Lou's Random Thoughts

Many people keep a journal on the Web, and I've decided I am going to as well. I often think thoughts, and wonder if other people care at all.

I've decided it's not so much a journal as a set of deep thoughts and ramblings. It's not being updated very often, but occasionally I do get out the editor and babble at it.

If you think they're interesting, please drop me some mail.

The format is simple; it's a single file, and I'll add stuff at the head.

Journal Entries

17 November 2002, 9:11 a

It's Sunday morning, and I just woke up. Autumn or maybe even winter is finall upon us, and I put an extra blanket on the bed, and was really warm for the first time in a couple of days. That was good.

Less good, I woke up from a nightmare. It's a very odd one I keep having, and I don't know what to make of it, or if anything can be made of it. Unlike so many of my dreams, this one seems to be set in the here and now. I'm me, driving the car I drive, and apparently in the time I'm in, not in high school or somewhere else.

I also always know it's a dream. Usually the thought is, "Oh, no, not again." But I usually let it go for a while, to see what happens, before things become unpleasant and I wake up.

Today's dream starts off with me standing in front of my car; the red VW Passat wagon. I'm looking at a street sign, "Gravelly Road" to try and see what the cross-street is. It isn't labelled. I've stopped in front of a railroad crossing. There's no train or anything, it's just there.

As I look around, I see that I'm on a narrow blacktop road, which runs one direction, through golden hills. The intersection I'm at is of this maybe-two-lane asphalt road and a one-lane gravel road. The gravel is new and thick three quarter inch crushed rock, utterly normal. It's not been ground down too hard yet, but is still a little loose at the edges. It's very bright, but not too hot.

Besides the railroad crossing, the intersection, and the missing street sign, there doesn't seem to be anything else. It's bright, warm, and quiet.

Then, I hear something honking from behind a little stand of trees. When I look over, it's a clown honking a horn and singing something silly. It seems I've walked a little farther from the car than I thought, and I start to walk back, a little nervous of this laughing-yet-scary clown.

This is indeed a scary clown.

By the time I get back to my car, the clown is there already, peering greedily in to the windows and standing next to the driver's door. I say, "Excuse me." and he looks at me and smiles this big smile, and starts to try and be entertaining. He has a violin bow that he does some strange tricks with, all of which are stupid, and some of which are crude. He honks a horn, and tries to bully me away from the car.

The clown himself is unpleasant. He's late forties, overweight, with sweaty, oily skin. He's balding and attempted a bad comb over, under his bright yellow pointed hat. He sort of demands that I be entertained, and I usually am not much so.

It's here in the dream where it diverges a little. Today's had another sort of clown - really just an unsavory looking guy with raggedy dirty blondish hair come up to the back passenger door, and tug at the handle. I hadn't unlocked the car yet, so it didn't open. He picked up a huge rock and prepared to swing it at the back window, and I said, "Hey! Stop that!" and he backed away a little.

It's then I tried to open the car, and it's usually there that things go badly. Today's dream had me push the "unlock" button on the keyring, and trying to get in to the car. The two clowns try and stop me, the first one by pulling at me and the second by getting in through the back door and pushing me back out.

The first clown complains, "You don't think we're funny!" and hits me. The second wields his big rock, and hits me on the back of the head and I go down, the dream ending and myself waking up even more sharply than usual, with the sound knowledge that I've been beaten up, stripped naked, and left there by these two hostile clowns, who don't care if I live or die.

What a wonderful dream, huh?

Sometimes the middle, where I try and get away is a little different - I run right to the car and try and get in, but a mob of clowns pulls me away and beats me up. Sometimes I open the door, and they all climb in, taking things, an pulling at me, and tearing the car up. Occasionally, I even get the car started and am driving away with several of them trying to stop me, which causes me to drive off the road and in to the ditch before they knock me out.

The ending is always the same, though.

I don't know if this means anything. I'm not a big believer in dreams holding too much meaning. There's a couple of dreams that I have that I know do have meaning, as they're directly influenced by the outside world. They mean things like, "You're cold!" or "You've got to go to the bathroom!" or "Your alarm is going off!" Past that I'm not willing to put too much faith in it.

Anyway, there it was. Stupid, annoying, repeating dream. Bleh.

12 October 2002, 9:05 p

It's been a while since I've written anything. I keep thinking of things to write at work, and then not doing it because I'm at work and shouldn't be writing journal entries on company time, at least not entries of any significance, which is what I seem to prefer to write.

Work has been quite busy, and I've picked up some important tasks. I'm baby sitting the office's SMTP servers, and am responsible for all the email that goes through the office, in and out. Eek! Soon, it will be fixed. I was handed a disaster of a configuration, made by someone who wasn't interested in doing it well, and I've had to clean up after them. Soon, it will be fixed.

The conclusion I've been forced to reach is that I don't suck. This is not a conclusion I reach easily.

One thing that we've spent a chunk of time doing lately is watching a show called "Cowboy Bebop". It's japanese animation, and there are twenty-four half hour episodes or so. We just watch the last eight today, two DVDs worth. We borrowed the discs from a friend who has found work, and now has to move, so we had to get them back to him, and thus watched the last chunk all at once.

It was a pretty big chunk, too.

The show has many good things to reccomend it. The art and animation is beautiful. The visual composition and layouts are very well done, and the designers have a beautiful sense of style. The world and technology are futuristic without being unbelieveable, and are neither too powerful or too weak. A couple of the episodes were very well done indeed, with a story and good strong characters. It was a show for adults, and not even American sensibilities, which I also appreciated.

All in all, though, I was dissapointed by the show. The problems were with the plot and the characters.

I'm going to talk about the story arc as a whole, so if you don't want a spoiler, skip ahead till the next entry and don't read this.

The story was about a guy called Spike. He had a partner, Jet and they picked up a girl called Faye. They also had a strange girl-child called Ed, and a very smart dog called Ein.

Jet had been a policeman on (I think) Mars, until he'd been turnd on by a friend, and fled. He'd had a wife who'd left him, because she wanted to make her own way. Faye was fleeing creditors, and doing anything she could to make a fast buck. Because of a strange accident, she'd lost her memory and spent 50-odd years in cold sleep. Ed was out of her mind, an always-hungry super-hacking kid. Very strange. Ein was an intelligence-enhanced dog who was often smarter than you'd expect. Spike had been a member of a crime syndicate who had decided enough was enough and dropped out. Naturally, they didn't much want to see him just walk off, because of his knowledge of their plans.

The problems were not in the possibilites with the characters. They all had interesting pasts, which we could have learned more about and more could have been done with.

The problems were also not with the universe. It was rich and interesting. The jumpgates and the police and syndicates and different colonies and planets and Earth being devastated were all neat, and I'd have been happy to have learned more about it. Only barely enough was listed to keep you up with what was going on.

(As a side note, one of the DVD extras was an interview with the director who was told, "Anything with spaceships in it." and that's what he did. Another interview explained the jumpgates. You see, the space between frames on the film is 1/240th of the space of a frame, or something like that, so the jumpgates are a world where things to 240 times faster. They're "jumping between the frames" to where they need to be. As Bob says, "They really do move at the speed of plot." A great reason for a nicely done handwave.)

The characters flew about on Jet's ship, the Bebop. They're working as bounty hunters, or 'cowboys', hence the show's name, "Cowboy Bebop". As bounty hunters, they're on the hairy edge of the underworld, and moving around the solar system (through a really cool series of jumpgates) to try and find bounties to make money to keep food on the table. This is a consistent problem.

There was plenty of opportunities for interesting plots and things to happen. The Syndicate aspect wasn't a bad thing, nor were all the variety of places they wound up going. Mars was an important place, as Earth was a mess due to a jumpgate accident, with meteors from the damaged moon constantly falling and destroying the surface.

The show was pretty much about Spike, and his problems with the crime family. That, in itself is not bad. The problem came from him being a thoughtless jerk who wouldn't listen to his own advice, and wound up hurting the only few people who cared about him.

Spike has an enemy called Vicious. Vicious is a cold, heartless bastard, and deserves worse than he gets. Vicious takes over the syndicate, and rather than let Spike live and show that he can be stood up (Spike defeated him early on in the series) he hunts down and kills pretty much anyone Spike ever cared about.

Jet and Faye aren't killed. Jet's ship, the Bebop, is seriously damaged and grounded on Mars, with him fitfully trying to fix it. Faye realizes she has nowhere else to be except with Jet and Spike, and they're all the family and connection she has left in the world, and comes back after having run off to try and recover her memories of herself. When she returns, Spike is just setting off to go confront Vicious in an almost certainly final battle.

Rather than cutting his losses and going away with the people who care about him and would help him, he snubs them and goes off to bravely get himself killed.

Spike was, pretty much, a hotheaded, selfish, thoughtless jerk. And the series is about him. I think that was the real problem; the show was about a jerk. He could have learned and gotten over it, even without changing the 'tragic hero' ending, but he didn't. Instead he hurt the people who had stood by him, and went off on his own.

Yet another story about an asshole loner type.

Faye was something of a flighty bimbo, but she learned things through the story, and grew up, and realized what was important to her. While I didn't particularly like her, she had gotten a clue by the end. She was 23, if you don't count the fifty-odd years in cold-sleep, and had no family or memory of who she was, so the fact that she had some growing up to do wasn't a surprise. She did some, and learned things, and wasn't utterly shallow. The fact that just as she figured out who and what was important to her, that one of them figuratively slapped her in the face and showed that she was meaningless to him was hardly what she needed, and it added a bitter flavor to an already tragic ending.

Jet also got the short end of the stick. He and Spike had been going around picking up bounties, which was fine. His "partner" causes them to be attacked, and the ship near destroyed, and then leaves him there in the lurch, refusing to help or be helped. Through the series, Jet's life had been revealed some, and he'd gotten over some really unpleasant things, to go on and try and make his own way.

Ed and Ein went off wandering on Earth, by themselves. Ed, unlike most of the others, had the grace to leave a note saying good bye. Ed was... insane, shallow, and not really developed as a character. I could have done without Ed.

My favorite character was Jet. I was sorry to see him get so shafted at the end, and I hope that he got the Bebop flying again and managed to get past the mess Spike left him with. I even hoped that Faye settled down a little bit and became more of a dependable partner.

Instead, the ending focuses on the Big Fight between Spike and Vicious, where pretty much everyone in sight gets killed. It ends with Spike and Vicious dead at each other's hands, and dosen't answer what the others do. It left me feeling unsatisfied. I watched this whole arc to discover that, predictably, the asshole went off and got himself killed. The people who were interesting to me... well, I didn't get to find out, and likely never will. Bummer.

Also, the story was really thin. Four or six episodes could have told it instead of 24. There were a lot of episodes that were just strange or unrelated. One of those was, admittedly, probably my favorite episode in the series, so I can't say I wish they hadn't done them, but it contributed to the feeling of let down at the end. "I sat through all that for this" was sort of how it wound up.

Very pretty, though, and visually impressive. I'd be happy to watch something the same team and director did, but with a better story behind it. I'd probably even have been happy to have seen them one-per-week on television. Watching them in four or eight hour blocks was a little much, and I don't reccomend doing that.

The story was also definitely not an American story, which I appreciated. All of the main characters smoked. Spike, Jet, Faye, and many of the others they met lit up often. It was often used to good effect and added tension to the story. They drank and cursed. People were killed, bloodily, although usually not gratuitously. (Sometimes, though.) At one point, two men in bed are interrupted as people barge through. Not gonna see that on an American cartoon. This was definitely a program for adults, and that was a good thing.

The visuals were wonderful, too. Really well done, stylish and attractive all around.

The music was great, too. Varied through the series, and used very well in the show and as background. Whoever scored it had excellent taste and timing.

A couple of the episodes were well done. "Heavy Metal Queen" stands out in my mind as being a good one, and it had a strong woman character in it, which is a rarity. She was a truck driver, and she looked and acted plausibly like a woman truck driver (or woman longshoreman, who I've also met) and was a self-reliant, strong person who did the right things in the end.

There was also a straaange episode about a "TV preacher" sort who was sucking people in and killing them through the web, where Ein saves the day. It was kind of wierd and sad, but had some astonishing things to say about the most important invention in the world.

Anyway. I watched Cowboy Bebop. I thought things about it. I babbled. Now you know what I thought. Email me and tell me how wrong you think I am, or maybe agree. I'd be curious to hear.

27 May 2002, 11:39 a

I haven't written much in a while. Work has been busy. I'm glad to be busy again, and I'm enjoying the work I do and I like the people in my department. So far, all is goodness on that front.

I thought I'd put something up here so that the Search Engines would find it.

This is a positive review of SuSE Linux 8.0 Professional. I've been using SuSE for a while now, since 6.4. It's a nice distribution, and it's only gotten nicer. The 8.0 distribution is very good. It has a large number of packages, and will help you from picking conflicting ones.

Many people seem to like Red Hat. I don't, for several reasons:

So, I've got reasons. Some of them are political, some of them are sensible. All in all, Red Hat probably works fine.

