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The Fate of Microsoft Outlier Customers

I recently noticed that three of my favorite Microsoft products are to be no more: Windows OneCare (why are they still selling it?) , Microsoft Encarta, and Microsoft Money.  That was striking for me and I have created a contingency plan for each of those products.

On reflection, it is not a new thing for various Microsoft applications to transmogrify and eventually disappear.  Although I have never had an interest in Flight Simulator, I am still a devoted user of Microsoft FrontPage.  If Microsoft Works were as clean and simple as the MS-DOS version, I would still use it.  I have also used a variety of picture editors and photo editors that were bundled in various Microsoft products and that seem to come and go with each new computer system and occasional Microsoft Office upgrade.  Some day, I suppose I will have to do without Windows Live Photo Gallery and Windows Movie Maker, especially as future versions/replacements demand hardware capabilities I don’t possess.

Now, Microsoft is not making a fortune for me as an occasional upgrader of these products (though I quietly paid my OneCare subscription renewal each year).  It is interesting that not until the abandonment of FrontPage was announced did I begin to feel the squeeze and the lack of an appropriate replacement for abandoned Microsoft products.  (E.g., Expression Web is both more and less than what suits my current web-development practices.)  Now I now need to look for three more substitutions and also look at long-term measures for protecting my systems and my electronic financial records as well as maintaining my web sites.  For the three latest-discontinued products, I find that I have three different contingency measures in place. 

Wait, I Like Encarta

When I read that Encarta was to be no more, I resolved to go find a copy of the latest version.  I have a version completely installed on my hard drive and it is a handy reference.  I confess that I mainly use the dictionary (the default setting for the Encarta Search Bar kept handy in my Windows XP task bar).  The encyclopedia is handy but it doesn’t get searched by Windows Desktop Search (a little incoherence there) and I find myself on the web (and Wikipedia) more often than in Encarta because that’s where Windows Desktop Search (and now bing) lead me best.

I’m currently running version 14 (Encarta 2005) and I actually had one monthly update that I didn’t install until last week.  The reluctance to update has to do with needing to be administrator when I do it, and I usually forget Encarta updates when I am running as administrator for other maintenance purposes.  It is a demonstration of my unnoticed waning interest that I didn’t know I had one update left from 2005.

Nevertheless, I wanted to have the latest and greatest if there were to be no more.  Unfortunately, the latest version seems to be Encarta Premium 2007 and it is still pricey, even though pro-rated refunds were cut off on April 30.

I settled for the less-expensive Britannica 2009 Deluxe with the hope that the included dictionary and thesaurus is as easy to use as the one I am abandoning from Encarta. 

Not Money Too.   No, Not Money!

The shocker for me is last week’s announcement that Microsoft Money will also be no more.  I checked, and my oldest Microsoft Money backup is dated 1999 and it has entries from 1998-01-01.   I tended to hold onto versions of Microsoft Money.  I didn’t switch to Money Plus 2007 until the version I was running under Windows 98 couldn’t be installed on Windows XP as I was off-loading the Windows 98 machine at the end of 2007.

I don’t like Money Plus 2007 as much as the older pure-desktop versions.  The change of the user experience to one with integrated web features is mostly a nuisance.  The software performs more slowly and I don’t do those on-line things.  But I like the reports and the extensive history of purchases (and depreciation records) is important for me.  I prepare my tax returns from records maintained in Microsoft Money, and I have had some success balancing my bank accounts using downloads that Money will rely on.  (The experience is rather variable and I often simply balance statements manually instead rather than deal with what it takes to correct for a failed automatic account update.)

I discovered that my version of Money Plus “expires” in September at the end of November.  Ones activated this summer will have support extended through January, 2011. 

It seems like a no-brainer that what I want to do is install another downloaded version and continue to use it until I have a satisfactory replacement.  I will also want to keep a copy around as long as possible to enable my use of existing records.  I will need to discover how to export some of those for use in other products, or as spreadsheets that I can preserve in OOXML/ODF.

So I have another Money Plus Home and Business download and a product key for it.  I will install it at a point this summer when I am carefully backed up, exported, and ready to risk an upgrade.

Goodbye OneCare, It’s Been Good to Know Ye

Microsoft OneCare arrived at just the right time for me.  I had tired of Norton Antivirus upgrades and a growing drift from what worked just right for me starting before Norton/Symantec Systemworks and going back to a time when there really were Norton Utilities.  I valued the simplicity all-in-oneness of OneCare for the following provisions:

  • Annual support on up to three SOHO computer systems (exactly what I had that needed the protection around here)
  • Constant nagging and support for regular backups
  • Outgoing firewall protection

It wasn’t the most wonderful product, but it was also steadily improved over the time I used it, right from the beginning of its availability.  It did deal with my dominant computer security concerns. 

OneCare also provided me with a great source of system-incoherence anecdotes, and I must recount some of those while I can still capture screen shots of the experience.

Actually doing backups onto DVDs was not the most exciting experience, as much as OneCare made that possible.  Once backup functions were taken over by WHS, the cleverly-named HP Mediasmart Server (with its Windows Home Server version of Windows Server 2003) now on the network, that difficulty was mitigated and there are now automatic, incremental backups every night. 

Still, OneCare works well and effortlessly for us, even if it reports that backups are woefully out of date (a new little incoherence on how OneCare has forgotten WHS is on the job). 

It was also great that Microsoft announced that all OneCare support agreements will continue until their expiration.   That means mid-September 2009 here. 

On the other hand, the promised Microsoft replacements for OneCare are not in sight.  I believe the last promise was for around August.  I am beginning to squirm.

There appears time to find an adequate substitute, taking into consideration that Microsoft will offer some sort of solutions for some unknown degree of protection where I find it the most valuable for the computers here.  Unfortunately, it is not clear that there is a decent non-Microsoft product that works here, regardless of the high reputation a number of Antivirus producers have achieved.  The low reputation that is Microsoft’s automatic prize is apparently more myth than reality in my experience.  On balance, OneCare works better than anything I have attempted to replace it with.

Here’s how my search is working out so far.

Since OneCare is to be no more, Windows 7 beta and Windows 7 RC not only had no provision for it, those releases were actually hostile to OneCare.  So on Quadro7 I have been going through trials of other Antivirus products, partly to determine a good candidate to be installed uniformly on all of the systems here.  None of the products tried so far seem to integrate well with Windows 7, which has apparently changed the rules enough that AV producers are having some difficulty.  In particular, I have not found an AV product (even the Windows 7 directed beta releases) where Windows 7 reports that it is protected and the Windows Home Server concurs in reporting that my systems are protected. 

Having tired of Symantec (and enjoying the liberation that OneCare provided), I haven’t gone back.  My latest experience with McAfee was on WHS and that led me to prefer no AV there instead.   (That experience also led me to be more cautious about the judgment of folks at Hewlett-Packard and the trial installations they chose to push to WHS.)

Meanwhile, on Quadro 7 I have gone through one trial of Kapersky and another of Trend Micro.  I actually bought a retail copy of Trend Micro but Windows 7 chokes on that.  Instead, I now possess an useless license since the Trend Micro beta for Windows 7 won’t accept the older-product registration code except when it installs as an update, and that doesn’t work on Windows 7.  I’m moving on to F-Secure’s beta for Windows 7 right now and the trial lasts out past August.  With luck, I might have a consistent Microsoft solution to deploy across all of the computers here.  And if not, I will need to find a product that has an affordable multiple-machine license (as Trend does) and that doesn’t require me to use a web site to know my status (as McAfee Total Protection does). 

