Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I’m starting to think that Andrew Sullivan is not all he’s cracked up to be.

In his blog, the “Daily Dish”, he’s been railing against the
taking on the war
. “Now, it’s official. I don’t think it’s an accident that the
Democrats have launched an attack on the war’s direction the day it becomes clear that
the recession, even if it existed in the first place, is now history… The anti-war left is back
with a vengeance. And the battle to protect this country has only just begun.”
Oh, those nasty unpatriotic liberals, undermining the war effort!

But the thing is, I read
those articles that Sullivan linked to and they were nothing of the sort.
What they did do was criticize Bush and the Republicans (mostly in domestic policy).
The authors were simply exhorting Democrats to not let Bush walk all over them.
But Sullivan is arguing that in a time of war the opposition should simply
sit down and STFU. Sorry… that’s not how it works.

I dunno. Maybe Sullivan and the rest of the “Warbloggers” are
running out of steam.

Back in the good old days of September and October,
they had plenty of juicy, fat, extremely stupid targets. Noam Chomsky!
Susan Sontag! Robert Fisk! Ted Rall! Boy, was it fun seeing those pompous
jerks get ripped apart. Sure, I admit it… I enjoy bloodsports as much
as the next person.

Then November and December rolled around, and hahaha, look! The warbloggers
were right, and the uber-lefties were wrong. We pasted the Taliban, destroyed
the Al-Qaeda training camps, and food and medicine flowed to the Afgan people
in far larger quantities than they ever would have had we listened to the idiots
at So there were more insults, more feces hurled, and everyone
had a pretty good time all around.

But now… what are the warbloggers reduced to? Attacking the Democrats… for
what, exactly? Doing their job? Is it so inconceivable that someone could
support the war effort and disagree with Republican domestic policy? Or God forbid,
support the war effort then and disagree with its direction now?
(Is it really so smart to piss off the Europeans now that we sorta kinda
need them to help us with the dirty work of breaking up Al-Qaeda cells?)

Sorry, Andrew. It was great, lots of laughs, but you know… I just don’t
think we were meant for each other. Please don’t blame yourself — it’s me.


This afternoon (via Camworld)
I discovered an
unintentionally amusing article on
making web pages accessible for disabled readers. Unfortunately for the author, his web
designers chose to set his font to “x-small sans-serif”. On Netscape, “x-small” corresponds to
an 8pt font at best. Not so readable for disabled people… or non-disabled people,
for that matter.

The interesting thing is that just a few hours later, I find that the site’s code has changed:
they are using a new stylesheet class that bumps the font size up a notch. I can only imagine
the number of snarky emails that these people must have received over the last day or so. (No,
I didn’t send one.) But really, I’d rather they adjusted the article’s content
it’s really just a lazy pile of assertions at the moment.

Everyone and their mother is a “usability guru”, I suppose.

On the advice of Russ Nelson,’97 (congrats Russ on the engagement!), I’m rethinking my
staunch opposition to attending my college reunion.
Maybe it won’t be a tacky schmooze-fest. Or maybe I can avoid the people who
will make it a tacky schmooze-fest, and just hang out with my old friends. Or maybe the
my old friends and the people who will make it a tacky schmooze-fest will not, as I fear,
turn out to be the same people. Maybe, maybe.

Finally, I had to share this story about what the noxious British technology tabloid
The Register calls,
the CAPS-LOCK Defense“:

During what was to be a routine proceeding to set future court dates, Heckenkamp challenged
the indictment against him on the grounds that it spells his name, Jerome T. Heckenkamp, in
all capital letters, while he spells it with the first letter capitalized, and subsequent
letters in lower case.

The judge was impressed neither with this nor with Heckenkamp’s motion to subpoena the “United
States of America” as a witness. And to think I was just about to send notice to friends and family
that I was changing my name to “eVA3n GOeR
(the “3” would be silent, you see). Pity.

Quit Slashdot!

The other day I stumbled into the Quit Slashdot! home page.
All I have to say is: right on, brother. The thing about
Slashdot is that
every time that they post an article on a subject that I know anything about (such as
astrophysics or “nanotechnology”), the commentary is so riddled with inanity and
pseudoscientific blather that I can’t help but read it. Maybe some
people are hardwired to like awful, awful things. I wish I could get over it, like
that guy in that old Onion article,
Gen-Xer Doesn’t Find Bad Movies Funny Anymore

Erdman, however, is not so certain about his changing sensibilities. “I used to be able to
take great pleasure in not enjoying things,” Erdman said. “But these days, the only things I
like are things I like. Christ, I feel so old.”

