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log entries
December 2001


 

Saturday, 1 December 2001, 12:20 pm

Among the many things I hate about winter is the complete disappearance of summer fruits: I wake up at two in the morning with a craving for, say, a nectarine the size of a bowling ball, and I can't do a thing about it except to guzzle about a pint of apple juice and hope I don't notice the difference.

Ford Motor Company has been in turmoil these past few months. To the denizens of Dearborn, I recommend the following wisdom from Carlos Ghosn, the spectre from Renault who brought the spirit of renewal to Nissan:

"There is no problem at a car company that good product cannot solve."

And "good product", I might add, doesn't mean just good enough to get by. You've got to have vehicles that people will storm the dealerships to buy, cars and trucks and combinations thereof that are so desirable, the company coffers will overflow simply from not having to cover all those rebate checks and implausible financing deals.

Today's spam comes from something called CasinoAOL.com, which despite its name has nothing whatever to do with America Online. I expect the lawyers will be busy for a few days.

Sunday, 2 December 2001, 4:25 pm

A couple of musical notes (sorry about that) today.

This summer, a couple of German wisenheimers put out a CD called Dis*ka Presents C 2064, a collection of tunes cobbled up from the sounds produced by the SID chip in the old Commodore 64 and the sound chip in the just-as-old 8-bit Atari computers. (I guess this redefines "techno".) It's great fun to hear these old noises again, but there are a few tracks I simply can't identify, and the gold-on-light-grey printing on the CD label (there is no jewel-box insert) is unreadable at most any angle, at least for my ancient eyeballs. CDDB just laughs at it, as does whatever the hell database Windows Media Player is using, and there was no track listing at the record label's Web site, either. If you're familiar with this disc, I'd be much obliged if you could identify tracks 7 through 11, 14 and 15. And if you're not familiar with this disc, the reading of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" justifies its purchase.

This past April, I devoted a log entry to Ruthann Friedman, the youngster whose song "Windy" became an enormous hit for the Association back in 1967. Quite unexpectedly, I heard from her daughter Lisabeth — one of two children — who advises that Ruthann is alive and well and living (and attending college) in Los Angeles, and that the person who inspired "Windy" wasn't so much the boyfriend she had as the boyfriend she might have wanted. Fair enough. Lisabeth herself is in college, and appreciates the song greatly: "Those BMI royalties pay my tuition." Go run out and buy the record, just in case she needs new books.

 

Monday, 3 December 2001, 5:10 pm

It's a typical damp December day, with one minor exception: it's around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, which means that this stuff is not going to freeze any time soon, which means that I don't mind it quite so much as I did, say, last week's snowstorm.

Inspiration for custom CDs comes from the strangest places. Last month, I happened upon a site which contained a handful of Sixties Top 40 charts from the small Southern station to which my dial was semi-permanently set in those days, and zeroing in on the 1967 page, I noticed that of the forty songs listed, thirty-nine were somewhere in my collection in some form or another, and it occurred to me that this would make one hell of a mix tape. What it wound up being, of course, was a CD, well short of forty songs — even the 80-minute variety can't hold that many pop tunes unless they're down in the 1:50 range — but the twenty-five songs that did fit comfortably will be very much welcomed the next time I have to drive anywhere. Of course, as played on the station's inevitable countdown show, these would have been played in reverse order, but there's a practical limit to the amount of verisimilitude I'm willing to cram into a project. As for the station itself, today it's yet another tedious news-talk outlet, a voice for people with not a whole lot to say.

Tuesday, 4 December 2001, 5:30 pm

Memo to whoever picks the cover photo for Rolling Stone: Britney Spears needs a push-up bra about as much as Jack Black needs a digitally-enhanced smirk.

And speaking of the D, I'm not quite sure how well this debut album of theirs is going to hold up over the long haul, but I admit it: I laughed. A lot. Even at the jejune, puerile, juvenile stuff. In fact, mostly at the jejune, puerile, juvenile stuff. On the other hand, some of these tunes ("Tribute" in particular) are absofrigginglutely brilliant, and we all know how seldom I lapse into tmesis.

