Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Springtime from a Zoka Window

I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for blossoming trees. Maybe it’s because I’m a spring baby or something, but I totally dig the period of spring where the trees blossom and bud and just start to sneak out their small leaves. It’s been winter for months, and this revival is energizing, especially on those first few warm, sunny days that witness an explosion of life and growth. Flowers are blooming, and people just seem to be feeling upbeat about life (or perhaps it’s just me).

I’m torn on what to do with this beautiful day (we should have another 5 hours until sunset). I’m currently at Zoka (as the admittedly poor picture suggests), and while it’s nice to be here and perhaps get some writing done, I in some ways would feel remiss if I didn’t go out gallavanting somewhere with my camera in tow, and make use of the day. There is, perhaps, time to do both.

In a moment of eating crow, I would like to publically apologize to Mr. Samuel R. Delany, whose last name I’ve perpetually misspelled for the past decade as “Delaney.” In my defense, apparently it’s one of the most misspelled author names in SFdom, including by publishers, and I could have sworn the original edition of Dhalgren that I read had it spelled with an ‘e’, hence my confusion. Regardless, I’ve realized my error, and corrected its use in the prior entries of this blog (the only use of “Delaney” that will show up on a search now is this very entry). What sparked all this, of course, is noticing that his book on writing has been nominated for a Hugo. Congrats, Mr. Delany!

As a side note about the Delany-Delaney thing: When I got my copy of Dhalgren signed last year, he added an ‘e’ to the end of my name. Given that I now realize I’ve been doing the same to him for years, I find it highly amusing. (Little things!)

The Blue Heron Struts
The Fox and the Hawk Look On
Life Marches Onward!

March of Rainy Days

Yesterday was my brother’s birthday: Happy Birthday, Uri! (I know this post is late, but in fairness, I did actually call him and wish him a happy happy yesterday.)

Today? Today it rains. It’s cool and rainy and I’ve chosen to spend it getting some things done around the apartment. Laundry, cleaning, unpacking, nothing spectacular, nothing pressing or momentous, and that seems to me to be a good use of a rainy day in March. I stocked my cupboards and fridge last night, so there’s actually food in the house (great opportunity to inaugurate the cookware I picked up last week), and… well, yeah, things are pretty good.

Across the board, really. The new Baha’i year started on the 21st, and really since then, I’ve been having a really good period. Sure, I’ve been going to sleep at 3-4am (even when I got to bed at 1 or 2) and sleeping all morning, but regardless of that, I’ve been pretty productive, and I’m feeling good about where things are at for me. I’ve started actually talking to people at Zoka, which is excellent (more on that later), and I found a job I really really hope I get (how often do you actually see an entry level position available for game production? Or any entry level game gig, to be honest, but production is the path I want to take). I finished my revised resume last night, and sent it and a cover letter to the company right after.

I got a call from a certain Fruit-based company this morning, though sadly not to offer me a job or a free computer, but still helpful for a project nonetheless. I wish I could say more, but decidedly not yet. If nothing else, it’s useful to start being known (and hopefully in a positive light).

I’ve been listening to KEXP podcasts since I woke up. I’ve already gone through their Song of the Day podcast backlog, and currently am listening to their Live Performances podcast. Let me just say, I <3 KEXP. I like their music, I like their mission, I like their services. It’s a damn great radio station, and I wish other stations elsewhere would get on board the cluebus and start offering broader ranges of music, and less commercial pap.

This disjointed post brought to you by the letters A, Z, and K.

Of Libraries, Bars, and Corners

I just finished listening to How it Ends by Devotchka, and How Strange, Innocence by Explosions in the Sky just started, and I’m not really sure where I’m going in this post beyond a few things I wanted to mention, so we’ll see what comes, shall we?