If only I were in Erdman’s (fictional) shoes. Sigh.

The sad thing about the Slashdot science articles is that occasionally some poor sap of a
graduate student gets fed up with this foolishness, damnit, and
posts a reasonably literate critique of whatever nonsense the Slashdotters are debating.
It’s irrelevant, of course. Like passing out copies of Our Bodies, Our Selves
at an NRA convention. I want to scream at these grad students, “Stop wasting your
time! Get back to work on your thesis!” But what’s the point? I can’t save the
world. I can’t even save the Johns Hopkins University Physics Department. Bleah.

What else? Saturday night I went rock climbing with Brian and about 60 friends from
One Brick.
I had never really done any serious rock climbing — not anything with ropes and all —
so it was pretty fun. However, it was a mistake to allow myself to get cajoled into
participating in the boys vs. girls speed-climbing race. Picture me in line, arms all noodley
from three previous climbs, hemmed in by seven or eight bad-ass climber dudes.
“You’ll do fine!” Brian said. Clever bastard — this was just his way of getting me back for
refusing to go to our five-year college reunion.

In the good-news department, I went to Target this weekend to buy a lamp for the
apartment — one of those mix-and-match the base and lampshade dealies. Anyway,
on my way out, the security guard complimented me. “Nice lamp,” he said. And as
I walked through Macy’s to get to the parking lot, one of the makeup ladies flagged me
down. “That lamp is so cool!” she said. “Where did you get it?” So things are
looking up, career-wise. I clearly won’t make a very good fireman, Army Ranger, or
Emergency Mountain Patrol Rescuer, but I might very well have the potential to be
a fabulous interior designer.

Web Snobbery

So I’ve been surfing around the web, looking at other journals and weblogs,
trying to see what other people are doing for their design and content
management. It’s been educational, to say the least.

The good news is that I’ve discovered my journaling software Sugar Daddy:
Moveable Type 2.0.
First, I looked into
but Blogger is centrally managed, and its server has been hacked and attacked too many times for
my comfort. There was Radio,
but it costs $40, and said $40 would go directly to
Dave Winer — yuck. I took a look at
which was awfully cute (“only 60 lines of code!”)… but no.

Finally, there was Greymatter,
which was very, very close. Noah Grey deserves a lot of credit for putting this
tool together by himself — and spawning a host of imitators. Unfortunately,
Noah is no longer supporting Greymatter. Also, Greymatter didn’t integrate well
with my old journal archive, and it wouldn’t let me have a different essay for
each monthly archive page (not without playing a little trick or two).

Anyway, it looks like Moveable Type’s got it all and then some. Fast, even more
flexible than Greymatter, and with a stellar web-based user interface. I will never
bad-mouth Perl again. (Not that I’ve ever
bad-mouthed Perl, but from now on if I hear anyone bad-mouth Perl, I’ll
at least know to smirk knowingly, the same way I do when I hear about 32-CPU Intel

My other discovery was that the Web designer community is rife with
and breathless enthusiasm for bleeding-edge-technology-uber-alles. (And the
Pope is Catholic, water is wet, … yeah, yeah.)
Still, you’d think there would be some maturation over the years.

A couple of years ago, websites were festooned with
buttons that said, “This site best viewed in Netscape/IE 4.” Now things are
worse — a depressingly high number of sites use JavaScript to judge whether
your browser is worthy, and if you fall short, you get a message
ordering you to upgrade to a browser that “supports web standards.” A few people don’t
even bother with the obnoxious little message: they actually
kick you out of their site if you don’t make the cut. Apparently
these people think they are part of
some kind of movement.

Let’s leave aside the fact that no browser fully supports web standards
(HTML4.01 and CSS2) and focus on why someone might not have the latest,
greatest browser:

  • Their boss says so. Once a company standardizes its intranet on one
    browser, that’s it. Everyone’s stuck with the same software, and might be for
    years, end of story.

  • They don’t have the hardware. The latest browsers don’t run so hot on old
    386 computers. This is a particular problem for libraries, schools, and foreigners (but
    who gives a crap about them?)

  • They have no idea what you’re talking about. Your average user could
    not possibly care less what browser they use. They might not even know
    what “HTML” is. And no, these people are not beneath contempt — they
    just don’t care about the same weird, esoteric things that you do.

    Quick, web-boy — under which
    simple physical principle
    does a standard flush toilet operate? No? You don’t know?
    But you use one every day!

