inessential by Brent Simmons

January 2001


Most of my news is going on the Frontier News page for now.

I may take some time tonight and organize my Frontier and Radio tips so you don't have to hunt through back issues of the home page. If not tonight, then soon. I'll be writing new tips, too, of course.


There's a Seattle Frontier Users Group meeting tonight. I'll be there -- I hope to see you there too. Radio and Manila users are invited too.

Sheila: "But, why?" "But, why?"...


Tips for Frontier and Radio Developers

Today's tip is about debugging Web apps.

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Tips for Frontier and Radio Developers

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I'm working on documenting new verbs in Frontier and Radio -- most of my news will appear on the Frontier News page for a while.

For those of you using Radio, you can subscribe to the Frontier News feed. You'll find it near the top of the HotList.


I'm proud of Eric, my neighbor -- he lives just a few blocks from me -- he's fighting for his company. Very cool of him.


Tips for Frontier and Radio Developers

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I'm going to have to collect all the various tips, make a page. Don't worry, I will, though perhaps not today.


I added a couple little graphics I can use, just for jazz.


Tip: next time you boot Mac OS X, hold down the v key. You'll get to see what's actually happening as the OS boots. To a geek like me it's interesting.



I didn't vote for Bush -- but I respect him and the office of the Presidency. When Bush says he's a uniter, I take him at his word.

I'm willing to call the Ashcroft nomination an honest mistake.

But, as one of his first actions as President, Bush re-instated the gag rule. He couldn't have done something more divisive.

To the millions of Americans like me hoping he'll live up to his word, this is a very bad sign.

My advice to Bush: spend your political capital wisely. You don't have as much as most incoming presidents. Save it for the big things, save it for your education program.

Look at it this way: you're starting with 100 bucks. You just threw 5 bucks into the Potomac.


Tips for Frontier and Radio Developers

Tip: learn your environment.

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Screen shots: OS X seed 4K17.

Erin updated the design of Thanks!


Sheila's got the full scoop on Clinton's last day in office.

Two of the best-kept secrets in the weblog world: Gulker.Com and Ken's Digest.

Erin Clerico has a new-ish site at -- unfortunately it's using that damn FrontPage theme. (Though technically interesting for how it does the navigation links, it's still fugly.)

Yesterday I helped Doc, who's writing about OS X for Linux Journal, lift the hood. A couple things were interesting: launch, do a cd / then an ls. Look: there's bin, dev, etc, sbin, and so on. The directory structure isn't exactly the same as Linux, but there are many commonalities. Another interesting thing was Darwinfo.Org, a community site devoted to Darwin development.

Tip: the Finder normally hides much of the UNIX-ish stuff. Here's how you can see the hidden directories in the Finder: choose Go to Folder... from the Go menu; type something like /var/log in the dialog box, and there you go. (Hey, where'd all this freaky shit come from?)

Tips for Frontier and Radio Developers

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Radio's Web server

One of the things we've been working on is figuring out what do with the dual nature of Radio's Web server.

It does two main things:

1. File serving. Any files you put in the www folder are available to the rest of the world.

2. Desktop websites. These are applications like My UserLand on the Desktop. In this case you can read and route news, maintain a weblog, and so on. It's a website where you go to work.

In the first case, files are simply served from disk. In the second case, a database contains scripts, templates, and data that implement an application.

So, the question is, what's the top level? What do you get when you request Do you get the top level of the www folder, or do you get a desktop website?

Answer: the top level is the top level of your www folder. If you go to, you get the index.html file stored in your www folder.

To get to your desktop website, you'd go to

The counter-argument to that went like this: if Radio is a desktop website server, then shouldn't the top level be the desktop website? What if I'm at an Internet café, and I want to access my desktop website remotely -- should I have to remember the longer URL?

The solution came to us when we thought about other developers doing desktop websites. What if the folks at Pyra wanted to do a Blogger on the Desktop? What would the URL of that website be?

