No Fancy Name
Monday, July 05, 2004
happy dance
coach k will stay. praise be. my basketball world would have been turned upside down and I would have walked around with a really funny look on my face, all season long.

finally finished a chapter
My poor little plone book, it's only been in the works for...so long I lost track. My editor finally handed down the ultimatum -- finish the two outstanding chapters, plus all the author review (that means looking at edited chapters and either fixing/updating things or completely ignoring things that editors may have said) by the 6th, or I can't do a 2nd edition to my book that sells like gangbusters. Now, on any given day I'll tell you how much I hate to write, or I'll tell you that writing books is cook. I'm not sure which of those days it is right now, I just know I need to sustain the productivity for another 30 hours or so.

Saturday, July 03, 2004
give blood
Not "give blood, play hockey", as the bumper sticker goes, although there's nothing wrong with that. I just got home from finally getting off my butt and donating blood. It's like a civic duty or something, isn't it? I've been meaning to do it for a really long time, like 10 years. But there's this rule about not being able to give blood if you've had a tattoo in the last n months, and I always had gotten one sometime within the n months time frame, so it never worked out. There were a lot of Red Cross bloodmobiles on campus this past semester, which got me thinking about it more, but I was always on my way to class and they'd be gone by the time I was out of class. So I finally made an appointment, at the Stanford Blood Center, a few weeks ago. I picked Stanford because, well, it's Stanford and also because they have this handy list that tells you exactly how much and what kind of blood they have on that day, and what they use blood. For example, "five month old had a liver transplant here last week", with accompanying adorable pictures of small children. They do a really good job at the ol' heartstrings tugging. What can you say? "I'm sorry, I have to go run errands. I can't take 30 minutes out of my day to give you some of my blood".

Unfortunately, my first trip was unsuccessful, as my hemoglobin level was .2 too low. Good enough reason as any to eat Cream of Wheat and take a multi-vitamin every day. I did that, went back today and it was much higher, so they took my blood. I got the "new" medical assistant, so it's a good thing I don't mind medical procedures. She wasn't bad or anything, and it didn't hurt, and it only took ten minutes for me to fill up a pint. But she was definitely new because all the other medical assistants kept hovering around her to make sure she didn't kill me/let the blood drain onto the floor/etc. No such thing happened, and afterwards I was encouraged to have cookies. That was the best part!

So, if you think you'll have a spare 30 minutes one day, check with the American Red Cross to find a blood drive near you. If you happen to live around Stanford, I recommend them. Except they're currently not using red bandages due to some sort of reported allergy to the dye used in them, so you'll walk out of the Stanford Blood Center wearing a Cal colored bandage...

Friday, July 02, 2004
sprechen sie Pennsylvanian?
UPDATE: Welcome, Salon readers!

Because I do, and I used to get a lot of grief for it when I moved to California (I lived for a chunk of time in Virginia and North Carolina, but no one there ever noticed. I suppose they have their own language-related issues...). pjm pointed out this link to CoalSpeak, which includes many of the things I've been known to say. I offer it to my friends in my continuing effort to show that it's not my fault! The specific coal region referenced by the guide-writers is a whole 70 miles east of where I'm from, but it's enough to tip the scale toward us being more PA Dutch than PA Polish.

Some wonderful examples that I personally use, which often lead to blank stares from my friends. Kind of like when I referenced the "pot stick" that my Mom used (sorry, Mom) to give me a spanking when I was small (I'm sure I deserved it). Pot stick. As in, "the stick used to stir a pot." I was recently informed by my California friends that this is actually called "a wooden spoon". Huh. Go figure.

Anyway...I'll just hit the highlights (or lowlights, depending on your point of view):

- "buggy", not as in "horse and..." but instead of "grocery cart". I swear I've heard this elsewhere, though.

- "Coal Cracker", which in the guide is used to describe a person from the coal region, but to me, it's the name of the fake-logs-in-the-water ride at Hershey Park.

- "crick"...that would be "creek". I know this isn't PA-specific.

- "differnt", "ignernt", etc...the whole gamut of words that should have another syllable at the end but we feel the need not to spend our time saying "differEnt" or "ignorAnt".

- "dippy egg", thank god it's in the guide. I was beginning to think it was just my family. It's really difficult ordering eggs at a diner outside of central Pennsylvania, when all your life you've just ordered "dippy eggs". It took me years to learn the difference in the levels of "over" (easy/medium/hard) and I still don't think I understand. Omelets and scrambled eggs for me -- much easier to explain. The actual definition of a dippy egg is "an egg, such as a soft-boiled or sunnyside-up egg, into which you can dip your toast", meaning it doesn't correlate to any particular level of "over". frustrating.

- "down the shore", meaning "to the beach", when the beach is either in New Jersey or Maryland. If you go to a beach in a different state, e.g. Virginia, North/South Carolina, "down the shore" doesn't apply. To me, going to the beach meant going to Greenwood Furnace, which had a whole 300 yards of sand dumped at the edge of a tadpole-infested lake, which scared the hell out of me and I never went in it. The sandy recreation area really had nothing to do with the fact that Greenwood Furnace was an iron furnace in the 19th century, and thus the surrounding area was all historic buildings, etc. Did your childhood swimming hole have a cemetery next to it? Mine did!

- "four-ways" for your car's hazard lights. This can't be PA-only.

- "Gawd Love Ya!" ... I do not say this, and never have, unless I'm making fun of my grandmother, who DOES say this for real. It's an "exclamation that can mean anything from 'Oh, what a beautiful baby' to 'I'm sorry your house burned down'". Yep.

- now, "gumband" is not in the list, so I'm still on my quest to figure out where I got this from (besides the obvious "your dad"). gumband = rubber band. Anyone?

- "Knoebel's" is an amusement park, but the thing is, you pronounce the K and the N. Kinda like "knnnnniggets" but not really.

- "lightening bugs"...does EVERYone else call them fireflies?

- "long johns"... think "eclair" but longer, more rectangular, and filled with cream, custard, or jelly. My aunt owned a doughnut store for what, thirty years? and we still don't know why they're called long johns.

