Just Shelley


Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Since making predictions is the thing to do this time of year, I’m also going to indulge. However, rather than predict what others do, I’m going to take a look at predicting what I’m going to do. I figure I have the same odds at being found correct a year from now.

Prediction : I won’t be attending any conferences in 2006.

I was initially disappointed that the SxSW panel on women and visibility fell through, but now I’m just as happy as not. I was looking forward to meeting people, but how much time could we spend together when we’re pushed and pulled about by several hundred of us crowded into one place together? It seems to me that these meet and greets end up being more a photo op and a way of getting funding then to genuinely share some quiet time with friends met online.

I would like to meet many of you, but I’d rather meet you either as you pass through St. Louis, or I pass through your community.

As for the topic, what could be covered in an hour with four people talking, half of who disagreed? We would barely get through the “Hi, I am…” before the session was over. If we have an argument to make, we already have a platform from which to make known our views; one that doesn’t require we travel or that we be invited. If we have to meet in person before our writing is given credibility then I’ll repeat what I said once, long ago: this environment is a lie.

So in 2006, I can predict that I won’t be appearing as a speaker in a conference.

Prediction : My ‘rating’ will continue to drop in Technorati

The nicest thing about losing popularity–as measured by links or subscriptions or whatever means–is that people will no longer lump me in with the A-listers.

Prediction : More photos and stories from and about Zoë

Okay, this is a cheap prediction. I have to have one sure thing on the list.

Prediction : The number of women in the computer science field will continue to drop in 2006, but I won’t care

The first part of this prediction probably won’t surprise folks, but the second part might. This statement has to do with the epiphany I recently had about women in tech that I was saving for SxSW. Since I won’t be attending SxSW, I’ll be writing about it, instead. Be still your beating hearts.

Prediction : I’m going to have more fun with my weblog in 2006 than I did in 2005

I’ve been ambivalent about this weblog in 2005, and it shows. I had two choices at the end of this year: quit, or do things differently. I’ve decided to do things differently, at least for now. We’ll see what happens.

Prediction : I’m not going to write about…

The hot topic of the moment, what the tech A-listers are addressing, the tech A-listers, and so on. I don’t know about anyone else, but I bore myself.

Nothing I have said in the last six months in this regard is ‘fresh’. Nothing is new. If the only reason you read me is to get some kind of visceral thrill of watching me confront people, then you might as well as unsubscribe from my weblog right now.

There is nothing to be gained by spending time responding to webloggers who play games. These are the people who say something outrageous, not because they believe it, but because it generates juice. I can get behind outrageousness; I can’t get behind the obvious manipulation.

Earlier I said I want to do something different with the weblog in 2006. I want to have fun. I want to write for the joy of it. I want this weblog to be useful, even if the only useful thing I accomplish with it is help one person with a bit of code; or cheer another with a photo from a hike.

I don’t want to play the games anymore. Which leads to…

Prediction : All of you will unsubscribe from this weblog

I can say this because I’m asking you to. I’m asking you to unsubscribe from this weblog. I’m asking you to go into Bloglines and Newsgator and whatever other subscription feed aggregator you use and unsubscribe me.

Then, if you find over time that you miss what I write–the long essays, the histories, fanciful tales, opinions, the writing, the tech, the photos, whatever–add the subscription back. If you’re not interested in all of my writing, subscribe to just those topics that interest you.

I’m asking you not to take me for granted. I promise you, in return, that I won’t take you for granted, either. Let’s all start fresh next year.

Prediction : I’ll finally get to Alaska

Dave Winer once mentioned he’d donate 100.00 if I wanted to travel somewhere to take photos. Well, I won’t hold Dave to his promise, but I am planning a trip next year. A road trip.

I have been to every state in the union except North and South Carolina, Michigan, and Alaska. Late summer or early fall in 2006, I want to take a road trip and visit the states unvisited–including driving to Alaska. Along the way, I’d like to quietly stop by and visit folks I’ve met through weblogging through the years.