It would be

This puts our desktop website on an equal footing with other desktop websites. Imagine a future where there are lots of desktop websites in Radio. UserLand's is just one of many. Were I a desktop website developer, I would like that.

Other things I'd like as a developer: this environment has what I'd need -- XML, XML-RPC, SOAP, RSS, HTTP client and server, templates, macros, an outliner, an object database, and so on. Perhaps best of all is that there's no need to run and maintain a server -- it's Radio that is the server. The action is on your users' workstations. The data is on the workstation. What happens to your scaling issues when you the developer don't have to run a central server? Good things.

And as a user, I'd want the choice. Maybe I don't really like UserLand's or Pyra's desktop website -- but perhaps John VanDyk has developed a website that's the bee's knees. I'd have the choice.

More Frontier and Radio Tips for Developers

I got good feedback on the previous tips, so I'll continue. (Plus, it's fun for me.)

Here's a tip: don't over-abstract.

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Another tip: beware the with statement.

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I'm going to have to disagree with my boss about OS X. Be would not have been a better choice. Or, not necessarily a better choice.

With Be, Apple would have had the same challenges: the Classic environment, so old apps would still run; Carbon APIs, so developers have a (relatively) easy path to port their existing apps; and user interface.

I don't know that it would have taken any less time with Be OS as a foundation. I suspect not.

Where they erred is not in their choice of OS (Be or NeXT) but in decisions regarding the desktop.

Were I running the show, I would have said right from the start that a functioning Apple menu is hugely important. Etc. Etc. There are tons of great things in OS 9 that I would have retained. The break was too severe, and they're working to fix that now. The break should never have been so sharp.

(Back to my boss -- he's fond of pointing out discontinuities -- the break between OS 9 and OS X is an example. Unfortunately, I was an English major and can't follow the math. [Joking.])

I don't expect the March 24 ship date to slip. However, I do expect that OS X 1.0 will be best left to early adopters. And, come July, I would strongly recommend that Apple get off their high horse about their so-called single-OS-strategy and give people an option about which OS they want bundled with new machines.

At this point, the biggest issue facing OS X, given that it's a fact and it will ship, may be lack of software. Running Classic apps is painful. There's no good email app on OS X. There's no BBEdit, no Photoshop, no Dreamweaver, no Acrobat Reader, etc. Yet, anyway.

You might say -- well, at least you, Brent, have CodeWarrior for OS X, right? It's true, I do. Except that, with OS X Public Beta, I have to boot into OS 9 to be able to do check-outs and check-ins with our source control system. I expect that will be the case with 1.0, too. So there are all these barriers to getting work done.

Here's another little thing (I've got a huge list of them) -- there doesn't appear to be a way to extend the Finder's contextual menus. In OS 9 I'd written a few extensions which I actually use, which I rely on. (Yet another definition of a geek: one who doesn't mind breaking out a C compiler just to customize his or her desktop. OS X won't let me be a geek in that way. Correct me if I'm wrong.)


Tips for Frontier and Radio developers

I'm starting a new practice of writing up some of the knowledge I have about developing and working in this environment. For now, at least, I'll just be posting these here.

Here's a major tip: always look at prior art.

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Here's another tip: use profiling to debug server problems.

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Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. day!

One of the measures of patriotism is how forcefully and relentlessly one insists that we live up to our most noble ideals.

I wish I had shared a planet with him for more than 9 days. But I'm pleased to live in the nation that he helped create.

The invention of America never ceases. In a very real sense I consider King one of our Founding Fathers.

There's more work to do: King's mission is not finished.

On a Mac OS X mailing list I subscribe to, there has been controversy about whether Apple should include -- which exposes the command-line interface -- in the final release of OS X.

The fear expressed by some is that is an invitation to developer laziness. If it's there, some say, developers will skip doing GUIs and regular Mac users will be forced to use the command line.

That's fear talking. Any developer that wants to make any money will do a GUI, and developers want to make money. So enough of that.

