Archives: December 2003

Tue 23 Dec 2003

Another Day of the Idaho Random Trip

Yes indeed, another Day is ready. Two within 24 hours! Go me!

2003 Q3 Random Vacation - Day 3

Yes, indeed, while Marilyn and Chad may be able to describe it better since they saw it from the outside, the bike completely somersaulted on me, I flew into the air and in a fraction of a second stuck my left arm out to catch myself and tried to protect the camera with my right hand.  I smashed into the ground and the bike landed on top of me.
It will probably be a bit longer until the next one gets out, although Marilyn has promised to do some of her commentary on the Days she has this next coming weekend. Here is the updated status:

Days @, 0, 1, 2, 3: Posted
Days 4, 5, 6: Waiting for Marilyn Commentary (then Chad).
Days 7, 8, 9: Waiting for Sam to start them

In any case, enjoy everybody!


Abulsme - Tue, 23 Dec 2003, 16:59:49 PST
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At Long Last: Random Trip Day 2

A lot of you have been bugging me about the slow progress on the report on the 2003 Q3 Random Vacation to Idaho. A bunch is still in the works, and more may be posted shortly. But at long last, another day is ready. Here is Day 2.

2003 Q3 Random Vacation - Day 2

We scrambled down that ridge, then up another ridge, then started to head down the next ridge...  and realized we would have to go down, then up again...  and we were still three quarters of a mile from the spot.
For those curious about progress, here is a current status report:

Days @, 0, 1, 2: Posted
Day 3: Waiting for Sam to insert Chad's comments, then post.
Days 4, 5, 6: Waiting for Marilyn's comments. (Then Chad's)
Days 7, 8, 9: Waiting for Sam to start them.

We'll try to pick up the pace. :-)


Abulsme - Tue, 23 Dec 2003, 07:23:05 PST
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Mon 22 Dec 2003

New Graph: Ecosystem Ranking

I added another graph. My ranking on the Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem. Fun Fun.

Abulsme.com Ranking

A chart of my ranking on the Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem.  I haven't been doing all that well.  Nobody links to me.  Of course I haven't been advertising myself and asking people to and such.  And I usually don't have much that I'm saying that people would link to anyway.  But still!  I'm dropping like a rock!!!


Abulsme - Mon, 22 Dec 2003, 16:30:32 PST
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State Department Warning Chart

Charts are back on abulsme.com!!! Well, OK. For now "chart" is back. I have added a charts section to the top navigation of the site, looking to bring back a feature I had on this site in the olden days, where I had up a variety of charts on a variety of things. For now, there is only one chart in there. I will add more over time. I started collecting data for this one a couple months ago and now have enough data points to actually make an interesting chart.

State Department Travel Warnings Over Time

A chart of how many countries world wide have US State Department Travel Warnings as that number varies over time.  Serves as a proxy to chart roughly how dangerous the world is as the world situation changes over time.  Perhaps not the best measure of that, but an interesting one perhaps.
More charts on other exciting things coming soon!


Abulsme - Mon, 22 Dec 2003, 10:09:21 PST
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Web Content Management - Keep it Simple Stupid

Another place where people are starting to get it.

Perls of wisdom in a sea of site mismanagement
(David Walker, SMH)

In short, Berk has been reporting on what sites are actually doing, rather than describing the idealised world portrayed by technology vendors and integrators. His core complaint: site management system vendors are creating generic solutions that actually increase the cost of running a site. Meanwhile, most businesses either have very simple needs that require only cheap, simple systems, or have specific needs that generic solutions handle poorly. That means the vendors' ideal of a generic site-management system "is completely wrong", Berk says. "The development overhead is very, very high - and for 90per cent of the problems, that's too much overhead."

So what should most organisations do? "Use the tools that are simple and cheapest," he says.

