On Operating Systems
Having actively used computers of varying shapes and sizes for the past 17 years or so (as a casual home user at first, growing into an enthusiast, and now blossoming as a student of the subject itself), I feel a general dissatisfaction with the current state of the art. Something's missing: while people get on with things much as they used to, and more people discover computing every day, something definitely doesn't feel right.

My spark's gone out.

By which I mean not that I intend to give up computers; on the contrary, I've never wanted to dive into them more than at present. On Monday I shall start a year's placement with a small Bristol IT firm, entering "the industry" for the first time. I still enjoy using computers, and I'm looking forward to doing so in a professional capacity (whether or not I'll still be as excited in a year remains to be seen).

However, I no longer feel quite the same passion as I did before. Computers are rapidly becoming mundane, stale, a mere part of the everyday that has long since stopped being novel; like the television, the computer is accepted, and with acceptance comes boredom. If we were to try to explain to 1930s man that many of us would despair of TV because there was nothing to watch, many would think us mad, and yet sometimes sitting here in front of my desk I feel precisely the same way about computing. Something has to be done.

A casual browse of my writeups here on E2 will reveal some definite trends: I write what I know, and I do tend to specialise. RISC OS, the OS that stubbornly refuses to die, is one of them, and it is to that which I intend now to turn for my salvation. When I first started using computers I started on Acorns; now, I plan to buy myself a shiny new StrongARM-equipped RiscPC. I've never had as much simple joy as with using RISC OS, and I say this as I type into a Safari window on Mac OS X, the nearest OS I've found that comes close to the sheer ease of use RISC OS provides.

It's outdated in many areas, it's limited to a small subset of computers, it's evolved surprisingly little since its heyday of the early 90s, but I still adore using it. Perhaps my next writeup shall come from its keyboard?

Old School

(or, A Lesson In Marketing)

When I started on this arduous trek, I said to myself, "Aha!, self, you have more knowledge about advertising and public relations in your pinkie finger than some of these thankless whelps here, and certainly as much savvy at persuasion (or more) than the old guard, their specialties being more on the technical side of things than something as slick and unscientific as marketing.

I've tried extortion*, I've tried "bait and guilt" (you can join the contest but you think you've a better chance of winning if you buy the product) direct marketing advertising**, but after perusing the other blatant attempts at nodevertising by my competition I found that I'd only two ways to go: a) sell my soul to the Devil and win the contest with hellfire and brimstone to endure for an eternity or maybe longer; or, b) go back to my roots - go back to the tips my father, my marketing professors and mentors gave me.

*August 12, 2007
**August 15, 2007

My Marketing Mentors

Now, my dad was in industrial advertising (electrical parts, water and gas metering devices) for nearly his entire career, until in his old age he switched to "the other side of the desk," and instead of creating the ads, commenced to sell the space for others' ads in trade magazines. He'd spent 75 per cent of his working years observing business publications and their staffers try every fancy trick in the book to convince him that an ad in their magazine would cause more engineers to specify his product than any other. Even though dad occasionally suffered from ageism, he went out, made his calls, and sold up a storm. And that made him happy when he retired. He'd done something that he'd always wanted to do and the glory of his success in the last 15 years of his career, he said, eclipsed the entirety of the satisfaction he'd derived in the first forty-odd years he'd worked.

I went to a good school and although I didn't major in it, I took a heavy course-load in Marketing and related subjects. My professors were grand. My marketing professor was old-school. He thought that the new advertising, whether in print, on radio or on television failed to adhere to the all-important basics of selling to people. Now, please remember that this "new" advertising he was talking about was the advertising in the mid-1970s. If he were alive now and saw, for instance, one of the sneaker commercials that doesn't even mention the product's name (but, admittedly, shows the logo), he'd have blown a gasket.