And I would really like to know what is motivating this massive upsurge in bestiality-related email. Then again, maybe I wouldn't.

Wednesday, 5 December 2001, 6:40 pm

I swear, this must be the insurance industry's designated Official Injury Period. A friend of mine got banged up some days back, which she maintains was the result of restraint systems trying to keep her from being pretzeled as badly as the front of her truck. Connecticut's Definitive Teenage Swan has a broken wing. My turn, no doubt, is coming. Usually I fall flat on my tuchas (not that "flat" is the right word, exactly) once every winter, generally due to the combination of slippery pavement and inexorable gravity. Seldom is there any significant damage, other than to my dignity.

But I'm not 74 years old. My father is. And he took a spill indoors, normally a much safer environment, and still wound up with a broken hip, which will be repaired in the time-honored fashion: they will run a couple of metal rods through it. This will insure that he'll never get through airport security again, but at least he should be able to walk. And if nothing else, it should reduce the number of times a day I whine about this strained knee of mine.

Thursday, 6 December 2001, 5:10 pm

PL8 WATCH: The license plate on the black sedan read "4LESTAX". A reasonable sentiment, to be sure — certainly I can support this sort of thing on a philosophical basis — but I suspect it might have carried more rhetorical weight had it been affixed to, say, a beat-up Ford Escort, rather than a Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

One day after surgery, the old man is chipper as ever; I got to watch him give a ration of grief to four nurses in rapid succession. At least he's not the sort who becomes dispirited by such things. Were I similarly incapacitated, I would probably demand that someone put Dr Kevorkian on my speed-dial.

The Big Five accounting firm KPMG really objects to external links from people's Web sites, reason enough to put one here. (Muchas gracias: Jason Kottke.)

Friday, 7 December 2001, 6:20 pm

At least we know that dates which will live in infamy will hold up for sixty years, easily.

And speaking of time-frames, today's spam has an eccentric view of same:

If you are a time traveler or alien disguised as human and or have the technology to travel physically through time I need your help!
My life has been severely tampered with and cursed!! I have suffered tremendously and am now dying!
I need to be able to:
Travel back in time.
Rewind my life including my age.
Be able to remember what I know now so that I can prevent my life from being tampered with again after I go back.
I am in very great danger and need this immediately!

Well, okay, if you say so. But why send this to me?

I know that there are some very powerful people out there with alien or government equipment capable of doing just that.

As Zimmerman might have said, no, no, no, it ain't me, babe.

If you can help me I will pay for your teleport or trip down here, Along with hotel stay, food and all expenses. I will pay top dollar for the equipment. Proof must be provided.

This would be almost pathetic, were it not for the fact that it claims to have been sent by one Mike Doe at <sales@opt.com>, using the popular "results of your feedback form" fabrication, which makes this whole thing smell very much like the second-lowest form of email-address harvesting. (This, of course, begs the question: "What is the lowest form of email-address harvesting?" Anyone who's ever been in an AOL chat room knows that one, though.)

 

Saturday, 8 December 2001, 4:35 pm

No program defines the A&E cable network quite like Biography; the stories of people, past and present, are often artistic and sometimes even entertaining. And it helps when they get the details right, because sometimes a niggling little detail can screw up an entire premise.

Last night's Biography was devoted to singer Lesley Gore, a favorite in these parts, and one misplaced date coupled with an effort to paint her as a nascent feminist made much of the story come out horribly wrong. From spring 1963's "It's My Party" on, Lesley received lots of fan mail, much of it from teenage girls who were living the angst that was portrayed in her songs, which presumably caused a raising of consciousness, or whatever the term is these days, culminating in the release of the girl-power anthem "You Don't Own Me" in the fall of 1964 and a permanent change in Lesley's music. I have no doubt whatsoever that Lesley Gore believed in the spirit of this song — certainly more so than songwriters David White and John Madara, who usually vended stuff like "Birthday Party" for the Pixies Three — but the transition from Tool of the Producer to Independent Voice didn't take a year and a half; "You Don't Own Me" actually came out in the fall of 1963, only eight months after "It's My Party". And what's more, it was immediately followed up by "That's The Way Boys Are", nothing less than an apologia for all those horrid males who might have tried to own her a couple of months before.

