July 31, 2001:
I met Carol 32 years ago today. I brought her flowers: Four yellow roses for friendship; four red roses for passion, and one white rose for eternity. This was a sacramental message, but at some point words fail to go deeply enough, and our relationship has become (long ago, in fact) a sacramental one. Many forces in my life have shaped me, but only one has transformed me, and I thank the Almighty for every moment I have had the honor of standing by her side.
July 30, 2001:

USA Today published an interesting point-of-view piece a few days ago (with a related news item) concerning today's college students and their seeming inability to create anything like a mature relationship with the opposite sex. There seem to be only two possibilities: a vague kind of friendship that sounds more like a truce between warring parties than a relationship, and "hooking up," which is post-Nineties jargon (what the hell are we going to call this decade, anyway? The naughties?) for what we who came of age in the Seventies once called a "one-night stand." The first is a consequence of academia going over wholly to the leftist-feminist "men are ogres" kind of thinking (which, mercifully, few students actually buy into) and the second is a consequence of simple horniness.

Horniness? Or horniness and something else? It occurred to me that today's college students grew up in the most regimented and pre-scheduled environment in history. Virtually every minute of their free time as children was planned and accounted for, usually by someone else, generally their parents. On coming to college, the schedules continue, set less by the students than by the way the college makes courses available. In most of the better schools, students take what's offered and hope a class isn't full before they select it. Students, then, have little or no practice in setting their own agendas for any activity meaningful to them—like a relationship with the opposite sex. So they stand there, blinking at their gender-opposites, completely at a loss for how to handle the ache for wholeness that they feel in their bones. When the sexual pressure becomes too much, they short it to ground with whomever's handy. But the notion of slowly and carefully building a friendship that might eventually lead to an enduring marriage seems beyond their abilities. "Play-dates" arranged by their moms don't cut it. They've never learned how to choose someone to whom they can be vulnerable. Perhaps their hearts have never been broken—if you never play, you can't lose. On the other hand, if you never play, you can't win either. It will be interesting to see what sort of marriages this generation is able to create. Check in in another twenty-five years. It'll be interesting.
July 29, 2001:
I went back to work on my Aardmarks bookmark manager utility, and discovered that in the six months since I last did any significant work on it, a peculiar species of bitrot had set in. Although everything appears to function correctly, the icons on several of the tabs in the component palette are either scrambled or simply black. The program compiles and as best I can tell runs correctly. But even after reinstalling all of the components and then Delphi 5 itself, the icons remain a mess. Any of you Delphi guys out there ever had to confront this one? I'm going to tinker a little more before sending a note (with screen shot) to Borland.
July 28, 2001:

I stumbled across a Ginger site at PatentCafe that reminds us that Dean Kamen's mysterious invention is still out there somewhere, waiting to be realized. There are some additional drawings (including Windows wallpaper), additional speculations, some really silly (but very clever) parodies, and one intriguing animation of Ginger in action, which you can download from the site in any of several formats.

I spoke of Ginger in my entries for January 12 and January 15, 2001. I posted a patent drawing back then that, eureka! I have found to be different from the "real" one, which I show here. The difference is crucial: Kamen's patent gives the Ginger gadget six wheels, not two! Now things begin to grow clearer. The patent drawing seen on the left doesn't immediately convey this, but if you think about it, a six-wheeled scooter like this doesn't need "magical" stabilization, as a two-wheeler would. It simply rides normally on four of its six wheels, with four of them in contact with the ground and two up in the air.

