Thursday, August 31, 2006

Americans, guard your internet

Hmmm. As an editor, I'm a stickler for style - and, if I may lay aside modesty for a moment, I was a driving force of Internet stylebooks in the early days of the Web. There weren't many editors in the early to mid 1990s, and no established style at all until Wired put something down in electrons. I've stuck with my style, and I believe that headline above is the first time I've intentionally written "internet" without a capital letter. I do that because I mean the American portion of the capitalized global Internet.

But I digress.

American bandwidth providers and the politicians who nibble at their pockets have pushed for laws to promote tiered Internet traffic. To sum up what that means in one sentence, such a law would allow companies like AT&T to favour traffic from some Web sites over others, and to charge differing rates for or even restrict access to different services.

Right now, the Internet more or less works with Net neutrality, even in the US. All Web traffic is equal to all other Web traffic. Some inequalities exist among different types of traffic - say, Web and VoIP - or for security concerns, but on the whole, everyone can get to everything equally.

Wikipedia discusses the situation in its Net Neutrality article.

So far, I've written what amounts to a dull Netsurfer Digest survey article - here comes the pizzazz!

Everyday users of the Web should favour Net neutrality. Eclectic folks with esoteric Web sites really should favour Net neutrality. I have a site like that. You might. Leslie Hall does. So do Peter Pan, and the Tron guy.

We are the Web, people. We Are the Web.

(Leslie, Peter, and Tron guy all previously featured in NSD. Of course.)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Health corrections

April, I mentioned my shoulder pain, and that I didn't know how it started. The doctor had diagnosed an impingment based on the pain, stiffness, and history.

Not long after, what might be the genesis of the problem occurred to me. I was playing hockey last fall, and I remember something happening. What exactly happened, I don't know - I may have collided with someone - but I explicitly remember the aftermath. I skated off the ice with a numb arm. On the bench, I tried to drop my stick, but my hand wouldn't work. My fingers would not uncurl from around the stick, not at all. I had to use my left hand to knock the stick out out of my paralyzed right hand, then shook off the right gauntlet.

It hurt for a few minutes, but I was back on after missing maybe one shift, maybe none. There was no pain but as I related in the April post, the soreness grew worse as the months passed.

The Celebrex worked OK, but only as long as I kept taking them. As a result, I sought out a local orthopod, who saw me today. Armed with the knowledge above, he had a different diagnosis. He thinks I subluxed (a partial dislocation) my shoulder on the ice, and that it popped back in naturally. He's prescribed physiotherapy to strengthen the joint - no needles, and a follow-up in six weeks.

As far as my eyes go, my new optometrist told me last week that I'm a marvelous candidate for hard contact lenses. He tried a sample on me and the visual aggravation almost completely disappeared as the lens corrected my keratoconus. I've ordered a pair. There goes the sexy intellectual professor look. It's back to my plain old smoldering blue eyes.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


I missed notifying the world that this blog has been in existence for a year on its anniversary, August 9.

But August 9 - give or take a day - also marks the tenth anniversary of my presence in WarBirds.

In August 1996, I attended ONE ISPCON in San Francisco to look for fodder for Netsurfer Digest. Cisco had a booth with WarBirds, because ICI used Cisco routers at WarBirds HQ. The Cisco folks had shirts to give away to anyone who scored a kill.

I had a long history with flight sims, from the wire-frame Fokker Triplane on the original Macs to Falcon to Red Baron. I wanted to test just how Sierra Hotel I was. Every other plane in the sky was a human at his own computer. Wow!

I grabbed the stick. The Cisco account started me at altitude in a P-38J. I tooled around briefly and spotted a furball below. I dove through it, shooting at anything that got in my way, and climbed out the other side after my pass. The guy at the booth told me I got a kill, which was news to me - I hadn't thought I'd hit anything. I still have that shirt, although it's a bit more snug than it used to be.

I raised an eyebrow at the Cisco guy and commented on how marvelous it was, but that it probably didn't run on Macs. "Oh, no," said Cisco guy, "there's a Mac version."

I downloaded it that night. Call signs were limited to four letters at that time, and I had to think of one for my account. I thought of Puck, which was a brief nickname bestowed upon me for my Strat-o-Matic Fanatics intramural softball team. It didn't hit home with much oomph, so I kept looking. I'd been using "Webster" as a nickname in CompuServe chat rooms. I shortened it to Webs, which also seemed to apply to my job as a professional netsurfer.