What sort of tools does Berk have in mind? Perl scripts, for instance. A tiny technical team armed with Perl scripts and an Oracle database ran the first sites he worked on back in the mid-1990s. Berk recalls his fascination as he saw larger and larger teams implementing more and more complex platforms in the late 1990s and early 2000s to achieve essentially the same result.
I wrote about this her on my blog a few months ago. I used to be a big fan of a nice, well thought out, generic content management system. After having worked on several projects of that sort, my view has turned completely. Except in VERY SPECIFIC situations where the group doing the project really needs it, and is already structured for and mentally comfortable with the notion of the full seperation of content and presentation, doing a generalized content management system is just courting disaster.

At my last position, in late 2002 I was brought on to take over a Content Management project that was having lots of trouble. After investigating the situation my first recomendation was to stop the approach completely. And instead build quick, small, targeted cheap and easy systems that would meet the specific content management projects that were on the table, not try to solve larger problems that were mostly imaginary, or consolidate for the sake of consolidation.

I was overrulled.

So we tried to define the big system as best we could. And did a damn good job I think. But then it proved impossible for the tech team to implement in the time allotted, and the tech team tried to develop it using the wrong technologies (mandated to them from above). What resulted was a horrible mess that we were forced to use because by then we had no choice.

A small, quickly crafted custom application done by one or two good developers, could have blown away the system we ended up getting. One that had the data model we wanted, but tried to use the generic interface provided by one of the big enterprise systems instead of the one we had defined.

It isn't just a matter of maturing technology, it is a matter of being smart and picking the right tools for the job, and not trying to solve bigger problems than you need to.

There may be disadvantages to doing "quick and dirty" solutions in that they eventually pile up and cause spaghetti type problems... but all in all, they often end up being much more cost effective than going all out on massive "enterprise" solutions that try to do everything.

With a fraction of the money my company spent on various failed content management solutions over the last few years, they could have kept employed a small army of HTML people manually updating the sites. Yes, it would have been manual. But the end results would have been just as good, and the company would have saved a lot of money. Some quick and dirty automation tools would have helped even more. But the larger systems... unless a specific need is there... boondoggle.

Good to see more places are learning it is time to be smart about such things.


Abulsme - Mon, 22 Dec 2003, 06:56:44 PST
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AfricaFocus

A few weeks ago my dad launched his Africa Focus website. I had been waiting for him to send out an announcement to his mailing list that was specifically an announcement of the website, and was going to quote it here. But he was sneaky, and just started including links to it within the text of mailing list items on other subjects. I added the site to my "Check Daily" list a couple weeks back, but for those who missed it, here it is:

AfricaFocus

This website features high-quality analysis and progressive advocacy on African issues, with particular attention to priority issues affecting the entire continent.

The heart of the website consists of issues of the AfricaFocus Bulletin, produced and distributed one to three times a week to over 3,200 e-mail addresses, including individuals, organizations, and listservs. Current issues are featured on the homepage; a full archive is also available on the site. Approximately 70 percent of the subscribers are in North America and approximately 13 percent each in Africa and Europe.

The site also features convenient regularly updated news feeds from the BBC's Africa service and AllAfrica.com. You can also customize part of the homepage to include the latest from AllAfrica.com on your preferred country or region. The site is fully searchable, and provides easy access to use Google to search the entire web or specific Africa-focused sites for additional information you need.
(Quote from About AfricaFocus)


Abulsme - Mon, 22 Dec 2003, 06:07:04 PST
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Sat 20 Dec 2003

Done with the Shopping

I did almost all of my Christmas shopping in a 12 hour period on Thursday. Some online, some in stores with the help of Brandy and Amy, who then helped wrap too. The last thing I had forgotten and then remembered later I dealt with last night. Now the only thing left is to mail a couple boxes. Probably won't get to that until Monday, so they will probably be late. Oh well.

But everything is bought. Woo!


