On the Rocks

Recovered story. I no longer have the collection, but you can see photos of what once was.

I spent yesterday taking photos of my rocks for the auction, but I’m never going to get this job finished if I spend all day and only have a few photographs for my effort. I can’t help myself, though — I’m having too much fun.

I started using the traditional mineral photographing techniques, as outlined in Jeffrey Scovil’s excellent Photographing Minerals, Fossils, and Lapidary Materials. However, somewhere along the way, I began to improvise.

For instance, I found that my TiBook makes a great backdrop for some of the harder to photograph minerals such as Azurite and Dioptase. I don’t have my studio lights and am having to use natural light, which makes my job much more challenging. Both black and white backdrops desaturate these minerals extremely rich hues. However, the neutral gray color allows the colors of the samples to come through.

(Or at least, that’s the excuse I’m using for such blatant disregard of mineral photography rules.)

As a backdrop for this yellow crystal, I used the paper the rock was originally wrapped in before I decided to use soft foam, instead (better for shipping).

Yellow Crystal

Notice that I called this mineral ‘yellow crystal’ rather than giving it a name? Well, I have to confess that I have no idea of what this crystal is. In fact, I have two minerals I can’t classify in my collection, and a third that I can’t tell is a fake or not.

This might surprise you: that a mineral collector can’t identify all the minerals in their collection. However, I purchased the mystery rocks at the Tucson mineral show early in 2001 and carried them home with their little labeling tags. When I got home, I found the dot-com I worked at had died while I was gone. I was distracted and didn’t record the purchases in my mineral ledger. Then I ended up getting divorced a few months later, and moving to California soon after that. During the move, I wrapped the rocks and stored them, losing their little tags.

Only now, going on three years later, am I looking at the rocks and I haven’t the foggiest what the yellow crystal is. Or the identity of a beautiful green crystal I haven’t photographed yet. I think the yellow is calcite, but the specific gravity is all wrong, and the luster doesn’t feel right. And its rare for calcite to form bladed crystals, though calcite will form into pretty much any crystal form.

I don’t have the materials to make a streak test, nor do I have the acids to see if the mineral behaves appropriately when exposed to this substance. I suppose I could hit it with a hammer to test its hardness, but that seems a bit extreme.

There’s the old taste test, and I remember when I took geology in college that we had to use taste during our mineral identification exam (boy, those were the innocent days.) However, there’s drawbacks to using taste on an unknown mineral. For instance, another crystal I photographed yesterday is this nice piece of Chalcanthite:


Pretty, isn’t it? It’s also toxic. In fact, if you bend your minds back to chemistry class, you might recognize this crystal if your class ever left a solution of cupper sulfate to evaporate over a few days. Crystals of Chalcanthite will form, which is one of the three reasons why people hesitate to have this mineral in their collection. First, it’s water soluble, and fine examples have been known to reduce to dust eventually. Then there’s that toxic thing. Finally, how can you tell the difference between lab grown crystals and naturally occurring ones?

This sample is one that grew naturally, but it was instigated by humans — it formed in a copper mine as a result of the mining actions.

While I photograph the minerals, I find myself just looking at them and this accounts for much of the delay. I hold them to light, move them around to watch the glitter on the surfaces; look into their depths to see the fractures and inclusions. Gloat in the rich and subtle colors. I like to feel the surface because the stones each have a different tactile feel to them. My favorite is the apophyllite, which has a soapy feel to it, and an iridescence that reminds me of those bubbles we used to blow as a kids.

Some of my samples were hot glued into little boxes and stands when I purchased them, and the first thing I did was remove these. I dislike having any form of container around my rocks. How can I feel the rock, or look more closely at it with all that protective gear in the way? Mineral collectors would be appalled to hear what I’m saying — crystals can be impacted by the oils on our fingers, the light or the even the air around us. Holding a crystal increases the chances of it being damaged. What am I thinking?

