Writer’s Manifesto

I found a picture of me
and Amber
Marissa’s website. That was
the day I handed Marissa her belated birthday gift, a handy-dandy Rebellious Young
Writer’s Manifesto Kit (TM).
At first, I was encouraged by her enthusiasm. But lately, I’ve been disappointed in her.
She hasn’t been rushing out and organizing meetings, distributing flyers, writing angry screeds,
and promoting The Movement. No, it seems she’s been buckling down
and writing fiction. What the heck is up with that?

I wonder if I’ll have any trick-or-treaters this year? It seems unlikely, since my townhouse
is essentially part of a retirement community. But you never know. At least Mike complimented
me on my jack-o-lanterns. He seemed impressed that I could carve one with curvy features using
just a regular kitchen knife. I don’t know how I accomplished this monumental feat.
Maybe I was channeling the spirit of Martha Stewart. That’s right, Mike! Fear my l33t
pumpkin-carving skillz!

Anyway, folks are coming over in a about an hour to watch scary movies and eat some
pasta and garlic bread. Time to cut this short.

Deadlock Victim

Yeah, I just stare at my desk, but it looks like I’m working. I do that for probably
another hour after lunch too… I’d say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen
minutes of real, actual, work. – Peter Gibbons, “Office Space”

I had an interesting conversation with Mike the other day about billable
hours. Lawyers at his firm bill in increments of
0.1 hours. That forces him to be highly conscious of his time.

So I thought it would be interesting to try recording what I did in a day at work. Just as
an experiment.

The results were less than inspiring. Once I subtracted lunch, websurfing, non-work related
emails, walks around the building, and office chit-chat, I discovered that I had worked for
a whopping 4.2 hours. Now I’d had a vague feeling for a while that I haven’t been working
too hard lately, but to see it in such a cold, quantitative form was very unsettling.

My Tuesday night poker buddies put this into perspective. Justin is a UI team manager for
Ebay. “You know, Evan,” Justin said, “when I was a consultant, I worked about fifteen
minutes a day. I just worked at home, swam in the pool, and answered a few emails. For
about a year. But now that I’m a manager… I have no time for chit-chat. I do at least
12 hours of real work a day. No goofing off at all.”

Aha! So the lesson here is, don’t goof off too much, or they just might turn you into a
manager, and God help you then.

So I shall endeavor to do better. In the meantime, let me leave you with this error
message that I received today from Sun’s internal bug tracking tool (edited slightly
to remove uninformative numbers and process IDs):

SQL Server error: Your server command was deadlocked with another
process and has been chosen as deadlock victim. Re-run your command.

“Deadlock victim”. I love it. As far as I can tell, this means: I submitted
a command. Some chump elsewhere in the company submitted a command at about
the same time. And the other guy’s process totally kicked my process’s ass.
That if nothing else tells me that I need to shape up, and fast.

We All Need Validation

The website repair job continues… mostly because
CuteFTP is the only
piece of software I have right now that’s working reliably. It’s much more fun than Diablo II
anyway. Really.

Anyway, for kicks I ran my site through the W3C Validator.
Ugh, how humiliating. Unknown character encoding! Unquoted attribute percentage signs!
Oh, the horror…

Well, I fixed the little nitpicky things. But I’m afraid I had to settle for
validating HTML 4.01 Transitional rather than HTML 4.01 Strict. I mean, to validate Strict, you
have to give up all those deprecated tags, like BGCOLOR, in favor of cascading stylesheets.

Now, the W3C folks aren’t so bad. It’s their job to be pedantic. But if you look hard
enough, you can find self-righteous
that blather on about how all the hip people these days would never even
touch the <BIG> tag, let alone the <FONT> tag.
Hmmmm… if I just want to turn one thing on the page red and bold, how exactly does:

<SPAN STYLE=”color: red; font-weight: bold”>…</SPAN>

save you more trouble than


Sure, stylesheets allow you to create and reuse classes. That’s great… but sometimes
you just want one simple in-line change. In that case, what exactly is the clunky stylesheet
syntax buying you?

Oh well. Someday, everyone will use Amaya, CSS3 will
spread throughout the land, and ne’er a Tripod homepage will be seen.

But until then, you can take away my BGCOLOR when you can pry
it out of my cold, dead fingers.

Edit, May 2003: Well, this post is embarrassingly dated. Just for the record, I still think that A) BGCOLOR has its uses and B) the “Font of Foulness” article is extremely silly.

Posted in Web


Battling endless PC assembly problems, but I am back on the web. Lessons learned:

Never, ever buy a 1.4GHz Athlon. Sure, the price/performance looked good at the time.
But I am suffering from severe overheating problems, and my system is still freezing
up about once an hour on average. Now that I’ve factored in the time, money, and heartache
dealing with this problem (I calculate heartache at roughly $20/hour), it would have been far
more efficient to go with a fast PIII. So far, here’s what I’ve tried.

  1. Baseline. Steady state chip temperature: 68 degrees C.
  2. New chassis with better airflow, extra fan. Temperature: 59 degrees C.
  3. Taking off the chassis side door. Now we’re going ghetto. Temperature: 56 degrees C.
  4. Underclocking to 1.05 GHz. Please don’t tell anyone on WatercooledAthlonEnthusiast.com… I have a reputation to protect. Temperature: 49 degrees C.

All temperature measurements are with the Asus motherboard probe. Some say this
probe is off by up to 10 degrees. Some say it’s pretty accurate. Heck, I don’t
even know if the temperature is uniform across the chip. Nor do I know what magic
temperature will eliminate the freezing problem completely, although I hear rumors
that 50 degrees is pretty close. Welcome to the mystical world of Computer “Science”.

Never, ever use Microsoft Outlook Express. Well, ok, everyone says this.
Here’s what gets me: the total inability to
export old email messages. You can’t export messages into *.PST files in Outlook Express
without getting MAPI errors. You can’t import *.PST files either, because the import
function refuses to deal with files… just “identities”. Huh?

Microsoft does have a very clearly-written technical article (#Q176267)
on this subject, with step-by-step instructions. Unfortunately, the
instructions don’t have anything to do with reality.

So if you’re using Outlook Express, you might as well scrawl your old email messages
in cuneiform on the back of your motherboard. ‘Cause they ain’t leaving your hard
drive, ever.

Never assume that if you buy a new piece of hardware, the shipped drivers are current.
I hear the crowd saying, “Duh”, so let’s move on.

Never assume that PC assembly and compatibility problems improve or go away with time.
See sidebar.

At this point, it’s time to start calling technical support for the various vendors.
Perhaps they’ll be helpful. Isn’t it pretty to think so?

Lost Innocence

When I built my first system in 1998, I was pretty impressed with how easy things were. Basically I
just plugged things in, clicked through a few screens, and everything worked. The hardest
part was figuring out how the motherboard fit into the chassis.
(Pat and I scratched our heads over all those metal widgets for a couple of hours,
to be sure.)

But everything else was idiot-proof. You couldn’t even plug anything in backwards.
It was great. We were up and running
Starcraft in no time.

I had heard that in the bad old days, building a computer was
difficult. For Serious Enthusiasts Only. But along came standards. Plug ‘N Play, USB,

Things seemed to be working reasonably well three years ago. I assumed things
would be the same today. Oh, well.

The only thing certain to remain constant — my own naivete.