throw Brain Squeezings into CST. This is a test.


Saturday, May 17, 2003

The Verdict

Yep, I need glasses. My eyes have pretty well recovered from their assault by the evil forces of dilation, so I can type up a post now without getting a headache.

The good news, as I said before, is that I look pretty good in glasses. I chose a set of frames that're wider than they are tall (but not excessively so) and rimmed with thin-though-dull metal; the finish is like pewter. They come with magnetically-attached polarized "over-lenses" (or whatever you call those things), and don't look bad at all. When I can get a photo taken and digitized, I'll post it.

For those of you (and you know who you are) who were wondering whether better ranges of focus and/or exercises with focusing near and far would help, no dice. I've got mild astigmatism (deformation of the eyeball itself) in my left eye, and that's pretty well immune to any sort of exercise so far as we know. Both eyes are also nearsighted, and there was quite definite improvement when the doctor and I settled on a good set of lenses, so I'm looking forward to reaping the benefit. The glasses will help most when driving (which was the original point), but they will help at least a little all the time.

So I may just wear them all the time. I like the look. Call it the first phase of shedding old skin and embracing what's underneath.

Besides, there was a quite voluptuous and rather graceful woman there who helped me decide on the frames I wanted. We "had a moment." Amazing how bringing attention to one's eyes allows all manner of delicate flirtation.

The only downside is that I have to wait a few days for the glasses (I didn't go to a quickie eyeglass place - I wanted to go through the whole elaborate process at least once).

Bummer. I want to bat my accessorized eyelashes at pretty girls now.


Friday, May 16, 2003

Comes with the Territory

Well, I've been afraid of this for a while now, but it seems I'm getting nearsighted. I've tried taking frequent breaks, and varying my eyes' depth of focus over the course of the work day, but to no avail - it's getting worse.

I can see fairly well, to be fair, but fine detail is beginning to fade; my informal test is how far away, with the aid of full daylight, I can read the license plates on other cars as I drive to and from work. The distance has shrunk to three, maybe four car lengths over the course of the past year.

Mine isn't terrible vision (seeing obstacles, highway signs and the like is still easy), but trying to catch street-corner signs at night, in an unfamiliar town, quickly enough to do anything about them, has gotten to be very tricky indeed. I'm doing lots of U-turns lately. And try as I might, though I can read highway signage well enough at safe distances, their letters' edges will not "go crisp" for me while stopped in traffic, whether I squint or try my hardest to make my eyes focus on them.

When I attended the Windows Server 2003 and Visual Studio .NET 2003 launch on Tuesday, I was convinced that all the projectors the presenters used were badly focused, but when I tried looking from varying distances during the breaks, and occasionally squinting, it became clear that the focus problem was indeed mine.

Close up (say, within arm's length - just coincidentally within the same depth-of-focus as I keep computer screens - heh), I can see extremely well, down to individual-pixel effects on the 16", 1600x1200 laptop screen I've got, at arm's-length. Or minute imperfections in the ink on a printed page at about mid-forearm distance.

Sigh. The good news is that I look good (kind of thoughful) in thin-framed glasses. :-)

I'll have to see what sort of optometry stop I can get set up.


Thursday, May 15, 2003

Home Inspection Day

Got my first chance to have an extended walk around the homestead-to-be this evening as two guys turned it inside out looking for the warts. I've gotta say, for a place I selected based on a half-hour initial exposure I did a pretty good job.

The place is sturdy and pretty much the size I remembered, very well insulated, and with decent storage space. The HVAC (air conditioning) is very powerful, to the point that the registers and vents were all left closed by the previous owners, and when we opened them the system cooled all 1800-ish square vaulted feet in around ten minutes, and would have kept it up, had we left it all on. The heating is natural gas, which will be a new experience for me, but is reputed to be second to none on really cold winter nights. Shame they don't make those kind of nights here. ;-)

Warts: some minor drainage problems in the back yard (well away from the foundation), and a badly measured rafter that slightly distorts a portion of the roof and makes it look bad (a cosmetic problem only). All in all, pretty damned good.

