December, 2002: 49 posts.

Back In The Saddle Again

I’m back in California after a long respite and several crises of various proportions. Luckily none of these have been fatal or long-lasting. However, I have had a good time recovering and am currently feeling pretty darn good. And now, the news:

I have taken on a roommate here on the homestead. I live in a two-bedroom, one bath apartment, and was using the second bedroom as an office. Before I went to Virginia for Thanksgiving I vacated that whole office (depicted here from a few months ago) and moved the computers to my bedroom and the living room. I’ve also Goodwilled more things. I’m amazed that things fit in there as well as they did.

Last night Jenny and I met and went over the terms for Summary Dissolution. We agree to file within this month. I’m in the process of preparing the Statement of Property and the necessary paperwork to file with San Diego County. By the time we file it will be the end of 2002. If all goes well, Jennifer and I will be entirely divorced by the end of June 2003. We continue to be on good terms, and in our own way, friends. The ill will and discomfort that were a hallmark of this summer are all but gone, and I am moving forward, as is she.

My girlfriend and I missed each other terribly while we were away from each other. We feel so strongly for each other, and are trying to be both true and cautious. the rapport and comfort we feel for each other is wonderful. Both of us are once bitten, twice shy about the future — but for now we have a good time together.

Spending two weeks in Virginia was great. I’ll likely post more about this later. My parents are doing well, and it was great to see them!

I enjoyed many games of racquetball with my father — we are pretty evenly matched, which is nice. My father is in the best shape I’ve seen him in in perhaps 20 years, and he is a fierce competitor. Thus, the games were quite good. My Dad has gotten way into Macintosh computers. I set up a home WiFi network using AirPort and several computers – Macs, laptops, and a Windows box. It all worked flawlessly. I also helped him out with some minor tips on scanning and filesharing. He was off all week which was a nice change: usually he works non-stop.

My Mom is great as usual too. She has been so supportive this year, both of them have been. We had time to talk and shop and have lunch. I also got to learn to make her salsa and her Spanish rice. She took the time to dry clean my black coat and make sure my “working” coat (a military coat I got surplus here in San Diego) got washed as well. My Mom’s great.

I ate well in Virginia. My Mom cooked often – always healthy. For Thanksgiving my sister made wonderful grilled Ahi tuna and wasabi mashed potatoes. Unconventional and delicious. Other highlights of my stay include lots of that salsa as well as fresh tortillas, pico de gallo, and great salads.

I’m backtracking on freelancing. I may take on some more small projects, but I am now interested in full-time employment. I’m hungry like the wolf for full-time work here in San Diego.

And that’s the update. Thanks for reading, and for your patience. I hope to be posting here regularly, as much has been happening in the past few weeks. If you’re looking for a laugh, you can read Is there a Santa? (from an engineering standpoint).

And…… onward.

Synopsis Collected From Some Mailing List

Basic business is material, process, product, and sales.

Archeology and Nostalgia

(This was written on my Virginia/Thanksgiving Vacation)

I’m still in Virginia and have utterly failed to maintain my correspondence properly whilst here. One of the things I’ve been up to is some archeology. I found some old photos, or rather my sister found some old photos. The photo at left is of me in my UVa Medical Center uniform. It must be from 1991 or 1992. I think I look so strange, hamming it up with my stethoscope and my Dad and his then top-of-the-line Mac IIci.

Last night I actually dreamt about some medical procedures I used to do as an RT (and may do again sometime soon) — specifically I remember doing an ABG (arterial blood gas). I don’t ascribe much meaning to dreams, but this was vivid. It was not so much like a dream as like a run-through of the entire procedure. I remember checking for collateral circulation with the Allen’s Test, instructed the patient, palpated for a good radial artery pulse, inserted the needle cautiously, saw the flash of blood, and allowed it to fill with 1cc of blood. Then I removed the needle, held pressure, and put it on ice for processing.

Again, doesn’t mean much, but I think Virginia makes me think of medicine.