Why six wheels, then? Easy: With six wheels you can climb stairs, and if you download the animation from PatentCafe's Ginger page, you can see an artist's impression of how this thing climbs stairs. The only difference, of course (as you'll see in the animation) is that people are still convinced that for normal running, Ginger will keep only two wheels to the ground, which is silly and makes the whole gadget more complex and trickier to use than it needs to be. I still like the idea (especially now that I feel I've solved the stability problem) but may not buy one—out here in dirt road country, bigger wheels are definitely better, and stairs are not the primary problem in getting around!
July 27, 2001:
"Screeched" is the longest one-syllable word in the English language. Damn, I always wondered about that...
July 26, 2001:

I have a girl-cousin who, eons ago when she was 15 and I was 9, would give me breath mints of various kinds, and it was many years later before I understood that she was big on breath mints because she was sneaking smokes behind the garage. It left me with an appreciation of breath mints, though, and I still think fondly of Sen-Sen, which most people think is truly awful stuff, like licorice mixed with turpentine. Their opprobrium knows no bounds, however, when speaking of Choward's Violet Squares, for which I also developed a taste back then, courtesy my cousin. See this review in—I kid you not—Writers and Artists Snacking at Work (WASAW), a venerable Web site that has been reviewing snacks for years. Reviewer Figaroo asks why you would eat anything that smells like your grandmother's underwear drawer—to which I can only reply: How did you find out how my grandmother's underwear drawer smells?

I mention Choward's Violet Squares because, like the coelecanth, I thought mistakenly that they were extinct. After all, I last encountered them somewhere around 1963. Nonetheless, Carol presented me with eight full packages for my 49th birthday a few weeks ago, and I am quite pleased. She hates the way they taste and sort of tolerates the way they smell (lavendar, if you can figure that) but she loves me enough to have hunted them down and found them in the Vermont Country Store catalog. My only mild concern stems from an experience with a similar candy in the early 1980s. They were called Violet Breathlets, and they were small, crunchy purple pillow mints in pegboard bags that tasted a lot like Choward's. Only problem was, they turned my shit bright green. So far, Choward's has not demonstrated a similar talent. But let's just say that I'm on guard.
July 25, 2001:

The SirCam email virus has been pounding the world the last couple of days...I personally have received over 100 copies, which implies that I am in a great many people's address books—or 100 really dumb people. You would think by this time that anybody who does any reasonable amount of email would know better than to open an attachment without thinking a little about it, even if it's from someone they think they know. (SirCam does not come from "real" people...so it should be doubly easy to spot.)

Microsoft is for several reasons responsible for this problem. First of all, file extensions should never but never be hideable, nor should file names ever be allowed to contain more than one period character. Microsoft could fix those things, but it doesn't—and hiding file extensions is the default for Windows. Thirdly, it's CS 101 to add a caution to any email program that pops up a message box whenever a script of any kind is run from an attachment, asking Do you really want to run this script? Most people have no idea what they're unleashing when they open an attachment, since the computer-naive don't generally consider "opening" something the same as "running" it. A slightly cleverer email client should look at any script it receives and spot and scream out the presence of obvious viral features, like a loop that mails something to the address book, or any kind of "escape." (That is, a script primitive allowing arbitrary code execution—including execution of code constructed "on the fly" and not present in the body of the script—from within a script.) None of this would stretch Microsoft's developers even a nanometer, and thus I can only conclude Microsoft chooses not to address the email virus problem. I smell a class action here, and while I hate litigation, this is the sort of case where it may be necessary just to get their attention.
July 23, 2001:

We spent a quiet weekend up at Little America in Flagstaff, Carol and I, just walking the trails and talking of things big and small. On the big side was a meadow hosting a prairie dog town. We sat atop a small hill overlooking the meadow, in which there were literally hundreds of burrows, and at any given moment there were probably twenty or thirty prairie dogs tearing around, chasing each other, or standing beside their burrows looking around and chattering. I didn't get a very good picture of them; we couldn't get too close before they all dove back into their holes.

On the other hand, one other small creature stood very still just about all the time we saw him: A horned toad, shown at left. I'd never seen one in the wild before, and was a little surprised that he was not (like almost everything else in Arizona) purely the color of dirt. He had some pale red highlights and a little green in places, tho the green doesn't come through very well here. The red spot that looks like a bleeding wound is actually a red ant. The ants seemed to like to climb up on the horned toad, which wasn't in fact a problem. Every so often the lizard would shake, an ant would fall off his back, and almost faster than you could watch, his tongue would dart out and the ant would be inside the horned toad.
July 20, 2001:
Like most people who have been on the Net for years, I get lots of spam, and a lot of it hawks porn CDs or porn sites. (It's sobering—and sad—to ponder the statement that "porn is the killer application of the Web.") I nuke it without spending a second pondering it, but I am struck by the number of email titles promising me thousands of pictures of "nasty sluts" and assuming I consider that a good thing. The phrase "nasty slut" is so stomach-churning to me that I have to assume it's some sort of tag-line common among the young. Even Playboy bills itself as publishing pictures of "the world's most beautiful women." Why would anybody buy photos of "nasty sluts?" Or am I just showing my age?
July 19, 2001:

Here's a question: Why hasn't Audiogalaxy been Napstered to death by the record companies? I visited their Web site yesterday and looked for my kind of music (obscure oldies, commercials, nostalgia) and found a selection almost equal to what Napster had at its peak. Audiogalaxy is an interesting hybrid: You search for songs using a Web site, and then a small installable utility does the Napster-style peer-to-peer transfer. There are some glitches that may be related to server load, which I suspect is intense, but overall the system is very slick and well-implemented. If you request a song that is off-line, the Satellite utility will keep watching for it until somebody sharing the song comes online. It will then attempt to make the transfer. This system has the interesting and non-obvious psychological effect of encouraging users with 24X7 connections to leave their Satellites running all the time to "catch" requested songs as they drift off and on line, which makes it all the more likely that songs will be online much of the time. Certainly, the selection is approaching the richness of Napster at its best, and it beats the competing Gnutella-based systems like LimeWire by light years.

So...why are they still around? They're not based overseas, and they make no bones about what they're up to. Or are the record companies busy—temporarily—with other things? Let's watch.
July 16, 2001:

SF as a publishing genre seems to be in trouble. Even established authors with novels to their credit can't get new novels published unless their last novels were blockbusters—and writers who have a blockbuster can publish any crap they generate. This sort of sell-more-of-what-sells thinking on the publishers' part is self-defeating, since mediocre novels by stars eventually convince readers that the genre as a whole has run out of creative steam, and I think that may be a lot of what's happened in recent years.

I'm puzzled by the fact that young people don't seem to be reading SF, and I'm not sure if it's due to the staleness of the field right now (too much dull, talky, formulaic space opera and not enough startling new ideas) or a genuine shift in cultural demographics. Young people are definitely reading, but they're reading other things, from wistful fantasies like Harry Potter, to real-world action thrillers by Clive Cussler and Tom Clancy. Carol and I have been to some recent SF conventions, and there are no young people there. It's the same set of Baby Boomer heads we saw in 1975; grayer now but still there. Nobody, however, is bringing up the rear. This bodes ill, not just for my own unpublished SF novel, but for the whole idea of SF. If young people cease buying SF, the big houses will cease publishing it, and SF will start to go the way ham radio and telescope making have gone. There seems to be a modern curse laid on what I call "basement imagination," which is the force that prods people to imagine their own selves in a technological context, either in reading technological SF or in just going down in the basement and playing with technology creatively on their own. (Building a telescope and building an SF novel are very similar processes—I've done both—they simply make use of different raw materials.)

There are cultural rifts between Baby Boomers and those younger that deserve some thought. I'll meditate on it and return to the topic here in future days.
July 15, 2001:

Something that few people remark upon in all the controversy over MP3 song-swapping is that a lot of very obscure music that has appeared only on vinyl—often many years ago—is being ripped to digital, cleaned up and restored by enthusiasts and thus preserved. I am an Association completist, and only about one fifth of the Association's album cuts have ever appeared on CD. The rest, some of which are marvelous, live solely on scratchy, fragile vinyl records. The copyright holders apparently have no interest in keeping the music on the market. I'd buy it on CD if I could—but since I can't, where does that leave the music?