I'm going to push for the drainage problem to be fixed, and a loose electrical outlet in the master bath. Other than that, there's no point in endangering or delaying the deal over $5 and $10 Home Depot material.


Monday, May 12, 2003

I got it!!

I made an offer, and the sellers accepted! Now the inspections, closing, etc., etc. can begin. If all goes well, I should be able to close on the place by the end of the first week in June.



The House Hunt Begins

Met with my highly-recommended realtor this morning, and after a few preliminaries we set out into the wilds of Alabama to look at houses.

Of the sixish houses we visited this morning, three were pretty much complete busts - not particularly well-kept, or what I was looking for. One was beautifully done and kept, but again, not really filling my house needs (one of the big ones is a fenced-in yard for the dogs; others include copious storage space, a big tub, a big kitchen, and closed-off rooms of sufficient size to act as theater rooms and server closets).

Then we found the house I want. A big corner lot (oy, the mowing) with good landscaping, an immense two-car garage, a big beautiful kitchen, and TWO rooms suitable for audio tricking-out, both with big walk-in closets suitable for servers (the other would be the guest room). There's a fenced-in yard with a great patio, and the "great room" (living room / dining room / TV room) has a high, vaulted ceiling with a gas fireplace, arched doorways and great window coverage. The carpets are even heavy-duty. :-)

It's severely in the boonies, but the area is growing and there are several large stores being built within a few miles. And mine would be one of the least pricey houses in the development. Which has several roughed-up lots upon which new houses are scheduled to be built. Can you say appreciation?

But there also seems to be another bidder. We're trying hard to get a bid in before Wednesday, but it's been one big game of phone tag.

It's all very exciting.


Friday, May 09, 2003

Cold, Please

sugarmama posted earlier about her preferred climate: hot and humid. She also posted a nice little table listing her "sucks/good" months of the year, and as I read, it occurred to me that my preferences were almost exactly the opposite of hers. I originally said "cold and dry," but in thinking about it, cold and wet works for me just as well.

For the table below, "Sucks" expresses the obvious. "Rocks" is the opposite of "Sucks." "Meh" is for months about which I either can't make up my mind or which engender no strong opinion in me.

JanuaryRocksRocksRocks?(suspected Rocks)
FebruarySucksSucksSucks?(suspected Sucks)
MarchRocksRocksRocks?(suspected Rocks)
AprilRocksRocksMeh?(suspected Meh)
MayMehMehSucks?(Meh so far)
JuneSucksSucksSucks?(suspected Sucks)
JulySucksSucksSucks?(suspected Sucks)
AugustSucksSucksSucks?(suspected Sucks)
SeptemberMehMehMeh?(suspected Meh)
OctoberRocksRocksRocks?(suspected Meh)
NovemberRocksRocksMeh?(suspected Meh)
DecemberRocksRocksRocks?(suspected Rocks)

(Richmond's weather is all the hell over the place; that's why it's such a mess. Oh, and February always sucks, no matter where you are.)

I will eventually adjust to any climate I'm in for long enough, but I've always preferred cold to heat. My apartments'/houses' thermostats are always set at around 68° F, and I do wear flip-flops all year round. Well, not necessarily if there's snow on the ground, but I have done so, when lazy or in a hurry.

I mean it. Cold is good.


Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Birmingham Update

Things continue to go well in my new home town. Work is beginning to solidify around a few key projects, and the people have been, as mentioned, very nice and easy to get to know.

I've begun discussions with a mortgage guy and a realtor in the area, and unless we've seriously overestimated my position, I may well be able to put together some sort of mortgage without too much worry, which of course means house!

