The Hess Report

Friday, February 18, 2005

Security Link

I said yesterday that I was composing a page for simple security measures you can take if you have a computer hooked up to broadband Internet in your home. The page is written and posted:

Machine Gun Man

My coworker, who in his Air Force Reserve military life is known as First sergeant D. S., was on his base yesterday, qualifying on machine gun. His unit (the 911th, a C-130 group) has been activated for over a year, but he personally has not been called for a long tour, until now.

He'll be leaving at the beginning of May for parts unknown in the sandbox. As I said, he did his M-16 qualification yesterday. Apparently, he did very well, except for the last test where he had to fire on a target while wearing a gas mask, which makes you have to hold the rifle sideways, etc. I can't say that I'm not at all jealous. Not of the fact that he's going somewhere that you may indeed have to fire a machine gun at people whilst donning chemical weapons gear. Nope. That would royally suck. But, even though the M-16 is a crapper by all accounts, shooting a crapper of an automatic rifle is significantly more fun than not shooting any automatic rifle at all.

In any case, due to the nature of his military job, he will probably not be directly in harm's way, and I hope he doesn't even have to put a finger on a rifle over there. That would mean that things had gone very very badly. He's promised to take his digital camera, though, and hopefully he'll be able to send some pictures once he's there. If they're cool, and he gives me permission, I'll post them here.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Sausages and Spam Spam Spam!

Blah blah blah SPAM blah blah, say the headlines these days. Some people get a few in their email, but for the most part it's not that big of a deal.

Just to give you some perspective on why it actually is a problem, allow me to illuminate:

At work, our domain receives around 18,000 email messages a day.

About 14,000 of those get killed immediately, as they are addressed to certain people who do not work there anymore yet had managed in their brief tenure to splay their email addresses haphazardly across the Internet.

Another 3,500 or so a day then get the boot, as they are not addressed to anyone in particular and have been flagged by my system as likely SPAM. Bad address plus SPAM flagging equals the trash can.

About 200 messages a day show up with valid email addresses, but are tagged as potential SPAM. I go through these by hand to make sure that nothing important is dumped.

That leaves anywhere from 80-160 actual valid incoming email messages per day at our company. Out of 18,000 received. That's ludicrous. If you're curious, it's between .004 and .009 percent. My SPAM filters screw up about five messages per day on average, giving them a 99.9998% accuracy rating.

However, dealing with that level of email requires that mail services have its own dedicated computer, and costs me probably about a half hour a day. The incoming volume is so high that if the mail server should crash over a long weekend, and, say, 70,000 messages back up, recovery can take hours.

Even if you aren't getting SPAM in your personal mailbox at home, it's a big problem that is costing you money, albiet indirectly through higher costs of good and services from the companies that DO have to deal with it.

What can you do? Very little overall, but there are some small steps that every person connected to the Internet can take. I'm working on a web page that details that few (truly) simple things that every computer owner can do both to protect their home computers, and to be a good Internet citizen. I'll post a link when it's finished.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Comcast Are Vile Pigs

Comcast are vile pigs. I don't think anyone would dispute that. We are in the process of transitioning from using Comcast for our TV, Internet access and phone to using them only for local phone service, and hopefully, to using them for nothing. It seems to me that right now, Comcast is only able to offer what it does at the prices that it does because people have a hard time tracking down the alternatives. They do not have a strict local monopoly, but they have managed to achieve an ideological monopoly in the minds of a great many of their subscribers. Most people who use their services would not have the first idea where to start looking for something else.

In any case, we will be switching from their overpriced cable service to a satellite service, and from their cable Internet to a competing DSL service. What precipitated this was that since we had moved into our years five years ago, we were getting a great deal of "free" cable. We had signed up for the bare as rocks $11/month, local channels only service. The installer botched it, and we ended up getting their $46/month packages, which included Disney/Nickelodean/CNN/Fox News/TNT/Comedy/etc. Being the honest folk that we are, we called them and informed them of their mistake. They were unconcerned. The next time a technician was to our house for a later installation, we likewise informed him that the wrong restrictor was on our line, and that we were getting their expanded package for free. He actually gave less of a shit than the previous Comcast rep we had dealt with.