There are clearly interoperability issues here, and the level of coherent integration is a challenge.  It is a challenge for Microsoft too, but as one might expect, OneCare integrates more cleanly and, apart from an apparently-inescapable level of Microsoft paternalism, works most consistently and coherently than anything else I have attempted to use in its place.

Update 2009-06-15-04:06Z Correcting an expiration date for Microsoft Money.

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Just a Little Bit Facebooked

Exulting in having "orcmid" in one more place

When I said “I will Facebook no more Forever” in December 2007, I meant it.  I really meant it.

On the other hand, I knew that Facebook actually maintained my account and all I needed to do was log back into it to have it operating again.  There is evidently a full nuclear destruction available, but I didn’t go that option.  I also didn’t discard my Facebook account password. 

I recall being given a similar reassurance by an AOL telephone representative as I was cancelling my long-standing CompuServe account, the first place “orcmid” was ever seen in public.  (The AOL-ized webified CompuServe was not the CompuServe that I devoted so much time to at the end of the 70s.  It seems I am constantly ending up in the demographic that is no longer the one of a long-time vendor’s keen interest.)

At 10:00 this morning, I was noticing all of the folks on Twitter going on about having gotten their user-friendly Facebook name, or about someone else getting it first. 

Oh oh, “What about Orcmid?” I say to myself at least ten hours after the name-claiming frenzy began.  Well of course “orcmid” was available.  I now have it

I am not back on Facebook.  Yes, my account is active again, but I am not back.

All this means is that when others talk about their Facebook page, or photos on Facebook, or anything-else Facebook, I can go look, because I have an account.

I am not attending to my Facebook page, I am not posting on folk’s walls, I am not friending anyone and I am ignoring mail that comes in saying so-and-so has friended me. 

This is entirely an account of convenience.  I am only a little bit Facebooked.  Honest.  I caught it from a toilet seat.

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By Your Start Bars Shall Ye Be Known

Wouter van Vugt and Jesper Lund Stocholm have unwittingly (?) started a new geek Friday pastime: Comparing computer Start Bars (or their equivalent among non-Windows users).  Well, let’s see how many personality revelations I make here:

(main desktop)

(Tablet PC)

(web site dev host)

Scampo: The Start Bar I Use the Most Quadro7: My Occasional Start Bar Compagno: Used only when Updating Web Site via VSS and FTP

Senator, I have to the best of my recollection never opened Getting Started, Calculator, Sticky Notes, Snipping Tool, and Paint on Windows 7.  That must have been someone else.  (This must show how little my start bar has been auto-customized yet, and I have been using other applications.  Hmm, gremlins perhaps?)

Now, the Start Bar is not the whole story.  As you can see, what I might or might not have arranged in my Quick Launch area of the Task Bar is also revealing. 

And, if you don’t find enough tea leaves to read into my psychological profile from the above clips, there is always the system tray for delving deep into the geek psyche:


My heaviest-used Task Bar and System Tray Areas


Kept Light During Windows 7 RC Testing


Just what I need for using its development IIS server and troubleshooting

WHS: The Start Bar I am not supposed to need. Excluding Vicki’s office desktop system, there is still one more machine in the Centrale workgroup.  The fact that I actually had to learn how to use Remote Desktop reveals how much my arrangement is a maverick with respect to Windows Home Server design assumptions.  I didn’t want to be a network systems administrator, but now I am one. 

Well, that was boring.  What can we come up with next week I wonder?




Golden Geek: Sibling Memories Revisited

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Sibling Memories: 58 Years Later

In the 2009-02-02 post, Golden Geek: Sibling Memories, I suggested that the next time the three of us got together, we should restage the 1951 group portrait.  Luckily, youngest sister Carol is vacationing in the Pacific Northwest this year.  On May 23, we all met at Judy’s and recreated the photograph as we are now, 58 years later.   Vicki, our superb photographer assistant, made it possible.  Here we are in the same order: Carol, Dennis, and Judy.  Carol is now taller than Judy and this is apparently a matter of sibling banter between the two of them.

Carol and Judy provided additional recollections on the original staging.  It was dad who arranged for us to sit for this picture.  We think it was around Spring 1951, when we were in the 2nd, 4th, and 6th grades, all in Horace Mann school in Tacoma, Washington.  This was the last time that all three of us would be in the same school together.

The photo portrait was hand retouched, and that is evident on the black-and-white print I am holding.   The version that was presented to mom, and hung prominently in our home, was hand-colored.

Carol remembers that dad did not like obligatory occasions and preferred to operate spontaneously.  We think the portrait was a surprise gift not associated with any particular occasion.  I recall being that way as well.  Living in New York State and Pennsylvania, I would arrive for holiday visits unannounced, meeting dad at his work and then riding home with him.  The only problem with that is mom knew I might do such a thing and was left in anticipation whether I was coming or not.  When dad warned me about that, I made my intentions known in advance from then on.  I also learned to shop for occasions, even in advance rather than immediately before, after observing an acquaintance do that and seeing how much enjoyment she got out of it.  I don’t resist an opportunity for a good surprise, but these days the simpler pleasures are available more consistently.

Concerning photo-realism, I believe that I was already wearing glasses in 1951.  However, I was near-sighted and often did not wear glasses indoors.   (That was true until around 1980 when I needed my first bifocals.)  These days, we all wear glasses and some of us cannot see very far in front of our face without them.

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Saturday Geek Photo: A Back-to-the-Future Moment

Seen in a computer-store window, May 2, 2009 (click for Flickr page)

When I happened to glance into this window of the neighborhood computer store, I had a sudden back-to-the-future moment.   I had to check my surroundings to ensure that I hadn’t step through a time warp.

I don’t have any explanation for this being here, and I didn’t step inside to ask.  I did have my camera along.

As I look around me today, it is difficult to recall how exciting these machines and their brethren were for us.  Despite their considerable limitations, they inspired the imagination in ways that won’t occur in that way again.

The original Commodore Business Machine (CBM) was an all-in-one unit that resembled some sort of Aztec pyramid with its monitor on top.  I remember checking them out around 1977.  I was concerned enough about the cost of service and maintenance for those and similar units that I spent the months before my first microcomputer going through the Heathkit courses on DC and AC Electronics while building my own instruments, starting with a multi-meter and culminating with an oscilloscope.  Having done that, I ordered my first H8 computer and rapidly assembled that, the matching floppy-disk units, the H19 terminal, and then an H89 all-in-one computer, starting in 1978.

Although I was a Z80 Assembler and CP/M-80 hold-out, the microcomputer era ended for me when I purchased an assembled Heath-Zenith Z158 PC XT clone.  Although the Z158 sported the original MS-DOS 64k RAM and Intel 8088 processor, I recall adding a memory-expansion board, additional hard disk (on an add-in board), and Microsoft Windows 1.03.  I managed to keep Windows on it all the way through 3.0.  My use of Windows was primarily as a shell for the basic Windows utilities and MS-DOS programs, including Microsoft Works, and Turbo Pascal.  Nothing stressed Windows much and the result was tolerable performance on my underpowered system.

