Is Wired Getting Tired?

I’m loath to admit it, but I’m afraid that this month’s Wired magazine that came sneaking through my mail slot this afternoon is not their best work.

Wired Magazine, Feburary 2005

I’m loath to admit it, but I’m afraid that this month’s Wired magazine that came sneaking through my mail slot this afternoon is not their best work. The cover article is on Firefox, and it’s early beginnings with Blake Ross & Ben Goodger. I enjoyed getting to read about the two of them and the history on my favorite open source software. However, 1.0 came out in the Fall of last year. No one was staying up late to get this story done for print. To point, the article closes with the "where are they now" bit on Ross and Goodger, explaining that Goodger plans to stay at the Mozilla Foundation. Of course, this evening Slashdot reports that Goodger plans to go work for Google, effective two weeks ago.

In another article, the prolific Lawrence Lessig writes how Wilco is the new model for a rock band of the future. You should read his article (and pretty much anything else he writes), but again we’re not talking about any recent happenings here. Wilco broke record company hearts with Yankee Foxtrot Hotel way back in April of 2002. I was a newly-wed back then! And even then, they were about as big as bands get in the alt-country scene. Just ask my brother, Dave. I enjoyed the piece none-the-less, but Jeff Tweedy must be just as oblique in person as he is as a songwriter.

Lastly, one of the little tidbits in Wired I always look forward to, other than their FOUND: Artifacts From the Future closer each month, is the Jargon Watch. This month, they gave me:

Buttnumbathon – A painfully long and boring movie. See: Oliver Stone’s Alexander. (Better yet, don’t.) Also the name of reviewer Harry Knowles’ annual film marathon and birthday bash.

Knowles of Ain’t It Cool News has been throwing these things together for the last six years running! This is not the latest in jargon my friends.

I’m looking forward to next month’s Wired. They’ve got two months now to find some new stuff. Since MacExpo S.F. and CES L.V., maybe they’ll have at least plenty of gadgets to write about.

Beauty Is Skin Deep

To anyone who isn’t reading this site by Braille, you can tell that the look is changing. Of course, that’s all that’s changing since I’m spending this evening playing with the style sheet. To facilitate an on-going discussion between myself and the Jedi Master designer, Jason Johnson, I thought I’d create a new post to which comments on such things seem relevant.

I’m making no promises to what final form this site will take, other than the fact it will have lots of information create by me about things I find interesting. Short of that, anything goes. It’s all about the journey here. I’m discovering new things about CSS, WordPress, and Flickr all the time and this is my little sandbox with which to play them. Also, I’m hoping to learn a few hacks in PHP when time allows. When will the fun stop?

Fast-Paced First Week

I can hardly believe that five whole days have gone by since I started my new job. I have to say that I’m feeling a great deal more optimistic since my last post, too.

My Office View

Looking out the window at my new office onto the snow from the last two days in Richmond.

I can hardly believe that five whole days have gone by since I started my new job. I think that even after psyching my self up for a month, I wasn’t prepared for the quick pace of work here. I got on a project first thing on Monday morning, and I’ve been busy with it pretty much the entire time since (well, at work anyway). I have to say that I’m feeling a great deal more optimistic since my last post, too. It’s not that I thought I’d made a mistake, it was just that sinking feeling of realizing just how much I was stepping backward, in a career sense.

My boss and I did get to make a site visit downtown Richmond on Tuesday, though. It was about 20º F, in the sun with 15-20 mph winds. I have a whole new level of respect for those construction guys out grouting lintel seats and hanging structural steel. Insane. We’ve had snow the last couple of days here in Richmond, so I doubt they’ve had much of a chance to continue. This photo is looking out my new office window. I took it around lunch on Friday. I realize it’s not a spectacular view, but since I couldn’t see any daylight from the desk at my old job, I feel as though I’ve moved up in the world.