So, for nigh upon five years, we've had a free cable upgrade. Just last month, it stopped. Which is fine. I want to make it clear that I'm not bitching about losing my free cable. It was never mine to begin with. We were merely the beneficiaries of the size of Comcast's bureaucracy and the low team spirit of their employees. So, the ride was over.

We looked into going with the next cable package, but it turns out that there is no middle ground between Comcast's $11 offering and their $46 offering. To me, that's crazy. As someone providing services to a diverse population, wouldn't you want to offer a broad range of services? It would seem to me that the better you can tailor your products to your customers need, the higher your sales will be. Unless, of course, you can afford to act like a monopoly. And for now, at least, Comcast can. They know that if they make their entry level package meager enough, and don't put anything in the middle, that almost everyone will pony up the $46. I hope they know what they're doing, though, because I have not talked to one single person, and I bring the topic up frequently, who does not feel somewhat cheated by Comcast. Not one person feels that the packages are a good value for the money. So why do they keep it? Inevitably, it is because they do not see any other viable options. Most people I discuss this with say something like "When will they let us just pick the channels we want and pay for those?" My answer is: "Never, unless they're forced to." And I don't mean legislative coercion. I mean market coercion.

So, we find a satellite provider that will give us more channels than we had with Comcast, plus a DVR (a not-quite-TiVo), for $36/month. Without the DVR, it's $31, which is very close to the middle price point I was looking for from Comcast.

The only problem is that if you pull your cable TV service from Comcast, your Internet bill goes from $46 to $58/month. Verizon DSL is unavailable at my home. Fortunately, Earthlink DSL will set me up at the same speed as Comcast's cable service, for $40/month.

Both of these services will be installed by the end of next week. I'm hoping that I won't end up hating the people at Earthlink and Dish Network as badly as I hate the hoary demons employed by Comcast. And of course, I'll let you know how it turns out.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

Yesterday, I helped out at the Valentine's Day party at Maddie's school. Lucy's school dismissed a half-hour early so she got to attend a portion of the first grade shindig. It's amazing how well she fits in with the first graders.

During a bit of story time, Lucy and Maddie were sitting together on a carpet, and one of the Maddie's classmates, a boy named Caleb, was sitting on Maddie's other side. Lucy had a balloon and was blowing it up and letting the air blurb out of it.

Caleb says "Sounds like someone left a toot over there."

Maddie puts her hand on his arm and warns him "Don't make her angry. You won't like what happens." Lucy just sits there, playing with her balloon.

Caleb, seeming fascinated: "What would she do?"

Maddie: "You don't want to know. Probably kick you or something."

Or maybe she'll make you clean the castle (No puzzles!), then have you whipped with a Slinky within an inch of your life.

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Evil Stepmother

Lucy's plays have been getting better. She's not doing the Violet plays anymore, which is kind of sad, but also a relief.

Tonight she came out of her room after closing herself in for almost half an hour and shouted "Who's ready for a Broadway?"

Is that some sort of lovely beverage? Ha! Anyway, "Oooo! Meeeee!"

We all made our way into the room and sat on her bed. She had a blanket spread on the floor with several stuffed animals sitting about. A step stool sat in the middle, her Ikea bear Lellow standing on it, dressed in a scruffy doll shirt and holding a rag.

"Welcome to Cinderella!"

Lellow would be playing the title role, the animals on the ground were the step sisters, Lexan the bear of last year's beach trip fame was Prince Charming, and one of her two dozen cats was Lucifer, the bad cat from Disney's version of the story.

