Just Shelley

Driving as a non-driver

Experiences of not having a driver’s license:

When I was 21, a friend left her Volkswagen Beetle at my place when a group of us went out partying. This wasn’t one of the new classy Beetles, this was an oldie — the kind where they’d paste fur on it and call it a mouse. The kind truckers used to play “spin the Beetle, see where it lands” with. The kind you could knock over if you breathed hard on it.

Anyway, back to the story. The next day, my friend came to my apartment to pick up her car. The problem was there was one of her, but two cars. Solution: Let’s get Shelley to drive the Beetle home! Unfortunately, I didn’t have a driver’s license. I didn’t really know how to drive. Still, you know people in their 20’s — all guts and glory. My friend just knew I could drive if I really wanted to.

After having me drive the car around for a few blocks she certified me as ready to fly on my own. She got in her parent’s car, I got into the Beetle, and we set out to drive from the south end of Seattle near SeaTac to the University district along I5 on a sunny, Saturday afternoon.

My first challenge was figuring out how to shift the car. I finally remembered that you had to push down the shift pedal with your left foot as you shifted. I did eventually manage to shift, but not in time to stop from driving a Metro bus into the next lane. Good thing he swerved– can you imagine what would be left of a Beetle after a Metro bus got through with it? I don’t think he was very happy about my driving, though.

Next challenge — getting onto the freeway. After driving along on the breakdown lane for a considerable distance, with my friend frantically signaling me that it’s okay, I can merge in traffic now, I finally negotiated my first entry on to a freeway. After a bit, I also increased my speed to the point where the other drivers weren’t passing me, staring into the car trying to see what the hell was driving it.

Okay, so we’re humming along, me following my friend, when I noticed how warm it was. The heater was on. Solution: turn it off.

Unfortunately it was at that point that I found out that drivers tend to drive where they’re looking. In the midst of trying to find the heating control, I did the loveliest ballet across I5 that I’m sure most drivers have ever seen. Is this the heater knob? Is this off? Is this how you turn it to cool air? My attention finally returned to the important aspect of “driving” by my friend’s frantic signaling with her horn that I had Better Start Paying Fucking Attention to What I’m Doing! Right Now!

Okay, ignore heater, roll down window, pay attention to driving.

At that point, the football game in the Kingdom finished, and half of Seattle’s driving population entered the freeway.

You know how deer and rabbits freeze on the freeway when your car lights hit them? Well, that day when I was 21, I learned what the deer and rabbit were experiencing. Sheer, raw, mind numbing terror. Luckily, my autonomous nervous system took over in my catatonic state; I was able to follow my friend to her house with no resulting deaths or injuries.

Excuse me, I must end this post — I’m heading to the car dealer to order my very first car. Doesn’t that make you feel comfortable driving in the San Francisco area, now?


Wired woman

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Wired Woman has now become one of my personal heroes. Of course, she already is, but she’s only reaffirmed it for 2002.

Iron my napkins and the paper catches on fire.

Legal, Laws, and Regs RDF

RDF patent dispute

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Over at the RDF interest online forum, at least two developers of implementations based on RDF have received a legal mailing from a firm representing Unified Data Technologies Ltd (UDTL), implying a possible patent infringement due to the use of RDF/RSS.

The RDF working group is consulting with the W3C about the legalities of the whole thing. You can read more at:
RDF Interest Group online forum

Patents in question are:

Patent 5,684,985 and 6,092,077 as well as others most likely under review for patent pending.

Hopefully the W3C will be able to resolve this, but I doubt this will go away quickly. At least one of the impacted projects, 4suite, is open source.

This is an effort to exploit open source as well as an open W3C specification, enabled by the extremely poor patent review methods of the US Patent and Trademark Office. A case of making money off of the goodwill efforts of others.

Happy New Year, Open Source. Happy New Year, RDF.



Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

When I first moved to California this year, someone who used to work at Netscape — and who I admire and respect — talked with me about working at Loudcloud, Marc Andressen’s newest venture. Two things stopped me from pursuing the job. First, the personnel person was a jerk. Second, after rolling off the failed collapse, I didn’t have the energy to get into another startup.

Loudcloud went IPO this year — the results of which are detailed in this ABC News online year in review. Check out the IPO section.


Weblogging and Status

Recovered from the Wayback Machine

I made my first posting today at 1:47:09 pm, talking about weblogging buzz and the fact that I had more buzz from my WSP discussion than the recent one on open source associated with John Robb of Userland. I was surprised to see a comment attached at 2:09 — normally it takes longer than that to get responses.

In the comment, Userland’s Dave Winer from Scripting News wrote:

Your discussion on web standards got better when I gave it a prominent link.
You know, I just didn’t know how to respond to this for the longest time — I know that this comment bothered me a great deal. It still does.

To me, weblogging is a tool to communicate without having to go through any kind of authority or any kind of ruling mechanism in order to get that communication out to the world. Weblogging is the ultimate expression of the power of P2P (peer to peer) because webloggers discover each other primarily via links in other weblog posts rather than through one central weblogging server or through the random results of a search engine.

From my possibly warped viewpoint, weblogs are small circles of connectivity that communicate through links to other circles of connectivity and so on. Think of gears within a machine — gear one turns, causing gear two to turn, causing gears three and four to turn and so on.


Weblog A posts an item of interest in his or her weblog. Weblog A’s regular reader, Weblog B, reads the information and, if interested enough, posts a link back to Weblog A. Now, Weblog C is a regular reader of Weblog B, but not Weblog A; however C, in turn, also find A’s information interesting, and posts a reference to Weblog A (and possibly B) — thereby connecting C’s weblogging circle to A’s weblogging circle — all through the intervention of Weblog B. If you think about, that’s exactly how Freenet works. Pure P2P.

If we consider the human synapse as a valid cybernetic element in the equation, weblogging and weblogging circles are the closest thing we have to a Semantic Web today. Fascinating and extraordinary stuff.

Real Life: It’s New Year’s Eve and Sharon in North Carolina is wishing me Happy New Year and I’m wishing Chris in Korea Happy New Year and Julian in the UK is giving me some pretty good advice on the subject of weblogging buzz, and Justin in Dallas is paying me a nice compliment — and so the circles mix and meet and come together momentarily only to split apart again, connected through something ephemeral and powerful, a link. What a wonderous web of discovery! If this doesn’t excite you, than you need to put a mirror in front of your face, make sure you’re still breathing.

Into the midst of all this, drops the comment:

Your discussion on web standards got better when I gave it a prominent link.
Is this a carrot? Or a stick? Am I chastised? Or am I warned? Will I be perpetually banished from the dance of the circles if I don’t acknowledge the power of Scripting News and Userland? Is the dance of the circles dependent on one weblog?

I had thought that the discussion on web standards got better because of the participants.