Saturday, February 28, 2009


I know it's been a bit since I've last posted. Many things are going on and I'm writing A LOT at work (I'm a born talker, not writer), but I thought it was time to blog again! I've recently moved from Twinkle to Twitter (most of my important Twinkle friends are on Twitter), Twitter has many options better than Twinkle, so I see little need for Twinkle. Twitter also has many of my more important friends from Twinkle.

Twitter does have spambots, twitterbots, and pornbots, but if you keep track of all of your followers, make sure they are real, and then block the bots, you should be cool.

I started posting often on Twitter (even meaningless stuff) because I wanted to be able to track my history, there are a few apps out there that allow you to do this. I thought it would be interesting to see how things evolve in my life over a year or longer (especially this time of my life, there are a few important things going on).

Twitter also has many cyclists on it, very cool (my inner cyclist geek was giggling when I found this out). I can now see what Lance Armstrong is having for lunch, the wrecks that team Astana are having, and even learn about Taylor Phinney (I loved watching his parents ride, Davis and Connie Carpenter), it makes me feel a bit old that Taylor is racing now, since it seemed like yesterday that I was hearing his mother tell how she would tear apart rivals by talking to them calmly and in complete control, while riding big mountains (sorry, but that's just mean, you gotta love it).

I've also been able to post technical questions and have people who are completely outside the list of people following me, answer me and give me helpful answers to questions. Some are being nice, others want me to purchase their services, either way I get enough information to continue on.

It would have been interesting to have had Twitter during 9/11, I don't want another disaster to happen to test it out, but it'll be interesting to see what happens when the next disaster does come up. During the Mumbai shootings, I did follow one person who was trying to direct relief and deliver information from Dulles Virginia. If you get on Twitter, look me up, and please be nice, I know I'll be nice to you, if you have a question, please ask, if you just want to say "howdy", please do :).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Technology vs Learning

I have a ongoing debate as to if things like spell check, navigation systems, and other tools (such as Dreamweaver) are making us forget how to do things by scratch. My argument is that while some of these tools help us, others actually handicap us.

Spell Check

OK I'm not sure what I would do without an active spell checker, for my blog I run spell check before I post (if not every other word would be wrong). In Outlook, Word, and my iPhone everything is checked as I type it (I use Lotus Notes at the office, IBM should be embarrassed by Lotus, it's heavy, slow, doesn't do it's job well, and tries to make you do everything just like it wants you to, well come to think of it, that is IBM isn't it?). My argument here though is that the spell checker has actually made me a worse speller, it fixes things on the fly, it doesn't require me to learn, it just does the job, I see this good and bad, since now I'm handicapped in spelling capability.

Mouse Trap

How many people know how to use the keyboard for EVERYTHING in Windows or on a Mac? Probably not many? Being an old timer I not only know how to use a keyboard for everything (I take pride in that), but I also know how to use.... DOS... (gasp!). I've had many times where I've had to use a mouseless computer, usually when working on servers that don't like the USB mouse (or KVM I'm using) or configuring a new PC that for some reason doesn't like my mouse. I admit that I'm not the normal user and that I have need to use a mouseless PC, but how many people would be out of luck if their mouse decided it was time to go on holiday. The use of a mouse has crippled people and they will be lost without one.

A corollary to this (being a Mathematician I like using words like "corollary") is the left handed user who insists on using a left handed mouse in a right handed world. Where are they going to be if they are stuck using a right handed mouse? While it might be easier for them to use a left handed mouse I think they could avoid this mouse trap by learning how to use a right handed mouse.

Navigation Systems

This one is interesting. Navigation systems help me learn how to get from point A to point B. Others have told me that they don't learn how, they just follow the navigation system. For me if I travel somewhere a few times, I'll learn how to get there. I don't enjoy trusting software completely where my life is involved :).


This is my current issue du jour. I've noticed recently that the use of tools such as Dreamweaver for designers and Visual Studio for developers have dummed our designers down some, well not dumb, they tend to be brilliant and talented individuals, but they no longer have much need to understand HTML. This unfortunately is an invalid assumption. There are items that require the use of HTML headings, it seems that everything, including this blog, use DIV elements everywhere. This makes life very difficult for screen readers tools developed for ADA (American Disabilities Act - Section 508), which use the HTML headings for navigation. My study of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) shows site owners are also getting shot in the foot because the DIV elements don't get indexed properly by tools such as Google and Yahoo! that use the heading elements for understanding a pages structure and how to properly index. It's interesting that what helps ADA also helps SEO. DIV produces elements that are good for the eye, but bad for structure.