This isn't just a tantrum, but a genuine concern, since functional turntables and stereo needles capable of playing the body of music on vinyl are becoming increasingly scarce. Fifty or seventy years from now, if the full corpus of the Association's work has been preserved in a format that can still be played, it will have been because people "stole" and preserved the parts that couldn't be legally purchased in digital form. I'm not saying it's completely ethical, but it's an issue that has to be brought into the debate if any good solution is to be found.
July 14, 2001:
I've had been having odd problems with my Epson Stylus Photo 890 in the area of rendering True Type fonts from Word documents and Visio drawings. This puzzles me, as the printer seemed to do type correctly when I first installed it. Type in Visio, even plain black in Arial, goes plum berserk. Things work better in Word 2000 (particularly for type rendered in teal, go figger) but not for all fonts, nor even for the same font in different colors and different sizes. Will research further. Stay tuned...but in the meantime, if you're considering buying one, hold off a bit.
July 13, 2001:

Certain things deserve respect: God, your parents, and various other entities who have for some reason earned it. Wine is not one of them. Wine, after all, is fruit-flavored yeast piss—something that doesn't keep many of us from studying it, buying it, drinking it, and enjoying it. I've gotten to be a reasonably discriminating wine consumer in recent years...but I do not "respect" wine. I do awful things to it at times. For example, if I end up with a bottle of bad cabernet sauvignon somehow (and they're everywhere; cab is the easiest of all wines to do badly) I mix it with Sprite to turn it into a fizzy wine cooler. And because I'm watching my weight, I use Diet Sprite as often as not. The concoction is sweet, bubbly, and you get a buzz off it, which is all I'd ever ask of something made with bad wine. What I do not do with bad wine is respect it, and say pretentiously screwy things like "umm, how full and earthy—with just a hint of minerality, and traces of asparagus." I'd rather speak the truth, and say things like, "uggh, what kind of manure do they grow these grapes in? I wonder if Diet Sprite can drown out the reek?" Furthermore, if I just want to get a buzz off something sweet and bubbly and no bad cab is handy, I will mix good wine with Diet Sprite. Not too good—money, while not something I respect, is at least something I pay attention to—but let's just say that respect has absolutely nothing to do with the decision, and this is a philosophy I highly recommend.

Now, don't get me started about beer...
July 12, 2001:

Heh. You want gadgets? How here's a gadget! The PerfectBook 080 book manufacturing system is a single device—one piece, albeit a big piece—that takes an electronic file such as a PDF and delivers a finished, printed, bound, trimmed paperback book without human intervention beyond the typing of the command. It can crunch as many as 15 250-page books in an hour. It can cut bound books to arbitrary trim sizes (set by software) between 4 3/4" X 6 3/4" and 8 1/4" X 10 3/4". Spine thickness can be up to 1 1/2". The big value-added in PerfectBook is mechanical handling of trimming (which can be dangerous) and binding (which can be messy). The binding system in particular is very clever: A strip of unmelted glue with the consistency of sliced cheese is placed betwee the trimmed sheets and the cover sheet, and then ultrasonic acoustic energy is applied to melt the glue into the pages. It's tidy and quick and very fast. The inventor/manufacturer is Marsh Technologies, Inc, of Chesterfield, Missouri.

I mention this here because this is the machine (or something like it) that will eventually take its place in the back rooms of bookstores, creating physical copies of obscure books or out-of-print books as they are ordered by bookstore patrons. How quickly this will happen I'm not sure, though I suspect we're still a couple of years off. But it will happen, and when it does, bookselling will change forever.
July 11, 2001:

I've mostly given up on newspapers, which these days publish stories of such abbreviated, predigested obviousness that they're not worth the time it takes to gulp them down. This is why I take The Wall Street Journal—not because I align completely with their politics, but because they publish stories that deliver useful, non-obvious information and insight. Here's a simple example of the sort of thing I love about them, a quote about government gridlock from Mark Iwry, a former Treasury lawer:

"One cause of gridlock is that the upper reaches of government, especially at the start of any administration, are populated largely by two classic and quite different personality types: Those who want to run the world and those who want to save it. Once these two types have had the opportunity to work together for a short time, those who want to save the world generally find that they want to save it mainly from those who want to run it."