But look at this opal from Oregon. It’s like a bit of the river from which it came, but petrified and preserved for all time. The feel of it is wonderful, and I wish there was a way I could attach that feel to this page so you can experience the texture — like candle wax dripped on velvet. It’s a very sensuous stone, and the colors become so real when you hold it up to the light.


Diet Cherry coke

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I splurged this weekend and purchased 20 rolls of film from B & H, a photo supply shop I’ve used for years. I think most people who are into photography in this country, and even internationally, are familiar with B & H. Not everyone cares for them, but I’ve always been happy with their products and services.

Anyway, back to my major investment. Of the 20 rolls, ten were Fuji Velvia, ISO 50, my favorite color slide film; ten were Kodak’s classic Tri-X Pan Black & White print film (ISO of 400). I recently experimented with the Tri-X and really liked the results: fast so it works in most daylight environments, and with enough graininess to add interest. Seems to be a most forgiving film, too.

What can I say? Sometimes I feel like color, sometimes I don’t. Depends on the mood I want to set. For instance, the following two photos are of the same subject – but what is the story behind each? What am I saying? Other than, don’t drink the water?

Don’t drink the water.


Don’t drink the water.

Of course, I hope they say something different. If they don’t then I haven’t done my job.

I’m causing trouble in this weblog instead of out there in the world on promised break because plans I made went awry, or I should say, have been postponed. The surgery for removing the gallbladder went very well, but I’m amazed at how much it’s tired me out and how much I’m having to adapt. I’m not used to this – I’m a quick healer, and am rarely kept down for long. However, I’ve been fighting problems with the little bugger for a couple of years, and I’m not going to be climbing hills immediately. Not just immediately.

Still, as I said a couple of days ago before I decided to test the burn and see if I flame or only smoke, I feel good. And I don’t itch.

I’m also in the process of finally getting around to selling my mineral collection. This week I’ve been taking photos of the different samples, posting them to a site dedicated to this effort, but I have over 100 samples – this isn’t going to be a quick job. I’ve been in contact with one dealer who is interested in the collection, but I can’t connect up with them until Thanksgiving. What I’ll most likely do is send the URL for the collection out to several rock magazines and dealers and see if I can find a nibble. If not, on to eBay we go, though eBay is not my preferred option.

Once the pictures are all taken, I’m going to add a story about my favorite pieces to the associated page. I want to make the collection come alive, show the care and thought that comes with each sample. I’ll post the link again when I’m finished. Even if rocks aren’t your thing, there are fun stories associated with the collection.

(Well, I think they’re fun. If you don’t, then I haven’t done my job.)

When I was getting ready to check out after surgery, the nurse told me to drink plenty of fluids, but good things like juice or water, or tea would be okay. By no means was I supposed to drink cola products like Coke or Pepsi.

What? No Diet Cherry Coke?

No, that stuff will eat your stomach up in your current state, she said.

Since then I’ve been scared to try one of my favorite drinks. Not until today, and I’m drinking a can of it right now as I write this. Another step in the recovery process – indulging in my favorite degreasing substance, Diet Cherry Coke. Recovery is not measured by the good things we do for our bodies when we still have fresh memories of hospital white and green and the fear of frailty, and worse, lies heavy on our minds. Getting better is marked by Bad Things, like tic marks on a measuring stick. Coffee, check. Steak, check. Diet Cherry Coke, check.

When the nurse was telling me what to start eating, she said start with broths and jello and progress to light soups and finally start eating normally in a couple of days. Under no circumstances was I to eat fast food for at least a week.

What, no White Castle hamburgers, I asked?

She looked at me in horror, she really did, and exclaimed that under no circumstances should I eat White Castle ever again!

Well, this one really wasn’t a problem for me because I’ve heard so many stories about White Castle hamburgers, good and bad. They really are a cult food here in the States, and I thought about trying them when a new restaurant opened just a couple of blocks away from us. However, when I found a taste alike recipe for them, and saw what it used, I’m afraid I’ve lost my interest in trying White Castle.

But I had a Toaster at Sonic Thursday. See, it’s the bad things that measure our wellness.