My hope is to travel down to Florida and then up along the Atlantic states, over to Vermont, through to Michigan, zig zag over to see my Mom in Idaho and then on to Washington, Canada, and Alaska. When I come back, I then might travel down the Pacific rim states, or I may just traverse the Rockies, cross down south and then home.

It’s important to have dreams. This is mine.

Prediction : I’ll publish a book in 2006

Though the Wikipedia folk equate tech book writing with authoring toaster manuals, my hope is to publish at least one new book on technology this year. In the last few months, I’ve rediscovered my joy in technology; hopefully this can translate to a joy in writing about technology.

Prediction : I make no promises

Take me, or leave me, but don’t assume you know all about me. Outside of work commitments, I make no promises for 2006. It’s a new year: anything goes.

Happy New Year, my friends.

Technology Weblogging

Form to Press

I’m in the process of porting the functionality I’ve created in Wordform to WordPress 2.0. You can see the working weblog here. While I’m at it, I’m updating the semantic weblog plugins to fit the new environment.

(Speaking of WordPress 2.0, did that go from source code control to release with no intervening beta period? Does this make it, then, Web 3.0–no beta at all?)

Some of the functionality I created with Wordform will be easy to implement in WordPress. For instance, I can create a new Administrative skin which, among other things, turns off the display of the in-page preview for the Write page. I can then add another plugin function to add a Preview button and open the preview full page, as I have it with Wordform. This was very difficult with older versions of WordPress because it wouldn’t display posts with draft status. Now, all you have to do is attach the page number to the end, and it displays. Be aware of this if you’re running WordPress–anyone can see your draft posts, as long as they can work through the post number.

This is the same functionality I have with Wordform. I had planned on putting in password protection, but never did.

Correction: In WordPress 2.0, it doesn’t display unless you’re logged in. My error. Sorry.

The comment management system I have is going to be tricky to implement in WordPress. This includes the post-edit, as well as my spam prevention techniques which are dependent on turning comments off after a certain period, adding in throttles, and the use of whitelisting. I also have to turn off ping and trackbacks, though not disable them. I particularly have to add plugins to remove that abysmal misuse of microformats, nofollow on links for commenters. This is on by default and I see no way in options of disabling this. Bluntly, this should be an option, because nofollow is a piece of crap. However, I believe plugins already exist for this.

I also have to see if the Dashboard can be overridden to remove the WordPress feed; at a minimum, I should be able to override the menu and remove the Dashboard option altogether.

Anyway, once I’ve worked these things through, I’ll port Burningbird back to WordPress.

Environment Photography

More on Taum Sauk, Johnson, and Black River

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Thanks to Lee Farber, who runs the Peola Valley Pottery in Lesterville (the town threatened with flooding after the Tauk Sauk Reservoir wall failed), I have links to additional resources on the flood and its impact.

political cartoon noting that AmerenUE operates more than reservoirs.

I hope to get permission to actually take photos of the Shut-Ins themselves. In the meantime, before and after photos of the area.

The issue was raised that what has fallen into the Black River is just dirt, and dirt can actually help a surrounding area. The concept of rich alluvial land in the floodplains of a river like the Mississippi is based on naturally occurring flooding. The reservoir break was anything but natural.

The Black River, one of the most pristine in the state and country, and environmentally vulnerable, was actually diverted the length of two football fields at one point by the force of the water from the dam breaking. We don’t yet know the impact of the dirt in the water, either on tourism (necessary for the area); or on wildlife dependent on the river.

People Photography Places

After the Flood

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I’m working on a very long essay on the recent dam break here in Missouri, the hurricane effects in New Orleans and other topics, and am out taking photos as annotation. The writing may be a long time in coming, but I thought I would post photos as I go along.

Monday I went to the Johnson Shut-Ins to see the effect of the Taum Sauk Reservoir dam break. It was…extraordinary. The trees and much of the scrub in the area where the campground and picnic areas are almost all gone, or damaged beyond salvaging.

