Monday, July 23, 2007


Sunset, originally uploaded by jlh.zorch.

Last night's sunset was particularly pretty. It was just cloudy enough to provide some interest, but not so much to obscure the sunset entirely. There are some hot-air balloons silhouetted gray in the mist close to the horizon, but since the iPhone lacks the giant zoom of my real camera, they're not really visible here. They were pretty nifty-looking at the time, though.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

iPhone, Therefore iAm

Well, yesterday was iDay, and to make a long story short, I'm making this post from my shiny new iPhone. I arrived at my local AT&T store at 7:00 AM, and Secret Asian Man joined me about ten minutes later. We were number eight and nine in line, and the first arrivals of the day. The folks in front of us had all been there since the night before, which is a little too hardcore, even for me.

By the time the store was ready to start selling at 6:00 PM, there were about 80-100 people in line. Thanks to Secret Asian Man, it didn't feel like an eleven hour wait. Everyone was really friendly and social. It was like a beach party without the beach.

As for the phone itself, there is nothing I don't love about it. Every feature I've tried so far works as advertised or better. The keyboard is unbelievably good. They say to start off with one finger, and after about a week, you'll graduate to two thumbs. Well, I'm cooking along with two thumbs now, and it's not been 24 hours yet. The predictive correction is sort of like the opposite of early versions of the Newton. You type nonsense, and the word you wanted appears. I'm already way faster than I ever was with years of Graffiti, various tap keyboards or T9.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some phone calls to make.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Fly or Drive?

We're in San Jose, exhibiting at Super-Con this weekend. Air travel is a funny thing sometimes. We left the house at 5:30 on Friday and, after interminable mechanical delays, finally checked in to the hotel at midnight. That's six and a half hours later. Google Maps tells me that driving from our house in San Diego to the hotel in San Jose would have taken seven hours and thirteen minutes. Flying wins, but only just. But enough about my griping. Check out the photo gallery from Super-Con.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Back-a-who? Back-a-wha?

I run my own e-mail, web, and IRC servers at my house on a cute little G4 Mac mini running OS X Server. I know there's GMail, and a zillion different places to host web pages, but I'm a stubborn holdout from the days when it was easier to get a permanent net connection than it was to get those services configured just the way you want them. For example, I run an IMAP server, which isn't so easy to find from a provider. All that's not what this story is about though.

Last Saturday, the hard drive died in my server. Of course, I didn't have a backup. Let me tell you, there's nothing like a failure to make you get religion about backups. Not only did I reconstruct the server, I also finally started setting up proper backups on all my machines, which I've almost finished with. I was lucky in that I didn't lose much data, but I'll never get that days and a half back.

I said I was doing "proper" backups, which isn't quite true. I'm doing image backups, not archival backups, and I'm not storing them offsite. Doing some quick back-of-the-envelope math, I have about 2.5TB of hard drive capacity scattered over several machines. That's a lot of data to back up, especially if you're going to do it right, with off-site archival backups. So, for now, I'll just bask in the somewhat incomplete sense of security I get from having something that's clearly better than nothing.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

A Thousand Words, More or Less

There was a brush fire across the street from my house today. It was a small blaze, 20 acres, but that doesn't matter when you're the one standing on the sidewalk, wondering if you're about to have to pick up the cat and flee while the sum total of your worldly possessions undergoes a violent transformation to ash. That didn't happen, thanks to the efforts of 115 awesome firefighters. Here's the newspaper version, some video Becky shot, and some photos from me and Bruce. The pictures tell the story much better than I can describe it. It's hard to understand what it's like to be that close to a fire from just hearing about it. I would be just as happy, though, if I had never learned that first-hand. I hope I never learn what it's like for my house to actually burn.

Monday, April 30, 2007

There Can Be Only One

I have this off-and-on relationship with Quicken. Back in the day, when I barely had two nickels to rub together, I kept my Quicken data ruthlessly up-to-date, because my checking account would routinely dip below ten dollars. That kind of living on the edge calls for good record keeping. Once I got on my feet, and my financial situation was more stable, I lapsed into taking less care with my Quicken records. Then, when I moved from Windows to Mac, things took a turn for the worse. Quicken for Mac is, in a word, terrible. It's annoying to use, so that just made me use it less.

This weekend, I declared an official end to the Quickening. I switched over to using GnuCash, which really says something about the quality of Quicken if I'm willing to use an X Windows application on my Mac. Now, when I say "this weekend" I moved to GnuCash, I mean all weekend, and I'm still not done. Instead of typing out all the minutiae of double-entry accounting that I learned through trial and error (and error, and error) this weekend, just close your eyes and pretend that you're ignoring crushingly boring words that are actually here, as opposed to the ones you'll need to imagine.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Where's the Fire?

My mom taught elementary school for 27 years, mostly second grade. She has a bunch of stories, of course, but this one is my all-time favorite.

Ernest was a good kid, but he got into mischief like boys do. He was also the messiest pack rat in the class, with his flip-top desk crammed full of papers all the time. One day, he decided to sneak out of the house with his granddad's lighter and play with it during class. Under cover of his desktop, the miracle of fire! Then, Ernest flicked his Bic one too many times.

At the time, my mom was leading guided reading groups in the back of the room. You did not interrupt guided reading groups. So, when a timid little girl showed up back there with an important message, it was something of a surprise.

"Mrs. Hicks, Ernest's desk is on fire," said a small voice.

Mom stood up and turned to survey the situation. "Ernest, is your desk on fire?"

Thick, black smoke was billowing out from under Ernest's desktop. Orange flames were licking up the sides.


Immediately, mom sprang into action, pulling Ernest out of the desk and sending her most trustworthy student to the office to get the principal. Pretty soon, the principal, a rotund man with a glass eye, came lumbering down the hallway at full speed, nearly sideswiping things on his blind side, fire extinguisher in hand. They dragged the desk outside, and put out the flames. Everyone was okay, but Ernest's extensive collection of old schoolwork was a total loss.

Strictly speaking, I guess Ernest wasn't fibbing when he answered whether his desk was on fire. The metal desk was fine. It was the papers that were burning. I'm sure he must have grown up to be a lawyer.