I guess one thing I like about St. Louis is that it isn’t completely cookie-cutter yet–I can still go to a place called MacArthur’s for a better doughnut than a Krispy Kreme and a much better sandwich than Subway, or to The Concord Grill for a much better hamburger than Applebee’s or TGI Friday’s, or to Fortel’s for the best pizza, period–but St. Louisans themselves have some delightful quirks to make fun of.
I wasted way too much time with this, so I’m passing it along.
Need reason not to buy Adobe products? This oughta do.
One night last week, I had a beer with a good friend. He invited me to join him for dinner; I always learn a lot from him (I hope it’s mutual) and it seemed like he needed to talk, so while I’d already eaten, I joined him for a beer.
Hopefully I can say this without betraying any confidences. There are two people who mean a great deal to him; I know both of these people, so I understand why. In their minds, he let each of them down. In his mind, there wasn’t much he could have done differently; there certainly wasn’t much of anything he could have done better. He did his best, and in these instances, his best wasn’t good enough. In the time since, they’ve let him down. The question is, did he get their best? He doesn’t know. And it hurts.
It always hurts when a friend or someone else you really care about lets you down. When someone you don’t like does something stupid to you, it hurts, but let’s face it. You don’t expect anything else from those kinds of people. What more can they do to you? They continually try to show you what more they can do, but usually it’s not much. It’s lost its impact.
But like Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, who, at the end of a day whose events particularly repulsed him, realized it was his 30th birthday, these last couple of days are significant. Thursday was the holiday known as Maundy Thursday. Some 1,972 years or so ago (no one’s ever precisely pinned down the day) on Thursday night, the most infamous letdown by a friend in history took place. A young Jewish rabbi was praying on a hilltop with his three closest friends trying to keep watch despite total exhaustion. An armed mob of his political enemies ascended that hill, led by another one of the rabbi’s closest friends. Judas Iscariat walked up to the man he’d followed and dedicated his life to for the better part of the past three years and forever tainted a sign of love and respect. With a kiss, he pointed the target out to the mob. The result of that betrayal, of course, was the arrest, trial and execution of Jesus Christ.
But I’m convinced that Judas’ kiss hurt more than the crucifixion. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were nothing more than self-righteous scum who couldn’t stand seeing someone understand the things they didn’t. This was to be expected. And the Romans? Well, what else do you expect from a spineless governor under the thumb of a totalitarian dictator? He didn’t get his office by doing the right thing, after all. But Judas… Judas was capable of so much better. Jesus knew it, and the 11 knew it. They’d all seen him do great things. Those religious leaders were no loss. They were lowlives, doing what lowlives do. Judas showed flashes of brilliance, then he flamed out. The other 11, who were just like him, went on to change the world. Judas could have been one of them. But he chose another path, even though he knew better.
Or maybe the significance of last week means nothing, because to me it seems a sacrilege to compare 11 people who changed the world to a ragtag band of people who keep online journals. Or maybe the awkwardness is perfect, because some of us have been attaching too much importance to it. Maybe that puts it in perspective a little.
At any rate, we’ll never change the world, but for whatever reason, there are people who have high expectations of the crowd known collectively as Daynoters. Maybe it’s because of the difficulty of doing what a Daynoter does–getting up each day and having something to say. It’s hard to write something new every day. And a lot of the Daynoters not only write something every day, but they write something consistently thought-provoking, or entertaining, or informative, or useful, nearly every day. And occasionally, someone writes something that manages to be all five.
It’s hard to do. We all know it’s hard to do. Usually we just settle for writing something, anything, each day. We write our stuff, then we go wander around and see what some of the others have to say. Invariably, there’s a jewel out there somewhere. Someone exceeds expectations. And maybe what they write is something we can relate to, so we feel close to them, even though in most cases it’s someone we’ve never met in person and in many cases it’s someone we’ve never even spoken with on the telephone. Even still, expectations rise.
Most of us are computer professionals or hobbyists, and in this field, wild and hairy problems breed. They’re everywhere. When one of us gets surrounded, we post something to the backchannel mailing list. Invariably, someone’s been there before, seen it, conquered it, and has guidance to offer. Again, expectations rise.