- "macadam", the asphalt pavement on the road.

- "outen" (one of my favorites) as in "turn off". "Outen the lights" = "Turn the lights out". It's PA Dutch, what can I say. Right up there with "red up", as in "to make ready", such as "Red up your room", meaning "clean your room, or no allowance".

- I'm leaving out "worsh" instead of "wash" because, thank god, I never picked it up from my Dad (sorry, Dad).

Now, if someone could just tell me how I explain "Lebanon bologna" to people out here, so that I can make a decent sandwich, I'll be ok.

yes, RSS is now my new best friend
I am just so lazy when it comes to installing new software, but it really only takes one other person to say "you know, you really should do it". So, thanks to pjm's "RSS is your friend" comment to my post regarding how I can't keep up with all these smart, witty people, I went and got me an RSS aggregator, SharpReader (Windows only). I just picked the first one I came to that worked well, so if I picked some loser piece of software, don't judge me. It's donate-ware, and I'll be donating because it seems pretty well done to me!

Maybe now I can keep up!

Note: I urge people to provide a link to their site feeds (and yes, I've taken my own advice). If you're a blogger user, you can get the link in the site feed section under your settings tab. Then, just put the link in your template and republish your blog. Good times.

Thursday, July 01, 2004
spidey2
While people are off seeing Fahrenheit 9/11 (which I plan to see this weekend), my friends and I went to see Spider-Man 2. It's about a 4 (out of 10), and that has nothing to do with the cast. In fact, Tobey Maguire was good (disclaimer: he's one my 5 favorite actors). Kirsten Dunst did the best she could do with what was given to her (disclaimer: I really like her a lot, and while I don't really have a list of favorite actresses, she'd be in it. Drop Dead Gorgeous? Bring it On? Hilarious, and she did a great job in both.)

As for the rest of the cast, Skoda was good. I mean, J.K. Simmons. This may be the role that makes me forget he was Vern Schillinger in Oz, when I see him every day on Law & Order. Alfred Molina? Eh. Whatever. I wasn't particularly a-feared of Doc Ock, which isn't good when he's your villain. James Franco was fine, but he's still Daniel from Freaks and Geeks to me. Dylan Baker probably would have been just fine, but all I could see was the guy who played no less than three different roles on various Law & Order episodes (particularly the one in which he killed his little boy), an arc on The Practice in which he was a law-breaking senator, as well as the aforementioned Shillinger's attorney on Oz. Highlights from supporting cast/cameo appearances: Joxer, I mean Ted Raimi, was very funny. Autolycus, I mean, Brisco County, Jr., I mean Bruce Campbell also had a funny 2 minutes. Finally, Hal Sparks' elevator scene was a trip. That man doesn't have to say anything to be funny.

So, the problem certainly wasn't the cast. The CGI didn't especially suck. The ability to show terribly violent things without any blood, that was good for the kids. I think it all boiled down to: too damn much talking. Shut UP already, we get it that you're conflicted. We got it with the first sentence, didn't need to hear the remaining rambling paragraph about it.

I probably wouldn't give it a rotten tomato, because the individual pieces were good, except the writing. I didn't see Wonder Boys, so I don't know if Michael Chabon just can't do screenplays, or what. I really liked his book The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, but that was like 15 years ago.

i can't keep up
The bad thing about finding new blogs to read is that...you have more blogs to read. This wouldn't be a problem if I read boring blogs (like this one), but no -- I had to go and find the blogs of smart, witty, creative people. Great. By the time I get a moment in my day to pop over and read something (it's like a little treat after actually finishing a task), I'm like four witty posts behind, and the comments are already filled with other people's witty retorts. Dang.

Mac at peksy'apostrophe (who wins the award for best tagline courtesy of a reader: "pesky'apostrophe: always better than an unexpected period") went all gangbusters yesterday. For example, I'm Edumacated, in which some of Kerry's proposed plans for education funding are discussed (with good comments from readers); the crux of the post is how much Mac (and a lot of us) "...want to have faith that a President genuinely wants to do the right thing for Americans instead of American business." Amen. Then, there is Speechless, which is a reaction to an "update" by the Family Research Council (yeah, whatEVER), following on the heels of a WSJ opinion piece that asserts the Democrats are losing elections because abortions are legal. No, really. Unbelievable. As one of Mac's readers' comments said, "someone needs to hit me really hard on the back of the head...you know...to get my eyes un-stuck from rolling them so hard about that one." Agreed.

So I got to thinking about the sheep/lemming mentality, and lo and behold Kate comes up with an outrage post simply titled "political emails" but could easily have been called "sheep! they're all sheep!", in which she tells of reaching the breaking point after receiving the gagillionth email from someone who is a Republican, along the lines of "Bush is great! Let's keep him in the White House!". [shuddering] Kate's not a Republican. Anyone who knows Kate at all (such as the person who put Kate on her "send to everyone I know" list), knows that. Kate, probably like a lot of us, is not anti-the-notion-of-Republicans; we're all entitled to our own political leanings and that's wonderful and is what makes our country great (I read that in a book or something) -- she's anti-dumbass (and that's not a party-specific trait).

Political, yet geeky (in a good way) -- pjm at flashes of panic points out a fricking hilarious (to me, at least) part of the Wired news story regarding a security/infrastructure review of the Kerry and Bush official campaign web sites. Says pjm, "The part I found most amusing, however, was the software roundup, which fits the liberal vs. conservative stereotypes pretty well: '[T]he Kerry site is housed on an Apache Web server running on a Red Hat Linux box. The Bush website is hosted on a Microsoft IIS 5.0 server and uses Microsoft's ASP.net.'" That's funny. (I realize a lot of you are going to just have to trust me on that. It's ok.)

