Megnut

Archive for August 2003

A new plan

After brief discussion, it has been determined that the adjective "foxy" is not used enough. It will be added into the adjective rotation and henceforth, work discussions will take advantage of its saucy, crafty, and animalistic meanings. E.g.

"Mark, that's a foxy class you've written!"

"Did you see the gigabit switch?"
"Ooh yeah! Foxy!"

"...and through inheritance, foxy inheritance..."

Safe from ax murderers - thanks gov!

There's a good article in Wired News today, Data Dump Required Before Flights, about the revised CAPPS II program. Basically the plan is the get more personal information (address, phone, date of birth) from passengers and match it to various databases, including credit reporting services, to ensure a person is who she says she is. Now I'm not particularly comfortable with that idea to begin with, and then when I read this quote -- from an anonymous Transportation Security Administration official -- I was even more annoyed.

"The new provisions are narrowly focused to violent fugitives," said the official. "It's there to protect passengers from sitting next to an ax murderer."

What kind of bogus scare tactic is that? An ax murderer on an airplane? First of all, he wouldn't even have the ax, you can't bring an ax through security! Second, I don't recall hearing about a single ax murder onboard a commercial flight, ever. Those things always happen at girls' camps in the woods, or at remote snow-bound mountain cabins. What we really should fear are nail-clipper murderers, because I hear they're letting you take those things in your carry-on again.

A favor?

For reasons I can't really explain, I really would like to listen to Jenny from the Block. If you happen to have a copy of this song that you'd be willing to lend me for evaluatuion purposes, I'd appreciate it. You can email me. Don't be fooled by the rocks that I got... Done. Thanks.

Monday

In which this week gets off to the most craptacular start because the used-to-think-it-was-OK-but-now-think-it's-HORRID project management software I've been using deleted my entire project plan. Yes. The whole thing. All 117 items scheduled between now and the end of the month, wonderfully assigned, beautifully estimated, and all in some stage of % complete. If it weren't for this two-week old print-out on my desk, all would be beyond lost. All still feels lost. I can't face the prospect of re-entering hours of work. And who, I ask you, develops a use case in which the user says, "Yes, I know my trial is running out, please delete all my data."? And worse, a use case in which the user never even has to confirm her intention to delete her entire project database, and somehow is able to do this magic delete without ever seeing any dialog asking if she wants to delete the stupid database in the first place!

Iron Blimp

Mark and I are making progress with our Led Zeppelin cover band, Iron Blimp. We practiced Dazed and Confused earlier today and decided that we're going with an all-acoustic approach (Iron Blimp unplugged) and that I'll simulate bass and drums with my as-yet-under-developed human beat box techniques. My HBBTs will also be used to replicate those crazy theremin sounds, and I'm going to grow my hair out, and work on strengthening my scream. Also we'll need to get our livers back in shape for the workout that our rock-n-roll lifestyle will require of them. One Jack Daniels -- attaboy big L! Two Jack Daniels -- keep it up. Three Jack Daniels, push it liver, push it!!

A wonderful overheard

Gina posted a wonderful transcript of a conversation on Friendster, break-ups, and the Cure. And in doing so exposed a nightmare I had yet to contemplate, when the "personal network turn[s] into..personal hell." Before when you broke up with someone, you had to deal with maybe bumping into each other at a party, or hearing about your ex from a friend. But now technology enables you to keep informed from afar -- whether you mean to or not -- by exposing you to weblog entries, Friendster testimonials and details, and perhaps the worst of all, real-time tab-keeping via IM (I notice s/he's not online, is s/he out on a date with someone?!)

The horror of modern relationships isn't the confusion about roles, reticence about marriage, or the lived-together-broke-up-who-originally-bought-the-Office Space DVD mystery, it's the technology enabling you to keep in contact with an ex when all you want to do is purge them from your heart.

More bluefish grillin'

While poking around online yesterday, I came across further information about Bluefish: Bulldog of the Sea from CapeCodToday.com. In addition to its numerous facts about Ol' Blue, it has a recipe for grilled bluefish with maple syrup (!) that I'm curious to try.

If you're grilling bluefish, I recommend what I did yesterday: Slice up a bunch of lemon and put those down on the grill, then rest your fillet atop the slices. Wonderful citrus flavor will perfume your fish, and the grilled lemons make an attractive garnish at serving time.

Note to CapeCodToday: "bulldog" is not a very appetizing word, no matter how aptly you think it may describe the fish.

Off to join the forefront

I got an email from Tripod today reminding me about their Blog Builder, which apparently is the coolest way to share your summer fun! But for me the best part is the post script:

P.S. "Whatever the reason for the Blog phenomenon, it's not going to go away anytime soon," says tech pundit John C. Dvorak of PC Magazine. So take your place at the forefront of Internet culture -- sign up now and see what the fuss is all about!

I have been wondering what all this Blog fuss is about for quite a while now...

Isn't it ironic?

And yes, in case you're wondering, I'm aware that I wrote there's nothing to say and then followed up in a matter of hours with two more posts. But that's always how it is with me.

The August waste land

April may be the cruellest month, but surely August is the slowest. By which I mean there's just not a lot happening to link to or write about. A waste land indeed! I'm sure September will bring with her crispiness lots of exciting things to discuss. In the meantime, I'm thankful for the languid summer days.