This new SuSE installed flawlessly, detected all my hardware nicely, and even fixed the problems with using a wheel mouse through a video switch. It got my video card and monitor just right, came up in my prefered X mode, with a very nicely configured desktop.

They've added items to the KDE menu for every package they install now. It's lovely; things just appear on the K menu, like they ought to. I could be terribly spoiled.

I've had a couple of nits. They didn't get the printer we have here right, and it won't come up. I actually emailed them and asked why I couldn't get the nifty online update tool to work. It worked in 7.2! Considering the results I've had with their tech support in the past, I expect a prompt, correct answer.

In general, I'm quite pleased with this new SuSE. It's really getting to the point a "normal" person can use the thing. If StarOffice would just get a couple more critical things in, it might be enough.

Anyway, enough geekishness for now. I've a huge, monstrous project I'm contemplating, and I'm going to go back to staring at it.

22 April 2002, 6:30p

I'm employed!


I am working at a company called Ariba - the interviews went well, and they made a more than reasonable offer which I accepted. I started Monday. I spent half the day Monday talking to HR about the details of employment; insurance, paperwork, and other dull stuff. The second half of the day, I was shown to my new cubicle, which was pretty much empty. There's a phone and a 'puter. They also introduced me to a whole bunch of people, all of who's names I immediately forgot.

I had a dozen messages waiting in email when I first looked, as my manager had forwarded me a bunch of stuff. This was swell. One of them was a required attendance to a team-building event. Playing paintball.

I was not enthused. Paintball falls in to the category of "sports" which I have done my best not to be part of for some time now. I generally find them needlessly competitive, encouraging of unpleasant and asocial behavior, and uncomfortable. The address of the paintball place, way out in the hinterlands did little to encourage me.

However, I gathered my courage and what little self-discipline I have, and I went. I mean, how often do you get a chance to shoot at the VP on your second day? Outdoor paintball. Have you ever done this? If not, let me share my impression with you.

First, take a bunch of guys. There were no women. I think this is chance, but there it was. Our office very much has a "college dorm" feel, and is just a little more on the side of "macho" than I like. I'm the stick in the mud; I don't go out drinking with them after work, I don't play foosball, etc. So, you've got thirty or so guys.

And we're out in the middle of nowhere. I lived closest, and it was half an hour's drive. I, despite my abundance of enthusiasm, got there first, and got double parked, so I had to stay till the end. That wasn't so bad, really.

The "course" consists of a steep hill, outlined in yellow caution tape, with a few strategically placed obstacles made of old secondhand boards nailed between trees. I expect, honestly, that a lot of thought went in to these, but they were not impressive looking. And, they were slimy with paintball paint. And, a steep hill. Climb on hands and knees steep in places.

There's a cute little bit of water trickling through this too, no more than a foot wide, just a tiny little creek. Which, by the driving of many feet, has turned in to ten feet wide of muddy soggy slippery muck. On a steep hill.

It gets better!

The senses are assailed by a the lovely aroma of decaying animal products. It smells exactly like manure, probably because it's pretty much the same thing.

You see, paintballs seem to be made of some sort of animal fat, whipped in to a slight creamy mess, and colored with food coloring. (Some of them. Many of the ones we had were just white.) Maybe it's vegetable oil. They're in a ball, about the size of a gumball. I've heard they're gelatin, but I don't know.

So, take a steep hill, and spread a couple inch thick layer of crisco over it, one tablespoon at a time, powered by CO2 charges at 230 feet per second. Then, allow microbes from the environment, and water from the handy source, and the dappled sunlight through the trees to do their biologically critical job of breaking that down and you get... a slippery, smelly mess.

Add running around all day in a speed-and-tension-incurred frenzy, trying to shoot and not be shot to the mix, and at the end of the day, what you wind up with is a whole lot of unsavory geeks.

In a perfect world, this lovely experience would have showers, and a jacuzzi, sort of a woodland spa, with guns and massage tables. In the real world, it had a wooden shack, a van full of CO2 bottles, and a san-i-can. You know, the blue plastic kind you see at construction sites. A modern, portable outhouse.

I was, however, prepared for this eventuality, and had brought a change of clothes, and some towels to protect the inside of my car with. As I didn't see a place to change, and wasn't interested in just changing in the great out of doors (I, apparently, am a prude.) the towels went down, and I drove home.

(I had also had the forethought to put on sunscreen, so I wasn't burned, as some were. It could have been awful.)

By the way, let me do due dilligence, and say that the folks at the paintball place were very nice, and did a good job; they had plenty of food, and lots and lots of drinkables in the back of their van, and they did a lot of things to gaurantee safety and fairness. Both the referees were great. The rules of the course were enforced, and the pressure on the guns kept reasonable and actually tested, to keep the paintballs from hurting people. As much as I found it minimal and slightly smelly, the folks there did a good job of being responsible and intelligent nice people.

When I got home, I had begun to ache, and was noticing my own aroma rather distinctly. I took a shower. A very long, hot shower. I ran the shower massage. I eventually ran out of hot water and stopped. I discovered a long cut on my arm, where I'd fallen on a tree, a couple of interesting bruises, and a skinned knee. I dragged the pile of icky clothes to the washer, and started the laundry on "HOT!" with a little extra soap. I then staggered - literally, it was more than a little strange - back to bed, where I fell down, and slept.

I had thought to set an alarm, so I only slept a couple of hours. I had dinner, and stayed up a little more. I didn't do anything, I just stayed up till I could go to bed and not wake up too early. (I probably didn't have to worry about it, but it had bitten me in the past.)

It took me days (and a weekend, really) to catch up on sleep. The next couple of days, I was so sore and stiff I could hardly move. At one point, I was unable to use a stairway at work; I gave up and took the elevator.

Did I have fun? Oh, I'd be stretching the truth to say, "Yes.". On the other hand, I didn't hate it. I've been to some of these "team-building exercises" which I utterly detested. This one was uncomfortable and involved more steep hills than I am used to, but nobody was nasty or mean or petty and the game was played fairly, and it didn't matter how good or awful I was at it. Nobody kept score. That was good.

I also did learn some things about the team, although they may not be the things that this sort of event is supposed to teach someone; I learned some things about who has to be right, and who will listen to other people, and who works with other people and who thinks the rules don't apply to them and who cheats. I expect they learned some things like that about me.

So, I'm generally glad I went. It was quite an experience. I did learn some things. I did manage to overcome my fears of going and being pummeled. I didn't make a lame excuse and hide. I'm pleased by that. Even in the game, I wasn't a complete coward. I'm inordinately pleased by that.

The other three days of the week, we spent in training. It felt strange, as I hadn't actually had a chance to do any real work there that week. It's the next week now, and I'm getting to actually do some stuff, which is good, and getting involved in the work, which should be engaging. I am generally pleased so far.

After paintball, and days of training, and a day of real work, I so far like most of the people I work with, and like and respect my manager. Off to a good sign. My manager, Al, seems to have his head screwed on straight, and I'm glad of that. One of the other guys who's last name is actually "Lister" (I try not to snicker, really!) is horribly overloaded by some stuff, and I hope I can pick up some of that for him so he can only work sixteen hours a day for a while. He's been trying to learn Unix on the fly, and it's been hard on him.

But, I get to play with Unix, on my resume and everything! Finally! I fiddled with a whole rack of Suns today, and may wind up with one on my desk. Yay! I suddenly am surrounded by Unix geeks (from the development team) who know LOTS more about things than I do, and that's invigorating!

Couple of them remind me of Sean Simpson. Same mannerisms and haircut, even.

01 March 2002, 11:54 a

I got a note yesterday from someone who'd read the pages, and said some very nice things. I appreciated it a great deal, and replied. If anyone else reading has anything at all to say, please don't hesitate to do so.

Tomorrow I'm going dancing again. Not to a lesson, but to a real dance. I'm a little nervous. We'll see if I manage not to kill anyone by falling on them. I bought some clothes, which I needed anyway, and I will use to wear to the networking events I've been attending. I'll be doing more of those too. Slightly better clothes may help me feel less awkward.

I got a stupid email today from a spammer. I usually ignore them but the subject line of, "Did you know rdwarf.org is available?" got my attention. I thought I owned rdwarf.org! And, I do. The message is junk. I found all sorts of interesting things and wrote a detailed reply.

Here's the reply. I've changed the names of the company and domain and people there, as they may yet reply and claim they didn't realize what fools they looked like. I've changed names and formatted for HTML, but otherwise, left the message alone.

From wwonko@rdwarf.com Fri Mar 1 11:54:45 2002
Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2002 11:53:40 -0800 (PST)
From: Louis Erickson
To: Janet Salesperson
Cc: samuelowner@foolishregistry.com, parentco@ISP.BC.CA
Subject: Re: Interested in owning rdwarf.org?

Hello, Janet.

I have several questions and issues with this offer from you.

On Fri, 1 Mar 2002, Janet Salesperson wrote:

My name is Janet and I recently noticed while doing research on the 'whois' database that you own rdwarf.com. I also noticed that the domain name rdwarf.org is currently available to buy. I'm not sure if you know this but purchasing the full .com .net and .org versions of your name can give you a greater presence on the web and stop competitors from purchasing your identity.

That's funny, because when I run who is on rdwarf.org, I get the following output:

-- begin whois run --

wwonko@holly:~ > whois rdwarf.org

Whois Server Version 1.3

Domain names in the .com, .net, and .org domains can now be registered
with many different competing registrars. Go to http://www.internic.net
for detailed information.

   Domain Name: RDWARF.ORG
   Registrar: GANDI
   Whois Server: whois.gandi.net
   Referral URL: http://www.gandi.net
   Name Server: NS0.GANDI.NET
   Name Server: NS4.GANDI.NET
   Updated Date: 16-jan-2002

>>> Last update of whois database: Fri, 1 Mar 2002 05:30:08 EST <<<

The Registry database contains ONLY .COM, .NET, .ORG, .EDU domains and

Found InterNIC referral to whois.gandi.net.

% GANDI Registrar whois database for .COM, .NET, .ORG.
% Access and use restricted pursuant to French law on personal data.
% Copy of whole or part of the data without permission from GANDI
% is strictly forbidden.
% The sole owner of a domain is the entity described in the relevant
% 'domain:' record.
% Domain ownership disputes should be settled using ICANN's Uniform
% Resolution Policy: http://www.icann.org/udrp/udrp.htm
% Acces et utilisation soumis a la legislation francaise sur
% les donnees personnelles.
% Copie de tout ou partie de la base interdite sans autorisation de GANDI.
% Le possesseur d'un domaine est l'entite decrite dans
% l'enregistrement 'domain:' correspondant.
% Un desaccord sur la possession d'un nom de domaine peut etre resolu
% en suivant la Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy de l'ICANN:
% http://www.icann.org/udrp/udrp.htm
% Date: 2002/03/01 19:30:23

domain:         rdwarf.org
owner-address:  Jupiter Mining Corporation
owner-address:  2716 Joseph Ave. #1
owner-address:  95008
owner-address:  Campbell
owner-address:  California
owner-address:  United States of America
admin-c:        LWE1-GANDI
tech-c:         AR41-GANDI
bill-c:         LWE1-GANDI
nserver:        ns0.gandi.net
nserver:        NS4.GANDI.NET
reg_created:    2001-02-26 21:49:34
expires:        2003-02-26 21:49:34
created:        2001-02-27 03:49:35
changed:        2002-01-16 20:48:29

person:         Louis W. Erickson
nic-hdl:        LWE1-GANDI
address:        Jupiter Mining Corporation
address:        2716 Joseph Ave. #1
address:        95008
address:        Campbell
address:        California
address:        United States of America
phone:          (408) 869-0686
e-mail:         wwonko@rdwarf.com

person:         GANDI Auto Register 4.1
nic-hdl:        AR41-GANDI
address:        GANDI
address:        38 rue Notre-Dame de Nazareth
address:        F-75003
address:        Paris
address:        France
phone:          N/A
e-mail:         support@gandi.net

-- end whois run --

This is a current reporting that I own rdwarf.org. I also own rdwarf.net.

Why are you trying to sell me a domain I already own?

Reassuringly, your web site seems to know better than you do; when I try and purchase rdwarf.org from it, through the link below, it tells me the site is unavailable.

Why are you sending me offers you cannot complete?

On Fri, 1 Mar 2002, Janet Salesperson wrote:

I'm writing from www.foolishregistry.com and we are a fully accredited reseller of domain names. We currently sell .com, .net, .org, .info, .biz and .ca. We also offer an automated buying service where we can track a domain name and as soon as it expires we will attempt to purchase it on your behalf. We make a buying request every hour until t is purchased or renewed through another party.

Really? Who are you accredited by? You're not listed on ICANN's website as a registrar, by foolishregistry.com or Parentco Networking Solutions or Parentco anything. You may be a perfectly valid reseller, but saying you're accredited in such a way that someone who actually checks will fail. Consider listing the registry name, or even linking to ICANN's pages where it would prove this.

On Fri, 1 Mar 2002, Janet Salesperson wrote:

If you would like to purchase rdwarf.org, please go to https://www2.foolishregistrar.com/buyit.php?domain=rdwarf.org

When I go there, I recieve a warning from my browser:

"The server's certificate chain is incomplete, and the signer(s) are not registered. Accept?"