Abulsme - Sat, 20 Dec 2003, 12:20:15 PST
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Wed 17 Dec 2003

Return of the King

Just got home from the 12:01 AM premiere showing of Return of the King. This finished up seeing each of the first two extended versions in the theaters the last two weeks. It was great. Even getting there an hour before the movie, we got crappy seats (way up front). But I got used to that after the first 15 minutes or so.

In any case, as expected, it was great. All three were. Can't wait for the extended edition of this one.

As usual, a few things were left out or different from the book, but no matter, it was very true to the spirt of the book, and it was just an incredible movie.

Thanks Peter Jackson! Great Job!

And now, I only have time for about 3 hours sleep before getting up for a job hunt related meeting, so I'd better get to bed. I'm exausted!


Abulsme - Wed, 17 Dec 2003, 02:02:58 PST
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Tue 16 Dec 2003

Fitness Contest Website Up

I have now added a section of the site for purpose of keeping track of the new 2004 Q1 Weight and Body Fat contests. Invitiations were sent to selected people at the end of November. The entry period has already ended and the contest begun. Data on the charts and graphs on the site will be updated as I get to the emails with the readings as I go through my email in order.

2004 Q1 Fitness Contest

Reviving something I did back in 2002, I invited a variety of friends to do a weight / body fat contest to try to get in shape.  A few entered.  Periodic Updates will appear here as the contest progresses.  This contest goes from Dec 1 2003 to Mar 31 2004.  Full rules and explainations of scoring are included below the score chart.
In addition, I took this opportunity to remove the Pager, Eating and Music portions of the site, which were suffering from lack of updates. The Pictures section is too, but it stays for now because it has a bunch of stuff in it. :-)


Abulsme - Tue, 16 Dec 2003, 16:41:11 PST
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October 2003 Email List Posted!

The October 2003 Top Ten, which was revealed to the winners a few weeks ago, has now been posted publicly.

October 2003 Top Ten!!

Realizing he was behind after taking some time off for his wedding and honeymoon (some excuse) Al decided he needed to catch up, and did things such as sending me the alphabet... one letter per email... several times. Along with several other similar things. He was clearly trying to take the number one spot this month. He came out two alphabets short. Brandy once again took the top spot. And remarkably, she did it all with real emails that actually contained actual sentences and conversation! Congratulations once again Brandy!


Abulsme - Tue, 16 Dec 2003, 06:36:16 PST
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Sun 14 Dec 2003

Ace of Spades in the Hole

Iraq Council Confirms Saddam Caught Alive
(Hamzo Hendawi of AP on Washington Post)

U.S. military captured Saddam Hussein alive in his hometown of Tikrit on Sunday, eight months after the fall of Baghdad, the Iraqi Governing Council said. Celebratory gunfire erupted in Baghdad.
(via Google News)

Wow. They actually got him alive, and according to General Sanchez who is briefing live on TV as I write this, not only alive, but without a single shot fired, and Saddam is talkative and cooperative right now. He was hiding in a hole. They are showing pictures of him being examined and with his beard on and such. He looks like hell, but it is definately him.

Much better result than with Uday and Husay.

All of the things they have been completely screwing up in Iraq aside, kudos to all involved today. This is a major success for the administration, and will be a huge positive in the situation in Iraq. Good job!


Abulsme - Sun, 14 Dec 2003, 04:18:37 PST
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Fri 12 Dec 2003

Missing the Point

I have some things I have to run and do, so this will be short, but I wanted to comment quickly on the whole controversy about the administration restricting reconstruction contracts to countries who supported the US position on the war.

Everybody is talking about how either this is justified, or how it is shooting ourselves in the foot by once again alienating allies, etc. I did even see one place (by David Adesnik at Oxblog) where it was discussed that those were the wrong arguments and it should all be about what is good for the Iraqi's and the decision should be made on that basis. That gets close, but still misses the point.