I’ve spent the week learning all about RAM International‘s Structural System design software package. I have to say, I’m pretty impressed thus far. I’ve used a number of software solutions for structural analysis and design, and RAM has lived up to its billing as a one of the best. It is very much geared to the building industry, and therefore can tailor its solutions accordingly. I miss some of the open ended-ness of some of the other packages I’ve used (STAAD, GTSTRUDL) or even the more straight forward frame input of other building design software (RISA 3D). However, you trade all that for the speed and complete-ness that RAM offers. Sure, I can’t custom edit elements to create out-of-plan beams, for example. What I can do, though, is enter in and design an entire two-story school building in a manner of hours. Pretty slick.

The other task this week was learning a little more about building construction. Fortunately, the education system for the structures portion of civil engineering is catered to the building industry. I got to spend the last 3 years learning a good bit about bridge design (albeit, only steel bridges). Now, I get to actually use some of the things I learned in school towards design. Now, if only I could start using LRFD steel design.

Just as an aside, I’m using a new utility for WordPress called FlickIt. It simply adds a quicktag to your editor allowing to easily insert a hyperlinked Flickr image. It’s not perfect, but works does exactly what it claims to and is free (after they got into a little trouble with the company that owns Flickr for charging). Anyway, I mention it because I know a lot of my friends use both WordPress and Flickr and might want an easier way of getting them to play together.

The Village

From all the previews last summer, we were both expecting a horror/suspense film. Some day, I’ll learn to not trust those advertisements.

M. Night Shyamalan's The Village

It snowed on Wednesday night, so Angela unexpectedly got to come home from work early. We stayed in and watched M. Night Shyamalan‘s The Village. From all the previews last summer, we were both expecting a horror/suspense film. Some day, I’ll learn to not trust those advertisements. Angela, who isn’t the fan of horror films that I am, wanted to watch the film with me around, lights on, and surround sound turned off. Well, that’s not the best way to watch a DVD at home, but oh well.

The film is Shyamalan‘s take on a period piece. The actors follow through with the idea superbly. His method of long, static shots really lends itself to the period, as well. This film shot with flashy, MTV-style editing would have been horrible. Now, about the period: I got the impression of a late 19th century, Transcendentalist style utopia. I couldn’t think that some (if not all) of the people involved with this had recently read Thoreau. I certainly got the impression that the character of Edward Walker, played by William Hurt, had at some point.

The Village doesn’t have the same linearity of Signs, which was basically your straight-forward alien invasion/suspense film. Its gift was in its ability to come full circle with story elements. The Village is more like The Sixth Sense in that it contains the kind of twist that alter the very way you perceive what it is that you’re watching. A horror film becomes a love film. It’s almost like Poltergeist being mashed with Ghost, but with much better direction.

However, if The Sixth Sense had a hard right turn at the half-way point, then this film certainly has two. One in the final meeting of Lucius and Noah and another in the opposite direction at the forbidden shed. Even if you expect the dramatic twists (and you do with Shyamalan at this point) and even if you can guess what’s coming next, Shyamalan doesn’t fail to impress. He has a gift for film making, and even more so for story telling. I have noticed that, after watching the scenes he deleted from his film, I can tell that they fell out in the editing room and not when he had a chance to re-shoot some scenes. Several of his films will make mention of an incident that we only later see in a deleted sequence. Given how much I enjoy his movies, I’ll forgive him this.

I think, on the whole, this film was over-hyped yet highly under-rated. Sure, the media blitz was huge and very misdirecting. I imagine the word-of-mouth stopped after the first weekend just because everybody told their friends ‘It’s not scary at all!’ Most of my favorite films are ones that weren’t anything at all like I was expecting, instead they were much better. I can’t tell you if, in a year or two, I’ll be dying to watch The Village all over again, but I can say that I did really enjoy the movie.

The New Job Begins

I can say whole-heartedly, I have begun all over again.

My first day at Stroud, Pence, & Associates was today. I can say whole-heartedly, I have begun all over again. It’s certainly humbling, but a good experience. I’m with a much smaller outfit now, and everyone comes across as being good natured and supportive (not that they weren’t at URS).

I got an e-mail from a friend today who, upon reading this blog, was worried that things might not be going so well. I hadn’t thought about the tone that previous post might have had until that. So, the story thus far (skip to next paragraph if you’ve heard this one): after some soul-searching, I decided that the time in my life to try the other branch of structural engineering was now. The other branch being building design, as I was formerly working in the design of bridges. I took a job offer with a engineering firm based out of Virginia Beach, VA (see above) in mid-December, and left my job at URS Corporation on the 7th of this month.