I had an early version of the Windows SDK as well.  My favorite text editor was the Microsoft Editor that was packaged with Microsoft development tools at that time.  I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the command-line C compiler, having far more affection for Borland’s Turbo C and, later, Turbo C++.

And, in a side room, there was also an Atari 800.  Although the 8-bit Atari was kept mainly as a recreational machine with limited floppy-disk capacity, I was inspired to publish an article on fractal dragon curves  [Compute! October 1986, pp. 78-89] that exploited the relationship of dragon curve-walking to carry propagation in a binary counter.




2009-03-24: Finding Ada

Months ago, I pledged to write something in honor of Finding Ada and post about it when today arrived.  

I now have three thoughts about this, and I need to figure out where to start. 

  • First, I am impressed by young women entering technology, and how much that entry seems to be in Asia and other parts of the world where information technology is seen as an inviting vocation.  There is something instructive in that.
  • Secondly, I notice how many women in technology I have known and worked with.  Despite whatever change is happening with newcomers, I notice that there remain places where women are active and do well.  I continue to encounter younger women technology professionals at places like Microsoft. 
  • Then there is the prospect of recording some personal reminiscence of Grace Hopper, starting with when I first met her.

Linda Bergsteinsson: 1991-01-17Singling out a particular woman who I have known and admire is a great way to focus.  A few come to mind.  I just ran across Linda’s photograph while looking around for women in technology of my direct acquaintance, and here is what I have to say about that.

Linda Bergsteinsson: Pioneering Woman in Technology

I first met Linda in 1989 when she visited the Xerox advanced-development team I was a member of in Rochester, New York.  She’d flown in from the California-based Xerox Office Systems business unit, home of Ethernet, the Xerox work stations, and publishing-system software.  Linda was taking on a crash project for development of a document-imaging system.  The product was required to work with the soon-to-be-announced Xerox Docutech system and it was required to be demonstrable at the launch event. 

I joined her new team.  Not prepared to move to California, I remained in Rochester as part of a satellite operation.  I commuted to El Segundo and Palo Alto until the project and its staff were scooped up under a Rochester-based organization.  I lost touch with Linda until the Spring of 1992 when, knowing that I was finally looking for a way to move to California, she informed me of an urgent need for a software architect on XSoft document-management products. 

I arrived in Silicon Valley in August 1992.  Although I didn’t work with Linda again, we remained colleagues and friends until neither of us were in Silicon Valley any longer.

I learned, as part of our acquaintance, that Linda and I were the same age.  She graduated from UCLA in 1960 as a mechanical engineer, a very unusual choice at that time.  She had worked in Germany and at Ford Aeronutronics.  She was solidly into computers on joining Planning Research Corporation, in Los Angeles, around the same time in the 60s when they were contracting support to some Univac software in arrangements I was tangentially on the far end of. 

At Xerox, she was involved in the original Xerox Workstation software effort and was working at the descendant of that PARC-associated organization when our paths finally crossed.

Although I would learn of her history as our acquaintance grew, there was something pronounced that I learned from Linda early on.  She just accepted people.  And she liked people that I had quite different snap-judgments about.  Struck by her generosity, I began to question and revise my existing snap impressions of the same people.   She seemed to have a decisive practical nature, and the usual changes of organizations and directions did not distress her so much that it showed.  When she was deposed as part of the document-imaging team being scooped up by another organization, what seemed most unsettling for her was that the principle actors in that play were personally mean about it.  When I later introduced Vicki to Linda, Vicki’s experience was of immediate acceptance and of interest in what was important to Vicki.

Although her career was in technology, Linda also managed a Palo Alto home that always had housemates or visitors.  She collected and displayed art all over her home.  She loved to cook and held wonderful dinners.  I had the opportunity to meet members of her family in town for a little reunion at her home.  Her relatives were struck by the fact that I had worked for and with Linda.  They would confide to me how much they were still somewhat mystified by Linda’s connection to engineering and technology and her taking what seemed such an alien path through life.

As the XSoft organization dwindled and shed senior management team, Linda retired from Xerox Corporation a few years before I did.  Too young to fully retire, I remember how pleased she was to obtain her own PC at home and train herself to work on the Internet.  Freed from management responsibilities and the concerns of senior staff, she found work as a web developer for a local firm.   It was one of the most satisfying experiences she’d had in a long time.

In January 2001, Linda moved from her Palo Alto home to Southern California.  On February 10 she married Tom Criswell, a long-time friend and companion.  They were preparing to move together into a home in Rancho Palos Verdes.  On Tuesday, August 27, 2002, Linda Bergsteinsson Criswell died of cancer.  She was 63.

It was a gift to know her.  Looking back, I see all the ways that I didn’t know her very well.  And, today, I miss her and her calm steadiness.




Golden Geek: Picture Personality

Stephen Peront came across this wonderful timewaster project to derive picture personalities.   This is mine.

Orcmid's Picture Personality Mosaic

There are twelve questions that one must answer and then use Flickr search to find a chosen image for incorporation in a mosaic.  Here are my questions and responses:

  1. What is my name? Dennis.  I had to use Dennis Oppenheim’s ‘Device to root out evil.’  Although I used the picture that came up, I much prefer the one here.  Until I read the description, I did not notice that the work depicts a church.  I take that as an affirmation, although I don’t appreciate the metaphor around good versus evil.
  2. What is my favorite food? Peanuts.  But the chocolate chip peanut butter cookies put me over the edge.
  3. What high school did you go to?  Lincoln High School.  There is a different Lincoln in nearby Seattle.   I changed the search to Tacoma Lincoln High School and found mine.  (I figure this is only slightly cheating because the first search is dominated by football photographs from one contributor.)  My Lincoln HS It is approaching its centenary.  I forgot that it is officially Lincoln Park High School, and that is the park land adjacent to the school.  My sisters and I and both our parents attended this school.  Since I was one of the student photographers, I have old photographs of my own, and a number of them are in the Lincolnian 1957 yearbook.
  4. What is your favorite color?  Burgundy.  I hope I’m not asked what my favorite flower is.  This is not a match for the color, but roses are significant for me in a couple of ways, so that’s the choice.
  5. Who is your celebrity crush?  Mary McCormack (of In Plain Sight).  I have no idea what the mosaic process will do with the composition of this photo (hmm, not bad, not bad at all).  I don’t think it is a crush, and there are a couple of other actresses in commanding TV series roles that come to mind.  But Mary occurred to me first.  Now, I had to go to Hulu to find out what here name is, so you can calibrate with that too (and the same is for the others that I notice).
  6. Favorite drink?  French roast coffee.  I don’t know who this guy is, and I hope he doesn’t mind.
  7. Dream vacation?  Olduvai Gorge.  This is the inspiration.  But I like the group photograph more.  Funny, the exhibit of Lucy’s Legacy is here at the Seattle Center until Monday.  I decided not to go see it yesterday.  I think I will reconsider if they are open on Sunday, March 8.
  8. Favorite dessert?  Chocolate Cream PieTiramisu is a recent favorite, but I didn’t think of it first.
  9. What I want to be when I grow up? Inspiring Teacher.  I was tempted to say Linda Zraik, but few would get it and, fortunately, Flickr came up empty.  (I tried simply “teacher” but the cupcakes drowned out the selections.  This selection would have been even more mysterious.)
  10. Favorite morning pastime?  Surfing the Internet.  This little guy says it all.  I call it research and it goes with processing my morning e-mail and reviewing RSS feeds and Twitter.
  11. One word to describe me?  Brilliant.  This is not meant to be a good thing, but something I am driven about.  I like the picture enough to use it, even though it is part of a private joke.  I was hesitant to use this, since it comes across as arrogant (with this selection).
  12. My Flickr name?  orcmid.  That’s tricky because it brings up mostly my material.  This avatar (and my Second Life one) is reflective of me.

