Friday, September 21, 2007


1. On my ride home today, at the intersection of Grand Ave. and Lake Shore Drive, right in front of me a taxi cab turning right hit a bicyclist in the crosswalk (the lakefront bike path uses the sidewalk along lower Lake Shore for that stretch, for those unfamiliar). I know it's a tricky intersection with poor visibility, and cyclists come out pretty quickly, but there's no excuse for that. You always have to check the crosswalk. And the cyclist probably should have been more careful, too. You really shouldn't be going very fast when you're on the sidewalk there, and any time you're biking and to the right of right-turning traffic extra caution is warranted.

2. When all the lights are off in the apartment and light comes in through the blinds in the living room the changing patterns it creates on the ceiling are really neat. This is probably true for anyone with those vertical-strip blinds and windows on more than one wall of a room. Check it out sometime.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Acting out miseries

Story time.

Once upon a time there was a handsome, charming young prince named Al Dimond. He was also a 1337 h4x00r who had r00t on all j00r b0x3n (even that old Apple //e in your attic under the Christmas ornaments). And wise, too. He never committed massive fuck-ups that ruined his day, no, nothing like that, and when stuff went wrong he just took it in stride. He knew his way around the city, for Pete's sake (Pete was his neighbor, who frequently called him to ask for directions).

Then he tried to move into his new apartment; after all, he was paying the rent. And he realized that he was neither handsome, charming, a prince, 1337, nor wise. Here I quote the Coen brothers:

I only mention it because sometimes there's a man. I won't say a hero, 'cause... what's a hero? Sometimes there's a man. And I'm talkin' about the Dude here — the Dude from Los Angeles. Sometimes, there's a man, well... he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that's the Dude. The Dude, from Los Angeles.

Hear that? The Dude, from Los Angeles. Not Al, from Chicago. The Dude, from Los Angeles. Al does not fit right in there. And he's certainly not the man for his time and place. He's more like the man for ancient civilization in the mountains of South America.

But... ah, Hell, I done introduced it enough. A list of things that went wrong yesterday (not to mention all the stuff that went wrong last week), in order of when I discovered them:

- We showed up right on time to the building with all of our stuff but the wrong amount of money for the security deposit. Dan and I had talked. He was going to call the management and ask them what the amount was supposed to be, because they hadn't yet given us a copy of the contract yet and we didn't remember it (there's a lot to remember). But then apparently he decided that he knew what it was and didn't call to ask. So my dad and I went around trying to find a BOA branch so I could get a cashier's check; it took an hour but it was OK, we were just an hour behind.

- Manager gave us the key. The one key. Two-bedroom place, two tenants, one key.

- The apartment was not very clean. Dust and gunk on the floors, radiators, counters and all bathroom surfaces from renovation. We spent a few hours cleaning, and have a few hours more still to go, just to make it generally clean and livable.

- Water does not flow from the kitchen sink. Light fixtures in the kitchen and front hall don't work. They're all new, so I would guess they haven't been connected yet. It was the 8th, and we started paying rent for the 1st.

- We left, we came back. The one key did not work in the outer doors of the apartment, giving us access only when the security guard was on duty.

- I caused lots of friction between myself and my mom. First, I'm OK with things going wrong, but I'm too proud for my own good and it bothers me when other people are there to see it. Especially my parents. I feel like I know my limitations in general, and that I should be able to get along just fine in life with those limitations. Maybe I'll have to take my time on some things, and I'll never do some things that other people find very important, but that's OK; I can be happy if I can control my situation and make sure I don't let things get too complicated. My parents seem to expect me to learn and improve from all my mistakes, which I think is totally unnecessary; I'll learn and improve on the stuff that affects me every day and I can't avoid, and the stuff that comes up occasionally, I'll live with some occasional fuck-ups. I don't take suggestions for improvement on my weak points well for this reason. The other thing that I don't handle well is when I make a logical argument and it's ignored, dismissed for no apparent reason, or people act like I'm being a jerk for pointing out facts and the conclusions that can be trivially derived from them. My mom is the queen of this. We are incapable of communicating when we disagree about anything because neither of us can handle the other's style of arguing. It's like at that Dennis Kucinich QA session I saw last Presidential cycle, where Kucinich took a few questions/arguments from a hard-core right-winger and they were practically speaking different languages, each unable to directly address the other's points.

- Perhaps related to this, I've often found that when I feel I'm doing things right my mom doesn't get it, or perhaps slightly disapproves. My mom loves the view from my apartment and the nice renovated stuff. It feels like a bad omen.

- I was planning to ride my bike out to meet Heather by the "Lincoln Square" arch on Lincoln in Lincoln Square. I forgot to bring my backpack, which had my bike lock in it.

- I started riding my bike anyhow, just because I like to ride my bike. I forgot to check after transporting it that the chain was still attached. It wasn't. Usually the pedals just spin when that happens. But for me the chain got messed up in a way that I can't even comprehend.

- I had a car down there, so I drove towards the meeting spot. For some reason I thought Clark was close to Lincoln and parked on Clark. Clark is a mile and a half from Lincoln that far north. I walked all of that.

But some good things went down, too:

- The people working the phones for AT&T are really friendly and helpful. Every time I've had to call them for any reason they've done a great job. If only their computer systems were as good.