Now, I know this means that the security certificate was not produced by one of the accredited signers, but by an independent source.

There's nothing really wrong with this, but it does mean the connection may not be secure. There's no way I'll put my credit card information over a connection where I don't trust the private key holder.

I, too use a self-signed key. However, my little site dosen't do any monetary transactions; I'm merely using https to try and keep people's passwords from going over the wire unencrypted. All my users know me personally and trust me. When that dialog comes up for my server, it lists the key signer as me, by the handle many of the users of my site will know me as.

When my browser shows me your key it lists the key signer as:

Snake Oil CA,
Snake Oil, Ltd.
Certificate Authority
Snake Town

This certainly isn't likely to inspire trust and confidence in anyone who notices it. I know it's the default for the key-generation system, and it just means that whoever made your key didn't change it, but it looks at best somewaht tacky, and at worst downright damning.

So... I'm being offered a site I already own, by a company who claims to be a registrar but won't prove it and seems to either have been uninformed enough about how secure web transactions need to be set up or too cheap to buy a registered certificate from a trusted key archive.

Not good signs.

While many people might not understand all of this techinical stuff, the target audience you have picked - people who hold one domain, and may be able to complete the set - is likely to be an environment rich with system administrators and other tech-savvy people.

On Fri, 1 Mar 2002, Janet Salesperson wrote:

I hope you found this information relevant and helpful and don't hesitate to call if you have any questions.

All the best,

Domain Name Researcher
Phone (toll free) 1-866-foolish or 1-866-555-5555

P.S. I should mention that to buy a domain name from our company website costs $26 US per year or $40 CAD. If you would like to use our Domain Monitoring service we charge $69 US per year and this includes a buying attempt on the hour every hour and a one year purchase of the domain name if it becomes available. You can also set-up a redirect for $10 US per month that will redirect traffic from your newly purchased domain name to your existing website with no further fees.

As I'm paying $12 US per year for my DNS registrations already, through a company which has yet to make me wonder about the quality of their business practicies, I fear I would be a fool to take you up on this offer. Many others in your target market may understand this as well.

(Although, you are less expensive than VeriSign/Network Solutions, so certainly not charging an outrageous fee.)

Considering that I've found three company names for your organization, Parentco Sourcing, Parentco Web Services, and foolishregistar.com, the self-signed security key with badly configured information, and the attempt to sell me a domain that is not available, I can't decide if you're actually trying to defraud people or if you're merely making a large number of obvious mistakes.

On the chance that you are honestly unaware of how bad these kinds of errors look to someone on the outside, I will give you a chance to reply to these issues. However, if I have not heard from you by close of business on Tuesday 5 March, 2002, I will be contacting the Better Business Bureau of Vancouver and letting them know what I have found, and my concerns.


Louis Erickson - wwonko@rdwarf.com - http://www.rdwarf.com/~wwonko/

It is only people of small moral stature who have to stand on their dignity.

We'll see what they say.

27 February 2002, 9:11 p

Speaking of Grandmothers there below, I got a call shortly after that from my Mom who let me know that mine had fallen down and broken her hip. They whisked her off to the hospital, and did x-rays and decided the best thing for her was to do a hip replacement. Mom said the surgery went just fine, and Marion was recovering, although at that moment she was still dopey from the drugs. Not fun, and worrisome, but it sounds like she's as well off as she's likely to be.

What else... I've started Networking. Apparently the way to do anything here in Sillicon Valley is to know someone and schmooze your way around, and you need to keep up with that. I've started going to events, and talking and handing out cards. I find it difficult and unrewarding, but we'll see if it dosen't get easier and more fruitful. Several people have been very kind and have given me some great advice on how to do it, and I'm going to do more. David Anderson, someone I've met at the outplacement place Compaq sent me to, encouraged me, and said I was doing very well. I'm glad he thought so.

I'm also going dancing again on Saturday, this time to a Secret Agents' Ball, which will hopefully be more fun than not. I'm going to try and pick up a new pair of pants or two to wear, and bought some shoes with better soles for dancing. The new pants will be good trying to meet people, too. Making an impression in ratty old clothes is not really the right way to go.

A while back, my Palm broke. This makes me sad. The thing I miss most that I no longer had, as it turns out, was a clock. I hadn't worn a watch in years, either. I have a pocket watch here, which needs a new battery. Rather than try and get that fixed, and be just a little eccentric, I decided I'd buy an inexpensive watch and just wear it. I went for a good "old-fashoned" black plastic Casio from the neighborhood drugstore. For $20, how could I go wrong, right? They had some really cheap "fashon" watches, but many of them didn't work, right on the spin-rack, so I went with a slightly better one. Not only that, the latent environmentalist in me likes this one, because it claims to be batteryless. It's got a little solar panel and apparently will keep it's self charged. Niftyness!

Several people have asked me if there isn't anything I could be writing articles about, to make my name known, and seem like I'm smart. I've been tossing ideas around and wondering what I might write about. I don't feel like I know anything much, although I apparently know everything. I guess I don't know what of the things that I know that other people might find interesting to read about. (How do I know what they don't know of what I know, y'know?) I've thought of a thing or two that might be useful for people, and that I either know about, or know something about.

One is the GNU configure tool. Maybe "How to write man(1) pages" with an associated rant about "Why to write man(1) pages". I'm sure I know other things that people might like to know about, but I have no idea what those things might be.

23 February 2002, 10:27 p

Kind of a strange couple of days. Yesterday, I worked on a car. Today, I went dancing. Both are unusual items I rarely do.

The car was pretty simple. I put a new battery in one of my housemates' cars. She'd gotten the new battery for Christmas, and we hadn't done anything with it. I was worried about her car sitting so long, and finally got off my lazy butt and did something about it. One bolt that holds it in and two terminals. Not rocket sicence. I didn't even get grease under my fingernails. But, her car starts again, and that's a good thing.

I'd promised Collie, more than a year ago, that I'd go dancing with her. It's something a guy should know how to do, and I trust Collie not to be horrible and embarass someone for not being good at something. She's also wildly enthusiastic about dancing, and her excitement is infectious.

A little background may be in order. George MacDonald, the same fellow I mentioned below, used to share the house with Bob and Collie, as I do now. He got married, to a perky lady called Donji and the two of them have their own lovely home. Eventually, I moved in with Bob and Collie.

Collie loves dancing. Really enjoys it. A lot. She'll babble happily about how much she enjoys it, given half a chance. George really enjoys dancing. Collie's sweetie, Bob, isn't that excited by it. So, George and Collie would go out dancing, and have a good time. Everybody was happy.

So, Collie and George hadn't been dancing in a while. Time had crept by, and it'd been almost ten years. Donji had been to a couple of classes, but was still uncomfortable with it. I had done nothing positive at all regarding dancing, and was quite, quite nervous about it.

(As an aside, the only dancing I'd done had been in or related to school. In any organized dancing, I was clumsy and confused and self concious. I managed to give people nosebleeds by being so out of step. At one notable school dance, my glasses were broken, leaving me blind for two weeks until they were replaced. I was trepidatious, to say the least. Quite nervous. Rather than be afraid of this forever, I did something about it.)

I'd told Collie I'd go dancing with her, if we found a way to get me some instruction. I was (am!) pretty adamant about that. We found a group who has a two hour class before the dance, rather than a fifteen minute quickie. It's a group called Gaskells that meets at the local Scottish Rite Temple. I don't know if this is a local thing or not. We went today.

I danced. Yay. I don't remember all the names of the dances, even. We waltzed and polkaed (eek!) and there was three more I'll be darned if I can remember the names of. For many of them I did all right. There were, at least, no casualties. The instructors were very kind and positive. I, at least, didn't feel the crippling embarassment that often goes with learning new things. I thought they did a great job of keeping people from that.

Donji said she felt better about dancing after the practice, and so did I. Donji'd had a couple of sessions similar to this, and says that it just took some time to click, and I'll get it sometime. I don't feel like I really know what I was doing. I did manage not to actually fall down, or to hurt anyone. The simpler dances I felt that I had at least half a chance of doing reasonably. Donji, George, and Collie said I was doing fine.

A couple of the dances... ack, I can't remember the names. A couple of the dances had patterns. Dance four like this, four like this, these three, then start over, on the other foot. Ack. The (mumbledemumble) of Vienna, with ten open waltz steps, ten closed waltz steps, eight open waltz steps, window left, window right, something I forget, start over.

In a nutshell, the patterns drove me insane. George suggests that they'll become easier when I can get to the point where I was dancing on automatic. One of the instructors also said I'd learn to hear the cues in the music. They're both probably right. I was busy making sure I didn't fall over.

Counting the time in the dances is sometimes difficult. My brain apparently dosen't want to work in threes (after all the years of powers of two, can you blame it?) and having to change feet on things also threw me for a loop. Those are not insurmountable difficulties, though.

I would dance again. Collie is looking at a formal dance upcoming I think next week. I don't know if I'll be prepared by then. Firstly, I don't have any appropriate clothes that still fit. I'm unhappy with myself, because the nice ones I do have are all too small now. I gained weight back, and it's enough that I can't wear my suit or even the nice sweaters. I don't want to buy clothes that are bigger, I'd rather lose the weight. That won't happen by next week, though.

I'd also like more practice, much more, before I try and do this in public, as it were. Being a beginner in a class full of beginners didn't bother me. Feeling like my main focus is "not falling down" in a room filled with experienced people feels like a bit much.

If my Grandmother finds out, she'll want to dance. I wonder if she's feeling well enough to? As a waltz can be very slow and patient, I think she might. She seems to have liked them as much as Collie. I wonder if I'm brave enough to tell her?

(I wonder if she'll see this message. Considering it's on the 'net, and her attraction to computers, I doubt it. It's not impossible, though.)

I should call my Grandmother. This is almost always true, though. I should call my Mom. This, too, is often true.

Scott Ruggels said today that his Grandmother (speaking of grandmothers) is doing poorly, and they fear she will only be with us for another week or so. He's sad about this, and I can't blame him. His family is collecting from the corners of the country, to see her, which is nice, both for her and for them. Scott, and his family, have my sympathies.

Still looking for work. Little progress being made on that front. I've got a few, very distant and very faint leads to follow up. Oh! Jean Yeh, one of the nice people I've met at DBM's Pathfinders group (that's a whole essay in to it's self!) has given my resume to the VP where she's doing some part time work, as he was looking for engineers. That very well may come of something, and I'm pleased about it.

I think I'm going to make a list and keep it someplace of "stuff I want to buy once employed." I keep seeing things and going, "Ooo!" but not getting them, because they're frivolous. I don't need them at all, but it would be nice. Some are things which would help the author or creator, too, which I always like to do. Right now, I'm not doing those things. But, maybe I'll make a list.

On that list will be to have my Palm IIIc repaired. It's power switch broke, and I miss it. Having my CD player and VCR repaired is also on that list. The car's shockingly expensive 40,000 mile service is on that list. Lots of things I've put off because I can, that I'd like to do.

In my off moments, I'm still looking at Old Norse, and I'm fiddling with some old computer games, cheerfully extracting the sounds from the files, so I can have them here to fiddle with. Someone else has the MIDI files already, but not the digital sounds, and I'm in the midst of extracting those. Geeky goodness.

Well, enough for now. No really deep thoughts tonight, other than that I'll probably be sore tomorrow.

15 February 2002, 8:50 p

Last Friday I had lunch with a friend of mine, George MacDonald, who's more in tune with the computer gaming industry than I am. He used to work in it, and has really kept more of an eye on it than I have, and he suggests that it's not as bleak as I seem to think.

System Shock did well. System Shock 2 did well, and you can still find it in the $9 bin places, and it runs under modern operating systems. Shock 2 used the engine from a game called Thief, which was supposed to be pretty good. Dark and a little scary but more story-oriented, and pretty good. Thief 2 was also supposed to be well done. Thief 3 may or may not be in development. Not quite the same group of people, but one with a lot of overlap, recently released a game called Deus Ex, which is much more story oriented. Deus 2 may be produced.

(Most embarassingly, George gave me a copy of Deus Ex for Christmas, and I haven't installed it yet. Not only am I trying not to become too sucked up in games, rather than looking for work, but the newer ones give me nightmares. Still, by all accounts it sounds as if I might enjoy the game. It's right here, waiting.)

This is a good sign, and I'm glad to hear that there are FPS games coming out with more to them than "Kill anything that moves!"

Apparently, on the oppisite extreme, a newish game called Slippery Sam, if I remember right, is simply an excuse to blow huge things up. If that's your bag, have at it.

I have another game, "Sheep, Dog 'n' Wolf" that I haven't finished, either. I got stuck on a very hard level and put it aside. One day, I'll try again.

7 February 2002, 10:34 p

Well, today I finished a game I'd been playing, System Shock. If you're paying attention you might look at that and realize it's quite an old game. Eight years, if I understand correctly. To play it, I had to build a special, slow PC with the right outdated hardware. What am I, nuts?