Yes, making this decision one way or another potentially has a lot of impact on all sorts of things, pro and con, in terms of how this will effect the US, our allies, and Iraq in the future. And things can be said for both sides. (I personally think restricting the contracts is asinine.) But... the main problem, that I haven't seen discussed (maybe I just missed it)... is that IT SHOULD NOT BE OUR DECISION.

Yes, it is too soon to turn over full control to the Iraqi's. The current council is not elected, and has many issues. Security and borders and foreign policy are certainly not things that can be handed over yet. But reconstruction, and control of the oil production, etc, is CERTAINLY something that can and should be governed by Iraqi's. It should not be people in the White House, Pentagon, or State Department who are deciding which contracts are given to who to put things back together in Iraq. It should be the Iraqi council.

If we feel some additional funding is needed beyond what can be raised in Iraq proper (which I'm sure is the case) then that funding should be provided, and there should of course be some oversight against blatant corruption and mis-direction of the funds. But at this point the decision making on many of these matters should be firmly in Iraqi hands.

The fact that at this point we retain control of such critical economic decisions just leaves a bad taste in ones mouth of "to the victor goes the spoils" rather than any sort of noble purposes which would be legitimate in our presence there.

OK. Back to doing the stuff I am supposed to be doing right now.


Abulsme - Fri, 12 Dec 2003, 05:07:36 PST
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Tue 09 Dec 2003

Unfortunate, But True

Conditions favor Bush win in 2004
(Dick Polman, Philadephia Inquirer)

Presidential historian Allan Lichtman, among others who chart election trends, said: "Increasingly, all the underlying factors are lining up in Bush's favor. It'll be a tough road for the Democrats. Their chances aren't impossible, just remote."
Its a nice little summary of the historical trends which point to a Bush reelection at this point. Now, 11 months is indeed a long time. And a lot may yet happen. So it really is too early for a real prediction. However, if a couple things hold:

  • No major worsening in the Iraq situation
  • The economy continues on an upward course
  • No major new terrorist attack in the US
  • No major NEW international crisis
  • No major domestic screwup

    Then W has it in the bag. People will vote on their pocketbooks, and it will be a done deal. In a reversal of either of the first two, it hurts W. The second two, throw everything up into the air. Depending on the details, it could be either bad or good for W.

    With Dean rapidly consolidating the Democrats, he also looks like the presumptive nominee unless he screws up (which he very well could do, he has the potential). Dean would then have to make a major swing rightward to have a chance, and he may not be able to do that effectively. He certainly could not win the required number of electoral votes with his current voice absent a complete collapse on the Bush side.

    Well, we shall see. 11 months yet. Not time to call the winner quite yet. Maybe by March or June. :-)


    Abulsme - Tue, 9 Dec 2003, 07:28:58 PST
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  • Fri 05 Dec 2003

    Twas the Night before Christmas... at CMU

    Wow, this brings back memories... For several years while I was at Carnegie Mellon, my friend Chad and I worked at the Fine and Rare Book Room at CMU's Hunt Library. One of the things we had to help catalog and keep in order and good condition and such was indeed CMU's collection of copies of this poem.

    Carnegie Mellon houses collection of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"
    AP on NEPA News

    "The illustrations are almost always showing a nostalgic view of life in the United States," said Mary Kay Johnsen, the special collections librarian at the Hunt Library. "The illustrations are always showing toys of the parents' generation, not of the toys the kids would be receiving with the book of that year."
    (via Google News: Carnegie Mellon)

    Mary Kay was our boss at the library. She is still there. And here she is quoted by the AP. Very nice. Those were good days. I remember spending a good deal of time looking at those books.

    Ah, memories...