It’s all about circles

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

When I was creating symbols to use for my categories, I thought about what would best represent the concept of “Connecting’, one of my categories. To me, connecting is when two or more people have a discussion or reach out to one another in some way. This doesn’t mean that the people agree, or disagree. It just means that a connection was made.

Eventually I settled on intersecting circles: circles because we are, first and foremost, individuals, complete and whole on our own; and intersecting because when we interact with each other, we become a part of something bigger – not necessarily better, and not necessarily something positive – but something beyond what we are, alone.

My use of this symbol was pointed out today on a post that has since been removed. The focus of the post was about Liz’s new group weblog focusing on women and technology, My reaction was one of personal hurt and dismay, and I don’t retract either of these honest emotions. However, as they were expressed originally it became more of a “me too, me too!” statement, and that wasn’t the point I had hoped to make. After a series of emails today and time to think about it, I decided to try the post again, but this time with more a story to go with the reaction. The reaction’s still there, but I hope it’s now more nuanced.

Women and technology. This is a subject that has personal interest for me with a degree in Computer Science, and having worked in the field for 20 years. And being a woman, too, of course. When I first started taking computer science way too many years ago, the program had about 8 men for every woman but oddly enough I didn’t really notice this disparity. Or if I did, it was more a matter of the program was very new at the University and women were quite new to the sciences. In time there would be more women in the field. I just knew it.

My professors and fellow classmates at Central Washington University were terrific. Though men outnumbered women, three of the top five students in the program were women.

When I left school I wanted nothing more than to work in research, but only having a BS degree didn’t provide the entre into research positions, so I ended up in a job at Boeing, working as a system support person. My job was to provide application and system support for an HP box as well as yet more primitive PC computers. It was there that I was blooded into the profession by doing a mistype while formatting a specific directory and formatting my boss’ entire machine. Luckily, he had a sense of humor.

The IT group at Boeing Military had a surprising number of women. I was to find that, as the years progressed, the ratio of women to men was much less significant in those days than it is today. However, while I was at Boeing, and in all my Boeing positions, I never once met anything remotely approaching discrimination. Nor did I ever feel odd being a ‘woman in technology’.

I went from the system support position to work on Peace Shield, the defense system that the US military helped fund for the Saudi Arabian air defense. My job there was to write FORTRAN programs to extract critical information about data points in several million lines of code created by three separate companies, and put this information into a data dictionary in order to meet compliance with military guidelines. While not research, the work was challenging. I’d take FORTRAN coding sheets home at night to work through code. Eventually my boss finagled one of the first ‘portable’ computers from Compaq for me to use, though the thing was more hassle than it’s worth. One can only handle so much amber and crashing disks.

From Peace Shield I went to Boeing Commercial into the database group, working into a position, eventually, of lead Data Analyst, and finally Commercial’s Information Repository manager, trained by IBM in this brand new meta technology. Most of the people I worked with in data were women – an odd fact that still tends to exist today.

It was a great job and I met movers and shakers and really learned Data. But I was seduced away by my old research bug. During my work I became acquainted with a group called ALIA – Acoustical and Linguistics Applications. This group was using some of the most cutting edge technology to create applications such as robotic warehouse systems, smart search systems (one of the many Google precoursers, and actually using rudimentary markup languages), and even computer systems used by quadriplegics. I loved the work, I loved my boss – a woman as fate would have it.

Unfortunately, though, we ended up being cut during one of Boeing’s down sizing and I ended up working for Sierra Geophysics – a software company for the petroleum industry owned by none other than Halliburton.

It was at Sierra that I began to realize that being a woman in this field isn’t quite a simple thing. My boss, a man named Jim Bonner, was a wonder and he’s still one of the best people I’ve worked with. The bosses all the way up the line were also terrific. However, within the groups there was a flavor of behavior that was gender based – and this behavior manifested itself with both men and women.