The prospect of buying a house unhampered by anyone else's preferences is an exciting one for me; it will, of course, wind up wired to a fare-thee-well, and likely furnished sparsely and haphazardly, at least for starters, but it will be, first and foremost, mine. This has wound up being a lot more important to me than I expected -- nobody to gainsay me keeping a bunch of conditioning beer or aging wine in the living room, nobody to fight with over speaker placement in the theater room, nobody to complain about a WiFi antenna here and there, or about annexing a walk-in closet for use as a server room.

Deal. With. Me. :-D

Of course, this also means mowing lawns, home maintenance and suchlike again, but it'll certainly be good accruing equity again, and getting that lovely deduction on the year's taxes.

Oh, by the way, it's interesting to be 33. Approaching a third of a century.

The day is rife with beginnings and new possibility.


Thursday, May 01, 2003

Mmm. I like Ham.

Birmingham, that is. :-)

Yes, I did have a chance to meet the indomitable sugarmama this week, as she has reported. The sushi was good, the brief tour of Southside in Birmingham was fun, and it was nice to be able to put a face and personality to the sugarmama name.

I'm not sure I said she was forced on her blog, so much as forceful. But whatever, it was good to sit and chat and discover that I have a friend other than Hunter in the city.

Oh, yeah, and just so there's no confusion, my vote is definitely on the side of hot. As in sugarmama is very hot. Tsssss. ;-) I envy the truckers on the way to New Orleans. Her hair is longer than in any of the photos she has yet posted, and it looks great on her. She also introduced me to the idea that intelligent, self-possessed twenty-or-thirtysomething women wear skirts. Yet another little fashion trend Richmond never seems to have caught. I like this town.

In other news
Today saw me get a local bank account squared away. I'll be in transition between my Richmond and Birmingham accounts for a while (and may even keep my Richmond account indefinitely, depending on how the fees, etc. stack up).

This Saturday I'll be making a pilgrimage to Atlanta to hang with my brother Matt and attend a "Texas party" which promises to be a meat-and-beer-fest to rival any other.

Tomorrow night is X2 in theaters. Life is good.


Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Settling In

Things are beginning to settle into something like a routine here in Birmingham. I've pretty much got the route to work memorized, and am learning all the major arteries like I-65, I-59, I-459, routes 280 and 150, and all the rest around here, and generally having fun with all the newness.

I've been entrusted with a truly beautiful Sony Vaio notebook computer (with a 16-inch, 1600x1200-pixel screen!), and despite Hunter's best efforts, there's been lots of patching, installing and the like to do to get me all the tools I need. There's also been copious paperwork and many logistical errands to do with Sushi and the dogs, but that all seems to be coming to a satisfactory end. As far as work goes, I get to do a lot of exploring of Microsoft Active Directory, ADSI, LDAP and several other related abreviations and acronyms. Much fun.

Accompanied Hunter's family on a birthday dinner for him last night, and had a fun time despite the glacial nature of the service. "Never busy on a Monday" - uh huh.


Sunday, April 27, 2003

In Birmingham!

Yep, the drive went well, and I've touched base with Hunter and family. I'm writing over dialup at the Birmingham Red Roof Inn, and so far all has gone swimmingly.

Sushi and the Boys behaved well on the trip; the drive was an interesting one, and despite my better instincts I pretty well used up my cell phone battery chatting with people on the way. Thankfully the charger still works, so the phone is back and ready for action. :-)

I'll post more later tonight; I need to get myself ready for the rest of today.


Friday, April 25, 2003

Lock and Load!

Doing better today after some chattage with Matt and Hunter, and a night to sleep on all of it.

Been an exhausting day at work, between exit interviews, farewell lunches and the like, and it's about time to get all my stuff together to leave DIT for good.

Tomorrow is The Drive: eleven or twelve hours in the car with two dogs, a cat, and a fair amount of luggage and electronic equipment.

Birmingham, here I come!


Thursday, April 24, 2003


Well, had lunch with J. We talked in the coffee shop for five and a half hours.

