Archives » October, 2003

October 31, 2003

I’m dreaming of a white…Halloween?

As further evidence that Mother Nature has gone off her lithium and started hitting the gin, we had a snowstorm move in yesterday. On Monday it was 80 degrees, today it’s snowing. I know it usually gets cold around Halloween time, but I think this is going a little overboard. Way to be subtle there, Nature. Winter’s here. We get it.

Also today I’m enjoying one of the perk benefits of living in Nevada. The last Friday in October is always a paid holiday, as everyone takes the three-day weekend to celebrate Nevada Day. Okay, “celebrate” may be stretching it. A small percentage of the populace goes to the parade on Saturday, and a few people go down to the carnival for some good old fashioned spin’n’puke. But most of us just enjoy a day off work and don’t do anything to demonstrate our civic pride. That’s the crowd I’m in.

And this year the timing worked out just right, so I can walk around as one of the few people in the country getting Halloween as a paid holiday. Sweet!

October 29, 2003

I want my DVD-TV

You see? When I speak, they listen. Just last week I was telling Viola that I won’t get a TiVo until they come out with one that has a DVD burner built into it. Most of the shows we record just get taped over after we watch them, but every now and then there’s something I want to keep. And the one thing about TiVo that always bugged me was that you had to keep saved programs in the box, on the built-in hard drive. There was no way to get them out for archiving. So, eventually, your hard drive would fill up with saved shows, and there’d be no room for new ones. And without having the TiVo networked to the computer (something else that would be just peachy), you’d either have to start taping over your saved shows, or buy a second TiVo. So why not build a TiVo that can record your shows onto DVD? That way you can build a library of shows, all easy to get at on DVD, and keep your TiVo’s hard drive free and clear. My idea was genius and groundbreaking, and I made sure to voice it in a public place so Big Brother would pick up on it.

Well, someone at Pioneer overheard me talking and fast-tracked the project. Now they have a TiVo that can record your shows onto DVD. Wicked. Now I have just one more request. Dish Network has satellite receivers with TiVo built into them now. Great idea, especially since we’ve been thinking of switching to satellite for a while now. (What kind of cable company doesn’t carry Comedy Central? Charter cable of Gardnerville, that’s who!) So if they can build a two-in-one box with TiVo and DVD over here, and if they can built a two-in-one box with Dish and TiVo over there, where’s the three-in-one box?

If someone can do that—satellite, TiVo and DVD in one unit—then they’ll start to see my wallet opening.

October 27, 2003

Picture of the Day

The many faces of Sammy!

October 24, 2003


This week: the grand relaunch of A List Apart. One of the first web magazines to push for the use of CSS and standards-compliant code, it had been previously left for dead, going months between updates. Now it’s back, with a new design and new articles. People are equally split on the new redesign; they either love it or hate it. I won’t jump into that pit; let’s just say it’s not your gran’pappy’s ALA.

October 21, 2003

Write away

Here’s one of those things I’ve wanted to do but probably won’t. National Novel Writing Month, wherein you have exactly thirty days (Nov. 1 to Nov. 30) to write a novel. 50,000 words, 175 pages. It’s kind of a contest, but there are no prizes, no awards, and the only thing you have to do to “win” is actually finish your novel. It’s really just an exercise in perserverance. From the site:

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

Now, since I already write a lot of crap here on this weblog, I figure that should be able to scale pretty well. I would just have to keep the crap machine turned on. So what if I’m no good at plotting or developing characters or writing dialogue? None of that matters in this contest. The only stumbling block would be time. Writing takes time, even if all you’re writing is half-thought out crap. And time is something I’m not finding myself with a lot of lately. My days have been breaking down to 8 hours of work, 3 hours of sleep and 10 hours of taking care of Viola and the baby. That doesn’t leave much time left to write. I’d probably start my novel and reach 2,000 words by the end of the month. That might make a decent children’s novel, but a NaNoWriMo winner not.

I think the contest is rigged to favor single people. Those of us with a life don’t even have a shot.

October 20, 2003

Liar Liar

Cottonwoods with full fall foliage.

A while ago I said we don’t have fall color in Nevada; that the trees stay green until the first freeze and then the leaves all wither and fall off. Well, I lied. Some of the trees around here actually do turn before they lose their leaves, like the giant cottonwoods. For a couple of weeks they erupt into clouds of yellow. But only yellow. There are no reds or oranges or golds, just a yellow that starts on one branch of the tree and spreads like a cancer until the whole tree is glowing.

Our Octobers are colored green and yellow, and then by the end of the month all the leaves have fallen onto the ground. That’s when the cold winds come down from the mountains and swirl the leaves around in the darkness, just in time for Halloween. And that’s when I like walking around Carson City at night the best, watching the leaves swirling around me. The west side of Carson takes on a peculiar quality during those few weeks. Even when you’re walking down the street by yourself, you feel like you’re not alone. The bare branches of the cottonwoods seem to reach out towards you. You walk by an old Victorian house, and there’s a bluish glow coming from the upper window. Is it just a nightlight, or a candle? Perhaps. Through the rustling of the leaves you think you hear faint footsteps, but when you turn around there’s no one there. The moonlight casts strange shadows on the walls, shadows that seem to bend and twist and dance. Shadows that seem to follow you.