I worked for a female lead who did not get along with the male lead of another small group. However, she did get along with the male lead of the third group – in fact, he could do no wrong. Not even when he was wrong. As for the man antagonistic to my lead, we got along fine. We both collected minerals and he was a geology major turned computer scientist, so we had that in common. Still, when I was assigned to hypertest some of the code, he tried to get me pulled and put his own guy in, saying that his person was ‘calmer’ in difficult situations. Believe me folks, if I was any calmer in those days, I’d have been asleep. My boss saw through the root cause of this ‘request’ and rejected it and basically told him to butt out and go away with his bad self.

Still, I didn’t take it personally. Didn’t impact my job, boss stood up for me. No harm done.

I worked on creating the shell scripts for all of the applications, as well as coding database portions of the application for five different Unix boxes. We used C++, my first exposure to the language, and I liked it. I didn’t like working make files for five different flavors of Unix, though.

Eventually Hallibuton decided we Seattle folks were too uppity for good hard working Oklahoma people and we were all canned. We knew it was coming and we were all extremely uptight. I used to bring in some hard candy and I noticed that people would come by more and more to grab a piece – not for the sake of the candy so much but to get away from their desks. I started adding more candy and eventually filled a drawer with the silliest candies – lollipops and candy necklaces, and buttons, and cinnamon bears. And chocolate of course.

My little candy drawer became the place people would come to when they were uptight, frustrated, and scared about losing their jobs. This was before the dot-com era. Before easy pickings, and losing a job was a pretty scary thing.

When I left, my boss thanked me for the work and for the drawer. He said it was the only thing that kept the lid on at times. My female lead said I was a great worker, but I really needed to become more aggressive and not let the men push me around.

I hope you’re not bored, because we’ve just started this saga, long that it is. But then, the topic is about women and technology. And I am a woman, and this was technology.

Next it was an insurance company and becoming a senior developer, and my first lead position. I led two efforts – one to rewrite the quarterly financial system that failed every run. The second to code the room size automated mailing system the company just bought. The group was half and half – women and men, and there wasn’t a bit of problem being a woman developer there. Not when more than half the actuarials at the company were women, and everyone knows actuarials are the scariest, smartest people in the world. They set the pace for our group.

Standard Insurance company was my last fulltime gig. I was ready to branch out into contracting and did so as an employee for a contracting company. My first gig was at Intel.

What a nightmare. I, from my previously protected position as woman as equal contributor walked into a situation where I had one member of the group talking about sex with me, every single friggen day; and other member of the group calling me names, telling me, to my face, that “women shouldn’t be in this profession – they get hysterical too easily’, and don’t have the brains for it.” I complained to my company, but Intel was too lucrative. I was told to just go along. I finally filed a complaint with Intel’s personnel, and left the position.

The funny thing is, the guy that talked sex all the time was the one that ‘testified’ for me in regards to the complaint I had about the abuse from the other member. He talked for two solid hours of incidents of the abuse I suffered. I was vindicated, but my vindication came at the hands of another person who was guilty of yet another type of abuse.

By the time I left the gig, I was not the same person. It wasn’t that I was treated in the most extreme sexist manner, and with such abuse – it was that my company didn’t believe me, but did believe another abuser.

I went to another gig at Intel and this one was okay. I was only one of two women, but the guys were straight up. Did my job and left.

I went to Nike after that, and the Nike folks were very cool. I know that Nike offshores, and I don’t approve – but they treated me well, and after Intel, I needed this. I also worked some part time gigs during this time – consultant for Multnomah county on a smalltalk feasibility study, converting a desk top application to web based using Netscape’ brand new Livewire technology, coding here, database design there. I even created an Oracle prototype touch screen application for a door factory in Wisconsin.

(Small town in the middle of nowhere – bugs the size of volkswagens and the mainstreet alternated churches with bars. Odd place.)

I had a good reputation in Portland so I was treated with respect wherever I went. Still, I couldn’t help but notice that in all but a few of the places, the ratio of women tended to be anywhere from 4 men to 2 women, to about 20 or so men to one woman. Things were changing. The good old days were dead.