- For all that I bitch about them, my parents are ridiculously helpful and patient, and between the two of them they can do just about anything well.

- I got to the meeting point and did actually catch Heather this time. Just before she was about to leave because I was so late. But not quite.

- German festival in Lincoln Square. Loud, happy drunk people singing and chanting along to songs. We did not know how they knew all the words and when to say them, but were right there in the middle of the crowd surrounded by all that energy.

- My dad got tickets to the US-Brazil soccer match today at Soldier Field! Woooo!


Saturday, September 8, 2007

I suppose it bears mention that I'm moving tomorrow. Tomorrow meaning Saturday, meaning, "In six hours I pick up the truck." Since I suck at productivity I haven't called to set up phone/internet yet. So I may be hard to contact for a while. I'll do my best to keep up with email. Everything else will be pretty spotty.

My place will be uptown. Sometimes I say it's, "In Uptown," but it feels awkward and wrong. Uptown should be an adjective, no? But I guess uptown as an adjective would probably be a lot less specific than Uptown, the proper noun denoting a still very large area surrounded by Lakeview, Edgewater, the lake and Lincoln Square.

I think it's time for me to train for a 5k. When I ran my 35:54 10k in the late fall of 2004 I had run a 5k just the week before in about 17:15 or 17:30... somewhere around there. And when I ran the 10k that probably was around 35:20 or so this past April I had run a ridiculously hilly 5k in just over 18 the week before (San Francisco hilly, but still. 18 minutes?). Those 5k times seem really pathetically bad compared to those 10k times. In high school I ran 15:48 for 3 miles at State; that translates to 16:20-ish for 5k. To be that fast again at that distance would be pretty awesome, I'm just not sure if I can do it without getting injured. I sometimes think that my goal is to run sub-16, but when I look at the numbers... it's totally unrealistic. So 16:20 will make a fine 10k goal for this fall!

EDIT: Sub-16 is not totally unrealistic if I can get my 2-mile time back under 10 minutes. Getting my 2-mile time that fast again would require tons of weightlifting and living at the track. And my dad's Blackberry just went off and it's 1:34 AM on a Friday. WTF? So, in conclusion, I think I need to hit the speedwork hard, and never get a cell phone ever.

EDIT2: In other blogworthy news I may already have a team for my 6th R2R running! I have run 5 out of the 8 legs: #5 while in moderate-but-not-peak shape in 2003, #8 while struggling through tendinitis in 2004, #4 basically as soon as they let me run after ACL reconstruction in 2005, #7 while having a blah year in 2006, and #6 this past year while in excellent shape. If I keep it up and finish the cycle in 2010 I wonder if I'll be the youngest runner to have run all 8 legs!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Have you seen my "mailto:" links?

The masses have spoken, and the have chosen The Web. Well, frankly, developers have spoken and they've chosen the
Web also, and little surprise, really: show me a programmer that would rather muck with visual form editors than write text (even if it's markup text) to stdout and I'll find you 10 that are the other way around. I've decided I'm fine with Webization, despite my earlier rantings against it. Although the Web can be clumsy as an application platform it offers something very important, a consistent and universal UI element, a theme running through all of its applications: the hyperlink. Whoever came up with the idea of blue, underlined link text really struck gold: even in non-web applications underlined text has come to signify that clicking it will take you somewhere, often to a web page. In my high school class some honors English students turned in papers with blue underlined text in the middle and the teacher, who had probably lived without the Web for at least 80% of her life, immediately recognized that the students had copied and pasted sections of their papers from a Web site.

Over the last few years I've become accustomed to seeing the increasing complexity of individual web pages drive away the simple tags that the Perl jockeys of yore coerced out of their cryptic scripts. Just as less and less Unix time is spent issuing two-letter commands, less and less Web formatting is done with <b>, with <i>, and more with monstrosities like <span style="font-weight:bold;"> and <span style="font-style:italic;"> (these are what Blogger produces if you ask for bold or italic text; they would appear to be semantically equivalent, but they probably affect the DOM in different ways). But at least those old tags still basically do what you'd expect, no matter what awful things the W3C says about their use. There's one kind of tag that's for all practical purposes been broken by the Web: <a href="mailto:">.

Ironic, isn't it? The disappearance of classic email clients and rise of webmail, that is, email's move onto the Web, has broken hyperlinking! Because the mailto: directive tells the client browser, "Make an email happen; I don't care how," and the traditional Web hyperlink means, "Go to this specific page and I know you'll love it!"

There are, of course, programs that make mailto: do the right thing. One was installed on my family's computer by SBC with their DSL connection suite a long time ago. But just this morning my mom clicked on a mailto: link and got Outlook Express asking her for her email server information. SBC's software didn't survive; there may have been a full OS re-install in the middle somewhere, or at least a major browser re-install.

These solutions aren't good enough, because they'll never be distributed widely enough. Getting mailto: links right these days the job of the browser, given the browser's current role as the center of all Internet client programs. I think that to facilitate this there ought to be a standard way for browsers to address webmail services, so that a user can just type in a simple URL into the standard preferences form and get mailto: working properly, whether the URL points to gmail or to some crazy homebrew IMAP frontend behind a noip address.