Thus Webs was born, a couple of weeks more than ten years ago today, in the game as all-lower-case webs. Later on, when WarBirds expanded to six-letter call signs, I became -webs-. When the WarBirds Trainer Corps accepted me as a member, I earned my trainer's equal-sign wings, like so: =webs=.

I haven't flown very much in the last 18 months because the game has advanced beyond my computer's ability to render it quickly enough, so I'm a trainer on leave of absence - but I keep my hand in outside the game proper. I skin the game's aircraft once in a while. Here's one:

Could you tell that was mine? Here's another:

That's Neville Duke, if that means something to you.

I told my WarBirds origins story to neighbour, screenwriter, and fellow airplane geek Shane Simmons, who met me for coffee and a chat this afternoon. Folks have been trying to set us up on a date forever. We're similar souls. His wife is good friends with my father's wife's daughter (I feel funny calling her a step-sister since we were independent adults when our parents married). His backyard touches the backyard of a cousin of mine. I went to high school with his next-door neighbour. He lives two blocks away. We should have met years ago.

Shane gave me some good advice on finding work in Canadian animation. Other than that, we clued each other in on good airplane movies, told good airplane stories, and commiserated (why does that have two Ms?) over "Pearl Harbor".

So now, in addition to spec features, I have animation to get to work on.

Just not this week.

Monday, August 28, 2006

#*!@$# printers!

I've got a report to print out for Reader's Digest (Canada). I hand in my work in hard copy because that's the way it's done. Heck, when I was last working in that office, the e-mail package of choice was Lotus Notes.

I look forward to handing in my reports because it gets me out of the house and into downtown Montreal, which is always a nice place to be in late spring, summer, and early fall.

We have two printers, both Epsons. Mine is three-in-one printer/scanner/copier, a gift from my generous father. It scans beautifully, but I don't print enough to keep the ink from drying up - and if I did, a laser printer would be more economical. I usually use my wife's printer, which is an older Epson Stylus Color 640 with cheaper ink. Between us, we use it enough to keep the ink from drying out.

Today, I tried to print out a report. I hadn't looked, and the printer ran through the four remaining pages. I refilled it, hit the form-feed button, and the first page of the new sheaf jammed the printer. I unjammed it, but now the printer is printing only one or two rows of dots and dashes per page.

Is it crying for help in machine Morse code? It better be. I'm about to hit it with a sledgehammer. Nothing else will stop it.

My print jobs don't show up in the queue. When I turn the printer off, it will wait mischievously until it comes back on and then starts spitting out dots and dashes again. Nothing I do will correct the printer's misbehaviour. In my youth, I'd grab the opportunity to learn how to troubleshoot this. In my grumpy middle age, the only things I clench are my teeth. Any ideas out there?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Blogroll changes

I finally got off my duff (which is extremely lightly clad at the moment, by the way - and come to think of it, I'm actually still on it, technically). A few sites on the blogroll have entered cold storage for lack of posting, but that clears some room for new tenants.

Goodbye, Konrad and Velociraptors and a long overdue hello to several scribes, including Mystery Man (a fellow TriggerStreeter) and a number of other anonymous exhibitionists. There's also Brit Andy Coughlan, who makes up for his forthright identity with the clever blog title of Screenwriting and Filmmaking Blog.

All the entries are full of good stuff and if they trend any way, it is to the writing aspect: dialogue, subtext, etc. Perhaps I'm compensating for my own lack of progress. All the kids have been spending all day at home for the last two weeks and I find it hard to concentrate on work. Most of my time has had to go to paid freelance work and preparation for the coming semester. And reading far too many blogs.

This afternoon, I'm off to the big DUBB wedding at which Giz, the lead singer, will marry Clement, the tromboner (that can't be right) and bandleader. The bandleader plays the trombone, that is - it's not a big wedding because she's marrying two guys.

Bonus one-minute movie review:

I was all set to get to bed at a reasonable hour when "Mail Order Wife" came on the tube. It's a documentary, sort of, of a New York City doorman who orders a woman from Burma. If you've seen it or know about it, you know what I'm not revealing. If you haven't, it's worth 92 minutes of your time.

What was instructive about the film for me is that none of the people in the dark comedy come off as positive, with the exception of the translator. That works, at least it does for me. It's a sign that "Book of Trey" or whatever I'm calling it this month can work, too.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog

In which he reviews "Serpentes on a Shippe!"
"Thus cam the snakes in the coache seccioun of the vessel, and ther was much noyse and screminge and manye EXPENDABLES weren eten and in the naughtye partes ybitten."