Lucy turned off the main lights, leaving only the magenta glitter lava lamp and a flashlight shining. She turned on the humidifier for a spooky wind effect. And then, she transformed. You may remember my description of her Halloween antics from a couple of years ago. It's gotten better since then. The girl does malice so well it's scary. She walked up to Lello and in a nasty, violent hiss that was somehow over-the-top without overacting, no seriously, said "You will clean the castle. The whole castle! You will not sleep or do anything or put together puzzles! Just clean!"

Then, the lights came on and we moved on to other parts of the story. There was actually a story! Vast improvement over previous plays. The stepsisters whined and made their demands. The lights went off again so the cat could repeatedly maul the poor Cinderellow. We had a few more hilariously chilling visits from the stepmother. Eventually, Maddie was called out of the audience to play the part of the fairy godmother. After Lellow was transformed with the help of a blue t-shirt and blue socks (Cinderella's movie dress is blue), Lexan appeared and they danced. Maddie was asked to be the wicked stepfather, which she did. She proceeded to whip Lexan and Lellow with a Slinky while Lucy cackled in the background.

Finally, Lucy attacked the plush lovers, and Lexan fought back! Apparently, he stabbed her or something, because she died, groaning, in slow motion. Maddie was similaryly dispatched by Lellow.

Bravo. An outstanding play, and certainly a step up from the Disney version. Indeed, the Prince and Cinderella should take their violent revenge on the stepmother. It seems quite natural once you've seen it in action.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Lucy Gets the Spotlight

Lucy's been trying really hard to get a decent mention in the Hess Report, and she's finally managed. Good for her.

For reasons unbeknownst to Joy and I, Lucy is the sort of person who will, if left to her nature, set fire to a restaurant because she was hungry, no one noticed, and they should have, despite the fact that she had shown none of the traditional trappings of hunger, like, for instance, saying "I'm hungry."

I've been working with her lately to try to help her understand that clamming up and stuffing your head under a pillow when you have a problem is one of the least effective ways of solving it. And, if you're four and have more pride than King Kong, it can also lead you to engage in behaviors that will take you, how did I put it? "Down the fast lane to Butt Smack Village." I think I was channeling my Mom with that one, but I have the feeling that it's a little more intimidating coming from me that it was from her. No offense, Mom. But you're just not intimidating. Sorry.

Anyway, sometimes, a change of tactics midstream can work wonders. Lucy was really begging for a parental smack-down, going out of her way to drive all of us bats. She's quite adept at walking the line between actionable and non-actionable behaviors. Knowing that confronting her in front of everyone would have engaged her prideful defenses, leading to an ultimate showdown, I scoop her up and whispered:

"If you're having a problem, just tell me. There's no need to do this. And if you're embarrassed about it, you can whisper it back to me."

She put her lips up to my ears and hissed:

"I want some attention. Will you play school with me?"

Well. Okay. As easy as that. Good for her. Disaster averted, and she was sweet as pie for the rest of the evening.

I'm hoping that we can keep this up, and she'll learn that stating your problems up front is often the best way to getting them solved, as opposed to knee-capping your system because you can't find your favorite stuffed animal. Of course, stating her problems won't always get them solved exactly as she wants them to be, but she'll learn that people are generally willing to work with you as long as you're being both candid and polite, which is a fine line to walk. But as I said, she's already good at that.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

I Hate Cars

The little white Subaru that we own will be ten years old later this year. It's a 1995. Interestingly (to me at least), the car that it replaced was a 1985 Subaru that lasted ten years. I bought it used, though, in 1993. It lasted me two years, and in that time I had to replace brakes, two ball joints, and have extensive electical work done. When we got rid of it, it was truly on it's last legs: eating a quart of oil a week, tires ready to fly to pieces, the gear shift bobbed freely up and down, the clutch was going. It was in bad shape.

The current Subaru is still going strong. I've always done the proper maintanence, oil changes, etc., and never had a major problem with it. It's consistently been the most reliable car I've ever owned. We still put around $250-400 a year into it in maintanence costs, but as the conventional wisdom holds, it's better than a car payment.

