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Archive: July 2003

Silver and Wood

A picture of Eric and Kat in profile, touching noses and smiling.

Five years ago today, standing under a tree before a small gathering of family and friends in her parent’s front yard, Kat and I vowed to make each other laugh at least once a day.  On that sunny Long Island morning, we promised to listen to each other, to hold each other, and to support each other through everything that life would bring our way.

Mom once told me that she’d never seen me as happy as I was that day.

Moving and Shaping

Apparently I’m a desirable emigrant.  In response to yesterday’s comment-in-passing that Kat and I had been kicking around the idea of moving to another country, I’ve had three people write encouraging me to emigrate to Canada, and one other person recommend the United Kingdom.  The Canada people actually make a pretty good case, since apparently there’s a plan afoot for Canada to make the Turks and Caicos Islands their eleventh province.  That sounds pretty sweet, even if I would have to spend the whole year encased in zinc oxide.

Personally, I’ve always liked Toronto as a city.  Their weather isn’t significantly different than what we experience here in Cleveland, plus I know a number of very cool folks who already live there.  I can’t comment on places in the UK, since I’ve never actually been there (although I hope to fix that within the next year or so).  For the record, the country we had in mind was Norway.  I also gave some thought to the Bahamas, but then we’re back to the prospect of me resembling a lobster on a semi-continual basis.

There’ve been a whole lot of XHTML-and-CSS redesigns announced in the past ten days, and I’ve been remiss in pointing them out.  Here’s a list of the ones I noticed: The Open Championship, Quark, Message Digital Design Ltd., Phish.com, Lawrence, Kansas Weather, Adaptive Path, and Inc.com.  There were some others, I think, but the URLs seem to have escaped me.

On that last one, Dan talks a bit about the particulars of the Inc. redesign, and Doug points out that the markup size reduction for Inc.com’s redesign was just about the same as that for the redesigns of Adaptive Path and Wired News.  I’ll add that it’s very close to the markup size reduction seen when ESPN.com redesigned.  So yes, Doug’s absolutely right: there’s a trend here.  Old-school table-and-spacer designs can be visually recreated using lean, structural markup and CSS, and the process cuts page size by about half.  Some sites will see less savings, but some will see more.  As an example, my off-the-cuff guess (having peeked at the source of a typical page) is that eBay could drop its page weight by 66% or so.  They could probably reduce their annual outgoing bandwidth by several petabytes.  Tell you what, eBay: I’ll show you how to do it and do it right, and you can pay me five percent of your savings over the next five years.  Deal?

Open Door Policy

If you’re feeling safe (in a computing sense) you might want to rethink that view.  I just came across a USA Today article that leads off with:

Microsoft acknowledged a critical vulnerability Wednesday in nearly all versions of its flagship Windows operating system software, the first such design flaw to affect its latest Windows Server 2003 software.  Microsoft said the vulnerability could allow hackers to seize control of a victim’s Windows computer over the Internet, stealing data, deleting files or eavesdropping on e-mails.

Yes, there’s a patch, so if you’re using Windows, go get it before crackers reverse-engineer the patch to figure out the flaw and start attacking systems.  As it turns out, Windows ME is immune to the problem, so those folks are safe, at least in this case.  Oh, and there have been two more security bulletins and patches published since the one in question, which was released yesterday.

Hardly a week goes by any more that I don’t see one of these and feel really, really glad that all my important personal data—like my books and a current mirror of this Web site—is on a Macintosh.  One running the Classic OS, I might add, so it’s even less vulnerable than OS X machines, which are pretty darned safe.  Plus the system crashes a whole lot less often than Microsoft releases Windows security patches, and when it does crash it’s usually because of Microsoft Word.

Anyway, back to the article I was reading.  Near the end of the piece, the author adds a really chilling note:

The announcement came one day after the Department of Homeland Security announced that it awarded a five-year, $90-million contract for Microsoft to supply all its most important desktop and server software for about 140,000 computers inside the new federal agency.

Just the other day, Kat and I were kicking around the idea of moving to another country as sort of a grand adventure and interesting career move for us both.  Now the idea almost seems like a reasonable personal safety measure.

Standing At a Crossroads

There has been more detailed information written about yesterday’s events, so it’s worth reading if you still care.  Personally, I thought Dave Shea’s summary was quite amusing.

