October 8th, 2003

Semiformalishmaybe

The new hymn of the city

I never understood how you put so much silence in your words.Others compete -- you would never lower yourself that way.

Last night I indeed return to work around midnight, and workedstraight until around 14:3 today, getting those laptops done and allthat. It's funny -- there was a barrier to awakedness, I think I hit it around03:, that once I moved past it, all the tiredness rapidly disappeared, andI just had a 'light burning' sensation fill me (the latenight indian foodmight've contributed to that though.. hehe). It definitely was/is an alteredstate of consciousness... I feel more alive, more focused, but also a lot oflittle details slip by me... kind of like an intensified me. I like it, butI know it's time to rest -- I have trouble interacting with people in thisstate, and tonight's PUSH meeting will be really cool, so I want to be awakefor it.

Amusingly, I find my mind also easily slipping off into utter nonsense, notideas that are just high-level incoherent, but ideas that hardly are ideasat all... I just closed my eyes for a second and my thoughts came to theidea of an angle drawn on the floor with a watermelon visible in it as if thechalk was of a 3d image. Must sleep.

Finally, at least for everyone but me, the last entry. I've been reading upmore on buying a house, and based on the advice of an old guy at CoffeeTree last night, I found a really nice website with listings. I can almost sayI'm in love with one of the houses there, at 5453 Wilkins (although onlyfrom the pictures and descriptions), but I can't afford a down paymentof any kind, so I'm not yet ready to buy. $219k is an awful lot of money too,although if I could afford a down payment, according to the calculator thingI could actually afford a 30-year mortgage without too much additionalstrain (I have very few expenses outside of the recent emergencies, and myrent is already really expensive). Oh well... that house, cool as it is,is probably not going to still be around when I can actually afford a nicedown payment. I guess I'll keep hoarding as much money as I possibly can andliving well beneath my means until I have some decent money to plop downfor this... And I'll keep reading the book someone at work loaned me on thetopic. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


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Semiformalishmaybe

Cat Whiskers

Wally has 6 sets of face whiskers.. two eyebrow, two rear-jaw, andtwo front jaw. From what I read, cat whiskers are very sensitive, ableto pick up air currents with great precision. I wonder how it comparesto bare skin -- cats don't have much of that, so perhaps it's primarilythere to adapt for that. There's something wonderful about programmingor doing homework with a snuggly cat in front of you -- it's very easy,when I just want a moment's distraction, to reach out and scratch hischin or look into his eyes..

I keep having a dream drift in and out of my consciousness -- somethingabout people needing something, and seeking or trading it, and somethingabout transformation or changes. Again, it's just a string impression thatdoesn't really form anything coherent.

A question, a tricky one, for those advocating the computer-centric way oflife -- what do you do when something like email stops working if you'renot a super-geek like me who can manipulate the hell out of data, and candebug until it's fixed? Email is very personal, and it also can be veryimportant. And yet millions of people, non-techies are putting somethingso central to life into the hands of a capricious system they oftencan't fix or troubleshoot. It's far worse than a car -- I'm clueless on that,but if my car breaks, I could rent another, or buy a new one, or bike oruse public transport (actually, it would impact me a little less than oncea week). Communication is inherently more central to human life thanvehicle transportation. Yeah, computers give us more flexibility, and let uscopy stuff around like there's no tomorrow, but it's us geeks who know howto do that. For your average person, paper letters are actually much betterthan email for important things. It's really kind of sad how that works out.I might suggest that people will eventually become much more computer literate,growing up with this stuff. That may be true (comparing my sisters, forexample, to my mom or other people of that or older generations), but theirsophistication with the computer still isn't deep enough, I don't think, toreally give them the deep understanding that they'd need. Could computersbe made simpler for end users? I've occasionally chewed on ways to do that --there was once a product called AtEase, which was a replacement shell forend users on MacOS that made things really simple .. well, kind of. It justwas a simpler version of the OS shell (finder) -- it couldn't make applicationsoftware easier. Still, it was a good design, and raises interesting issuesfor software design for that segment of the population. But no, that stilldoesn't help that much -- software needs to either be bulletproof, orsufficiently simple that people can fix it when it breaks. Hmm.. It's notreally as simple as putting a pretty face on things as AtEase did, even ifthat's a part of the solution. Is the solution to split software up fordifferent kinds of users? Maybe, but will users keep graduating to deeperknowledge if they have big gaps between the level of sophistication ofinteraction? Some software design advocates think that it's possible to makesoftware that's simple AND powerful. This is nice to the degree that it works --a lot of really bad design in UI is when powerful things have awful interfaces,but there still an inherent tradeoff there, and once you reach it (trimming offthe third comprimise with laziness in design), you can't pretend there isn'ta tension there. I cannot, for example, think of an email interface that bothme and joe random windows user would be happy with. I not only want a lot ofoptions, I want them exposed, with lots of information flying my way, whilethat kind of thing is exactly what end users should not see. Aha!, let's makeit configurable, says the designer. That's nice, and theoretically doable --provided a spool format could be agreed on, it might be possible to have asingle binary spanning the range between pine (which I use at work)/psmail(which I wrote, and use at home) and Apple's NeXTMail (or whatever they callit these days, which is very simple and pretty). However, the user experienceis so different and noncontinuous that they might as well be seperate program..So long as they use the standard mbox format (which most mail programs do) oragree on an alternative (my email program and mh might coincidentally share aformat, or at least be close enough that munging would be easy), there's noreason for them to be shared ... well, no, that's wrong. There are standards forthe format used for the mailboxes themselves, but not, sadly, other preferences,address book data, or any of the other stuff mail programs store. Damn.

PUSH went really well tonight. It was probably helped that we planned for thismeeting, and the person speaking at this meeting (a group memeber) did a goodjob, and that our new posters totally kick butt. We had 12 people, and livelyconversation.

Well, I'm still exhausted from last night's staying-upness, so I'd besthurry with my homework and get back to bed.