It also tells me that either Subarus made in 1995 were of siginificantly higher quality than those made in 1985, or that whoever owned that first '85 Subaru that I bought used absolutely beat the hell out of the thing. Either way, I still hate cars. They are money sucking machines. The only real remedy is to have everyone switch to public transportation like good little Europe--- erk. Kidding. The only remedy is to obtain enough money that proper preventative maintanence is truly a trivial cost, even for something like the sweet, sweet BMW Z3.

Happy decade, Barbie Car!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

With Valentine's Day coming up, I thought I'd pass this along, as it's been helpful for me since I figured it out. Well, at least when I remember to implement it. You see, it's a command line option, and men aren't very scriptable or event-aware, so you have to remember to key it in every time you use it.

Situation: Female presents you with three options among leisure activities. All seem to be of equivalent quality.

What you say: "Mmmm. Doesn't matter. I don't really care what we do."
What she hears: "Mmmm. YOU don't matter. I don't really care about YOU!"

That brings a bad outcome. Say the same thing but in a better way, realizing that what you say is not really about what you think it is. It's really about your relationship and your level of commitment.

What you say: "Wow. Those all sound great. I'm sure I'll love whichever one you pick."
What she hears: "Wow. YOU'RE great. I'm sure I love YOU!"

So remember, males, that women have some sort of scripting language in their brains. Maybe PHP, maybe Perl, but whatever it is, it recognizes regexes. I have determined that their regular expression parser is set to insert themselves, generally in a variation of the form "YOU", into pretty much everything you say that does not already contain the term. Knowing that, you can say two things that mean exactly the same to a standard language parser (male brain), but that could be the difference between happiness and disaster for the special person in your life who's been saddled with a /(subject)|(object)/YOU/ regex for all incoming text.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Up for several hours last night with poor Lucy, who was throwing up every half hour or so. I was so tired that I nearly treated a red light like a stop sign on my way to work this morning. Lack of sleep has me very logey.

This counts as a post.

I'm hitting the sack.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Follow Your Heart - TO YOUR DOOM!

I just read a bit of commentary on Mulan II, one of Disney's increasingly-insulting low-rent direct-to-Disney-DVD sequel offerings, in which the author decried the cliched "follow your heart" message.

I think that one of the worst things in children's entertainment is the "follow your heart" theme. I hate it. It is probably the message of something like 90% of children's movies and tv shows, when they have any kind of message at all. Note that the classic and best children's entertainment, even things with passive female leads like Snow White and Cinderella, avoid this crap like the plague. But pretty much anything else that's been made in the last thirty years, with the notable exception of Pixar's fine movies, serves it up on a plate.

"Follow your heart" or "believe in your dreams" and everything will work out for you. That's what they say. Of course, as anyone who is old enough to read this knows, that's complete bull shit.

One of the reasons I like Pixar's stuff so much is that their message seems to be: "Figure out what counts and fight for it." That's a theme I can get behind.

This is why every time I hear Maddie (Lucy has not yet received the full dose of recent Disney indoctrination) say "I followed my heart, and it worked," and she's said it a number of times, I have to come back with "It worked because you had a good idea and you worked hard at it."

I think that a lot of people my age were taught to follow their dreams and/or hearts, when they really should have taught to identify things or value and fight like hell for them.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Behold - Ye Shall Ride Upon the Bicycle

As it says in the Bible, "You shall not be required to honor consistent blogging commitments that you have made if it is the Sabbath." Of course, that's Old Testament, so I don't have to follow it to the letter, but it's a good excuse not to write on Sunday.

Big things happened yesterday, mostly for Maddie. If it seems that Lucy gets short shrift in all of this, it's just because she hasn't hit the age yet where she must begin to do difficult things. Her time will come.

We had tried several times last summer to get Maddie to ride her bike without training wheels, but she wouldn't. I'm scared/I can't do it/I'll fall/tears/anguish/drama/etc. We're heading to the beach in May, and it will be great if we can bike the short distance to the ocean from our house without having to slow up for someone still on training wheels. Joy suggested that our unusually spring-like weather (50+ degrees F) would be a great help toward that goal.