I’ve been playing with Delicious Library the past day or two, and I must say: it’s good. It’s a very targeted application, aimed at filling a specific (but arguably necessary) role, namely creating a rich media management system. I’m about a third to halfway through adding my things to the library, which really isn’t bad considering the quantity of stuff and the amount of time I’ve devoted to the project. I feel good enough about the product to have written up a review, and hopefully that show go live in the next week or so (I sent it to Wil along with some interview questions this evening, so when it goes live somewhat depends on when he gets back to me). I’m pretty pleased with the responses I got from my last article (on Scrivener), so I’m hoping this spotlight also goes well. For those who might be interested in its potential for institutional use in some capacity: it currently doesn’t really support ISSN or LOC information (though it does support full ISBN and ISBN-13 lookups), so I’m not sure if it’s really ready for a large scale academic or institutional library. As far as communal (informal) libraries go, however, or small scale operations (say, a coffee house that offers books to read to patrons), I think it would be phenomenal.

Actually, let’s take a second and expand on that idea… I’d really love to see that. A coffee house that also serves a community role by housing a “reading room” lined with books that can be checked out by customers willing to register details with the cafe. Books could be purchased by the cafe to start, and then take donations of money or books to expand and refresh the library. I don’t know if it would fly — I suspect it might (as I’ve mentioned before, the notion of coffee and books seems to have already been imprinted on the public as a good combination). I’m in no position to start such a thing, but now I’m sitting here wondering if I know anyone who might be.

So, as most of you are aware, I don’t really know that many people out here (though that is changing). Aside from whatever other ramifications that may have, it means that I’ve been dining alone a lot. I’m by no means the first person to make this observation (I seem to recall a well known dining critic who wrote a regular column based on dining alone), but in general, restaurants have no idea what to do with the solitary diner. While there doesn’t seem to be as much open disdain for it as has been alluded to in the past, there does generally seem to be an outcast mentality that accompanies “table for one, please.” My observation is that you tend to automatically be placed either in the corner, out of the way, or (if they have one) at the bar. I don’t drink, but I’ve certainly found myself perched on a bar chair (no stools thankfully) more than a few times in the past month or so of being out here, and I don’t imagine that trend is going to subside any time soon.

Personally, I don’t really mind too much: when you’re stuck in a corner alone, it gives you a chance to cultivate other habits that are arguably beneficial. Bringing a book to a restaurant suddenly seems more reasonable, and more often than not, I pull out my pocket notebook and write a journal entry while I wait for my food to arrive. What, you didn’t think this was the only place I write, did you? I may not write as much as I should (and certainly not as much productive writing as I should), but I wouldn’t exactly call myself a complete slouch about it, either.

The past few days have been really good, thinking about it. I’ve been feeling pretty upbeat, and managed to a) actually talk to one of the cute baristas at the coffeehouse; b) catch up with folks from Coccinella and even go to dinner with them and meet some of their friends (which was a blast, if any of you are reading this, I really appreciated getting to come, and hope I didn’t make too much of an ass of myself); c) introduced myself, exchanged cards with, and chatted for more than 30 seconds with Wil, which is actually quite a feat — it’s dumb, I know, but I always feel a little uncomfortable about introducing myself to people who are famous, even if it’s just fame within a select circle (like, say, the Mac developer community). I end up worrying about offending them or looking like a hanger-on, and feel like I need to say something worthwhile and important so I’m not wasting their time. It’s just in general been a pretty good few days. At least for the moment, my bills are paid, and I know I have the money for the rent due in a week, and… well, yeah. Things are okay.

It’s interesting, but a lot of that “hey hey, things are okay” feeling really started accumulating once I started making real progress on unpacking all my books. I guess I’m still a bit of a bookworm at heart: I feel better when I have shelves of books around. Reuniting my things from before the divorce with the things from after the divorce is also a pretty significant act. While I’m not trying to sound like a materialist, it really does make me feel a lot more “whole”. When I packed everything up in 2005, I felt like I’d packed up a portion of myself in the process, and it wasn’t any specific thing that I could point out and say “Yes, that, that’s what makes me feel more complete.” It was more the whole notion of fragmenting myself, losing my anchor point. The entire time I was in Vermont, I didn’t really feel connected (which I will freely admit is largely my own fault), and never really settled down or got comfortable with who I was. And now… well, I’m still not sure if I’ve figured out the whole “who I am” thing to any modicum of comfort, but I definitely feel like I’m back on a path of getting there.

A Quick Update

First off: Happy Birthday, Erica.

