Thursday, May 31, 23:10 CDT

A couple delayed flights, some standing around in airports, and I'm here.

Back in the land of corn, cows, open fields and gravel roads in mile squares. No road construction, no suburban trash pickup, no strip malls. Bad radio stations and spectacular weather.

Anyway, I'm back. More tomorrow.

p1k3 / 2001 / 5 / 31

Wednesday, May 23, 14:45 CDT

I finished reading One Hundred Years of Solitude (translated, though I think it might be worth trying to read in the original Spanish) early this morning. Life doesn't look quite the same afterwards. Sure, sooner or later things will be pretty much back to normal, but some books, you don't come out of quite the same as you went in.

My parents got home around noon today - my dad had surgery on his shoulder, which means he won't be up to much for a while.

Perhaps I should be sticking around here to help out over the next week. Instead, I'm going to Chicago to help my Aunt get ready to move to Missouri. Which is a fine thing to be doing, I guess. I just need to work on the timing of these things.

I'm listening to American Beauty, a Grateful Dead album I bought after hearing Truckin on the radio and liking it. And actually, this ain't bad. Good background noise, at the least.

Lately, it occurs to me, what a long strange trip it's been...

The yard here is full of big old maple trees. Maple seeds are fascinating things - they grow in pairs, shaped like a sort of wing. When they split apart and take leave of their parent tree, they don't simply drift gently to the ground; they hurtle. Spinning. With wind, they can fly hundreds of feet before plowing into the ground like tiny kamikaze helicopters.

Most years around this time, there're quite a few maple seeds drifting around. This year, there are billions. So many that the trees look as if they're still wearing a coat of dead leaves from last fall. And it's windy. Really, really windy. If you step outside at the right moment, you can see clouds and streams of seeds buzzing away from the trees, actually climbing higher into the sky. Some of them must be covering a quarter mile or better before they finally hit dirt.

Anyway, I'm off to make supper and start a fire in the wood stove. Don't imagine I'll get the chance to update this 'til I get home next week.

p1k3 / 2001 / 5 / 23
tags: topics/reading

Monday, May 21, 20:58 CDT

Ok, I'm back. Not that I was ever gone, exactly, but I'm running a real OS again and can probably update this regularly for a few days ('til I leave for a week on Thursday).

So what's happened that I haven't made mention of? Probably more than I'll ever remember.

My cousin Kylie graduated from high school at Laurel (congrats).

My good friend Ben Kreis, a guy I hung out with for something like a decade before he moved to Colorado a few years ago, dropped the news that he's getting married. I've heard more surprising things, but not often.

Douglas Adams died. Damn.

(How did Newsweek know that before I did?)

Just realized my update script is still very much unfinished. I'll dive back into that again soon, I promise. Just as soon as I finish compiling a 2.4.4 kernel for sound support.

p1k3 / 2001 / 5 / 21

Tuesday, May 15

Linux. The real deal. Why four grand worth of ugly, whirring, power sucking beige boxes really take up all the space in this room. White text on a black background, blinking cursor and a blank editor. Halfway through disc 2 of Physical Graffiti, too hot in here and the modem crackles like some ancient radio...

Old school geek. Yeah.

p1k3 / 2001 / 5 / 15

Wednesday, May 9, 22:23 CDT

A couple of my friends are avid BeOS users. The words die hard advocate might even be applicable. Technically and aesthetically, I know where they're coming from. From everything I've seen, BeOS is an impressive piece of work. I've been planning to install it myself, if only to play with.

Unfortunately, it looks a lot like Be, Inc. is dying - and BeOS, most likely, with it. Scot Hacker sums things up pretty well.

To my mind, the tragedy of the whole thing is that it doesn't have to be this way. Good software doesn't have to die, and shouldn't. No contribution to the sum total of human achievement as monumental as a really good operating system should ever just fade away. (Think about it - What's harder to write? A great novel, or a modern OS that works, let alone works well? Used a Microsoft product lately?)

But then, I guess that's one of the several reasons I run Free Software whenever possible. I feel like open code - open modifiable code - is in some way more alive than any pre-compiled binary dependent for growth upon a single corporate entity. As long as the code is there, there's always hope. No absolute assurance that your favorite Audiovisual Turnip Growth Performance Tracking & Management System for Multics will survive; but at the very least you have the knowledge that you yourself can do something about it if you care enough.

Maybe large chunks of BeOS code will eventually be opened, thus salvaging a lot of great work. I'm not holding my breath, but stranger things have happened. At any rate, I'm coming to the conclusion that while releasing source code is a choice for individual developers and companies to make, there's a moral obligation for people to ensure that the code they write does not simply vanish into oblivion.

I just realized that I can plug another set of speakers into this sound card. This is so cool. Now I need to reinstall some games that do surround sound. I am going to be unstoppable in deathmatch...