Finally, I had the honor of interning at an IBM division headed by a man named John F. Akers, who recently enjoyed a stint as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of that estimable organization. Akers, and his underlings, "sold" their pet projects and ideas about the business to the higher-ups in a fashion that was a thrill to watch. On more than one occasion I had a chance to sit with him, in a car, at a restaurant, or at various functions held by IBM's lawyers at private clubs. These were the days of United States of America vs. IBM anti-trust action. Of course, years after my short stint as a what amounted to a glorified file-clerk ended, Big Blue prevailed. The United States Department of Justice, having nothing better to do at the time, tried its best to prove that IBM was a monopoly, despite myriad thriving competitors. It was nothing at all like the government's recent action against Microsoft, in which the government actually may prevail in the same fashion it did when it broke up the Telephone Company. But I digress. Akers had started as a salesman, selling IBM tabulating equipment to businesses, as so many of his peers did.

What Did I Learn?

The three men mentioned above adhered, basically, to the basic, unvarnished rules of sales:

  • Tell the customer a little about your product and make sure they know what it's called and what it looks like.
  • Tell the customer why they need your product; how it will fulfill a need for the customer.
  • If you're in a field of hot competition, point out clearly what sets your product apart from the competition.
  • Don't ever sell a product you don't believe in, because if you try, the customer will know you're lying to them. Customers are smarter than you think, and they don't buy products at any price from liars.
  • If you expect to sell anything, don't pussyfoot around and get the customer to make you an offer. Ask for the order! If necessary, place a reasonable limit of time within which for the customer to act (to deter procrastination).

So therefore, instead of giving you gimmicks, I'll try a different tack to get your attention:

My Choices for Lost Gems of Yesteryear

    1. Love Your Enemies by Inflatable_Monk

Love Your Enemies is worthy of your attention because it cures myriad ills: headaches, stomach upset, insomnia among them. I'd hazard a guess dipsomania would be among them, as well. You see, it's more about the cleanliness of the soul one enjoys when one hates nobody. Hatred for one's enemies merely means they're occupying space in your head free, without paying rent. Now why would you want to give something as precious as your peace of mind away to one who would do you harm? This dissertation parallels my own views about what to do with one's enemies; and believe me, I've got plenty of enemies. I'll admit that my actions have made enemies out of some of them, but more often than not jealousy is at the core.

How taken aback could a person be who despises you, who wastes countless minutes of his/her day devising ways to reap revenge upon you; when you see them on the street, approach them and offer an outstretched hand, and ask (with genuine concern) about their family and their own well being? How shocking to them when you patronize their place of business and they'd never dream of being seen in yours?

In the case of those who may have been angered or damaged by my actions, a sincere apology given at the right time, along with a tangible (money or otherwise) token of my sincere regret over the situation has not failed me yet. I even count an ex-enemy among my friends, because he respects me for having the integrity to admit my wrongs and demonstrate my apology with action, not just words.

Here, I'll give you a little practice in this concept. (You might want to read the writeup first before you try). When Richard M. Nixon made his farewell speech to his White House staff, the second-to last paragraph was a tidbit of advice that I carry with me every day with regard to this topic. On August 9th, 1974 he said:

Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.

    2. Normal is Just a Setting on a Washing Machine by borgo

The credit for the title actually goes to the lovely, intelligent and vivacious borgette, whom long-time noders have been "watching" blossom from a little girl into a delightful young woman through her father's eyes (and via her own enjoyable writings to all of us on occasion).

What better concept for a place like this? Some of us are just naturally "eccentric," and others strive vigorously to avoid the label "normal" with all their might.

This writeup could use your kindness and support; and because borgette will no doubt be informed by her father of its rise in XP and chings, you'll be getting "more bang for the buck," or in this case, delighting not only yourself but two noders instead of one.

    3. Boris Karloff by Jet-Poop

Why Boris Karloff? Well, I wonder how many young people realize that the man behind all of that makeup was a delightful person. This writeup epitomizes a quality, objective, factual writeup. It's written in a compact yet informative style and a great voice. And it's linked. And linked. And linked some more.