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Internet is not only for porn

Some stories hit you with the power of new media. This is one.

Members of the Web community review experiences for each other. It's a shared hive-mind in which neurons fire messages back and forth.

Who'd stay or even have heard of Gassime's Hotel Europa in Florence without the Web? Or of the Donna Rosa Ristorante in Montepertuso, also in Italy? Because netsurfers have enjoyed and recommend these venues, Web-savvy travellers make a point to go there.

It's little things like these recommendations, bringing the obscure niches to a wider audience - which, not coincidentally, was what Netsurfer Digest was all about - that make the Web such a powerful public tool.

Bonus complaint of the day:

Is anybody else as ticked off as I am over Blogger's new log-in process? Google has associated Blogger accounts with Google accounts, and now I have to log in with my Google address, then log in to Blogger's new beta service, get rejected as a beta applicant, then go to my Blogger dashboard page. Am I missing something? Is there an easier way?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Interjection of a new era

Changes to the blogroll will have to wait. I'm in Cornwall, with friends, and I've hit a dull spot in the day. Fortunately, there's a wireless network here and I brought my laptop. Just as fortunately, our friends believe using a family member's first name as a WEP key is secure. Not that they wouldn't have let me log on regardless, but there's this additional frisson of delight brought on by my l33t haxx0r skillz.

On to the meat....

Until this year, the promise of Web computing had never really come to fruition as far as mundane desktop tasks go. Database access and file archiving were successes, as was whiteboard collaboration to a lesser degree, but until Google released Google Spreadsheets there had been no clear competitor for Microsoft Office apps. Google Spreadsheets lets you create and collaborate in spreadsheets, and I can't say how good it is because Excel was and is a superb product, and one I use to the exclusion of all other spreadsheets.

Microsoft Word, however, has its bloat and security flaws, and Google has just produced Writely to compete with it. Will it fly? Who knows? But it's worth playing with. I bet it doesn't hide chunks of previous documents and private info like Microsoft Word docs can.

I have more nifty Web stuff to relate, but it's home on my desktop. I'll cover that next.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Cheap post was down for a while today, from 5:00 to 16:48 Eastern Time according to my site visitor stats.

I keep tabs on my stats, and I'm shocked so many people read me. Netsurfer Digest at its peak had more than 110,000 readers, but a wide variety of folks found that little e-zine useful.

In addition to the ego massage, I also keep tabs on how people find me. I'm happy to report that the 101 blog ranks first at Google for "MLB statistics corrections" (take that CBS Sportsline!) and it's also first for "donkey chasing pooping man". Yeah! It's holding tight at #3 for "early senility", an old favourite. Even more perplexing is how 101 ranks seventh for "house spoilers", which means spoilers about the series "House" and not a latest fad in ricer home furnishings.

The search for "house spoilers" is the top search of those that lead netsurfers to my little corner of the blogosphere, with an 8% share of all such searches. The next leading search in terms of referrals is "McFatridge 101", due to a fan in the UK who found 101 with a search for McFatridge on August 15 and has since been reading just about everything I've written. Welcome,, hooo!

So much for that topic. Next, I will make some long overdue changes to the blogroll and discuss those. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 14, 2006

My daily chuckle

My co-writer Nearmiss sent me some news that made me chuckle out loud. Last I heard in late spring, Marior had shot unsalvageable footage in the production of our "Time and Space" short. Turns out, he's not done.

He wants to finish all shooting, like a seventh-hour marathoner determined to cross the finish line. He has three scenes left to shoot, and although he had it scheduled it ages ago, the lead actor walked away. So he's going to try to finish with a look-alike. And, perhaps, continue to make me laugh.

I told Nearmiss we should next collaborate on a new script: "The Making of Time and Space". She'd been thinking the same thing. Maybe we will. I like working with her. We complement each others strengths.

I have a writer's group meeting tonight. And I need to call Robert the director and pro screenwriter/airplane buff/practical next-door neighbour Shane for a meeting. Shane and I have two degrees of separation three ways: through Alex; through my evil step-sister Victoria; and through Kathy, Shane's wife.

Bonus Irrational League update:

I watched last night's Greg Maddux gem on ESPN. I don't know how he does it. Of course, sometimes he doesn't.... My pitching started to wake up last week, with five wins, three saves, a WHIP of 1.00 and an ERA of 2.74. That leaves me solidly in third, three points back of Frank in first. I'm not hopeful of moving up, but I am confident I can hold a show in the money.