Now to me, making big statements is good, but making good records is better, so doing what in some circles amounts to a political 180 bothers me hardly at all. Did it bother the people who put together this segment of Biography? I think it did. If you watched this thing, you might easily have gotten the impression that Lesley Gore put out this one last blast at male dominance and then, having fought the good fight and won, went off to study at Sarah Lawrence. If so, you would probably have been better off just reading the Web blurb, which is just as blinkered but which gets its chronology more accurate. And as usual with singers, there's far more story to be found in the songs than in mere biographical details anyway.

Saturday, 8 December 2001, 6:15 pm

One characteristic that distinguishes man from creatures lower down on the food chain is his willingness to take oversimplified and unnecessary tests for the sheer delight of it. And there's no way I can pass up something billed as a Personality Disorder Test. (Muchas gracias: Maggie Jane.)

According to this thing, my tendencies to exhibit various personality disorders stack up as follows:

Explanations are duly proffered. And frankly, in the Age of Ashcroft, I think paranoia is a viable defense mechanism.

Sunday, 9 December 2001, 4:45 pm

I used to say, "There are no stupid questions — only inadequate explanations." Lately I'm not so sure.

Pretty much all new cars sold these days have something called On-Board Diagnostics Level II, a fancy-schmancy way of saying that the computer which has to deal with all those sensors and meters and wires (oh, my) has the capacity to produce an error log which can be retrieved by a mechanic with a scan tool, should something that matters to them develop a malfunction. The light which indicates this malfunction is called, with disarming simplicity, the Malfunction Indicator Light. And lately, it seems, ninety-nine point something percent of car owners who see this thing (a substantial number of those will think it's called the "Check Engine Light" and wonder just what it is they're supposed to check) will immediately jump on the Net and ask everyone within snarling distance "How can I get this light turned off? I don't want to have to pay [fill in suitably-disturbing dollar amount] to the dealer."

The answer, of course, is "Get the malfunction fixed," but they don't want to hear that. It is an article of faith that the automakers and the government are engaged in some great conspiracy to suck our wallets dry, and OBD II is merely one more manifestation thereof. Once the car is driven off the lot, you should never, ever have to come back; once in a blue moon, you go to Jiffy Lube and get a fresh load of Pennzoil, but other than that, there's never any reason to look behind the grille. And, after a few years of this nonmaintenance, Mom's Camry suddenly begins spitting bug juice, somehow it's Toyota's fault for selling a bum product.

Cars, I am beginning to think, are like pets; you shouldn't be allowed to have one until you can demonstrate to the satisfaction of some Higher Authority that you know how to (and are damn well going to) take care of it. I can see the traffic jams beginning to thin out already.

Monday, 10 December 2001, 6:45 pm

About this time tomorrow, I should be grabbing desperately for a Lortab/Vicodin/whatever.

It seems that what's left of my jaw doesn't accommodate actual teeth very well, which has prompted my dentist to recommend some, um, minor adjustments to the surface, which will involve the excision of various bits of detritus and (for all I know) a couple of rounds of sandblasting. Even if he didn't look like Steve Martin in a brunet wig, I'd still be a trifle uneasy about this, but you gotta do what you gotta do, and if I'm to avoid spending the rest of my life snarfing down Cream of Wheat, this is apparently what I gotta do. (Before you ask: yes, two opinions were solicited.) Of course, this won't cause any perceivable damage to my legendary smile, which no one has ever seen anyway.