I indicated yesterday that DevEdge would likely not be updated.  That’s because the standards evangelism team has been disbanded.  Two team members were among those let go, and the rest of us went to different places within AOL.  I’m really not sure what made the difference between those who were axed and those who were not. 

As much as I’m unhappy that we’ve come to this pass, I don’t regret for one second having taken the position of Standards Evangelist.  While it lasted, Netscape funded close to ten full-time and part-time positions whose job was to promote standards, not proprietary technology, and to spread that message as far and wide as possible.  They may well have been doing it for selfish reasons, but that hardly matters.  We were able to inform, educate, and proactively help a lot of sites get better cross-browser behavior by using standards.  In our own way, we helped make things better, and we made a difference.

So here’s to Bob Clary, Marcio Galli, Katsuhiko Momoi, Chris Nalls, Tristan Nitot, Arun Ranganathan, Doron Rosenberg, and Susie Wyshak.  We fought the good fight and created a lot of great material, including information about the redesign of DevEdge itself.

Moving forward, I have to decide what I will do: accept the position into which I was reassigned, turn down the reassignment and look for another position within AOL, or decide to take the severance package and leave AOL altogether.  This isn’t exactly an easy call, partly due to the economy, but also because the importance of standards to AOL is not, at present, clear to me.  Perhaps the message has sunk in and there will be a place for someone like me, and perhaps not.  I hope to find out which over the next week or so.  No matter what, I face some tough choices, but at least I have choices.  I can’t say the same about 50 former co-workers.

Meanwhile, DMX Zone just this morning (my time) published an interview with me, so those interested in such things can click away.  Love that Dark Jedi groove thang!  [insert lightsaber sound effects here]

Moments of Transition

It’s true: Netscape is no longer a viable entity.  I’ll leave it to others to draw conclusions regarding how this move is related to the agreement AOL and Microsoft reached a while back.  Y’all can probably do a much better job of it anyway.

From what I can discern, there will be no more new versions of Netscape; the browser will go into maintenance mode, whatever that means.  More than half the staff was let go today, and Mozilla has been spun off into an independent, non-profit foundation supported by AOL, IBM, Sun, and others.  I have no idea what will happen with netscape.com itself.  DevEdge will cease producing new content, it would seem, which is a shame.  We produced some really good stuff, and had more in the pipeline.  Hopefully that forthcoming material will find another outlet.

For now, I still have a job, although my team’s been split up and sent to different organizations within AOL.  I don’t know yet how this will turn out for me, but I do know that today I’m saddened by the loss.  Yes, Mozilla will go on, but another pioneering force of the Web has just been painfully dimmed.  It’s worth a moment to reflect on where we’ve been… and where we might be headed.

You Say Po-TAY-to…

I’m having one of those moments where I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry.  I checked CNN this morning and noticed the headline “White House: Iraq uranium claim was wrong.”  I must be reading that wrong, I thought, but it turns out that Ari Fleischer admitted today that the whole “Iraq bought a bunch of uranium in Africa” thing was incorrect.  Whoops.  Anyway, in the article, I found this sentence:

A British parliamentary committee concluded that Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government mishandled intelligence material on Iraqi weapons.

The British government was cited by President Bush as having found out about the uranium sale, so that’s how he ended up making an incorrect claim.  Well, it’s more complicated than that, but the article’s there for you to read, so go ahead.

As I finished the article, a sense of morbid curiosity overcame me; I wondered what the Republican News Channel would have to say about all this.  So I went on over, and found no headline relating to the issue at all, two hours after the CNN story was posted.  In fact, the only thing I could find was a “Video” box sited well below the fold, which contained this text:

The British parliament concludes Tony Blair did not doctor evidence to support the war in Iraq

Okay, here’s your mental exercise for the day: devise a scenario in which both these statements can be true.  I came up with one, although since I refused to set up a Fox News user account—I get enough spam exhorting me to buy Ann Coulter books as it is—I can’t watch the video to see if I was right.

It isn’t that news outlets slant their reporting that bothers me.  I just wish they’d be honest about it, so we could take the slant into account.  In times past, newspapers were very open about their ideological leanings.  Yes, many news outlets have a liberal bias, and others have a conservative bias.  That’s fine.  But don’t try to tell me you’re being fair or balanced when clearly neither is true, because frankly, it’s insulting.