Well, yes, but you should know that if you've read the rest of this babbling.

Why would I do that? Firstly, because I'd seen the game before and tried it a little when it was new, and liked it and always meant to get back to it, and I did. Secondly, because I was thinking about it and recalling what a great game it was and wondering why nobody ever thought of it when they thought of games of that era. At the time it was pretty much an also-ran and unknown. We played it, and we liked it, and it rocked.

Happily, some people noticed. GameSpy lists it as 24th best game of all time. Several of the developers they polled list it in their top ten. GameSpot lists it as 59 out of a hundred of the best games ever.

Perhaps a little background, if you didn't live the dream, or forgot the details. I've had to go look them up.

It stuck in my head as one of the better games. DOOM came out and changed the world. The first person shooter was realized. Wolfenstien 3d had come out before and whet people's appetite, but DOOM gave the world what it wanted. (And, it was [still is] bloody fast.)

Doom was early '94. Several games came out using that engine. Heretic in '94 and Hexen in '95 were both pretty good games, which ran the DOOM engine. Rise of the Triad came out in December of '94 and had most of the same limitations. Most of the games people heard of, from 1994 through the middle of '96 had pretty similar technical restrictions.

The big deal with Quake was that you could do things the older ones couldn't, from techinical limitations. It's why I note they ran the DOOM engine; same code, different maps and graphics. Most notably, you couldn't look up or down, or lean left and right. You could only have one horizontal surface in the game, which meant you couldn't go over or under things. You could have different elevations, and make stairs and buildings and things, but you couldn't walk under something.

In the middle of 1996, Quake came out, and changed people's minds. It removed those limitations. You could lean and look up and down and through glass and climb over and under. Shortly thereafter Duke Nukem 3d came out and had those things too, and a better story. Quake's descendents still live on today, in the form of Return To Castle Wolfenstien.

In the middle of 1994 - DOOM was out, and just starting to feel played through, and DOOM 2 had been announced - we got a floppy disk copy of System Shock. I should say that Tad Williams, one of the guys in my office got one. He played games, and several of us watched. It's more fun to watch someone do well than it is to suck yourself. Eventually, Tad got a CD copy of System Shock, and it was better.

The game looked good. Better graphics, higher details. Better sounds. Stereo that worked and meant something. Not only that, you could look up and down. Amazing! And, you needed to do so to play. It wasn't just eye candy; there were things that were up in the sky you had to look at. You could lean over to the side and peek around corners. There were transparent surfaces you could see through. You could turn some of them on and off and be blocked or not. You could walk on top of things, and then wind up below it. Real 3D mazes and confusion.

That's really the core description of the technical differences. All the games do those things now, but then Shock was the only game in town that could do them. It was impressive. Most people didn't see this until Quake came out in the middle of '96, but I'd already seen it and didn't care. And, Shock didn't run like a slide show; Quake did on my trusty 486. Why should I have been impressed with Quake?

The content was better than other games of it's time. Better art. Better environments that were laid out well and made sense. Imagine this: a story. Some of the others had a little story, at least an excuse to have you be there and shooting at things. Shock had an unfolding drama that you wanted to know what happened.

Spoiler alert! If you're going to play through and want to keep the plot a secret, stop here. If you've read a walkthrough, or finished it, don't sweat it.

In DOOM, for instance, a hellmouth opened, and you had to fight your way through it to get home. Pretty simple. Story sets up the environment, you wade around in it. Pretty much the limit of the day.

In System Shock, you're a hacker who is hacking in to a corporate network to steal something to sell for money. You're caught. An executive there makes you a deal you can't refuse; you help him hack the computer on their space station, and he'll forget this incident. He throws in an expensive cybernetic implant so you'll be able to kick ass as a hacker when you're done. You accept. You remove all the ethical constraits from the computer. You go off, aboard the station, to have the implant. They put you in to a "healing coma" for six months.

Here, the game starts. You wake up, implant completed. Yay! But, when you leave the room, the medical robots attack you. You get the strangest email from someone telling you they're investigating a problem aboard the station and you're their only contact. Things are apparently bad.

And from that point, you're wandering around a station. There are bodies and damage, and strange things you can't explain. The elevators are screwed up. The computer attacks you. There are mutants in the halls. As you wander, you find logs from other crew members, talking about problems on station for the last several weeks, with the computer. You get email from people trying to stop it from doing bad things, and usually failing.

You finally get a message which says that the computer is going to fire a huge mining laser on the station at Earth and destroy whole cities. (Big laser!) Someone on station left notes on how to destroy the laser. It falls to you to try. You have to run all over three levels, and fight mutants and robots to do it. You get some fuel, you refuel the shields, you turn them on, you enter an override code you had to find on a keypad, and then you go and fire the laser. The switch and override keypad are on one level. The fuel and laser controls are on another. The override code is there, and hidden in cyberspace. You have to fight off robots. You finally destroy the laser. (You get pictures, no less!)

Whew! That was hard! But wait! It gets wierder. You get a nasty message from the computer, bragging that it's going to release a virus on Earth. You have to go and jettison the area it's making the virus in. Easier said than done. You wind up running around across a whole level, and flipping three enable switches, then to a master saftey switch. That switch malfuncitons. You have to go to Maintenance and repair some stuff. Then come back and flip the switch. Then go jettison that pod. With mutants and robots trying to stop you. And, did I mention that it was full of damaging biological waste you had to wade through?

Wow! Now that you're feeling cocky, the computer tells you that that was just a ploy, so it can download it's self in to Earth's computer networks. Up to another level to try and destroy the antennas. Except you have to go to Storage to get the explosives, which are seriously hidden and guarded. Then back to blow up antennas. And you're trapped by the angry computer, but you escape.

Earth decides the computer is too dangerous. They tell you to scuttle the station. You hustle back down to the reactor to set it to overload. Except that you need a code from each of the first six levels to enter, so you might have to go find them all. Then you go enter the code. In the middle of a highly radioactive reactor, no less. Very poisnous. You do have a radsuit don't you?

Then you haul ass to the flight deck and jump in a escape pod. Almost away, the computer aborts the countdown, and tells you that since you wanted to blow the station up, so much, you can stay and watch. It is going to seperate the Bridge and leave you to your doom. Eek!

How do you survive? Why, you get aboard the Bridge, of course! In the last weeks, the computer has rebuilt the access in to a really irritating maze. The executive you originally did this for has joined with the computer and is now a super-powerful cyborg, who tries to stop you. Repeatedly. You scheme and learn and fight to the bridge.

As you were fleeing the exploding reactor, little emergency lights that were in all the sets - they'd been there all the time, marked, "INACTIVE EMERGENCY INDICATOR" - that you probably hadn't noticed or thought were more set dressing started to blink red. A big klaxon in the middle of the levels sounded all the time. The screen trembled occasionally from the reactor's upset. You felt rushed, and as if bad things would happen.

Once there, you need to destroy the computer. You unlock all the locks, and get in, using tools and hints that other station staff left behind in their failed attempts. You break in to cyberspace and search the AI out to find and finally destroy it. You're rescued, and safe. Yay!

Wow. Compare to "Fight your way out of hell."

On one hand, it is, technically speaking, very scripted, and trigger based. While the klaxons are going off and the screen trembling that the reactor is about to blow, you really have all the time in the world to wander around. Until you get to the Bridge, it's not going anywhere. The game is, at it's core, a widget quest. Go here, do this, repeat. In the right order.

However, the illusion that what you did mattered, that it was important to the development of what happened next was there. Your actions seemed to affect what went on. Even once you knew what was happening, getting new email from Rebecca Lansing and having her say, "Quick! To the engineering level!" was interesting.

And, while you were really playing alone, it didn't feel that way. You got email and found logs from other people on station. They had pictures and faces and names and voices, and pleaded for help, or wished luck, or desperately tried to help solve this problem. Dr. Nathan D'Arcy who was killed because he knew too much, but left the key information in his office, and Abe Ghiram who ran Maintenance and socked away an environmental suit where the robots couldn't get to it, and Binaca Schuler who got SO close before she was overwhelmed.

The character in the game is part of something. A bigger whole, both depending on these other people who built the station and lived and worked there to tell him the things he needs to know, and trying to make something of their deaths, and to make their hopes of success come true.

Wow. The newest game on the block, Return To Castle Wolfenstien has a few of these elements, but it's not nearly so well done. I didn't care enough to finish it. Eight years later, I had to finish Shock, because I wanted to know what happened.

Shock was also very tunable. At the beginning of the game, you could pick difficulty levels for several things. You could control how many monsters there were and how aggressive. You could control how difficult the puzzles were. You could lessen the complexity of the plot. You could make their cyberspace concept (which I haven't mentioned yet!) easier or harder. And, the descriptions weren't cheesy, meaningless, demeaning talk-down-to-the-player things like the other games use. Rather than difficulty settings of "Wussy", "Mediocre", "Tough", and "Bring it on!" you had four settings each clearly described like, "Disable all plot elements", "Simplify many plot elements", "Normal plot complexity" and, "All plot items plus eight hour time limit". (And yes, an eight hour limit to game play is a significant limit.)

Not only did you have to fight robots in the space station, they had a concept of cyberspace, a fully 3D world where you virtually snooped about looking for bits of data and defeating security. I've never seen anything else like it in a game, and it was an interesting thing which was involved enough to be needed, but not enough to be tedious.

This means you can tune the game from, "No plot, hundreds of insane monsters" like Quake or Doom, through, "Easier to play but nontrivial plot" to, "Near-impossible complexity in not enough time." All on the same CD. Very cool! Why dosen't every game do this?

The game had a ton of in-game options too. Different guns, each with different strengths and weaknesses. Two kinds of ammo for most of them. Some that ran off of battery power that you had to recharge. You could only carry a few. Which ones, when? How much ammo do you have for all of them? Are they useful?

The game had different drugs you could use. Dermal patches to improve your health, or make you strong, or fast, or raise your endurance, or make you smarter, or to cure radiation or effects of other patches. All of these patches had side effects, and you could only use one at a time. Use a Strength patch, but when you come down you hallucinate. (Oooo, look at the pretty colors! Fun with VGA palettes.) Use a smart-patch, and you get dizzy; the left and right controls are reversed. Sometimes.

Ammuniation was not plentiful. At the level I played, it wasn't so scarce you were hoarding it, but you had to keep it in mind, "Have I got railgun ammo? Oops. Out of magpulse ammo, too. Um. Machine guns. Definitely."

There were seven different kinds of bombs, with different uses and effects. I never even tried them all.

The game also had concepts of health, endurance, and battery power you had to keep an eye on. Ways to recharge all of them and things that used all of them. Depending on how you played, and on your strategy, you'd run out of one or another and be hosed. But there was enough possibilities that different people, playing differently, would run out of different things.

All in all, this was a great game. It engaged you, it was configurable enough so that you could play more than once, and so people who wanted different things from it could play and enjoy it. It had a real, complex story. It came out years before any of the others could hold a candle to it technically, and still excels in places where modern games don't. They should, they could, they just don't.

Why don't they?

Part of it may be that game companies don't like risk. Another high-speed, high explosion, high body count, light concept game is easy to predict, design and produce. A game with a story and a plot and detail at every level takes work and people might not like it.

Part of it is that people keep running out and buying these new games. Oh boy! Quake III! Shoot your friends! Wow! Return To Castle Wolfenstien! Shoot your friends in World War II! And, that's okay if that's what they want. But it'd be nice if we could use all these cool bits of technology for something else.

I usually liked games with some depth. System Shock was good. All the cheesy LucasArts widget quests were good. Listening to Sam and Max natter back and forth ("Looks like the answering machine is possesed again." "Better than no messages at all.") or watching Hoagie read a horse to sleep with a physics book so he can steal it's teeth(!) was fun. They were engaging. Nobody makes games like that much any more.

It's a pity. Story is really key to making something that's more than a fad. It worked for System Shock. It worked for Myst. It worked for Star Wars. (C'mon, don't tell me it was the acting, or even the effects. It was the story.) DOOM was an adrenaline rush; Quake still is. But there's only so many times I can do that.

I guess I don't know what my point is. I really enjoyed System Shock. It was fun. I can't look at a FPS (First Person Shooter) and be excited because it's an FPS, but I can look at Shock and be interested. I'm sorry to see that there aren't new games coming out that interest me.

20 January 2002, 4:48p

It's been a while since I've babbled here. I have been feeling kind of down, and not doing much at all. I hope I've climbed out from under my rock for a little.

I just came back, moments ago, from seeing "Kate and Leopold", filled with the usual burst of energy that I get after I see a movie that's got my brain working. That may seem odd, as anyone who's seen the movie can tell you it's a nice enough little movie, but not really deep.

The thing that's got me wondering, though, is the perennial question of, "What happened next?" I can guess pretty easily for New York. If he's smart, Stuart and Kate's brother (who's name I've already forgotten) will act horrified, and agree that she jumped, and wait for no body to be found, and let the processes we have in place to handle someone's death work. If he's not smart, Stuart will try and explain.