Show me brilliance like that in USA Today. I dare you. And until you do, I'll continue to read The Wall Street Journal.
July 10, 2001:

Lots of cool new gadgetry is turning up this month. I just ran across the LinkSys Wireless Access Point and Cable/DSL Router, which is an obvious idea that's taken awhile to appear. What it is is a Linksys 4-port router with a built-in wireless access point, all in one box. (And powered by just one wall wart! See my June 27 entry...) In case it isn't obvious, this allows you to network your house without stringing cat5 cable through all the walls. Your machine, your spouse's machine, the kids' machine, and another machine can all transfer files and share the same high-bandwidth Net connection simultaneously, at 10BaseT speeds; roughly 10 MB per second. No wires. The range of the device is supposed to be 75 feet, but under ideal circumstances can probably go to 150 or 200. Much depends on what your house is made of; many southwestern houses are stucco over chicken wire, and the chicken wire provides a very effective shield, meaning you're not going to get out to the garage or the guest house with it. With ordinary brick or especially frame construction, you can get out much further.

In addition to the Linksys box, you'll need a wireless networking card for each of the remote machines. (The Linksys box connects to your cable or DSL Net connection, and you connect one of your machines to the Linksys box with a cat5 cable. The others connect through a radio link.) The box itself is $229.95 at Amazon, and the PCI cards are $39.95. So it's not a horribly expensive proposition. Note that I haven't tested this yet, and reviews are mixed. Networking is not always for the fainthearted, so know what you're in for before jumping in.
July 9, 2001:

From Esther Schindler comes a little list of conflated classics, the best of which I will quote here, as it makes the idea more or less self-explanatory:

Green Eggs and Hamlet

Would you kill him in his bed? Thrust a dagger through his head? I would not, could not, kill the King. I could not do that evil thing. I would not wed this girl, you see. Now get her to a nunnery.

July 8, 2001:

There's this strange sense I hear a lot in American culture about how Japan is such a seat of serene beauty and profound contemplative wisdom. Huh? People, I have been there, and what I saw the week I spent in Japan was such a mishmash of bad taste, sexism, ugly architecture, and frantic, nay, desperate activity that I sometimes wonder if I imagined it all.

These days, one gets called a racist for expressing any disapproval of any ethnic group, so I'll just have to take my chances and stand on my record as one with no racial or ethnic axes to grind. The Japanese are not bad people; in fact, they have a sort of gonzo cheeriness that belies the nasty lifestyle their government condemns them to. But their reputation as creators of beauty is a thing past, lost, perhaps, in the horror that was World War II, but lost nonetheless and probably never coming back.

I enjoyed the people while I was there. They were courteous and friendly and anxious to please. But they were also clueless in peculiar ways; the student co-op who was part of our project followed me around, practicing his textbook English on me, and said some of the guldurndest things. Referring to my muttonchop sideburns that I was wearing at that time (back in the 80's) he said something like "I am most pleased that you have been wearing such distinctive facial hair, as you Americans all look so alike to us." God love 'im, I hope he picks up some common sense before he goes to New Yawk someday and gets himself lynched.

I mention this old stuff again because an interesting series is running in The Atlantic Unbound, in which James Fallows is "dialog-ing" with Alex Kerr, the author of Dogs and Demons, which speaks to precisely this point: That Japan is now a corrupt, ugly, and thoroughly unpleasant place. It's a fascinating interchange between two very perceptive men, and if you have any least interest in Japan (and especially if you think of Japanese aesthetics as a now-thing and not a then-thing) you had better crank up The Atlantic Unbound and read it.
July 7, 2001:

Carol and I just got back from an interesting new sort of entertainment: Farrelli's Cinema Supper Club, down on Scottsdale Road just south of Acoma. It resembles the dinner theater Carol and I used to attend many years ago in Summit, Illinois (the Candlelight? I can't quite recall) except that instead of a stage show you see a movie. The first surprise: The food was superb. I had a grilled salmon plate with a wild rice pilaf that was nothing short of wonderful. The second surprise: I am more than willing to pay a little more to see a movie with a glass of good wine in my hand, in comfortable, movable chairs that aren't sticky with squashed jujubes and spilled Cokes, in a theater with plenty of room and no screaming kids. See their Web site; owner/CEO Wendy Farrell had a wonderful idea, and I hope she can make it work over the long haul. (Farrelli's Cinema Supper Club opened only a month ago.)