HTML is an SGML application, SGML focus' on structure instead of style, but HTML has been bastardized to be good for the eye and not be required to follow the structure rule (people need to learn that structure is important). In talking to developers and designers alike they are under the assumption that DIV is the only way to go, they are very surprised when I show them that I can create the exact same layout using heading tags (of course I need to apply styles to the h1, h2, ..., h6 elements in order to remove their ugly pre-defined styles, but this is simple to achieve).

h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6 {font-size:1em; padding:0; margin:0; font-weight:normal;}

With a few tricks, a little research to see what others have done, and some creativity, core HTML can be made to do anything that DIV tags can do. There needs to be a push to reintroduce structure into HTML (this includes the use of p, blockquotes, lists, bold, italic, etc... tags), these all denote structure that is contained in the tag itself and is lost to the CSS/DIV combination.


Well I'm not sure what to conclude here, while I find some technology is helpful to me, other technology is handicapping me and others. We should require our designers and developers to have a core understanding of HTML, they should be taught to build pages by hand and what is considered good HTML. If not then some sort of technology needs to be introduced to allow the insertion of headings into CSS (something like "heading:level1;" might be a good idea), this would tell the automated browsers what they need to know.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

My Mother


Tomorrow would be your 78th birthday, it's been 5 years since you've passed away and I wanted you to know how we all miss you. You were a powerful woman, one that doesn't come along that often, you raise 4 boys on your own, got your PhD with little assistance, made sure we had toys to play with and a roof over our heads, when I know you worried about making ends meet from month to month. I know that at least I wasn't the best of son I could be or even that I tried to be, I took a lot of what you had to offer for granted. Despite that you loved me, fed me, gave me a place to stay, and made sure I was well educated and prepared to live on my own.

You taught me fabulous lessons of life, the number one is how to see myself through another's eyes, to realize that no one on this planet really deserves any sort of prejudice, when in face we're all a bit different and bizarre in someone else's eyes. This is a lesson that I try to push into my own daughter, when she see's someone who is different, I ask her if that person thinks she looks different.

You taught me how to laugh when the pressure is on. You gave me life memories that make me laugh today. I blame you for my sense of humor, I remember you telling me I was adopted, then you'd pause and say "well not quite adopted, I found you in an alley nursing on the teet of a dog, and I felt sorry for you and took you in". I tell this to people and they see it as cruel, but today I still laugh at it, you were of course trying to teach me a lesson, you knew that some of our neighbors were adopted and you wanted me to think how it must feel like.

You taught me how to work hard, I'm still the first person in the neighborhood to clear the snow, they know I'm sick if the snow isn't cleared (and I have to be really sick for that to happen), I still water the hell out of my lawn to keep it green, for fear that you'll get angry with me, I make sure to keep my yard tidy, mowed and well groomed (it's one of the best in the neighborhood, though some of the neighbors are into competitive lawning, so it's not the best ;)).

You taught me how to love my neighbors and friends and to run to their aid when they need it, even if it means that I do without. I was telling people of how you gave our Thanksgiving dinner away one year to a friend who had cancer and was only getting dessert for Thanksgiving. I remember you and your fight with this disease and how you would proudly tell women that you had the disease and had a mastectomy, I remember asking you why and you said "I don't want others to be embarrassed by the disease, by having their breasts removed, they should wear it proudly and with honor, for it's not their fault they have the disease, they shouldn't have to live in shame for it".

I think of you fondly on several days, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Fourth of July, you sure loved to throw a party. On Father's day, I had always sent you flowers on that day, because you were the father I never had. I think of you with great pain on your birthday and the day you died, these days still hurt for me quite a bit, it's a pain that I believe I'll always feel.

