And Now, a Word from My Sponsor: Syntax

Work-related news: My company just officially released Syntax CMS to the world as open source.

It took rather a bit of effort to clean it up and get it to the point we thought it releaseworthy. It’s still not perfect, but it does a few things that low-end open source CMSes don’t do, or don’t do very easily. I’ll leave the rest of it for the blog we have about it, but thought I’d point it out here.

As always, if you choose to use it, report bugs and contribute patches at the project source page on Tigris.

Update: Of course I mean “sponsor” in the sense that Forum One pays me the paycheck whence the scratch to maintain this blog and keep body and soul together comes from. Others will doubtless point out that I don’t have a soul. They may well be right. But the company, rightly so, has nothing to do officially with this blog and all opinions are mine…and I think the company is very happy that this is so.

Beer Trials

I’ve been on a beer exploration binge trend recently–a beer every couple of days or so.

So far:

Young’s Double Chocolate Stout: Tasty, though a bit rich and sugary (for a beer). Dessert beer, if such a thing can exist.

Leffe Blonde: Belgian ale. Kind of bitter to my taste, but sophisticated. However, it gave me a headache. I’m vulnerable to that, so this one is out of my repertoire.

Young’s Oatmeal Porter: Rich and fairly smooth. A good alternative, but not something I could drink nightly.

Samuel Smith’s Triple Stout: A trifle flat–I wonder if the bottle was too old. A little syrupy. Still, pretty smooth and rich. I’d like to try it from the cask.

That’s the first few. Three more to go, plus any others I may encounter–such as Smithwick, which I tried a taste of last night and vaguely remember as being relatively smooth and complex. But I need to be more sober to give it a fair tasting. 😛

NEARFest: Progressive Rock in Pennsylvania

I went to NEARFest again this year, and it was overall more pleasant than last year, though attenuated in every sense.

It wasn’t as loud (good), the seating wasn’t even close to as uncomfortable (good), the food wasn’t as good (bad), and I didn’t hate or love the acts as extremely (good and bad). The lighting, if possible, was even better–really good when the bands used NEARFest’s own crew, that is.

Read on for the full blow-by-blow, if you care about that sort of thing.

Continue reading

Vacation-type Behavior

I’m back. Miss me? Me neither.

I did a couple of things, such as go to a prog rock festival and to the mountains of North Carolina. I’ll cover each in their own post, but this is mainly to announce my semireturn to blogging. I seem to have comments from people I don’t know, so some posts must be linked from somewhere. Certainly the comment spammers have found me a useful idiot.

Hopefully, with some assistance from Jason and this page, I should get less of that in the future.

Group Pizza Behavior

I can’t count the number of times this scenario has happened to me in a group lunch setting.

Random Person: “Let’s get Pizza! What would everybody like?”

Me: “Just a plain pepperoni is fine.”

Significant Majority of Group Who are Posers, All Together, As If I’d Just Suggested A Dog Feces Plus Small Baby Limbs Pizza: “EWWW!”

Vegetarian Poser: “I know! Let’s get a pizza with Arugula, Capers, Endives, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Tofu!”

Remaining Posers Who Wish to be Seen as Veggie Friendly: “YUM!”

One Meat Eater: “I don’t care if it has mushrooms and onions, as long as there’s one with sausage or something.”

Me: “I really don’t like veggies on my pizza, can we just have one plain cheese or something?”

Head Poser, Sighing Exasperatedly: “Fine. We’ll get the baby his Pepperoni.”

Time Passes and People Get Hungry. The pizzas arrive, with the pepperoni on top. Everyone crowds around, blocking me from getting to them. All demolish the first pizza and proceed to eat. I open the second pizza.

Me: “WTF? This is that Arugula and Crap, and the other is the Veggies Plus Token Meat. What happened to the Pepperoni and the plain cheese?”

Vegetarian Posers: “Oh, really? This is pepperoni? We were just hungry. You can have all the others, though, we’re full. Yum, this is good pizza!”