I got a job offer too. My buddy Vinnie offered me a job in the company he works with as a Respiratory Therapist. Salary is not so hot, but there’s a healthy sign-on bonus. But I don’t see myself here in Virginia. As much as it would be wonderful to be nearer my parents and sister, I’m a City Mouse. More, my place is out west. I’m a California animal. It’s funny though, I always feel like an expatriate, almost anywhere I go. Another factor is my girlfriend, who I dote on verily. I am exercising caution of course, but she means a great deal to me.

My Mom has gone on a Goodwill binge and I had about 10 boxes of old stuff. Books, textbooks, magazines, toys, whatnot — old things. I’ve grabbed out old report cards and a hat and kerchief from my Cub Scout days. Plus a few other notions. I got rid of a pile of Amiga and TI-99/4a magazines which are of no value anymore. I also had a pile of old textbooks from high school and junior college. I kept some of my old term papers and class notes. Some journal things I will want to revisit someday. Mostly I’ve been a packrat and keep everything with me. This means that 99% of what I own is back home in San Diego.

PHP Triad

PHP Triad is interesting. It combines the “AMP” parts of “LAMP” into one easy installer for Windows. Idiot-proofing open source is a laudable goal. As installers get better, more people will use these tools in more ways. That has to be good.

Fun Fact About Mac OS X

I’m no sure, but I think that the below indicates that if you hit the precise turning of the hour and you have the time in your shell config, you get to see “DING!” on the command line.


I wonder if this is common to all unices? And I wonder if my interpretation is correct?

Pittsburgh Adventures (written in the Pittsburgh AirPort, from December 5th)

So as I write this, the flight crew for my flight back to San Diego is circling the Pittsburgh Airport. So we’re delayed as my ready-to-go plane awaits a pilot.

Yesterday was harrowing. The snow came down in buckets starting at about 12 noon Eastern time in Roanoke. My flight out was scheduled for 6:30pm. The drive to the airport, normally a 20-25 minute affair, took an hour and a half. Why? Snow. Snow. More snow. I drove my Mom’s CRV, four-wheel drive, and we still did some slipping and sliding. We took off for the airport very early, about 5 hours before my departure time. My flight out was delayed also, owing to the snow. The upshot of all of this was that I left Roanoke much later than my scheduled departure time, missed my connecting flight to San Diego. In Pittsburgh I stayed at the Holiday Inn. The way it works now is that the airlines no longer pay for your place to stay if you are stranded due to weather (“Act of God” in insurance company parlance), but they will get you a cheaper rate. In the hotel the broadband worked fine (2.95 on my bill this morning) but the outbound calling on the telephone simply didn’t work. I could take calls though. I was able to call my folks, Erin (my new roommate, she moved in whilst I was away), and my girlfriend Leah. Leah was quite disappointed to hear that I would not be in last night. I was too, as a matter of fact. Now, weather-wise, Pittsburgh was cold (25°F) last night, but not snowy. When I got up this morning at 6:15 and looked out my window, what did I see? Snow. Snow. More snow.

I joked last night with Leah that she should go ahead and talk to this God guy – I was interested in recouping my $55 for the room. After all, my layover was due to “act of God,” and since USAirways wasn’t paying, perhaps I could idemnify this God fellow. Unfortunately since I don’t particularly believe in God (agnosticism, doncha know (see this and this), I thought I could perhaps get my girlfriend to intervene.

Yes, to some of you I’m aware this is a bit sacrilegious sounding. I assure you I mean no harm.

In any case, one of the better moves I made yesterday was asking my Mom to pick me up some Tiger’s Milk Bars (peanut butter flavor please). She got me these Powerbars (my reaction at the time was disappointment), and I ended up having them as dinner. And as a nice surprise, they were not as odious as my previous experiences with Powerbars have been. In fact, they were pretty good. Thanks Mom!

Leah was to pick me up last night, but she can’t do a daytime (work and all) pickup, so I’m having another friend, Liz pick me up. I’m eternally grateful for this favor. I’m trying to be in maximum frugality mode these days, and a taxicab would be efficient, but 20 dollars better spent elsewhere.