Maddie told us at breakfast that she knew she would do it today. She was certain. She was trying to psyche herself up.

After church and lunch, we all went outside and the training wheels came off. I held her shoulders and walked/ran beside her. Not bad. We headed out of the cul-de-sac and down the straightaway. I held onto her the whole time, as she was winging back and forth pretty wildly. We came back to the cul-de-sac, and she wanted me to just let her go. I informed her that small consistent steps today would lead to success, whereas trying to do it all at once would lead to failure, crashes and blood. I let her try, because she insisted, and it didn't work too well. She cried, because she thought that she would be able to do it right away.

I reminded her that she would be successful if we did it gradually. Back down the road.

She's peddling, saying "I can do it. I can do it," out loud.

She was doing really well, so I let go, keeping pace with her a pretty good run.

"You're doing it," I say.

"I know I can."

"No. I'm not touching you. You're doing it right now!"

"I am!"

Crash! Into the back of a parked car. Well, that's what would happen on a crappy sit-com, or on the animated show that used to be the Simpsons, but shouldn't really be called that anymore. No, she did great after that. Wiped out into a snow-covered yard later, but she was fine.

Then, she wanted to tackle the ride to the playground, just over half a mile. One stop sign. Some traffic. After we passed the stop sign (half-way there, I only put my hand on her shoulder once), we passed several groups of kids playing. One distracted her. She panicked and turned the handlebars wildly, bringing the bike to an abrupt flopping stop and sending her flying forward. She landed on her chest and hands (thank you armor-palmed gloves!), and managed to keep her chin from digging a trough in the pavement. I was right behind and running fast. I tried to hurdle her, but the bike clipped me, and I had to sacrifice my hands to keep from pancaking her with 175 pounds of USDA Dad. For me, there was no blood involved. Apparently, years of abuse have made my hands impervious to things like pavement and stones.

Not so the skin of a seven year old girl. She had a nasty scrape running diagonally from her diaphragm up across her sternum. Little points of blood were starting to show. She cried, but immediately got back on the bike and took off again. A couple of feet later, she ditched again, and this time the end of the handlebar hit her in the neck. A shot in the throat would have been really bad, and I made sure that she hadn't had the wind knocked out of her.

"You've gone a long way," I said. "We can take a break."

"I'm going the whole way," she replied, which is what I had expected to hear.

"Do your legs still feel shaky from the wreck?" I said.


"Just take a couple of breaths and get your strength back, or you'll keep crashing the whole way."

She closed her eyes and seemed to collect herself. Then, it was back on and away, not stopping until the playground. When we got there, I rubbed some snow into my stinging palms and she rubbed some on her chest (eleven years from now she could get paid to do that on tape!) Joy and Lucy (peddling furiously on her tricycle named "Cuddles") eventually caught up with us, and we all threw snowballs and fiddled around for a bit.

Then, it was off again, moving fast, and her balancing without any help. She wasn't outrunning me, but I wouldn't have been able to keep up at that pace for more than a mile. We made it home without further incident.

Joy informed me that later, when I was running errands and practicing my second amendment rights, Maddie went back out to ride with the neighborhood orphans and was zipping around like she'd been riding for years. I remember it taking me a lot longer than a couple of passes up and down the street to get the hang of it, but it's hard to tell how long things really took back then. Saturday morning cartoons seemed to last all day. Sitting in your room for five minutes waiting for the paddling sentence from the parental judge certainly took all week. But even though it's over in an instant, the first time you realize you're riding without your Dad's hand on your shoulder stays with you for the rest of your life.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Today we went to see the Incredible Acrobats of China at the Byham downtown, courtesy of a Christmas present from my Dad and Mom. In-freaking-credible. We were in the front row on the entry aisle, such that Maddie actually had to move in her chair when performers entered or exited the stage into the audience in order to let them pass. Of course, we were directly in front of a speaker stack, but improvised tissue earplugs from MacGyver!Joy's purse nullified any hearing loss issues.