But here's where it gets hilarious. Some people are arguing that AppleScript is a command-line interface. In other words, they're saying Macs already have a CLI that quote-unquote normal users are used to using.

Hello? Is this thing on?

(By "thing" I mean "the brains of these people.")

So that argument comes from some of the oui-à people.

Here's another hilarious argument from the other side, the non-à folks -- they say that GUIs are always easier and quicker to use, in every context.

A counter-example: I find it 10x easier to type "ping" into a terminal window than to do the same thing in NetProbe. (NetProbe is a GUI app sort of like MacTCP Watcher -- it provides an interface for ping, whois, traceroute, DNS lookups, etc.)

If you're the kind of user who needs to run a traceroute now and again, you're probably the kind of user who can handle typing "traceroute" You're also probably the kind of user who will find it easier and quicker than reaching for the mouse and doing the GUI thing just to run a damn traceroute. I mean, please.

OS X is a huge cultural change. It's interesting to see how people adapt to it. Passionate arguments, and sometimes stupid arguments, appear to be part of the evolutionary (or revolutionary) process.

But I'm like: go for it. It's a display of humanity. It's cool.


Ed is the standard text editor.


Tim's back.


As a system admin for a free service, I sometimes get email (sent to the webmaster account) that could be charitably described as raunchy.

Some people think that the great thing about email is that you can write and send the filthiest abuse you can think of to complete strangers. It's fun and cost-free (cost-free in many senses of the word).

Such mail never comes from people I've heard of, and it always comes from one of the free email services.

My sensibilities aren't so tender that the language actually offends me. (Were these messages better written and had some character development and perhaps a little plot -- and were the protagonist someone other than me -- they might be titillating. Okay, I'm joking, but you get the point.)

What is offensive is just the sheer meanness behind it. What kind of person gets a kick out of this? Someone who doesn't see other people as human. Or who does but has contempt for humans.

As these messages are violations of the Terms of Service of their free email service, I report them.

As I do it, I say to myself that I'm removing some bad genes from the gene pool.

It's not true, all I've done is mildly inconvenienced somebody. But I keep my fingers crossed that the person will have learned that behavior on the Internet has consequences, and that words are actions.

My guess is that the person hasn't learned that lesson about home or school or work or whatever.

Well, small person, you're on my turf now.

John VanDyk has an interesting solution to the same problem.

Alwin Hawkins wrote to say:

The phrase we use in the nursing trade is "chlorinating the gene pool." As in...

"Look at that stupid kid riding his motorcycle without a helmet!"

"He's just chlorinating his gene pool. Best done while they're young."

Dude, nurses kick ass.

The Hunter S. Thompson of the weblog world has to be Mike Donnelan of the aptly-named blackholebrain. Check it out today.


I did not watch Temptation Island, wasn't even tempted.

There's little more boring than watching young people struggle with their libidos and ethics. That's why most sitcoms bite.

I don't have the exact quote here, but William S. Burroughs once said something to the effect that the worse type of story is that of the young man making his way in the world, seeking his fortune and/or Nirvana.

I feel the same way about stories involving the romantic difficulties of young people.

(Well, old people, too -- except that those are usually better stories, told by better writers, and the quality and inventiveness of the story may redeem its subject matter.)

I can't believe the opportunity we as a culture miss every day. This is a huge world full of beautiful subjects, and what we get on TV pretty much ignores this. (I watch TV, I love TV, and so I know what I'm talking about.)

The Web is better. Mostly. At least it has the potential. One of the things that drives me is, well it's like a religious crusade, I want to help make sure the people who have stories to tell will be able to tell their stories.

I have a deeply-held belief that the modern form of political control over the human spirit is control over our stories. Once millions (or billions) of people not only can but do publish their stories, that control breaks, and a leap forward in consciousness that rivals the Renaissance is inevitable.

So I'm an idealist. You only live once, right? I can be an idealist if I want to be, if it makes me happy.