You had great knowledge, knowledge I now know I'll never get to and I'm embarrassed by having it let get away from me. I now encourage my friends to speak with their parents and mine them for information, this verbal family history needs to be continued. Despite the fact you never became famous, never made millions of dollars, or never cured cancer, you should know that you'll always be my hero. I love you mother, I hope you're kicking ass up there in heaven, I hope you're surrounded by your family and with my daughter, Julie's sister, Melanie, please give her a big hug for me (I still love getting hugs because of you and I'll never be able to give enough).

Happy Birthday Mother!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Dead Animal Games

I was watching the news the other day and I saw a piece where people were throwing frozen turkeys across an ice rink to knock over bowling pins. I started thinking to myself, since when is it considered OK to slide a frozen animal carcass across ice in the form of a game? These animals lived and died to be a source of food, not to be used as a macabre bowling ball. I saw a similar item on mythbusters where they used a pig carcass to shoot a cannon at.

I can see using animals for work, sport, food, clothing, science, etc... but I don't think using their carcass for mass entertainment is cool, these animals should be respected, all life should be treated as valuable, we put people in prison for dog fighting, personally I think the same should be done for people who use frozen turkeys for sport or make TV shows where dead animals are used for entertainment (at least in Iron Chef the cook and eat the animals they use).

Now I'm not going to the extreme of PETA, I like a good steak you know, I'm just saying if we take a life we should honor that life with more respect than using it's dead body as a plaything.

Monday, November 24, 2008

James Bond brought to you by Ford Motor Company

I recently went to see the new James Bond movie (which I enjoyed quite a bit), but when I was watching it I noticed that all the cars were Fords (Aston Martin, Land Rover, Jaguar, and even a stray Ford thrown in for good measure), what I also noticed is that none of these cars were what you'd see James Bond driving (the Aston Martin was left-hand drive and who would have thought that James would drive a Ford Focus?), none of these cars were what you'd see on the street either, the two Fords I saw were either hybrid or hydrogen (I did see a hydrogen BMW in DC one day, but it was a demo car, well I've also seen an Aston Martin in DC, and Land Rover's and Jaguar's seem to be the yuppie's dream car).

From what I now know, it seems that both good guys and bad guys drive a Ford. It makes me happy that I don't drive a Ford, since it's sometimes hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. I'm sure there were other product placements in the film, but I tend to notice cars more than watches, drinks, clothes, perfumes, etc... They didn't have any really cool tech gadgets, well a touch screen wall that was cool, I know Microsoft and Apple are working on computers like that.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Back home!

It's good to be back home from Zambia, it's unfortunate though that since I was there for business I never got the chance to go see anything outside the city of Lusaka. The trip home was brutal, 2 hour flight from Lusaka to Jo'burg, 2 hour delay due to weather in Jo'burg, then 8 hours from Jo'burg to Dakar Senegal, where they tear apart the plane, look under seats, confirm baggage belongs to you and that you belong on the plane, then 8 hours from Dakar to Atlanta (where I missed my flight and had to catch a plane a little later).

All was good though, on the big flight from Jo'burg to Dakar to Atlanta I made friends with the two guys next to me, who were traveling from South Africa to the USA for business, the two girls in front of him (they were from Kansas and said that South Africa was like Kansas with Elephants), and the girl in front of them (who lucked out with a row to herself, got to lie down and sleep), she was in Africa to work with Aids Patients with the Peace Corps (I was very impressed with her, it's good to see people get out and give of themselves like that). My favorite though was a couple, probably in their late 60's who were in Africa celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, they were very lucky to have each other, I pulled the husband aside and told him so.

If you ever have to make a trip like this, try to be under 6'1" and if you're taller than that be sure to get up and walk some :).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Last Day in Zambia

Well today's my last day in Zambia. I'm looking forward to going home, but I'm also disappointed that I wasn't able to get out of the city of Lusaka. Everyone here has been very friendly, I'm amazed at the energy and warmness of everyone I've run across. It really does make you want to do more for not only this country, but for the African continent. Given the riches we have in the States, Africa seems to be very poor, but they have a rich culture and warmness that they are both proud of and is hard to find in the States. While I am looking forward to going back to Virginia, and all the day to day problems that exist there, I am also looking forward to coming back to Africa, to getting to know more of the people, to hopefully get out of the city and into the wild.

Just about time to start the day, I board my plane at 1:50pm local time (7:50 EST) and get home just after 11:30am EST. It's going to be a long day ;).