The acrobats completely rocked. As you can imagine, they are amazing, and watching them leaves you wondering why exactly some humans can bend themselves into the letter O, backwards, soles of feet cupping their forhead, whilst balancing on one hand, while other humans, like myself, have never been able to properly touch their toes no matter what level of flexibility exercises they may have attempted.

The show was over two hours, and you might think that two hours of acrobatics would grow old, but for me it did not. They do a variety of acts: group balancing, contortion, tumbling, teeter-totter launching, object balancing and tricks, magic, comedy, and some other really crap that no person I know will ever be able to do.

One of the highlights of the show was that Maddie, who was applauding so enthusiasticaly as to make people who didn't know her wonder if she was in need of medication, was chosen as the volunteer for the second Act's audience participation sketch. The M.C. was a silly physical comedy fellow, very funny, who came on stage tossing coins into the air and catching them in a bucket. After, he mugged for applause, although his efforts paled in comparison to the feats we had just seen. Then, he asked for a volunteer. Maddie's hand shot straight up, he pointed to her, and that was it. I think I did an arm-pump and hissed "Yessssss." Lucy squealed "Maddieeeee!"

He had her sit the bucket on her head, pretending that she would have to balance it (which she informs me she could have done, and I also believe), but in the end having her hold it on her head. Her took several steps back and "tossed" a coin into the air. In reality, he just flicked his hand as though he were throwing one, but he palmed it instead. A second later, there was a plink as the coin "landed" in the bucket. He mugged. He threw a few more. Plink plink plink. He moved to the far side of the stage and pretended to toss one high into the air. After a while and some silly puzzled looks, it came back down. Cloink!

Another of the acrobats poke his head from behind the curtain, and showed the audience (but not Maddie) his own bucket in which he was throwing real coins to make the noise. Then, the M.C. began to shoot pretend coins at Maddie's bucket in rapid succession. It ended with the accomplice backing up until he bumped into Maddie, at which point she turned around, and they took her hands and bowed. The audience laughed and applauded and Maddie beamed.

She came back down to us, and the M.C. waved goodbye to her. Lucy, earplugs firmly in place, shouted "Maddie you did so good!" at the top of her lungs.

And she had. And the whole day was good. And later Maddie told me "Dad, I heard the coins hitting behind me. I knew what they were doing."

"Well was it fun?"

No words for that one. Just quick short nods, eyes lit.

Friday, February 04, 2005

I watched Mary Poppins with Maddie and Lucy tonight on our big screen. A very different experience on a 4'x7' screen in the dark with popcorn than it is letterboxed on the bedroom tv in forty-five minutes chunks. I new it before, but tonight reaffirmed it: this is a fantastic movie. Phenomenal. Like so many movies that I find genius in, it is ostensibly a kids' movie, but it's really just a movie that features children as main characters. It is two movies in one: the first is a silly magical romp for kids to enjoy and cackle at; the second is a brutal indictment of out-of-control personal discipline and societal coldness, which has been done a hundred times, but almost never so well as here.

What I cannot believe is this: the movie is not dated. It just isn't. Most "classics" I've been forced to watch are intolerable to me. Boring. Horrific acting. Writing so bad it almost makes me gag. But not this. In case anyone gets the idea that the times we are living in are somehow intellectually superior to those of decades ago, and that modern man is more capable of skewering it's canards than those neadrethals at Disney in the 60's, just watch this movie. It freaking rules.

Julie Andrews is beautiful and sings the hell out her pieces. Best Actress in 1964 for it, too. The man playing the dad, David Tomlinson, is likewise perfect. And Dick Van Dyke (I have a great joke about him trying to break into Hollywood) is unbelievable. Did he get an Oscar for this? No. Not even a nomination, but I'd put m up there with Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka, or Bruce Willis's John McClane from Die Hard, or Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront as one of the great iconic performances in movie history.