I moved to Vermont and spent a year writing tech books and then to Boston where I went to work at another insurance company. Every group had a good mix of women and men except one – the technology architecture group. There was exactly one woman in this group among all the men. And most of the guys there reminded me of, well, they reminded me a lot of the male tech webloggers I’ve interacted with – both the good and the bad.

What do I mean by this? Well, when I deferred to the group in all things, I was an okay person. But when I disagreed, I became a bitch. I know. I was called a bitch. You see, unlike at Intel, I wasn’t going to be quiet, be good, or be conciliatory. No more candy drawers. I was going to fight back, and I’ve been fighting back ever since.

Good girls might get pats on the head from daddy, but they don’t get respect from hard core techs. It takes skill, but more than that, you can’t give an inch – not an inch because when you do, you’ll never get that inch back. If I had a choice between being liked, or being respected for my technical ability and being allowed to exercise it, I would choose the latter.

It was also in this position that I began to find out that the more technical the position, the closer to the metal, the fewer the women, and the more difficult for women to ‘break’ in.

Other jobs followed: Harvard and Stanford, Skyfish, and odds and ends for companies big and small, but enough about the past.

Now we come to weblogging and I see bits and pieces of my old Boeing group here, and my old jobs at Nike and I think, this is a good thing. But I also see much, way too much, of Intel here.

Lots of great technical guys around here. Could care less if I’m a woman, as long as my code’s sexy. That’s cool – I know where they’re coming from. But I’ve also been called ‘hysterical’ by Mark Pilgrim so many times, I should just tatoo it on my butt. Don’t have to believe me, read it yourself. Want to see what Dave Winer has said? Go to my blogroll, click on the link for his past comments.

I can dig this and I can handle it, but I wanted something more this time – I wanted support from the women. I didn’t want to be the only woman in the group, the only woman close to the metal – the only woman talking tech. But, how many women have been involved in Pie/Echo/Atom? RSS and coding? How many women at the conferences?

Yet when I’ve asked woman for support, it isn’t coming because let’s face it – the guys I take on, the Dave Winers, the Mark Pilgrims, and yes, even the nice guys like Sam Ruby – and Sam is a nice guy, and hasn’t a sexist bone in his body – they mean something here. They have a lot of juice. They are hits, conferences, speaking gigs. The coin of the realm is measured in hypertext links, and the men, well, they have most of the bucks.

No, I’m told that for women to get ahead, we have to be calm, dignified. We have to go along, to get along. We should never call a man on his behavior to his face, but do it in a round about manner, a non-confrontational manner. Above all, we should never be a bitch. Never lose our tempers. Never wipe the mud off our faces and throw it back.

Provide a drawer of candy. Learn to be good little girls, and maybe the boys will let us play.

This leads me back to Liz’s new group, and the smaller inner select group of members. Make no mistake – I was upset about this, and for two reasons.

The first is the group aspect of it, the member’s only aspect. Here’s a group of women who are talking about women in technology and supposedly women being excluded in technology, and the first thing that happens is they create an invite only group that exclude all women’s voices, including the cranky bitches like me.

Oh yes, women like me can still talk on our weblogs but our voices are less likely to be heard because let’s face it: the tech guys are going to find this group of women to be a lot more ‘comfortable’ to work with than someone like me. I’m that bitch – remember?

That leads me to my own personal reaction to not being invited. Yes, I was upset. And yes, I was angry. And hurt. And I did feel rejected because Liz and Dorothea and I have talked about these issues via email when I’ve asked their support in the past. When I tried to share my pain and rejection from the male technical circles. When I tried to explain why I find the word ‘hysterical’ to be so offensive.

Be quiet. Don’t react. Don’t get angry. Don’t fight back. Be good. Be dignified. Go along to get along. Look at the rewards – Tim might let you speak at ETConn, or Clay might ask you to one of his inner meetings. That’s the way for women to break into the technology fields – with dignity and restraint. Not calling the guys on their behavior. Not pointing out the discrepany at conference after conference. Not rocking the boat.