The really interesting question is, "What about the past?" What will Leopold have to cope with for bringing in this badly-mannered, strangely dressed American woman? How will she react to being a Duchess? Will she like or hate the finery, the being treated as an idiot, the expectation that she's property of her husband? How will Leopold's family react to her sudden appearance? What will be done about money? Will the Elevator save him, financially, or will she get to watch his family crash in to debt? What was a Duke doing in America, anyway?

The reason I went to see the film is because of a character I played in a game on Reality Fault, called Carroll who was part of the Starfall game. Carroll was the eldest son of a Duke; he was royalty, and it was sometimes a stretch for me, an American born and raised, to play. He was supposed to be a refined gentleman, always having the correct answer at hand, the Captain of a trade vessel, who would inherit the family estate and become responsible for running all of it. It was different, fun, and enlightening to play a nobleman, and to really try and understand what noblesse oblige (which I expect I'm spelling wrong) really means.

The film had some lovely examples of how a real gentleman behaves. The scene where he is simply polite and attentive to the women in the club was one, as was the scene where he very politely, yet completely insulted Kate's boss J.J. was another. The dinner on the rooftop was very nice, and simply marvellously executed, although I would hope that many men of today would be able to have done that. Perhaps not with such style and ease.

That begs the question, "What is a gentleman?" I suppose, and I don't think I have a very good answer. The dictionary might provide us with an answer if we go and look:

gen·tle·man, noun.
  1. A man of gentle or noble birth or superior social position: “He's too much a gentleman to be a scholar” (Aphra Behn).
  2. A well-mannered and considerate man with high standards of proper behavior.
  3. A man of independent means who does not need to have a wage-paying job.
  4. A man: Do you know this gentleman?
  5. gentlemen Used as a form of address for a group of men.
  6. A manservant; a valet.
Source: The American Heritage Dictionary Of The English Language, Fourth Edition, copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
That's not a bad set of definiations, but it dosen't really convey the meaning I'm looking for. A gentleman is someone is able to act and speak gracefully, to put others at ease and to seem at ease in any situation. He should be well-mannered, polite, and attentive. Intelligence is not required, but I'm certain it helps.

I'm certain that there is something else that I'm not defining well. He should have self-confidence and not need to boast or brag or prove himself right.

It's an excellent goal to strive for, man or woman alike, and I think that very few do. The movie did a pretty good job of showing a modern man - Kate's brother - trying to impress a girl. As Leopold identified, he was acting like a buffoon, and it showed. However, he acted like many do (perhaps slightly exaggerated for effect) and have been taught is the way to act. The other stereotype of a man in the movie, Kate's boss J.J. also came out looking rather drab next to Leopold, not because of dress or obvious error, but because Leopold caught that he lacked integrity, and was shallow.

I think that word, integrity, is something that matters and is not something we do a good job of teaching. People seem to want to avoid responsibility and to avoid any negative consequences, and thus, avoid integrity. I know that I don't do as good a job of keeping true to myself and the world around me as I could, or would like to.

A real pity that so many people are taught and seem to believe that a vaguely selfish, thoughtless way is the proper way to act, and that we teach that any repercussion is to be feared, and it's okay to dodge them and responsibility as long as no one sees, and you won't get caught.

On an unrelated note, I've been looking at languages. In particular, Old Norse. I can hear people's slightly confused thoughts now, "Old Norse? Why?" and the answer isn't much over, "I was curious." I played under the name Loki online, and doing so, was asked, and then went out and read about the Norse god Loki. God of Mischief, he was the Trickster that tried to keep Asgard honest, and, in the end, brings about Ragnorok and the end of the age, so that it can move on to the next.

Reading the old myths and stories, even when I could find them, which wasn't as simple as I'd hoped, I found that there were some things that were confusing. On a whim, I wondered if i could look at the original documents myself. But they're in Old Norse! And aincent, and in museums or something, right?

Well, they are in Old Norse. It lives on, surprisingly unchanged, in Icelandic today. And, I got to reading a site on the Web, Old Norse For Beginners. It's amazing what sort of things are on the web. As I was curious, so were others, and some willing to share. It's a neat place, the 'net.

I also found an Old Norse dictionary, and a number of references to read and to look at. Perhaps the most interesting bit I found was SagaNet. This (click on the American flag in the upper corner to get English navigation tools instead of Icelandic ones!) is a site which has scanned a number of aincent manuscripts, and has put those original images up on the web. You can flip through the aincent books, without handling them.

This is a stunning thing, what the 'net was for, letting me access the libraries of the world from across the globe, and in a way that dosen't damage the irreplaceable volumes. It's also a little odd, because there's hundreds of pages of scanned, hand-written pages, written in Old Norse.

Now, I've only read a teeny bit about ON, and wouldn't remotely call myself an expert. I have picked up some interesting bits, which have made a few things clearer already. I'm pleased by this. We'll see how much farther I go with it. I'm curious and interested, and, more importantly, I have a couple friends online who'll talk too.

Kate and Leopold, however, got me thinking about language. One of the things that hadn't changed since Leopold's time was English. He had no problem talking to people of modern New York. Personally, I think this was simplified, in the accents and speech of both the past, and of modern New York, but, it's a movie and that wasn't their point.

Even comparing the lovely letter that Leopold wrote in apology, with his gracious and courtly handwriting to my usualy scribbling, or to the slogan written on the shirt I'm wearing, shows text drifting and that what was clear then would be readable but old-fashoned now, and what we have now might utterly have baffled them then. Remember how slowly I said I had to go reading Lord Chesterfield's letters? Old-fashoned, lovely English, with long rambling sentences was more difficult for me to read. And, he, or Leopold from the movie would only be able to stare dumbly at the slogan, "TEAM SER VER" printed on the shirt I'm wearing now. It's written in a standard font you've seen a million times, but it's kind of scrawly, and has an extra space in it. And what is "serve" doing as anything but a verb? What's it a slogan for, dinnerware? A butler service? Why on Earth is there a frog sitting on it?

So, language is a funny thing. It drifts. Lord Chesterfield might be baffled by the slogans and advertising around him, but I expect he'd be able to read the contents of this web page just fine. Leopold certainly had little proble following directions on things there. I doubt I'd do as well in their times. First, I simply wouldn't know how to act. Second, I don't have nearly the wardrobe for it.

I guess I'm a bit odd. Rambling about the essence of gentlemanhood, aincent languages, and how they'd compare to modern ones seems a bit odd, or at the very least, a bit deep. Deep in what is the question, and I'm not going to look too hard, lest I be unhappy with the answer.

08 November 2001, 10:02 a

A couple of random links that friends have sent me that I thought others might enjoy:

So, you want to learn Japanese?
This the product of a fed-up Japanese major, who has probably seen way, way too many people who were certain they could do this without really trying. I mean, the anime is just so darn cool, it'll be easy, right?
Harnessing Conflict and Competitiveness
This is an essay by David Brin, the science fiction author, about the ways in which the Internet can be used to develop new communication methods. As Mr. Brin is a very smart man, he makes a lot of good points, and asks people to think about some things they'd rather not - in this case, the people using the technology, rather than the technology it's self.

And, I'll go ahead and reccomend a story I've been enjoying a great deal, Journey To The West, which is a sometimes deep, sometimes silly story of a blue, zen coyote who wanted to get away from it all. Start at the beginning, and read to the end. Pause to read the new essay section. Listen to the music. Enjoy.

I've been working on the job search more lately, and not had too many deep thoughts. Hopefully these other people's will do.

04 November 2001, 10:58 p

I've just come home from seeing Monsters, Inc., the new Pixar film. Lovely, lovely movie. Beautiful animation, nice little story, and enough hooks to keep the adults entertained, while still being big and simple enough for the little kids to follow too.

The big monster has lots of blue fur, with purple spots. They said they animated each hair seperately. Having seen it, I know why now. It snows on him. The snow collects on the fur, perfectly. He runs, and the fur swooshes behind him. It gets compressed when someone grabs him. It's just beautifully done.

Besides being animated well, it had good characters, and a nice plot. Very much a nice little story with a happy ending and such, but, the world needs happy endings.

In fact, that's a little of why I went. I was a little down, and gloomy, and thought an hour and a half of light and sound and happiness would help my mood, and it has. I wanted to get out of the house a little, too. I didn't, all day, and I don't like that.

I'm not getting out much, unless I make an effort to. I'm going to send a barrage of resumes out next week, and hope I get any response at all. I have a couple out that I should call and bother a little. Well. Maybe a lot. I very much want something to happen. I'm very tired of getting absoloutely no response at all.

I don't have any wise words this time. I've not been feeling very contemplative or interesting or anything much lately, so the well of creativity has kind of dried up. I played a lot of Nethack. I made a list of companies I thought might need me. I need to fire off resumes and start in rounds of telephone calls.

I'm worrying more and more about being out of work. It's no fun. I'm not in any terrible trouble yet, but I'm not real happy. Nobody has returned my phone calls. I hate that. It reinforces the worthless feelings I struggle with anyway. I realize it sounds dumb, but I'd be so happy with a call that says, "Sorry, we don't need you." This endless silence is unnerving and unpleasant.

I realize that places with jobs are being innundated with the barrage of resumes from all the laid-off folks like me. While that may explain the lack of a return call, it dosen't excuse it. It's rude and thoughtless. Someone at DBM said that the big companies say, "We have too many applications to respond personally." and that's their excuse. The smaller companies say they're not big enough. None of them want employees, or to be responsible for the people they hire; the phrase "human resources" is terribly revealing.

It seems to me that people are being regarded as equipment. The only bummer for the companies, is that people expect raises, while you can depreciate equipment - it gets cheaper the longer you keep it, not the other way around.

That's particularly true for places that use contractors. They almost literally lease their staff, to be returned when it's time for new, like with a car. I've said for a long time to people, "No, I didn't work for Microsoft, they just rented me." I leased my soul to the great Satan. That's less bad, right?

I'm not in the most positive of moods right now, and am going to sign off before I become more bitter.

07 October 2001, 11:10 p

I've finished a book I've been reading for some time now. It's been slow going, and the ending became somewhat unpleasant, as it chronicled the life of an aging man in an era where medicine isn't what it is today. I've been reading the letters of Lord Chesterfield which have been an interesting read.

Portrait of Lord Chesterfield
Detail from
Phillip Dormer Stanhope,
4th Earl of Chesterfield
1765, by Allan Ramsay.
Philip Dormer Stanhope, Fourth Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773) was an English politician. He spent time in several posts all around Europe and was well educated and well travaled. His real fame, however, came after his death, when a collection of letters he had written was published. It was published immediately after his death, by (if I understand correctly) the widow of his illegitimate son. These letters, mostly from father to son, were written frankly and openly, with complete trust between them. They contained the dirty laundry of the leaders of Europe, and much of it was very relevant at the time it was published. The books were a huge success.

As I understand from the introduction to the book, Lord Chesterfields' son was a bastard child. Chesterfield didn't care, claimed him as his heir and raised him to be the best he could possibly be. Part of this consisted of writing his son often - monthly or more - from about age seven, until his son's death at around age forty. While Chesterfield supported him, and immediately took in to his family and care the unknown wife his son had left behind, and his two grandchildren, the rest of the Stanhope family was not so pleased about having this widow-of-a-bastard lingering around. When Lord Chesterfield died, they cut her off cold.

Needing to support herself, she took this collection of letters, with it's salacious and detailed content of the doings of the upper classes, and sold them to a publisher. The working class ate them up, and loved the political details, many of which were still relevant, and the sage advice of the elder statesman to his son.

The advice from father to son has remained fairly well respected, and is often quoted, although, I suspect rarely in the whole, as many parts of it definitely show the attitudes of the times and would not be well accepted today.

Much of the advice is quite memorable and quotable. I won't go in to it all, as there are several good books available. One thing that might be notable was the change of address. On his son's 18th birthday, he changed from addressing the letters, "Dear boy," to "My dear friend," which he stayed with for the rest of the book. I reccomend them as an interesting read.

The last part of the book I found slightly disquieting, firstly because this intelligent and observent gentleman spent the last ten years or so of his life in various health spas around euroupe trying to recover from a fall from a horse, and from enroaching deafness. The steady decline reflected in the letters, while all too common a human fate, isn't terribly fun to read. Also, the discussion of the brewing wars, in europe, and lastly between Britian and the American Colonies reminded me too strongly of today's news, which I really didn't want to dwell on.

Considering the actions of today, I found the following particularly memorable:

... It has given infinite joy to the unthinking public, who are not aware that it comes too late in the year and too late in the war to be attended with any very great consequence. There are six or seven thousand of the human species less than there was a month ago, and that seems to me to ba all.
The fact that he was talking about a battle won by the King of Prussia in 1757 has little bearing on the description of a fight which has little military use, but much benefit for the marketers.

I also watched a bunch of the old Warner Brothers cartoons today. They should have been happy and funny, but so many of them made references to the war that was ongoing, to buy bonds, or to keep a Victory garden or to ration things, that it reminded me again of the news.