Carson City is nearly 150 years old. Out of all the city founders this town had, maybe a few of them refused to leave?

When rocks fly

It’s a rare newspaper article that raises more questions than it answers. But this weekend there was an article about vandalism that left me wondering exactly what had happened. Check it out:

“Evidently someone shot some good-sized rock through the windows”, said one of the victims Saturday. “They weren’t just thrown they were shot.”

The victim said she could tell by the force of the projectiles that they weren’t just tossed.

There are reactions from the homeowners, and the police say they’re searching for the vandals, but it kind of glosses over the fact that someone out there has a cannon or something that can shoot five pound rocks into houses. And they’re apparently hauling it around in their car. I was hoping the article would deal with the police’s speculations about just what was used to chuck these rocks, but no. I mean, “Police said somebody else had something imbedded in their wall.” Not the kind of thing that happens every day.

Personally, I like the idea of a bunch of surly teens roaming the streets, wheeling a trebuchet from house to house. It sure beats drive-by shootings.

October 17, 2003

More Ormsby

The kid went down for a good sleep in my lap last night, so I was able to put together the September update for the Ormsby House. I guess this actually means I’m caught up for now. That’s a weird feeling, to be caught up on something. Of course, nothing’s ever really finished, and I’ve got enough pictures to put together part one of an October update. But I think first I have some more important things to catch up on.

So, for now, enjoy September!

October 16, 2003


I finally found the time to sit down and toss together another update to my Ormsby House Renovation Gallery. I’ve been taking pictures all this time, and the workmen have been going at it like champs, but with visitors and the baby I just haven’t been able to assemble the pictures and put together the HTML. To show you how far behind I am, I just posted the August galleries (Page One, Page Two). Yes, August. Now I have to sift through the remaining pictures and put together galleries for September and October, all hopefully before November comes.

But, for now, take a trip back in time and see the work done on the OH in August.

October 15, 2003


Lots of goody goodness going on over at Mozilla today. First, they released Mozilla 1.5. Then they released Firebird 0.7. Then they released Thunderbird 0.3. Then they started selling Mozilla on CD, finally catching up to where the major browsers were seven years ago. And then, if that wasn’t enough, they announced that they’re redesigning their web site yet again, this time with help from Dave Shea and friends. These are all very good things. It’s good to see that Mozilla is thriving just as much by itself, if not more, as it did under AOL.

I’m still a little boggled about the whole Mozilla roadmap and where we currently are at. The document says that during Mozilla 1.5 and 1.6, Mozilla as we know it will be fading into the background and Firebird will become the dominant browser. Well, we’re at 1.5, and the nightlies are reporting themselves as 1.6, and yet Firebird is still a separate product, still a ways from its 1.0 release. So let’s just say the whole thing is still confusing and leave it at that.

I’m also torn over their new design. I want to like it, since it’s by Dave Shea, and Dave Shea invented the CSS Zen Garden and earned himself a place near the top of the list of Great Web Designers That You’ve Probably Never Heard Of. But this new design feels unfinished. Disjointed. Even a little lifeless. It’s nothing specific I can put my finger on, it just seems that, while it might have a snappier look to it, it’s actually a step backwards from their current design. I guess that’s why it’s still a beta version, and why they’re looking for comments. No doubt others will see the same shortcomings and be able to articulate them better than I, and everything will get straightened out by launch time.

Mozilla’s a great product, it’s just always had a marketing problem. Even when it was owned by AOL, one of the Web’s great marketers, it was ignored and forgotten. If a Mozilla installer had been included on an AOL CD, usage would have shot up a hundred fold. But AOL was never comfortable with this odd little creature that came stowed away with Netscape, and so they never did anything with it. Casting it loose was probably the best thing they could have done for it; now Mozilla’s free to do what it wants. Marketing should now be Job One around there. Get the word out. Mozilla was built on, and still relies on, grassroots marketing. That’s why I write about it so much; I’m doing my part to spread the word, and hopefully get a couple of new users on board. But grassroots alone can only go so far. I can point someone to, but I can only take it on faith that the site is going to meet that person’s needs when they get there. The first Mozilla site, the one they had up for years, was geared towards developers. You had to know exactly where to look to find out what the latest version was and how to download it. And if you were new to Mozilla and looking for information, good luck. Their current site does a lot better in some respects, but it’s still geared more towards current users looking for the latest news and upgrades. The new design is the same, and even more so. What Mozilla really needs is a website that can draw in somebody who’s never heard of Mozilla. If all the visitor has is a URL, or gets curious about this new word and types “Mozilla” into Google, they should be able to visit and find out what the heck Mozilla is, why they should use it, and what makes it better than everything else out there. This is the area their website has always been deficient in, and the new design doesn’t change that.

Mozilla, you need to cater to the newbie. Your current users are zealots; they’re committed to you, and they’ll keep coming back no matter what. They won’t mind if their needs take a back seat on your website. You need to speak to new users, and their needs should come first on your website. Draw them in, and you’ll only get bigger. Ignore them, and you’ll stagnate.