Four shorts make a long

Protect your Naughties

Seth Finkelstein has a timely Guardian article on Judge Kozinkski and his exposed naughty bits.

I’m usually careful about making sure whatever I don’t want exposed to general access either is not located in a web accessible position, or is password protected. I don’t depend on robots.txt to ensure web bots don’t access or expose what I don’t want found. As it is, copies of my book, “Painting the Web”, have been appearing on BitTorrent downloads, and I’m not sure if these were based on the copies of chapters I hosted online for my reviewers to download. I password protected the material, but I don’t know how else the material came to be exposed to the P2P “Gimme it for free” crowds.

What think? .burningbird?

Virginia DeBolt writes about the new ICANN boutique domain names, which will spawn chaos, while generating money for a select few registrars (not to menion ICANN, which has now become an organization seemingly interested in profit).

What I want to know is, how am I going to be able to buy .burningbird? Think I should start a PayPal account, and ask for donations?

The bird is back!

Stavros the Wonderchicken is back, weblogging! If you don’t know Stavros, you’re in for a treat. The man is twisted, but in a, well, twisted sort of way.

Every time someone I’ve known a long time re-appears after a lengthy hiatus, I think of the others who I’d like to see writing online again: Jonathon Delacour, Phil Ringnalda, Kathy Sierra, to name just a few. I must not get greedy, though. It’s good to see Chris back writing again.

California, the Squid are coming

An Architheuthis Dux, or giant squid was discovered off the coast of California, a rare location for these elusive creatures. This one was 25 feet if you extrapolate the missing parts. A good size, but not the biggest, by any means.

The dissection shows massive damage from bites, but the researchers don’t know if the bites are pre- or postmortem. (via Laughing Squid)

Books JavaScript

Douglas Crockford’s Good Parts of JavaScript

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

My editor at O’Reilly sent me a copy of Douglas Crockford’s JavaScript: The Good Parts, which I found to be both interesting and useful. The volume is slim, 153 pages in all, but packed full of information about JavaScript—the good parts and the bad.

I found myself nodding more than once, raising my eyebrow a couple of times, and chuckling a time or two, especially when reading about the equality operators, those “evil twins” of JavaScript, according to Crockford.

The book is not intended for neophyte developers, or even those new to JavaScript. It does, however, give you insight into the mind of a very experienced JavaScript developer. Such insight can provide the information necessary to take you from being familiar with JavaScript to being experienced with JavaScript. In particular, the book’s fourth chapter on Functions is, by itself, worth the price of the book.

Crockford writes clearly and without pretension, which I found refreshing. His aim is to clarify, but without pandering. He doesn’t hold you by the hand, and don’t expect him to explain every last bit of the subjects introduced. However, reading through his material is a nice confirmation as to whether your understanding of JavaScript is comprehensive, or if you’re missing out on some of the bits. I particularly liked his chapter on regular expressions, because I suck at regular expressions.

You’ll also be served a hefty dose of Crockford’s opinions on the JavaScript language, which is no bad thing. I didn’t necessarily agree with all of his opinions, such as avoiding the use of new, but I liked reading the opinions because they help me question my own use of the JavaScript language: is this necessary? Could this be improved? Why am I doing this?

I don’t usually have opinions, good or bad, about components of a language. I either like the language, and learn to adapt to the awkward pieces; or I don’t like the language at all. I like JavaScript, so I tend to like all of JavaScript, even the grungy parts. If there’s one thing I consider to be a “bad” part of JavaScript, it is the experts in JavaScript who tell us not to do this or that, but either give no reason for their opinion, or the reason they give borders on the obtuse and cryptic—assuming that we, of course, know exactly what they’re talking about (if we’re worth anything as programmers, goes the implication).

Reading Crockford laying out his opinion as to what he considers “bad” in JavaScript, and why, in clear, unambiguous terms—with examples—is like a breath of fresh air. His doing so is also worth the price of the book (leaving me to wonder whether I should, in all fairness, pay twice). I can only hope other experts, in whatever language, follow his lead.

My only quibble with the book is one paragraph in the chapter on Objects, and that’s because I’m still puzzled by what I read. Crockford writes:

The simple types of JavaScript are numbers, strings, booleans (true and false), null, and undefined. All other values are objects. Numbers, strings, and booleans are object-like in that they have methods, but they are immutable. Objects in JavaScript are mutable keyed collections.

My understanding of immutable objects is that these are objects, not some form of pseudo-object, or second class object. If I had been a tech reviewer for this book, I would have asked for additional clarification of this paragraph in the text.

Other than this relatively minor quibble, though, I really enjoyed this book. It is a nice read, and invaluable for any JavaScript developer.



I must reluctantly put away the RDF and SPARQL modules for Drupal, at least for now. Both are very new, mostly undocumented, and support seems fragmented. I’ve tried for hours to get the SPARQL endpoint to work on this site, with no luck, and not sure who to ask for clarification.