The moral of this story is: Everybody just likes pepperoni pizzas, no matter how much they make claims to the contrary, and even vegans just eat plain cheese and leave the veggie shit for last. Nobody really likes veggies on their pizza, but everybody thinks they do. Except me.

Not Getting It, Eric Meyer Edition, Plus Sanity from the WaSP

Eric Meyer still doesn’t get it. He wants anything that hasn’t been approved out of HTML, or there will be hell to pay!

Of course, the theorist in me is quivering in outrage. The browser-wars veteran isn’t too thrilled either. For years, we heard Microsoft and Netscape say things like “standards are secondary to customer demands” and “standards aren’t as useful as the cool new proprietary features we’re adding”. These things need not be inimical to standards support. They should not require a breaking of standards.

I’m a browser wars veteran, too, and there’s a big difference between supporting standards and implementing only the standards. Fortunately, there’s actually somebody at the usually insane Web Standards Project who Gets It:

Overall, though, it’s not that big a deal. Safari does an excellent (not perfect) job of supporting the various HTML, XHTML, and CSS specs as they’re written and ultimately, that’s what’s most important. If developers don’t want to use the extensions, they don’t have to. The vision that the WaSP has been most adamant about is that developers should be able to build sites that conform to the published specs and have them Just WorkTM in every browser. If browsers want to support additional proprietary extensions on top of that, they’re free to do so and the rest of us are free to ignore them.

Yes! Somebody who actually acts like they built a site between 1996 and 1999! The problem then was twofold: content authors targeting code to one browser and one browser only, and browsers defining the same term in different ways.

The first case was much more annoying from a Web user’s perspective (hello, remember when the Web was for creators and users, not browser makers, user agents, and standards gurus?). That was the source of the dreaded “This site works best in StupidBrowser 4” badges. The problem there was authors who thought their latest trick was more important than letting users read their content. This seems to be a stage people go through when they come to the Web, and most content authors have now gone through it, except for Microsoft-happy CTOs, who are by definition morons. The solution was education about cross-browser compatibility. A tool to achieve that was standards compliance, but the tool was not the be all and end all–it was a means (conform to HTML 4 elements only) to an end (your content works for lots of people).

The second problem was more annoying from a content author’s perspective, particularly if you were trying to be good about cross-browser compatibility. Different browsers treated whitespace, width, and borders differently. Trying to get your site to look the same in multiple browsers was an exercise in frustration.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? That’s because, thanks to innovation in Standards coming from a group of purists and people who want to use HTML for data interchange rather than browser authors and content creators with wide-ranging feedback, standards are hard to implement and ambiguous in application. Even the “reference browser” provided by the W3C can’t keep up.

Ironically, if you code to HTML 4.01 and use the Bad Old Way of doing things, the latter problem is gone from modern browsers. All of them basically support the Netscape 4 way of doing things identically. It’s when you do it the New Good Way that suddenly simple things just fail miserably (try getting side-by-side floating boxes within a larger box that scale in width working in IE 5 through 6 without browser detection, I dare ya–and that’s just one browser).

Simply adding extensions that other browsers don’t support, as long as content authors don’t use them in ways that exclude people from sites, just isn’t a big deal. It never was. IE’s addition of the MARQEE tag never affected me, as few people put important information in it, and I never had to use it. Netscape’s handling of whitespace in table cells affected me far more, and table cells and whitespace are all standard components of HTML documents.

Dave Hyatt has shown the way: innovate in response to developer demand, do so in a way that is easy to implement, consult with other browser makers to make sure you and they have the same definition of “easy”, do so in a way that older browsers can safely ignore, and contribute those innovations back to the standards body for blessing.

We need to get HTML back on course, rather than becoming a weird mishmash of automated data interchange and cataloging librarian nirvana RDF hell. The Right Tool for the Right Job. HTML is the Right Tool for written Web document exchange. It is the Wrong Tool for auto-descriptive frameworks or intelligent agents. Let’s focus on that, and actually make content authors’ and hence Web users’ lives easier.