While I’m in typing mode, I’ll note that my clamshell iBook only retains about an hour and a half of charge. This is a 266Mhz model, running Mac OS X.2. I think I used to get about 4 hours on this thing. I wonder why it gets less now? Is it the OSX? Or do I need a new battery? I never really put this machine through its’ paces when it was running OS 9 — it mostly stayed plugged i in the living room, a machine to check email, do minor work, check news and movie times via 802.11b. But now, I use it much more.

Strong Bad! (or to a lesser extent, Z’Nuf)

Fresh Air Featuring Comix

Robert Mankoff (editor of New Yorker toons) from November 27th and Frank Miller (Dark Knight, Dark Knight Returns, Give Me Liberty) from November 14th. Worth a listen!

New Joel On Software

A quote…

People who only know one world (of computer programming -Joe) get really smarmy, and every time they hear about the complications in the other world, it makes them think that their world doesn’t have complications. But they do. You’ve just moved beyond them because you are proficient in them. These worlds are just too big and complicated to compare any more.

Read it all at Lord Palmerston on Programming

Lura Redesigned! redesigned. Looks good!

Bobby Fischer Really Is Nuts!

At one time I was really into chess. And I am interested in the cult of celebrity around Bobby Fischer — the article Bobby Fischer’s Pathetic Endgame shows him to be paranoid, deluded, and nuts. Reading it is the same feeling as looking at unpleasant photos of an accident. You want to look away, but you can’t.

Tori Tori Tori

Last night my roomie (Erin) and I went to see Tori Amos at UCSD’s RIMAC. I first saw Tori Amos back in 1991 or 1992 in Charlottesville. She remains a compelling performer, and she did not disappoint. The sound was a bit muddy, but she was great. Simple instrumentation – just her and her piano (and some electric organs as well) and a bass player and a drummer. She did a nice mix of old and new, China was an emotional highlight for me — I found myself oddly emotional for the show. I think the span of time over which I have been listening to Amos’ music is a bit scary. There have been so many relationships and women in my life in that time. Tori is a very emotional and very much a woman performer, and I found myself very moved. I was also quite tired, but I was definitely moved.

Now, racquetball, and later a barbecue.

I hope all of you have a great day. (And I wish that for myself too!)

The Uncanny Valley

The Uncanny Valley is an intiguing essay/project exploring why certain things that are very human-like are so creepy, but things that are somewhat less human-like are not.

Essay on Privacy/Surveillance I’m Meaning to Read

Something I Saw on a Marquee in Roanoke; Go Watch …Say Anything

I saw a note for a band with the name Lloyd Dobler Effect – a very cool name. Lloyd Dobler is the name of the John Cusack character in …say anything. If you have not seen that movie, you should. Read the quotes, particularly this one:

The world is full of guys. Be a man. Don’t be a guy.

I’m really serious. Go see it now.

Another Lovely Weekend

I went to two parties this weekend. One a barbecue with some old friends (and some new) and then a work party with Miss Leah. At the BBQ I got to see Steve and Natty, who are back from their USA travels and they look terrific!

At the Christmas (Holiday?) Party for Leah’s work I had a lovely time. She works with nice people I think, and the lunch (up in Temecula) was tasty as well. After that we hung out at her place, did some laundry, and came back home after a nice weekend.

Today I’m taking my Grandma to see the Doctor – a followup from earlier issues. I also think I have a job interview. I’ll know more about that later.

Money is tight, which is embarassing but predictable, given my idiocy in handling money — but unemployment came through now that work at the old gig is definitely not in the cards. My parents have helped so much in that arena — I am so lucky. I think about the stresses I could be having, that others I know are struggling with — illness, death, chronic pain — and I feel lucky.

This was the worst year of my life. But I feel lucky. I’ve gotten a reprieve, and a second chance. It’s so off that the worst year could in some ways turn out to be the thing that turned my whole life around.


There Is A New Header

It’s my reply to those on the west coast who complain about the California “lack of seasons” — bah — snow is highly overrated. See also my post on being waylaid by weather.

