Just Shelley

Wishing you simple joys in 2004

Thank you for you this year. Thank you for sharing your life, hopes, interests, milestones, beautiful writing, wonderous images, your tears and your giggles.

Thank you for stopping by and giving me the most important gift we can give each other: your time.

Here’s wishing you a new year filled with simple joys: time shared with friends and family (virtual or otherwise), walks in the sun, reading a good book curled up in your favorite chair, a perfect taste, an unforgettable touch, and many childlike moments of discovery.

Happy New Year.


RDF Technology Weblogging

RSS Stuff

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Time to take a break from photos and philosophy, and feed the machine.

I have a file that maintains a list of 404 accesses, and the URL where the missing resource access originated. The file most accessed is the old Alter Ego weblog’s rss.xml feed. Since I closed the weblog over a year ago, not quite sure where these requests are originating, so I re-created the file with one entry that reads:

Title: This Weblog is dead, dead, dead

Description: This weblog, Burningbird’s Alter Ego, has been dead for over a year. Why are you still accessing this feed? If you can’t even tell which weblogs are active or not from the feed, perhaps you’re subscribed to too many sources. Try reading a few from time to time.

The point I think is good – some people proudly point to the multi-thousand aggregatiojn subscription count they maintain and my only response to that is, please remove me from your list.

Another old syndication feed chestnut is making its rounds again recently. Seems Joi Ito is providing a CSS stylesheet with his RSS feed. Deja vu all over again. I agree with several others who have pinged Joi in that it makes little sense to supply a stylesheet with a syndication feed. Not only does this override a person’s aggregator settings, it also makes the feed processing more complicated. Plus, I don’t see the point. The purpose of syndication is to provide a recent list of updates, with enough information so that if a person is interested, they’ll click through and read the rest of the writing at your web site.

Sigh. Over and over and over again.

However, there was an interesting point made on this by Liz that made me want to comment, again, on this concept. She wrote:

My gut response to this is discomfort with the idea of trying to use CSS with syndicated content-that it seems somehow contrary to the entire idea of syndicating simple content. But I know from long experience not to trust that kind of initial negativity too much, since it’s often connected with changes that turn out to be quite positive.

Curious – I wonder if Liz also questions her initial positive reactions to new technology with the same hesitancy that she applies to negation reactions? If not, is this because negative or should I say, critical writing is somehow valued less than positive writing?

I know that Joi Ito maintains a very positive outlook when it comes to geekery and tech, but then as a tech VC he has to: people don’t invest based on pessimism, or even realism. (Not to say that Joi wouldn’t be positive anyway – I really do think he loves this stuff.)

My job the last few years before the Great Bust was as a consultant finding the problems with existing or proposed architectures and software designs and decisions before the company spent millions of dollars on, frankly, overoptimistic but doomed technical innovations. In some cases I would then work with the folks to architect new solutions (or in case of a couple of contracting companies, find new companies). It was a job I was very good at, and I know that I saved one past customer several million dollars, and also helped a couple of others create systems that were simpler and much easier to scale. Seems to me the ‘criticism’ in these cases is a positive thing.

(Betcha you didn’t know that, did you? Betcha you just thought I was a negative person, didntcha? Yah sure, back in the good old days I used to charge a buncha money to do what you all get for free.)

Anyway, though I may eventually get around to an Atom feed, when I have the spare cycles, and I have a hidden comments feed (which you can find if you’re determined), I’m not going to fool around with stylesheets for my feeds.

Besides, I like Bloglines. I like the way the system looks, and I like the clean, easy to read aggregated excerpts. But I always click through when my small, select group of subscribed feeds update.

(Except if you provide full content and don’t take comments and host on Blogspot, like Halley).

Connecting Critters Travel

Borders, boundaries, and birds

Walking along the Riverway walk in San Antonio, I ended up at a large set of steps where a member of a local conservation group was introducing a golden eagle to the crowd.

While she was talking with people, answering questions and posing the bird for photographs, I was captivated by the identical expression on her and the bird’s face and was able to capture a picture before she turned away to leave. What caught my eye wasn’t that she looked like the bird, with piercing gold eyes or hooked beak; it was the serene confidence and fierce independence present in both their faces. It mesmerized me and I don’t think I’ve seen a more beautiful image (people walking in the background notwithstanding).