Second: I just updated Critical Gallery to Gallery 2.2. It went off mostly without a hitch. The new WebDAV module they added mixed with URL Rewrite caused a really weird bug that made anything starting with a w not load. Took me a while to figure out that’s what it was. Until they patch it, I just changed the webdav rewrite prefix to an actual word instead of ‘w’. I’m sampling a new theme for my part of the gallery (Mickey’s welcome to set up hers however she wants, what’s there now seems to work fine and I know better than to meddle), which in a lot of ways I like a lot more, though I do definitely have it set up for wider screens than not at this point. It’ll still fit on a 1280 width with room to spare, though, so I don’t really care.

If you want to leave comments, please feel free, but be aware that you need to create an account first. You also get to view larger resolution versions of the images in the process, so I do definitely recommend it.


I came down to Zoka this afternoon, ostensibly to drop off a cd to one of the baristas (who apparently isn’t here today), and instead discovered all sorts of folks from the coffee shop in Bellevue I used to go to… apparently they’ve all migrated over here, following the close. Had some pleasant conversations with them, and then turned around and noticed Wil Shipley sitting next to me at one of the communal tables. Managed to strike up a conversation with him about Delicious Monster and Delicious Library, which is high on my list of apps I’d still like to review for AppleGeeks. I managed to line up an interview at some point in the near future, which is awesome, so I’ll be not only reviewing the software, but interviewing the developer for my next column (probably). Seems like a nice guy, and really passionate about what he does, so I’m definitely looking forward to that. (It occurs to me that I should also ask if there’s any way I can help, seeing as I’m, y’know, unemployed and job hunting.)

I spent the morning asleep (sleep schedule still out of whack), but the early afternoon assembling Ikea shelves, which didn’t arrive until 9-9:30pm last night, which I decided was too late to be hammering in deference to my neighbors. I should probably head home now and start filling the shelves, but I’m kind of liking sitting here at the moment. I’m not sure where I should be going with all this.

There are things on my to-do list, definitely:
» download and review Delicious Library, then come up with some interview questions for Wil
» update Be My Patron, and start shilling it with all my might.
» finish my resume update. The honest truth is that I’ve been royally avoidant of this, and only really applying for jobs that I feel like my current resume would be acceptable for. It NEEDS a major revision, though. (This has already caused me to miss out on a chance at a really awesome job over at KEXP, though I’m still going to apply to the company. The other positions aren’t as perfect a fit, but I think I could still do at least some of them.)
» finish unpacking my apartment
» tackle the great data-organization project
» organize my life, start using iCal religiously
» pay some bills that have caught up to me (I’ve been good about the monthlies, but the one-shots like a parking ticket, or a speeding ticket, or a lab bill, I’ve completely spaced on). I don’t REALLY have the money, but I also can’t afford to NOT pay them.

Let’s get crackin’!

Happy Naw Ruz

Nabil in March

Today is the first day of spring, which means it’s also Naw Ruz, the Baha’i New Year. Despite sleeping in (my sleep schedule is still completely out of whack and I haven’t tracked down why yet), I’ve been fairly productive today, taking a trip to Ikea just south of Seattle, to pick up some relatively inexpensive household necessities (cookware mostly… two pots, a pan, some kitchen knives, some utensils, and a plate and bowl set. Also, two more bookshelves which should be arriving this evening). It was still arguably more than I really can justify, but at the same time, being able to eat is bloody important! The bookshelves are the basic Billy shelf, which I’ve had before and was happy with, so they should do fine. It also means I’ll be able to unpack more boxes, since I currently have stacks of boxes full of books with nowhere to put them. I thankfully got a shelf from Mickey through ironic timing (which incidentally had originally been one of mine from Windsor), which let me unload at least some boxes, but that shelf is now fairly full (leaving only enough room for books I know I have but haven’t unpacked yet that go with the topics on the shelf).

