Archives » September, 2003

September 27, 2003

Ormsby House Death Sentence

Well, I didn’t see this one coming. After sinking three years and $8 million dollars into the renovation project, the owners of the Ormsby House in Carson City have decided to cut their losses and tear down the building. They had always said it would have been more cost effective if they had torn down the thirty-year-old casino to begin with, instead of remodeling it. But by that time they had invested too much in the renovation, and were committed to it. Apparently they changed their mind this week. This project was never going to end, so they decided to kill it.

I’ve got more on the announcement at my Ormsby House site.

Also in the RGJ.

September 26, 2003

Standards Rant #212

Jeffrey Veen: The Business Value of Web Standards. Wherein Jeff justifies their CSS redesign as a business decision.

How important is standardization to an individual business like ours? Do Web standards give organizations a return on investment? Does the transition to XHTML and CSS make financial sense? The answer to those questions is yes.

The message is a familiar one by now, but it needs to keep being stated. Proper design can save on bandwidth costs, initial design costs, and subsequent maintenance costs. We need to keep hammering out this message until it spreads across the globe, until people realize that partying like it’s 1996 maybe isn’t the best way to do business anymore. We can’t say it once and then let it get buried in the archives. The point needs to be continually made.

And it’s working. The message is getting out, and the tide is slowly turning. Web standards advocates are out there making enough noise, and enough people are starting to listen. The standards are there, the browsers are ready, I think we’re going to see a larger and larger surge in standards-based design as time goes on. Don’t get me wrong, tag soup is not going away. I don’t think browsers are ever going to drop the lax parsing rules that make tag soup possible. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s what the Web was built on, the concept that you can just bash out something quick and simple and have it work. Forgot to close a tag, or nested something wrong? It’s okay. The browser will muddle along, take a stab at what you really meant, and your message will get across. Tag soup is perfectly fine.

For amateur sites.

When you’re a professional, building professional sites, you need to strive for that higher level of quality. All of the excuses not to learn and use standards-based design have been eroded over the last few years, until we reach the point we’re at now: There is no reason that a professional site can’t be built using XHTML, and be styled with CSS. There is no reason to leave tags unclosed and improperly nested, to use spacer images and empty table cells to create margins. 100% validation isn’t strictly necessary, because there are always little things like unescaped ampersands that can slip by and screw you up. But there are countless best practices out there that can be used, that are actually easier than the tag soup methods. And it all comes down to this: being a “professional” web designer shouldn’t just mean you’re doing it for money instead of a hobby. It should mean you’re producing work that’s a notch above everyone else’s, that there’s a standard of quality that you’re striving for, that you’re not just using eight-year old techniques because they still work. It should mean you’re committed to the industry, and you’re following along with the latest developments. Any excuses you might come up with all boil down to “I don’t have enough time/energy/drive/intelligence to learn how to do it right.” And if you can’t learn to do something right, how can you be considered a professional?

The preceeding has been my standards advocacy rant for the month of September. Stay tuned for the October installment.

What can users do?

Peter Seebach: Tips on how to get some use out of that rotten system. An article that advocates dealing with crappy software by actually taking steps to be a smarter user. What a concept!

  • When all else fails, read the directions
  • Learn to troubleshoot
  • Useful complaints
  • Asking for advice

I don’t know about this idea of people trying to apply common sense towards working with computers instead of immediately throwing their hands up in desperation. I don’t think it’ll fly.

Settling In

Okay, so I haven’t been writing much. And this is probably the time I should be writing the most, because in twenty years I’ll want to look back at this and see what I was thinking, what I was doing during this time. But when I do look back there won’t be anything here. It will just be blank pages for days and days. It’ll be like how I got so excited about rereading my travel journal from ten years ago, but the further I got into it the more pissed off at myself I became because back when I wrote it I didn’t actually write about what was happening or what I was seeing. I don’t want that same thing to happen now. That’s exactly the reason I set up the BabyBlog, so I could just write and write about everything. And yet it sits, mostly empty. I haven’t posted any new pictures, I haven’t even fluffed up the design yet. I’m becoming a disappointment to myself.