Books I Will Eventually Own

Tomorrow Now, the new nonfiction work by Bruce Sterling, comes out today in the USA.

Pattern Recogniton by William Gibson, comes out in February of 2003.

Meanwhile, Quicksilver (Baroque Cycle, volume 1) by Neal Stephenson will come out next September.

Three New Lab Items

QUALCOMM’s BREW Considered Harmful?

Colin Fahey’s J2ME Cell Phone Experience is one developers’ one-time experience with BREW, a mobile computing platform, which he contrasts with his experience developing with Java for mobile phones. He makes good points, though I wonder if he let his bias for open platforms affect him unduly.

David Brin is Cranky About Lord of the Rings

J.R.R. Tolkien — enemy of progress — an excerpt:

Obsession with either past or future can almost define a civilization. Worldwide, most cultures believed in some lost golden age when people knew more, mused loftier thoughts and were closer to the gods — but then fell from grace. Under this dour but recurrent worldview, men and women of a later, coarser era can only look back with envy, hearkening to remnants of ancient wisdom.

Or as They Might Be Giants say in Put Your Hand Inside The Puppet Head:

Yes it’s sad to say you will romanticize
All the things you’ve known before
It was not not not so great
It was not not not so great

That said, I want to go see the movie.

Great Signature Line I Stumbled On

Dogs believe they are human. Cats believe they are God.

Creative Commons

The Creative Commons project launched this month, and you should be aware of their activities to empower people to license their works in creative ways. I’ve not decided how I will license my own web works, but the items in the Lab have always been more or less public. I intend to license them more intelligently. In the meantime, visit Creative Commons.

Racquetball Frequently Asked Questions

This is cool — common questions about racquetball — with simply worded answers. Like How do I get more power from my backhand? and Can I let the ball hit the front wall TWICE before I hit it?.

Usability Standards

Users Begin to Demand Software Usability Tests: Boeing requiring vendors to follow new usability standard for products. This is an interesting article. I like how the MS rep says “customers don’t ask for usability” – which of course rings true. But then customers are implicitly asking for usability when they can’t find what they need and want, are lost, or don’t know what is available to them. The Inmates Are Running The Asylum talks about the endemic problem of products engineered for engineers and not for people. It seems to me that this new common format for usability testing is a nice step. More information on the Common Industry Format for Usability Test Reports (CIF) can be found at:

Someday we’ll find it, the Phish/Talking Heads Connection

It’s here: Live Phish volume 15: The Omni in Atlanta Georgia. What’s the connection? Phish takes the whole Talking Heads record Remain In Light and covers it live on Disc 3 of Live Phish volume 15. I’ve heard Crosseyed and Painless as they do it. Fun! I don’t know much Phish, but I know some smart folks who dig ’em.

BBEdit PHP Glossary

If you write PHP in BBEdit, you want the BBEdit PHP Glossary.

Random Stuff From Thanksgiving Roanoke (Just a list)

  • Thanksgiving
  • Veggie quiche
  • Far from Heaven
  • Seared Tuna and Wasabi Mashed Potatoes
  • Angel Food Cake
  • Buffy Marathon on FX
  • Phone call with Leah
  • Dad and Photoshop Elements
  • Dueling Cats
  • My Sister
  • Laptoporama
  • Salsa-making with my Mom
  • “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about the world” – A.I.
  • Solaris
  • Racquetball with my Dad

Counterattack = Vigilantism = Bad for Society

Bruce Schneier’s Crypto-Gram newsletter this month says, among other things: Our society does not give us the right of revenge, and wouldn’t work very well if it did. Read the whole thing.

JavaScript: Don’t hate the playah, hate the game

The Problem with JavaScript is a rather lukewarm article that talks about the fact that JavaScript itself is not evil, but the things people do with it are. It blames (rightly) browser and email client creators for enabling it to do malicious stuff. For an excellent history of JavaScript read Steve Champeon’s history of the language.