Perhaps stupidly, I've avoided all but the basics of the news. We've attacked Afghanistan. Apparently there will be humanitarian aid, as well, but there's been a military action first. It boils down, at base, to the fact that I don't agree with military action for this, and I feel that we're being as much a set of terrorists as those who dislike us. Only, we're better funded and organized. Yes, we were attacked, and brutally, and in a horrible way. Yes, we need to do something about that. But, aren't we above being the biggest bully on the block?

Considering what I've read of the rights of the individual lately, and how they're planning to erode them so very much to "protect" us, and this military strike, I guess the answer to that is no. Instead, we overreact, and do things which harm people, both ourselves and others. I don't see anything good in it, and am tired of hearing others wave the flag and beat their chests in support of these actions.

On an unrelated subject, I really need to find work. I think what I need to do now to do so is to get out and talk to more people and know more people, but that has been very difficult for me to do. I don't feel talkative or outgoing, and I don't feel I have anything much to offer people. I'd rather do the oppisite of what I expect I need to do, meaning I'd rather crawl in to a hole and wait for something to come along. However, nothing will, unless I find it somehow.

Doing that, however, has been terribly elusive. I've been to a user's group meeting, and tried another that was cancelled. At both of them, the people I met weren't ones I wanted to talk to, and I don't know why. I feel terribly out of place in the Linux groups because I'm not enough of a zealot or something, and I can't simply throw myself at something because it's morally right. It has to work, too, and it has to be usable. Walking in to a whole room full of people and trying to buck the system is not something I have the energy or desire to do, particularly when it's such a pointless thing to argue about.

I signed on to their mailing lists, too, and haven't said word one. There's been some very specific questions about particular configurations I know nothing about, and there's been a bunch of folks who /did/ know. I don't use the same software they do, and even if I did, I don't know things like that; I have to feel my way through and poke and prod and read the man pages as I go. I've tried to think of a less-specific question I could ask there to start discussion, but nothing really comes to mind.

I am, of course, leaping to several conclusions, but I've yet to find anything which gives me hope to believe otherwise. Of course... I've not done much to try, which might explain it.

Basically, I'm feeling down and like I'm stuck and unable to fix this. Unwilling to fix this is probably a better way to describe it. The book, "What color is your parachute?" and the DBM folks all say about the same thing, that networking is the answer, and I simply have to get out and accost everyone I meet and try and sell myself constantly. It sounds utterly horrible and I don't want to do it.

05 October 2001, 10:22 a

It's been a few days since I've written anything here. Part of me thinks, "Well, nothing's happened." but that's not as true as it could be. I've been thinking about a thing or two.

I built a Solaris x86 machine on my schizophrenic workstation. Solaris dosen't support my video or network cards. Fooey.

Most interesting, I think, was a conversation I had with a fellow by the name of David S. Anderson. He and I talked for a good solid couple of hours at DBM. He, in a nutshell, wanted to urge me to change how I present myself to people. He said it was clear from talking to me that I wasn't just an average coder-grunt who could crank out bits forever, but that I was someone who could see the patterns of software behind it, and that I should be trying to describe myself as that.

A long and fascinating discussion, which rambled on and off topic, yes, but it's got me thinking, which is, I think, what he intended it to do.

The hard part for me is not to know that I'm good at what I do. I've got enough examples of that to convince even me. The question I'm left with is how to describe that to normal people in a way that makes sense to them, to find a brief description that will be clear and put across the message I want it to.

I think I'm somewhat guilty here of the things that I keep accusing Collie of, too. Collie is brilliant. She will see solutions for things before other people see the problem exists. Her ability to read people is incredible. Her problem-solving skills are amazing, at least in certain areas. (In other areas, she's merely average, which frustrates her to no end. It dosen't help that she often talks to people who have honed those areas to a fine point.)

When Collie sees something, she jumps on it and reacts to it immediately. Other people she's talking to or gaming with haven't even noticed the possiblity yet. She's had all sorts of grief because of this. She's been accused of hogging the GM's time - she's always full of questions, and wants to know what next, what next! - and she's been accused of cheating - "You couldn't know that now!"

Both of those are almost unfathomable to her, because she can hardly concieve that the other people in the game didn't see what she saw, with the clarity she saw it. She is blind to her own skill in those areas, and wonders why everyone else dosen't do it, refusing to accept the idea that they don't know how, or perhaps simply can't. They're not as smart as she is!

She's also got a couple skills that I expect she'e both naturally good at, and has practiced since she was a kid, until they're so very natural she's not aware she does them. I'll guess her whole family's good at them, too. I mean the reading of people and animals intent from body language. Again, it often means she sees things are obvious, when they're completely opaque to other people. My own ability to read other people, in particular, is awful.

Wow, I get distracted easily. To summarize: Collie's really smart and dosen't realize what that means; she can't help but see herself as "average" despite having several skills that most don't.

Now, as I was saying many lines above, I think I probably do that, too, and am unaware of it. I assume every developer gets the mental image of a program, and enters the programmer's zen and just knows the program when they're really looking at it. One of the intersting things that David pointed out is that many, perhaps most, don't get that mental image. They don't know the program, to feel how it should work. Once you know the program, and how it works, writing it is pretty straightforward. You can write good, clean code, because you know what it has to do. If you don't know... you wind up writing a huge heap of crap. I've done both, and I know how it feels.

One thing that just went "click" is that this is a form of what the Extreme Programming guys do; they write the spec and test cases before they write the code. That way they know the code is correct before they do anything. Rather than having a formalized way to write that out, to know what it needs to do before I do it, I just figure out what it does, then go do it. Interesting.

David also mentioned he's been doing this a long time - he looks much younger than his age, I'd have never guessed - and that he knows object-oriented and procedural programming. It's not often I run in to someone who knows both of them, and who understands the difference and knows the strengths of them.

I suppose that makes the converse true, too. It's not often he runs in to someone who knows... which means there aren't many. Which means I need to stop thinking of myself as "just a coder" and find a way to feel like I'm an expert. And, find a way to tell other people that I'm an expert.

That's not an easy thing for me to do. I have enough trouble feeling I'm merely competent. The things I have done don't stand up to that description. The many-many stories I have about having performed the miracle, or walked on water don't fit there. Writing code in front of an armed, angry mob is not something an "average" developer does. I watched other skilled people freak out and lock up in that situation. Why don't I consider myself really good at what I do?

He also suggested I find one of the things I've done successfully and pitch myself as an expert. His suggestion was usability and user interface, because that's the skill he knew I have. And, that's an interesting, marketable skill, too. I do enjoy it.

Oddly, I don't know a name for the thing I really enjoy. Taking a project and adding something foreign to it, that's fascianting. To figure out the mental model for each of the two different packages, and then to find a way to mesh them so they both work, that's good stuff. The most recent example I've got is adding Perl to the MUCK server.

But, what do you call it? Does anybody care? I dunno.

UI and usability are interesting, too. I signed up for the ACM - they let me in all of a sudden, very odd - and they have a million fascinating articles about UI and other things. Real studies, although, often of very small groups though. Their online library is searchable now. Wow!

One of the suggestions David had, too, was to make myself more educated. I do have all sorts of education; I've read all sorts of books and thought all sorts of thoughts. I need to find a way to show and capitalize that. Maybe write some of my own papers or something. Magazine articles might be interesting to write, too.

He's not the first person to say, "So, why haven't you written the book yet?" either. That would probably be my former psychoanalyst, who also saw my urge to try and get people to be a little less impressed with chrome and to make their computers useful. That's a repeating theme I feel passionate about.

But, what do I do about it? And, how can I pay the rent while I find a way to tell people about it?

On other, less deep notes, I applied for a position at Google. I expect to be ignored, as has been typical lately, but I hope not. That'd be a great place to be. I may try and find if anybody knows anybody who can put in a word for me.

I got back with one of the recruiters - I do have one who will answer my email actually - and she's been amazed at the lack of positions. I think the recruters are probably hurting pretty badly. The way things are, I expect when there's a position opening up, it dosen't even get that far. By the time people are thinking, "Yeah, we could use another person." someone has said, "Hey, I know this guy..." and poof, the position is filled.

That makes getting out and meeting people even more important, and I've been utterly unsuccessful at doing so lately. Foo. I'll have to keep trying.

Anyway, that's enough for now. I've things to go off and do.

29 September 2001, 11:27 a

Thanks to Ariel who mentioned to me that I'd mangled the html in the entry for the 25th.

I've spent the last few days not thinking about much. I played Age Of Empires II some more, which is a lovely mind-numbing thing to do. My friend Jonathan (who I have no URL for) managed to score copies of Sheep, Dog 'n' Wolf which is a very fun little game which isn't actually available in the US. You get to play Ralph Wolf, and your goal is to steal Sam Sheepdog's sheep. It's from the old Warner cartoons where they seemed to be at least amicable if not actually friends, until they clocked in, and then they were bitter enemies, until they clocked out at the end of the day. Remember those? Well, you get to play the wolf. It's like driving a cartoon around. I found a demo on the Web, and Jonathan managed to get copies, I don't know how.

The box came in a white wrapper marked with, "ACME: The Name You Can Trust" on it. Hee hee.

My new very-boring business cards came. They'll make networking simpler, I hope. Perhaps possible. They're pretty plain, but they're readable and clear, which is the most important part.

They do use the new email addresses. Apparently I've confused people. I've had the email address wwonko at rdwarf.com for ages. However, I've gotten kind of tired of having to spell it. Neither part is particularly pronouncable. Bob reccomended PO Box which is an email forwarding service. You sign up for an address there and they bounce it to your real mailbox. You get three addresses for $15/year, and each block of three more is another $7/year. Nice service.

The new addresses are ericksonl at pobox.com or lerickson at pobox.com or loue at pobox.com. I also set up aliases here on rdwarf for lerickson, erickson, and loue. I added an alias for loki at rdwarf.com, too. Well, that's been around for a while, but I've started using it. But wait! There's more! I also wound up signing up with an isp called Panix and have an address there, loki at panix.com.

I've had a couple of questions. One seems to be, "Which do you read more?" The answer is pretty simple; none of them. They all point to the same mailbox. It dosen't matter which address you use, it winds up here on rdwarf where I'll get it.

The other question seems to be, "Which one should I use?" to which I'll answer, "Whichever you can remember most easily."

I haven't had many more deep thoughts lately. Collie's reading a book which I may read too, to talk about at a philosophy discussion group later in the month. I don't know how much I'll be able to contribute, though, as the book is about how modern problems can be solved by reading the Bible. It's a subject that kind of leaves me cold. I haven't read much of the bible, and don't know it at all. Even when I do read it, I don't often read a bit and then think, "Oh! Of course!" and see how it relates to my actual life.

Some of the bits I have read, others have come along and explained to me, and I can see why they'd say that, but I either didn't much notice it as I read, or didn't much care.

I wind up with a vaguely negative feeling about the entire topic because most of the times I've heard the Bible quoted and used as an example and exhortation, they're quoting single snippets of it in an attempt to justify some practice I find reprehensible. Others, wiser than I, often find conflicting quotes or messages in the same book, which dosen't inspire me to use it for any literal meaning at all.

This isn't to say that there aren't useful and important things in the Bible. However, taking it literally seems to be pretty foolish, and many of the people who do so seem to be in serious denial about the world around them and about the Bible it's self.

I know enough to know I don't know enough about it, so generally stay out of complex conversations regarding it. I suppose I could go learn all the things I'd need to know to keep up with all sorts of conversations that come up, but it boils down to me not caring enough to do so. Sometimes the conversations are interesting, and sometimes they're not, but rarely do I feel I have a solid enough base of understanding to contribute.

For example, a couple days back, Collie was talking about something - eek, I've forgotten the topic that led to this - and she made an offhand reference to the story of Job. (Is that how that's spelled? I think so.) I had to stop her and get her to give me the TV Guide version, because I had no idea what she was talking about otherwise.

Usually, this isn't an issue at all, but when conversation is about it specifically, I don't generally say much, because I don't have much to say. We'll see how this thing goes later in the month. I'll have to see if I get the book read at all. Dunno yet.

25 September 2001, 2:55 p

Nothing really exciting happenign in my brain in the last few days. I installed a tar pit on There's a summary page of who all is stuck in the pit off the main rdwarf "Features" page. I upgraded my ICQ client to a better version, which was marginally painful, but I finally got it working. I fixed majordomo on Holly. I fixed the monthly web server statistics. I ran some backups.

The job hunt is going slowly, and making me unhappy. I have a couple more leads to follow up, but I've gotten a whole lot of no response from the traditional methods, and the personal-networking that everyone suggests sounds draining and the very thought of makes me unhappy. I'll have to get off my butt and do some, though. I tried a couple more recruiters. One seems to honestly want to meet the people and get to know them. We'll see if they call me back.

At the moment, I'm not thrilled by gaming on Reality Fault, but I'm going to try and convince myself that it's mostly just me not being happy in general. People seem only to be upset by games, or by other things on RF, and I don't know if I find the server as a whole to be worth any energy.

22 September 2001, 5:20 a

I've decided that this schedule is too far off of Bob and Collie's, and to go to bed so early is difficult. at least until it'll be clear for the sun rise. Watchinng clouds brighten is not rewarding.