Thanks for listening. And thanks for publishing your stories on the Web.


Isn't Jazz the official music of over-privileged, over-educated, straight white boys?

Oh, wait, I'm one of those.

Organizine closes after one week. "But I just don't want to be responsible for hundreds of users' content, and supporting and maintaining a web application. It's too much responsibility that I don't want."

No schadenfreude here -- I can totally relate. Were I a 20 year old in school there's no way I'd want the responsibility either. It's not to be underestimated.

One of the worst things to deal with as a server admin is amateur crawlers.

Inktomi and Google and all can be bad when they go nuts all at once, as they sometimes do -- but that's not the worst of it.

People sometimes use WebWhacker-like software to download a whole site. That's not bad if the software is well-behaved. But not all such software is. And then you get n people doing it at the same time.

Worse than that... sometimes people use software they've written themselves, or is in beta, or is just plain terribly awfully sucky, and it goes nuts in a huge smelly way. The symptoms of this are usually when just a few pages are requested very rapidly and repeatedly for several hours or a few days. You know then that somebody's POS crawler has gotten seriously stuck.

I'm a couple days late, but I just can't resist commenting on Simson Garfinkel's article Java: Slow, ugly and irrelevant.

It's not like Garfinkel is wrong -- writing applets and desktop apps in Java is contra-indicated. Agreed. This is not news. (Cocoa apps in Java may be an exception, but then they're not WORA.)

Garfinkel totally didn't mention Java on the server, where it does make sense. I just wanted to shake him and say, "Hello! Servlets!"

I prefer Frontier to servlets. But if I imagine an alternate universe, one in which there is no Frontier, I'd be writing servlets right now, for many of the same reasons I like Frontier in the real universe.

(In fact, before I started working for UserLand, I was getting into server-side Java, having discovered that writing plug-ins in C for WebSTAR was limiting. This was in like 1996/1997. I had two plug-ins for sale: one of them sold one copy. Okay, maybe I wasn't the best marketer, but still. The Servlet API didn't exist yet, but it was clear it was coming. So I wrote server-side Java apps to this weird API the Roaster guys came up with. Ah, Roaster, a cool IDE. RIP. I hope you're up in software heaven hanging out with Think C. Say hi to HyperCard if you see him. I'm rambling.)

Here's a little-known fact. In fact, I may be the only person who knows it. The filemakerLib scripts in Frontier were originally part of a set -- I did the Frontier version first, and I was working on the Java version, way back when, but then other folks came out with ways to access FileMaker from Java before I did, so I dropped the Java version.

Here's Josh Lucas and Erik Thauvin on Garfinkel's article.

Joe Mahoney: "It's not even worth the effort of rebutting."

Oui d'accord, I think we've been baited.

Why is text selection so brain-damaged in MSIE 5.5 for Windows? I'm gonna, like, hurl.

Daniel Berlinger, writing about my comments of yesterday, writes: "How uncontrarian!"

Naturally I have no choice but to differ sharply with that statement.


I watched the Jobs keynote from MacWorld (via QuickTime). First my notes, then my commentary.

***Mac OS X

In stores March 24 for $129. Pre-loaded on Apple hardware in the Summer.

New features:

The Apple menu is back. It includes commands for Sleep, Restart, Shutdown, and Log Out. It has a Recent Items hierarchical menu, menus for Locations and prefs. It's in the upper-left corner where it should be -- no more non-functional Apple logo in the middle of the menubar.

Finder toolbars are smaller and very customizable.

You can make the Finder very like the OS 9 Finder if you prefer.

You can put folders in the dock, and a hierarchical menu pops up. It's a replacement for pop-up folders in OS 9.

Jobs didn't talk about it, but it appeared that the menubar clock is back -- and in the upper-right corner where a Mac user expects it

***New G4s

733 Mhz.

CD-RW. Drag-and-drop interface for burning CDs -- it's just a Finder operation. Drag files and folders to the CD.