The Credits:

1. 'Device to root out evil' by Dennis Oppenheim, 2. plain and chocolate overload peanut butter cookies, 3. Lincoln Park High School Postmarked 1916, 4. Pale lemon yellow, Burgundy red., 5. NUP_115610_0962, 6. Peruvian French Roast at Duckpond Coffee, 7. Olduvai gorge, 8. Chocolate Cream Pie - 4, 9. *Inspire* hand stamped necklace , 10. Surfing the Internet, 11. Brilliant*, 12. Technogeek avatar




Golden Geek: Sibling Memories

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Siblings: Carol, Dennis, and Judy in 1951 (click for larger image)

Having passed my 70th birthday, I was reminded of this photograph by the birthday cards I received from my sister Carol (left, above) and my sister Judy (right, above).  I don’t recall this photograph being taken, although a large version was prominently displayed near the front room of our family home in Tacoma, Washington.

It is touching to think how I and my two sisters stay connected after all of this time.  I am the oldest, with Judy just over two years younger, followed by Carol at a little over two more years.   (My birthday is first each year, followed by Judy in the Spring, Carol in the Autumn).

As youngsters, the three of us spent a lot of time together, especially on those rainy Northwest days when we weren’t in school. 

We also followed through the same school systems.   Once I moved from 6th grade at Horace Mann School to Stewart Junior High School, Judy and I would be in the same school only once out of every three years.    Carol and I were never in school together once I entered the 7th grade.  After high school, I went off to college in Pasadena for a short time, then moving to Seattle.   Shortly after Carol graduated from Lincoln High School in 1951 1961, I moved to New York City and remained in the Northeastern United States until I moved to California in 1992.  Returning to the Seattle area in 1999, I reconnected with Judy, who had remained here.

Both Judy and Carol attended Washington State University.  Judy returned to teach school.  Carol married and moved to Minnesota, where she remains near her two daughters and her grandchildren.  A few years ago Carol obtained a masters degree and began working in special programs for youngsters and young mothers.

The three of us have our separate lives.  Although Judy and I are nearby, we each have our own connections and activities, and we treasure the times we get to spend together.  It is a special treat when Carol is visiting out this way and we can connect in person.  Carol and Judy are more connected, often finding vacations and trips to take together.

The next time the three of us are together, we should restage this photograph.

All of this reminiscence is triggered by my birthday cards.   They remind me that as much as we have traveled quite different roads, our childhood connections hold on.  It also shows me how much I can be reminded of shared experiences that I have forgotten and that were memorable for my sisters.  It is one of those benefits of growing up family that we remember for each other.  I am thankful that our growing into adult friends is not marked by the turmoil and separation that I’ve seen in the families of others.

From Carol:

“Hope you have a wonderful celebration for your 70th.  I am working with a woman in Hospice, who 3 days after you turn 70, will turn 101.  When I told her I was 65 she said I was so young … so it is all perspective!  Enjoy life now.”

From Judy:

“I have been reflecting on some of our childhood times … .  Those decades may seem far away now that you are starting your 7th, but they are some of our sister and brother moments which I cherish.

“My first memory was when you were pushing me in a swing at McKinley Elementary school.  How awesome that my strong brother could send me soaring to the clouds that I wanted to touch.  Then with one last push, I tumbled off and landed in a mud puddle.  From sky to land how could I forget!  But I loved it. 

“The car travels to Illinois were also memorable as we shared the back seat.  There was lots of singing and wondering who would get to sit by the window.  That is also where I learned that there is no such thing as a bigger half and just because my brother was older he didn’t get to have the larger half of the candy bar.  I have used the half story many times in my teaching career as well that nickels aren’t worth more just because they are larger than a dime.  You were an important teacher of math skills on that trip.

“In Kankakee, I remember walking back and forth to school with you, going to outdoor theaters in cornfields and lying on blankets while we tried to act grown-up as we smoked candy cigarettes and puffed on licorice pipes.  I admired how fast you were when we played chase with Duchess the neighbor’s Great Dane.  Boy, you could get to a safe spot while she frequently ran me down.

“I went to my first scary movie with you and you didn’t have nightmares while I did.  How brave my big brother was not to see the creepy shadows on the bedroom walls.

“How awesome that you could ride a bike while I was still learning.  I bet you remember the numerous times I got my pant leg caught in the chains or my foot in the spokes when you were giving me a ride.  That bike ride learning certainly came in handy back in Tacoma with all the miles we spent biking to Chambers Cree, the South Tacoma Cut, Wapato Park and our neighborhood.

“Lots of memories in the Tacoma days.  How I loved that you would read the Sunday comics to me while lying on the living room floor as I was still learning to make sense of writing.  Man, you were such a reader. You would disappear and read while other activities were going on in the house.  School kids would call you the brain and mention how smart you were (are).  I also knew how impressed teachers were with you.  I though that was terrific and I was proud to be your sister.

“Do you remember the hours we spent together playing ping pong in the basement?  The challenge was to avoid hitting the overhead floor joists with our heads as well as keeping the ball out of the floor drain or the spider hiding places.  Of course, I will never forget the bomb shelter you started digging by the chimney base in the crawl space.  Quite a secret until Dad found out.

“You always seemed to have activities going that seemed mysterious and ‘male’ to me.  Chemistry mixes with obnoxious smells, photos dripping from laundry lines, red lights that signal do not enter my boy domain.  Hot dog cookers and earthworm zappers were made in junior high shop and brought home to demonstrate.  You had a paper route and later worked in a camera shop.  You had so many interests that seemed amazing to me as your younger sister.

“We had lots of evenings without the folks being around.  Those were the moments of snapping towel fights, sneaking up on each other in the bedrooms with the intent of scaring each other, talking back and forth from bedroom to bedroom, and just having sibling time.  I remember the sneaking of Dad’s cigarettes.  Hmmm, how did he know?”

It is wonderful to be able to look back and learn what was the best of it for each of us. 

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Friday: My First Cat Photo

My first cat photograph from 1954 (click for larger version) My first non-human animal photograph was of a dog.  My first cat picture was of a neighborhood stray who wandered into our yard in South Tacoma on Sheridan Avenue just north of 56th Street.   We put water out for it and I think there were times when my dad fed it.  The cat was pretty scruffy and would also show up with various wounds from time to time.  The cat was around for only a brief time.

I am not sure what appealed to me about the cat, but there is some residual fondness when I look at the photograph.  I have similar affection for our oldest Bombay, Askani. 

I date the picture to around 1954.  It was taken with a borrowed Kodak Pony 35 or possibly my original Praktiflex FX.  If it was a slide, it was probably on Anscochrome.

