February 2005 Archives

Jef Raskin, creator of the Macintosh and human interface designer extraordinaire, has passed on.

Update: From the ‘Jef Raskin’ Wikipedia entry:

Jef Raskin died of cancer on 2005-02-26. As a tribute to him, someone anonymously put this comment in a web forum: “[Undo]! [Undo]!”

26 Feb 2005

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Busy Saturday: first birthday party for the child of a friend, home for a brief nap, a run down to Chevy Chase for beer (the cellar was getting pretty empty), followed by dinner and hanging out with S. and L. Fun all the way around.

25 Feb 2005

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Local schools still closed — due to “possible ice-covered sidewalks”, according to the news reports. Utterly mind-boggling. Typical Friday work day: got a few things done, struggled with a few others. Out for Thai with the family in the evening, then home.

Florida high school principal bars yearbook photo of female student wearing tux. (In the story, it’s prominently noted that the student is a lesbian; I’m unclear on whether a straight female student wearing a tux would result in the same ban.) The story offers up this perfect summary of how our high schools are preparing students for ‘real life’:

Officials at the northeastern Florida school have said the picture was pulled from the yearbook because Davis did not follow the rules on dress. School board attorney Bruce Bickner said there is no written dress code for senior pictures, but principals have the authority to set standards.

In other words, “There are rules, we won’t tell you what they are, and enforcement will be swift, decisive, and arbitrary.” Another chilling quote:

Others applauded [the decision to pull the photo], including Karen Gordon, who said, “When uniformity is compromised, then authority no longer holds.”

(This “I can’t believe they said that” moment via grrtigger’s LiveJournal.)

I’m sure most people saw the news last week about the man charged with plotting to kill President Bush. I wonder how many people realized that the accused is also the subject of an unlawful detention lawsuit, in which the Justice Department is trying to not only present secret evidence, but also wants to argue its side of the case in secret:

ATTORNEYS FOR the Justice Department appeared before a federal judge in Washington this month and asked him to dismiss a lawsuit over the detention of a U.S. citizen, basing their request not merely on secret evidence but also on secret legal arguments. The government contends that the legal theory by which it would defend its behavior should be immune from debate in court. This position is alien to the history and premise of Anglo-American jurisprudence, which assumes that opposing lawyers will challenge one another’s arguments.

The timing is interesting, too: the Post story appeared last Monday, and the news about the assassination plot was released Tuesday.

Attention commuters on I-270 in the Washington DC Metro region: remove ALL the snow from your vehicle BEFORE you get in it and start driving down the road. Turning on the rear defrost and immediately starting out on your commute is not an acceptable substitute. Neither is scraping out a one foot wide square of windshield while leaving the rest of the vehicle with a two inch coating of ice and snow.

(All examples drawn from real life. Sadly, people — real, grown-up people, driving expensive vehicles — apparently need to have this spelled out to this level of detail. Fucktards. Watch this space for the next item in this series, provisionally entitled “It takes longer to stop when there’s a quarter-inch of slush on the roads, you jackasses, so slow down and increase your following distance”.)

24 Feb 2005

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The local schools all closed (on the basis of a forecast calling for 5 to 7 inches of snow, which ended up being maybe three inches, at least around our house), which meant TheChild’s day care closed too. Since TheWife had an appointment at the doctor, and since the doctor’s office had canceled that appointment three times already, I ended up staying home in the morning. Since TheWife brought back lunch when she returned from her outing, it wasn’t until a little after 1pm that I headed into work, and almost 2pm when I got there — slow and steady wins the race in the snow, kids. I think I walked through the door at about the instant that the “two hour early dismissal” memo landed in everybody’s inbox. sigh Still put in a half day, and managed to get a thing or two done. Home around 7pm for a sedate evening.

23 Feb 2005

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Ho-hum Wednesday. Finished with the mail and ticket catchup in the morning, then the usual afternoon meeting, then a rush home so TheWife could get to her class. Luckily, this week finishes that class out; it was getting to be problematic to make it home in time (and I think it was stressing her schedule too, a bit). Busy fun evening with TheChild: reading, playing, dancing…

22 Feb 2005

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The first day back after a three-day weekend is always a bit of a mess; it always feels like two days crammed into one. Aside from that background frustration level, and the continuing saga of getting some new hardware for the issues that came up over the weekend, it was a fairly normal, albeit long, day.

