Wil Wheaton’s Not Dead

I happened accross Wil Wheaton’s site today and I can tell already, he and I are going to be good friends.

I happened across Wil Wheaton‘s site today and I can tell already, he and I are going to be good friends. No, Wil, I’m not going to be stalking you. Plane tickets to L.A. are too expensive right now. However, Wil has a cool site that is all his own. Yep, that’s right. A Hollywood type that does his own web site (down to the code). I suppose many people already knew all about his site, but hey, I can’t read the whole interenet. If you go to the site, you don’t have to read too many posts to learn that Wil is quite the good geek, and not just about coding. He’s a fan of the dark beers, a good liberal, and actually gives a crap what people have to say. Oh, sure you can chock that up to the typical vain, left-coast Hollywood stereotypes, but I did mention he likes dark beers. Explain that away easily. Also, he’s hosted a couple of episodes of "The Screen Savers," which is pretty silver-back for geekdom.

The reason I came across Wil’s site in the first place was reading Garrick Van Buren‘s "Wish List", which credits Wil for. This is a great idea. I’m one who has on many occasions set out personal life-long goals. Many of which were over a beer with friends, and have long since been forgotten. Here’s a list of such goals, out there for the world to see, that can easily be re-visited from time to time to (in Wil’s words) "see if you’re living your life, or just existing." Not a bad idea from some flaky L.A. guy. Okay, I hope you realize that I’m being facetious now.

Anyway, Wil’s getting added to my "Elsewhere On The Web" section of links. I don’t know most of these people and they sure aren’t getting most of their traffic from me (if so, Kottke’s going to starve). However, they’ve all got good sites with something to say. So, if you get bored reading my site, you really should click through to them. I know they’d appreciate you spending some time on their sites as well. Angela will be happy at least. She can easily go check up to see what Wesley Crusher’s been doing since TNG. Oh, and I knew Wil wasn’t dead; that was just a joke. I know, it’s not funny to joke about that sort of thing.

My Rental

Slushy Road
Originally uploaded by super_structure.

I took my truck in yesterday to have some service done (minor recall crap). The dealership gave me a rental for the day, which turned out to be a Mazda 3. Okay, it’s not Ferrari or anything, but much nicer than the broken down Ford Focus they gave me last time. Anyway, it’s a really nice little car. Very sporty. It even has manu-matic shifting (or whatever Mazda calls it) like my truck. Unlike my truck, it has red & black interior with carbon fiber trim. The dash is all submarine-sytle red lights. Even thought it’s a small car, I thought it was very comfortable. It did feel like large bumps might make it take air pretty easy, though. Unsettling for a guy who usually drives small sport utility vehichle.

Speaking of which, they had to replace the trim-work on the A-pillars of my vehicle. Come to find out they didn’t provide a whole lot of padding in an accident. Of course, isn’t that what seatbelts are for? Anyway, the problem is, on a Freelander, the A pillars are already pretty massive and this didn’t really help. They now have a sort of aerofoil shape to them, which is larger and far more dangerous looking than the origional trim. I didn’t think to ask the dealer if I could keep the old plastic… Oh well.

Everything That Was Old Is New Again

I’ve got the site, well, looking exactly like it did a couple of days ago.

Okay, well… I think I’ve taken the 20-lb sledge to most of the look of the site, if only to get exactly back to where I was two days ago (before I upgraded to WP1.5). However, there’s some more power under the hood now, and hopefully I know a little more about what’s going on behind the scenes around here. I have to say, it took me forever to figure out how to tweak the HTML code of the link categories in the sidebar. Man, is that buried in here!

I have a long list of things to get to, and I’m looking forward to hearing from everybody as to what they think. That reminds me, you can cannot leave comments again (I’m so jealous of people who have blogs that work, right now). Let me know if you find anything broken. I hope to get the RSS feeds back again, soon as well. There’s always e-mail, although that’s so 1998.

Professional Amatuers

Bloggers seem to be the story in the news lately. This all reminds me of Gomer Pyle shouting “Cit-i-zen’s Arrast, Cit-i-zen’s Arrast!”

After the credit for bringing down Sen. Trent Lott, Dan Rather, Eason Jordan, and Jeff Gannon (aka J.D. Guckert), bloggers seem to be the story in the news lately. By news, I mean the "mainstream media," although bloggers seem to be doing an awful lot of back-patting of their own. It’s been said the media’s favorite subject is itself and it seems bloggers are no different in that regard. The story, it seems, is the question as to weblogs place in the media. Wired had a story yesterday about the question of bloggers having the same protection as mainstream journalists. Political-minded weblogs are arguing back and forth about which journalists or media icon they brought down has the most political significance and who is responsible for their fall. I might ask here, has anyone read anything about a blog making someone famous? I guess that’d just be dog-biting-man stuff.

Press Hat

This all reminds me of Gomer Pyle shouting “Cit-i-zen’s Arrast, Cit-i-zen’s Arrast!” While I don’t think that too many places have licensed journalists (unlike say, doctors, pharmacists, engineers, or hair-dressers), I think that we all understand the idea of being a "member of the press." Remember those goofy white cards sticking out of the guys’ hats in all the 50’s & 60’s shows that read PRESS? That doesn’t make sense unless we all have some understanding of the concept of what the press is. Like the freedom of the press in the 1st Amendment. This is also why bloggers go by the very populist title of "citizen journalists." It sounds all so folksy and grass-roots doesn’t it? Well, I for one think it’s about as folksy as a case of rabies. When you have no rules or understood ethical guidelines, it is amazing what you can get done. However, those rules and ethics are what make the news news and not simple gossip. I’m not naive and I’m fully aware that this doesn’t always happen. I remember Stephen Glass and Jayson Blaire, too. However, we had a sort of market guarantee that the evening news or the morning paper were going to try and get it right (yes, the facts) and not take the insanely stupid risk of reporting something that just wasn’t true or that no one was willing to go on the record as saying. It seems Bloggers sometime relish in the fact that they don’t have to play by any certain rules, just because of the exceptions in the Mainstream media that broke said rules. This is just the latest development in what I think is a worrisome trend.