Tuesday, 11 December 2001, 6:00 pm

Lortab is on hand, but I haven't gone dipping into the bottle. Yet. Meanwhile, I get to bleed all over the place, and I am absolutely amazed that I thoughtlessly put on a blue shirt today. Talk about bad planning.

Cold and rainy for the next day or two, but it's not that cold and it's not that rainy, so I'm not going to complain. Much. Although I must point out that driving home in it with a mouth full of gauze, thereby impeding the flow of invective I would otherwise direct toward incompetent drivers, is a major annoyance.

If I average 150 visitors a day for the rest of the month, I can roll the counter over 100,000. Or, if I become sufficiently desperate, I suppose I can disable the feature that keeps it from incrementing during continuous page reloads.

Wednesday, 12 December 2001, 4:10 pm

Forget that powered-scooter thing. Transportation of the future is here now: Megway.

The weather guys keep talking about "light drizzle". Just once, I'd like to hear them say "heavy drizzle", or, to give it a nice four-letter name, rain.

And I haven't had any urge for peanut brittle in quite some time, but I do now, and I think it's simply because I'm not allowed any right now, what with that oral-surgery thing day before yesterday. Perversity, even mine, knows no bounds.

Thursday, 13 December 2001, 3:30 pm

Quote of the day: Wil Wheaton, on the current copyright fiasco:

"[F]reedom of speech and expression and the right to due process trumps Sony's desire to make an extra $100."

The thing to remember in weather like this is that even if it did take two days to fall, it's still less than a quarter-inch of rain, but it could just as easily have been eight inches of snow.

This morning, the guys at the new Mazda store changed Sandy's oil and filter, checked the other vital fluids, and sent me out the door in thirty-seven minutes flat. Not bad at all, and the tab was $25, which is perhaps higher than your neighborhood Spee-D-Loob, but it's worth a few bucks not to have to sit in line behind some dork in Seventies Detroit iron who singlehandedly is producing five percent of the city's air pollution. Even more delightful a prospect is avoiding the standard pitch about how I really, really need their $42 air filter right this minute. What's more, the snickering from the usual prisoners of testosterone about driving a girly car like this (apparently all Japanese sedans qualify as such) induces high levels of secretion in my Smug Gland every time I come to the dealership and discover a Major Babe in the waiting room — which, lately, is every time I come to the dealership. At least I was possessed of enough presence of mind not to cough up something as lame as "I had no idea Halle Berry had a sister who could drive a stick."

Friday, 14 December 2001, 4:45 pm

There are times when I feel that I'm far too indecisive, and of course there are times when I feel that I'm not. The running gag has always been that I can spend fifteen minutes agonizing over "Paper or plastic?" As a practical matter, the gag has been superseded; there are only two grocers I patronize on anything resembling a regular basis, and one has nothing but paper, and the other has nothing but plastic.

That said, though, there are questions, not always major ones, that will throw me for a loop. This week's dilemma involved the reclamation of my old computer, which was retired this fall in favor of a newer, flashier box. "Do I simply uninstall all my extraneous applications and leave the basics in place, or do I scrape everything off and start from scratch?" The answer appeared within a few seconds of powering up the system: the old C: drive was deader than Winona Ryder's "Preferred Shopper" card. There was no choice but to promote the D: drive (which was a better drive, anyway, not to mention ten times the size) to Master status and reinstall everything from DOS 6.2 up.

It's been a while since I've seen a Windows 95 setup screen, and truth be told, I haven't missed it. Service Pack 1, IE 5 and DUN 1.3 inevitably followed; in Microsoft's defense, at least these things seem to work correctly. Plug and Play, however, continues to be Pain in Butt, and the incredibly-nameless sound card in this box went through seven remove-and-install cycles before it was deemed properly installed by the operating system, at which time Windows suddenly decided I had an extra display adapter and refused to let me bypass the installation thereof. You'd think I'd have learned by now.

And speaking of hardware, do not adjust your monitor. I decided late last night that some of these pages were prematurely orange, and toned down the tint accordingly.