21 Feb 2005

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This was nominally a day off — Presidents’ Day — but I ended up at work anyway, rebooting the same probably-failing hardware that I’d gone for yesterday. Did a bit more analysis of the situation (because it’s odd that one machine by itself can’t handle the load that we see when both machines are up), which generated some ranty mail.

Back home in the afternoon, for general day off lazing around and catching up.

20 Feb 2005

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Slept in again, which was clearly tempting fate. Once I got up and around, found out that a production service had been offline at work for about twelve hours. Showered up quickly and went in to reboot things. The situation smells of incipent hardware failure — there’s no reason the machine should just be locking up, hard, and we’ve seen other Dell boxen do this before giving up the ghost entirely — but it’s going to be a PITA to straighten out, because there’s only two boxes providing this service, and one of them by itself can’t handle the hit rate. So first we’ve got to build a third machine for the service, so that we can have the potentially failing machine out of service long enough to run diagnostic software on it. yay

Book group meeting in the afternoon — the first I’d been able to make it to in a while. Had some nice discussion, although it seemed like nobody else had liked the book as much as I had. Back home around 8pm, in time to kiss TheChild on her way to bed and then watch a spot of TV with TheWife.

19 Feb 2005

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Rather enjoyable Saturday: slept in a bit, then ran down to Bethesda for lunch, then continued on down to the Cleveland Park area. Met up with a net.friend from the 43 Folders mailing list, for general chat, and to buy a Newton 130 from him. Had a really nice chat, and got a new addition to my “strange PDA” collection. (Hey, I’ve got two now — the “new” Newton and the Zaurus, so it’s a collection now.)

18 Feb 2005

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Had a lot of trouble working today; I think the heavy work day yesterday burned me out just a bit. Eventually struggled through the day.

After work, met up with TheWife and TheChild for dinner in Bethesda. Afterwards, we checked out the new Apple store. It’s the “Mac mini” of Apple stores — basically a wide hallway with a few computers on narrow shelves on the side walls. Handy if you have a quick in-and-out purchase, but I think for extended browsing we’ll still journey to the mall for the “G5 tower” experience.

17 Feb 2005

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Here lately, Thursdays have been catchup days — with Tuesday and Wednesday both being short days because of various classes, Thursday usually ends up being a workfest to make up the difference. Did get a lot of stuff accomplished, so I guess it was worth it.

16 Feb 2005

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A short Wednesday. Spent the morning catching up on mail and pushing various projects one or two steps further along. Usual weekly meeting nonsense in the afternoon, then dashed home early so TheWife could make it to her class. Enjoyable evening hanging out with TheChild.

TheChild’s day care is on the same schedule as the local school district — that is, if school is out for weather, the day care is closed too. Around 4am this morning (judging from the timestamp on the email), the NWS was calling for 5 to 7 inches of snow today, so the local school district decided to shut down for the day. It’s interesting to note that at that point, no snow had actually fallen; that is, school was closed on the basis of a forecast. This is a not infrequent occurrence in these parts, which nevertheless manages to deeply shock my inner Midwesterner each and every time it happens.

Since TheWife has an appointment at the doctor, I’m taking at least a half-day off to hang at home with TheChild. If it actually starts to snow, that could very well turn into a whole day, but at this point, that seems unlikely: the forecast has already been downgraded to 3 to 5 inches, and there is yet to be any accumulation on any of the paved surfaces around our house. (My car has a wicked coating of snow, however; it may take several minutes to get the Saturn Of Doom in a road-worthy state.)

Anyway, I’m hoping to use the time to catch up on diary entries here and maybe clean out the link bag just a wee bit. We’ll see how much I get accomplished and how much I get distracted playing with TheChild…

Required reading: JWZ pours a cup of cold coffee all over Novell’s Hula.