  • They aren’t going to download 20MB over dial-up just to see your webpage.

  • They might be savvier than you think. Most of the really
    cool kids surf around with javascript, Flash, and images turned off. And they
    are not impressed with your bleating about how people don’t upgrade fast enough.

But honestly, what the heck do I know? I still use a table-based layout. And my pages
only validate HTML 4.01 Transitional.
How sad is that?

Edit, April 2003: Now this site is all CSS-P based and validates HTML 4.01 Strict. Although I should point out that I used <i> tags to make this addendum. Take that, standards-weenies.

Posted in Web

Dance, Ryan, Dance!

About this month’s sidebar… I take it all back. Yes, I’ve remembered why
I read Andrew Sullivan: it’s because he
points me to articles like
this one
at Dissent Magazine. Andrew, baby, I’m sorry! Forget all those
mean things I said. I think we can work things out.

And since I’m taking things back, I have to issue another Official Retraction.
Ryan writes to inform me that I was incorrect
to say that he was starting to slow down in his
old age. In fact, now that he is getting more exercise:

…I’ll have you know, I only USED to get winded after a half-hour of dancing. Now
I’m back up to par and shakin’ it with a vengeance for 2+ hours every weekend.
🙂 So put that in your journal and smoke it.

Ryan, I apologize for misrepresenting you like that.
Listen up, everyone: I want you all to know that for the record, Ryan is a lean, mean,
dancing machine. Watch out, ladies!

Yesterday Mom and I went over ideas for her website. I’m going to be helping her out
with it from now on. She even bought her own domain name ( and everything.
Does your mom have her own domain name? I bet she doesn’t…

In related news, Mom’s book, The Thinking
Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth
, just earned out its advance. Not bad! It usually
spends its time hovering between #1000 and #3000 at Amazon, which is pretty good, considering
that they carry well over a million titles. Anyway, you absolutely must get this book if
you’re pregnant, Or if you’re thinking about getting pregnant. Or if you know someone who’s
pregnant. Or if you know someone who’s thinking about getting pregnant.
Or if you know anyone at all who could end up being pregnant in the future.

Incidentally, when I went to Amazon to check my Mom’s book’s stats, I also checked out my
Recommendations section:

  • Books: The Divine Comedy
  • Music: “Iowa”, by Slipknot
  • Video games: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3
  • DVD: PBS’s “The Greeks – Crucible of Civilization”

So according to Amazon, I’m a Late Medieval poetry-loving, heavy-metal listening,
PBS-watching skate punk. Yup, they’ve got me pegged.

Shocking the Bourgeois

Today M’ris comments on an article
in Salon about Charles Bowden’s, “Blues for Cannibals”. The Salon article’s author
unimpressed with the book’s rhetorical tactics

Bowden tells us that he’s telling us things people don’t want to know, suggesting there’s something
transgressive about what he’s doing. In the book’s long section about this three years as a reporter
covering sex crimes, he repeats a sentence that for him distills the widespread attitude toward his grisly
subject — “Don’t talk about it, no one wants to hear these things.”

I don’t think this is true. If people didn’t want to hear these things then JonBenet wouldn’t sell
newspapers and we wouldn’t have “Law and Order Special Victims Unit,” an entire prime time television
show showcasing a new sex crime every week.

I feel a bit sorry for Bowden… he’s trying so hard to shock us out of our bourgeois
stupor, but in this day and age, we bourgeois are pretty hard to shock. Oh, every once
in a while we get a case like the Texas woman who
into a homeless man with her car, drove home with him stuck in her windshield, and let him bleed to death while
she went inside and had sex with her boyfriend
. But for the most part, I agree,
shock tactics are not the way to go.

Listen, I’m going to let you all in on a little secret. I have an idea for a novel that I got
a few months ago, after listening to Jonathan Franzen on the radio. This idea
is so radical, so transgressive, that it will be beyond the pedestrian tastes of
the Booker prize and the National Book Award. Yes, I’ll be talked-about, vilified,
and made rich beyond the dreams of avarice. Are you ready? Think you can handle it?
Here it is: I’m going to write a novel that says, “Suburbia is just swell!”

Yeah, I bet you wish you had thought of it.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… for the last three years at work, I’ve been stuck with
Netscape 4. But in just a month or two, the company is switching us all over to Netscape 6.2.1
(cue angelic music). Yes, our intranet (i.e. my entire client base) will be using a browser
with pretty darn good CSS2 support and a standards-compliant XML processor. Do you know what
that means? It means I can do client-side XSLT, and you can’t. Nyah, nyah!