I can read the code, but much of it focuses on the Drupal development. Until I’m more familiar with Drupal, looking through the code isn’t going to be overly useful.

Once I finish the second edition of JavaScript, I can spend more time with Drupal module development and these modules. By then, more mature versions of the modules might be out, as well as some documentation in how to use the beasties.

Climate Change Places

Katrina comparisons

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

It is difficult to be sympathetic to people in Iowa and Missouri when you read some webloggers who gloat about how “well” their state did compared to how well the people did in New Orleans after Katrina. I think it’s time to take a closer look at events; to get some perspective on both events.

Early estimates put the number of damaged or lost homes in Iowa at about 8,000 to 10,000 homes, based on the number of displaced people. I estimate from the numbers I’ve heard in the last few weeks that Missouri will end up with about 500 to 1000 damaged or destroyed homes.

The number of homes destroyed by Katrina varies widely, but I’ve seen estimates from 275,000 to over 850,000 homes, many of them in New Orleans. In fact, 80% of the city was impacted, and only 45% of the New Orleans population has been able to return to New Orleans, years after the storm.

I couldn’t find numbers of people killed in the recent floods here in the midwest, but from an old estimate, we lost about 30 people. Over 1836 people died from Katrina, and the long term impact of the flood could result in thousands more dying.

Though we like to think floods along the Mississippi are sudden, this one was not. We had all the indications of a bad flood building up along the Mississippi beginning in April. The people impacted by New Orleans had three days, four tops, to prepare.

The people in Missouri and Iowa were not cut off and isolated. Most had neighbors and friends who helped. The people in New Orleans were shoved into a coliseum or left marooned on damaged bridges, as the surrounding communities would not let them leave the city. Why? Because rumors talked about roving bands of thugs shooting everything in sight; rumors proven to be untrue, but still persisting in places like Wikipedia—an article I nominate for being the worst edited, most inaccurate, and outdated article in Wikipedia. These people were left without water and food, in intense heat for days. No comfortable Red Cross shelters for them.

River floods like the recent flooding in the Midwest impact across class lines, especially after the federal buy outs resulting from the the 1993 flood. The flood in New Orleans impacted on some of the poorest people in this country. People who were then bused as far away as Salt Lake City, and cut adrift.

This recent flooding is terrible, and I don’t want to downplay the awfulness of the event, or the extent of the damage and the help that will be needed to rebuild in Iowa and Missouri. At the same time, it angers me to see those pontificating in how “better” we handled the flood than the folks handled Katrina in New Orleans and the rest of the south. Especially when the purpose for such comparisons is politically, and even racially, motivated.


Just Shelley

The long way home

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Before weblogging and RSS—long before Facebook, Twitter, or the next poor bastard service, doomed to be worshiped and then sacrificed on some given Friday—I used to write long essays I’d publish online by hand editing the HTML and posting the static files. Having to manually create the HTML template and design, incorporate navigation, and craft the links and images, took a considerable amount of time.

To justify the time, I wanted to make sure that what I published was worth the effort. I would research a story and edit and re-edit it, and look for additional resources, and then re-edit the story again. My one essay on the giant squid actually took two months to research, and days, not minutes, to edit. Even after publication, I would tweak the pages as old links died, or to refine a section of the writing.

Now, we have wonderful tools to make it easy to put writing or other content online. We can think of a topic, create a writing about it, and publish it—all in five or less minutes. We’ve also come to expect that whatever is published is read as quickly. We’ve moved from multi-page writings, to a single page, to a few paragraphs, to 140 characters or less. Though there is something to be said for brevity, and it takes a true master to create a mental image that can stand alone in 140 characters or less, there still is a place for longer writings. We don’t have to be in a continuous state of noise; a race to create and to consume.

Other than a few posts, such as this, all writings at Just Shelley will be spread across pages, not paragraphs, or characters. Such length will, naturally, require a commitment of your time in addition to your interest. However, I can’t guarantee that your time will be well spent, or even that your interest will be held (though the former will, naturally, be dependent on the latter). All I can guarantee is that I probably took longer to create the writing than you will in reading it.

I am using a tool to publish, true, and even providing an Atom feed. There are no categories, tags, or taxonomies, though, because everything here fits under one bucket: it is something that interests me. Taxonomies would just clutter the site’s zen-like structure, as well as set expectations I’m almost certainly not going to fulfill.

To further add to my state of web regression, I’ve not enabled comments, though I’d love to hear from you through some other means. As anachronistic as it may seem nowadays, this is not a site that’s community built. It’s not that I don’t care about you or community, or that I’m asking you to be a passive observer. My hope is that if I don’t inspire you—to talk, to write, to howl at the moon— I make you think; if I don’t make you think, I provide comfort; if I don’t comfort, I entertain; if I don’t entertain, at a minimum, I hope I’ve kept you in the house long enough not to be hit on one of those rare occasions when a meteorite falls from space and lands in front of your home just as you were leaving.

Just Shelley is my place to be still, and my invitation for you to be still with me.