But when I really need a good break, I head over to Tales from the "Liberry". Someone needs to sign this guy up to do a "collected works" edition. Seriously. I don't think you have to be from small-town nowheresville (in his case, West Virginia, or one of the only states besides maybe Mississippi at which we Pennsylvanians, which I am by birth, can poke fun) to visualize the people he's writing about, which are 100% real. His entry from a few days ago is a three-parter, describing a confrontation with a creepy pervert. Don't worry, good triumphed over evil.

On it goes, the list of things I wish I had time to write, but I am grateful that I at least had time to read!

Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Parallels: Dodgeball and Fahrenheit 9/11
No, really! Curtis has an interesting and funny take on the parallels of these two movies. (Vague) spoiler alert.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004
multicultural
Continuing my personal trend of being a sucker for packaging , I picked up a beer at the market simply because it had a cute little bird icon:



It's Hitachino Nest Beer, a "sweet stout". There's a page for us 'mericans, explaining Japanese food that goes best with it.

Unfortunately, there's no entry for "burrito", which is what I had for dinner. But it's a good beer nonetheless!

my goal for the day...
is to write entries which do not inspire my folks to add comments like "you need a time out"...although I did find it very amusing, especially since I never had a time out as a child (stomping away on my own doesn't count).

For anyone who happens to read the comments in my blog, if you see something from "mommy dearest", that really is my mom (unless it's my dad and he didn't change the info). She calls herself that. From the movie. Of her own accord. Really. Even though it's spelled wrong. No, I don't know why. She didn't especially suck as a mother.

Monday, June 28, 2004
and this would be why I don't read the "real" news
News of early Iraq Power handover broken by a blog.

this is going to be one of those days....
Mondays usually suck, but Mondays at the end of a quarter tend to suck more. Today is one such Monday. I have plenty of tasks sitting in my inbox, few of which I can actually do, because I managed to kick them back due to lack of info/lack of clarity/no lack of contradictions. Of course, they're all due today. While I've done the "clear" bits and pieces of them, I expect I'll get answers to the others in three or four hours, which seriously cuts into my "today" time. This is why I work on weekends, and get up at 4am to get a jump start on the day -- because my "day" is usually sucked away by stupid people who couldn't write a comprehensive and/or accurate request for their own task, to save their lives.

If we actually billed for the amount of time that our clients waste with us, we'd be rich. Technically we should, because the time spent fiddling with crap, while waiting for a question to be answered, is time we can't spend on doing something else. You wonder why so many companies lose money? Because they have crappy employees that can't manage their way out of a paper bag, who also pick agencies who charge them out the wazoo (e.g. "You want to have a meeting? Ok, we need to bring these six people with us." Because, of course, you can bill for meeting time x6. Unethical pieces of poo.)

It's not like there aren't good managers/workers out there -- there have to be. I've seen a few, in passing. It would be great if some of them realized that there's this nice little company over here that doesn't overcharge, will actually help you do your job, will complete tasks on time, and usually ends up saving you so much money and making you look so good, that you get a raise. I'd like one of those clients, please.

Ok, that was a little random.

Sunday, June 27, 2004
venturing out into the blogosphere
When I started to blog a few months ago, I didn't have a real reason for doing so. I also hadn't spent any time reading blogs, except for those of friends I actually know in real life. I'm now starting to have a bit of a reason (see point #2 in this post) for blogging, and I'm branching out into reading the blogs of complete strangers. I think it's pretty cool.

In real life (the one where you step away from the computer and walk out the door), I'm not a big fan of being social. In theory, I like people a lot. But when I do walk out the door, I get hit with a lot of ignorant, self-absorbed idiots who, for various reasons, make my going-out-into-the-world a crappy experience. So, years and years ago when this internet thing started, I embraced it. Hang out with people but never have them look at you? Awesome! I met some good folks online, and the really cool ones I managed to meet in person and become "real" friends with. One such person is my best friend in the whole wide world.

Somewhere along the line, the rest of the world figured out that the Internet was full of possibilities -- some good, some not so good. Listservs started to be trolled upon. Newsgroups were less news than they were folders for every possible piece of spam known to man. Everyone had a home page, no one knew why. Blink was used, so were fade-in backgrounds. The nice, pleasant internet I knew and loved, it became a pile of crap. I stopped participating in discussion groups, I stopped hanging with the like-minded individuals I knew online. I tried to walk away from the Internet. For the most part, it worked.

I never stopped using the Internet, because my job has been all about working in the medium. But I stopped using it for fun (Yahoo! and ESPN fantasy sports games not withstanding) and definitely stopped using it to talk with smart/witty/funny strangers. But over the last few years, the only people I encountered outside of my tiny circle of friends were clients and their accompanying worker drones. I found the majority of these people to be incredible dumbasses. Some not, of course, but many...sometimes you wonder how they manage not to get hit by a bus on their way to work. All of these dumbasses tend to make a hell of a lot more money than we do (we are a fiscally conservative company, which is bad for my budget but good for my job security -- the company made it through the creation, bursting and aftermath of the dot-com bubble) and get to (gasp!) take vacations. Since those are the people I saw everyday, I figured that's what general society turned into. I know, that's a completely irrational and generally pretty stupid assumption, and I'm happy to be wrong.

Since I sucked it up and started hanging out in the blogosphere, I've found -- amazingly enough -- there are perfectly nice people out there. Some are a little off, some are way off, but I don't read their blogs and they don't read mine -- and that's cool. When the first complete stranger linked to my blog, after also reading and linking to the blog of a friend of mine, my friend said "do you know who this person is?", thinking it was maybe some friend of mine. I had no idea, she had no idea. We determined it was cool. This person doesn't seem to have much in common with either of us, on the surface (different field than either of us, definitely different orientations towards some things). If we lived in the same town, we'd never run in the same circles, but we leave comments in each others' blogs about universal things -- angst, work disgust, movies and tv, etc. You know, kind of how society should be? It's cool.