Not fighting back. Not fighting. Not.

Being quiet. That’s how women get ahead in technology, especially here in weblogging – we stay quiet. Even when we write, we’re still quiet. Even when we scream in the privacy of our minds, in frustration and anger, we still stay quiet.

Today I learned how to get ahead with the men in technology and tech weblogging circles. I’ve also learned how to get ahead with today’s new ‘woman in technology’, too.

I wish you luck ladies. I have no doubts you’ll be successful.

outdoors Photography


I had to delete the Year Ago posting, never to use again, when I realized that my database password was being exposed at the main Burningbird page. I have so many little tech tricks at all my various sites that I lose track of them, and then I end up creating new technology in one place that’s incompatible in another. Thankfully I don’t publish excerpts from my postings, or my database password would have gone out to aggregators all over the world.

I guess we’ll do without a “On Hiatus” page, and just write when I’m here, not write when I’m not.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon among the rocks and boulders at Johnson Shut-Ins, trying to get a decent photo of this site that’s supposedly so photographic. However, none of my digital shots would have worked for the publication looking for this picture, and I don’t expect my film shots to fare any better. I don’t know what it is about the site but it didn’t grab me. The water was low so the falls weren’t in full swoosh, but that wasn’t it. It’s as if there were one of those Kodak “Photographic Moment” signs in front of the thing, and nothing turns me off more than a picture being ‘handed’ to me, rather than me finding one.

I also had some problems climbing around the rocks, trapping my foot between two at one point and falling into a boulder. You should have heard me cuss. Boy did I cuss. Kicked the rocks, too, when I freed my foot, as if half-ton rocks that have been around forever are going to worry about the kick of a tennis-shoe clad foot attached to a cranky, middle-aged woman.

I wasn’t hurt, but I was disappointed at being so out of shape that I couldn’t scramble about like I wanted; freer movement, which may have given me opportunities for better pictures. Damn this aging, undependable body.

This morning the Wired article I mentioned yesterday was published, and I was also disappointed to see that what I wrote didn’t make the cut into the final article. I imagine it was cut for length and my stuff ended up in the trash. This wouldn’t be so bad but this was the third time I’ve been interviewed by Wired for one reason or another and then not quoted in the finished work. Add this to two times for New York Times, once for, and a couple of other odds and ends publications, and you can see why I might feel a tab bit rejected at this point. Either what I write is imminently not quotable, or I don’t have the juice, the buzz, or the rank behind the quotes to make the final cuts.

My first reaction was to feel hurt, rejected, to withdraw; to run into the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror and ask, “What’s wrong with this woman?” What looked back at me was a person who isn’t famous, rich, or beautiful – but definitely not a person with something globally ‘wrong’ with them, other than none of us are perfect and we all have room for improvement. The ‘rejection’ if rejection it really was, was nothing personal. It’s just the way things are. Like the rocks, and getting older.


Just Shelley

I feel good

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I feel good.

Fall colors are at their peak here in Missouri, which means they’re beyond the peak for me because I like the colors when they’re just starting to touch the trees. However, I missed my peak Fall color time, though it’s very pretty here now and the weather is about as good as you can get to enjoy these times of change.

(Missed is the wrong word, because I didn’t ‘miss’ the colors – I just didn’t see them. There’s a difference.)

I spent yesterday walking around the Shaw Arboretum and Route 66 parks taking photos with both my digital and film cameras, which is whyyou’re blessed with slow downloads today. Yesterday was a Good Picture day, or at least, I think it was. Perhaps because I was feeling good, everything around me felt good, including the photos. Maybe someday I’ll be feeling bad and return to this post and ask myself what was I thinking.


I’ve worked out a new photo expedition routine: film camera on strap around neck, camera bag on shoulder with its film and filters and lens, digital camera in case hooked through finger or belt, and monopod in my right hand doubling as a walking stick. I am a walking photo studio, or at one point yesterday when I was trying to climb down a steep hill to the water’s edge – always water with me, isn’t it? – I was almost a falling photo studio. Up, nup, up, oh no, aiee! Next time, don’t leave the lens cap off.