Anti-Bush: VaPo Sez I’m Just in it for the Chix

I’m loath to disagree with Virginia Postrel–she’s extremely bright and a great writer, as well as putting out the best issues Reason has ever seen–plus she is a total babe…but I digress. In this post questioning the motives of Kerry-leaning libertarians, she falls down hard, and unfortunately I have to take issue:

I have a sneaking suspicion that Kerry-leaning libertarian hawks (now that’s a small demographic!) are simply kidding themselves in order to stay on the fashionable side of politics.

The thrust of her argument is that Kerry is indeed a classic Massachusetts liberal who wants to socialize this, raise taxes on that, and basically had his economic understanding frozen at the height of Eugene V. Debs’s influence on the Left. So electing him is dangerous compared to Bush. As evidence she quotes his focus on nationalizing health care through providing federal insurance.

Errr…Kerry is no Clinton, but then Clinton had a certain, more far-reaching health-care proposal that went nowhere against the Republican congress. The fact of the matter is that we would talk less about Clinton’s centrism were he saddled with the 98th Congress instead of the 104th or later. So the gridlock argument is not one to be brushed aside lightly.

The upshot of it is that both Bushes put Clinton to shame in the social spending and federal regulation realm…liberals ought to be in love with the Bush family. If only it weren’t for that pesky war and religious superstition dictating social policy!

With regard to the Iraq war, I’m not in the libertarian hawk set that Postrel mentions–though I was not against the war before it happened, neither did I think it a good idea at that time. And now I think it was a lousy idea and events have proven war opponents right and hawks wrong, even assuming coverage of the war and its aftermath has been skewed.

But I certainly do have problems–big problems–with Bush’s domestic policy. He embodies everything I hate about conservatives and liberals (ironically my take on Al Gore as well). So I’l be voting for Kerry to get Bush out of office. I don’t pretend it will be a positive good, but at this point less bad is a much better option.

And as far as the specious argument that being anti-Bush is cool: come on, if libertarians wanted to be cool, they would stop being libertarians. Being an anti-Bush libertarian wins you few if any friends–more like toleration from the Left, and condemnation as a traitor from the Right. It would be much cooler to be some sort of granola Peace Corps hippy–and I’d find more social acceptance as an unthinking Christian evangelical.

In short, nobody becomes libertarian because it’s cool, so once they’ve made the leap to libertarianism, you have a large burden of proof to show before you can claim that any other policy position they take is due to fashion rather than an honest assessment that it’s right. Move from Dallas to here in the DC area and see just how cool you feel as any sort of libertarian, pro- or anti-Bush.

National Security Getting Convenient–for the Government

CNN has a story about an FBI contract translator’s wrongful dismissal case being dismissed because the evidence needed to prove the case one way or the other is secret.

Now, having at one time held a piddling Secret clearance, I can tell you that a lot of stuff that is classified is bogus…at most it needs to be classified for about 72 hours and then it is worthless. Details of Hillary Clinton’s itinerary in various trips she made abroad, as far as I know, are still Secret…even though they’re published in the press and over for several years. (No, this is not the Secret material I had access to, just an example.)

However, there are cases in which the testimony would not be best left out in the open (“Well, since the Aurora pictures taken at Mach 9 with our image enhancement technology show the defendant’s license plate on the car moments before it blew up, we’re relatively sure it was him.”). But why can’t these cases be handled by specially cleared judges who are cleared Secret, Top Secret, and a special few who are code-word cleared?

I would prefer open trials in most cases–but the idea that a case is dismissed because the government says, “Uh, no, that’s a…secret…yeah, that’s the ticket,” is even more repulsive to me.

Until then, let’s change regimes at home so the trend has a chance to reverse–and vote those bums out if they don’t reverse it.

(See, Mike? It’s not hard, and I didn’t quote anybody out of context. Loads of reasons to vote against Bush–it’s like taking candy from a baby.

Hmmm…I’m hungry.)