I would argue that in some cases, we may expect more of a fellow daynoter than we would a close friend. I know my friends’ faults. I spend enough time with them that it’s impossible not to know them. I don’t know any of the Daynoters that well. I know Dan Bowman better than any of them, but I don’t know his faults, let alone those of the other 29-some people on the Daynotes mailing list. From where I can see, his biggest fault is drinking too much Pepsi. But he’s the exception. At least I know he has to drink Pepsi. I’ve got some indication the guy’s human. What do I have of these other guys? All I know is they know more than I know, write books that sell more copies than mine do, write for bigger-circulation magazines than I do, get more Web traffic than I do… It’s easy to start thinking of them as larger than life.
And then the talk strays from computers… I like talking about computers, because there’s almost always a right answer, and it can be proven conclusively. If you want to boot off an IDE hard drive, you plug it into IDE0 and set it as master. Period. End of argument. Anyone who disagrees with it goes off and quickly makes a fool of himself. Sure, there are holy wars, like AMD vs. Intel, or Apple vs. 98% of the market. But you can do something even with those arguments. No sane person would use a non-Intel CPU in a mission-critical system? I can respond to that. My Cyrix-based PC was only up to producing a 292-page book. In the end, it turned out that Cyrix CPU was a whole lot more reliable than my wrists were.
When the talk turns to political or social issues, there are few slam dunks. Is the American way of doing things demonstrably better than the European way? The majority of Americans think so. The majority of Europeans do not. And professional politicians, having no answers, frequently fall into logic traps, or, worse, finger-pointing and name-calling and other things no human being over the age of 15 should fall into. We turn away in disgust when politicians do it. And when the world’s problems show up on the Daynotes backchannel, and the great minds can’t slam-dunk them?
Well, it turns out they’re human too. And soon, the same traps come up, and we’re disgusted. But it’s worse than seeing Dick Gephardt roll around on the floor and throw a temper tantrum. We expect that of Dick Gephardt, because we already know he’s a finger-to-the-wind, unintelligent, uncreative individual who can’t think for himself who’s in politics because he’d be a total failure in the real world. He’s not worthy of respect. But then we see people we know, people who’ve earned our respect, reduced to that…?
Sometimes when that happens, we join in. If we agree with them, we try to help them out. If they’re attacking someone we agree with, we lob a grenade.
Or we can get disgusted and ignore it. All of our keyboards do have Delete keys, and a lot of our delete keys are starting to wear out from excessive use these past few days.
Or we can get disgusted and try to stop it. Or we can get disgusted and leave the community.
On Tuesday, the Daynotes.com mailing list shut down to mixed reactions. In some cases, our disgust with one another turned into disgust with the one who would try to exercise authority over us. Personally, I thought it was the only sane thing to do–close things down, let things cool down for a time. That turned out to be the right decision. Reality hit. People started realizing that name-calling wouldn’t solve all the world’s problems, and that a valuable resource was suddenly gone.
I don’t know how many people know this, but I had a run-in with a fellow Daynoter back in January, 2000. You can ask my sister about it, because she was visiting when it happened. She and I lived in the same house for about 18 years, so she’s seen me mad, but never madder than I was that night. I was ready to chuck it all and leave the community then. It was bad enough that I had gender in common with this guy, let alone had my name on the same Web page as his. I didn’t want people to associate him with me. But my sister advised me to sleep on it, say as little as possible, do as little as possible, and sort it out after I’d had time to cool down. I called a friend who knew both of us and got his counsel. With their help, I determined that leaving wouldn’t solve anything. So I didn’t. He and I haven’t spoken since. And that’s fine. We couldn’t resolve our differences, but at least we didn’t let it become a war.
Late on Thursday, the Daynotes.com portal was also shuttered. I didn’t see any point in that measure. It was more a symbolic gesture than anything else, and as far as I can tell, the only thing it accomplished was making a lot of people as mad as I was that night in January 2000. I was mad too. Chris Ward-Johnson and I both published that address as a resource for people to reach us and others like us. Now we look like just another fly-by-night dotcom.