My bladder, however, is still used to this time. So, here I am. I remembered another chunk of dream, so I thought I'd write it down.

I went camping with my extended family. All the cousins and their kids and everybody. We were staying in tents. We had a "cabin" which was very nice and had art deco lamps. I was trying not to be grumpy and to help in the kitchen. People kept expecting me to play with little kids, which I didn't want to do and was uncomfortable with. Worse, they expected me to play with their dog, who was overexcited, insisted on trying to jump up on me, and who would take anything I was holding, and play keep-away with it. Big sort of german shepard mix.

It wasn't long (*snort!* I'm dreaming a Lou hell here, with the kids and the camping and the dog.) before I got tired of it, and went in to the "cabin" which was very nice, and sat, with some of the other men, who were watching television. Probably football. Some of the others decided, no, no, Lou has to be out here having fun with the rest of us, and started blowing things up to try and get me to come out. SIngle objects would go *boom* and vanish. Everyone else ignored it.

I decided to leave. I'd had to walk and walk and walk a very long way through picturesque landscape to get there, and didn't want to walk back, but I was fed up. I packed up my backpack, picked up my laptop (my current CPQ one) and decided to use the bathroom before I left.

I went in to the "cabin" from where we were camping, which was suddenly my Grandmother's yard. My mom and dad were putting up a dome tent, on a giant green tarp, cheerfully putting stakes right through the tarp. My sister was in the shower in the master bath - someone commented she'd been in the shower for two days. I thought she was probably fine, and hiding from the dog.

So, I went down the hall, through the laundry room, heading to the back bath, when someone tackled me from behind, and wound up crashing me in to a cabinet that dosen't exist there in RL. It was my cousin Sharon who said, "Me first!" and darted in to the bathroom. I thought, "I can't wait." and woke up.

The last chunk is probably related to messages of increasing urgency from my bladder. The first... I can't explain at all.

It's early. One of our neighbors is snorting around on a motorcycle outside. Sounds small and Japanese from here. At least it's not the guy with the blasted Harley who seems to drive around all night. They might be nice bikes, but the need mufflers. I realize, to the Harley fans, that idea is a sin, but... I don't care. If a Harley fan is incensed enough, maybe they'll email me and tell me why I'm wrong. Nobody else has had anything like a good reason.

I think I'm gonna crash for another hour or two (or three) and then get up and shower and try and start a backup of Holly. Scott Ruggels is coming over and we'll game, for the first time since the 11th. Scott was really angered by that, and didn't think the eminintely logical Collie and to a lesser degree, Bob, would appreciate or help his anger. I can relate. My own irrationality was irritating. I hope he's feeling better.

That's enough for now. Gonna sleep some more.

21 September 2001, 7:30 a

Park. Not quite what I expected, but a park. Sat at Flood Control Dam #5 (not quite, but that's all I could think of) and listened to water gurgle and watched birds suddenly perk up. That's nice.

Watching the sky brighten was not too thrilling; cloudy again. The birds all knew when the moment came, and went off all about the same time. For a park that's closed, there were sure a lot of joggers.

I don't know quite why I'm doing this. It seems like a good idea. I'd like to catch a glimpse of some critter larger than a bird to reassure myself we haven't casually wiped them all out. I don't know if this busy, concrete-filled park is a place to look. Maybe some of the farther corners of Vasona. Maybe.

Part of me feels that we've squeezed everything out of the world around here but is; it's very dense suburbia here, and I guess I am noticing it. Yesterday, outside Vasona, I smelled skunk musk, though, so it probably isn't that bad; the critters in question are probably just better at hiding than I am at seeing them.

Hmm. whois still lists realityfault.com, although it's expired. I don't understand the magic required to claim a domain that has expired. I guess BulkRegister hangs on to them the way the Network Solutions does? I don't know. I'll poke around and see... This says the registrar may hold it "30-45 days or longer". There's a service which lurks on names now. Naturally, it's by Network Solutions. BulkRegister seems in on it, too.

21 September 2001, 5:30 a

Had another odd dream or two. One, was at my parents house, trying to installsome software on a PC. Oddly, off of 5 1/4" floppies. Fighting a new dot matrix printer who's ribbon leaked everywhere. Kind of off, being who I ma now, and dealing with some apparently new stuff but that's old technology. Also some things about dealing with my sister and father, but those are kind of unclear now.

Another odd one after that, too. I "came to" at lunch in high school. I was with friends of mine from high school. I was, however, the person I am now. I had no idea how I got there. My backpack was full of books and notebooks and paper, with my handwriting on them, none of which I had ever seen before. One of the friends said I had a class with him, and we went. It was a beginning psychology class. The students were all rowdy and not prepared to listen or think. The teachers were all apparently mostly baby sitters, or kidherds. All the material came from video. Some was just incredibly fluffy. It was all sports-themed, to try and hold their attention. It had commercials (7-up extreme! Classic 7-up with peanut flavir!) and was almost content-free. No one listened, or had pencil or paper or anything. The teacher reminded of a test on friday, that everyone had to bring a pencil. People groaned, like this was a terrible requirement. The teacher (Roz from "Night Court") said she thought even this class could pass, becaause it was all multiple choice, and graded on the curve. She then couldn't explain what that meant. That is, most of the people in the room couldn't get it. The bell rang, and I had no idea where to go next. People thought that was funny joke. Rather than having to deal with it, I woke up.

Niether were nightmares, although, RL I expect they would have been. They were just surreal.

According to this, realityfault.com is available. If I cared a HUGE amount, I'd try and snag it this instant. It can wait a couple of hours.

It's early. No deep thoughts yet today. I think I'll try and find a park before dawn again.

20 September 2001, 9:20 a

Found it. It opens at 8a, a little late for dawn, and also charges a fee, which I didn't note. I'll probably be back later, though.

20 September 2001, 7:20 a

Back from the adventure. I got to see the dawn, as much as there was today, but not from the calm and restful atmosphere of a park. I, in fact, didn't get in to a park. I didn't have one in mind; I didn't know where any really were. I planned on getting out my map book, and driving to a big green spot. They're all pretty well labelled.

I picked one that was both reasonably close, and in a direction I don't usually go, and drove there. Turns out, I'd been there before; it's a lovely park, with a stream and a lake and trails and things. There's a carousel and a little diesel train you can ride around the park on. We took Zhora there one afternoon. I find it a nice place. Bob dosen't like it; there's something that grows there that congests him horribly, as soon as we go. It might even be big enough to have some interesting wildlife, I don't know. It's pretty developed and often has people crawling all over it.

It was, however, closed. It is also a park where they charge a fee to go it; it's how it's kept so nice, which is good, but just to go and be contemplative on a remotely frequent basis, a fee is not what I particularly want. I did, however, find a large hardware store that isn't a Home Depot, an ACE. OSH might betetter, though.

I got out the map book and looked around. There's another big swath of green tucked under a big overpass, just right down the street. Looks like it has some water, a resivor - natural lakes aren't usually square. That looks good.

I couldn't find the way in. I found one little brown highway department sign pointing confusingly, and followed it nowhere useful. I tried to drive around it and kept kitting the freeway. There's a freeway interchange, and an interchange between a big surface street and the San Tomas Expressway right there, and it's a very busy and convoluted piece of roadway. It's also right on a corner of the pages in the map book, which made actually tracing down where I wanted to go trickier than it might have been otherwise.

It was also rush hour, and the expressway was quite busy, and the freeway was backing up on to the interchanges. I can think of lots better times to try and drive around and find something. I think I'll probably wind up spinning through the cloverleaf until I find the right exit, and doing that when it's tangled with cars is stupid.

According to The Weather Channel, sunrise was at 6:53 and is getting later. That's good, because it will mean I don't have to get up much earlier to definitely see it. Why I care, I'm not sure, but I'm going to try. They say it'll be cloudy from midnight to 9a, and that seems right. Interesting. I picked the wrong time of year. =)

Anyway, I'll have to see if I can find this park. Why look! The Web is my friend: Santa Clara County Parks - Los Gatos Creek Trail.

There's a map on that page, too, Los Gatos Creek County Park. I think the entrance I need is on Dell. Take Winchester to Hacienda, right where my doctor's office is, follow that down to Dell, then left and there should be an entrance.

Of course, had I been a smart person, I've have done this last night, but there you go.

I put on some jeans to go outside in, and they're getting tight. While some people like tight jeans, having them be tight because you've gained weight isn't usually the goal. I'm going to have to cope with this, and I've been ineffective at doing so. I've no self control, and even the constant reminder of my pants being too small isn't helping. I simply have to decide, "Enough!" and do something about it. Maybe today. I keep saying that, though.

20 September 2001, 5:45 a

Yes, it's beforre six in the morning. I've been trying to be up earlier. I'm up and it's early. Dark outside. Mmmm.

I woke up from, a long, strange dream. I was riding the bus to my parent's house from the airport, coming in to see them. The world had become a distopia; dirty, and full of crime. Several times, people tried to steal my wallet. They did, finally at the end. The police simply demanded my hat. Dunno why. The bus was a huge, armored thing. I didn't recognize any of the street it drove along. On the bus, a large, unwashed drunk man decided I was his new best friend, and that I could carry him, and he insisted on cuddling up with me, despite my protestations. I don't remember if he tried to take my wallet. The route had changed and gave me farther to walk in the rain. It was a long, dark dream.

This radio statio has just told me it's part of ClearComm or whatever the huge radio conglomerate is. In doing so, I lost any respect I had for them, and am convinced they're faceless, corporate drones. There's a reason that Star 103.1 sounds just like Star 101.5. Feh.

There's a big telethon Friday for the terrorism victims in NY, DC, and Pennsylvania. While I don't have a problem with that, and I hope it does them plenty of good, the completely artifical hype on the radio left me feeliing unenthused, and manipulated. History-making television! Two hours of telethon with all the biggest names! Then a whole bunch of names I don't know! Everyone will be watching it, like the moon landing, or something! Watch! Give! Aren't we great! Watch!

Geez, dosen't anybody remember Jerry Lewis' telethons? We've done telethons before. Don't think I'm an idiot, please. And it all feels soulless and corporate. Jerry didn't.

Anyway, I'm going to go outside and try to find a park to sit in and watch the sun come up. Bet I fail, but I'll try.

18 September 2001 10:05 a

Got up earlier today, and am trying to get some things taken care of. Rattled around a little more seriously looking for work. Fired off a resume to a listing that's been up for months now, and I doubt I'll get any reply.

The key is apparently Networking, and to manage that, I'll need to actually leave the house and talk to people. I'm going to try going to some of the Linux user groups locally, and talk to folks there. There's a couple in the next few days, and we'll see how they do. I've also ordered some business cards from a web page. It was easier than finding someplace locally, and, apparently cheaper. I used http://www.webprintshop.com/.

Haven't had any more really interesting flashes of insight about brains and programming, although it's still an interesting thing to consider. Talked about it with some other folks who all sort of said, "Oh. Okay." and had different levels of interest and agreement.

Decided I'm going to try and get up earlier, go to bed earlier, get a regular schedule going again, the early schedule again. Been a while since I've been on early mode, and I think it'll do me good again.

Got email from someone who actually read the other entry here, almost before it was done; I'm not entirely sure I was done, in fact. Very strange, considering I didn't expect anyone to actually read this. =).

I booted my Unix workstation yesterday, and opened up the development environment and stared blankly at it. I want to replace the command parser in the MUCK server with something which will allow better adding of commands on the fly, and which will allow some better handling for help and stuff. Doing so (as so much in this project does) opens a large can of worms. I'll babble at Bob and see what he thinks.

I've a game tonight, Night Music. We'll see what happens. Collie talked to Walter about his punning and about our ability to trust his character, and she and I talked to Jonathan about having his character be less of a pansy. No pun intended. Hope those things helped.

I'm playing the same song, "Psyche Rock" by Pierre Henry [Fatboy Slim Malpaso Mix] over and over. It's the theme music from Jumping Flash 2. I don't know which came first.

16 September 2001 8:30a

Finally got off my lazy butt and put a file in place so I'll be able to keep some journal entries and write stuff a little more easily. It's something I've been thinking about doing for a while now.

It's currently a large single HTML file. If that becomes a problem, I'll do something creative with text files. I'm merely sprinkling paragraph marks around it now, as much as I find using those without closing tags tacky.

Let's see. Yesterday was an interesting sort of day. Several interesting realizations and thoughts happened. In that respect, it was a busy day and has left me with lots to think about.

Early on on the day, some mail came across the Reality Fault mailing list, which wound up irritating me to no end. I'm certain the author didn't intend that, but it was on a subject - last Tuesday's horrible terrorist attacks - that I'd been more sensitive about than I realized. I had noticed my attitude was making my roommates a little weary, and was trying to get it under control. So, email came in, and I blew up. Boom!

Even as I was angry - and no other word will do - I realized that I had been completely unable to understand how other people I know would have been made angry by this. I could see my own hypocrisy, and didn't like that. Nor, did I like the anger. It was not useful.