I'm at a loss, really. We talked about painful things, funny things, new things and old things. Things that had changed, things that were the same; beginnings and endings. Reward and regret.

She's a very special woman. I'm glad to see I didn't marry as badly as I thought I had. She's aged, like I have: she's taller than I remember; she's gained a little weight (a good thing); she and I have been some of the same mental "places" and faced a lot of the same problems. She's a warm, honest, good person, and I'm glad to have known her.

She moves differently, more fluidly. The Alexander Technique has done wonders for her poise and physical ease. She's just now found the courage to allow a boyfriend, and he sounds like a good man. She's building a new circle of friends, is looking at a wildly popular Alexander practice, and has matured and softened in all the ways I wished she would while I was married to her. We still know one another better than anyone else.

I will probably never set eyes on her again.

I have mournful music in my head and tears in my eyes. I don't know what to do about that.


A Ray of Hope

Whatever you think about the war in Iraq, it must be said that the pan-Arabic world has had a nasty shock, as has the world of people who thought that Americans were afraid to fight on the ground, or that we hid behind sorta-smart bombs and otherwise overstated high technology.

Steven Den Beste has something to say about the second-order effects beginning to emerge from this war that I think are worth reading.

Put simply, the Arab world is trying desperately to figure out just how it can be that we won, as quickly as we did and as decisively as we did.

My comments about remaking the Arab world in our own image a few weeks back were met with disbelief and derision by people like upyernoz (now identified as the infamous "F'ing Jeremy") and Sarah, but I'd argue that the second-order cultural "shock and awe" that we're seeing is exactly what was intended. Combine this with the beginnings of massive Arab introspection about why their culture keeps spawning repressive dictatorships and largely failing to keep up with the rest of the industrialized world along axes like quality of life, cultural/technical achievements and (should they choose) military might.

Protest all you want about how well Turkey and/or Qatar and/or Kuwait et al. are doing; Arabic nations have disproportionate numbers of human-rights hellholes when compared to other cultures. The middle east, to my eye, seems second only to portions of central Africa in spawning such places.

Baghdad, symbolic capitol of all that is Arabic pride, was taken along with its surrounding country by the corrupt, accursed Americans in only three weeks, with only a few hundred of our own casualties, and a few thousand (civilian) Iraqi casualties. The Americans were even doing their own dirty work, though helped greatly by the Brits and Aussies. American wizard weapons worked so well that civilian traffic could be seen in the streets of Baghdad during the heaviest bombardments - the Iraqi people figured out they had little to fear.

The predictions of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed have been shown to be the utmost fiction. Even the site Iraq Body Count has stalled at around 2400 civilians killed, and the point of the site is to make the U.S. look bad. Perfect? No. Any civilian casualties are too many. Astonishingly good? Yes, I'd say so. Has any country in the history of the planet been taken through hostile action with so little loss of life?

The next few decades are going to be very interesting times in the Middle East.


PS. Den Beste also links to this article by David Warren saying many of the same things very well, but drawing fewer blatantly pro-US conclusions and offering a little more perspective on what this event appears to be doing to the Russian psyche.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Okay, Getting Weird

Had some last-minute stuff to take care of re: the ex's house in Ashland (seems I'm still on the mortgage AND the deed - grumble), so I wound up calling her yesterday. We traded a few messages, then finally wound up speaking for about a half hour. Caught up, traded dog and cat stories, etc.

She has an Alexander Technique practice at the clinic where I'm going for my chiropractic adjustment this afternoon, so I mentioned that we were likely to bump into one another. Seems she's in Charlottesville all today, though, so it wound up being a nonissue.