Saturday, 15 December 2001, 6:35 pm

Daughter and grandson arrived late last night, and naturally everything that wasn't nailed down (and a few things that were) was considered fair game for fast fingers. I can't believe I was this much of a pain at that age, though I have no legitimate reason to think I wasn't.

I'd say more, but I have to go protect my bookshelves.

Sunday, 16 December 2001, 3:35 pm

If there's truly a continuum between "old" and "young", it has detours and disjointedness all through it. I expected the two-year-old to get into everything possible, which he did, but I really didn't expect him to demonstrate a working knowledge of How To Manipulate People. Armed with facial expressions worthy of a Max Bialystock, The Grandson Formerly Known As Blond Boy (hair colors are mutable, too) can work three different angles at once, all equally shameless. And I really didn't expect my daughter (who is only twenty-three, after all) to have kind words for the likes of Bert Kaempfert and Percy Faith.

The rain continues; I guesstimate we've had about twelve hours of clear skies since Tuesday noon. It's supposed to let up some time tomorrow morning. Where was all this water during the summer? Mars?

Monday, 17 December 2001, 7:15 pm

The friend whose grey Nissan Frontier pickup was squashed a few days back has returned with, well, a grey Nissan Frontier pickup. Any resemblance to the old truck, however, is purely coincidental. This model was redesigned for '01 with the apparent intention of giving it a shot of testosterone; one print ad actually read "It doesn't have a feminine side to get in touch with." Not that any woman I know would have been dissuaded by the new Frontier's more-burly-than-girly appearance. On the other hand, Nissan seems to think that men worry about such things, and they may be right.

The rain is over, leaving behind a lot of puddles in general and a case of sniffles just for me. It is a gift I would have declined gladly. Still, it did contribute to an interesting discovery this weekend, when none of us wanted to venture out in the stuff for dinner and no one was inclined to cook, and suddenly my daughter popped up with "You do everything else online. Why don't you order some pizza?"

"Can you do that?" I asked, but I was already typing possible URLs into the browser, and Papa John's was happy to send out some poor soul with pizza, breadsticks and the usual ancillary stuff, in just about the usual length of time it takes to get a pizza delivered on a rainy Saturday evening. With an email confirmation, yet. In between bites, I had to admit that I was embarrassed that I'd never even thought of this before. The next step, of course, is pizza by fax. No, I don't mean ordering by fax; I mean actual delivery to my fax machine. (It's a small one, so large or thick-crust pizzas are out of the question.) I can hardly wait. Getting a two-liter bottle of soda in there, though, will require some serious jiggering.

Monday, 17 December 2001, 9:20 pm

Déjà vu alert: While researching the latest installment of The Vent ("What? You expect me to believe that actual research goes into those things?"), I discovered that the pitiful please-help-me-all-you-space-aliens letter at which I had duly sniffed on the seventh of this month was a replay of one I had received during the summer and had already mocked. Well, okay, it wasn't familiarity that bred contempt this time.

Tuesday, 18 December 2001, 5:20 pm

Usually the holiday season makes me ill, but not this ill. Minor sniffles yesterday were relatively easy to ignore, but today brought a full-fledged inflammation of everything north of the clavicle, with all manner of hideous fluids flowing at incredible speed. Discomfort, thy name is histamine.

(Memo to whoever owns Vicks this week: DayQuil and NyQuil have their place, I suppose, but if you really want to do the world a service, come up with a WeeQuil that has to be taken only once to suppress the symptoms for the seven days they're likely to last. I don't think $30 is out of line for a single dose, if it actually does the job.)

Third time's the charm, or so they say. I got a Christmas card from my ex-wife yesterday. Well, actually it was from her and her current boyfriend. It's not often she's inclined to put herself in front of (or, for that matter, in back of) such a word as "and"; the implications are fairly staggering. Is it possible that after two thoroughly-botched marriages (one of which was largely botched by me), she's actually found Mr. Acceptable?