4 new models, from 466 Mhz to 733 Mhz. Available in February.

***Digital Lifestyle

Jobs: PC is on the verge of entering it's 3rd golden age. (First two golden ages: Productivity and the Internet.)

Cameras, PDAs, phones, etc.

"The Mac can become the hub of our emerging digital lifestyle."

"Apple's unique strength."


MP3 ripper. Playlists. Burn custom playlists onto CD, play anywhere there's a CD player.

320 million CD-R disks sold in US in 2000.

Real JukeBox, Microsoft Media Player, etc. "too complex" and "have restrictions."

Introducing... iTunes.

Pulls in track info from Internet. Rips at 8.5 times regular speed. Sort by album, artist, song.

Searching as you type.

Drag-and-drop export to portable MP3 player.

Internet radio stations.

App can be "minituarized" so it doesn't have a huge window when you're doing other things.

Psychedelic music visualization thing which I can't explain.

Runs on OS 9. It's free. Available right now -- download from


Make your own DVDs and play them in regular DVD players.

New RW drive in G4s can burn DVDs.

Software MPEG2 compression using Velocity Engine in G4s. 2x regular speed. (2 hours to encode one hour.)


App helps with layout of content, buttons, etc.

Slide shows.

Themes. Custom backgrounds via drag-and-drop. Customize existing themes.

Apple to sell blank DVDs for $10 each.

***DVD Studio Pro

Pro authoring tool. $995.

Available end of January. Complements Final Cut Pro.

***Titanium PowerBook G4

500Mhz G4. 15.2 in. "mega-wide" screen. Built-in DVD. 5 hour battery life. AirPort ready. Slot-load DVD.

1 inch thick. 5.3 pounds.

Made out of titanium. "Like the spy planes." Stronger than steel; lighter than aluminum.

2 models. $2599 and $3499. Available end of January.

Thinner than the VAIO sub-notebook.


Disclaimer: I own stock in Apple.

I don't personally care about iTunes or iDVD that much. They look good in demos, but it's unlikely I'll use them. Only because I don't care that much about the problems they solve.

About the new Titanium G4 -- I want one very badly. Wow. Thin and light and with a screen larger than my iBook. Yes, these are cool. I'm drooling, oh yeah, yes sir.

Getting faster G4s with CD-RW is a big deal. I want more speed, and I definitely want to be able to archive to CD, as I can on my Windows machine.

The big deal for me is OS X news.

All I've wanted is a UNIX-ish OS with a desktop that is:

1. Easy to use.

2. Customizable and powerful.

3. Visually appealing.

OS 9 is a good desktop -- it's all three of the above. But under the hood is where it fails.

OS X Public Beta is great under the hood, but the desktop isn't that great. (Compared to OS 9, anyway. I prefer it to some other desktops.)

GNOME and KDE are not that good. Yet, anyway. Even though under the hood they've got Linux.

But the changes coming to OS X do, finally, appear to give me what I want. The Apple menu is important. Hierarchic folder menus in the Dock are important. The menubar clock is important. The ability to customize the Finder is important.

It's unclear whether they've done anything about the anti-aliasing and transparency problems -- but I wouldn't be surprised, given the progress shown, if some of these things are customizable too. It's clear that they've been listening to feedback.

Tentatively I will say that OS X is indeed what I have been waiting for, and it will replace OS 9 as my primary OS. This has been a big question for me, and the demo went as far as a demo can in answering that question.

I still need to see it and use it, of course.

Disturbing Search Requests was written up on page 10 of the February 2001 Linux Journal. They got half a page. Very cool.

Per Murphy's dictate they got the URL wrong in the article -- they had it as So, being the nice fella I am (or can be in rare moments) I installed a redirect so the incorrect URL will work.


In an article speculating about Mac users dumping LinuxPPC for Mac OS X (or not doing so), an important point was missed -- lots of Macs won't be able to run OS X.