There's a lot of contemporary factual material at E2, but a dearth of good writing about, for example, the entertainers of yore. (Thankfully, recently, kanoodle has been rectifying this situation by writing comprehensive, enjoyable pieces about the people he and I grew up watching on the television and listening to on the radio.) But it's unfair of me to single him out. Plenty of noders have contributed information about artists, musicians, actors and others that I'd hazard a guess a majority of E2's demographic is too young to know about.

The author's research was so thorough I learned something; well, corrected my information about the subject. I'd always thought he'd actually sung in a particular movie that's very, very popular. It wasn't him. It was a singer.

I herewith beseech you to visit the above nodes. I am certain that your decision to vote for them will come to you upon reading them. A Ching is deserving from all who have Chings to spend. So follow the links and go now to Boris Karloff, Normal is Just a Setting on a Washing Machine and Love Your Enemies.


Crafted in the spirit of crass commercialism for Lost Gems of Yesteryear

Dear Stacy,

In the end we are only what we are. You are beautiful beyond what words can find the reason to define as beautiful. You are a muse, that much I've told you, but as you seek the elusive end game to the illusion of happiness I truly do wish you luck. There are, as you know, simply too many intangibles to make it as simple as it may sound on paper.

Sometimes the question comes up, whether it is in inane daily conversation or on a level that is similar to where we were tonight. Why do so many people feel compelled, comfortable or otherwise predisposed to telling me the details of their lives? If I could answer, I would, but as the Patron Saint of Waitresses and Female Bartenders I take enough solace in your explanation of how if I had bought you the shot on your tab rather than mine it would have been much cheaper. You have no idea how well I know this, and no idea what the reverse means to me. Ten years have gone since I had the ability to do the things I pretend I can still do, but in your eyes I see that I can still do it, and for this there is no price that can be too high. Realization is important to me. The present tense is important to me. You have given me back something I believed was lost. And we are not so far apart.

Never doubt yourself. You are as perceptive as you are beautiful and in these things there is little room for question, just as there is never enough room. Believe in what you question, for even though tragedy has been an element of your life, an element that causes you to doubt yourself, there are times when life takes us above and beyond. You may have this opportunity now and you must not question why. Perhaps later there will be reason to question, but for now you must fly on one wing with the faith you have in how things can be. If you crash and burn I can tell you that I will still be here to catch you. I would never want to deny anyone that chance at beautiful harmony with someone who is truly in tune, but sometimes...

Believe in yourself, above all, and know that I believe in you as well. You are better than the sum of your parts and although you've struggled, and you have faced down the demons that would destroy you, just surviving is enough to know that you are better. We are better. I am with you and from what you revealed to me tonight I will never believe that you are not capable of being more than the mortals would consign you to.

I found myself back in Orlando after a long journey that brought me face to face with complete ruin. Even if you face the same, I will continue to believe you are stronger than I am, and thus you will be better for this, whether it goes as you hope or ends in ways you cannot currently imagine.

And, if it means anything, I think I love you.

I still owe you a drink,

inspired by a friend's writeup ...

Well, yeah, I admit it. Earlier this year, when I turned 50 in February, 2007, without really thinking about it, I was indeed bemoaning the fact, albeit subconsciously. I wasn't about to admit to myself that I was sort of gloomy about hitting the half-century mark, because I'd spent a lot of time telling myself that it didn't matter. Age is just another damn number, and damned if I can remember who said or sang that.

Anyway, now in August I'm at the 50-and-a-half mark. And I've spent thought time over the last six months digesting (no, I won't say “processing”) the fact that I've racketed about the planet for so long. I suppose it may have bounced up into consciousness when I received my AARP card a few months ago. Geez, I thought, I really am one of those people now. Mind you, the many discounts, services, and the prospect of signing up for AARP's health insurance (thus freeing myself from employer-based insurance, may the Gods be praised) helped soften the blow.

Then I thought about it some more. I cheered up and realized I'm in pretty good shape for an old boy. I don't have a lot of vanity about my looks, but they've retained enough youthfulness that most people I know can't believe I'm that aged ... or at least that's what they say. Everything on me seems to still work OK (everything, thank you!) and I don't yet have “good days” and “bad days”. I've arrived at the time where I can smile at the antics of my much-younger friends and remark, “ah, well, (s)he's young” with what I think is a wise look on my face. And I bring, I hope, to E2 some of the wisdom and maturity I fancy I've accumulated over the years.