As I traveled this past week, driving through city and county and state and even nations if you include the reservations, I was in a continuous state of crossing from one border to another, one boundary to another, and would have to adjust my driving speed or behavior or what I did and when I did it — small changes at times but they existed. Sometimes the only indication that I had crossed a boundary was a sign saying, “Welcome to ______”, but the sand was the same, the sky no different, the asphalt didn’t vanish beneath my wheels (though at one point it did abruptly change from dark gray to a light tan).

Boundaries. We are surrounded by boundaries and it seems like there is very little room left for the individual when faced with all these boundaries. Instead, though, the individual stands strong and proud, just as the woman with her bird — unique within the boundaries both were born with and that fate had thrust around them.

The woman was born a certain sex with a certain eye color and certain talents and once was a young girl thinking young girl fancies. The bird was born with beautiful wings and keen eyesight and once flew the winds of the deserts. But the woman now had grey hair and the bird could no longer fly — time stepping in for one, a bastard with a gun for the other.

They stood there, faces profiled, formed by the boundaries around them, but you don’t see a cage made by borders — you see something else. Something extraordinary.

The woman could have dyed her hair, or been a bank president, or disliked birds and people and disdained both. The bird could have chosen to die when shot, or to peck at the woman’s eyes as she held him on her arm, but each chose a direction in the everlasting maze of life. Within the boundaries they had choice, and what they were at that moment, proud, strong, beautiful, was the product of the choices not the restrictions of the boundaries.

We are all born differently, but we share one common characteristic: we are all given boundaries from birth. We are born a certain color, with hair and eyes and facial traits and physical framework formed for us from genetic cookery that takes a bit of this, a dab of that and throws it into a container that becomes us. We can do nothing to change this. We are also given boundaries of language and culture and religion, and though some may see these as impermeable walls, they are malleable for those with sufficient resolve.

Years ago, the world was large enough that groups could form rigid boundaries around themselves and be content (unless a neighbor became overcome by avarice and smashed the boundaries using force). The ideal for humanity is respect for boundaries: language, culture, national, and religious. I know that as a child of the 60’s, a flower child, one who danced about and loved all mankind equally, respect for others’ boundaries was deeply ingrained in me. In many of us.

Today, though, the world is much smaller — the boulder has become a ball has become a marble and is now a pretty speck of green and blue and brown. One person’s religious practice results in another’s oppression; another person’s cultural fears result in less freedoms for others. Our belief, and it is noble, that a person’s religious, cultural, and national boundaries should be respected is crumbling in the face of a world with too many people and too little resources. These resources are drifting away like sands in an hourglass; where we should all be working together, trying to preserve that which is precious, instead we push and shove each other away, losing much in our greed and in our belief in our boundaries.

I listened to the talk on the radio about this Christmas present or that and Christmas sale after Christmas sale before the 25th, and after Christmas sales following. I watched as a man holding a sign begging for food at a stoplight in San Francisco, stood looking impassively into the car window of a Mercedes, at the man inside who was looking straight ahead, talking on a cellphone and oblivious to his surroundings. I looked in the paper at a woman crying because her entire family was killed in a quake in Iran because the buildings were not reinforced; they were not reinforced because the woman’s government was too proud of its boundaries to seek help and other countries were too determined to take down those boundaries to offer it.

We have formed another boundary, the most terrible boundary of all: that of wanting more. We want beyond the limits of our needs, whether it is in possessions or power or souls; we go beyond satiation to saturation, and we have brought up our children to either seek, or, if denied, to take. Hands fighting at, pushing against, other hands as the sands slip silently past.

Like the woman, though, and like the bird, within this boundary — within all the boundaries — we do still have the ability to make choices. It’s just that now, the boundaries are becoming so very strong and the choices so very difficult.



Burning Bright

Got home a bit ago after driving 16 hours from San Antonio. Trip was relatively uneventful and the weather was fairly decent after some early rain in Texas, late rain in Missouri. Clear enough to know when I was at my closest to the Western White House, and performed a little symbolic gesture signifying the level of my respect when I passed.

Trip was educational and enlightening, but will be the last solo cross-country trip I do. Without sharing the driving responsibilities with another, after a while the stress builds up and you can’t relax, even when there’s nothing to stress about. And when unusual events happen, you can overreact.

Tonight, coming over one of the passes in the dark and the rain in Missouri, I rounded a corner to be met by braked cars. I slammed on my brakes and hit my emergency signal, and then spotted the cause of the halt — a sports car was by the side of the road, completely engulfed in flames. No matter how much you see it on TV, in real life the effect of a burning car up close is a lot more of an impact, and a lot less entertaining.