I have two working Macs that won't run OS X. One is running OS 8.x, the other is running LinuxPPC.

For many Mac users already running LinuxPPC, OS X is not even an option.

Which is sort of too bad. I say "sort of" because LinuxPPC is pretty cool. My advice, if you have an older Mac and you want to run a static server, install LinuxPPC on it. Don't bother installing a desktop, you don't need it. Install Apache. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how fast and stable it is.

X Appeal mentions some OS X rumors. These are just rumors. I hope they're true, but I have no idea.

"First up is that late builds of OS X allow you to move the Dock to any side of the screen and vertically. Additionally, even later builds have a.... Apple menu!"

OS X Hints has an article on turning on SSH on your OS X machine. Important info.

Sometimes when I read "XML-RPC" I hear Cartman's voice in my head. "Ecks-emmer Eh-pee-cee," he says. "Sweet," he says. God knows why I hear this.

Oh yeah, right, I forgot, it's because I'm a total freakin' geek. I'll try to remember.


In the article Open Source is here to stay! appears this line: "Open Source is one of those things that you either love or hate."

This isn't the first time you've heard this about Open Source. You've probably heard the same thing said about Microsoft, Apple, Java, OS X, and on and on.

I'm just tired to death of that statement. I don't love or hate Open Source. Or whatever.

Note that it's almost always an advocate who writes such a statement.

It's as if Open Source, by polarizing people and igniting passions, is good because it inspires a strong emotional response. If it polarizes, it must be 100% good or 100% bad -- well, at least it's 100% something, right? Which elevates it over x, y, and z, right?

Once established that the topic is 100% something, the advocate now only needs a few paragraphs to establish that it's good. The arguments don't have to convince you that it's 100% good, because the 100% part has already been taken care of.

It's a crappy rhetorical device.

And it's a lie -- plenty of people don't love or hate Open Source. (Or whatever.)

Is there room for rational, curious, open-minded, and adult analysis of technologies and methods? We don't have to say that Open Source is all good or all bad when the truth is more complicated. Don't we have a moral obligation to refrain from false simplification? -- it's one of those weblogs that you love or hate, but nothing in between.

Just joking.


Question for Mac OS X users:

What do you use for email?

I tried Apple's Mail app and didn't like it.

I'm a long-time Eudora user. In fact, when I'm in OS X I use Eudora running as an OS 9 app. I'd rather run a Carbon or Cocoa app. I hate hate hate running OS 9 in OS X.

I've been using Fizzilla, the OS X port of Mozilla, as my browser when in OS X. So far so good.


Radio UserLand 7.0b34 is out. Among the bug fixes is one that has annoyed me for a long time -- on Windows 2000, when you click the Edit With Radio button, Radio actually comes to the front now rather than just flashing in the taskbar. AFT.

Mac users -- I need your help. I need a word processor. The last word processor I used regularly was Word 5 for Macintosh (in 1995). So it's been years; I'm out of touch.

I tried Word 98, and didn't like it, so that's out. (See #3 below.)

What else is there?

Here are my requirements:

1. It should be actively maintained. That means no WordPerfect, sadly. An OS X port in progress is a bonus, though I don't need an OS X version now.

2. It should output to at least one format that Word 98 can read. (Unfortunate but necessary.) RTF would be fine.

3. When I freakin' double-click on a freakin' word, it should not freakin' select the freakin' space after the freakin' word, it should just freakin' select the freakin' word it-freakin'-self.

4. I need to be able to run a demo before I buy.

5. If it has a ton of toolbars and icons and stuff, I need to be able to turn them off. The closer I get to a plain blank window, the happier I'll be. Everything else distracts.

6. I need to be able to set the default font and font size for new documents.

7. I need to be able to save as plain text.

8. Scriptability is a bonus.

Suggestions? Send me email or reply to this message in the discussion group. Thanks!