.293 batting average (1st)
208 HR (2nd)
776 RBI (1st)
82 SB (tied 9th)
4.57 ERA (7th)
1.35 WHIP (4th)
58 wins (3rd)
22 saves (6th)

Friday, August 11, 2006


While reading AGW last night (see link in masthead to right), a post turned me onto Hard Gay videos at YouTube.

I was in bed with my laptop and I was laughing so hard, I was surprised that I didn't wake the wife.

If you're gay with no sense of humour, you won't like Hard Gay. Nor will you if you find flamboyant homosexuality disturbing. Otherwise, bust a gut. He's your everyday Japanese leather boy with a heart of gold. Try not to hurt his HGP (Hard Gay Pride).

I first watched the ramen shop video, so I'll introduce you to that first as well:

I've embedded this clip from YouTube, and you can find other clips there, but I prefer the more comprehensive Bakafish site with even more videos and even translator's notes.

Once you've had your fill, you can read the story of the man behind the sunglasses at Wikipedia. But watch the videos first. Hooo!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

How to lose newspaper readers

Newspapers are having a rough go as readers increasingly look to the Web for news. Newspapers have to focus on strengths to keep their readers. That means original reporting and local reporting.

My local paper in Montreal is the Gazette - at least, it's the major English paper. It relies on newswire reports for international news, which can be ignored if you've already read that online. With its columns and original reporting on local news, the paper does an adequate job. Outside of that, the paper offers little of value. Outside of that, any paper without foreign correspondents of its own offers little of value.

In the business section today (p. B7), the paper had an article on research into work-at-home types, sponsored by SonicWALL, and it directed readers to the SonicWALL Web site for further info.

The article is based on a SonicWALL press release from March 1, 2006. That's more than five months ago, and the information has already been relayed elsewhere online and in the traditional press.

How does printing this article in the Gazette add value? The article was written by a Gazette reporter, Mike King, and not a wire service, but there's no local angle. At least one part of it is just plain wrong. The workers were not "recently surveyed" - the survey ran at the end of 2005. When did the interview with the SonicWALL VP take place, then? When did King write the article?

This is shoddy journalism. There's a better use for the column inches, such as the article in the same section on the relative values of traditional phone lines versus Internet-based phone services in power blackouts. That's topical and important, and it's in the business section because former Bell subscribers are returning in the wake of last week's thunderstorm.

It's this sort of lazy editorship and reporting that will continue to cost a newspaper its readers. Don't replicate non-local online press-release fodder, especially if it's five months old.

For the record, as a work-at-home type who has read the SonicWALL press release: no comment.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


There's not much to blog about recently. I continue to do research fror Alex and for Reader's Digest. I will have to talk to Jeff Rosenthal, which is a lot more fun than the paranormal. He's a lot like me, except smarter and more industrious and taller.

I devote three classes of JOUR 319 (Computerized Data Accessing) to teaching innumerate journalism students how to understand statistics and graphs. Rosenthal is a professor of statistics who often writes and teaches for the lay audience, and some of his ideas are worth stealing. I love his use of playing cards to demonstrate the importance of understanding P in statistics.

In spec work, I'm up to page 15 of "The Book of Trey", the equivalent of page 4 in the treatment. That ratio, which I just looked at for the first time, heartens me. It's more or less just right for a 33-page treatment, maybe a bit long at 123 pages. That will drop with a polish. The writing is going smoothly. The only annoying thing is that I'm having trouble with maintaining voice. It's frustrating, but again is something I can easily fix on a polish.

Oh, "Sheep's End" won't win the Nicholl this year. Shocking.

I have continued collating documents left over from my summer 2000 trip to the IDF archives and I discovered I have complete flight records for 101 Squadron from August 8 to December 31, 1948. That's cool, but it's the period from May to July that I'd really like to have. The flight records shed no light on the previously mentioned dust-up at Tel Aviv, unfortunately. The squadron's only flights on the morning of September 29 were a local Piper Cub with one passenger doing circuits and two flights by Spitfire D-130, a test hop and a photo recon of the area near Dan.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Supplemental nuggets

Nugget A: The DNS problem has finally sorted itself out. In my research to find out what exactly was wrong, I found a few people who had similar issues with other Web sites. I never pinpointed the problem, but I can let go.

Nugget B: I did indeed load those two floppy disks last weekend. One was, as I presumed, the English manuscript of Boris Senior's autobiography. The other disk had two research papers by Avi Cohen, in Hebrew, one on the Avia S-199 and another on the undercover agents, often Machal (foreign volunteers), who built Israel's air force.