I decided I wouldn't be able to think about it clearly while I was tied up in a knot of anger, and that I needed to do something else to keep from being that way. I went out, to run some errands, and try to think of other things. Wherever I went online, something reminded me of the disaster, and that's the subject I wanted to avoid, and rattling around the house, angry, was not something I much wanted to do.

I went out, just to run some errands. Drive the car, play the CD player far too loudly, be in the sunshine. Such a simple thing often helps shake a bad mood, and I hoped it would work. Made a list, went to the drug store, went to Le Boulangeir (however that's spelled) and had a sandwich. (Mmm. Turkey with cranberries.)

While I was in the drug store, just kind of wandering around and looking at all the stuff, for drug stores have a strange and mystical collection of goods which often remind me of things and make me think of other things I might need there - I was looking for a hat, to try and keep my balding pate from sunburning in to a giant, hot, red sore, and didn't see any I liked. I'm being picky. Until then, the Wierd Al baseball cap will have to do - I remembered something I'd been interested in a while back, and thought it might be nice diversion.

Some time ago, I decided I'd try and learn to draw. Not to become an artist or to change my whole mental image or something, just so I'd be able to put something past boxes and arrows on a piece of paper if I needed to. Stick figures are a stretch for me sometimes, and I thought it'd be nice to change that. On Furry, I tend to linger with some of the artists, and they'd been discussing a book called, "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards, and I'd bought a copy. I'd also picked up a couple of others, and even done a tiny amount of random sketching.

I'd ordered the one book from Amazon, and had a different one. The other one, "Drawing! You can do it!" or something along those lines - I'm too lazy to go find it in the other room - is a straightforward and clear book. It started off by saying, "The secret of drawing is... to draw! Go draw things!" It gave some suggestions, and then suggested going and drawing. It strongly reccomended drawing people, and seemed to have good reasons for doing so. I'd gone through it's first excersize or so, and then stopped. Didn't think about it, just assumed I was busy.

That was months ago, maybe a couple years. Yesterday, though, I remembered this advice, standing in a drugstore. There's a good pencil and a good eraser in my bag (along with red, green, blue, black, and purple ball point pens, hee hee!) and all the books had said that's all you really need to just sit and sketch and I have seen enough artists do just that to know it's true. So, I thought, "Ah-hah! I'll draw." and bought a sketch book of blank pages with a spiral lay-flat binding with my other randoms and went to lunch.

Lunch. I mentioned it already, a lovely sandwich at Boulangeir, which I still can't spell. It's a coffee shop, sandwich place, swinging from one to the other as "breakfast" fades to "lunch" and then closing relatively early. Pleasant place, and you can sit and talk or read or whatever as long as you like. I've never seen one completely full, although, I've never been there at noon.

In the drugstore, it had also occurred to me that I'd be able to find some people to draw there, and lo! there were people there. Sitting relatively still and talking or eating or reading the newspaper. Perfect sketching fodder, right?

Apparently not.

Here's the second strange realization of the day: I'm embarrassed to even look at people.

Bob and Collie and I have had several conversations about body language. I don't get body language from people. At all. Bob does, and can. Collie's incredible at it, and constantly reads everyone around her. She sees a whole extra world of things that I not only don't understand, that I just utterly miss.

I'm trying to get better at reading body language. First hurdle is apparently looking at people. Wow. I'd assumed, even stated, that it was rude or impolite or something, which got me the strangest looks from Bob and Collie both.

Trying to sit and draw someone, it became abundantly clear to me that it's not that at all. I'm embarrassed to look at people. I find that vaguely mind-bending. Why would that be? It's not like the people I was looking at noticed or probably cared.

I don't know what to make of it. Nor do I know what to do about it. Collie suggests (as she often does) doing whatever it is that bothers you. I'm going to try, but I don't know if it will help. It'll tell me I can, but I don't know if it'll do anything about the way I feel about it.

It bothers me, too. It seems such a straightforward thing, and I don't know where it came from. Not from my family is it? I don't know. I doubt it. I used to be much more outgoing, and talk and laugh and know all sorts of people and be willing to just go and do stuff. I was on the BBSs with all those folks, and it was okay.

Somwhere along the way, something changed. I don't quite know when. College and Skylight seem to be a point where a lot of those good things stopped. There were several draining things that went on in my life at that point, and I don't think I've recovered the vitality and happiness I had before them. Failing college was difficult. Going back, day after day, and being able to see and grasp the concepts, unlike most of the people in the room, but being (also unlike most of the people in the room) unable to pass the tests. Working constantly, under high stress, with no real leadership, and no security for the future was hard. Dragging Skylight along, it seems by sheer force of will sometimes, took a lot out of me. Tad and Scott and Vicki and Rod and I, and everyone there, to a lesser degree, seemed to take turns giving ourselves to keep the thing moving. Thinking about it, my relationship with Hadley was probably draining - starting a new job with her in the mental ward at Harborview, carrying the cell phone so she could call and be frightened at any time, the nights of her staying up, crying her heart out... yes, that probably did take something out of me. I didn't think so at the time, and even now, it feels like it was less hard than the other things, because she did support me when I came unglued myself, and she did give things back to me, whereas school and work didn't seem to. Hard to say if that relationship was a net gain or loss, but it certainly was an extra stress.

So, someplace in there, that ability got burned out of me. I was certainly burned out during that time. So. I have to find a way to get that back. I'll try. It's easiest not to, but it's no fun.


So. Revelation number three yesterday was a different flash of insight. In "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" the author talks about the two different parts of the brain, what they're good for and what they each do. When she first wrote the book this was new and exciting, and it's still not applied well or often. As background information, she talked about the differences, and many of them were interesting.

In summary, the left hemisphere of the brain is best at logical, procedural thinking, such as reason and language. The right hemisphere is better at spatial, visual and conceptual things. The book says that it wants to work best in gestalt, taking the whole and examining it together. In a nutshell. The book has a full chapter, and many more have written more, and it's a curious and interesting thing.

Some people put too much weight in to it, and try and make it a big deal, which Ms. Edwards rightly points out is going too far. Nor are the details of exactly which piece is handled in the brain lives where terribly important to the lay person. The idea that the brain has two distinct modes, which she calls R-mode and L-mode, after right and left, that is the interesting thing to think about.

Also, the left, the logical, procedural, rational, language using chunk of the brain tends to be dominant. The brain seems to have one part or the other in the foreground, with the other either kind of out of the loop, or working but not as strongly in charge as the other. So, you can get either half of the brain in charge, and the other half can either be sort of offline, or it can be working along as a helper.

She has some exercises which are supposed to help you switch over to R-mode, to gain access to that spatial processor in the right hemisphere. I have led easily to the conclusion that, if you wanted to draw, having access to that specialized part of the brain that's really best at it would be a great help, and I can't help think that is true.

These exercises are hideously difficult for me. I believe I simply need more practice, not that I can't do it, though. For a while, I thought that I couldn't do it - I do so much computer programming and geekthink that I'm stuck in that logical and rational part of the brain, and I'll never get out.

That's when flash number three happened.

Computer programming isn't all left-logical brain work. Lots of it is, the actual grinding out of the code. However, when I get really working, I hit 'programming zen' - I remebered being in a restruant with another developer and trying to explain it to a recruiter, and both of us being almost unable to do to - and I think that zen is the right brain being in charge.

Some of the things Ms. Edwards listed as being typical for R-mode are a sense of timelessness, difficulty understanding words and following conversations, and being focused on the whole or seeing the world in a new and different way. Those are the things which describe the programming zen for me, and for others.

Also, thinking about that zen, it isn't a logical thing. The best programmers, when they're working hard, don't think of little logical pieces. They have the whole in mind. It's not even something you can visualize - it dosen't exist, it's not real. But, when you get the whole program pulled in to your head, you just know how it works, and how you can affect it, and you can just feel the connections between the different parts, and understand how you get from your inputs to your requirements.

That was a flash - that what I've not been able to show people about computers isn't "how to program" but "how to know your data". It is, in some ways, a zen thing; when you know your program, you can write it. Good, experianced developers can take the inputs, and outputs, and just kind of feel how the part between goes, and that's programming, the "here magic occurrs" on the blackboard.

Here we let the part of our brain that works in whole pieces, which sees the gestalt build the big picture for us, so the logical part can go off and make each little piece.

That one still blows my mind.

Just now, typing this in - this may be a good reason for journals - some other things occurred to me. The best team work I've ever done is when we were all working in that mode, and had, through incredible, fast, and highly techinical communication, built a shared gestalt. We all knew how it would work. I was in a development meeting in Alaska, when Dan Cottrell got the group mind (his "amorphus mass") engaged, and it was bizarre, and very cool. (Dan, if you're reading this: Spenard.)

One thing I wondered last night, and that I am reminded (by the word spenard, of all things) of now, is that perhaps programmers aren't some of the strange people who can use both halves of the brain at once somewhat effectively. While we had the shared gestalt of what we needed and what we had, we were also playing word games. Wouldn't that be a left-brain thing? I don't know. Maybe nobody does.

To counter my own wondering, I've often thought that there was an incredible pattern matching engine in the human brain. We use it to recognize faces, despite the fact they've changed (aged, or gained or lost weight, or grown a beard, or gone grey) and we recognize the flash of turn-signals and flicker of brake lights as different very easily. We can read a street sign through fog and bad windshield wipers; not because we can read all the letters but because we know what we're expecting, and some chunk of the brain - the right half, I expect - makes that connection.

So, our word games may have, in fact, been right-brain, because they were all sound-alike, or other patterns. In this case, I'd foolishly said, "There can't be many words that start with 'sp'. What a wierd combination." We came up with lots of them, over the course of days. They'd just pop in to mind in the middle of other things. That popping in also seems to be a right-brain trait.

The metaphors I use for that are all based on the computer, I guess. Once I can get my right brain working on a problem, I can let it go off and do that in the background. Then, as I do other things, it'll come to me. Sometimes, it has to wait until that half of the brain is active again to tell me - maybe it has to be active to do the processing? I don't know. Anyway, I'll be driving or sleeping and just know - ah-ha! - or dream the answer to a complex problem.

Lots of people have had the experiance where you're thinking hard about something, and you go to bed and dream the answer, or wake up with it. I think that right brain has been chewing on it.

It may be, though, that to do the programming zen, you need both halves, although, I don't know that that's true. One thing in the drawing book that Ms. Edwards describes is that there are several skills to drawing. You can, and tend to, learn each of those individual skills. And then, there's the point where they all go together, and you're not drawing lines and shading... you're just drawing. Her analogy was learning to drive; sometime you're driving along, and not having to think, "Okay, clutch, shift, find the friciton point, more gas, signal, look in the mirror, shift over..." you're just doing it, driving along.

I wonder if you don't have to learn the skills. Once you're good enough with them, the left brain can do them without having to be the dominant half, and that 'click' is when the right brain can put them all together, and the left brain can still do them because it knows how to do them pretty well, and dosen't need to become dominant and think about it again.

Collie said horseback riding had similarities. The book suggested driving, and riding a bicycle, and walking. I think swimming does. Handwriting probably does. Typing probably does.

Programming might. If it is true, then what needs to happen is to train the left-brain in the logical skills needed and tools available, memory and strings and pointers and if/then/else and boolean logic, and then to get the right-brain engaged, let it look at the whole problem, and use those tools, which the left must be able to do well enough it can do them without distracting the right, to solve it.


I wonder if that's why so many programmers don't comment. When they're coding, language isn't part of the brain that's engaged, and to engage it long enough to put complete sentences in is distracting from the act of getting the code out. That dosen't forgive them for not going over it again afterwards, and documenting it, but it might explain it.

I wonder what it says about the large-group programming methodoligies which are designed to break programming in to a mechanical process. I see, thinking about UML, the one place you're supposed to "design" and the rest is a way to track and manage that. I wonder if so much structure isn't a negative to getting good code written. I also wonder if the "Extreme Programming" people aren't the oppisite; if they're not riding that right-brain wave, and just don't know it. Or maybe don't care, or just don't talk about it.

So, if those things are true, and they make reasonable sense, then it is not the case that I cannot enter the R-mode to draw. I just have to learn to do it. If I can learn to do it for that, I might be able to do it on demand to develop. That would be very cool.

The habits described in The Hacker's Dictionary, of not interrupting someone, or keeping state in your head, or "being juggling priceless eggs in variable gravity" while you're in that zen-state seem to describe, at least to me, people in the R-mode who don't know it but do know they want to stay there while it's being useful.

It might also make it easier to teach people how to do it. If you could distill this, and help anyone learn how to do this, would it help them? Would Excel and script languages suddenly be more useful for more people? Would the Mac users suddenly clamor for a batch language? Or, would they notice the one they have and just don't see?

This morning, I woke up at 6:00am. *blink* I'm awake. Used to be how I woke up. It's good. I don't know why it dosen't happen all the time. I wonder if it's because of the thinking I did last night? Or, maybe I just ate right or went to bed early. Dunno.

I recalled that there's good radio on the radio in Seattle at 8:00am on Sunday, and I'm listening to it, via netradio. The End's netradio sucks, drops out, skips, and is really low quality.

Maybe I'll bother Bob and see if I'm raving, or if he agrees or disagrees.