Yesterday, I spent some time following links and trying to find blogs to read. For instance, there's the underwear drawer, a blog written by a Pediatrics resident in NYC. I have nothing to with the medical profession, but I enjoy reading the entries. Her comic, scutmonkey, is hilarious. I can only imagine how funny I would find it, if I actually were a doctor! Then there's some guy's blog, flashes of panic. He's a perfectly normal fella, who writes about his life and sometimes geeky things, but is definitely a liberal arts guy who just happens to have really good technical skills. Kinda like me, only he's a guy. His path toward geekiness has parallels with my own, and his resume page shows that he was a CTY kid too, although he went four times and I only went once. It's one of those things I try not to mention, but when I saw it on his site, I said "cool!" to myself.

I have hope that the blogosphere will continue to be a good place, because I certainly enjoy it. It provides several chuckles and smiles per day, which hasn't been the norm for the last many years.

Saturday, June 26, 2004
tony pierce's "how to blog"
Of the 30 items in Tony Pierce's How to Blog list, I've broken a few "rules", not adhered to a few "rules" and generally don't feel too bad about either.

Here are a few that I like, or have broken, or just don't feel I need to do:

1. write every day.

I try.

2. if you think you're a good writer, write twice a day.

Depends on who's judging....but I try to write as often as my little brain feels the need to get something out, even if it's an irrelevant bit of poo. I've found that it really helps kickstart my brain when I have to write a chapter or an email of questions/explanations for work. It also tends to focus my brain, even if the task I can't focus on has nothing to do with writing.

4. cuss like a sailor.

I don't feel the need to do that. I have no aversion to cussing, I just can't see myself dropping an f-bomb in my blog. God, I hope that doesn't make me a prude!

5. dont tell your mom, your work, your friends, the people you want to date, or the people you want to work for about your blog.

Shit. (hey - I cussed) My friends/co-workers and parents are the only people who read my blog!

9. use Blogger. [...]

yay for Blogger.

12. link like crazy. link anyone who links you, link your favorites, link your friends. dont be a prude. linking is what seperates bloggers from apes. and especially link if you're trying to prove a point and someone else said it first. it lends credibility even if youre full of shit.

I'm learning to link. Linking requires me to go out and find things to link to, which I'm also trying to learn how to do (it's a time thing, not a skill thing).

14. remember: nobody cares which N*Sync member you are, what State you are, which Party of Five kid you are, or which Weezer song you are. the second you put one of those things on your blog you need to delete your blog and try out for the marching band. similarilly, nobody gives a shit what the weather is like in your town, nobody wants you to change their cursor into a butterfly, nobody wants to vote on whether your blog is hot or not, and nobody gives a rat ass what song youre listening to. write something Real for you, about you, every day.

I think this is hiLARious, but I am easily suckered into some of the more interesting "quizzes" only because, well, come on....which 80's toy are you? that's funny. Except, I was a speak-n-spell so maybe I'm not so cool.

26. dont be afraid to come across as an asswipe. own your asswipeness.

I almost wish I could be as much of an asswipe in my blog as I sometimes am in real life, because I'd like to write an entry about how I own my asswipeness. Really.

28. tell us about your friends.

I would, but then people would know I only have four.

30. read tons of blogs and leave nice comments.

I'm starting to do this, too, in blogs of complete strangers. I think it's a good thing.

the woes of CS job seekers
Every few months, a question gets asked on Slashdot, something along the lines of "I just graduated, how do I get a job?" One such discussion is going on now; the user's (shortened) question is "I'm a recent college grad (B.S. in C.S.) and have been on the job hunt for about 6 months [...] After looking through hundreds if not thousands of job postings, everyone is looking for 3+ years of network admin experience or 5+ years of C++ experience even for an entry level position. How is one expected to gain that kind of experience when no one will hire you without the experience? What kind of (part-time) work can you get as a college student to gain experience (Cisco, Exchange, SQL, etc) that will be marketable in the real world?"

Reading questions like this one, and the resulting discussion, makes me happy about two things in particular:

1) Although I hate my job, I don't have to look for a new one

2) I have a liberal arts education

Reason number one isn't relevant to the discussion; my disdain for my job is my own doing, and not leaving is my own choice, blah blah. Let's look at reason number two. I have zero formal training in the type of work I do, the type of work that people felt I was good enough at doing that they've paid me to write several books about it. To that end, I really feel the answer to the question "what can you do as a college student..." is: learn outside the classroom, synthesize, and start your job hunt a few years before you are going to graduate.

I don't mean to suggest that computer science grads can't learn on their own, or can't synthesize lots of different information, but I do mean to suggest that CS departments are often places in which students learn and professors lecture, in a vacuum. But in this day and age, you can't spend four years in college and assume that once you get your piece of paper, a job will go along with it. You MUST keep up with new technologies. You MUST keep of with new technologies, which are variations on themes you learned in classes.

Suppose you take a series of general database-related courses, such as design, implementation, etc. More often than not, you will have been taught the finer points of a particular database system -- maybe Microsoft SQL Server, maybe Oracle, etc. Contrary to what you may have been taught, there are others. If you did well in your database classes, spend a weekend installing another database or two; play around with Oracle if you learned MS SQL Server, and vice versa. Better yet, branch out into MySQL, IBM DB2, PostgreSQL. The point is that a general familiarity with a wide range of variations on a theme, combined with a solid academic background in database design and implementation, that will help set you apart from the hundreds of other new graduates. Same thing goes for programming languages; if you take a series of C++ courses, then you will have all of the foundation elements you need to pick up the basics of Java, JSP, PHP, Perl, etc. -- and that's a good thing.

While "familiarity" does not necessarily mean "experience", you can, in good faith, put these items on your resume. The ability to answer (correctly) a conceptual question, exemplifying knowledge of numerous applications and/or programming languages -- that's a valuable skill. One way to gain two or three years of experience with a variety of technologies, while still in college, is to take whatever part-time job or volunteer opportunity comes your way. Volunteering, while providing no immediate monetary reward, will give you an early start in filling out the "experience" portion of your resume. In the case of the user who asked the question on Slashdot, if he had started volunteering or immersing himself in new technologies while still in school, in then he wouldn't be where he is -- looking for an entry-level job, two years away from being where he "thinks" he should be, with his precious CS degree. Basically, a job search should start your sophomore year -- and this goes for several different majors -- when you apply for every internship and volunteer opportunity that you can get your hands on. Of course, I didn't do any of these things when I was in school, but that was a different time, and I was in a different field.