Of course, maybe the reason all this is happening is because instead of writing about life I’m choosing to actually dive in and live it. I have a wife and a new baby. They’re getting my attention now. And the time I do spend on the computer is spent catching up on work, because I’m only spending four hours a day at the office now. So it’s a weird little paradox I’m caught up in here, where I have a life but I don’t have the time to write about it, and if I did have the time to write, I wouldn’t have the life to write about. So I made a choice, and life won. Plus, I haven’t been getting any noticable amount of sleep lately, and I’ve found that sleep deprivation does wonders for writer’s block. Original thought is something that doesn’t come easily to me anyway. Toss a few bleary-eyed mornings into the mix, and you’re lucky if I can string together a coherent sentence. I could be writing through all of this, but the result might look like I had just flipped through a dictionary at random and chosen words by sticking a pin in the page. Circumflex signatory envelops ignoble stockyard! Mushroom?

Things will return to a more normal flow. We’re settling into a routine, a routine that means a little more time for non-baby activities. Right now, for example. Do you think I’d be able to be writing this if Viola wasn’t rocking the baby to sleep in the chair?

And you never know. The Computer Vet Weblog might actually start writing about computers one day. Imagine that!

September 25, 2003


It’s official. The blood of the evil now courses through the family veins. Today my brother got the job at Microsoft that he’s been after for a while. He’ll be inside the belly of the monster for at least eight months, in a position that’s scheduled to run through June of next year. The only question is, will he be a Trojan Horse, fighting against the beast from the inside, or will he be just another tasty snack, slowly being eaten away by the digestive juices of “Microsoft Culture”?

He starts in two weeks. If the Empire has crumbled in three, we’ll know who to turn to.

September 23, 2003


Sam sleepingBack at home now. All three of us, about 8:00 last night. Still not back online yet, though, not really. The time I did spend on the computer was spent following up on emails from work, getting ready to go back to the office tomorrow. The office seems to do pretty well without its computer guy for a few days, but there’s still a few people waiting for me to come back and fix a thing or two. I did poke my head into the blogosphere long enough to notice a congrats from Doc Searls, though. Thanks Doc!

Our first twenty-four hours at home was pretty hectic, as you can imagine. It’s a little different when there isn’t a nurse call button two feet away from you. And Viola may have been discharged, but she’s still basically bed-bound. Or La-Z-Boy bound, as the case may be. And my mother’s here, but she’s here on vacation, so I can’t expect her to do too much. So I’ll give you one guess as to who’s left to take care of Viola, change the diapers, and do a dozen other little chores. But I think that sitting here right now, with this cute little guy sleeping in my lap (in a baby sling, no less) and sucking on my pinky finger, makes it all worthwhile.

It’s been a wild six days. Tomorrow things start to get back to normal, even though what used to be normal is now long gone. From here on out, we’re going to have a brand new definition of normal.

September 21, 2003


Home. For an hour at least. Viola is still in the hospital, awaiting my return, so I don’t have much time. I had to come home to get the other car, and tidy up a few things. My mother is nice enough to be staying here at the house, keeping things clean and the cats fed, but there’s still a few things she won’t do, like empty the litter boxes. So the house needed a visit from me, even if it’s for only an hour or so. The problem is, it’s an hour drive each way from the house to the hospital. So that’s three to four hours I have to be away from Viola, with her sitting there, in that bed, all alone.

It’s weird to be on the outside. It doesn’t feel right. That hospital is starting to feel like home. The outside world, and even this house, are but dim memories of a life B.S. (Before Sam) It feels like I’m not supposed to be here, like I escaped and in a few minutes they’re going to catch me. In reality, I know that’s just my conscience telling me to get back to my wife and kid. So I better go!