Summer's bounty

Meg (another blogging Meg!) over at Meg's Food and Wine Page perfectly captures my recent eating feelings:

We modern supermarket-spoiled humans can eat the same hothouse tomatoes and New Zealand apples all year round and therefore can so easily forget to appreciate the immediate wondrous bounty and the immediate wondrous freshness of this time of year. No analysis, no history of food, no fancy cooking or political context -- just the pure greedy immediate joy of eating lots and lots of fresh vegetables. Eating them with intense pleasure because they are going out of season even as they produce, because all this goodness means summer is almost over, and the days of winter squash and potatoes and salt pork are coming again.

With sadness this morning I looked at my ripening tomatoes, wondering how many I could eat tonight for dinner. For tomorrow I'm off on vacation and won't be back for 10 days. I plan many visits to Bartlett's Ocean View Farm though, so that I can continue to enjoy the best of summer's bounty.

Finally back at the helm

Well I had this nice plan of displaying a picture for each day I was out of town, but alas the blackout foiled that. And then I was off on vacation and no computer or anything. And now I'm back, trying to readjust to it all. I can barely type. But I'm very tan.

Realizations upon return from vacation

When you cook everyday, you begin to remember how easy it is, and so when you come home you go right to the market and get a lot of food for the whole week, even though it's really heavy to carry home. And when you spend your time breezily passing between houses, stopping to sit at the table outside on the deck (to enjoy a cup of coffee or an early evening glass of wine) you come home and realize how much of every day you pass indoors, trapped within walls, sheltered from the sun. And when you spend hours submerged in salt water, riding waves, and feeling the hot grit of tiny rocks and baby shells against your soles, you come home to discover your shower tastes dull, and you don't feel wet in the same way, and your feet won't go back into shoes not matter how hard you squeeze them. And when you read two-and-a-half books and barely watch TV (except for bits of baseball) and don't touch a computer or a cell phone for more than a week, you return to find that staring at a monitor for nine hours makes you feel nauseous and dizzy and tires your eyes and you wonder if maybe you'll be blind in twenty years from spending your days staring at pixels instead of moors, waves, and stars. And when you catch and grill bluefish for your grandparents' 63rd anniversary party (and also make a chocolate cake) and you look at everyone gathered -- from the youngest at four to the oldest at 87 -- you realize which things to hold close (so very very close) and which to cast away.

Moneyball by Michael Lewis

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game Before I left for Nantucket I finished reading Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis and (once again) I couldn't stop talking about the book and sharing its insights with whoever would (or even wouldn't) listen. It was especially cool because my family watches a lot of baseball, so I found I was applying principles as I watched Little League World Series games and even the Sox vs. the A's themselves! Anyway, this was a great book and I really recommend it, even if you're not that interested in baseball. Ev summarizes it well when he writes, "Excellent book about winning by questioning the things everyone knows are true -- and caring about results more than perceptions." Maybe I'll post some choice quotes later, because my copy is at home.

Con Ed won't reimburse

You might have heard that you can get reimbursed for food you lost during the blackout, but apparently it's a rumor. According to the New York Daily News, Rotten food? Rotten luck, sez Con Ed:

The utility's policy is to cover claims up to $350 per household when the electricity is zapped.

It even has a form on its Web site that customers can use to claim food losses, and consumers have been E-mailing them around.

But Con Ed said yesterday that the policy doesn't apply to last week's outage, which left millions of its customers in the dark for 12 to 29 hours.

Drat! When I heard, I got my hopes up. It figures I'd recently filled my freezer with all sorts of things only days before the outage.

No extends!

I usually keep quiet during the myriad technology debates that flood certain web circles, preferring to just do my coding and building of things. So when I do dig into some technology or other -- often way after all the geeks have argued and hashed to death some obscure techie implementation tidbit -- I'm shocked to discover just how messed up it is. This week's struggle lies with OPML. I like to think OPML stands for Other People's Markup Language, and I try to be down with that, but in reality it stands for Outline Processor Markup Language and it's a format many weblog-related tools (such as blogrolling.com and various RSS news readers) have implemented to make it easy for you to import and export a list of your favorite weblogs. Sounds like a pretty good idea, if only it were actually standard.

Unfortunately OPML has a DTD that says you can extend OPML anyway you want (which is crazy talk to me, a DTD you can change? What's the point?), meaning you can add more elements, or more attributes to your elements. So when someone (me) tries to implement something with various OPML outputs, you (again me) realize that one tool outputs an attribute "url" while another outputs "htmlUrl" and a third "htmlurl" -- all to signify the same thing! Sure, some RegEx can clean this up, but weren't we trying to avoid all that with XML in the first place? Argh! I just want to be able to develop something and have a strong contact defined. Is that too much to ask? No "extends XYZ," no "I changed this" just "this is how you express X" and that's it. Maybe if the format you're using requires you to change it to represent your data, you're not using the right format in the first place.

Which makes me realize that I think some of the problems we've had in the weblog community around formats like RSS and OPML might stem from the fact that we use them in manners for which they weren't designed. But that seems like a topic for another day's rant.

Matt Hamer writes in with more coherent thoughts on this issue:

The DTD (at least this one: http://static.userland.com/gems/radiodiscuss/opmlDtd.txt) *with no modifications* does not allow you to add extra attributes. A document with undefined attributes would not validate against this DTD. I don't want to spend time reading the full spec right now, but based on the comment in the DTD, I assume the spec prose says that you can add any attribute that you want to. The DTD makes it easy to add your own attributes to the outline element, but you must define them by adding them to the OtherAttributes ENTITY. If you do this, you are really working with a different DTD.

The real problem is not with the DTD, or really even with the spec that says, "add your own attributes." The problem seems to be that people are adding information that you (and other people) find useful in *non standard* ways. If 'url' or 'htmlURL' or whatever is valuable information, a standard attribute should be added to the DTD.