Edit, April 2003: My bragging was premature. As of November 2002, the company had still not switched over from Netscape 4.7, and there was no publicly-announced date for the changeover either.

Jewish Singles Hiking Club

On Sunday, I had lunch with an old student of mine, Ryan.
Ryan recently graduated from UCSB, and he is just now starting
up his own graphic design firm,
Gryphin Graphics.
Ryan’s a really nice guy, and he’s got a good head on his
shoulders — I think he’s gonna do great.

Although Ryan is full of energy and enthusiasm, he is starting
to slow down a bit. “I
used to be able to go out dancing and stay out there for
two hours straight,” he said. “Now if I don’t keep in shape,
and eat right, I can only dance for half an hour before I
get winded.” Good Lord, my students are showing signs
of age. I don’t even know what to think about that.

I also have a nice story that I should have mentioned in
yesterday’s entry, but I forgot.
Somehow it got swallowed by the miasma of hatred that bubbled
up when I started up on the Windows 2000 topic. Well, here goes:
early last week, Nancy sent an email out,
asking if we wanted to attend an Jewish Singles Hiking Club
event on Saturday. I responded, “Why go with them? Let’s just
go on a hike on our own.”

Nancy admonished me, saying that it is always good to meet
new people and “expand our circle of social influence” or
some such. At this, I turned very snippy — I gave her my standard
spiel about young Jewish men and women being completely undatable.
But in spite of that, I grudgingly agreed to go. That’s me in
a nutshell — I’ll do what you want eventually, but I’ll make
you regret you ever asked in the first place.

So Saturday morning I arrive at the appointed spot at the
appointed time — and lo and behold, the crowd was almost
entirely composed of senior citizens. The hike, as it were,
would consist of a four-mile, three-hour jaunt across the
Stanford campus. “You look cold, dearie,”
said a nice lady who did not in the least remind me of my late
grandmother Ruth. “Would you like to borrow this sweater?”

I smiled politely and waited for Nancy and
Mike to show up. They got out of the car
about 75 yards away and frantically beckoned me over. “Ummm,”
said Nancy. “So we were thinking, maybe we should go hiking
on our own.”

So we did. We even stole away the one other person under 55,
a nice, quick-thinking young woman named Rita (“Ummm… are
you guys going off on your own? Can I come with you?”)
And we had a great hike up in the foothills, with perfect cool
weather and lots of green foliage. And Rita brought almonds
and raisins.

In any case, the lesson from this experience is clear.
The road of the single person is a dangerous one, full of
pitfalls and traps for the unwary. Woe to ye who dare tread
it. Woe, I say! Whoa.

Win2K vs. Win98

I ran into a funny bit by a man who feels that
deserves the same prominence as chess
. I hope those snobs at the New York
Times listen.

Things I Like About Windows 2000 (in comparison to Win98 SE)

  • The icons are a bit rounder and cuter.
  • When you open and close menus and windows, they fade in and out rather than
    popping in and out of existence. That’s a nice effect (albeit stolen from Aqua).
  • The power-off button works.
  • The system doesn’t hang when you try to shut it down through the Start menu.
  • It doesn’t try to install one and only one 2GB partition
    on your hard drive, leaving the other 38GB hanging out there in the Unaddressed Ether.
  • It freezes up about a fifth as often.
  • It has Freecell.

Things I Don’t Like About Windows 2000

  • It has no Java to speak of, although this is easily rectified.
  • Outlook Express 6 still has no capability to import mailboxes
    from a file or export mailboxes to a file (don’t let the “import” and
    “export” options in the menus fool you).
  • It assigns all your devices (video, sound, modem, and others) to the
    same IRQ.
  • It won’t let you move devices to different IRQs. Not through the Device Manager
    (the options are grayed out), not through BIOS (this is ignored), and not by
    physically swapping your cards around. Thus you cannot fix the screwed-up
    configuration that Windows handed you in the first place.
  • Did I mention the “handing you a broken configuration and not letting
    you fix it” part? That really stinks.

Technology Gods

I’ve been having all sorts of problems with technology recently.

  1. My ISP, BowieNet (or as
    Sam liked to call it, SlowieNet —
    oh yeah, Sam, well pay for your own damn ISP then!)
    Oops, where was I? Oh yes, my ISP, BowieNet, has been
    down a lot. Well, OK, that’s not news.