“Groupware” is all about things like “workflow”, which means, “the chairman of the committee has emailed me this checklist, and I’m done with item 3, so I want to check off item 3, so this document must be sent back to my supervisor to approve the fact that item 3 is changing from `unchecked’ to `checked’, and once he does that, it can be directed back to committee for review.” Nobody cares about that shit. Nobody you’d want to talk to, anyway.

but wait, there’s more:

Anyway, I babbled at Nat along these lines for a while, predicting that, while I was sure that anyone he talked to in a corporation would tell him, “free groupware, yes, awesome!”, there was really no reason to even bother releasing something like that as open source, because there was going to be absolutely no buy-in from the “itch-scratching” crowd. With a product like that, there was going to be no teenager in his basement hacking on it just because it was cool, or because it doing so made his life easier. Maybe IBM would throw some bucks at a developer or two to help out with it, because it might be cheaper to pay someone to write software than to just buy it off the shelf. But with a groupware product, nobody would ever work on it unless they were getting paid to, because it’s just fundamentally not interesting to individuals. So I said, narrow the focus. Your “use case” should be, there’s a 22 year old college student living in the dorms. How will this software get him laid? That got me a look like I had just sprouted a third head, but bear with me, because I think that it’s not only crude but insightful. “How will this software get my users laid” should be on the minds of anyone writing social software (and these days, almost all software is social software). “Social software” is about making it easy for people to do other things that make them happy: meeting, communicating, and hooking up.

Just go read the whole thing.

15 Feb 2005

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Funky Tuesday. Bailed out of work early on account of teaching. Lecture went okay; as always, I prefer this second lecture to the first one I give. Home afterwards; wound the Buffy saga one show closer to the end — we finished off the penultimate disk in the set; only three episodes left.

Bed early. A bit worn out, especially considering how much sleep I’ve been getting lately. Hopefully this is long-lingering effects from the last bout of crud, and not the early warning signs of another bout of crud.

Old skool blogger Jorn “Robot Wisdom” Barger spotted via byline on La Reg article.

14 Feb 2005

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A very laid-back V Day. Small card/gift exchange in the morning, but I ended up putting in an 11 hour day, so no dinner or anything special like that. Like other folks, we’d rather not deal with the price-gouging and the crowds for something that’s essentially a manufactured holiday.

13 feb 2005

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Up relatively early, for a Sunday. Mostly a hanging out and catching up sort of day, with more success in the former than the latter.

12 Feb 2005

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Slept in, until almost 11am. (Thanks, TheWife!) Out for lunch, then TheChild and I came back home for a nap, while TheWife went to get her hair cut. Out for dinner in the evening, then back home for a quiet evening.

11 Feb 2005

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Not a terribly exciting Friday. Did some work. Did my weekly review stuff at work. Went out to dinner.

10 Feb 2005

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The nice thing about a 13 hour work day: getting lots of work stuff taken care of, and making up on hours you missed by being sick.

The bad thing about a 13 hour work day: makes for not terribly interesting diary entries.

When I finally got home, around 11pm, I found that my last Christmas present had arrived: a Utilikilt. (A Mocker, to be precise.) There was opening and trying on and various other stuff like that. Consensus is that it looks pretty good. It’s very comfortable, and I’m sure I’ll get used to the “drafty” feeling with time. Pictures this weekend, I imagine.

From the Harper’s Index for January 2005:

  • Number of House members in 1979 who voted against making Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday : 133
  • Number who are still in the House : 9
  • Number who are Vice President : 1

09 Feb 2005

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One of those “where does the time go” sort of work days, exacerbated by leaving a bit early so TheWife could make it to a class. Had fun hanging with TheChild, who is a babbling chatterbox these days. Head still feels cartoonishly extended in the sinus area.

Two meeting day, which means not much real work got accomplished. At least the meetings were reasonably productive.

Home slightly early, then back out to teach. Well, not exactly “teach”; I proctored a worksheet/in-class exam sort of thing. Was not terribly exciting. Then a late take-home meal plus a spot of TV, followed up with bed.

In the “too much information about the continuing fallout from the viral thing I had last week” department.: I have to blow my nose approximately every 27 minutes. And when I do blow it, my face squeaks. At one point this evening, I could feel tiny bubbles percolating up through the gunk that fills my left sinus cavity, and sense them popping at the top. I have squeaky fizzy snot.

