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I know that this is not goodbye

I just heard a name I didn’t expect to ever hear again, because it had been almost 15 years since I last heard it. And in this case it wasn’t good news.
The name was that of a classmate from grade school. His name was Geoff. His kid brother, Danny, was getting married this past weekend. After the rehearsal dinner, Danny and his two brothers and four friends piled into a Jeep CJ5 and went driving around in the boonies in the dark. What they thought was a clearing in the trees turned out to be a 30-foot cliff.Read More »I know that this is not goodbye

Reaching out to my brothers, locally and far away

I’m tired. I got home from work at arbout 4:45 and immediately started writing up a study for Friday night. I had about an hour before I really needed to leave… Well, at 6:15, I mostly had the study written. I’m GenX to the bone.
The study went well. We split into two groups and I had one of my partners in crime, Jon Schmidt, take the other one. He muddled through my notes. Since the study could go in a lot of different directions (we talked about generational sins and demonic influence–yes, I am a sucker for controversy) I literally put together twice as much as we needed, so we’d be able to go either direction. I could tell from hearing Jon that he indeed went a very different direction than I did. But both went well.Read More »Reaching out to my brothers, locally and far away

Getting in touch with my feminine side

Soon after I moved back to St. Louis, Gatermann and I came up with a weird ritual for Friday and/or Saturday nights. Come Feb. 1999, I started writing my first book, which was a full-time job on top of the full-time job I already had, so my brain was usually totally fried after a week of troubleshooting Macintoshes for 40 hours and spelunking in Windows configuration files and writing about my findings for another 35-50 hours.
Sometimes our buddy Tim Coleman was involved too; it just depended on whether he had to work on a given night.

First, we’d go rent a movie, almost always an old Peter Sellers movie. Tom can keep the Pink Panther series straight; being oh-so dark and cynical, my faves are, of course, Dr. Strangelove, the classic comedy on nuclear war, and Being There, which is a very cynical take on what it takes to succeed in Washington. If you haven’t seen it, I’ve already given away too much.

Once we had a movie or two, we’d stop off at the local QT for some lovely beverages. You can get a 64-ouncer of whatever soft drink you want for about a buck, which is what we usually do. Note: A full 64 ounces of root beer does really bad things to you. You feel it in the morning. I know you’re going to go try it now, and you’ll be cursing me afterward. You’re welcome.

The first night we did this, Tim complained about women always using the facilities. I’d never paid any attention. But that triggered another part of the ritual. Being five-nine and about 140 pounds, I don’t have a whole lot of room to put 64 ounces of anything, especially when those 64 ounces are consumed within about a two-and-a-half-hour time frame. So, when I stood up about 45 minutes into the first movie to go recycle, Tom yelled, “Dave’s a woman.” When I came back, Tim got up. Tom yelled, “Tim’s a woman.” Without looking back, Tim made a one-finger gesture at Tom over his shoulder and kept walking. Tom enjoys inciting those.

We’ve seen every Peter Sellers movie available on VHS and we’ve tried every flavor at QT, so we don’t do this all that much anymore.

I bring this up because earlier this week, I received a flyer from Skillpath Seminars. The title of the seminar: Conflict Management and Resolution for Women. The guy who delivers the mail personally walked over to my cube and handed it to me with a smirk. Since I get about four brochures a day for various seminars, I normally put them in my round file without even looking at them, but I glanced at this.

“Dwayne got one too. We had a good time sorting the mail this morning,” he said.

Yep. Either someone told Skillpath about our little ritual, or some procedure was performed this past week that I’m going to be very unhappy about when I find out about it.

Are we talking about more than just sunsets?

As I was hurtling down Missouri 370 en route to I-70 this past weekend, I heard a commercial for some brand of booze on the radio. I don’t remember which. Its advice for life was to be yourself (translation: drink lots of their product), and, among other things, to watch one sunset a week (and then, ideally, stay up all night drinking their product and take in the sunrise as well).
At that moment, the sun was beginning to set, and I was in a largely undeveloped area and we still had snow on the ground. I really wished I had my camera with me, because it could have made for a spectacular photo, had one of the master photographers I know like Tom Gatermann or Dan Coleman been there to take it. It had so much potential, it had the possibility of being an OK photo with me behind the camera. But it’s lost now.

So I started thinking a lot about sunsets. The late, great Mike Royko wrote a column about them, in the third person, after his first wife died. They owned a small cabin in Wisconsin, and when they vacationed there, they dropped everything and watched the sun set every night. After she died, he sold the cabin because he couldn’t bear to go there alone. He closed with the words: “Maybe a young couple who likes to watch sunsets together will like it. He hopes so.”

The column broke my heart when I read it. It usually still does. The talk of sunsets reminded me of the column, and I wondered why I don’t watch more sunsets.

Mostly it’s an issue of time. I have distractions, like making money and publishing stuff. (The two aren’t necessarily related.) So I work eight hours a day for my steady paycheck, then come home and write. Half the time I don’t even know when the sun sets. I just notice one day that I’d been driving home in daylight for a long time, but suddenly I’m not anymore.