Wednesday, 19 December 2001, 5:30 pm

Quote of the day: The first law of the Web, according to James Lileks:

"Those who can, write; those who can't, link."

The lackeys of the new landlord, when you scrape off the tinsel, are a scant improvement over the lackeys of the old landlord. They were feverishly passing out notices last night that the East End boiler (which provides the hot water for this end of the complex) had failed and would not be fixed until the next day. Of course, it would not be fixed today either, because the entire staff took off for their scheduled Christmas party, insuring no one was on hand to open the door for the repairpersons. We ought to try that little trick up at 42nd and Treadmill the day we're supposed to reconfigure the entire network. As for our Christmas party, it was last night (not during working hours, you'll note), and I didn't go because I was sick, and another round of cold showers is not going to make me any less so.

Thursday, 20 December 2001, 5:15 pm

This was hanging by the door when I got home:

"We have contacted several companies to replace the part of the boiler that has failed. We do not have a specific date that the work will be completed, but we are told it could be up and running as soon as Friday the 21st of December or as late as Christmas day depending on how quickly the part can be shipped."

Two words, dimbulbs: "spare parts". Read and learn.

Friday, 21 December 2001, 6:45 pm

About two miles from me is the Swap Meet, an efficiently-choreographed floating flea market. I pay close attention to the automotive detritus that surrounds the lot, mostly because I fear that one of the seemingly-lifeless creatures will suddenly come to life and present itself in the very center of my lane. Today there was no such diversion, but I did catch a glimpse of a guy in a pickup truck (a demographic which represents about sixty-five percent of the Swap Meet's clientele) with baskets full of pecans and a huge yellow flag with the coiled "Dont Tread On Me" rattlesnake from the days of the Continental Congress.

I couldn't tell if the chap was selling replicas of this flag, but if so, I suspect they would be selling briskly. Two centuries and a quarter later, "tread on" might be replaced with something a tad, um, earthier, and the most upright part of the picture might be something other than the head of a rattler, but the message is exactly the same. History lessons can come at any time, any place.

We have been promised Actual Warm (it takes a while to get really hot) Water for tomorrow night, though I have no reason to think my phone call to the Health Department or my email to a crusading TV reporter had anything to do with it. Not that I care who gets the credit, so long as the work gets done.

Saturday, 22 December 2001, 4:30 pm

I've lived out of (and sometimes under) a car, so I have far too much familiarity with what it's like to go without a shower for a couple of days. Getting back under the spray today was a scalding (deliberately so) reminder of how much I tend to take for granted in these supposedly more-affluent times.

As usual, local TV stations have responded to the arrival of a stiff cold front with cries that "We may not get above freezing for days!" If I didn't know better — and trust me, I don't — I'd believe that they were being ordered by the bean counters at their respective stations to hype any and all conceivable atmospheric conditions. The guy at the Fox affiliate comes off as slightly saner, if only because he declines to give forecasts beyond five days. In an area where the weather can change in a matter of minutes, this strikes me as eminently sensible, but everyone else, even the National Weather Service, provides a seven-day forecast and presumably hopes you'll forget about it before the week's out.

Sunday, 23 December 2001, 6:50 pm

Just about everyone understands about the straw that broke the camel's back, a metaphor for how things build and build until something seemingly unimportant causes everything to unravel at once. Most of my emotional existence, in fact, is based upon this premise. But it applies even more forcefully in real-world physical applications: the combination of a slightly-too-thick Compact Disc, a slightly-too-thick label, exactly the right interior temperature, and a CD player with about as narrow a slot as the format permits resulted this afternoon in a lot of useless whirring and buzzing and other horrible-sounding noises because the disc, which had been inserted when it was colder than Dick Cheney's used pacemaker battery, had warmed up enough to play and then would not, under any circumstances, eject. I uttered a few choice Anglo-Saxonisms for the benefit of passersby and then shoved a plastic ruler into the bowels of the machine, pushing down the spring-loaded disc platform just enough to let the disc escape. And I probably don't need to point out that the owner's manual does, in fact, recommend against the use of CDs of this sort, though in far-smaller print than is used to present the more important warnings like "Do not remove the oil filter while the engine is running."