Ok, so I'd be unstoppable in deathmatch if I weren't on a #$@!ing modem. (And haven't I been telling myself that for years anyway?)

p1k3 / 2001 / 5 / 9

Tuesday, May 8, 0:50 CDT

well, got the computer set up, mostly. even found a cheap modem to plug in, so I'm connected.

I've been chatting with saalon for the past hour or so, instead of finishing up the redesign on this site (man, does that purple color for that little box over there not work). He's running Mandrake now and in the process of learning Perl. Very cool.

Argh. I need sleep. The rest of the stuff I meant to put here later...

p1k3 / 2001 / 5 / 8

Sunday, May 6

Well, I'm home.

Predictably enough, it rained all day Friday as we were moving stuff out of the dorm room. More stuff than I knew I had to move, not to mention more than I've ever before attempted to stuff in the Buick...

Right about now, I'm trying to figure out where to actually put my computer. The case is about an inch short of being as tall as this desk...

p1k3 / 2001 / 5 / 6

Thursday, May 3, 13:48 CDT

I have a test in a couple of hours, an another at 10:30 tomorrow... And that's it. A year of college, done.

Sitting, as I am, in a windowless computer lab in the painfully mundane depths of the Business building, I can't be sure - but it's probably still raining outside. The sort of rain that comes down all day, not exactly hard, but with enough persistence to thoroughly saturate everything.

It always rains like this right when I'm getting out of school. One of those patterns that tie a set of memories together until you can sort of see it stretching back through your life as a single image... (Aside from last year, but I figure when you're graduating might be an exception of some sort.)

I suppose I'd best wander back through the drizzle to the dorm room and skim my notes before that test. Or sit in a chair in the middle of the room, eating goldfish crackers and playing Physical Graffiti. One of the two.

p1k3 / 2001 / 5 / 3

Wednesday, May 2, 15:49 CDT

So I'm standing around talking to my friend Jesse last night. We're bored, and unlike everyone else on campus, neither of us feels any great need to study for finals.

Want to go to Sioux City, catch a flick?, I ask.

The rain picks up, thunder rumbles ominously overhead, and the general sense of impending atmospheric calamity that's been building all afternoon intensifies.

Sure, he says, I guess..

I've driven through worse storms (just last week, come to think of it), but not often. And I've very rarely seen that much lightning, that close. Probably a good thing we didn't take my car, what with only one windshield wiper working at all.

(The movie, Blow, wasn't bad either. Depressing and maybe a little disjointed, but that'd kind of make sense, given the subject matter.)

Just got an e-mail from my mom. She must be figuring things out reasonably well...

Every time I watch my mom use a computer, I come to the conclusion that computers really are too hard to use in the ways that most people want to use them. And at the same time, most interfaces I've used that try to be easy and intuitive fail miserably at some level - because their capabilities are limited, or they're designed under the assumption that their users are stupid and thus undeserving of real power, or they just really aren't that easy to use...

Maybe we're just making some bad basic assumptions, maybe the whole history of computers and software works against us... Or maybe in a few decades it won't matter, because everyone will have more or less grown up using software, and the whole language of interacting with complex machines will seem to come naturally to people.

At least, I'm pretty sure it all boils down to a kind of language. Maybe the problem is that it's a language that doesn't scale as well as it should. I mean, you can convey meaning and accomplish things with a very limited English vocabulary - that's not necessarily so with a computer. There are a lot of hidden assumptions about what a user knows and can express built into even the simplest, cleanest interfaces.

Or maybe I'm just rambling. Doesn't help that I've been reading Perl books lately. (BTW, Gurn... I have *no* idea about your link checker, at the moment.)

I'd guess you've all heard this by now, but I just noticed that there's going to be a new Babylon 5 TV movie, focusing on the Rangers and possibly leading in to a new series... I so hope this is as good as it should be. The world sorely needs more B5-style television.

Some great lines in this Rough Draft on recent cosmological discoveries... Think I saw it linked while skimming by K5, or perhaps /.. (And ya know what? From here on out, I'm not going to expend overmuch effort to point out where I found a given link, *especially* if it was some hugely visible site I've linked to a billion times before. You see a link, you can assume I found (I refuse to say stole) it somewhere else. That's the nature of the web.) Looks like there's some other good stuff in the archive. I cannot but heartily agree with On the Porch: A Sitting Precedent.

p1k3 / 2001 / 5 / 2

Tuesday, May 1, 19:11 CDT

There's something kind of freeing about suddenly not having a computer in my room.

Maybe it's just the space that's now free on my desk, the huge chunk of wall that used to be hidden behind a 19" monitor, the lack of a constant hum from the cooling fans...

Then again, and more frighteningly, it could be the realization that I suddenly have nothing to do. Really, when I'm not in class, sleeping, or on a computer, what the hell am I doing?

Maybe I'll just quit thinking about that now.

Just read an interesting piece on Squeak. Slightly outdated, I think, but informative.

p1k3 / 2001 / 5 / 1