One other reason I'm thrilled to have my English degree, is that when I go through periods of time when I don't want to be a developer, I can go back to being a technical writer. The ability to communicate is very important, obviously, but the ability to document programming languages, software, procedures, etc. is a huge skill. I wish CS departments would stress this more in their curriculum, as they're shortchanging their graduates when they enter the workforce unable to document even fifty lines of code, let alone APIs. Plus, new CS graduates unable to find work as a programmer/database designer/sysadmin/etc. -- if they have the communication skills -- could enter a company as a technical writer and move over to the engineering group after making connections, impressing co-workers, and so forth.

housesitting
This weekend, I am housesitting for my friends who have gone to the wilds of northern california for a kids' soccer tournament. I am the designated housesitter/dogwatcher anytime they go away, because this is the closest I get to a vacation -- 20 minutes from my own place. My friends have a real house, a big one with a yard, and the dogs that go with it. More importantly to me, they have a huge TV, digital cable (I only have the regular kind) and a plethora of DVDs, so I get an opportunity to catch up on my movie-watching. For instance, today I will watch Spider-Man, since the sequel is coming out next week. I'm a little slow.

My friends have two dogs, whereas I have three cats. That's a big difference. I'm not one of those cat people who thinks dogs suck -- I like dogs just fine and grew up with one (although a toy poodle barely counts as a dog...) but I've had my cats for a long time and I love them dearly. They're just fine, when I leave them alone while I stay here...I check on them in the morning and fill up their food and water/clean the litter box, and this morning, for instance, they looked at me like "oh, you went somewhere? neat." Apparently, they only act like furry balls of co-dependency when I'm actually there.

The dogs here, they're good dogs, except they're furry balls of co-dependency all the time. God forbid you get up to go to the bathroom -- they follow you everywhere, with their big ol' dog eyes, holding on to their stuffed things or chewy bones, looking at you like "I'm cute! Don't leave!" Jeez, I'm just going to the freaking bathroom! When you do leave for some time, then come back, it's like you went off to war. I go for coffee, and I come back to two big trembling messes of dogs. I couldn't do this everyday -- way too stressful! I'll stick to my cats -- when I leave them alone, the worst they do is ignore me for a few minutes when I get back, and they're quiet about it. Once the dogs settle down, they're quiet for long periods of time and that's cool. I'd rather them be these happy, friendly, overly-dependent dogs ... they could be mean, nasty dogs with no redeeming qualities. I just wish I knew how to interpret the different variations of whining. I mean, they have food, water, an open door to the outside, toys and bones galore -- what more could they possibly want?

Thursday, June 24, 2004
gone to the dogs
"There's a dog inside all of us, waiting to be let out." .... take the test. I am a Polish Lowlands Sheepdog. Two of my friends were Hungarian Puli. What are you? Leave a comment!

word for the day: slopsucker
From the jargon file:

slopsucker: /slop´suhk·r/, n.
A lowest-priority task that waits around until everything else has "had its fill" of machine resources. Only when the machine would otherwise be idle is the task allowed to "suck up the slop". Also called a hungry puppy or bottom feeder.

I hate slopsucker days, because I'm terrble at them. A slopsucker day is when all your "real" work is either on hold, or you've completed it, or there's nothing really to take up large chunks of your time and/or brain. Usually, there's something on the horizon but you aren't sure when it will hit your "active" pile...but there's not enough time to think about a new thing to make, or work on one's book...because invariably as soon as you start something, a project will move into active mode (and usually it will have to have been done "yesterday", which is a whole other rant).

So, on slopsucker days you spend a lot of time twiddling your thumbs and checking mail every 3 minutes instead of every 7 minutes, hoping that maybe there's something substantial to do besides virus scan your computer, defrag it, remove spyware, read blogs...

my plone book
I still haven't finished it, but it has a cover. It's cooler than my other book covers, which have just been colorful. This one has an actual thing on it!




Tuesday, June 22, 2004
settling an argument
My father mentioned how he is currently embroiled in an argument regarding the use of "height" versus "highth" to represent the measurement from the base to the top of an object. He says it's "height", and of course he is correct, but in the area of central Pennsylvania where he lives (and I am from), "highth" is not uncommon. In fact, I would say that it's the more common of the two forms, in both casual conversation and even in news stories. More often than not, if I am talking about the width and [insert variant here] of something, I say "highth" and then feel stupid, but it's one of those words that you can't do a darn thing about, because you grew up with it. If I am writing about width and [variant], I don't think I'd ever write "highth" -- it's just not proper. Sort of like how we might say "younses" for plural "you", but I'd never write it -- I know better!

Anyway, sorry Dad, but "highth" is not wrong. It's just the nonstandard version, but it is the original version. "Highth" comes from the Old English word pronounced "heahthu". In Middle English, the usage of the final "t" and "th" sounds varied, and the final "t" sound won out as "common" usage. But, "highth" is all through Milton's Paradise Lost, and stuck around the vernacular because of its association to other measuring-related words ending in "th", e.g. width, breadth, length.

Monday, June 21, 2004
music of the moment
It's another incessantly-sitting-and-working-and-my-hands-hurt-from-typing day, and the CD of the moment is Magnapop's Rubbing Doesn't Help. Unlikely you know Magnapop unless you knew anything about southern-ish college rock of the early 1990s. But they are (were) really good. This morning has been Lay Quiet Awhile / Luscious Jackson / Magnapop. I should throw a boy in there somewhere!

Sunday, June 20, 2004
from my mom's friend, who just turned 80...
comes this link, which she thought I just had to see...and it's definitely a hoot (and scary all at the same time). Thanks, Evie, and happy birthday!