I thought that the print I had was from a slide, but I can’t find it.  This image is recovered from a Kodacolor print that has experienced considerable deterioration.   Using an H-P Scanjet, I scanned the print into a full-color 600spi TIFF file with cropping (to 2” by 3”) and preservation of all the range I could find.  The final corrections were made with Nikon Capture NX 2 where I could work on brightness, contrast, range, and correction to the neutral points in the image.  I should do this with other images where I only have prints before their color deteriorates further.

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Golden Geek: Going for Platinum

Golden breakthrough: June 2008 photograph from my new cellular phone (click for larger image) I adopted the term Golden Geek to describe my having achieved my 50-years Golden Anniversary as a software developer in May, 2008.

In May, 1958, I was already 19 years old.  By the next Golden Geek anniversary I will be a septuagenarian, someone in the 8th decade of their life, after turning 70 this week. 

This is an exciting occasion and probably the most exciting birthday I can remember (assuming that as a youngster there was considerable now-forgotten excitement too). 

In honor of that I am taking the next few days to indulge some simple pleasures, watch a movie on the IMAX screen, visit an art museum, and write about some of my favorite but neglected topics.  Before I do that, I want to reflect on what I notice, looking back from this week.

If I had a troublesome year, it was after my 39th birthday.  By my 40th I had calmed down and I recall being excited and oddly moved on the eve of that birthday.  Intervening birthdays were not that distinctive as attainments of an age except for the 65th, spent dining in a marvelous sidewalk dining room on the Via Venito in Rome.  The age itself didn’t strike me as particularly special, unless you count little blessing such as eligibility for Medicare.

I do count little blessings.  I am pleased and satisfied with small pleasures at this stage of my life.  I can worry about outliving our savings, being incapacitated in some way, and the new little physical and stamina limitations that show up from time to time.  Yet, on balance, life is satisfying.  I feel settled.

And then there is the constancy of my vocation as a computer and software technologist, my interest in the computing sciences, and the never-ending fascination with computing as a personal activity.  I have had ups and downs in my enthusiasm, yet I find that the current period is one of excitement and accomplishment.

Today I am charting for myself some future anniversaries: 

  • Emerald Geek after 55 years
  • Diamond Geek after 60
  • Sapphire Geek at 65
  • Platinum Geek at 70

Around Platinum time, I will become a nonagenarian and I do suspect my capacities and interests will have been exhausted as far as computing goes.  I relish the idea of becoming a centenarian, but I think I will just keep the Platinum Geek title, emeritus.

Speaking of ups-and-downs, there was no little source of excitement at the front of my birthday week thanks to the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States on January 20.   I think this has been the most exciting and engaging election campaign and inauguration of my life.   That had me look back at all of the presidential campaigns that I remember, preceding my first eligibility to vote in one, 1960, at the then-minimum age of 21:

  • 1948 Truman Campaign.  In the third grade, about to move to Kankakee, Illinois for almost two years, I remember parts of this campaign.  I listened to a radio broadcast of the whistle-stop campaign that might be said to have turned it for him.  On the local broadcast when his train came through Tacoma, Washington, I remember someone calling out the by-then slogan, “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry,” and his response.   I remember opponent Thomas Dewey but it didn’t sink in that he was Governor of New York State until I lived there.  I don’t remember any election before 1948 -- World War II and playing soldier was more memorable, although I do recall my grandmother weeping when Roosevelt’s death was announced. 
  • 1952 Eisenhower Election.  I remember the contest between Stevenson and Eisenhower and even fretting about it as a school student.  My oddest recollection is dreaming about Eisenhower on election night and waking up in the morning satisfied that it would be all right if he won.  I remember watching the inauguration on television and marveling that Eisenhower wore a top hat.  I do remember the use of Univac to predict the election although I can’t say how that might have triggered my later interest in computers.  (It is interesting that we now appare do this quite differently, with considerable reliance on analysts to interpret early election-returns data.)
  • 1960 Nixon-Kennedy Election.  This was the first election in which I could vote.  I voted for Richard Nixon yet I was not dissatisfied when Kennedy won.  I don’t recall his inauguration (unless he wore a top hat too).  My admiration grew as the Kennedy administration progressed.  I remember the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis (and how quiet the streets of New York City became as we worried over what could happen any moment).  I remember exactly where I was on November 22, 1963 when Kennedy’s assassination was reported.  It was at 1290 Avenue of the Americas in what was then the new Sperry Rand building.  Others brought word of the shooting around the office; I was struck by my Catholic coworkers leaving the office to walk over to St. Patrick’s cathedral to pray for our fallen President.  I remember asking Mike O’Grady to light a candle for me too.
  • 1964 Lyndon Johnson Election.   This was an easy election for me (and most of us, based on the results).  The odd part for me was that my wife Bobbi and I had just moved from Manhattan to Mineola on Long Island.  As recent newcomers to Nassau County, we could not vote for that better-known carpet-bagger, Robert Kennedy, to be a U.S. Senator from New York.  There was a new rule that permitted residents of a State to vote in the Presidential race regardless of recent moves, although Bobbi and I had to attest to each-other’s literacy before we could complete the special ballot that was available for that purpose.  Of course there were far more peculiar voting laws in other parts of the country.  We knew that and were surprised just the same.
  • 1968 Richard Nixon Election.  Yes, I voted for him a second time.  This time I was rewarded for my error by his winning.  Actually, I never felt badly about Nixon, but I got to learn where I differed with his policies and approach.  For me, it was about the Supreme Court.   Other matters (though not Watergate) were more complex but the long-term import of Supreme Court appointments struck me as a big deal.  I was single at this time in my life and I recall how excited my girl friend was to see Nixon campaign at King of Prussia Mall near Valley Forge in Pennsylvania.  I thought she was going to jump into the limousine with him, or crawl up on the roof.  She and I are still in touch (and politically and socially extremely far apart), so I should send her the pictures that I have from that event.    This was the last time I voted for the Republican Party’s presidential candidate.  Whenever I am in a room where “All the President’s Men” is showing, I have to sit down and watch again, even though it always turns out the same.
    In the run-up to the Nixon election, I also remember where I was when Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed and then when Bobby Kennedy was also assassinated: ANSI standards-committee meetings, both times.  I had been at a meal with Martin Luther King when I was a college freshman.  I didn’t appreciate who he was at the time, although some students from New York City were completely excited about having him on campus and in the Dabney House dining room.  Vice President Nixon came to campus around the same time, in the aftermath of the Sputnik upset, addressing the students assembled on the football field.  That was a bigger event, but I remember that closer appearance of King far more, including its lasting reminder of how clueless I was, at 18, of issues of race and civil rights in our society.  That’s more significant to me than my skipping all of Feynman’s “Physics X” lectures, something my wife Vicki will not let me forget though.
  • 1976 Jimmy Carter Election.   I don’t feel righteous about not voting for Nixon in 1972.  The peculiar events of his near-impeachment, resignation, and the presidency of Gerald Ford was too much drama as I was pre-occupied in my first career at Xerox Corporation in Rochester, New York.  When Jimmy Carter came through the Rochester Midtown Mall, I was in a group of well-wishers waiting to greet his passage.  I remember that he was walking with Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who I had come to admire.  When I had an opportunity to shake candidate Carter’s hand, I was flustered, dropped a flyer on the floor, and jammed my palm against his fingers rather than giving him a simple hand-shake.  I always wondered if I had hurt his little finger and can be embarrassed about it, even now.  (Not quite 20 years later, I had occasion to write to President Carter.  I did not mention this incident.)
  • 1980 Ronald Reagan Election.  In this election, I actively campaigned for, and voted for, candidate John Anderson.  I encountered a lot of recriminations for that from Democrat friends, but that is what I did.  The oddest experience was manning a campaign table at a July 4th event in Penfield, New York, where I was living then.  That was the first time I ran into binary thinking and the “if you’re not for it, your against it.”  This time it was about abortion and Anderson’s support for Roe vs. Wade.  In this context, if he wasn’t for banning abortion, he was promoting abortion, and that was that.  For me there is a great difference between what we make illegal and how we deal with complicated moral choices that individuals may face.  And, as a male, I had the feeling that it was not my business to legislate something so intimate and serious for women.  That perspective has not changed for me.
  • 1992 Bill Clinton Election.  I didn’t follow this election all that closely, but I had the sense that it was Clinton’s to win.  I had moved to Sunnyvale, California, and my at-last arrival in Silicon Valley.  I had the strange experience of noticing how Democrats and Republicans seemed to be living out the roles of their stereotypes, something that I had not witnessed in Upstate New York with its fascinating Liberal and Conservative cross-endorsements.  (Checking into the Rochester-area campaigning during the 2004 election, it seemed true to say that as California goes, the nation eventually goes.  I guess it is a soap-opera-becomes-life thing.)  As a California newcomer, I managed to pick every winner on my ballot except for a school-district election where I had no clue about the candidates.   It was also a pleasure to vote for Barbara Boxer becoming the second woman Senator from California, along with my being able to vote for Clinton, confident in his election.
  • 2008 Barack Obama Election.  The Clinton impeachment effort and all of the divisiveness preceding it was appalling to me.  The 2000 and 2004 elections, and the growing red-state, blue-state divisiveness in our civil discourse was one of the most discouraging periods I have ever witnessed.  I associate the nastiness going all the way back to the Willie Horton business.  I realize that historically there have been truly terrible election campaigns; it is useful for me to remember how much Thomas Jefferson was vilified as a candidate.   But this was in my world and time and I didn’t like it.  I was also not that keen about the Democrat demonization of the Republican, as well as vice versa.  Now back in Washington State and living in Seattle, I live in a district so blue that the only Republican candidates are terrible stereotypes of extremes, so I dare not even use them as a protest vote against the equally self-satirizing and virtually unopposed incumbent.
    That all changed this year (except for the local district, which thrived in the Democratic wave of victory).  As far as I am concerned, the Democratic presidential contenders were remarkable in conducting civil campaigns and debating at a sportsmanlike level.  I understand that it wasn’t all roses, but it was light-years better than what we had come to cynically expect.  The determination of Obama-Biden in taking that to the general election is remarkable, as was the generally honorable approach of Senator McCain.  I was excited about Sarah Palin’s candidacy but not about her becoming the Vice President.  Although Vicki and I supported John Edwards until his withdrawal, and I felt that Edwards had also set a very strong example for others, Obama’s campaign was increasingly impressive.  I knew I would support either him or Senator Clinton as the candidate.  It was thrilling to see the Obama momentum build beyond clinching the nomination and moving through the election to the transition.  What I wanted most was to be able to go to sleep election night knowing that I would wake up to a decisive result.  To know the outcome the moment polls closed here on the West Coast was a welcome delight, as has every new moment leading up through the beginning of the Obama-Biden administration this week.  I know for certain that I had never wept at an inauguration before.  (This time, my score-card at the State and local level was mixed, although I had no doubt that Washington State Governor Gregoire would be re-elected that night.)

