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Archive for August 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.)

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.


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.

#*!@$# 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?

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.

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.”

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?

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.

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.

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)

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