Things are progressing nicely. I resisted a strong temptation to head to Chop Suey which is a notable music venue here in Seattle. A band I heard on the radio is playing tonight that I’d really love to go see, and the tickets are only $10, but there are other things I should really be doing. Next time around, maybe, when I’m more sure I’ll be able to go instead of waiting for bookshelves to arrive and then unpacking some more. I realize that I’ve been in here for a while now, so you’d think I’d be unpacked by now… in my defense, a) I was sick for a while, and b) the place is small, so unpacking involves a lot of juggling boxes around the apartment to make room.

It seems like there’s a ton of new music I’d like to pick up. The new Modest Mouse is sounding awesome, Decemberists have several new albums out since I was last able to collect them, there’s this new band Under Byen that I’d love to pick up, there’s the new Joanna Newsom, Bright Eyes have a new album coming out, the list just keeps on going… in the interim, though, KEXP continues to be a mainstay for me. I listen to it mostly in the car, but I also pull up the stream on iTunes occasionally as well. They have a nice mix of old and new, and always ecclectic, covering a ton of different genres (though there does tend to be an indie/alt influence, which I’m totally fine with).

Just to note, I tossed a pic into this post. I’m not planning on making it a regular habit, but I figured what the heck, Photo Booth is easy, and that way folks who want to see what I’m looking like nowadays can. (A lot like I did before, eh?)

Not a Shut-In

Or at least, I’m trying not to be. I noticed myself tending to hide out in my apartment the past week, ostensibly because I wasn’t feeling well and needed to unpack, but when faced with the reality, I didn’t really get much unpacking done during that time, and didn’t make good use of my time even hiding out in the apartment. I also noticed myself sleeping too much (12 hours last night… I’m usually happily functional on 7 hours), which is something I tend to do when I’m letting things pile up rather than acting on them. Doing is also key to keeping the depression demons at bay.

So, today I packed up the laptop and took my first trip to the coffee house in about a week. Early in the week is the best time to be here, anyway, as it gets hard to find seats later in the week. I ran into one of the folks from Coccinella (sadly now defunct) when I came in, which is awesome. I gave him my card, we’ll see if he gets in touch. (He’s in much the same boat as me at the moment, job hunting… he wandered off to work on his grad degree in philosophy, and is back now.)

Wil Shipley is sitting a few tables over, but it looks like he’s working, so I’ve opted not to bother him. I keep on meaning to go over and say hi when I see him in here (this IS one of his regular haunts after all… this is the same coffee shop they wrote Delicious Library in), but it’s hard to step up and break the ice. “Hi, I read your blog, I like your software, let’s chat?” Heh.

For those who are keeping track, I did, in fact, get Gentoo running on my G5, except for one very small, minor, deal breaking problem: the display I’m currently using (my television) apparently doesn’t play nice with the bootloader, meaning I get a blank screen and no way of knowing what I’m selecting (like, say, whether to load Gentoo or OS X) until it’s already loading. So, I’m going to chalk it up to a learning experience (namely, I now know more than I care to about configuring a kernel), and get back to thinking about data, and how I want it organized.

It’s a daunting task to take several years of files across multiple computers and drives, and get it all collected and sorted and not duplicated, and then prep it for clean backups and archiving. I think that once I DO get it all organized, Slingshot and LifeBoat are going to come in exceptionally handy, and I’ll be a lot happier (and ostensibly more productive, but I’m not holding my breath).

All quiet on the romantic front. I’d have to, y’know, be social for it to be anything else. I’ve been giving a LOT of thought to finally putting together my thoughts and observations on love into a full essay, and have slowly started gathering notes and quotes and such towards that end. Those who’ve known me for a long time can attest to the fact that love, and the idea of love, have been perennial topics for me for most of my life. I can remember sitting and thinking about it when I was 5 and 6, trying to figure out the butterflies in my stomach when certain girls were nearby, and the topic has never really fully left my thoughts since. The difference between arousal, infatuation, crushing, and love, different types of love, the abstraction and the concrete behind it. I think it’ll be rewarding (if only for myself) to sit down and put it all into words, and hopefully it will make it more clear for those around me as well. It’s still a ways off, though, as I really want to do the topic justice, and there are other things that are more pressing that I need to do (like get a job).