At the Arboretum it was School Day, which didn’t impact on me much except at one point when I was taking photos of a field because I liked the colors and texture, not because there was anything clever or cute or significant. There, I ran into a group of kids I couldn’t avoid in time and the students were looking at me – with all my gadgets and bags and stands – instead of their teacher who only had a lousy bud in her hand.

“Does anyone know why I found this bud now, rather than in the Spring?”

The kids couldn’t care less and you could see in some of the students faces that they wanted to play with the cameras, and others wanted to be in front of the cameras, and one girl was in the field picking all the wild flowers because, as she told the teacher, they ‘were pretty’. All the while the park ranger or whoever she was was standing in the background as escort, probably wondering why she was there because ‘park ranger’ is the profession that shows up on aptitude tests when you come across as extremely introverted and uncomfortable with groups of people.

I know. I took the tests.


Back to my new routine: I use the digital camera to frame a photo and test exposure settings, trying out various angles and depths. I then take the photos on film, bracketing the shots just to make sure that I have a better chance in one good picture. I’ll post the digital photos online, for fun, reserving the film shots for magazines. I’m now on three magazines ‘needs’ list, which means that the photo samples I’ve sent have passed muster and when the magazines need a particular type of shot, I’ll be on the list of people who receive a ‘Do you have any photos of …’.

Today I’m out taking photos again, responding to a request of ‘Do you have photos of Missouri’s unusual rock formations’, which I hope I can respond to, in a week or so, with, ‘Why yes, as a matter of fact, I do.’ This isn’t a lie; this is postdated truth.


It’s also true that I’m on a new lifelong diet now that restricts my consumption of things such as chocolate, which is a bit heart breaking because I think eating good chocolate is an incredibly sensual experience, and there’s few things more interesting than eating a lovely bit of cream with a bittersweet chocolate covering and a candied violet on top. However, I also like feeling good so accept such restrictions with equanimity. I figured what I would do is reserve my chocolate consumption for very special occasions, such as my birthday, when I’ll buy myself a beautiful box of chocolates – it must be beautiful, or it’s not the same. I’ll then enjoy them, one by one, accompanied by cups of strong, rich coffee, sitting at a window looking outside with my feet up and an afghan over the legs. Can you see that I’m building a new ritual here to help me accept that my lifestyle changes are a reward not a punishments?

To help me breaking my belief in indulgence as an everyday thing, I’m trying to convince myself that other activities such as ‘hiking’, ‘photography’, and ‘weblogging’, are vices and therefore bad for me. By doing this I satisfy my craving for bad things, with things that are really good for me, or at least, sometimes good for me.


Speaking of weblogging, did you like the Year Ago feature I implemented? I found it reminded me of where I was a year ago as compared to where I am now, but without the hang up of ‘time’s a flying and I’m a dying’ that past reflectiveness tends to generate. Whenever I take a break I’m going to throw this page back up, so you’ll know when I’m taking a break, and when I’m just not feeling like posting. I think its important to distinguish between the two, don’t you? After all, taking a break implies doing something fun and it’s probably okay to email the person and say, “What’s happening?” Not feeling like posting most likely means that you’re too busy and in a pissy mood, or you’re not busy enough and in a pissy mood, and who wants to walk into that one?

Of course, my break wasn’t a true break, so this break from the break probably won’t be a long one. Did you understand that? Or were you dazzled by the pretty pictures and the rambling discourse?


During my break, which wasn’t a complete break and therefore didn’t count, I did a self-interview thing with Frank Paynter, a different pattern to the famous Sandhill Tech interview process that I don’t think Frank liked much because the man really wants to control the direction of his interviews. Of course, he thinks I don’t like interviews because I want to control what’s printed, but that’s just not true. For instance, I was also interviewed by a very nice Wired journalist for an upcoming article, which I’ll point out when it comes online. If I approve of it, of course.