Golden Geek as Life 2.0 Guru (click for larger image) There you have it, my geek version of a Forrest Gump journey through life.  I credit the recent increased sense of engagement not only to my advancing years but to the blossoming technological connections that bring public participation to us in the amazing ways that we have seen in the latest campaign season.

I have no idea what the future will bring.  Every time I see a presidential motorcade or see President Obama in the open in public, I am apprehensive.  We’ve been taught that by an accumulation of tragedies.  Somehow the greatest fear is that our leader won’t be the real deal.  Then as we begin to realize that we have been blessed by a powerful leader who speaks to the best in us, there is the fear that we will be denied the benefit of his full terms.  I look forward to that apprehension being displaced by how we join together in continuing the story that is the promise of America.

With all of the challenges that we face, I am hopeful.  And I look forward to what the next years bring as I march on toward Platinum Geekness as far as I am permitted to proceed in this life. 

[update 2009-01-23T22:09Z: I forgot to put categories on this post.  That gave me the excuse I need to correct some typos.  I supposed when typos originate with the author, they should be writos?  gaffos?  slippos?]

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Golden Geek: The Compulsion to Edit

I was telling Vicki that I had received a couple of complementary tweets about my Growing Up Geek post.

When I mentioned that I really wanted to go back and edit that post, the neighbors could have heard her laughter.  She roared.

I do want to fix it, yet I promised her I would simply cop to it but not do anything (just now, I said to myself).

I am a rewriter and polisher.  Sometimes that is valuable.  Sometimes it is one of the ways that I am my own worst enemy in terms of accomplishment.  I mostly don’t give myself a choice in the matter.

I have also learned that what others consider good enough I often see as careless.  My perfectionism does have an end to it, when things are good enough and I sense that it is completed work.  It does end.   And often, after having expressed something, I will see ways that it needs to be refined.  I am not abashed about carrying that out in public, although I am now better at avoiding situations where I would upload some code followed by three revisions in the course of several minutes.  I allow time for the after-thoughts, and I may save them up or record them somewhere.

Like here.

Here is what I see that I would repair, were I taking the time to edit the initial copy that I spewed out:

  1. Second sentence: “It is not clear … .”  Break into two and make it clear about comments.  Third sentence: Reword “I took it …” without “it”
  2. Second paragraph: Too many “also”-isms.
  3. Third paragraph: Be more specific about what objects I am talking about.
  4. Fourth paragraph: Ditto on (3), break up the run-on-ness, find my favorite photo of Jerry Hanson.
  5. Seventh graph: Clarify what sprung.
  6. Eighth graph: not enough about available light and how that fit in here -- “barely passable” too terse.  Add basement light leaks as another source of fogging.
  7. Ninth graph: The description of the base and how the enlarger housing was connected is a bit difficult.  Nowadays I would have photographs of that.  Ah well.  Maybe a sketch from my tablet PC?
  8. Twelfth graph: Explain that the incentive around taking the Heathkit home electronic courses first was that I was worried about having to pay for service and chose to build my own microcomputers to be able to manage that.  Later, I have an example of where I went off the rails around the 70 lb. combo hard drive and 8” floppy unit that I couldn’t repair.
  9. Fifteenth graph: There’s a story about being stunned to receive commemorative postage from an iron-curtain country (East Germany) along with chess moves, and how that taught me to look at the propaganda content of our own postage stamps.
  10. Eighteenth graph: Add that the model-railroading was HO gauge.
  11. 21st graph: “Math and science nerd” I think the word was “brain” when I was in high school, just like it was Bohemians and beatniks before hippies.
  12. 22nd graph: “have me in Rochester” part is clumsy to the end of that sentence.  Rephrase.
  13. 23rd graph: It is a class of ‘61 drinking mug, the one those of us entering in ‘59 would be interested in.
  14. Last graph: Another part of the angst around college was about money and how I did not manage what my folks had saved up for me well at all.