Warped

Is anyone else getting spam from German e-mail addresses looking for a dimensional warp generator, preferably in the New York/Boston area?  Because so far I have three of them, and for once my spam actually amuses me more than it annoys me.  A few unedited excerpts:

I’m offering $5,000 US dollars just for referring a vender which is (Actually RELIABLE in providing the below equipment)… The mind warper generation 4 Dimensional Warp Generator # 52 4350a series wrist watch with z80 or better memory adapter. If in stock the AMD Dimensional Warp Generator module containing the GRC79 induction motor, two I80200 warp stabilizers, 256GB of SRAM, and two Analog Devices isolinear modules, This unit also has a menu driven GUI accessible on the front panel XID display. All in 1 units would be great if reliable models are available… The special 23200 or Acme 5X24 series time transducing capacitor with built in temporal displacement. Needed with complete jumper/auxiliary system

Wow, five thousand whole dollars?  Somebody’s sure willing to spend a lot of money, eh?  There’s more to the message, but I’m laughing too hard to reproduce any more of it.  Here’s the whole message, with a strategic edit.

The best part is that all my copies of this spam show a date of 5/15/48, so I’m not even sure of its century of origin.  All I am sure of is that whoever’s sending it is seriously warped, possibly to the point they don’t actually need the equipment they seek.  Well, either that or somebody’s time machine broke down and they’re looking for parts.  I wonder how long they’ll have to wait before a reliable “vender” emerges?

Reflections

For a long time, I’ve been semi-fascinated by The Mirror Project.  I never submitted anything, though, because my relevant pictures were years old and would need to be scanned, cleaned up, and all that kind of thing.  I was basically being lazy.

But now I have a Canon PowerShot S45, and taking reflective images is a simple matter of having enough memory space and clicking away—and no scanning needed later on.  In the meantime, though, I’ve discovered another limit to my participation in the Project.  I’m not willing to go out and intentionally create images appropriate for the Project: they have to be “found reflections,” as it were.  I’m only interested in reflections that occur in the course of my normal actions, and just in the unusual ones.  I can see myself reflected in a monitor any time the system goes to sleep.  Yawn.  Now that I think about it, perhaps my main interest is in reflections in non-glassy surfaces.

So now I have two entries in the Project, both taken in the last month: Pitcher Picture and Eye See Me.  The latter is the most interesting to me by far, but I didn’t know I’d be taking it when I submitted the first one.

My most recent trips have been eventful, and sometimes stressful, but they’ve had a very beneficial side effect.  For the past few months I’ve been pondering my professional and personal lives, wondering if I’d be better off doing something else or adjusting my balance.  Everything’s been up for consideration: my career, my line of work, my interests, my relationships with friends, my relationship with Kat—everything.  A lot of this springs from turbulence in the wake of my mother’s death, of course.  But thanks to my constantly changing locations and moods, I’ve been able to look at my life from new angles.  In the sharing of ideas and recent personal events, I’ve found a new way to look at myself.  I needed that quite a bit, and will need it even more in the coming weeks and months.

It hasn’t helped me catch up on my e-mail, sadly, but two or three things at a time is all I can handle.

Today, behind the sounds of wind rushing the summer trees and birds chirping, I can hear high-performance race cars in the distance, gearshifting and Doppler shifting with a muted, hyperactive beehive sound.  It takes me back two decades, when I lived with my parents about the same distance from Mid-Ohio that I now live from downtown Cleveland, and we could hear every weekend race echoing over the hills and forests of north central Ohio.  Usually I’d hear them while out in the back yard, weeding Mom’s gardens as part of my weekly chores.  I remember the sun on my back and the insects buzzing around me, entranced by my hair color… the smell of the earth as I ripped weeds out of it, the color of dirt in the afternoon sun, my grouchy mood over having to get mud under my fingernails, which I hate.  And the sound of wind in the trees and annoyingly cheerful avian chirps all around me.

I also remember the time that I and the woman I then loved went to Mid-Ohio to watch a go-kart race.  We knew someone who acted as pit crew and engineering staff for one of the racers, and these were serious vehicles: they ran on high-performance fuel and could exceed highway speeds in a matter of seconds, despite being about a third the size of a regular compact car.  The race went only a few laps before there was an accident.  The driver who lost control was killed, a rare and shocking event even for the other drivers.  The race was cancelled, and we all went home early.

The sound of the go-karts racing wasn’t altogether different than the sounds of stock or performance cars.  It was just louder because for once I was standing next to the track, instead of sitting a few miles away weeding.  Or typing.

July 2003
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