Friday, June 18, 2004
spaceport
We finally have an inland spaceport, as SpaceShipOne prepares to launch on Monday. It's the first non-government, privately-funded manned space flight, and the pictures are cool.

music to work by, redux
Earlier, I mentioned I had to get off my butt and rip all my CDs, so I had more than a handful of things to listen to while working. Over the course of the last few days, I did just that, and now have no less than 1381 tracks to choose from. As I was going through the process, I realized that the vast majority of my favorite albums (I still call them that, I don't know why) were released between 1989 and 1996. I have no idea what I've been doing for the last eight years. The new (post-1996) releases I have are carefully selected, as that's about when I started having to reconcile entertainment-related purchases with budgetary issues. In other words, they had to be really good, and enjoyable in either the car or as background music to work by.

If I get my thoughts together, I'll comment on things in my music library. For example, I have Kronos Quartet, but I also have Metallica. I have the Chemical Brothers, and I have Indigo Girls. I typically hate musicals, but I have two that I will listen to incessantly (Jesus Christ Superstar, the Indigo Girls/Atlanta musicians version, and Evita, the Madonna version), and two movie soundtracks that I will also listen to, several times in a row (Romeo + Juliet, the Leonardo DiCaprio/Clare Danes version, and Velvet Goldmine, the Ewan McGregor movie). I can actually trace the family tree of my music collection, what purchases begat what other purchases, and which friends introduced a new strain into the library. Come to think of it, that's a little scary.

Thursday, June 17, 2004
i think I want to read something...
which is odd for me. I am not a reader. I used to read all the time. I was a English major, in fact, and was going to read for a living (so I thought). But I got sidetracked by...stuff...and in the process lost my ability to sit down and read. Specifically, I lost my ability to concentrate while reading, so I would finish a chapter of some dense novel and reflect on what I had read, only to find that I had no clue. Comic book-sized things were all I could deal with -- Neil Gaiman and his ilk. Eventually I started creeping back into reading actual books, by another Neal -- Stephenson, this time. I actually started with Cryptonomicon, the antithesis of a small book, then went back and read his others (and liked them all). I want to find the time to read The Diamond Age again, as it's been a few years and I think I'd appreciate it even more, now.

So today I was getting my daily dose of Boing Boing, and saw the article "Why Microsoft should get out of DRM". I'm no Microsoft fan; any time I see a blog entry on a respectable site, on the topic of telling Microsoft what they shouldn't do, I'm all over it. Although I work in the computer/internet/techie stuff field, even writing books that help beginners learn how to program, work with databases and use CMS, I don't really follow specific people and their work. If I did, I'd probably already have known who Cory Doctorow is. But fresh from reading Boing Boing, I know that Cory Doctorow is the guy who opened a talk on DRM, at Microsoft, with "Greetings fellow pirates! Arrrrr!". Well, I was hooked from there (I'm easy).

After reading the text of his talk, in which I laughed and went "aha!" at all the right times (and there are plenty), I went on to discover that this fine fella has a new novel out, the theme of which is "Would you rather be smart or happy?" For many, many reasons, I am now determined to read it...and probably his other books as well.

minor league baseball
I love it, I really do. In fact, I love all sorts of baseball. I am privileged to live in a great place for it, the San Francisco Bay Area, and I root for the Giants. Their single-A minor league affiliate, the San Jose Giants, plays in a park not more than 3 miles from my house. Tickets are cheap (less than $5!), and I really should go there more often. When I lived in Durham NC, I was a Braves fan (this was before they got good, I swear I didn't jump on a bandwagon), and their single-A affiliate at the time was the Durham Bulls. Yes, those Durham Bulls. The mechanical bull thingy really is there, and if someone hits it, it does its snorting thing. I loved that park. Here's your useless trivia for the day: the "E" in the mascot's name, Wool E. Bull, stands for "education". There's a decent little school in that town...and I'm not talking about North Carolina Central University, although it's there, too. They eventually refurbished the park, and the team became the triple-A affiliate for the Devil Rays, but I had moved on by then (thankfully, as I couldn't bear to be a Devil Rays fan). After spending some time in California, I went back east for a bit, and lived in Richmond VA, about 2 miles from where the triple-A Braves affiliate plays. Alas, I had become a Giants fan by then. Although I root for the Giants, I also root for the A's (except when they're playing the Giants). I live in San Jose, so that's allowed, as I'm equidistant (give or take) to San Francisco and Oakland.

It's sort of like growing up in a small town smack dab in the middle of the state of Pennsylvania, which I did. You can root for all of the Pittsburgh teams, or all the Philly teams, but never a mix. I'm from a Pittsburgh-rooting family. Sports are a huge deal in my hometown, which is in a rural area with not much else going on besides a lot of Amish people and (now) a Wal-Mart. We're not known for anything except being on the road that takes you to Penn State...and some really good sports teams. The high school girls' teams have won or been serious contenders for the state title, for the past 10+ years. One of those girls went on to play at Duke, which is serious news in an area where high school graduates tend not to leave the area unless it's to go to into the military. In recent years, the local baseball teams have kicked some serious butt at all levels. I read the local newspaper all the time (it's very short) to keep up with the various state and regional champions at all levels of play, and how funny it is when these rural kids go off to mid-atlantic regionals and play teams from Long Island -- the first thing the opposing coaches usually say, after getting pummelled by these country boys, is "what big city are you near?" The answer, of course, is "we're not". But one of these country boys is getting a shot to play pro ball. His name is Kalen Gearhart, and he's now a Gulf Coast League Dodger. It is difficult to root for any Dodger-related player (it's not allowed when you're a Giants fan), but I will root for him. If he's lucky, he'll get a promotion from rookie league to A-ball, where he would be...an Odgen Raptor! The Ogden Raptors, coincidentally, was the name of the t-ball team my friend Mary coached to a record of...well, who really knows, since everyone scores and there are no outs. But they sure do have cute shirts.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004
bleary
is the perfect word to describe how I feel after the last 5 days ... "tired to the point of exhaustion". I would feel better about it, if I were exhausted by doing some sort of physical labor, "honest work", but no -- I am bleary from having sat on my derrière for several days in a row, 18-20 hours each day, working at my laptop. I even have a derrière donut, which I love, although it has sprung a leak and I fear I must purchase a new one. It's not that I can't afford the eight bucks, it's the shopping in the old person's aisle at the drugstore that gives me pause...sort of like when boys have to buy tampons for their others.