Cut to 9:15 last night. She calls, and says she had thought about the possibility of us having some sort of in-person meeting; getting some sort of closure, that sort of thing, and wanted to know if we could have lunch sometime before I headed out of town. We decided to have lunch Thursday at Shockoe Espresso & Roastery downtown. You precogged it, Tripp. :-)

As you might imagine, I'm freaking out a smidge. I spoke with Hunter for a while last night, which helped, but I woke up this morning to a resurgence. This is one of those things that Acidman will understand: the idea of being in her physical presence again is a big one, because I can still remember all the enormous, tiny things - how she moves, how she laughs, what she smells like, the way her eyes crinkle when she smiles, the feel of her skin, etc., etc., ad nauseam, get the net.

I haven't seen her for three years. I still feel echoes of loving her, still bear a good amount of anger toward her, and have now discovered a surprising backlog of curiosity about what's happened to and with her.

Gawd, I'm a mess. Shoot me now.


Tuesday, April 22, 2003

The Body Never Lies

Ah, well. I suppose I am stressing a little. Whenever I do beyond a certain point, my neck will find a way to go out of joint, and possibly my upper back, right between the shoulder blades, and both have happened to me over the past few days. Fortunately I have a good chiropractor here, and I'll be seeing her tomorrow afternoon. I'll have to get a recommendation for someone in Birmingham, just in case.


Monday, April 21, 2003

Last Work Week in Richmond

Yup, the last Monday here at DIT. Had a nice lunch with my usual lunch group, but because our one bait-phobic member wasn't present, we went for sushi at Hana Zushi restaurant in Shockoe Bottom. Yum. I've been deficient in raw fish and wasabi of late. :-) I look forward to sugarmama and Hunter giving me the Birmingham Sushi Tour soon after I get there.

My immediate boss came back from her two-week vacation today, and had nothing but well-wishing at the news of my resignation and impending emigration to Alabama. That's been the pattern, actually - 'congratulations, been great to have you here, wish I had some other options too.' A very nice departure from the last time I left a job, which happened under much suspicion, nastiness and scapegoatery.

Spring is in full swing here in Richmond (and, I imagine, well on toward early summer in B'ham), and despite pollen coating everything with a malicious yellow-green haze, it's been a very easy season for me allergy-wise so far.

Knock wood.

Commercial Manned Spacecraft Prototype!
For those who might have missed it, there was some publicity this past Friday about SCALED Composites' SpaceShipOne project, the goal of which is to explore humanity's options in terms of commercial spaceflight. Their White Knight aircraft is one beautiful plane. It uses typical turbojets to lift the actual spacecraft SS1 to high altitude (53,000 ft-ish) so it can (I presume) detach and fire its solid/liquid-fuel hybrid rocket.

To be honest, I'm not sure how much effort (fuel, tower building, etc.) launching from midair saves over launching from a pad a la NASA's space shuttle or other conventional rockets, but I have to imagine it'd be significant. Still, it wouldn't make nearly as much of a spectator event as a shuttle or Saturn V launch did. :-D


[Edit: Here's some more information on the SpaceShipOne system as envisioned.]

Friday, April 18, 2003

Introspective Good Friday

Just got back from what will probably be my last lunch at a Richmond restaurant called "Vie de France."

Yes, yes, the name is French, but the proprietor has made a big public stink (before it was fashionable or merely good business sense) about detesting Chirac and the game of chicken he was playing with the U.S. He does carry Orangina (mfd. in France), but I grabbed a few locally made sodas with my three-cheese melt and "freedom frites." The special was big beef hot dogs with yellow American mustard and, evidently, homemade ketchup. Heh. The guy does know how to make a point. :-)

The world has gotten very weird indeed when French expats offer Red Hots in a pointedly continental sandwich shop.

...It's a cold, windy, mid-forties day here, with slight mist in the air as it tries to decide whether to rain or not. It's funny: I remember every Good Friday of my life this way. Pensive, dreary, chill.

I am, of course, at a big crossroads in life, and things will naturally loom large. As preparations are made and my time here grows short, I'm left with a slight sting of regret that I may never have given Richmond its due measure of attention.