And speaking of horrible-sounding noises, I was stuck behind some character at an office-supply store today who was emitting a few of his own. Based on my attempted translation from the mixture of profanity and bluster, it appears he had burned up about half a tank of gas (about $10 at current prices) to save eight bucks on some tchotchke whose sale price he had misread in the first place. Of course, he will send a nasty letter to Corporate. Now I'm not at all above sending nasty letters to Corporate, but as a general rule, I try to avoid sounding like a complete idiot.

Monday, 24 December 2001, 6:45 pm

Historically, three hours of work takes about four hours and a half when the rest of the staff is on site; since 42nd and Treadmill was otherwise empty today, I was able to wind it up in a shade less than two. I am reasonably certain that anyone else working in IT would be able to report similar findings.

I have my own moments of moral relativism, though I don't think I've quite gotten to the point where, for instance, a California kid joining the Taliban strikes me as in any way a reasonable thing to do. As Boss Kettering used to say, "You can be sincere and still be stupid." I'm not arguing that John Walker ought to be hanged for treason or anything, but I wonder about anyone who actually defends this kid's apostasy. I was pretty dumb at that age myself, but then I was working on our side at the time. (Alas, the fatigues don't fit anymore.)

Tuesday, 25 December 2001, 4:00 pm

Things are quiet here today. The wind has died down to a low roar, so if I hear anything blowing, it's the furnace trying to overcome the standard late-December chill. A major improvement over last year's ice storm, by any reckoning.

I just wish I could absorb some of that placidity into my central nervous system. I've been on edge and then some the last couple of days, at least partly due to the lingering effects of this annoying sub-flu virus that refuses to pack up and leave, and the lack of efficacy of the usual "treatments" proffered by the drug industry. Pink Floyd was definitely on to something with that "comfortably numb" business.

I had a redesign for the front page ready to go a week from today, but the more I look at it, the less I like it, so out it goes, though a couple of the minor tweaks have been incorporated so I won't have to do them again later. At least, that's my story for now, and I'm sticking with it.

Wednesday, 26 December 2001, 5:20 pm

Few things make me quite so antsy as discovering that the National Weather Service has changed the weekend wording from "slight chance of snow" to "chance of snow". In the past, this has meant "Prepare for the worst," and I have no reason to think things have improved since, well, last month.

Quote of the day: Gary Kamiya, executive editor of Salon, on the one fact overlooked by all you It's a Wonderful Life fans:

"[I]n the real world, Potter won. We all live in Pottersville now. Bedford Falls is gone. The plucky little Savings and Loan closed down years ago, just like in George's nightmare. Cleaned up, his evil eyebrows removed, armed with a good PR firm, Mr. Potter goes merrily about his business, 'consolidating' the George Baileys of the world. To cling to dreams of a bucolic America where the little guy defeats the forces of Big Business and the policeman and the taxi driver and the druggist and the banker all sing Auld Lang Syne together is just to ask for heartbreak and confusion when you turn off the TV and open your front door."

And I yield to no one on the subject of heartbreak and confusion.

Thursday, 27 December 2001, 5:40 pm

Another twist to the viscera. Paul Battaglia worked in a cubicle 100 floors above the ground in, yes, the World Trade Center. But his Web site remains, forever frozen at his last update on the 27th of August. (He reports that on amihotornot.com, he scored a lukewarm 6.1 out of a possible 10.) Something inside of me wants to cheer that this little bit of HTML history, a part of this man I never knew, still goes on even as the wreckage is cleared away. But there's the inevitable sadness, knowing that whatever he may have planned, for the rest of his site, for the rest of his life, has been swallowed up in some black hole not even dreams can escape.