That gets us to my first day. I’m very fortunate to be a company with plenty of work. I was added as a structural engineer to a building design first thing this morning (apparently, my boss thought this would be a good learning project). Of course, what most people wouldn’t know that aren’t in the structural business, the pace of building design is a great deal faster than that of bridges (months, as opposed to years). So, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, but not surprised. I’ve a great deal to learn, but that was the very idea behind taking the job. I’ve also had a month to psyche myself up for the process.

I suppose, I should feel pretty good about the first day. As it turns out, the hardest part was filling out all those tax and benefit forms. The structures part, what little there was of it today, came easy. I’m sure that will change soon enough, but I’m not going to rush it.

TiVo Made Something Difficult?

The Washington Post has a review of the new TiVo ToGo service, which I’m still awaiting my service update for. The reviewer feels getting the media to your PC is too difficult for most users. I thought he might be refering to the fact that the TiVo desktop and the Sonic MyDVD aren’t as well integrated as he’d like (not that’d he know since the required update of MyDVD isn’t available yet). Nope. He thinks setting up the TiVo on a network is too difficult. Sure, I’m a geek and love that stuff, but it’s a wonder this guy can turn his laptop on.

My Life by William J. Clinton

Not so much a straight biography, but a autobiography from an American president who really understood all the presidents before him. The kind of perspective only someone with this position and his kind of love for history and politics could write.

My Life

While I began reading My Life by former President Bill Clinton back in the summer of last year, my reading of it was interrupted by the release of a installment in the Dune series (weird priorities, I know). However, I’ve been back on it recently, and I find the book well worth the time.

I suppose most people skimmed through the first half or more of the book just to read whatever salacious details about extra-marital affairs they could find, or simply imply. Honestly, I could care less. I always thought that was a little too personal for my business. What’s more, my opinion is this: it happened, he lied to congress, he was censured, I moved on. It’s not the most significant thing in the man’s life and I’m not going to spend anymore of this post or my time worrying about it. It’s not like a war got started over it…

Bill Clinton is, and probably always will be, a nerd of the Democratic party (or in politico-ease, a wonk). I mean this as a compliment, in that he is truly one of the modern times great minds in politics. He is a student of the game, so to speak. As A studier of history and as a person who lived through some of the countries more tumultuous times, he is able to put ideas and policy in perspective. As a candidate and as President, he received a lot of attention for his pain feeling abilities, but after reading more about his youth, I don’t really doubt him. However, it is a true love of politics that makes him a nerd. I get the impression that this is a man who seeks out political races like a compulsive gambler finds race tracks. Sure, he’s a progressive who wants change, but I think he also likes the challenge just for the sake of it.

The parts of the books I enjoy most, aside from some interesting tales of his youth, are the insights into America’s history. Mr. Clinton does an nice job of making Jefferson, Truman, and Kennedy all feel as though they were contemporaries as much as ancestors. Of course, he has intimate knowledge of making history, but he honestly makes America’s past seem not just interesting but relevant. I was aware from reading other books by staffers about the President’s love for reading and how he often would reference events in the lives of former presidents back to Washington for insight. This is what I was looking forward to in this book. Not so much a straight biography, but a autobiography from an American president who really understood all the presidents before him. The kind of perspective only someone with this position and his kind of love for history and politics could write. I’m sorry to say that up until now in the book, it has only been coming in snippets.

I can imagine critics not caring for the all-over-the-map style of writing. However, I love it. It adds a sense of place to every incident described. Sure, there are some goofy parts and some anecdotes that just seem out of place. On the whole, I’d say it’s a good read. I know that many of his detractors simply think this book is revisionist history. I’d say that if someone is going to attack the man and his work, the least you could do is read his side of the story, and here it is.

Rethinking My Youth

Virginia up until yesterday had a state law banning sex between unmarried individuals.

I thought I must of heard wrong a bit of local news on NPR yesterday, but no, it was indeed correct: Virginia up until yesterday had a state law banning sex between unmarried individuals.