It's when we move that we must see. It's good to be in motion again.


Wednesday, April 16, 2003

From the The Christian Science Monitor, via William Gibson's blog:

Iraqi defeat jolts Russian military

The gist is: American doctrine relies upon highly independent, nearly autonomous units that must be trusted to do their jobs.

Also interesting were Gibson's closing questions: "What dictator would be able to trust his own Delta Force? Is it possible that this new paradigm of warfare might prove to only be workable for relatively democratic societies?"

Yup, just might be... I've heard it said that compared to the old Soviet Army (as well as most "modern" Arabic armed forces), our sergeants have the decision-making power of their colonels.

God, I love being an American. :-D


In Search of Digital Nirvana

As Matt can attest, I have a bad habit of trying to automate and digitize my surroundings. Within the realm of my own PCs, this is no big deal. Complicated Windows desktops, a secret jones for anything Apple-designed, in constant dependence on my PDA of the year -- all relatively normal in this technophilic day and age.

But this also extends to my TV watching -- Matt's no idiot (chemical engineer, Civil War history buff, and unsung scholar of military strategy), but I remember ruefully the time he dropped by to visit and had to call me at the office, fuming because he tried to watch a DVD, and wound up stuck with sound from the VCR, video from one of the TiVos, and the inability to turn anything off. I had everything set up on my big universal remote, you see, and while using the thing is now deep in muscle memory for me, for poor Matt (or, indeed, anyone else) it got to be completely incomprehensible.

And then there're my lights. I'm a big fan of X10's wall-wart-based remote-control light systems, and almost all the lamps in my apartment need to be controlled with little remotes like this or a wall plate like this. This system allows all sorts of control over my apartment's lights, for example dimming, timed on/off, and macros like 'TV' or 'Movie' or 'Reading' lighting in which different combinations of lamps are on, off, or dimmed around my living room. However, nobody understands the system but me, and the remote switches are slow-acting and not 100% reliable, so you could say my apartment's got a little... personality. :-D When I get my own place there are actual X10 wall switches (that are as quick and reliable as the switches we're all used to) that I'll use instead, but still: this is all pretty strange when I stop to think about it.

Now there's the Logitech io Personal Digital Pen that my TiVos've been hawking for the last week or so; basically it's a ballpoint pen with a camera that remembers everything you write or draw if you use their special patterned paper. There's precious little handwriting recognition or intelligence as to content, but for a guy like me who always has piles and piles of disorganized meeting notes lying around, a device that will remember it all and allow me to keep it organized and easily retrievable is sounding pretty good.


Tuesday, April 15, 2003

In Transition

It's been a really nice feeling letting everyone around me know about the decision to shift locations. Around work everyone's wishing me well and commenting on how calm I am, when they'd be bouncing off the walls with an impending move.

Shucks, I just live here. From where I'm sitting, there're very few things worth getting too excited about, and so much is being done for me in this move that I'm inclined to sit back and enjoy the ride. :-)

Some particulars: I'll be doing similar work to what I've been up to for the past year or two; lots of web development, specifically intranet stuff, with rumors of data warehousing and some life-cycle-management stuff, and certainly lots of little urgent projects that will likely come up from day to day. Lots of "data plumbing," by all accounts.

The Problem of Software "Engineering"

"Data plumbing" reminds me... A subject that's been in and out of my mind a lot lately is the concept of "software engineering," and what that might mean. In the one hand we've got Microsoft turning out Microsoft Certified System Engineers (MCSEs) by the bushel, but on the other there's no certified discipline in the engineering field that deals with software.

What I do certainly isn't engineering. I likened it to bricklaying once, but Matt helped me clarify: it's more like artisanship; there's a lot of creativity and expertise involved, but it's not nearly as concerned with principles or existing practice as engineering seems to be. Want fries with that? :-)

Software certainly seems like something that could benefit from some engineering, along the lines of a bridge, a fuel formulation, or a power grid. An application suite like Microsoft Office or an operating system like Linux certainly has the complexity of an engineering project, but in terms of performance, neither exhibits the robustness that a bridge or power grid must exhibit from day to day.

