Archive for the 'blather' Category


open hand

Tuesday, August 7th, 2001

I think it’s time for these Karate people to soften up their image. Let’s start with some new belt colours.


Don’t mess with him – he’s a third-degree Lavender belt!


it’s only a dream

Monday, August 6th, 2001

A very interesting technical paper on Passport, identifying numerous weaknesses.

I have a neighbour who was apparently quite a computer enthusiast all the way up to the 386 and Windows 3.1, but stopped short at the Web because in his words “‘W’ was 06 on mainframe punch cards, so you know what that makes WWW!!” (As it happens, the 0 on Hollerith cards meant +10, so I guess he’s terrified of 16-16-16. Must be some evil lawn fertilizer). He went on to warn against the web being the incarnation of the beast, don’t accept the mark, impending doom, yadda yadda.

Anyhow, knowing that it was the type of conversation I was keen to avoid, I did my usual in such a situation and made sure I was at least knowledgeable of the issues before dismissing it out of hand. So I had a read of the relevant biblical passages.

A local Toronto radio station has a contest to win a car. They give out these cryptic clues and you’re supposed to figure out where in the city they have chosen as the “spot” you’re looking for. I was absolutely certain recently that I’d found the spot. I decided where I thought it was, and from that point forward, I could rationalize every single clue to somehow be pointing right at that spot. Turned out that the place was actually 5 miles away and entirely different, but I was powerfully convinced that the clues pointed to the place I expected they should.

Where was I – oh yeah, Revelations. So, if you read the particular passages that mention the beast, his number, his control of all the languages, how the mark is necessary for all commercial transactions, and all that, while Passport is your selected endpoint, you can have a lot of fun making parallels.

Of course, I put absolutely ZERO credence into it. It’s just a fun diversion. Make what you will of it, preferably nothing.

I can’t believe this (sorry, 3MB) video of Steve Ballmer dancing around at an MS pep rally being a testosterone twit. What a complete freaking idiot. And I thought Larry Ellison was the biggest self-centered fucknut around.

Now that I find this explanation of punchcard codes I note that really 0 is used as a “zone” hole, sort of like ctrl, shift, or alt. I’m not going to correct it above because that would break my fertilizer joke, and I practically peed myself with glee over that one. I’d have to “un-pee” myself, and I don’t quite know how to go about that, so it stays, and damn the pedants.


my brain’s too small

Saturday, August 4th, 2001

Pike may think he’s at a disadvantage when he says

I feel I have a bunch of weaknesses in design and fundamentals, because I’m self taught. My main goal now is not only teach myself ASP but to gain a hard background in the theory and why all this stuff works. I can tell you how to make an array call a function and process to it, but I don’t know why. Strange because it seems some developers have trouble saying they need to work on their skills.

but I think he’s at the peak of his form. He’s in the thick of developing a craft. The lust for knowledge is what will drive him to succeed in this. His humility allows him to keep on the road to knowledge, where those who think they’re there already will never get there, because the road ain’t got no end. There is no there. So there.

In 1972, Edsger W Dijsktra wrote a paper for the Association of Computing Machinery and presented it at the Turing Award Lecture at the ACM conference in Boston that year. The paper was entitled “The Humble Programmer”. The gist of it is that a truly good programmer will admit that his cranium will never be up to the task of managing the complexity necessary for many problems, and must call upon the machine to help him. It’s one of the truly classic seminal texts in the history of programming and deserves a good read. Unfortunately, I think it’s hard to find. I have it in a copy of Ed Yourdon’s Classics In Software Engineering, which is unfortunately now out of print.

In programming, fundamentals are way more important than most people know. It’s self-taught guys who really care about the craft who actually learn from the classic teachings of Dijkstra, Yourdon, Jackson, DeMarco, Wirth, Knuth, et al. Sure, some of it washes over huge classes of rote-learning students every day, but it only sticks with those of us for whom programming is a passion.

My all time favourite programming book is Steve McConnell’s Code Complete. If you only ever buy one programming book, this is the one. There’s an entire chapter on personal character, and you’ll be all be pleased to know that laziness is an inherent positive attribute in programmers.

While I’m doing the personal book recommendations thing, get Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends And Influence People. It’s all about how being a truly good person will make you successful. Not acting like one – being one.


and i need this because…?

Thursday, August 2nd, 2001

Another solution looking for a problem. In order to figure out if this is worth anything, not only does this require me to load up their plugin that assumes the self-importance of putting itself in my system tray, all the docs require Acrobat. Reminds me of Soul of a New Machine, where they described kludgy addons as “hanging a bag off the side of the machine”. Using this stuff with your browser is like riding around on a Grand Canyon pack mule. Besides, whether it’s part of some nice design or not, languages with a “let” statement give me the creeps somehow. It’s a je-ne-sais-quoi sort of thing.


the medium isn’t always the message

Wednesday, August 1st, 2001

A few of us were rapping at lunch about Rap music and we strayed off to discuss the less savoury quarters of that milieu – Gangsta Rap and Eminem. To describe these types of Rap as musical is like describing rape as sexual. It’s not about the medium at all. It’s all about the rage and violence boiling beneath. It disgusts me to the point that I can’t do the usual courtesy of providing links.


everybody’s got one

Monday, July 30th, 2001

Funny, seems every day is somebody or other’s birthday. My wife Clare is [mumblemumble] today. Happy birthday, Clare. Rachel, not yet four, promises to make a cake for Mummy… this i gotta see!