I considered people I know in their 70s and 80s, still active, still working, still so very alive. My father, for example ... 71 this year, and remodeling parts of his house himself, doing things that might tax a 30-year-old's abilities. Tom's grandmother, 76 and such a powerhouse that she leaves us all in the dust. “Fifty is the new thirty” is my mantra now, and I'll keep repeating it until I don't have to. It occurred to me that, upon my fiftieth birthday, I entered upon the second half of my life ... and, to pull out another old cliché, the journey is the reward. It's fun to be an elder.

But when I'm truly old, I shall most definitely not wear purple. It's not my color.

Dispatches from Macedonia

The last two days feel as though they have lasted a week's worth. Not because I'm not enjoying myself, but because there's so much to take in, it feels as though two days is hardly enough bandwidth to fit it all.

I think that my sense of place has grown acute over the past few years. When I was younger, I never had the sensation of being fascinated by merely existing, moving, and inhabiting a particular place with its particular qualities. It never crossed my mind to stop and marvel at how beautiful my hometown is, for example. There were far more important things to worry about. Tests, parties, interpersonal drama, stymied sex drive, etc.

It's not as though I don't still obsess over all of those, but now they have to timeshare with this strange sensation of revelry that possesses me. When I come home to Chicago, I have to set aside time to simply amble through the city, in full receptive mode, absorbing without trying to deconstruct and reconstruct meaning out of every glance. And Chicago is wholy familiar to me. When I go somewhere foreign, like where I am now, it's all the more acute.

Macedonia is sublime. It is dirty, with garbage strewn everywhere, piling in heaps. There is poverty, with buildings often left unfinished and shacks of sheet metal and wood sitting at the outskirts of the towns and high, chronic unemployment. Things go slow, with no one in any particular hurry to do anything, whether you're paying them or not. I know many people who would find this place anything but beautiful. And I know that a lot of Macedonians would like nothing more than to be as rich as they think my country is. And despite all that should supposedly count against it, I can't fault it for anything. I'm utterly enamoured.

Which is more or less what always happens when I go abroad. I fall in love with the novelty of the experience. I'm the sort of person who is ravenous for the new and the unknown. I have almost no respect for traditions--at least not the ones that I'm supposed to adhere to. And when it comes to countries, there's no love lost between me and my own. The cities and secret hideaways excepted (the suburbs very fucking forcefully included), I think America is a miserable place. Nowhere is perfect, everywhere has its incessant annoyances and simmering tensions, but that does not oblige me to love every spot on the map equally. I don't like the country I come from. I stay here because it offers the best opportunity for what I want to do with my life. If I could say that I was a Madisonian, or a Chicagoan, or a Midwesterner, rather than an American, I would.

Maybe if it wasn't my home, maybe if it was just a place I was visiting, whose language I was learning, I'd be enamoured with America too.

But as it stands, I like being elsewhere. I like being here. In this moment, I like it here. I haven't had time to learn the language enough to communicate with those who don't speak English, nor to let culture shock set in with the subtle anger in entails. I haven't really gotten to know any Macedonians. I haven't gone any farther than Ohrid. But this is still an experience, as genuine as any other, and how I might feel in the future doesn't much matter to the present. I am enjoying this sense of place.

Yesterday, I went to a lecture I mostly didn't understand about Macedonian linguistics. Breakfast was bread with butter, honey, cheese, and jam. After that, I went to class with a group of Poles, Czechs, Americans, and a Finn. Class breaks always last longer than their supposed to, while we drink coffee and the teachers smoke and pravat muabet, a sort of Balkan coffee klatch that can last for hours. I had Macedonian bean casserole and sausage for lunch, then did my homework. With no more responsibilities, I walked out the door of the conference center and down to the beach for a swim in Lake Ohrid. The water is as clear as on a Carribean shoreline, though the soil is rocky rather than white sand. I swam, I laid in the sun, and then I got up to explore the village across from the conference center. It's called "Konjsko," or "Horseville."