The Washington Post reports that the state Supreme Court struck down an early 19th Century law banning fornication between unmarried persons. While rarely enforced, the law came into question under a defense move in a civil case regarding the transfer of an STD between two unmarried individuals during a two-year relationship. Apparently, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas anti-sodomy law in 2003, the good folks at the VA Supreme Court thought better of this Commonwealth’s both antiquated and quite stupid law.

Now, I must admit that I never had any idea this law existed. Further, as I mentioned previously, I thought I heard it right on NPR yesterday and tried to do some research on the internet last night. After about 10 minutes of using search engines and newspaper sites, I just gave up (No, that’s not trying very hard, I know). However, ignorance of the law is no defense. The real question for me is, would I have done anything any differently knowing what I know now? (Mom, if you’re reading this, I stop right about here) The answer is, I’d probably only have done it more. Civil disobedience should always be this fun.

Of course, The Commonwealth of Virginia is the same state that, up until the late 60’s, had a law banning interracial marriages. So, not only would my former life have been a series of enjoyable misdemeanors, my married life would have been illegal, since my wife is half-Korean. Which half, you ask? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist) Virginia’s law was particularly nasty in the pantheon of racist laws, in that it was one that laid out the various permissible ratios of heritage (1/16th negro, 1/4th American indian, etc.) that one could still be considered white. I’m pretty sure 1/2 Asian wasn’t in there, and chances are no one would have much cared, but here’s what the trial judge had to say upon exiling the couple in question from Virginia:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

This sounds like all the same rational for banning homosexual marriages: that because God obviously doesn’t want them, than neither should we. I’m not so sure that there’s a whole lot of evidence that suggests God doesn’t want two loving people to have a formal commitment. Further, I think that at some point in my lifetime, we’ll look back at today’s anti-gay-marriage laws and feel the same way about banning interracial marriage and unmarried sex: why did we ever have laws institutionalizing hate and criminalizing love?

U.S. Can’t Find Its Ass

The BBC reports some shocking news this morning; the United States has officially given up its search for Weapons of Mass Destruction. No, seriously. However, O.J. Simpson continues searching for the killer of his ex-wife and her friend on the golf-courses of America.

Will this affect the Iraqi elections held later this month? I doubt it. It didn’t seem to matter the folks here in the States, and I doubt people dodging suicide bombers much noticed the headline. Barnum was right, you can’t fool all the people all the time…

Apple Stakes Its Claim

Apple seems to be taking the Target approach to design. That is to say, great design needn’t be expensive.

It seems that the theme of this year’s Macworld Expo is going to be affordability . With the keynote speech announcements of the headless iMac, called the Mac mini, as well as the sporty iPod Shuffle; Apple seems to be taking the Target approach to design. That is to say, great design needn’t be expensive. You’ll make up the cost of the design in volume.

There was a great deal of speculation about the "headless" iMac online, leading to some law suits. It appears that the iHome was indeed a hoax, but on the right track when you take into consideration the Mac mini as well as the announcement of Final Cut Express HD. Of course, I’ve yet to play around with one, but a G4 Mac in a small square-ish box (stop me if you’ve heard this one) sounds like a cool little computer. Provided it doesn’t overheat like the cube. Based on what I know about the performance of the new iMac, I’d say it’s safe from overheating. They’re putting little fans in there just for good measure these days. All of that aside, I’m glad to see a well-designed Mac with some decent specs at what seems like a super price. Particularly since most of us already have a monitor, mouse, keyboard, & speakers we can plug into one. While I love the design of the iMac (which is, by the way, a G5 now, instead of a G4), if you already have those things on your desk, buying them again seems wasteful. Just buy a KVMS switch (like the one I have from Belkin for my PC & Linux box).

I am impressed with the iPod shuffle as well. Do I realize it’s just a USB key drive with a speaker jack & music player buttons? Of course I do. However, it’s a nicely priced one that happens to have the über-cool name of iPod attached. Demand greater than supply? Unless they’ve already produced these things buy the 100’s of thousands, than you bet. I bought a 1GB USB key for about $70 a few weeks ago, and I’m already wishing I’d just waited and bought this thing for twice that. I’m happy to pay premium for this kind of cool.