I Wanna Be Distracted

I continue to whittle away at my wee presentation. I'm pretty sure I could do this material in either 20 minutes or 8 hours. I haven't yet figured out how to get it into 90 minutes.

By "whittle away," of course, I mean, "get generally stressed out by but not actually do anything about writing..." Thank goodness the due date is actually 13 April.


Well, it was a cool morning, so a nice ride in. The 1:30 is certainly better than 2 hours, but it's 10 minutes off of last year's norm. I'm really out of shape; my legs are still sore from Tuesday's ride home. Two rides in a week might be all I can do for a little bit.

In other news, yet another contractor came by last night. He thinks the job is straightforward, but it'll take him a few months to get around to it. Plus, he has a death in the family. Oi.

Weekend Warrior

Memo for file.

  • Renewed T-Mobile contract yesterday. Obtained new phone. It's fancy.
  • Placed four new plants in our partially shady back yard. We'll see how well they compete with the onion grass, ivy and squirrels:
    1. Periwinkle (2)
    2. Hydrangea
    3. CandyTuft
  • Went to eat twice at the new Wing Zone
  • Prepared and submitted taxes

13.8 Miles/2 Hours/5 Deer

I was disappointed to find that my trip yesterday was only 13.8 miles long. It involved some rough hills, no doubt, but I think two hours for 13 miles is sad. On-the-other-hand, it was the first ride of the year, so it was a good shake-off of the body rust.

A little advice: if you're going to try a new route that you kind of remember seeing was possible but aren't exactly sure where you saw it or what, don't try it without a map.

It's pretty amazing, if you look at a map of the Northwest Branch, you'll see that the only road that crosses it between Piney Branch Parkway and US 29 (2 miles) is the Beltway -- verboten to bikes. I was sure there must be some sort of foot bridge or something over the creek to get from the New Hampshire side of the world over to the University side of the world; after all, there's a bike path along the creek that ends just before the Beltway.

I was wrong.

You don't really get the full impression from the Beltway of the Northwest Branch's gorge. The entrance to the head of the path is a very steep gravel path. I wouldn't ride out of the park on that path. In fact, I don't think I could climb that hill while riding, not with the gravel. At any rate, since it's not an easy commuting route, the two miles I did on the path were very isolated. You can't see many houses from down in the bottom of the valley and you don't hear the traffic from above. There were, however, five deer running about.

At any rate, I've gotten my first ride in and I'm still a little tired, but the blood is freely flowing to my brain again and I can think straight.

The Accidental Tourist (Anne Tyler)

  I thought it safest to put my feet in gallon-sized Ziploc bags because my feet wouldn't fit into the official quart-sized ones. I couldn't figure out how to seal them -- the zip wouldn't lock, you see, with two hammy shins sticking up. Still, it seemed a prudent alternative to putting a bag over my head. I was ready for air travel, all my fluids in a bag. Even with my caution and commitment to transparency and proper fluid storage, however, the guard at the concourse entry gave me the hairy eyeball.

There's just no pleasing some people.

I dutifully emptied my carry-on onto the belt. Each item was clearly encased in an appropriately sized zippable bag. To be honest, I had been skeptical of the new policy, but upon implementation I found I liked the organizational structure it added to my packing and to my journey. I was anxious to try the next logical step: Combining sets of smaller ziplocs into larger zippable bags. I wondered if that level of packing abstraction was even possible. It was an exciting prospect.

But for now, I had limited myself to single-purpose packing.

On boarding, I found my way to my assigned seat. I stowed my carry-on in an overhead compartment after extracting my reading material. It was safely wrapped in its protective plastic shell. As I unzipped the bag, I was overwhelmed by a sense of security. I smiled over at my neighbor -- a rare communal gesture on my part. She looked back with a nervous frown. She didn't feel secure. She hadn't learned about plastic containment.

"So much easier when things are organized and labelled," I said. She tilted her head slightly to the left and lowered her eyebrows. I noticed the book she was reading and tapped its cover. "That guy knew how to travel. I've based a lot of my techniques on his suggestions. Don't check luggage, keep things simple. Smart man."

"He said he used a book to keep people from talking to him," she said. "That never works."

"I assumed that meant he didn't really want to be left alone. People always talk about books. I imagine he had so much knowledge to share; why keep it inside?"

"It takes all kinds, I guess." I nodded knowingly.

"The only problem with The Accidental Tourist, as a book, was that you didn't know who to root for."

"Root for?"

"Yeah, you're right," I said. "I guess it's 'for whom to root', huh?"

"Well. Uh. What?" she said.

"You see," I explained. "At first, you kinda feel like you're supposed to hope the guy comes to his senses, learns how to 'express his feelings' and gets his wife back." I used my fingers to emphasize express his feelings. "But then it seems like you're supposed to root for the girlfriend he stumbled into after his marriage fell apart because she brought him out of his shell."