There were several of us about, most local to the area. We were gathered in a group trying to figure out where the water came from, when one man mentioned that the water came from a direction in back and to our left. How can this be, I asked, because the trees were lying down towards the left. According to another man local to the area, the water had come down with such force that it hit the mountain to the right and bounced back. It was this bounced water that took out the ranger’s home, pushed the semi off the road, and knocked down the trees by the road.

The campground and shut-ins got the water directly. So much so that rebar from the dam was twisted in and around the granite pillars of the shut-ins. In the summer, during the day, all 57 campground spaces are filled, as well as the space for 110 day use cars, with vehicles lined up to get in for miles. During a peak time in the summer, an estimated 1000 or so people could have been in the impact zone of the flood–a probable 250 in the direct path of the water.

I’ve also added some Google map images to the photos, to demonstrate the water flow and where items I photographed were found.

As the following Google maps snapshot demonstrates, the water flowed down between mountains, and came out pointed directly at Johnson Shut-Ins. It flowed down Black river, in both directions at first, and bounced back from the mountain bordering the Shut-Ins across from the water path.

Keep Out

Path of Water down Mountain

Black River

Unusual color in Black River


It hit the mountain, bouncing back and taking the Ranger’s home. The following photo encompasses both the path of the flood and the home. The light colored foundation in the right side of the following photo is what’s left of the home.

Flood Path in Relation to Park Ranger Home


Knocking three cars and a semi carrying zinc into an empty field across from Highway N.

Location of Truck pushed off road

Debris, both from the dam (rebar and plastic liner) as well as from the ranger’s home was still scattered about in and among uprooted trees and the inches of mud and silt over everything. The following map shows a circle where the Ranger’s house was, and Xs marking where debris in the photos was located.


The front wheel from a child's bike

Lining from Reservoir was littered everywhere

Sign by Park Ranger's House

A Baby's Socks

Programming Languages

Chu chu code

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I can’t believe how easy it is to set up Ruby on Rails on the Mac with Locomotive. I went from two downloads to my first application in less than 1/2 hour. Great stuff.

I’m in the process of making vast changes here abouts. The first change is I’m moving my Tinfoil Project domain to a new development server that is upgraded to all the latest, breaking edge PHP, MySQL, Ruby on Rails, and so on. Tinfoil is being re-focused from photos to high-tech, and the new server will provide examples of code how-tos and tutorials I hope to work on this next year.

I’m looking at a virtual private server at A2 Hosting or OCS Solutions at this time, but wouldn’t mind hearing about other hosts–with a few caveats.

I’m looking for a service that goes month to month, since my income is uncertain from month to month. I need enough RAM to run my examples, and enough bandwidth not to have to pay overage. I wouldn’t mind a control panel, and some assistance (paid or otherwise) if things go wonky. I’d also like a system that has some of what I want already installed, so I don’t have to start from scratch. These are things I want. What don’t want is a service that’s heavily connected with weblogging.

You all may jump on the Cluetrain, but I’m finding I’d be just as happy, thank you, in not having a close, intimate connection with vendors. I want to be able to deal at a professional level with companies, and not have Sarah or Sam ‘offended’ by what I write in my weblog.

I want a clear means of communication detailed at the company site; I don’t want representatives in my comments whenever I mention their product. I don’t want to have to use my weblog as a form of extortion to get a company’s attention; or as a backdoor way of doing business.

I don’t care if they see me for who I really am, as long as they see me as ‘customer’ and act accordingly. I don’t want input into the company workings other than “what you’re selling me is working, here’s my money”.

I don’t want to be ‘bad’ or ‘good’ for being critical. I don’t want legions of supporters converging in my space, protecting that nice woman, hip young man, or crusty, but with a heart of gold, legend in his own mind . I don’t want what I say to show up on the I don’t care if what I write shows up on Google — I just want it to work.

I want a service; I’m willing to pay. This is not the beginning of a personal relationship. I don’t want it treated that way. The only train I want to be on around here, is Locomotive.