If you have kids, you need to rewatch this movie.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Girls and Video Games

I know the stereotype: boys are good at them, and girls are not. In our house, unfortunately, it seems to be true. I bought a GameCube in December, with birthday present $ (thanks Mom + Dad!), a couple controllers, a memory card and some games (Star Wars: Rogue Leader II; Metroid Prime; and Sonic Adventures Battle 2, if you must know).

One of the reason I bought the GameCube was the availability of supposedly "younger" titles, hoping that the girls would get some fun out of it. And they do, but they just aren't very good. From what Maddie has told me, boys in her first grade class have already beaten at least one of the games I own. Seeing what I've seen from them, though, and Lucy has the age excuse to fall back on, it's never going to happen. I had visions in my head of our girls going over to someone's house for a little pre-teen playdate get-together kind of thing, and out come the video games and the boys are running roughshod over everyone until the Hess girls step up to the plate and whip their asses.

Alas, it is not to be.

I'm sure if I really pressured them, they could get better, but, well, the fact that I'm actually wondering how many hours they would need to put in even though I started this sentence as a joke means that I should drop the notion altogether. They have a blast crashing into everything they shouldn't and waaaaaay over-controlling. Light touch on the stick, girls. Light touch. Don't just hold the fire button down. Pick your shots. Shutting up now. Supposed to be fun.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

It seems that I get creative/artistic at the end of December and in early January. This year, I was inspired by a picture in a book about barns that presents!Joy got me two years ago. I really enjoy looking at barns, especially ones that have begun to collapse. It probably has something to do with being able to see the naked structural elements of something whose whole form is so commonly visible. Also, barn interiors give you a great sense of positive space, with lots of particulate matter floating around and scattering the sunlight that streams in through the imperfectly finished walls and roof.

The barn in the picture below is in rather good shape, so apparently none of the reasons above apply. I liked it anyway, and decided to use it as a basis for this year's piece of art. So, after probably about 15-20 hours of work, I put this together. The title is Sunday Morning.

Probably tomorrow, I'll be making a couple of decent sized prints of this on our super-slick Indigo digital press at work. Suitable for framing? Not so much, but it's fun to see it on paper.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

A long time since the last post, and with good reason. A lot of interesting and cool stuff happened over Christmas, but I felt constrained in writing about it. Things about Maddie that, while endearing, would certainly embarrass her. She's not old enough yet to Google herself, nor are her friends, but that time is not too far away. She is, however, old enough that twenty years from now she will remember her thoughts and feelings from things that are just now happening, and she will be capable of being hurt by my characterization of events. Not saying that that will happen, just that I've been reevaluating my personal posting policies.

Also, there are a number of things going on right now, mostly business-related, that I would like to write about, for which posting in a public forum is probably not the best plan. You never know who might be watching. I have toyed with the idea of writing a completely anonymous blog, and just tearing into things/people/situations as I see fit, without the need for any kind of filtering for audience appropriateness or personal considerations. I still might do that, but today is not the day.

So, an experiment. I'll try it for a week, and if I like it, I'll extend it to a month. If that goes well, it'll get another month, until I get sick of it or bored. As an exercise in personal discipline, I'm going to write one post a day, for one week. I'll stay away from current events, because that's not what this is about. This is, as always, about three things:

1. Posterity. My kids will have a chance to see what their Dad was like before he turned into Lord Draco the Strict Parent of Teenaged Young Adults from the Chthonian Death Fields.

2. Keeping in touch. My friends and family will always know what the heck is going on. Sort of.

3. Amusement. I know there are some people who read this who don't know me very well. May you continue to be amused.

The girls will still pop up from time to time, but as I said, I don't think they can be the main focus anymore. And neither will Versatile!Joy. I don't feel right about it. So that means that it comes down to focusing on me, right? And aren't people who write for general consumption inherently vain? So that means that this is going to be great. Well, for me at least.