And as soon as the thought had occurred to me that Daynotes.com’s absence might be intentional, rather than just a flipped bit in Tom Syroid’s Apache configuration file, the coup occurred. I had notification in my inbox that I’d been subscribed to the Daynotes mailing list at Bobwalder.com. I had messages in my Daynotes folder–mail from the new backchannel, all thanking Bob for his efforts. Then I had notification that Bob had registered the domain name daynotes.org and he expected it to be active come Monday. In the meantime he offered an alternative portal for people to use…
And the talk on the backchannel? It was mostly like old times. Lots of well-deserved thanks and congratulations headed Bob’s direction. A little patching up. And some traffic was exactly like old times. Jonathan Hassell wrote in asking for recommendations for a hotel in New York. Then I made a rare appearance, asking my cohorts across the Atlantic whether Murphy’s Law meant the same thing there as it does here, because I didn’t know and I wanted to invoke it in the Shopper UK article I was writing yesterday. The result? Jon got hotel advice, and I got a brief, “Well, over here it means ‘anything that can go wrong will go wrong…'” from the Good Dr. K.
~Mail follows today’s post~
Optimizing Windows is half price at Amazon.com. I questioned whether that might mean we’re nearing the end of the line, but that seems not to be the case. The paperback edition of Robert Lutz’s business book about the transformation of Chrysler in the late 1980s, Guts, is also half-price. I know that book’s not going out of print yet. So Amazon must be running some kind of holiday promotion on paperbacks.
What’s Optimizing Windows all about? My premise is that no PC built in the last three years or so is truly obsolete. You’ve got a pile of resources there, and Windows probably isn’t using them wisely. I argue that you need to make your computer work smarter, before you make it work harder, and I show you how. (Contrary to what one person asked me, it’s not a book about bird feeders.)
For $12.47, you can definitely squeeze another year out of that old clunker (or add some more zip to your new hot rod). This is the book I needed but couldn’t find when I was faced with the challenge of managing a fleet of three-year-old PCs, well past obsolesence, but with no funds to replace them. The three-year-old PCs of today are much better than they were in 1997.
So if you’ve been waiting to pick up Optimizing Windows, this is a good time to do it.
That’s enough attempt at marketing for one day. Well, wait, one more thing. Here’s a review by popular Canadian syndicated columnist Sandy McMurray.
Presidential questions. Chris Miller, the production editor at Computer Shopper UK, wrote in with some questions that really made me sit down and think about the election. I think this bears repeating and I have little else to say, so here goes.
Incidentally… isn’t it worth campaigning for electoral justice when (a) it’s looking like the candidate with more votes will lose, (b) there’s the distinct whiff of corruption in Jeb’s Florida, and (c) the man you say should win is a murderer of innocent men and the mentally disabled?
Just a thought, I’m sure they know what they’re doing
To which I responded:
I’m sure we’re giving you plenty of laughs across the Big Pond with our election. My reaction to your questions…
a. This isn’t the first time this has happened. It doesn’t happen often–the other time was in 1888, when Grover Cleveland lost to Benjamin Harrison despite winning the popular vote. The United States is a republic, not a true democracy. George W. Bush did win the larger number of states, and a much larger geographic area. Al Gore’s support is very much concentrated along each coast and mostly in metropolitan areas. There’s no question that Bush could have won the popular vote. But politicians care about electoral votes, rather than the popular vote, and adjust their game plan accordingly. (Both candidates garnered far more votes than Bill Clinton ever did.)
b. There are questionable acts in Florida from both sides. Statisticians have questioned the likelihood of Gore gaining the number of votes he has. It’s very easy to steal a close election, and both parties have done it before in the past. This is the first time a presidential election has been this closely contested, however. There’ve been opportunities in the past–Gerald Ford in 1976 and Richard Nixon in 1960 are the most notable recent examples. For various reasons, they didn’t contest. Republicans filling out missing information on requests for absentee ballots (not, as widely reported, on the ballots themselves–that didn’t happen) is questionable, but even Gore himself said every vote should be counted. (I think he really means “every vote for me should be counted,” but that’s not what he said, and no one ever put Al Gore in charge of this election. We’re a republic, not a dictatorship.)
But the alleged “mob” Gore speaks of was about 30 well-dressed people whose lone demand was that the press be let in to observe recounting procedures. If everything going on behind those doors was free and clear, why were they afraid to let the press in? Why did they feel the need to try to paint this group of protesters as a mob?
Meanwhile, there was a case, not widely reported, in Washington of a Gore supporter punching a 13-year-old boy in the stomach for carrying an anti-Gore sign. No one in the group of Gore supporters pointed out the perpetrator to police.
c. The death penalty is one of the few protections citizens have against cruel and unusual crimes. Not all states have it. Bush is more of a death penalty hawk than some governors, but the citizens of Texas were the ones who put that law on the books. Bush is simply the final appeal for criminals who have been tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death. He’s not the jury, he’s not the executioner, nor is he the judge who does the sentencing.