Doing it this way, I have found more than I first noticed after posting.  I was already itching to repair that post, but this list is a better way of seeing what’s needed rather than a progression of code-and-fix updates.  Interesting ...




Golden Geek: Growing Up Geek

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On 2008-10-04, Scott Hanselman kicked off “Meme Time: Growing Up Geek.”  It is not clear that he got many takers, most comments proposing demerits for young Scott breaking the nerd code at the time.  I took it to be a cool idea, and after gestating the heck out of it, I don’t have much more than I originally thought of.  So there.

Young camera-shop assistant examining some new equipment (click for larger image)

In 1954, between 9th and 10th grade, I had a moderately-illegal part-time job in a camera shop.  It was also the first job I was ever fired from.  This was also the time that my interest in photography kicked into high gear.

Showing off the available-light prowess of my Praktiflex FX fully-manual SLR (click for larger image) I notice that the camera in my hand has a bellows, leading me to think that it was an early Kodak Retina.  There are a couple of other possibilities, and I think early Voigtlander was one of them.  Looking more closely, it might simply be a bellows-equipped roll-film camera too.

Since the left photograph of me is on a strip of negative that is mine, I suspect it was taken with a borrowed Kodak Pony 35, a basic 35mm camera with a fixed-mounting lens and some basic manual controls and crude focus ability (without a rangefinder).  The shop owner let me use it until I managed to save up for my first 35mm single-lens-reflex camera.  The photographer was probably Jerry Hanson.

These cameras were completely manual and my reflex camera had a ground-glass image field that I had to look down into.  It had a flip-out magnifier too.

It is interesting that photography and printing were two of my fascinations.  I remember how I and another guy would draw our own newspaper in the 3rd grade (and he had a chemistry set, which inspired considerable envy on my part).  At one point, my father had found an old jack screw and some heavy boards, fashioning a flat-bed press for me.   I put lead movable type into a little rack and I’d turn the row screws so tight that the line of type would blow up in the middle and explode out of the frame.

Another mirror shot showing how the focus hood could ge turned into a crude viewfinder (click for larger image) The printing press didn’t last long.  The steel jack-screw was much stronger than the wooden frame of my miniature Franklin and I sprung it in short order.  My frustration wasn’t abated until I won a little Smith Corona manual portable typewriter by selling enough newspaper subscriptions to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the only morning paper delivered in Tacoma. 

One thing that having a 35mm camera allowed was considerable practice at basement darkroom work.  My photo buddy, Jerry Hanson, and I learned to buy bulk film and load our own film cartridges.  My big game was to seriously underexpose Tri-X film and work at push-processing it.  The fascination was with available-light photography, barely passable.  My efforts at over-development and use of intensifiers to salvage images probably explains why most of my negatives from that time are fogged and barely usable. 

My father built my first darkroom enlarger.  It used a large potato-chip can for the light housing, with a regular low-wattage frosted bulb.  The base of the housing was cut out and held a piece of ground glass as a diffuser.  beneath that, made with several layers of plywood, was a negative carrier with a wood slide.  Beneath that, an old bellows camera was mounted for use as the lens and focus assembly.  This arrangement was connected by a pipe fitting and wing-nut screw to a vertical pipe that was attached to the wooden base below the entire setup.  It was actually serviceable, although vibration could ruin a print.

The science nerd playing chess (click for larger image) I used that enlarger and a darkroom in the corner of the basement (with cardboard covers for the few windows) until I left home. 

Around 1961 I acquired a Beseler 23C enlarger that I kept, mostly in storage, until putting it out in a Silicon Valley yard sale in 1998.

It is surprising that I managed to work around my own darkroom.  I was not much into manual activity, a deficiency that I did not remedy until 1978 when I finally taught myself enough electronics to assemble and check-out my own Heathkit H8, H89, and Z90 computers, terminals, and terminal computers.

More typical, for me, was playing chess and collecting stamps.  My stamp collecting started when my grandfather brought me some plate blocks and a small U.S. album.  It was not long before I had the ambition to design my own comprehensive album that would have a place for every stamp in the Scott catalogs of the time.  I learned a lot about Abyssinia (now officially Ethiopia) and Afghanistan almost did me in with the highly-repetitious early issues with their complex Arabic inscriptions.  I gave up in the middle of Algeria.  The pages were all hand-drawn.  Now I could entertain such a project using a computer and document-generation software for producing custom (mini-) albums.  I no longer have the interest.

F56xx02-ChessPlayerBookplate1 Chess was different.  It was perhaps the most-social activity I engaged in, other than taking photographs around the school for inclusion in the year-book.  I started playing in the high-school chess team, going to chess club meetings at the Tacoma Public Library, and playing in tournaments from time-to-time.  It was at the chess club that I met Jerry Cook, the senior who was, in 1956, keen for us to learn about computers and what they were all about.

It is perhaps unsurprising that postal chess had strong appeal for me.  I began a series of collections of opening lines, dutifully adding them on pasted-in pages of my copy of Modern Chess Openings.  Using little rubber stamps to make chess diagrams on the post cards having my moves was another great opportunity.

For a time I combined my interest in chess and in publishing by writing the junior chess column for the Washington State Chess Letter.  I also made illustrations.  The approach to desktop publishing was to type on special master sheets consisting of a coated plastic film that the typewriter letters would penetrate enough for use as a mimeograph stencil.  The illustrations were scribed by hand using a tool designed for that purpose.

I abandoned chess in the mid-70s when I realized that it was too much like my work, rather than being a respite from work.  I still muse about some ideas I have for a computer chess-playing framework.

around 1954-55: Live steam operating at the Northern Pacific roundhouse near the current location of the Tacoma Dome (click for larger image) Another passion was chasing trains.  It combined my interest in photography and a fascination for the rapidly-dying age of steam.  I was also interested in model railroading, mostly second-hand with my high-school buddy, Jerry Hanson.  He had the space and the funds for a layout.  We spent our time manually spiking rails onto cork roadbeds and assembling and detailing cars and structures built from kits. 

Jerry and I spent hours drawing track layouts, understanding narrow-gauge operation used in Western logging railroads, and collecting photographs from the steam-locomotive graveyards near Tacoma.  Jerry managed to make money selling rail photos.

There was an overlap of interest with stamp collecting too, and there was a time when we decided to issue our own postal stamps and arrange for commemorative use, special cancellations and other fabrications.  We were a two-man sand-dune philately operation.

1957: Nerd freshman showing off the Dabney House study desk I was also a math and science nerd in high school.  If there was any social stigma to it, I was oblivious. 

I took all of the mathematics courses that were available in a pre-Sputnik public school, and we got a peek at calculus in the last algebra course.  I took all of the chemistry, biology, and physics, ending up as the Bausch & Lomb science scholar in my graduating class.  I didn’t end up at the University of Rochester, but fate would have me in Rochester for 20 years later in my career.

I had no idea that I would attend college, although my high-school chemistry teacher and others encouraged me.  I was so weird about it that I only applied to two colleges in my senior year: Caltech and MIT.  I was stunned to be admitted to both, and I ended up at Caltech.  Mr. sophisticated math guy is shown in this pose with pipe, room-mates drinking mug, and a slide-rule atop the papers on the desk.  The clip-on bow tie adds a nice touch, don’t you think?  Yes, we dressed for evening meals in those days.