But besides that, there’s another thing. Sunsets are best when watched with someone special. So I wondered why I’ve never watched a sunset with someone special, and I realized that’s because for some odd reason I always date in the fall and winter and during those seasons the sun generally sets while I’m still at work. I’ve never had a girlfriend in the spring or summer months. Ever. My relationships tend to be short, which partially explains it, but why I always start them in October (except for one I started in September), I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with baseball season.

Why the September Wonder and I never watched a sunset, I don’t know for sure. At that hour we were usually eating dinner. But I’ll tell you something. I’m glad we never watched a sunset together.

We shared our lives with one another. She knows things about me that no one else knows. No one. And I know things about her that her parents, her sisters, and her close friends didn’t know.

We shared our experiences too. One of her favorite things to do was to drive to Jefferson City, buy doughnuts, then go sit on the steps of the capitol building at night and eat them. It’s a weird University of Missouri tradition whose origins I never tracked down–some alumni have heard of it, while others look at me really funny when I bring it up. Probably the same way I looked at her funny when she brought it up, come to think of it.

Well, you can tell from looking at me that I don’t eat a lot of doughnuts, and she didn’t look like she ate many either. So there’s nothing special about doughnuts to either of us. As for the capitol, well, that stands for government, and I don’t like government very much and as far as I could tell she didn’t care much for government either. So I guess the big deal about this tradition is you find out who your friends are. Eating doughnuts on the steps of the capitol with a bore is no fun. If they’re willing to try, they’re a friend. If you both have fun, you’ve both found a friend worth keeping. Because, let’s face it, Jefferson City at night is a whole lot less interesting than a sunset. A sunset can stand on its own, while Jefferson City at night is only as interesting as the person you’re with.

I told her I’d miss eating doughnuts on the steps of the capitol building with her if that ever became impractical or impossible. She said there’d always be other things. Then she told me to get lost.

I wondered after she found someone new and flaunted him in front of me whether they ever ate doughnuts on the steps of the capitol building. And I wondered if she could do the deed without me coming to mind. Did my ghost still haunt her?

I shared a piece of me with her too. It was a restaurant, also in Jefferson City, called Madison’s Cafe. Great Italian restaurant. Growing up in Jefferson City nearly 20 years ago, my dad used to take us there. Going back there always reminds me of him. But now on those rare occasions when I go back there, it doesn’t just remind me of my dad anymore. It also reminds me of her. And I wish I’d held that piece of me back from her until she’d proven her ability to stick around for more than five minutes.

Can I ever take another girl to Madison’s? Assuming it wasn’t an obnoxious drive, sure. But I guarantee it wouldn’t be on the first date. Because I don’t want her to taint more memories. Once she’s established, that’s the right time.

Yes, I’m very glad I didn’t watch sunsets with that girl from September who turned out not to be cooler than baseball. It means I still have something special left to share with The One Who Will Stick Around for a While, once I manage to find her.

Then I started thinking I really ought to write some of these thoughts down. Then I realized I’d become so lost in my own thoughts, in my own past, that the sun had gone down and I’d missed the best part of the present.

Nuts.

A quick Opera tip. I felt bad about not including a computer tip today, so here goes. To see a list of all of Opera’s many keyboard shortcuts, hit Ctrl-B.

Mailbag:

AMD mobo; iomega probs–questions; languages; linux

Published again

I’m published again! The Jan. 2001 issue of Computer Shopper UK features an article titled “Windows Cleaning,” by Yours Truly. It’s essentially a rewrite of chapter 2 from Optimizing Windows, with a few new insights, but due to space limitations I had to leave some stuff out too.

I looked into the cost of getting it in the States; you can order it from Amazon UK but you’re looking at 2.25 pounds Sterling for the mag, then another 7 pounds sterling for shipping, so you’re talking almost $14 US for a magazine. Note that Shopper UK is not the same as Computer Shopper in the US, so don’t go looking for me there (I doubt those guys have ever heard of me). The article is mentioned on their Web site but the content isn’t posted, as far as I can see. Sorry.

Short shrift today as I finish up the second article in the series. Funny how the Internet compresses production times. My first published article was written in March, then appeared in November. Today, articles go to press days (or even hours) after I finish them. Hopefully I’ll earn some points there in the UK by slipping in a Joy Division reference.

I’ve just shipped it off to Jeremy Spencer, my editor over there. I find I really like working with him; he seems to have a very laissez-faire approach to editing and I have a particular hatred of overediting, so we seem to make a good team. I’m sad to see this series end with a third piece, to be published in the March issue.

And the question everyone is asking… Jeremy asked if we were ever going to get around to picking a president and offered to send me a copy of the Revocation of Independence. I told him I’d seen it, and that we elected George W. Bush, but Al Gore is showing he’s not made of the same stuff that Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford were. They lost close elections, and rather than contesting them again and again and selectively recounting ballots until they got results they liked, they went home for the sake of the country. Rule by their opponent, they believed, was better than chaos. (So we got Jack Kennedy and Jimmy Carter. Carter was–is–a good man but a poor president. Kennedy was a beast of a man and only slightly better president. Bush can definitely do less damage than those two.)