Beware the Ides of March

Actually, not much to beware at the moment, things are doing pretty well. I made a quick trip to Fry’s Electronics, something of a Mecca for computer geekery, in order to pick up a DVI cable to plug my G5 into my television, which works smashingly. I wouldn’t think that it would take Fry’s to get a DVI cable, but apparently they’re just hard to find right now. The Apple Store didn’t have any, Radio Shack not only didn’t have any, but were rude about it (and tried to tell me that DVI was being replaced by HDMI, which is bullshit: HDMI serves multimedia consumer electronics, DVI serves the computer industry. While there’s some overlap what with the proliferation of media pcs, HDMI is NOT a replacement for DVI. That would be UDI, which isn’t even out yet). Office Depot had one DVI-D cable, but for $70, which seemed a bit exorbitant. So, Fry’s it is… for $30 (and I could have gone cheaper). For those not aware, Fry’s is a honeytrap for geeks… it is incredibly likely that if you go in for one item, you’ll leave with that item PLUS several other things you didn’t realize you needed.

So now the G5 is hooked up to a nice big 32″ LCD TV, fresh up on software updates, and currently downloading the Gentoo PPC64 Linux Distribution. You might be wondering why: well, I have two very nice computers serve as my primaries (a 24″ iMac Core 2 Duo, and a 15″ MacBook Pro Core Duo), so using the G5 to explore another operating system and set it up as a server becomes remarkably appealing. I looked around at different systems I could put on it, notably Darwin, which is the BSD variant that underpins OS X, and Ubuntu, which is a popular, easy to use distro. Darwin simply didn’t have the user support, what with OpenDarwin closing down, among other things. As for Ubuntu, while they MAY have better PPC64 support in their next 6 month seed (ie, this April), they currently don’t really support 64 bit PPC chips fully yet, and I’d prefer to make a full leap if I’m going to. This didn’t leave many options, but of the major distros, Gentoo supports… well, pretty much every architecture you can think of, including PPC32, and TWO variants for PPC64 (one using a 32bit user space, the other using a 64 bit user space). I’ve heard good things about Portage, which is their package handling system, so Gentoo it is!

This is all part of a general process that I’ve been working on, and want to explain a little bit: 1) self-improvement. I’ve been doing a lot of job searching lately (imagine that), and it seems like I’m MOSTLY qualified for a lot of things, but am missing a few key fields which would make this process a lot easier… so if I can fill in the gaps while finding something I CAN do in the meantime (and who knows, maybe something even better… there are a few positions I’m applying for that would kick some serious serious ass, and are things I feel like I could really settle into and not feel like I’m “tiding over”), awesome. And besides, Linux is free, so all it’s taking up is my time. 2) Organization. I’ve been thinking a LOT about how I use my computers, and reorganizing my data to make everything a bit more efficient and accessible. I realize that this is something of a holy grail, considering the daily use of computers is a prime example of entropy, but you’ve gotta try, y’know? If nothing else, it’ll put me in prime position for when OS X 10.5 comes out, for a clean upgrade.

Unpacking continues through this all… after all, it takes a while for CD ISOs to download, burn, and install, so might as well make good use of my time, no? Of course, I say that, but then I took the time to write this, so…

Innocuous Posting

You may have noticed a few little update-y things I’ve done on the blog, mostly behind the scenes, so perhaps not: I’ve re-added the MyBlogLog widget to the sidebar, re-activated my Google Sitemaps plugin, and added a Print plugin — I figure I write longwinded rambling posts, the least I could do is offer a way for folks to read them in another manner that might appeal to them more. And if I ever get off my ass and start posting articles and reviews, it’ll be doubly handy!

This is going to be something of a linkdump, just so you’re aware. There’s a number of things I want to mention that have come up in the recent past that I think are worth your attention. First up, for those of us who use Twitter, I really must point out the sexy and fabulous Twitterrific for all your OS X Tweeting needs. I know I’m late to the bus on this one, but it’s still worth pointing out. The interface is sleek and refined, and can be incredibly subdued and non-invasive if you want it to be. For one, it has no dock icon to clutter up your dock, though it does add a small “t” icon to your menubar for calling it up when you want (or you can set a hotkey to do that, which is what I did). I have the window set to appear when a new twitter occurs, and then after 30 seconds quietly disappears again. No noise, no clutter, and I don’t have to pay attention to it if I don’t want to. I like that philosophy for an application. I wonder if I could convince them to put together a similar system for RSS reading?