At Caltech I learned that I had no idea what I was doing there, wanting to understand all of it very badly without working hard.  I dropped out after two quarter terms.  It was all a mystery to me.  And I saw someone actually creating a computer program in raw punch-out-the bits machine language.  That I never forget.



Give Blood: Get Cookies

Collection of scraps on one of my scheduled errands through the local Blood Center

I’m a regular blood donor.  I made my sixth whole-blood donation of 2008 on December 26th.  This afternoon, I was enjoying “vegetable pie” from the cook book that the local blood center created and gave to those of us who donated twice in the Summer of 2008.

Right now, the local blood supply has dwindled because of the holidays, the poor weather, and the cancellation of many blood-mobile appointments because of travel difficulties and business snow days.

Brad Wong provides an account of the local situation in his 2008-12-28 Seattle Post-Intelligencer article, “Donations urgently needed at blood center” (hat tips to Ron Sims and nephew Eric Walrod).

There may be similar shortages in other areas of the country that have been experiencing extreme weather conditions atop an ordinary decrease attributable to school and work holidays.

The Puget Sound Blood Center encourages donors to bring a buddy along.  I didn’t think to do that.  You can, if you’re eligible to donate.  If you have never donated, you can be a buddy of a friend who donates.  It’s important.

I never donated until I was in my 50’s.  I’d been squeamish and managed to avoid it until I moved to Silicon Valley in 1992 and learned of the regular bloodmobile visits at Xerox PARC.  It probably helped that I had recently participated in the Landmark Forum when I nerved-up to volunteer in 1993.  After learning that it didn’t hurt me at all, I became an occasional donor.

After retirement in 1998 I began to visit the Stanford Medical Center blood-donation location on my own.  One Wednesday there was a shortage of type-O blood according to the sign in front of the center.  I knew I was an O-type but I asked the technician which one I was.  She replied that I was O-positive (the second-most universally usable type) and also CNV-negative.  I didn’t know what CNV was.  She explained that CNV is a virus that many of us have in our blood streams to no particular adverse effect, with normal recipients perhaps having a brief case of the sniffles.  But CNV is not good for recipients having suppressed immune systems.  I thought of AIDS patients, but she added that this also applied to newborns, especially as there are now many more procedures for saving the lives of infants and where transfusions are needed.

After learning that, why would I not donate?

After moving to Seattle at the end of 1999, it took a while to find my way around to donation points.  I’ve become quite consistent as an every-8-weeks whole-blood donor.  I’m amazed that it remains easy to do and that, as I approach my 70th birthday, there is no age limit for blood donation.  I’m grateful that I finally took this on, and that I can make a difference for someone, somewhere, by this routine that I’ve created in my life.




Retiring InfoNuovo.com

I am retiring the InfoNuovo.com domain after 10 years.  The domain will be cast loose at the beginning of February, 2009.  Those places where there are still references to infonuovo.com need to be updated:

If you have an infonuovo.com bookmark and you are not sure of its replacement, simply use it and notice the URL of the destination that appears in the address bar of your browser.  That is the URL that should be bookmarked.

InfoNuovo.com was the first domain name that I ever rented.  It was originally hosted on VServers and absorbed through acquisitions a couple of times.  On March 22, 1999, I posted my first construction note on the use of InfoNuovo.com as an anchor site, a web site that houses other web sites as part of a single hosting.  This was also the first step toward evolution of what I now call the construction structure of any nfoCentrale web site.   InfoNuovo was the company name I had chosen for my independent consulting practice initiated on retirement from Xerox Corporation in December, 1998.

When I moved from Silicon Valley to the Seattle Area in August, 1999, I found that InfoNuovo was too easily confused with a name already registered in Washington State.  The business became NuovoDoc, but I continued to hold the infonuovo.com domain name for the support of the subwebs housed there.  I eventually moved most content to the new anchor, nfoCentrale.net, on Microsoft bCentral. 

There was one problem.  Although I could redirect unique domain names, such as ODMA.info, to the current anchor, the web pages still served up with the URLs of the actual location on the anchor site.  I experimented with URL cloaking, but that created as many problems as it solved.

In October 2006, following the lead of Ed Bott, I switched to A2 Hosting as a way to reduce the hosting fees and also take advantage of the A2 shared hosting Apache-server provisions for addon domains.  Addon domains serve up with URLs of their domain even though the domain is anchored on a single hosted site (in this case, nfoCentrale.com).  I consolidated all nfoCentrale.net and infonuovo.com content on nfoCentrale.com.  I also parked domains nfoCentrale.net and infonuovo.com where they are today, atop nfoCentrale.com.  Now, however, accessing any of the individual subwebs triggers redirection to the appropriate addon-domain URL.

This took care of my wanting to have the subwebs always respond as the domains that I have as their addons.  It also raised an unexpected problem around case-sensitivity of Apache filenames, a situation I am still digging my way out of.  That shows how important having the addon-domain capability is to me.  I’m not sure I’d have moved if I knew how difficult the case-sensitivity extrication would be though.

I know that there are still infonuovo.com URLs out there, even though the addon domains have been in place for over two years.  In another month, those URLs will fail.  I just don’t want to lease infonuovo.com any longer.  I do feel a little sentimental about it.  That’s not going to stop me.

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GoldenGeek: Chasing those Open Loops

I’ve been lying awake since some time after 4 a.m.  I think part of it was the aching little toe that I banged against some furniture last night (nice purple bruise there now).  I thought a couple of Ibuprofen would help me get back to sleep, but I’m wide awake.  It could be the five cups of coffee I had yesterday, breaking my current 2-cups-daily regimen.  Although after donating whole blood yesterday, resting should be easy.

No, it’s those darned open loops.  I started a new attack on raising my personal productivity (and trustworthiness to go with it) yesterday, and now I’m lying awake running open loops through my head about getting rid of my open loops.  So I drag myself out of bed at 05:50, make coffee, fire up the computer, and look at what I can do to get those loops out of my head:

First I’m thinking about the questions I have about some key proposals for ODF 1.2 at the OASIS TC: digital signatures and what’s the profile for how XML DSig is applied?  How is the RDF metadata supposed to work and who is it for?  What does it mean to have two ways to lock a table cell?  Then there’s wanting to do a belated Friday Cat Picture, upload the photographs of my office as part of my Total Relaxed Organization (TRO) online lesson, capturing some notes on how real-time community journals are inverting the entire news-publishing pyramid, more notes on Seattle weather, organize photos from Mindcamp 5.0 that are relevant to topics I want to blog about, and finally being able to start something on the connection between confirmable experience and system incoherence.  Oh, and now some other commitments come to mind, including putting Vicki’s new Kiln Sitter’s Digest blog into shape, prepare backups, and continue customizing the blog for her. 

I need to do something more pro-active about those loops than blogging about it.  I’ve been noodling around checking mail, updating my RSS feeds (for review someday soon), and scanning my twhirl Twitter and FriendFeed streams for items of interest.

Well, now it’s 7:30 am and the cats don’t understand why having the lights on in our shared space doesn’t mean breakfast is ready.  All right, I don’t need an open loop for that.  The cats are seeing to it.  Time to feed them now. 

Then I’ll sit down and get organized.  A little.  More.

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