Just joking.

I enjoyed the self-interview for Frank, and Frank’s a pretty cool guy, though he’s not paid me my dollar yet for he photos I took for him. Once I get that dollar I’ll add it to one or two others and send a pound of MJB coffee and a Boulder, Colorado library card to my friend Chris Locke, who is both certifiable and broke . He’s a good man, Chris is. A little scary, especially when you talk to him on the phone late at night when you’re groggy and not quite there and vulnerable to strange talk and stranger men, but good.


I also wrote a weblog essay about weblog comments to Weblogging for Poets. I felt I needed to say something when I was trackback pinged 22 times for an older posting on handling comment spam. I was also disturbed by a growing trend I’m seeing among webloggers to use global technology approaches to fixing what are social challenges. This includes blacklisting, which will never be an effective solution to our Net problems.

Another variation of this arose in the last few days when Hosting Matters was hit with a particularly virulent DDoS attack, as discussed at Winds of Change. It’s been in the Blogdex, and folks are saying that the attack is generated by Al-Queda against a Zionist weblog responsible for taking down Al-Queda sympathetic weblogs. All this according to their ‘intelligence reports’, or intel reports, as they like to call them.

Our current server was hit with DoS attacks in the last month, and it’s a Canadian-based server. Is it being attacked, then, by religious fundamentalists because Canada is talking gay marriage?

There is nothing more dangerous than people holding a gun they don’t know how to use, and webloggers who don’t understand the technology they depend on shoot themselves in the foot or the mouth with too much regularity. There are essays waiting to be written in the Internet for Poets weblog that say, among other things, this is the trigger, and this is the part where the bullet comes out and don’t point this part at your head when you pull that trigger.


We talk with great enthusiasm about topics as diverse as linguistics, philosophy, politics, art, culture, language, history, literature, sex, and rock n’ roll. However, when the conversation goes round to technology all but the most diehard techies turn off because we’ve now entered the no-man, or should I say no-woman’s world that frankly most of you find completely lacking in interest. Yet it is technology that can effect you, and does effect you, more than most of these other topics. Not the politics of technology, which I also find to be an incredible bore – but the hows and whys of email spam and comment spam and DDoS. How can you make good decisions when you don’t understand?


Because of the recent Net problems, we’re moving the Wayward Weblogger home, and the The For Poets site is the first being moved to the new server. Yes, the Wayward webloggers are moving off a a dedicated server and to a new home with, you guessed it, Hosting Matters. In fact, I started the account the very day this last DDoS happened, but really, it was a coincidence. Yes, only a coincidence that our new server was in the good block of IP addresses, not the ones under attack. I did not break it. Honest. I don’t need to break what’s already broken.

Next year is going to be a very bad year for the Net, and every weblogger, no matter who you’re hosted with, had better be ready to have your site down an average of 2-4 days every month. Yes, days. Email will continue to be a problem, as well as viruses and comment spam and a host of other problems. Our reactions to these events, rather than helping, are just making things worse. If webloggers may not hold the key to influencing the presidential election or the war in Iraq, we are the keyhole for an every increasing burden on the Internet. In other words, webloggers are bad ju ju for the Net.

Added up, I just couldn’t devote the time necessary to protect our dedicated server the way it needed to be protected and opted out to have the very professional team at Hosting Matters handle it. I watched them in this last go around and the steps they tool to block the DDoS. They did good, as good as anyone can with this type of attack – contrary to the half-wits saying, “Well, these types of attacks are easily prevented.”


My, look at the time! That’s the problem with weblogging – it generates a time warp and you start to write at 7 and all of a sudden its now 11 and I have a pile of rocks with my name on it. Must toodle.

I have to share one last photo with you first, though, of a friend I met along the way yesterday. He was sprawled across the limestone rocks trying to absorb the heat into his body. He was having a marvelous time, flattening himself down and stretching as far as he could because that heat felt wonderful. You could see it in his gentle, sweet little face:

I feel good.