The village is built on a hill, with a maze of streets winding back and forth to bring you to the top. The houses are built with stairways connecting them, old and precarious looking, but solid under foot. Sometimes stairways jut off into nowhere. Everywhere house has picnic benches and tables under sunshades where the men and women sit in swimsuits eating the midday meal, the largest. Although it only looks a few rows of houses deep from the shoreline, the village actually extends all the way to the summit, about a mile's walk, with dips and rises revealing new rows of houses stacked on top of one another the farther up you go. Nearest to the summit, the houses grew shoddier, and the farm animals grew greater in number. The roads were no longer paved, but still well-worn.

When I got back to the Kongresen Centar, I asked for my key from the secretary and she asked me if I'd gone swimming. I explained that I had and mentioned I'd walked through Konjsko and found it absolutely beautiful. She smiled and said that she lived in Konjsko and she was glad to hear that. Then she started to speak more quickly and I lost track of what she was saying. I wanted to talk more, to ask her questions, but I can't yet.

If how much I like the country now is any sign though, I think I will be able to in not too long.


Hiking through Horseville
Invited in for coffee
A short rundown that's not short


John McCain was on The Daily Show tonight. It was his tenth appearance on the show in seven years.

"We got into a bit of a tiff the last time you were here. I don't even remember what it was about, now." (or something like that, said Jon Stewart)

I remember.

McCain came on after he had started his slow and painfully obvious slide to the right, after a painfully awkward photo op of him shaking hands with Bush. Stewart could've let him off the hook; he nailed him to the cross instead.

To be fair, Stewart gave him a chance to redeem himself, asking McCain why he was turning his back on the liberals who liked the fact that McCain talked straight, made sense, impaled the current administration and didn't come across as an evil, conniving prick. McCain had the opportunity to, in the new forum of intelligent political discourse that The Daily Show was shaping up to be, say, "Look. I NEED these people, and that means making compromises. It sucks a bit now, but stick with me and we'll all come out of this stronger."

He equivocated instead, and Stewart kicked his ass. Politely, but thoroughly, and McCain's political aspirations evaporated, audibly, over seven minutes of conversation.

Fast forward to tonight. McCain is making jokes, telling stories, taking a stand against administration policy, old-school McCain, albeit toned down from his former time in the limelight. And I think, "well, isn't that interesting."

...and I realized, it's because he's already lost the election. His campaign has been rocked in the last few weeks by allegations of financial mismanagement and by the conduct of a top advisor being made public. He doesn't have a hope in hell of winning anymore, of even coming close, so he's back to telling it like it is.

Thing is, if he'd only done that from the beginning he'd've had it both ways - he'd be a frontrunner and his integrity would be in check. Now he's neither, and he knows it.

It's sad, is all.

The American Institute of Movie Dating Standards
(a poem)

Two days' wait.
ring ring
Dinner, movie, kiss.
Dinner, movie, make out.
Dinner, movie, sex.
Dinner, movie, sex.
Dinner movie sex.
Dinner movie sex, dinner movie sex, dinner movie sex dinner movie sex dinner movie sex dinnermoviesex dinnermoviesex...



Brought to you by a moment of cynicism.

Trip Report: Sangre De Cristo Mountains

Directions to the South Colony Lakes Trailhead from Westcliff, CO: Take CO-69 south and turn right about four miles out from town on Colfax Lane. After six miles there is a right turn marked by a sign to the trail. At the fork be sure to stay straight until you reach a parking area that's off to the right before you hit the cattle guard. This is the trailhead to park at if you've got a standard car. If you have a 4WD vehicle you may continue up the road at your own risk. It will continue for around five miles before ending at a closed gate, at which point you'll have to hike.