Somewhere along the way, we got Fox News for conservatives and I guess CNN is for the rest of us who just don’t think Fox News is worth a damn. Anyway, we got these news channels that suddenly had demographic audiences they seemed hell bent on pleasing to keep. The news was custom tailored to what the audience thought the truth ought to be, rather than what it might actually be. Now, with blogs, it goes a giant leap beyond. Now, people are reporting what they think the news should be. No longer do we just subscribe to our own little news filters, we filter it with our own lens for others! They dictate what the spin is and seem to have little trouble in pushing it relentlessly until the Mainstream Media picks up on it. In this brave new world, your on the record 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week.

I have a blog. I’m not trying to fool you. This is all an exercise in vanity, just like every other blog is. Let’s just keep in mind that quitting our day jobs to sit around in our pajamas and spew digital bile on those we hate isn’t going to make the world better for anyone except pajama manufacturers. I’ll let Chuck Olsen & Jon Stewart have the last word. Thank’s Chuck for posting this video. (We all know what a true friend of the Mainstream Media that Jon is.)

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Not much going on today, other than tons of work and still under the sick spell. I did want to point out a very short, but glowing review of the The Coal Men on the Tennessean web site posted yesterday. Just in case you’re too lazy to click:

You won’t find a shortage of skilled roots-rock bands slingin’ chords around on any given night in Nashville, sure, but really, really good ones still stand out.
And The Coal Men — singer Dave Coleman and cohorts Dave Ray and Jason Hitchcock — are really, really good, bashing out a collection of expertly crafted songs that have as much bite as they do twang. Coleman’s got a heck of a baritone and Ray and Hitchcock’s rhythms are spot-on, but their sets are still loose enough to feel lived in.

That’s about typical for the Tennessean’s reviews of the band. They love the local guys, and they really love The Coal Men. Oh yeah, about locals: If you read (in the Tennessean or elsewhere) last week about the 27 year old female school teacher who was busted for multiple counts of rape of a 13 year old boy, then you may have read on to learn that she’s from my home county. It’s always great to see someone from a small town striking it big in the news. I didn’t know the woman back then, although I’m sure I saw her play some basketball and recognized her maiden name: Pamela Rogers.

Lastly, on the subject of famous people, be sure and read Wired’s article on celebrities that come into the Apple Store at The Grove Mall in Los Angeles. Funny stuff.

Twin Turkey Vultures

Twin Turkey Vultures
Originally uploaded bysuper_structure.

A couple of turkey vultures landed outside my office window today during my lunch break. Apparently, they come around every once in a while to prey on the dead geese and ducks around the small lakes in the immediate area. While quite possibly one of the ugliest birds you can imagine, they’re actually quite interesting to watch.

Anyway, I’m trying hard to ignore the symbolism of having a couple of vultures hovering around just outside my window. I have a couple of project deadlines early next week and am struggling to stay on top of things. Fortunately, I’m not alone in the office and on one’s going to leave my carcass out for the birdies. Still, I think I’ll make sure they are no big birds of prey flying around when I leave work today.

Coming Up For Air

My reason for not posting for the last week is that I’ve been very sick. Some sort of respiratory infection. Nothing that would constitute an emergency, though.

I know I haven’t been posting anything for over a week now. Of course, if you’re not a person interested in TiVo, then you probably haven’t been reading my posts for longer than that. Sorry about that. What can I say, I got a new toy and I’ve been playing with it. Actually, the reason for not posting for the last week is that I’ve been very sick. Some sort of respiratory infection. Well, 3 OTC’s, 4 prescriptions, and 2 trips to the doctor’s office later, and I’m beginning to feel a little better. I promise never to make fun of Richmond’s Doc-In-A-Box again. I’m so glad there here and can help me on a Sunday afternoon! Okay, I’m not going to make them into something they’re not. However, I’m not going to bust their chops either. They do good work over there. Not to mention, they keep a lot of people out of the emergency room. We can all be thankful for that.

Well, other than a less-than-rousing State of the Union address, there’s not been too much goings on to write about. I won’t go into here, other than to say that the "ownership society" rhetoric is getting a little old for me. Have we all forgotten Enron & Worldcom? Who the hell wants this to be the future of Social Security? For all the talk of social security being broken and in need of immediate repair, what we really need is to understand that it’s not projected to run out of money until 2042, even by conservative estimates. That’s if it’s left alone right now. There is no emergency and we don’t need to go blowing trillions (yep, that’s a T) by privatizing any of this. Not yet at least. Let the government take some time and use some leverage to get private companies and investment firms to go along without that massive cost. That’s something of an over-simplification, but not unreasonable. I understand some important people won’t make as much money in the short term, but this is Social Security and was never about making anybody money. It was about ensuing we’ll all have some help after retirement… to ensure that Americans could even consider retirement. I’m not Social Security expert, and I’m certainly not investing Guru. However, I can spot a bleeding emergency when I see one, and this folks, isn’t such a thing. Having the common sense not to rush into fixing this program that is currently working reasonably well (I have family members that get their checks) is the same common sense that kept me out of the emergency room for a bad cough.

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.

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.