Update 2:30 PM: The most common recommendation so far is Nisus Writer, followed by AppleWorks and FrameMaker. One person suggested that I could customize Word 98 to make it work the way I want it to. Another suggested a combo of BBEdit and Quark XPress.

What I'm going to do: 1) download a demo of Nisus Writer and 2) try AppleWorks. Those are the contenders.

Update 3:24 PM: It was suggested that I try BBEdit. My response was: "I'm already a BBEdit user. It and Stuffit Expander are the only two apps with aliases on my desktop. BBEdit is the reason I've been able to go the last 5 years without a word processor."

This is cool -- at the bottom of Paul Andrews' latest column in the Union Record, there's a link to his weblog.

Well, sort of cool -- it's not really a link, just the URL. And they spell it as "Web log" rather than "weblog." Oh well.

The Union Record website is a PHP site. PHP is cool, btw. But one thing I find funny about the site is that you can make any article appear in any section. (Not the fault of PHP.)

For instance, just by changing the URL, Paul Andrews' column can appear in the Sports section.

Probably only someone who works on content management systems would get a kick out of discovering minor glitches like this.

The first part of the path /sports/ or /biz/ or whatever controls the template. The ?ID=1785 part identifies an article. It's such a nice, simple system.

At long last, the Linux 2.4 kernel has been released.

As part of some tests I did yesterday, I installed Netscape 6. And you know what? I'm still using it, on both Windows and Macintosh. I was surprised to find that I like it. So far I haven't run across many bugs, nothing more than very minor annoyances. (MSIE has its share of bugs, too.)

I'm using the Modern theme. Netscape is prettier than MSIE. That counts for something, indeed it does, because it's important not to get depressed by the drab flat grayness of MSIE.


Sheila: "They could have named me Leaf Erickson."

The national news is giving me a sense of deja vu -- here we have an economic downturn and guy named Bush as president.

Last time this happened was the early '90s. I was fresh out of college and couldn't get a job much better than minimum wage. Sometimes I couldn't get a job at all. I was poor. The nation was in a recession. The president appeared to be utterly ineffective at dealing with it.

When I say I was poor, I'm not kidding. Sheila and I struggled monthly to put the rent together for our studio apartment -- at just $315, you'd think we wouldn't have had to struggle. There were times when we ate generic macaroni and cheese because Kraft macaroni and cheese was too expensive.

For a while I was afraid of the draft -- I was the perfect age to be cannon fodder in the Gulf War. I still thank providence that this didn't come to pass.

And at the time memories of Iran/Contra were still fresh. I couldn't understand why these men weren't fully prosecuted for failing to uphold their oaths to defend the Constitution. I questioned, and still do question, the patriotism of some of the people involved. Which is utterly harsh, I know. I was taught, and still believe, that patriotism is not just a high virtue but a required attribute of our leaders.

These were rough times. Not as bad as the Depression, not as bad as World War II or Vietnam, no way. Not nearly that bad, not even close. But bad enough for my life to have been permanently marked in some ways.

It's not like Bush was Hoover and Clinton was Roosevelt. No. Except it was like that, to me, because I was there, I lived it that way.


I'm using My UserLand On The Desktop -- and added two new feeds to this site, for Linux and Mac OS X news. The news feeds appear on the home page, on the right.


Over the break I watched a cool movie -- The Crossing, starring Jeff Daniels as George Washington crossing the Delaware.

I had no idea, or had forgotten, in what bad shape the revolutionary army was in. They had had their asses kicked all the way from New York to Valley Forge. Their forces decimated, nearly out of provisions, facing defeat, they could surrender or try to attack the mercenary Hessians in Trenton -- truly a suicide mission against what they called the best soldiers in the world. (The Hessians were bad news, not to be tangled with.)

Washington insisted on crossing the icy Delaware River at night and attacking the Hessians, despite all the good reasons not to. The battle took place the morning after Christmas, when the Hessians were logy from celebrating the holiday.

It worked! And he didn't lose a single soldier.