I would not have been surprised had the floppies been unreadable, but they're fine. Not bad for six-year-old fragile media.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Nugget 1: There's a DNS issue out there. Many but not all Videotron users cannot access with the domain name, but the IP address-based URL works fine, as does FTP. I myself can get to every other site I've tried, and Elvi can get to the domain name from her office. Traffic to the 101 blog seems unaffected elsewhere. This has been going on close to two days.

I've heard of other people having trouble with other sites as well. I suspect that there's a significant DNS problem at one of the core DNS routers, and that's what Videotron tech support tells me, but I can't prove anything. If so, a fix should propagate through the DNS network soon.

Nugget 2: I finally got to write some yesterday and finished the first seven pages on the first draft of "By the Book", which I think I will retitle "The Book of Trey".

Nugget 3: The man called "Gefen" in the 101 Squadron letter of apology I posted below is Aaron Finkel. For at least part of his service, he told me, he went by the Hebrew name Aharon Gefen. Gefen means grapevine, as in "boray pri hagefen" (creator of the fruit of the grapevine), part of the Jewish prayer of alcoholic consumption. You can't make this stuff up.

Nugget 4: Brian Chersky sent me photos of his 3/4-scale T-51 (P-51D replica). He admits he "took a few liberties" with the paint job and oversexed it a bit, but it's still a sweet Mustang.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The real comment

One of the things that many screenwriting experts - including Alex in his books - advise is that you have to decipher the real meaning of story notes. If a reader says a part of a story doesn't work for Reason A, you have to look and see if Reason B is maybe the problem. Accept the fact that something may be wrong, but look deeper for why.

Dave Michaels a few days ago posted on his blog about people who say there's nothing on TV. I've heard the same from friends of mine, and I think this complaint deserves that old notes treatment.

Subjectively, and perhaps objectively, you can argue that we're in a golden age of television. Certainly drama is at its historical peak, with shows like "The Sopranos", "Deadwood", and "House". We have novelties like "Lost", too. You could argue that we're in a sitcom lull - for every "Scrubs", there's a waste of time like "According to Jim". Some viewers love reality shows; for others, reality shows uselessly take up space. Watch them or don't, but viewers can ignore reality TV, and the genre is not a direct part of the equation.

There's little question that there is good television on TV, even on the standard networks. So what is the real meaning behind the comment that there's nothing on?

I think the real comment is "I can't find anything on TV."

This isn't the '80s, when you knew what was on NBC every Thursday night. These days, shows switch days and times on whims. "American Idol" is on? OK, Fox's schedule gets flushed to slot it in on a daily basis. If you don't watch "American Idol" and the networks promos during the show, how will you know that your favourite show has moved to Wednesdays? The instability of network schedules keeps us from findng and sticking with the shows we think are good.

A related problem is the sheer volume of television. You can lose a show in the modern world's sea of channels just as you can lose it in a sea of scheduling changes. My DirecTV has 27 slots in its turbo menu. Nine go to my kids. Five go to sports channels. That leaves 13 channels for movies, specialty channels, and standard networks. That's fewer channels than I get with my basic cable. If I want to cruise more channels, I have to wade into the DirecTV tide, and good luck to me finding something.

Now, one other possible reason for the complaint is that people miss having a selection of funny sitcoms. That's a legit whine. But the scheduling and channel surplus problems are real, and may explain the popularity of TiVo and other DVRs. A brand new world is evolving out there.

Bonus fantasy baseball update:

I had some trades on the table before our trading deadline, but no one bit. I offered Brian McCann for a closer, Andruw Jones for Juan Pierre and two closers, and Scott Hatteberg for David Eckstein. Ah, well. I can probably finish in the money, but first place is a long shot. I picked up a closer, Francisco "CoCo" Cordero, in the add/drop but his stats will maintain my status quo and not gain me points.

My pitching was horrible last week, and my ERA climbed. It's really gotta drop. On the bright side, the MLB trades will work out well for me. Hector Luna and Todd Walker will get more playing time and Greg Maddux will have better stats in LA than he did in Chicago. Odalis Perez is starting again, too, and that will add valuable wins. For now, I have 53 points, good for third place.

.292 batting average (1st)
188 HR (2nd)
710 RBI (1st)
75 SB (tied 9th)
4.79 ERA (7th)
1.39 WHIP (4th)
50 wins (tied 5th)
17 saves (6th)