Me, I like JavaScript. ( See: ArtLung Lab: Scripting )

Sad for Scientific Progress

Computer Science does not learn from its past – three rants from smart folk: 1 · 2 · 3

TIA is a Bummer

Some Fascinating Good Words

1997 Rise of the Stupid Network
1998 The Dawn of the Stupid Network
2000 Worse Is Better
2002 The Paradox of the Best Network:

The best network is the hardest one to make money running.

DMCA versus Librarians

DMCA exemption sought to allow saving of PC software from decay

Early PC software is about to decay and it is not clear we are allowed to save it. The anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA may prevent libraries from saving some of the most creative works of the 20th century from being lost.

via nettime

From My Medicine Days

From My Medicine Days

See one, do one, teach one.

NPACI Rocks Toolkit, or, Build Your own Cluster Supercomputer

On Thursday I went to the ACM San Diego meeting. I even got a tour of San Diego Supercomputer Center. They have lots of computers and computing power. I got to see the gigantic (1.7 teraflops (a teraflop is a trillion floating-point operations per second) Blue Horizon machine. When I think about Moore’s law, and think that the machine is getting obsolete like with every minute — words fail me.

The talk/demo on the NPACI Rocks toolkit for building supercomputer clusters was great. I didn’t grok it all, but I like the use of XML to config redhat installs, and the autodetection of new machines on the cluster was quite clever. As a web developer, I appreciated the use of Apache and MySQL to keep track of the cluster, and to have the machines report their status and structures. The variability of commodity hardware makes simple hard disk mirroring – which I believe is the way things like Beowulf work – chancy. The differences between hardware can make installations unstable or break. Their philosophy is to let Red Hat be Red Hat and install itself on variable hardware with proper drivers. They use the de-facto standard of RPM files to do updates to all the nodes on the cluster. The problem Rocks solves is the problem of administering lots of linux boxes. By using smart administration the whole system, and all the nodes, can be updated intelligently.

Read the NPACI Rocks Cluster Distribution: Users Guide Introduction for more information.

Outrage in Support of “National Security”

Christmas Plans & Thoughts

I have a lot of thoughts this Christmas. It’s been a heckuva year, that’s for sure. From separation to divorce. Job changes. Some freelance. Some botched opportunities on my part. Marital counseling. Counseling. New relationships. It’s all been a bit much. Sometimes I think I should just go lie down for a month or three. But I will survive it all.

Christmas is here. And here are the plans: We’ll do the traditional Christmas Eve at the Crawford Grandparents, then I’ll be staying at Leah’s place with her, her four kids, her roommate Craig – we’ll do a semi-traditional Christmas morning there. Then I’ll be off to my Aunt’s for Christmas afternoon.

I’ve been around Leah with her kids twice now, and it goes pretty well. It’s a different kind of experience, and I certainly want to be smart about it. But there’s no perfection and no simplicity in this type of situation. I’m dating her, not her kids. This is the fact. But these people, well, young people, are a big part of her life, and I have to figure out how to fit in to the picture as a boyfriend. She’s far from any family, so it’s her, and her kids for Christmas.

Christmas brings feelings – old feelings – of religiousness, of the story of Christmas, of this person called Jesus. To me, stories. Stories of incredible power. Stories containing great bits of natural philosophy, but in the end most of them are myths. Ideally, myths which encourage people to be the best they can be to one another. Myths which encourage and sustain lives. Myths which remind us of the amazing power we all have inside us.

It’s at Christmastime that I find myself wishing I was religious. I wish that I could simply accept Christianity or even Religion without analysis. The reality is that my experiences of the miraculous ended when I came to understand death and suffering as banal events. We simply die. It is terrible. To hope that there is a life after is probably wishful thinking. To attempt to believe in a useful supreme being or an afterlife knots my stomach with illogic. I remain agnostic. I will not judge the power that religion has in another person’s life. For my grandmother, my mother, for several aunts, for friends, colleagues — religion is a powerful, comforting force. For me, I find comfort in my fellow human beings. I find comfort in the amazing capacity humans have to love and do good. I have experienced so much pain this year, but for every pain and hardship, I have experienced love and hope too from my friends and family and even strangers.