Nick Braunagel, Harry Filas, Jared Leidich and I headed south from Boulder to bag some fourteen thousand foot mountains. Our original plan was to do five peaks (Humboldt, Kit Carson, Challenger Point, and the Crestone Needle and Peak) all on Saturday. But as we approached our campsite at around four in the afternoon we decided we had the energy to go that very evening. After dropping our camping gear we had even more gusto and soon found ourselves atop Humboldt Peak. We descended back down to the same ridge we came up and Jared, Nick and I continued northwest along it towards Kit Carson and Challenger (Harry was feeling ill from a lack of sleep and a head cold, and descended). As we made our way across the rock field we saw the sun slip away and it became dark, and although the headlamps saw us a few steps, we had been relying on ambient light to illuminate the silhouettes of the surrounding peaks. As we kept making our way out towards our goal we climbed a sub-peak known as Colombia Point (previously 'Kat Carson', 13,980'). On our descent from this we ran into a problem- a steep pitch of Class 4 downclimbing. And we had no gear. An hour of toying with other routes all ended with the same vertical wall descent. So up we went again, knowing that we had put a good bid in for them, but it just simply wasn't the time to be do so.
The descent back to camp was long and tedious as we lost the trail and had to descend a steep and loose scree-field. This was done with a slowed care but even so there were many outbursts of "rock!" At the upper lake we found ourselves too far to the west and had to climb back up to hit the main trail leading us back to the much needed warmth and relaxation of our sleeping bags.

Woke to Harry trying to talk to us, but in my incoherent coma stage I could make out nothing except the fact that we needed to get up. I made delicious fajitas of canned chunk chicken, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and garlic powder for the troop and we decided it was time to get moving. As we ascended back up towards the upper lake we stuck to the left (west) side to get better access at the scree field leading to the ridge. There were patches of grass that could be picked at to make a continuous line to the ridge without the risky loose rock. We ate and watched the clouds after gaining the ridge, hoping to see whether the weather would be naughty or nice. A few darker clouds left me a little worried, but we decided to at least drop into the route before we got too scared. The North West Couloir up the Crestone Needle is a straight Class 3 climb which means you don't need protection (climbing gear) but you're still going to be using your hands throughout. We moved quickly despite our initial lack of energy and found ourselves unexpectedly at the summit of "the Peak" at 14,294 feet. (Note: although the route seems to turn towards the right near the end, if you continue straight through the lowest point in the ridge you will come out on an easy trail on the other side of the ridge that will lead you direct to the summit.)
Snapped some shots, signed the log, pounded fists and started back down. Jared and Nick were keen on doing the more direct (but also more technical) ridge connecting the Peak with the Needle, Harry and I just wanted an easy jaunt down Red Couloir off the south side. As it turned out the weather socked in the Needle just as the other two were half way into the route, so we reunited once again on the lower trail. Our circumnavigation of the peak led us to Broken Hand Pass which actually hosts the standard Class 3 route up to the Needle. The weather had cleared and our spirits were high, all that was needed was to coax our pre-faded muscles. Chomping down Clif bars and downing water was enough to give us the second (or was it the third or fourth?) wind and we (minus Harry) made the summit in just over an hour. While gorgeous and a huge relief, we knew the day wasn't over just yet, we still had to make it back to camp. The tedious down-climbing was done in silence, we had no more complaints left to give. Upon finally reaching the lake I dropped my pack and shoes and jumped in the utterly frigid glacial-runoff lake. It was worth it though, the water gave my tightened muscles a reason to keep on living, and my feet kept from swelling due to the coldness.
After a quick bit of pasta we packed up and headed for Westcliff to buy beer and cigars, and kicked back for the night at a little camping area just outside of town.

Elevation Gains Trailhead to Humboldt: 3,027'
Ridge to Kat Carson: 1,067'
Camp to Crestone Peak: 2,544'
Bottom of Red Couloir to Broken Hand Pass: 665'
Broken Hand Pass to Crestone Needle: 1,162'
Total: 8465'

    https://webfiles.colorado.edu/reeddb/Sangres% 20Trip%20TOPO%20with%20Key.jpg.

    Coming Soon!

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