But alas, I wasn't working on my home improvement projects or planting a garden. Instead, I was doing gruntwork related to my job -- a tedious project that involved no creativity on my part. Not only was I locked into a time-consuming, exhaustive task for several days in a row, it was frustrating because it was gruntwork. It wasn't development, or re-development, or any of the things that give me a glimmer of positive thought about my job...it was just gruntwork, and I hated it. But such are the things we must do for income. Come to think of it, I can't think of the last task we had in the inbox, that I actually enjoyed. Oh well.

Let's look for the positives...it gave me a chance to enjoy the sunrise each day, since I was awake when they showed up (and the shrubbery sprinklers in my complex turn on at 5am, which I found out since my sliding glass door was open and my cats were hanging out at the screen, until the sprinklers came on one morning and scared the heck out of us.). I also took this opportunity, subsequent to my earlier post about how I needed to get off my butt and rip some of my CDs to my laptop, to record CD after CD while I was working. I know have ALL of my Toad CDs, and EBtG CDs, and plenty others, easily accessible. I'll post more about the best CDs to listen to while working, after I finish some more work.

old skool
I'm sitting in my BIOL 101 summer class ("Origins of Life"), which I already thought was just a spectacular class with a great teacher...but I just saw something that made me smile and fondly remember the old days, when my 1200 baud modem kicked serious butt. My prof was checking her mail via a terminal window, to a box, using pine. PINE. I haven't used pine since 1993, but it was awesome. She gets points from me.

literary google logo
Today's Google logo reflects James Joyce, in honor of Bloomsday and its accompanying International James Joyce Symposium. Personally, I liked the Venus Transit logo better, because it didn't remind me of dense novels. As aptly summarized in five words at Rum and Monkey...

FINNEGANS WAKE (James Joyce)
Riverrun. Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk! Irish incomprehensibility. The

Ha.

Sunday, June 13, 2004
music to work by
I really, really miss Toad the Wet Sprocket. They were one of my favorites throughout my college years, and still are. When I have to sit down and work for long period of hours (like 40 in a row or something crazy like that), I have a set of CDs (well, their digital versions) that I play over and over again. I don't know what it says about me, that I haven't really modified this list for a few years...but just like comfort food, these are my comfort CDs (in alphabetical order):

Coldplay - Parachutes
David Gray - White Ladder
Dido - No Angel
Eagle-Eye Cherry - Desireless
Massive Attack - Mezzanine
Moby - Play
Twilight Singers - Twilight
The Wallflowers - Breach
Toad the Wet Sprocket - Dulcinea, In Light Syrup
Tricky - Blowback, Pre-Millennium Tension
U2 - All That You Can't Leave Behind

Occasionally, I'll slip in Red Hot Chili Peppers' Californication, or any of the Jane's Addiction albums, or Dave Navarro's Trust No One. If I got off my butt and ripped more of my CDs, there would be at least three Everything But the Girl CDs -- the really old ones. Portishead should be in there, too, but isn't yet. Man, I should do that....but I'm in the middle of working. I always think about adding more to my "uninterruptable" rotation...when I'm uninterruptable. Oh well!

Saturday, June 12, 2004
me, and the product diffusion curve
For someone who constantly reads about cutting-edge technology on the market and enjoys it immensely, I never fall in the "innovators" category, and only rarely fall into the "early adopters" category. For some things I happily fall in the "early majority" but for other things, I surprisingly fall in the "laggard" area, or at the very least, "late majority". For example, I own a laptop with a 17" monitor, and would pretty much wither up and die without it, but I do not own a VCR, DVD player, nor do I have digital cable. But that doesn't mean I don't want those things...I think it's a money issue. I'd rather spend moola on groceries and/or paying the bills and/or debt I have stacked up; if I really, really want to watch something on DVD, I have friends I can beg.

So when it comes to cool new technology, I go for the free things. In this case, the Mozilla products. I used the first few versions of the Mozilla Web browser, way back in '98 and '99, and loved them quite a bit. But then I switched back to Netscape when the late version 6 and first version 7 came out, and I use that whenever I can, which is most of the time (unless some dummy has created a Web-based tool that I have to use for something work-related, and it only works in IE because they use non-standard client-side scripting....not that it's a peeve or anything....).

On a whim (that, and someone I know uses it), I decided to try Firefox. It installed fine, launched fine, worked fine...but what it was missing was the extra edge that would make me uninstall Netscape 7.1, and I didn't find it. Pages were rendered the same, and as quickly. The memory usage on my machine was the same, and sometimes was larger for Firefox (strange, I thought, but whatever). Everything that I do in NS 7.1, I could do in Firefox, with no discernible difference in the speed or execution of the tasks I perform on a daily basis. So, I uninstalled it.

Then I felt bad, because I want to support the Mozilla folks, so I installed Thunderbird (email and news client). I have been perfectly happy with my email client, The Bat, for the last three years or so that I've used it, but I retired The Bat and am now using Thunderbird. The feature set is virtually identical, and in some cases even the menus and helper text are identical, but the footprint for Thunderbird is slightly less, and the Mozilla folks are local, so they get my support. That has to be one of the silliest reasons for switching email clients, but when the pro list and the con list is identical, things like that become the tiebreakers.

Friday, June 11, 2004
best line...
in a rant about how much people suck: "it's not like you got pregnant by accident and had a puppy or kitten". Read the entire blog entry for context. :)

Thursday, June 10, 2004
[ʧisisitik]
If the IPA characters aren't visible to you in the title of this post, assume that what you see in the brackets is a phonetic representation of a phrase that's pretty darn similar to how English-speaking folk would pronounce "cheese steak". When I see a blog post called "Chinese Philadelphia Food", I just have to read it. I'm from Pennsylvania, and we're a strange but slightly creative lot. This slightly-off sense of creativity extends to a particular Chinese food establishment called Evergreen (4726 Spruce Street, Philly). According to the blog entry, at Evergreen you can find something on the menu called 芝士士的. In Cantonese, according to the blog "The first character means 'grass, lawn'. The second and third mean 'scholar, gentleman'. And the fourth means 'clear' or 'a little'."