State of the Art
Part of the problem, I think, is that software as a discipline has only been around for 60 or so years (if we're generous), and as such isn't well enough understood for a discipline to have emerged. We have schools and disciplines within the field of programming: object orientation, scripting, embedded logic; and plenty of toolsets, from myriad languages like the C/C++/Java/C# standbys, to Basic in all its incarnations, to old workhorses like COBOL and Fortran, to fringe innovators like SmallTalk, Perl, Ruby and Python, to odd document-layout pseudolanguages like HTML and whatever XML is becoming, to hard-on-the-metal assembler and straight hexadecimal.

There's a proliferation of tools, to be sure, but when it comes to using them there's precious little standardization or accountability; nobody who's ever used a Linux, Windows or Macintosh computer has escaped program crashes, lockups, inconsistencies from program to program, and the inevitable friction between applications and the hardware upon which they're expected to execute. In the embedded space (cell phones, auto-engine controllers, phone-switching boxes, video-game consoles a la Playstation and XBOX) the world is simpler and the stakes higher, but again, it's catch as catch can.

It's a sobering statistic that of all the programming projects begun in the wide world of business, only one in ten will ever see the light of its implementation day. In my experience this is true; I'm actually doing better than that: of the fifteenish big projects on which I've worked over the years, I think something like four have gone live. I'm beating the odds with these numbers.

Certainly there are many variables around software development: shifting markets, various potential roadblocks at the talent and management levels, caprice in the flow of funding; but these aren't unique to the field of software, and to be fair I'm not sure what the failure rate of projects in other fields is: what is it for buildings, for medicine, for power plants? Anyone know?

And for apps that make it out into the world, Microsoft is an instructive example: MS is widely derided for its first two or three attempts at a product utterly sucking. Windows 1.0? 2.0? 3.0? All slightly better than previous attempts (someone might argue that Windows 1.0 was better than straight DOS, but not me), and 3.x got a lot of use, but it wasn't until Windows 95 (otherwise known as version 4.0) that Microsoft was seriously in the ball park. And it still sucks, compared to say, Brooklyn Bridge 1.0, or Empire State Building 1.0.

(Clarification: here, I'm leaning heavily on the Open Source maxim that all software sucks, and that the best software simply sucks the least. Still, any program that ever loses data should be compared to a bridge occasionally "losing" a car, or a building "losing" an occupant.)

Stopping the Madness
How many programmers out there today would be willing to stake their reputations, incomes and careers on their programs never failing catastrophically? As in, never crashing to the operating system, losing data or irretrievably hanging? People who write the software in hospitals know a little about this, but how about those programming the computers that will be controlling all the interwoven traffic paths through Boston's Big Dig?

Anyhow, I'm getting way too long here, but I've felt for a long time that the world of software needs some sort of "bulletproof programming" certification, admissible in a court of law, and maintained by some sort of standards body, like real engineering works today.

There's a lot in the way of this sort of thing today: for one, a programmer is only as good as his tools: can high-level tools like Visual Studio .NET or Java be used to build failure-proof apps? The simple answer is no: no one's watching the watchmen, so to speak.

Then there's the matter of testing: how does one certify a software design as "good?" We can't know down to the for-loop or iterator-object what will work and what won't - a simple reversal of variables in a programmer's mind can still cause a compiler-invisible flaw analogous to badly forged metal in a load-bearing member; hit it with any load at all, and the bridge fails.

My guess is that we're simply not there yet: the tools need to mature, the meta-tools that would catch errors like the one I mention above need to be created. And that's just what I've come up with through idle thinking.

Heh - what will programming be like in fifty years? Will the concept even apply?


I is a Idjit

But it appears to be treatable.