It is with these thoughts that I wish you all a wonderful holiday season, whatever your creed, whatever your race, whatever your beliefs or nonbeliefs.

Much love.

Don’t drink too much egg nog, don’t be rude at the mall.


Road Trip

So Christmas was wonderful. I got so many great presents from my friends and family. I was not able to give all I would have liked, but I’m looking forward to a prosperous 2003.

Christmas with the Crawford family was wonderful. My Uncle and his son played the guitar on Christmas day, and we all feasted on turkey with all the trimmings. Christmas Eve I made quite a haul. We had our traditional potato soup, and opened all the “Non-Santa” gifts. It was wonderful to be in the presence (and presents! forgive the pun) of family. I got a shaver from my parents with a digital readout. It gives a close shave so far. Right now it’s charging. Before we began opening presents we started with a reading by my Uncle of the story of the birth of the Christ from the New Testament. I think Mark? (not sure at all on that, I know one one of the books does not even mention it if I remember right).

This weekend Leah and I will drive to Utah. Yes, you read that right, Utah. She will see her brothers and sisters, who are all far afield and are converging on Utah. It will be a long drive, but maybe not too long. I will keep her company and read and we’ll listen to music. We will return late Sunday so I can get my nose back to the grindstone. I’m hoping to take at least a few photos. The weather outlook is favorable, so we shall see.

Back From Utah

Pile of email. Lots to do. New Year’s Day Approaches. attacks Microsoft on the word “Windows”

Those cats over at are relentless. David and Goliath, I tell ya. To whit:

Glass Panes and Software: Windows Name Is Challenged

From My Mom…

Hi Joe, Hope you had a great trip to Utah. Just for your info the birth of Jesus is in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke. Ussally at Christmas they read from the Gospel of Luke Chapter 2 because it gives the full account of the good news. He appeared to the shepherds first. In those times shepherds were considered unclean and untrustworthy. Shepherds may have been chosen because they represented all who needed cleansing. Jesus was a king for all those humble enough to see their need for a Savior. Jesus had a supernatural beginning which is a sign of his divinity. He was human and divine. Just thought you would like to know the truth. Love you son, Mom 🙂

Thanks so much for the clarification Mom! More on the trip to Utah soon…

SIGGRAPH 2003 – here in San Diego

I had no idea. SIGGRAPH 2003 / SAN DIEGO. I went in 1986 in Los Angeles and got very fired up about the internet and computer graphics. It was a force motivating me to get into the web. I’m excited that it’s coming here to San Diego!

People Can Learn To Cold Read = Psychics Are Not Real

I am a skeptic, ever after. And this article My Psychic Adventure by Kari Coleman details how one skeptical, non-psychic “fakes” it by simply paying attention to people – by paying attention to the facts that people reveal in any interaction. It’s remarkable, and I think would be food for thought for any of your pals who buy into psychic nonsense.
(via my roommate, missewon)

Symposium / ITxpo San Diego

In March, from Gartner – Gartner Symposium / ITxpo:

Symposium/ITxpo 2003 is the single most valuable gathering of intelligence and advice. Calibrated for senior IT executives, Symposium/ITxpo is rich in content-both analyst-led strategy sessions focused on your most pressing issues and ITxpo, our interactive exhibit floor loaded with the latest technology solutions.

20th Anniversary of TCP/IP

January 1, 2003 will mark the 20th Anniversary of the Internet as we know it. What is TCP/IP?

TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) is the basic communication language or protocol of the Internet. It can also be used as a communications protocol in a private network (either an intranet or an extranet). When you are set up with direct access to the Internet, your computer is provided with a copy of the TCP/IP program just as every other computer that you may send messages to or get information from also has a copy of TCP/IP.

… definition from TechTarget

Quote of the Day

We can do no great things; only small things with great love.

– Mother Theresa

New Blogs in Q4 2002 for San Diego Bloggers


Happy·New·Year! And may 2003 be better than 2002.

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