Doc Searls made reference to a great quote on his 54th birthday yesterday:

I’m reminded of what P.J. O’Rourke said about his bad habits. It went something like this: “I know if I quit drinking and smoking and driving fast, I could add ten years to my life. The problem is, I’d be adding them at the wrong end.”

Sjoerd uses a javascript implementation of XML-RPC to do his archive search. Techno-weenie does a similar thing with JSRS. Most cool.


moving target

Saturday, July 28th, 2001

Ironically, the moving target title above applies to both parts of today’s blog…

I was oddly serene today in the strangest of circumstances.

Just after lunchtime, I was rear-ended on Hwy 401 in Toronto.

Now, for those of you who know it, the 401 at Toronto is an imposing stretch of road, sometimes as much as 20 lanes wide, constantly patrolled by traffic helicopters and planes just to let you know where the inevitable numerous accidents are at any one time.

So, the interesting thing is that this didn’t faze me in the least. I calmly got out of the car, surveyed the damage (apparently little to me, but the other car was pretty bunged up). I smiled at the other driver, told her that heck, shit happens. Immediately, we were literally surrounded by a phalanx of tow trucks, all competing for our attention. I didn’t get ruffled by this, I just picked one and let the others know they could leave. Things progressed nicely, we proceeded to the accident reporting center and we were outta there an hour and a half after the accident. I carried on about my business as if nothing happened, called my mechanic, my insurance, set up appointments.

Another day, different shit.

I guess the perspective is that if you have an accident on the 401 and you can still come home and tell your kids about it, you might as well smell the roses along the way, they’re blooming for you.

I released JSRS 2.0 yesterday. Due to popular demand, I gave it POST support for IE/Mozilla.

It seems it’s broken for Mozilla 0.92. I had tested it on an earlier version and it had worked. It now returns undefined when I try to get the document element of an iframe so I can write to it. It also doesn’t let me assign a function to a Select box’s onChange event, which breaks my Select demo.

I can’t tell whether 0.92 is broken in these respects, or whether the Mozilla folks have decided that these previously working features must be changed in order to better conform to the DOM spec.

I could waste a whole bunch of time chasing this with the atrociously nonexistent debugging tools at my disposal, but when I fix it, what are they going to change in






nature vs nurture

Thursday, July 26th, 2001

It’s Chico’s birthday today.

The nature versus nurture argument has always been a one-dimensional issue for me since, being adopted, I’ve only ever known one side of the equation. I’ve always pretty well felt that I’m the product of my upbringing – a good one, with love and support, comfort and opportunity.

Having children of my own has made me more aware of the nature side of the coin. My two girls, Jasmine and Rachel, share traits of both me and Clare that are often uncanny. Still, It’s easy to be convinced that nurture is the biggie.

While trying to diagnose some medical difficuties Jasmine has had since birth (now under control), we decided with our doctors that it was time to ask the government to connect me with my birth parents for historical medical information. It’s a sort of Pandora’s box thing, a decision I didn’t take lightly.

In the spring of last year, at the age of 39, I separately met each of my birth parents for the first time.

I met her first. I learned about her life and family, about a number of half siblings, one of whom I met. We got along quite well, and I learned a lot about my birth ancestry. I came to know the circumstances of my arrival. I told her about my life and assured her I was well taken care of. I expect we will keep in touch from time to time. She is a very private person and I respect that.

She told me a bit about him, too. He was a very talented jazz drummer (neat – I’m a drummer too!). He moved to California in the sixties. He’s 5 foot 3 and his family is Spanish (That’s funny as hell, I’m Edmund Brent Ashley, as anglo as you can get, and I’m 6ft tall and 225 lb.)

It’s funny how the net works. I often say to whoever will listen that you can find just about anything on Google. I’m talking to her about “him” and I finally say “So what’s his name?”. “Paul”, she says, “but everyone called him Chico… Chico Fernandez”. What a scream! Some Spanish midget named Chico Fernandez spawned me?! Couldn’t possibly be more different from me. So I stick it into Google – [“Paul Fernandez” Drums], and wouldn’t you know it, on that day, comes to the head of the list. This is a store that Chico and his brother Vic run together in Santa Monica. She confirms it’s gotta be him and I have the government worker make first contact.

After an initial exchange of letters and then phone calls, I scheduled myself into a Friday e-commerce seminar in Los Angeles and headed down from the Thursday evening to the Monday morning – almost four days of unbelievable wackyness and discovery.

Talk about separated at birth. It was like we were twins born 20 years apart. Sure, there are notable differences, but everybody we met was absolutely floored by the similarities. We yapped and drank and drank and yapped for the whole time. I met his wife Elena and some of his family. I had a chance to sit in on the drums with his jazz combo – it was magical.

It’s been over a year since then. I brought Clare and the girls and Clare’s mother Hazel down to California for 10 days and we saw quite a bit of the Fernandez clan amongst our Disney and Sea World excursions. Chico’s whole family is so warm and made us feel so at ease and comfortable. We’ll definitely be in touch for a long time coming.

I feel like Dorian Gray looking into the mirror and seeing myself at 60.

Whoops – I mean 61! Happy birthday Chico, or should I say Mini-Me.