For myself, I don't know if I'd want this site continued after my demise, though I pay my Web host a year in advance and therefore it would likely have at least some time left on the meter. What I would like, I think, is for some trusted soul to make one last entry in the log explaining in no more than a sentence or two why it's the last entry in the log. (Mental note: Leave the aforementioned trusted soul my Web-host password in my will.) Being the sort of person who has to see a film all the way to the end, which includes the end of the credits, I must of course insist on a proper end to my own story as well.

(Muchas gracias: Gael at Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

Friday, 28 December 2001, 5:10 pm

If you run a business, you presumably already know this: twenty percent of the clients generate eighty percent of the work. This wouldn't be such a big deal if they also produced 80 percent of the revenue, but seldom (if ever) does it work out that way. Some things, no matter how you rationalize them, are simply not worth the time and/or effort. This is a notion I have cherished for many years; until the late 90s, there was even a vestigial hint of it floating around 42nd and Treadmill.

No more. What passes itself off as "customer empowerment" these days is mostly an excuse for people to let their Inner Asshole grow and develop. When they say "Jump!" it's not enough to reply "How high?" anymore; you must come up with something like "So long as we're up here, feel free to beat us about the gonads with a sharp stick." God forbid anyone in a position to write a check should be treated with anything other than the most excruciating obsequiousness. Undoubtedly this contributes to my lowly status on various corporate ladders over the years, since I continue to believe that a schmuck is a schmuck is a schmuck, and I don't give a flying fish how many dollars he's prepared to spend to prove it.

Saturday, 29 December 2001, 11:30 am

Every single entry in the eighteen months of this log has been hand-coded, and there were times early on when I wondered if maybe it wouldn't be simpler if I switched to one of the sort-of-instant-posting products like Pyra's Blogger. Once I got my format in something resembling a solid form, though, I figured I could do this on my own just fine, and the one Blogger option I found most useful, the ability to set permanent links for individual entries, was simple enough (if a trifle time-consuming) to duplicate for my own site.

The real worry, though, is that by going through Blogger, I would have one additional hurdle to jump in order to keep the site maintained, and I'm one of those people who wants as few things in the way as possible. Had I the bucks and the bandwidth, I'd even drop my Web host and bring the whole thing in-house, or maybe in-closet, just to reduce the possibility of problems. As it stands, I'm still dependent upon a server farm in San Jose, though I can update from anywhere I can use FTP — assuming their FTP server is working.

Which leads to the question: "What happens when Blogger stops working?" For a brief period this month, preceded by an invasion by some computer vandal, it did, and an amazing number of blogs, including many I read on a regular basis, were stopped dead in their tracks. (Some of them were hosted by Blogger affiliate BlogSpot, which under the circumstances was unable to serve pages at all.) And this isn't at all a case of "Dammit, I want something to read," either. While most sites, mine included, are of little interest to anyone, there is an amazing amount of serious (and peer-reviewed!) journalism in the blog community that deserves as wide an audience as possible.

Sunday, 30 December 2001, 1:20 pm

Well, the Weather Guys scaled it back yesterday afternoon to "slight chance of snow". Today, of course, we're looking at an inch or two, maybe three at worst, but "slight" isn't the word regardless of how much stuff falls into the gauge.

Expect a few outages and vanishing pages and such here for the next day or two, as I tie up some loose ends in preparation for the New Year.

Monday, 31 December 2001, 5:35 pm

We are back. I think.

Monday, 31 December 2001, 9:30 pm

If anyone was wondering, two factors contributed to this weekend's downtime:

My thanks to Jonathan at the old host and Dan at the new one for doing what they could to make this transition work, and to Verisign/Network Solutions for displaying absolutely no signs whatever of what Jeffrey Zeldman once called a "Sybil-like multiple personality disorder". Not everything has worked to perfection, obviously, and it's pretty obvious who the weakest link in this chain is (remind me to get rid of this mirror), but things are gradually settling down to some facsimile of normal.

 


 | Copyright © 2001 by Charles G. Hill

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