"I don't think it's meant to be some sort of game. It's serious."

"You say that as if I don't think that games are serious," I responded. "Having an inconsistent feeling for taking sides is a sure path to lack of an organizational foundation. If you're unorganized, you are not secure. That's just the point of this whole new thing I thought up: luggage notebooks."

"Luggage Notebooks?"

"Yeah, I thought that Luggage Binders sounded too restrictive, but it's basically a three-ring binder into which you can snap all your carry-on items once you've put them into clear plastic bags, only the bags have holes punched in them. With luggage binders, you can just let the TSA leaf through your luggage in a carefree and leisurely way, plus you get to have all your stuff organized."

"I think that one of the points of that book you liked so much is that an overattention to organization and security was part of his whole problem."

"I thought the point of the book might be that an emphasis on control might be part of his problem."

"You don't like the luggage notebook?"

"No, it's a stupid idea. There's nowhere to put your bulky items, nobody wants to carry around a big ole notebook, and not everybody is obsessed with a clear view of their own possessions. Some people want to keep a little privacy."


"I'm sorry, but it is. I didn't mean to offend you."

"It's okay," I said, opening my book. "I wasn't rooting for you anyway."

Flippin' COinS

Here's something that brings together my current obsessions: LibraryThing and Microformats. A while back, I mentioned how a site was using microformats to provide rich information in a blog about bike thefts. Since then, microformats have been buzzing around in my little head. How can I use them?

Well, it turns out that there's this reference called COinS. I'm not sure it exactly matches the microformats definition; however, it is a way to include information about books inside of web pages. The reference is included as an added bit of data on a span tag, so most of the time, users don't actually see it. For example, if you go to my book tale about Whose Body? you'll see this segment:

Nothing terribly interesting about that. However, if you have Firefox and install this greasemonkey script, you'll find that there's now an extra link: That extra SFX link takes you off to ExLibris, where you can look up the book in various library catalogs. This is the original intent of COinS references: if you're in somebody's library using Firefox and reading a nice little academic article, the library could modify its Firefoxes so that you could use the link to search for the book (or journal) in the library's specific catalog. Everybody shares a common citation method, but the clients can be configured to use that reference against specific online catalog APIs.

So, of course, what I'm interested in is what's in it for me. I'm not academic, but I love playing with LibraryThing, which is like a library mashed up with a book group. If, say, I wrote a greasemonkey script so that every article that has embedded this type of reference will give me a link to the record in LibraryThing, then I can look up who else has the book, what they think about it, how they've tagged it, what all the editions are, and what other books are owned by people who own this book.

I took that original script and modified it (It's here.) Now, when I go to my happy little blog entry, I get something that looks like this: The LibraryThing link takes you here. It's going to take me some time to go back and start putting in these citations for all those old book tales, but I'll be putting them in the new ones as they pop out. Yes, there are new ones. I know it's been three months. I have two or three written out. I got into this kick of reading Dorothy Sayers books, though, and although they are entertaining, they don't really lend themselves to multiple original tales.

The Times They Are A-Changing

True Story: What did I spend 16 hours on Friday night and Saturday morning doing? That's right, we feverishly worked to push out updates to our systems to prepare for Daylight Saving Time. What did I discover when the alarm clock woke us up very early on Sunday morning to head to the airport? Yep. Forgot to push the clocks ahead an hour.

Actually, we didn't even realize our mistake until we passed under the electronic sign on I-95. But it worked out, we still arrived in plenty of time to stand in a terribly long line for Air Jamaica check-in. Know why the line was so long?

Their computers wouldn't work because of a DST bug.

Obligatory Cat Picture

It's been quiet around here, and it's going to stay quiet until after our trip to Jamaica and after the deadline for the Rational conference presentation submission (early April). Sorry about that.

In the meantime, here's a picture of Tubby, enjoying one of the few snow events we had this year.

What I Learned Today

If you happen to be walking down Gardenway on your way to the bus stop at the corner of Crescent and you watch the R12 (Deanwood) pass you by, you've missed it! However, you can still catch the same R12 bus at the corner of Hillside and Crescent.

But you have to run.

Post Paucity

Please excuse the tumbleweeds. Some little petrie dish gave us the heebie jeebies on our way back from Florida. Then, at work this daylight saving time (DST) change has been hitting our system harder than expected. Add to that my every waking moment worrying about a presentation I haven't written.

I have this theory about the DST thing: What was the catalyst for the rapid economic growth of the late '90s, at least in the tech sector? Irrational exuberence? Hah! It was all those companies buying new equipment and hiring people to upgrade software. Why did they do that? They were afraid of Y2K.

So, my theory is that the Republicans thought to themselves, "We can get this economy into overdrive if we introduce more little Y2K-like events into their lives." And the DST switch was born! Unfortunately, they forgot to get the media whipped into a senseless fury of fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Never leave out the fear, uncertainty and doubt. It'll cost you every time.