But I think my greatest lament is there was a time when the two major presidential candidates and parties trusted one another enough to politely step aside and transfer power. They did not truly believe that the other party, or at least one politician, could destroy the country in 2, 4, or 6 years (be they a representative, president, or senator). History has proven that. We have plenty of infamous presidents who were caught breaking the law or doing (or trying to do) things of questionable legality under the Constitution: Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses Grant, Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton… None of them destroyed the country. Some of them changed it very dramatically. But Harding may have been the most corrupt of the bunch (at least his administration was), and no one’s ever heard of him today.
The president has more power than the Queen, certainly, but the president is a figurehead. Without Congressional support, they can’t do much of anything. The overwhelming majority of US citizens know that, and would rather see this election resolved quickly than to see the fight go on. Gore’s support is eroding by the day, if not by the hour.
I believe Gore is mostly interested in being president, and gives indications he seems to believe the presidency is his birthright. The best thing for him to do would have been to go home, then run again in four years. He got more votes this year than Bill Clinton did either time he ran (as did Bush). Usually, a losing presidential candidate’s career is over, but not always. Richard Nixon ran again in 1968 after losing a close (but not this close) race in 1960, and won. Grover Cleveland won the presidency in 1884, lost his 1888 re-election bid (but won the popular vote–a parallel Gore should have noticed), then won four years later when he ran again. Gore probably stood a better chance of defeating Bush in 2004 than any other Democrat would, with the possible exception of Dick Gephardt, who won’t run anyway until he gets his chance to be Speaker of the House. The US economy isn’t likely to sustain its current levels because our booming economy is largely due to people spending more than they make and racking up debt and that has to slow down, and it won’t be Bush’s fault, but he’ll take the fall, so the same thing that happened to his dad could very easily happen to him. Gore should have cut his losses and gone home, especially once this election reached the point where there was no legal precedent to overturn it.
These are my thoughts, based on the year and a half or so I spent as a part-time political reporter, in addition to what I’ve picked up from friends who are political activists (both conservative and liberal), and from my knowledge of US history (a subject on which most USers are woefully deficient). I’m certainly more conservative than Gore, and that colors my opinion, but eight years of Clinton have proven to me that my history teachers were right–even given eight years in office, no president is likely to destory this country. There is no historical precedence for it. Now, if we are now on a slippery slope after a century of mostly questionable presidents, maybe one will be able to in the near future. I know Bush won’t destroy us and I’m pretty sure Gore couldn’t either, at least not with a Republican-controlled or evenly divided Congress.
Discussions have been posted. Click the skull below, or click here.
From: “Tom Brill” <email@example.com>
Subject: good modems
Love your column. Ordered your book. Last Friday you mentioned that Zoom had a quality modem. Do you remember the model? Is it true that all external modems are non Win-modems?
The Zoom 2920 was the internal PCI controller-based modem I was referring to. I’ve had great luck with Lucent-based modems and Zoom is one of the few remaining reputable modem manufacturers out there.
Zoom has a nice configurator at http://www.zoom.com/modemsna.html where you can find a modem to meet your needs. To avoid getting a Winmodem, specify Unix or Linux compatibility, even if you intend to use it with Windows, and look for the words “controller based”–most modem makers will tout that as a feature these days and throw in buzzwords like “performance” and “enhanced” and “speed.”
US Robotics has a chart at http://www.usrobotics.com/products/home/compare-home.asp that serves a similar purpose. The consumer-oriented US Robotics Performance Pro modem (3CP5610A) also looks good. Not sure if USR is still developing and using their own chipsets or if they’ve gone to Lucent and Rockwell chipsets as a cost-saving measure.
I know of no external Winmodems, but they’re not a technical impossibility. I doubt we’ll ever see serial (RS-232) Winmodems, but USB Winmodems would be less of a surprise. I know of none, and it kind of defeats the purpose, but the words “no external modems are Winmodems” make me nervous. If you want to be really safe now and in the future, look for DOS and Linux compatibility even if you’re buying an external.
From: Al Hedstrom
Subject: The Optimizing Book
Yes, Amazon has it on sale, but they make up for it on their shipping. I did a comparison for final cost with shipping and tax and BookPool is still cheaper (by 30 cents).
Just thought you’d like to know.
BTW, I think your notes today were excellent. I’ve followed your column for a few years now, but your comments on American politics were right on the money.