Al Gore doesn’t care about the good of the country. He wants to tell his grandkids about the days when he was president. Many Americans consider Richard Nixon to be evil incarnate, but frankly, Gore is making Nixon look like Thomas Jefferson.

We’ve now seen Gore at his worst (I hope), and to me, that’s plenty indication enough that he has no business in the White House.

The joy of teaching

The joy of teaching. Remember that Pentium-75 that was limping along under Windows NT’s heavy yoke? She didn’t complain to me about it (probably because she knew I did a lot to try to make it usable), but she did complain to some other people. One of the other IT guys did some lobbying. And when I said that a Mac would be an improvement over that thing, it got some people’s attention. (I’m not exactly known as a Mac zealot at work. Some call me exactly the opposite.) So she got another machine.
Well, as it turns out, she’s taking a class titled Management of Information Systems. She called me up yesterday to ask me a few questions relating to the class. Sure, says I. She asked about a mainframe’s place in a Webcentric world, which really made me think. I’m not of the mainframe generation, and I left the computer science program at the University of Missouri because the only thing they were interested in cranking out at the time were IBM System 370 administrators who knew VM/CMS and JCL. Gag me. I’d rather use and fix Macs. But retrofitting certainly makes more sense than outright replacement in many cases.

Then she asked about NCs. I laughed, because my now-defunct Linux book was to have a chapter about NCs in it (and how to roll your own). “Why didn’t they catch on?” she asked. Two reasons, I said. Poor marketing, for one. Larry Ellison assumes that everyone hates Microsoft as much as he does, so he releases this overpriced box and says little about it other than “Not Microsoft.” The second reason, of course, is versatility. People like the versatility of their PCs. NCs have none.

Then she asked a sharp question. “Isn’t this the same thing we do with Reflection?” (Reflection is a very high-priced VTxx terminal emulator from WRQ, Inc. that we use to connect to a cluster of VMS boxes.) Ah, she gets it! Yes, only NCs pull Windows and Windows applications (or another GUI and GUI applications) instead of text-based programs.

“This stuff doesn’t even seem real,” she said at one point. “And here you are, talking right off the top of your head about it.” But at the end of the conversation, she seemed to get it.

And that’s what’s cool about writing books or maintaining a Web site. Lighting up the darkness. Making the unfamiliar make sense. Or at least a little more sense.

My phone was ringing off the hook today. I made a comment about my popularity rising. One of my office-mates suggested I run for president. Well, I said, I couldn’t do any worse of a job of carrying Florida… But I won’t be of legal age until 2012.

I guess that’s the last thing I have to look forward to. At 16 you can drive. At 17 you can get into R-rated movies. At 18 you can vote. At 21 you can drink. At 25, your insurance rates go down. And at 35, you can run for president.

~~~~~~~~~~
Dave,

I remembered seeing an article a while back concerning this person’s issue:

http://www.aceshardware.com/Spades/read.php?article_id=15000166

It is an optimization guide for the K6-2+ (also K6-III+, but not
explicitly stated) processors, and it includes a board compatibility guide.

According to the guide, the FIC VA-503+ will only support the new
processors with a beta bios (doesn’t mention specific versions) and revision 1.2 of the board.

I’m CC’ing a copy of this to Curtis.

Sincerely,

Dustin D. Cook, A+
 
~~~~~

Thanks!
 
I didn’t get this message, except when Curtis replied to me. I’ll have to investigate.
 
Thanks much for the tip.
~~~~~~~~~~
 

Doesn’t anybody else feel impelled to mention that a 50MHz (for in this case >12.5%) speed gain is completely valueless? As you surely know, Dave, in ordinary use people don’t usually notice any speed change that’s much finer than 2x. I’d take a 12%-faster CPU and pop it into my system if 1) somebody gave it to me for nothing, and 2) it was a no-brainer plop-in install. Otherwise, there are better uses for $60. Ya think?

Peter A. Moore
ITS Engineer
Precision IT, a division of Precision Design Systems

in reference to:
http://thesiliconunderground.editthispage.com/2000/11/05
~~~~~
My understanding was he wanted to get that CPU because he was using his 400 MHz CPU in another system.

Yes, you are entirely right, a 50 MHz gain generally isn’t worth it. You could make an argument for when it’s a 50 MHz gain accompanied by something else, say, an upgrade from a K6-2/400 to a K6-III/450, in which case you’d get a larger gain, maybe 25-35 percent, due to on-chip cache. But with CPU speed being a fairly small factor in overall system performance, that 35% increase definitely won’t work miracles.

When upgrading a system, I generally attack system RAM and the hard drive first. It’s amazing what a difference dropping in a 7200-rpm hard drive makes. I recently made a P200 boot Win95 in 15 seconds by replacing the drive, dropping in another 64 megs of RAM, then doing a fresh Windows installation and tweaking msdos.sys. Very nice.

Good observation. Thanks.