  2. The fuse for the circuit that controls my
    apartment’s bedroom and living room lights blew.
    I had always just had a halogen lamp and my computer
    on that circuit. And an alarm clock. Then I added 28W
    worth of compact fluorescent bulbs to the line. “We
    cannae take nae more o this, Captain!” Poof!

  3. On Monday, someone in my company decided that my office
    phone was a fax machine, and set the fax on their end
    to “autodial”. So I got a call every minute for over
    thirty minutes. I don’t know who it was, because
    the person was dialing from one of our “flexible field
    offices” in Colorado, which is sort of a waystation for
    mobile employees. Nevertheless, stupid-fax-person, rest
    assured I will find you. I have plans for you. Oh,
    yes. Plans.

  4. My PC is still freezing up, despite my fresh install of
    Windows 2000. As far as I can tell, this only happens
    when A) the sound card is running and B) when my modem
    is connected. I mentioned this to J.C. and he said,
    “Oh, you’ve probably got both devices on IRQ 9.” I
    checked, and holy cow, he was exactly right.

    Then I did some more checking, and it turns out that
    my video card and some other device are also
    on IRQ 9. What the heck? All I did was install the
    OS and let it recognize the devices by default. Why
    doesn’t Windows automatically spread out those devices
    to different IRQs? There’s like 16 of them, and most
    of them are free. I mean, how hard is that?

M’ris thinks she knows
why the technology gods have turned against me: “Have you been
neglecting them of late? Have you been playing fewer
computer games? Something like that? They need their
regular sacrifices.” Ay me, I admit it. I’ve played no
computer games at all for the last few months (except for an
occasional round of
Titan). I have
sinned, and perhaps I shall never be redeemed.

Well, on to good news. Last weekend I discovered that IKEA
is the greatest store of all time
. I went there for
bookshelves and was simply paralyzed with the staggering array
of inexpensive, good-looking stuff. Good thing I have
such iron self-control, or I might have bought an entire living
room set. Bookcases! We’re here for bookcases, Evan.
Focus, man, focus!

It’s not like people haven’t told me that IKEA was great. I’ve
even been to IKEA before, but it wasn’t the the same; I wasn’t
shopping for me. Two years ago, my friend Derrick Chau
in L.A. dragged me with him. It was a nice Saturday morning,
and hundreds of young couples were wafting through the store.

Derrick: Do you like this coffee table?

Me: Oooh, that’s a nice one!

Derrick: How about these couch cushions?

Me: Well, they’re OK, but I don’t think they match your couch or your curtains.

(more of the same dialog for several minutes…)

Derrick (looking around): Dude, how about you walk this way, I’ll walk that way, and we’ll meet up later?

Me (looking around): Good call.

In Other News: in an upcoming Science journal article,
physicists at Oak Ridge National Labs are claiming to have seen
table-top fusion in acoustic acetone bubbles.
However, other physicists at Oak Ridge have been unable to
reproduce the results, and the
APS seems
: “Perhaps Science magazine covets the vast
readership of Infinite Energy magazine.” Now that’s just mean.

Business Ethics

Good afternoon, plucky aspiring fiction-writers! Do the vagaries of the business have
you down? Well, cheer up — things
could be worse

Had lunch and a couple of beers with J.C. Flores. I didn’t even know he was living
up here until Brian mentioned it offhandedly. And now I discover J.C.’s probably
moving back to L.A. in three months or so. Thanks, Bri.

Anyway, J.C. recommended that I get cable modem and buy a splitter — I should be
able to get basic cable for free that way. Plus, if you want HBO, the cable guy
will probably *cough* sell you a filter for it *cough*. But you didn’t hear me say that.

I wonder why they don’t pay those cable guys more? I haven’t heard of a single one who
doesn’t make money on the side. It makes me wonder, at what point does systematic
bribery merge with the “legitmate” economy? If I don’t rip off the cable company, am I
ethical, or just stupid? Aren’t I just subsidizing the millions of people who
do rip off the cable companies? And it’s not like AT&T cares about my

No, I don’t buy that. If a price is unfair — don’t pay it. Do I need cable? Do I
really need TV at all? Nah.

Maybe I would feel differently if this were Pac Bell or E*Trade. But no — I still think
it’s not right to rip off corporations directly. What I can do is
explain to my friends and relatives how those companies treated me. I’m sure I’ve
killed a few prospective Pac Bell DSL contracts, and at least a couple of
prospective E*Trade accounts. That’s enough to make me happy.