Way back in 1998, I was the editor-in-chief of Visual Developer
Magazine, which in turn had grown out of PC Techniques,
a programmers' magazine I had founded in Scottsdale, Arizona in
1990. Like nearly all magazines, we were advertising supported,
and I had a very good ad sales rep. Lisa Marie Hafeli was constantly
on the lookout for things that would make us stand out from the
crowd of programmers' magazines, and in the spring of 1998 she came
up with a whopper: Create a sort of daily diary on the Web, to which
I would add something every day. What she had in mind were capsule
reviews, musings on the future of technology, things like that.
I didn't really get underway until June of that year, and I had
a little trouble deciding what to say at first, but once I got underway
I discovered that I loved it. It reminded me a little of a short
newspaper column I had enjoyed as a teen in Chicago, written by
(I believe) Sydney J. Harris. He would occasionally list "things
I ran across while looking for something else," which is basically
what my "odd lots" format is.
Visual Developer Magazine began having trouble in late 1999,
and come late fall I had other things to think about than keeping
up with VDM Diary. In January 2000, I came to the decision I had
been dreading for months, and the last issue of VDM appeared in
February. When VDM folded, so did VDM Diary.
One of our former advertisiers called me that spring and told me
that although he missed the magazine, he missed VDM Diary even more.
And in truth, I did too. Again, it took me awhile to get underway,
but by July of 2000, I had recast VDM Diary as ContraPositive Diary.
It no longer had any strict connection to my job (which had simply
shifted to Coriolis Group Books after the magazine folded) so I
felt freer to explore other subjects, and to treat them in a more
personal manner. Contra's first entry appeared in July 25, 2000,
and well, here we are.
Note well that I do not use the word "blog" without a
gun to my head. VDM Diary was not the first daily Web diary ever
posted, but Lisa and I invented it independently long before the
B-word was coined. I refuse to accede to a term that sounds like
a jackal drowning.
I have always been an optimist, a contrarian, and a bit of a wiseass.
I was going to call my new diary "The Contrarian Optimist,"
but then I recalled the word "contrapositive," which is
fine word from the field of logic. It has nothing to do with
contrarianism or optimism, but once I got my mind set, there was
no stopping me: I simply taped the poor word's mouth shut to muffle
its screams at being repurposed and went ahead with my plans.
By what do I claim the right to call myself a contrarian? Here
are just a few contrarian positions I've taken in my life:
- I program either in Delphi/Pascal (at the top) or assembly (at
the bottom.) Why the hell do we need programming languages that
operate in the middle?
- I hate both political parties, mostly because I hate bad manners,
slander, sleaze, rapaciousness, truth-mangling, hatemongering,
and everything else that politics has become. I stand firmly in
the middle and throw things at both ends. Somebody has to.
- I build radios and audio amps out of vacuum tubes. At least
they're big enough to see. (No small advantage once you're in
- I believe in God and I go to church every Sunday.
- What's more, I am a non-papal Catholic. You don't have to be
Roman to be Catholic. Google on "Old Catholic." If there's
no Old Catholic community near you, the Episcopal Church is Catholic
as well, though the Romans dispute that. Too bad. It's true.
- I have been madly in love with my wife since 1969.
- I like small, white, fuzzy dogs. The French term for this is
"bichon frise." When I desperately need to chase ducks,
I'll buy a golden retriever.
- I like sweet wines.
- I will have none of cynicism, which is nothing other than cowardice
in a politically correct wrapper.
And so on. You'll see these positions and much more explained,
examined, and (occasionally) abandoned in ContraPositive Diary.
As for optimism, well, it follows naturally from swearing off cynicism.
We live in the finest of all human eras, and although we're nervous
about a few things in today's world, hey, would you rather be in
Poland in 1939? In reading history, I see progress in the world,
real progress, away from the bestial cruelty that was taken for
granted prior to 1900 toward something that I could honestly call
justice, freedom, and mercy. It's not universal, but the bright
spots are scattered widely throughout the world, and like rust they
will gradually eat away the heart of human nastiness. I think human
beings are fundamentally decent at birth, and remain decent until
somebody or something warps them beyond recovery.
Life is good, if you choose to make it so. Quitcherbitchin and
make it so.
The graphical design of Contra changed in April, 2005. The prior
design, while acceptable in 2000, has gotten to be a bit of an embarrassment.
It would take a long time to reformat all my archives to match the
front page, so forgive me if when you click to one of the archives
it looks nothing at all like this.
You can email me by taking my first name, appending that magic
email symbol to it, and then appending my last name, followed by
a dot, followed by com. Even if something in Contra annoys you,
I would appreciate not being flamed. I try my best to be gracious
and courteous at all times. Please reply in kind. Make a reasonable
response, and I may even quote you. Act like a dork and you go in
my email killfile.
I try to answer all questions and comments, but I get quite a few,
so if I'm slow about it, don't despair. I do my best.
I do give interviews on technology (or whatever) to the media,
I lecture on my topics of interest, and lord knows, I'll do damned
near anything to give my books a little more exposure. Let me know
what you have in mind.