(I imagine the same can be said of war.)

The fire department was there, but far back from the car. There was little they could do without shutting down the highway, and little that could be salvaged in the car. As for the tank exploding, that’s a pretty common myth about cars burning — cars rarely explode, I’ve been told.

However, if there had been police there, I have no doubts that the line of us that formed to inch past the car would not have been allowed when it was in full flame. I could feel the intense heat as we passed — this couldn’t have been the appropriate thing to do. Or maybe it is.

I saw three young men talking to one of the firemen, and am assuming they were from the car and no one was killed. Regardless though, you will think less of me when I say that not long after passing the car, I pulled over myself and for some reason started crying, and couldn’t stop for 30 minutes.

I do not cry that easily, I truly don’t. I think it was the shock of the car and the horror of the moment when I looked in the flames and thought that they might have engulfed people. And I’m tired. And a wuss.

Now, if I were a journalist I would have pulled over, grabbed my cameras and got some great pictures and possibly even sold one or two. But I’m not a journalist; only a writer of words and taker of an occasional picture, glad she’s home, and swearing that she will no long go on these solo cross-country trips.

And that she’s going to buy a fire extinguisher for her car.


Remember the Alamo, remember the facade

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Today was a day on foot rather than in car, and I’m feeling the difference tonight. However, my mission to San Antonio was a success and I was able to get a photo of the Alamo facade. It’s for a specific use, so I won’t be publishing it here, but I have another photo or two…or three…or so…that I’ll provide for your edification.

San Antonio is a beautiful city. A block from the hotel is La Villita, an old Texas village made into artist shops, and on the other side of it, the Riverwalk. This lovely meandering walk follows the natural course of the San Antonio river as it flows through the city. It exists as a result of an organized effort by the women of San Antonio to preserve the River’s natural boundaries, and also to prevent the River from being converted into a sewer system. Now it’s a wonderous place of color and music and restaurants, not to mention a place for various plays and other events.

Across the street from the hotel is the Hemisfair Park, including the Tower of the Americas, which I’ll visit another day. A couple of blocks from there is the center of San Antonio tourism – the famous Alamo.


The Alamo was packed – people literally everywhere. It would be nice if there was a way to connect disparate pieces of online information rather than have to gather it all together, manually. For instance, I could pick my destination to visit and provide the date, and find a hotel in San Antonio using Hotwire, and then get explicit driving directions from Mapquest. However, a third component would have event information that would then provide me a warning that the weekend I picked also happens to be the weekend before the famous Alamo Bowl, one of the highly popular college Bowl games.

I thought about taking one of the river boat rides, until I saw the line.


Despite the crowds, there’s always a quiet place you can get away to, to relax or to play.


I ended up having lunch at a Mexican food place, sitting at a table by the river. However, other diners preferred different cuisine.


The newspapers in the stands all around the area I walked today were full of the story of the tragedy in Iran. One had headlines that read, “Apocalypse in Iran!”, an accurate term because of the near total devastation of Bam. An odd term to pick, too, considering the religious connotations associated with the term, apocalypse.

My heart goes out to the families of the thousands who were killed, and all those left homeless or hurt. When you read how the town has had a rebirth recently and had been thriving, it’s destruction is that much more bitter. Our history is also left poorer at the devastation of a temple that has lasted through the ages – 2000 years old, and now, totally destroyed. Look at the photos to better understand this loss, and though we say that the cost of human life far exceeds that of a bunch of mud bricks, the loss of history, and heritage can have an impact on the people, long after the tears are dried. Bam may be rebuilt, but it will no longer be Bam.

Heritage. This was never more understandable than when walking about the Alamo here in San Antonio, a modern building by comparison but no less symbolic to a people, and not just people in the US if the visitors were any indication.

(Of course, the story of the Alamo is one of ‘bravery in the face of oppression’, but there is always more to a story then the first one you hear; however I’m too tired tonight and that will have to wait another day.)

I am so glad that the national community, including the US, is helping the people in Iran – but we should have been there ten years ago, helping the people to bolster their homes and hospitals and heritage after the last devastating earthquake.

But that’s a story of boundaries, which will, also, wait another day. Tomorrow I drive home. By the way, during the trip I received news that a publisher has accepted my book proposal. I’m back in business.