Which takes me to the next topic: RSS readers. I played with standalone RSS readers when RSS first became a “thing”, but was unimpressed with the offerings. It’s not to say they were bad — NetNewsWire for instance is an excellent and robust application, but the information metaphor they all seemed to run with just didn’t click for me. I still saw the invaluable nature of feeds, though, so I was quite happy when Apple put together RSS support built into Safari, and have been using their integrated solution ever since. It’s still not ideal, but it does dump the information in front of me handily, and I don’t have to think about opening another app or going somewhere specific: I just have a Feeds menu on my bookmarks bar, and it tells me when there’s a new feed, and I go click on it. Done. But, well, feeds have continued to evolve. Feed based technology drives all the various -casts going on out there (music casts, podcasts, photocasts, etc), using RSS Enclosures, mostly, which aren’t really all that supported in Safari. So, I decided to see what’s going on out there in Readerland, and took a stroll through a few. Results? I’m STILL not happy with any of the RSS readers out there. NewsFire seems pretty nice, though, and I like their a la cart licensing system ($18 for the basic license… for an extra $9, you can add a household license, and/or also for $9, you can add a “license for life”, which guarantees all future versions will be a free upgrade, no matter what). Overall, it has a clean interface, which seems to be a blending of Spotlight and Aqua Unified aesthetics, and its keyboard control is mostly intuitive and what I’d expect (not always, though). I’m still debating whether I’d actually use it if I spent the money on the license — I’m usually all for supporting independent developers, but a) I’m not entirely happy with it, and b) I need to watch my budget until I have a steady income. If either of those issues were alone, I’d spend the money (I bought Scrivener, after all, and I’m in the same budget minding now as I was then).

While I was exploring NewsFire’s developer site, and came across another of his applications that is just crazy cool, though. Safari, like most browsers, has a search bar in the navigation control. What Inquisitor does is cause that search bar to work like a Spotlight search: dynamic, real time results as you type, in a drop down window that you can click from. The interface is clean, and again, it just works, adding functionality to the browser in a very real way.

This is something I’m probably going to clean up and expand upon for a post over on Applegeeks, but one of the things about modern software development is that there really is room for small, specialized applications that are innocuous and efficient. The goal, as I see it, is to make an application do its job so well that it becomes invisible to the user. Every time a user of your application stops and says “Shit, that was easy,” then you did your job. Also, as is shown by applications like Twitterrific, there is room for applications that run separately that can still offer the same seamless functionality as if it was integrated into another application, without trying to shoehorn it INTO another app. I truly hope we see more and more of this sort of approach (I think any sort of push based information could feasibly work with it… RSS feeds and email immediately come to mind. Some IM already does, but I think there’s definitely room for improvement).

It’s the Little Things

16 boxes just arrived at my door from Vermont. While the computers and TV and boxes (and boxes and boxes…) of books are certainly great, what I’m really happy about is the toaster and teapot. The ability to make toast and tea in one’s own home truly is the height of civilization.

Tomorrow, the storage unit arrives (it’s a portable one). That holds my bed (futon), my desk, and a wide panoply of things that I’ve not seen for coming up on two years. Time flies! This’ll be the first time I’ll have all my stuff in one spot since the divorce. Feeling pretty good about that. It’s going to take some serious thought on how to organize everything to fit in this space, but I think I’ll manage. (It’s a studio apartment, remember, and I’m something of a packrat. Hector the Collector ain’t got nothing on me!) Once I’ve figured out the space and what furniture I have, I think my priority will be to a) find a small couch if there’s room, and b) arrange for bookshelves. I’d say that easy 70% of all the things I own at the moment are things meant to go on shelves.

Finally starting to get over this cold. Still congested, but otherwise feeling fairly human. It’s been in the 50-60 range, and the trees are blossoming, and the bushes outside my apartment are flowering nicely. I’m definitely glad to be here, even if I have been under the weather the past few days.