I've managed to foul up yet another beer... The remainder of Rich's Vindication IPA has gone sour. But at long last I've thought through exactly why.

Put simply: there's no such thing as magic. One of the major problems faced by beermakers before the discovery of Pasteurization (and the invention of the bottle cap) was beer spoilage.

I'm using bottle caps, and keeping my equipment sanitary, but I'm not Pasteurizing. And I won't be (it does things to the taste), so it stand to reason that my beer's going to be vulnerable to spoilage just like all beer made before I happened to pick up a kit. And sure enough, I've had several batches of beer go bad after hitting a "peak" of maturity and flavor.

(Smacks forehead.) D'oh. I don't know why I thought I should be exempt.

The reason Rich's 2Red Richmond Ale has stayed good (Goddess' and Acidman's samples are still waiting for shipment, believe it or not) is that I refrigerated the entire batch as soon as it was ready, by taking it to my parents' and keeping it in their 40° garage, and then bringing the remnant home to my fridge, where it has stayed to the present day. Vindictive Vampire IPA, Big Dawg Brown, and finally Vindication IPA have all sat and aged, and become good (or, well, decent, in the case of V-Vampire), and then passed into funk. The reason: I never arrested the aging process through refrigeration, and aging became spoilage.

I've heard in a few places that beer can age ad infinitum, but I don't think the stuff I'm making is high enough in alcohol content for that. That, plus living with three fuzzballs may make truly thorough sanitation too difficult.

Ah, well. We live and we learn. Man, I wish I'd fridged Vindication two weeks ago... Damn.


Monday, April 14, 2003

Tax Time

Modifying my W-4 to remove all elections, a year and a half ago: Free

Gas to drive to the tax preparer's office: $0.02

Fee to process all forms: $113.00

Having a refund that finally wiped out my outstanding debt to the IRS owed in the wake of A) J's accountant's (incorrect) presumption of malice on her part and denial to me of itemized deductions for the 2000 tax year and B) my own failure in 2000 to adjust my W-4 to account for no longer paying a mortgage: Priceless.

I swear that the gravitational constant changed for the better over the weekend. It's so nice out lately. :-D


Friday, April 11, 2003

Why I Like XML

I mentioned Tim Bray's site ongoing a few days ago, and since have had occasion to read a lot more of what he has to say about data and why XML is a good thing.

Bray makes the point in his article "Why XML Doesn't Suck" that data almost always outlives the applications used to create it. This has certainly been the case for me; luckily things like TXTs, GIFs, JPEGs and DOCs have remained (mostly) readable over time, but there's no guarantee of that for the future; heck, some of my older DOC files from school in the early '90s are starting to lose their formatting information, if not their information (yet). Gone (practically) forever are the documents I wrote on my Commodore 64 in my freshman year - I say practically because there is some life left through C-64 emulators, but there's seldom any way to copy content from one environment to the other save simple retyping.

XML begins to solve this problem, because even if the program that created an XML document vanishes forever, a well-structured XML document practically announces its own uses.

For example, here's a simple XML document:

<Book Title="Neuromancer">
    <Author>William Gibson</Author>
    <Genre>Science Fiction</Genre>
    <Summary Markup="HTML">
        A <i>really</i> interesting book, and the first to be called "cyberpunk."

This data is practically timeproof. Even if I don't know what the program that generated this information used it for, I can decide myself how to use it.

So long as someone can figure out how to read ASCII, or UTF-8, or whatever character-encoding standard it uses, this will be valid data. XML is even pretty good at announcing its encoding, for what that's worth.

So anyway, XML's pretty cool. It's up to the programmer to decide how best to use it (and indeed, most uses will be invisible to the end user), but it's a nice way of separating information from the program(s) used to interpret it. I could write a program to list the above data as one entry among others in a catalog, or make a nicely formatted web page using this information alone as a (very) brief book review.

Versatile data is a good thing.