The film was The Dish, and it deserves special mention in case you missed it. We have something here that is not quite a comedy, but more an affectionate glimpse at a small Australian town that suddenly finds itself a key link in the complex chain of electronic communications systems that cooperated to bring video from the Moon to the Earth during the very first Apollo moon landing. Various glitches keep the 210-foot Parkes radio telescope from working perfectly, but a cast of earnest if somewhat quirky nerds led by Sam Neill makes it come through in the end, high winds and faltering generators notwithstanding.

The film was extremely moving, perhaps, because of what many of us have forgotten, and more and more of us had not yet been born to see: Human beings traveling from Earth to another world. I was there, as a nerdy teenager full of faith in the future, watching with mouth agape as the Eagle landed, and The Future as we Boomer nerds had ached for it seemed to begin all at once. And the scene in which the young electronics engineer struggles to summon the courage to ask a beautiful young girl on a date made me recall having my own heart in my throat only ten days after Neil Armstrong made footsteps on the Moon, as I faced a beautiful girl in our church basement with the same question on my tongue, and knew that one of the hinges of my history was at hand. The girl in the movie said yes to the young tech, and Carol said yes to me as well. 1969 was a wonderful year. If you remember it, or would like to experience perhaps a touch of its magic, see The Dish anywhere you can—and Farrelli's is as good a place as you'll ever find.
July 6, 2001:

I've been predicting this for some time—ever since I saw the first crude Palm Pilot PDA four or five years ago—and here it is: A PCS cell phone with a full PalmOS implementation. It's the Kyocera QCP-6035, and it does everything a PDA does: Store addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses; keep appointments, do-it lists, notes, expense reports, and so on. Plus, it comes with Eudora email, and can be configured to receive and send email through the POP3 protocol. The flip-down voice pickup has a summary of the Graffiti machine-readable printing script, something I've often wished for on my Handspring Visor. It also has a little shuttle knob on the left side of the device for scrolling quickly through lists of phone numbers, something that other Palm devices lack. (The Franklin EBookman has one, however. See my June 2, 2001 entry for a photo, and also note the size of the display.) The Kyocera has Eudora Web for picking up Web information, though how much Web you can see on a display that size is debatable. (I keep meaning to look and see if anyone has put up any explicitly Palm-sized Web pages serving up explicit information like stock quotes, movie times, etc. Would be a good idea if it hasn't already been done.)

Keep in mind that I don't have one of these...yet. The 8MB of memory seems a little thin to me, so I wouldn't expect to be able to load a whole lot of additional PalmOS apps onto it. And I still find the typical PalmOS display infuriatingly tiny. It's too new for there to be much in the line of reviews out there. Plus, it's $500, and all the usual cell phone connect charges apply. On the other hand, this is clearly the way the world is going, and if this sort of hybrid commcenter/computer catches on, I suspect I'll be trading in my current Star-TAC for one in due time.
July 5, 2001:

We had friends visiting for the Fourth, and some interesting and really excellent wines turned up, none of them costing over $20.Our friends Fr. Mike Davey and his wife Argelia brought two wines of note. One is Marqués de Cáceres Rioja 1997, vinted in Spain and imported by Vinyard Brands, Inc. in Burmingham, Alabama. It's a fairly gentle dry red, not as heavy as your typical cab, and can be found in many grocery stores for about $12. Mike and Argelia also introduced us to a Chilean wine: Concha Y Toro (Shell and Bull) Cabernet Merlot, which, as its name implies, falls somewhere between the two grapes. It's again much gentler than a cabernet sauvignon (which is still a little too puckery for me) and is quite inexpensive and widely available. Not quite as common but very good is Travaglini Gattinara, an Italian wine, dry but not horribly dry, and "warm" in a way that defies description. (I'm not a wine freak and don't use all that self-important gobbledygook that wine critics use.) This is something you won't find at Safeway but it's worth looking for.