Monday seems to be turning into the “work late” day. That’s sort of good, I guess; it’s easier to take that initial “back to work” energy and run with it.

Aside from the large amounts of work, not much else happened. Arrived home around 8:30pm, just in time to see TheChild briefly before she headed off to bod. Worked on the homework for tomorrow’s class, then bed.

The excitement of my life just leaps off the page, eh?

And you’re going to see it linked everydamnwhere, I’m sure: maps.google.com.

This crap makes me want to go to Chicago and take loads of pictures of the ugly thing. Actually, I will be in the Chicago area at some point this summer, if all goes according to plan. If I think of it, I’ll try to get down there, take some pictures, and Flickr-tag them appropriately.

Completely typical Sunday: picked up bagels and coffee in the morning, read the paper while consuming same, and then dinked around with computers all day in lieu of doing anything useful. Should have done my “home” Weekly Review; didn’t. Applied the “I’ll go to bed early then get up early and do it before work” dodge. We’ll see how well that works.

An uncommonly boring Saturday. Needed to make up some hours (on account of being sick for a week) and had a lot of pending stuff to do (on account of being sick for a week), so I went in to work. Ended up being a fairly normal work day — normal, that is, except that I got quite a bit done, since there was nobody else there to be distracting.

Unremarkable evening, except that I picked up the script I use to pull images off my digital cameras. After shaking the dust off and tweaking it here and there, it now automatically uploads everything to my shiny new Flickr Pro account. Go me.

An uncommonly quiet Friday. Not that I’m complaining; I ended up getting a lot of work done. It was just… uncommonly quiet. Didn’t manage to do my weekly review (bad me), but I need to go in tomorrow to make up some hours anyway, so I’ll just do it then.

Out for dinner after work with TheWife and TheChild, then home. Spot of TV, then a lot of comics reading. I missed visitng the shop last week on account of being sick, and consequently had quite a stack of stuff waiting for me. After I ran out of comics to read, I just headed to bed.

A slightly more productive but not that much more entertaining sort of day. Worked away at various little sub-projects — the biggest one, and the biggest pain, being generating a single directory tree with a mirror of all our web content. Doubleplus unfun. Also went to a meeting or two.

Had a literal pain in my neck all day. Was very relieved to finally be able to hit the couch after dinner, and get reaquainted with my friend the heating pad. Pretty quiet evening; spot of TV, bit of reading, then bed.

Not the most productive day. Mail catchup and one or two silly things in the morning, then had a fairly boring systems/developer meeting in the afternoon. Headed for home around 4pm.

TheWife and TheChild had come home in the afternoon. Said my hellos to TheWife (TheChild was sacked out), then took a little nap. At some point in there, TheWife headed out to a class. Eventually I got up, and woke up TheChild, and ordered up some dinner. We played, then we ate, then we played some more. TheWife arrived back home, and started putting TheChild to bed. Not too long after, we both followed her. Tired; think I’m still trying to fully fight off the crud.

Up at 7am. Didn’t work out, but otherwise had a fairly normal morning. Headed into work around 9am; arrived just after 9:30am.

Work was about as you’d expect after being out for almost a week. Got caught up on mail, tried to get caught up on gossip and politics and stuff that doesn’t make it into mail. Had the regular team meeting, which seemed to go… regularly. Really didn’t accomplish much else. Ducked out a bit early because I was teaching later in the evening.

Back home around 4:30pm. Fed the cats, reviewed my slides, and generally tried to relax a little bit. Headed to class around 5:30pm. Teaching seemed to go mostly okay. Wound down around 9pm. Headed for home, picking up some crap takeout on the way. Ate, watched a bit of TV, talked to TheWife (coming home tomorrow, yay). Crawled into bed around 10:30pm, but read for a while. Lights out around 11:30pm.

Up at 7:30am. Almost all the way recovered, but decided to take it easy and stay home one more day. Spent the time catching up on personal mail, doing some webloging, working on a lecture I’m giving tomorrow night, and the biggest task of all: catching up on all the work mail I’d been ignoring for almost a week. Ugh.