    Abulsme - Fri, 5 Dec 2003, 20:06:05 PST
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    I Know Why The Rug Is Blue

    For those out there who might be interested... Since I was introduced to her back in the beginning of 2003, I've been spending a lot of time with Brandy. (See recent Email Top Ten results.) That is especially true since I bought my house and moved to PA. She has helped me a lot with the new place and all sorts of other things. And we've just been hanging out a lot and going out and doing things together and such. In any case, as of a few weeks ago we switched from "just friends" mode to "dating" mode and are doing the couple thing it seems. :-)

    Brandy teased me about making a blog entry announcing it, since I do them about lots of things, and I hesitated for a couple weeks because I've had bad luck sharing such information in the past, and tend to prefer to keep such things mostly to myself. But it is snowing today, and I feel like it, so I thought I would go ahead.

    So Brandy, here ya go, the "I Know Why The Rug Is Blue" post is real. :-) [Inside Joke] See you when the roads are passable again. :-)


    Abulsme - Fri, 5 Dec 2003, 03:44:07 PST
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    Thu 04 Dec 2003

    Dean overtakes Libertarian

    On my personal results on the SelectSmart Presidential Selector that is...

    Periodically I'll go take the quiz and see what the results are. They update the selector with new or better information periodically, but probably more significantly my views and opinions morph over time. I know W is driving me to the left of where I once was by his whole approach to everything. And while I generally keep a Libertarian philosophy to most things, I am softening on that and being more practical in some areas and beginning to say, "Well, OK, for THAT maybe Government involvement is OK..." End result, I am moving left. For the first time in the several years and couple of elections that SelectSmart has had these things, I have gotten someone other than the Libertarian as my best match. And that person is Howard Dean. Hmmm...

    Select Smart Presidental Selector

    Your Results:
    1. Your ideal theoretical candidate.   (100%)
    2. Dean, Gov. Howard, VT - Democrat   (56%)
    3. Kucinich, Rep. Dennis, OH - Democrat   (55%)  
    4. Libertarian Candidate   (55%)
    5. Edwards, Senator John, NC - Democrat   (53%)
    6. Clark, General Wesley K., AR - Democrat   (51%) 
    7. Gephardt, Rep. Dick, MO - Democrat   (46%) 
    8. Kerry, Senator John, MA - Democrat   (45%)
    9. Sharpton, Reverend Al - Democrat   (43%)
    10. Bush, President George W. - Republican   (39%)
    11. LaRouche, Lyndon H. Jr. - Democrat   (31%)
    12. Lieberman, Senator Joe, CT - Democrat   (26%)
    13. Moseley-Braun, Senator Carol, IL - Democrat   (20%)
    14. Phillips, Howard - Constitution   (19%)
    Of course, my matching rate is still only 56%, which is pretty low. I listen to Dean in debates and while I agree on some things, I disagree strongly on others. And I look at him and just don't think he has the right temperment to be president. I don't know. The biggest issue I have with him is Iraq I think. Pre-War I probably would have agreed with him 100%. I think going in was stupid, provocative, and uncalled for for the most part. But *after* the war, I think getting out quickly is completely irresponsible. I agree with the "You broke it, you bought it" contingient, and think that now that we are there, we signed ourselves up for a multi-decade commitment, and we better as hell live up to it and do our best. Leaving now will only make things worse, not better.

    But anyway, these quizes are only a guide, and to give something to think about and to focus ones thoughts. As we get closer and closer to actual elections, I'll pay more and more attention to the things that my "President*" wishlist digs up on my Tivo. Right now I'm watching a 60 Minutes II piece on General Clark from a couple weeks ago, and there is at least one debate ont heir waiting for me to watch it. We shall see.

    Anyway, everybody should take the quiz at least once a month I say. :-)


    Abulsme - Thu, 4 Dec 2003, 08:35:11 PST
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    Tue 02 Dec 2003

    Published!

    Well... sort of. While I was visiting my mother for Thanksgiving she told me that the next edition of her church'smember directory would have a picture that I took as the cover of the book. Yes, it is only a local church directory, and the picture is not perfect, but I still think it is pretty cool.

    My Picture: Church Bell

    My Mom's Church


    Abulsme - Tue, 2 Dec 2003, 19:04:52 PST
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