Figures. I hate it when companies lower their prices but then jack their shipping rates up to compensate. Especially when it ruins my marketing schpiel. In my day, I’ll tell you, people were honest and didn’t do things like–oh. Wait a minute. I’m 25. This is my day. Were people ever honest?
I guess the workaround is to order $100 worth of stuff so you can get the free shipping. Or order from Bookpool.
And thanks for the compliments on my soapboxing, both here and on your site. In response to your comments there, back when I was writing for newspapers, you know what editors did when I tried to write like that? They’d sprinkle their agenda into it, so I looked like a left-wing nut by the time the thing was finished. Of course, it was my name on it, not theirs. So I had to turn into a right-wing nut in the hopes that they’d miss a couple of right-wing nuggets and we’d have a somewhat balanced perspective. So I started writing about technology, in hopes that it’d all sail over the editors’ heads and they’d leave it alone. They found ways to mess that up too. So I said screw it, I’ll get a job fixing computers instead because at least it pays better.
And that’s why I don’t stop talking about Shopper UK. An editor’s job is to make sure the reporter/writer did his/her job and that the story doesn’t break any laws. But there aren’t many of those out there.
From: “Bruce Edwards” <Bruce@nospam.BruceEdwards.com>
Subject: The Election
Enjoyed reading your journal today and appreciate your political view point. Another item some folks seem to forget (and I have not read the Texas statutes to verify this, but this is what has been reported) is that the governor of Texas can not stay an execution permanently or pardon someone condemned to die. What he can do is give them a 30 day reprieve. That, of course, does not change the valid point that the execution of those guilty of terrible crimes should be done in the most solemn manner.
On a slightly different but related subject – if you find the time, I’d really appreciate your critique of my online journal and your comments on any of the topics discussed if they interest you. I’ve been mostly thinking about the election lately and that really shows in the last four weeks or so but there are other topics addressed.
Well, I hope you have a great weekend. I look forward to your continued journal updates.
Bruce W. Edwards www.BruceEdwards.com/journal
Thanks. I’ll try to head your direction. I’m not the most well-traveled Daynoter due to my infamous wrists, but I’ll see what I can do. Not sure when I’ll fire off something like Saturday’s or Friday’s again (I
thought Friday’s late update was the better piece, which shows what I know), but I try to make it worth everyone’s while to come around.
There are reports of problems with the AMD 760 chipset. The Register reported this week that Gigabyte ran into problems with its AMD 760 design, and as a result there’d be a delay in the release of 760-based boards. AMD and Gigabyte are now denying this and saying there’ll be 760-based systems in time for Christmas. The Register seems to get it right (and before most others) more often than not, so this is probably a story to watch. Problems with the 760 aren’t inconceivable, but then again AMD is really on a roll lately.
Five bad Web trends. I think John Dvorak pretty much has it right here.
I think I need to do some cleanup to the left. People don’t want a portal from me, they want questions and answers and useful tidbits, and if I can manage to be entertaining occasionally that helps too. I’ll leave the “news from around the Web” to others. This isn’t a portal but I’ve probably got more stuff there to the left than I need. (The book cover stays; this is, indirectly, an advertisement for the book. I notice when I’m keeping up my notes, book sales are about double what they are when I’m not.)
On to Dvorak’s other points: I’m not for sale, nor do I lock you into frames, nor do I plan to go anywhere. Traffic isn’t an issue now either; I run maybe 1,000 hits a week. So I go 4-for-5. Not bad but I want better.
I wonder how many will fall for this Internet hoax? One of my coworkers received e-mail to the following effect:
Due to an expected unusually high turnout this year, election day will be split into two days. Republicans will vote on Nov. 7. Democrats and independents will vote on Nov. 8.
I don’t know where that leaves Libertarians and Greens and Reforms. This is the biggest load of bull ever (and not just for that reason), but it’s curious. One could argue that this mail will do no harm, since if anyone who’d fall for that line is probably too ill-informed to have any business voting anyway, but…
I finally got my registration card in the mail today, so I finally get to go vote against Dick Gephardt next week. I can’t wait. (One of the best things about living in South St. Louis is that every two years you get to tell Dick Gephardt he should retire.)
And the ACLU says it’s OK to sell your vote… As long as you’re just swapping Gore votes for Nader votes. Hey, it’s the ACLU. This needs no comment from me.