Obviously, the restaurant was not offering small, grassy-flavored gentlemen for lunch, but what they were offering, when the characters were pronounced phonetically, was [ʧisisitik]....cheese steak, a Philly tradition. Head over to the blog if you are so inclined, to read more about how this fella (a linguist) happened to figure out what was up with their menu...and even for a picture of 芝士士的巻, or "cheese steak roll". Heck, I might have to go to Philly the next time I visit my family, for this $1.20 delicacy.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004
i did not fail my phonetics class...
although I did get a Very Poor Grade on my final, to match my Very Poor Grade on my midterm. My saving grace, as expected, was my paper on Yapese Phonetics...an A, thankfully. Thus, by attending almost every class and turning in all of my assignments, I managed a B- in the class. If only I had a test-taking talent (which I do not)....

In other news, while I tried to fail my QBA class, I did not. I got a B. I half-heartedly was trying to tank it, so I could get a crappy grade and thus re-take it with a sane professor. But I'll take the B, and move on.

Other grades were acceptable...I'm not like Kate, who gets all As. :)

Tuesday, June 08, 2004
turnitin.com results
I am 100% original! Oh, so very good to know.

i am a census geek
I love the census. I spend hours reading census images. There's a point to it, as I do family history research for my own family and the families of select friends (those who ask, or those who have much more interesting families than mine!). From 1790 to 1930, in the US and the UK, I can find information about anyone. I find it utterly fascinating to know that in 1850, one of my great-great-great grandfathers owned $50 worth of real estate and $100 worth of personal possessions. Or, in 1920, the majority of men and women in my hometown were employed at the textile mills or the steelworks. My friends have much more interesting families, such as the one whose family didn't appear in the 1880 census because the husband was off in China (with his family in tow), being the ambassador to that country, from the United States. Another friend, her family managed to elude the census, purposefully, for several decades.

While I could go on and on with stories from the census, such as what specifically was tracked during each census year, in each country, this blog entry was prompted by a blog entry that mentioned where Dante Gabriel Rossetti lived -- number 16 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea -- "for roughly ten years after his wife's death in 1862." Being the curious person that I am, I headed over to the 1871 UK Census and in about 5 minutes had the census page for said Mr. Rossetti. It seems a wee bit understated that his occupation is simply listed as "artist". Uh yeah, you think?

plagiarism, redux
A long time ago, last month in fact, I was discussing plagiarism and spoke of turnitin.com. Well, today I had a chance to use it, for the first time, as part of a class I am taking. Summer Session #1 started yesterday, so for the next 4 weeks I will be taking Biology 101: Origins of Life. Why on earth is someone with an English BA, getting a BS in Business Administration (Management), taking Bio 101, you may ask? Advanced General Education requirement, of course. It fits the Area R, "Earth & Environment", requirement. I'm actually excited about it, as I the last science class I took was 14 years ago (wow), and this one in particular is geared toward non-science majors (yay). As such, there is plenty of writing, and all of our little essays have to be uploaded and checked through turnitin.com. Since this is the first instance I've seen this system applied in the classroom, personally, I figured it was specific to this instructor. Apparently not -- according to her explanation, the college of science at my school has the worst cheaters in the university, "even worse than engineering", she said. Given what I've seen in the Business school, and the fact that the b-school doesn't require usage of turnitin.com, the science and engineering schools but really have a lot of cheaters.

So, I wrote my 500 word essay. As an aside, I don't think it really qualifies as an essay. I mean really, three paragraphs? That's less than a blog entry. :) I uploaded it to turnitin.com (it was a very straightforward process so points for them) and I have to say, I'm actually anxious about it. Of course, I have absolutely no reason in the world to be anxious, as I know that I sat at my laptop for twenty minutes and busted it out all on my own, but what if I'm a terribly unoriginal writer? What if my phrasing is so unoriginal that it matches that of other people? Obviously, this is a completely irrational fear, but until I see my little content-matching (or not) report in a few days, it'll still weigh on my mind. Not terribly heavily, but there nonetheless.

some people and their comments...
I have a friend who is an outstanding writer. He needs to write a book about....anything. Sometimes you will see comments from him, attached to posts in my blog. In fact, I upgraded my HaloScan account just to eliminate the 1500-character limit for comments...only for him to run into a 3000-character limit. :) He's new to this blogging thing, he has his own blog (not updated nearly enough...ahem, ahem), but I haven't introduced him to the wonderful world of trackback yet. So, if you happen to stumble across a post of mine, with a long comment from a guy named Lewis (like this one), read it...the comment, that is. His comment will offer more to the world than any poop that I happen to write!

This fella also writes articles for his company. None of his articles have anything to do with any of my interests at all, as they deal with religion/spirituality, songwriting, being a performer, the process of creating art, and so forth. But, I post his articles for him as part of my job, and as such I am obligated to read them just to make sure everything is where it should be. Invariably, I end up getting teary over something, and/or I learn something new, but most important of all it shows me that there's at least one very religious fella out there that isn't a closed-minded buffoon (in fact, he's quite the opposite).

Sunday, June 06, 2004
the new harry potter movie
Trekked out with the pals to see the film on Friday night, and I gotta say..."eh". As in "it was ok". Maybe all my senses were dulled after standing in line for 3 hours, but I only got teary once during the whole 2 hours and 19 minutes. Or maybe the it was that the last movie I saw was Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, and now all movies will pale in comparison. I doubt that, though. I think this was just an average movie. I go to the movies so infrequently that I kinda wish I had seen Shrek instead. If I never make it out to see Shrek, I'll definitely feel that way. Oh well.

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