Hospital Security

This is one high security maternity ward we’ve get here. In the first place, you’re got the wristbands. I have one, and Viola has one. Sam has one on his wrist and one on his ankle. All the wristbands have numbers printed on them, and all the numbers match. If you go anywhere with the baby, they check the numbers. If they take the baby to the nursery, they check the numbers. If they bring the baby back, they check the numbers. If I go to the nursery to see the baby, they check the numbers. Without your numbers, you’re nothing. They even have the numbers on the bassinet, which has its own set of rules. When the baby leaves the room, he must be in the bassinet. You can’t carry him around the ward in your arms, he must be in the bassinet. When he goes to the nursery, he must be in the bassinet.

The next layer of security is at the front door. The door to the ward is locked. There is an intercom there, and a video camera. To get in, you have to push the intercom button and be subjected to 20 questions by the desk staff, all while being watched on the monitor. If this screening goes well, you are let in. If you’re lucky and you’ve been there for a few days, they’ll recognize you on the monitor and open the door without the 20 questions. But you can’t always count on that. So you always have to be ready to be grilled.

The final method of security is the most technologically advanced. There is a magnetic chip implanted in the baby’s umbilical cord clamp. This clamp goes with the baby everywhere. All of the doors leading into and out of the maternity ward have a sensor built in to them. If one of those magnetic chips gets within twenty feet of the door, the entire hospital goes into lockdown. Alarms sound, the doors lock, the elevators shut down, steel plates cover all the windows, the sewers are sealed, and thirty-seven SWAT members charge down the hall. Presumably the perpetrator is arrested and taken away to a dark cell in the basement while the baby is taken back to the room and surgically attatched to the mother.

All of these measures are meant to defend against kidnapping. Having a baby taken I’m sure is one of the worst nightmares of any maternity nurse. That actually just happened in Reno a few years ago. A woman decided one day to lie to her husband that she was pregnant. Apparently this guy wasn’t too bright, because she was able to string him along for an entire imaginary nine month pregnancy. But then, when the 40th week arrived, she knew there was no way she could keep up the ruse. I mean, maybe she could say that the baby was a few weeks late, but sooner or later he’d catch on to the truth. So one day she got on the bus and went down to a local hospital, and somehow snatched one of the babies and walked off with it. She then went to one of the other hospitals across town, called her husband, and told him she had the kid and asked to be picked up. I don’t remember what her downfall was, but obviously she was able to get away with it for a short while. That incidient, I’m sure, was the September 11th of the labor and delivery industry. Security may have good before, sure, but ever since then everything’s been hightened and everybody’s been on edge. So they’re determined to make sure nothing like that happens again.

I fully expect that when we finally go to take the baby home, we’ll have to have a blood check, a retina scan, and a DNA test before we’re able to get him out of there. And we’ll be escorted to the car by an FBI agent.

September 20, 2003

Free Tip

OKay. Here’s a quick computer tip. If you’re going to upgrade your laptop to Windows XP, and then you’re going to take said laptop to the hospital and try to use it to organize pictures of your new baby and write updates for your website, make sure the laptop has more than 64MB of memory. Because Windows XP, you see, doesn’t like being limited to 64MB of memory. In fact, it hates it with a passion. It feels like you’re running on pure molasses, or computing underwater, or something. Log on to Windows? Two minutes. Connect to Internet? 45 seconds. Open e-mail program? 90 seconds. Open Windows Explorer? Two minutes. Open Mozilla? Two minutes. Switch tabs in Mozilla? 90 seconds.

Tip #2: if you are stuck with said laptop, make sure it dual boots to Windows ME so you can actualy get some work done.

Who knew the day would come when I preferred ME to XP?

September 18, 2003

Sammy’s here

Samuel Olin Schrantz

Samuel Olin Schrantz
Born September 18, 2003 8:18am
Weight 6lb 15oz
Length 19 inches