While I'm talking wines, one final wine worth mentioning that I found by accident at a wine tasting a few months ago is Lincourt Pinot Noir 1999, which is a slightly odd pinot in that it carries a lot of the spiciness of a zinfandel without the heaviness. It's a little more expensive (I paid $24 for it) but as I have zeroed in on pinot noir as my favorite variety of red, I'm willing to go that high on special occasions. It's a California wine, from Santa Ynez in Santa Barbara County. You may have to go to a middling wine shop to find it, but I think it's worth the trouble.
July 4, 2001:

Independence Day. Independent we are, but how free are we? It's a question worth pondering regularly. The direction we're going is plain if you think about it: Ever greater freedom of personal identity and expression, and ever less economic freedom, which includes the freedom to buy, sell, and use property. The city of Scottsdale seized about a third of my land and made it what amounts to a nature park, without a nickel of compensation, and this is mild compared to what they do to people in California. The Founders would have found this incomprehensible—just as incomprehensible as our freedom in areas like sexual and cultural habits, and freedom of expression would be to them had they lived to see it.

I'm not with the Founders on all points (particularly their strong feeling that the state must regulate private sexual habits) but I worry about this gradual slide toward a form of communitarian totalitarianism. I powerfully feel that no law should pass without the consensus of the people to whom it applies—by which I mean 80% consent. Not 51%. Many say this would amount to "minority rule" but that's pure bullshit. To block a law is not to rule. To pass a law is—and the future of our freedom hangs on that critical difference.
July 3, 2001:
I'm itching to do some programming again, and I'm budgeting some time this coming week to go back to working on Aardmarks, my longstanding (emphasis on standing) Web bookmark management program. I have some code worked out to import Netscape bookmarks from a standard bookmark.htm file, and once I implement that code I'll be able to suck in my 3700+ Netscape bookmarks and begin using Aardmarks on a day-to-day basis. Aardmarks, fo those just tuning in, is a client database that captures bookmarks from Web sites displayed in the active browser window, and allows you to sort them into hierarchical categories. I worked on it heavily back in 1999 and 2000, but haven't done much with it in over a year. Time to get back. I'm hoping to create a version I can turn loose to a chosen set of alpha testers some time this year. If you're interested in participating, please let me know.
July 2, 2001:

Well, my own view of Mars was none too good this most recent favorable opposition (see my entry for June 26) so I'm pleased to present a view considerably better. The photo at left was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, from Earth orbit, and it's sobering to ponder that Mars was still 43 million miles away from the camera when the shot was snapped. Now, that's an optical system to be proud of, and if you recall, Hubble was sent to space was a seriously flawed main mirror, which was later corrected by the installation of compensating optics.

Tinkerers like me enjoy speculating about what Mars needs to become a "real" planet—that is, a planet we can live on without depending upon elaborate technological life support. We may someday tinker Mars into habitability, but in the meantime, it's a rush just to see it as a world of its own, unique in our experience, apart from its potential as a future home for humanity.
July 1, 2001:

The bobcat is back! We saw him again yesterday, and watched for some time as he drank from our swimming pool, then hopped effortlessly over two 6' walls to lie down and veg in our walled front courtyard. The photo here is of the cat wandering down my front walk, heedless of the fact that we were watching him from our bedroom window. I got a much better photo of him than last time (see my entry for May 20) though it's not entirely clear that this is the same individual we saw then.

This must be a good season for bobcats and other miscellaneous desert flesh eaters. We've seen huge numbers of desert cottontails this year, and more quail than we've ever seen before, probably because we've had a relatively wet winter, and greenery was abundant in the spring. I don't mind having bobcats around. They're not big enough to be an attack hazard (though obviously you'd prefer not to surprise or corner one) and one would hope they keep the bunnies down a little. The cottontails have raised havoc with everything Carol's attempted to grow in the courtyard, and a few fewer of them would be a good thing. Now, mountain lions, on the other hand, would be something I wouldn't welcome...but let's not borrow trouble.