Older blog entries for aelman (starting at number 7)

At the risk of offending my fellow Advogato-dwellers, and attracting more flames, I wanted to post my take on Tuesday's tragedy _somewhere_.

Like a lot of other people, I've spent a lot of time over the past few days trying to make sense of the senseless and find some meaning in these meaningless acts. I've alternately been inspired by and incredibly depressed by my own thoughts and conversations with my friends, as well as the many analyses I've read here and elsewhere.

My own conclusion: I am proud to be an American today. The values my country stands for are the values displayed by the NYC firefighters who have risked and lost their lives trying to save others. They are the values displayed by the passengers of United flight 93, who apparently were able to prevent the hijackers of that flight from crashing it into yet another building, saving countless lives at the expense of their own. We are a nation of heroes, and we prove that every time a natural or man-made disaster hits in our country.

But that's the problem: in our country. As we all know, the United States has acquired a reputation in the rest of the world as an arrogant, stupid, and well-armed bully. Most Americans simply do not understand this; our media provides abysmal coverage of world events and our role in them. What we know is filtered by a media who tries to simplify world events in a way that makes Americans comfortable, which results in a heavily biased understanding of the world and the effects of our government's actions. I do not blame any kind of conspiracy for this. I don't think there's much point to blame. I think we need to understand what we need to do now to prevent this from happening again.

We can and should punish those responsible for these acts. I hope we don't go any farther than necessary. And we can and should improve our security to lessen the odds of such an event happening again. But no amount of punishment will deter suicide bombers, and no amount of security will prevent these kinds of acts.

We will be safe when, and only when, our actions in the world reflect the same heroic values that we have honored in the past few days. We need to be ready to sacrifice some of our prosperity, let alone our very lives, to help those in the world who are affected by natural and man-made disasters, poverty, and oppression. We need to stop acting in our "national interests," and start acting in the best interests of all the peoples of the world.

When our actions in the world reflect these values that we all share, attacking Americans will be unthinkable. Not because of the threat of overwhelming response, but because we will finally be the light unto the nations that we all want to be, and that we know we can be.

There are a lot of things we need to do to accomplish this. We need to start by demanding better world affairs coverage from our media, and by trying to understand the events and situations in the world from more than a single perspective. We then need to pressure our leaders to act in ways consistent with our highest values.

The only good thing that I can see coming out of this horrific tragedy is a new resolve for all humanity to prevent events like this from happening ever again, not just in the United States but anywhere in the world. I hope and pray that Americans can find a way to look past our own narrow interests and finally show the world the values that we hold highest. We just can't hide anymore.

goings on

Had a blast hanging out at the GNOME Foundation booth at LWE last week. Finally met and had dinner with the Ximian guys, which was enjoyable. Also met folks from Sun, as well as a bunch of other random free software folks whose names I had seen around but hadn't met before.

Work proceeds on the GNOME HI Mini-Guidelines; we'll hopefully have a draft by the end of September.

Wow, it has been a while...apologies for the long entry.

Well, I'm still unemployed. However, I recently had one of those major life revelations that I feel has really put me on the right track, at least in the career department.

The story: My dad is a usability engineer (for an evil company which shall remain nameless). While my parents were visiting San Francisco a few weeks ago, they stayed with a friend of theirs from college, now an editor at a magazine. Their friend asked my dad to come into her office and give a brief talk about usability to her web development team.

I tagged along. I've always been interested in usability and UI design; I figured at worst it'd give me a little common ground to talk about with my dad (given where he works, it's really difficult for me to talk with him about computers and technology without me becoming a) snide and b) incredibly frustrated).

And a wonderful thing happened: all of a sudden, I connected with the discussion in a way that I hadn't expected. The truth of the matter is, I'm not just interested in usability and UI design -- it's what I do. I've spent the last five years doing software engineering at Highwire and at Eazel, and I've always felt a bit disconnected and frustrated by my work, even though I felt like I was pretty good at it. I tried project management at Highwire for a while, and I enjoyed that; but now that I look back on it, the parts I enjoyed most where the parts where I was doing interaction design, and the parts I enjoyed least were where I wasn't.

So now I know what I want to do: interaction design. Of course, since this revelation I have discovered that the job market for interaction designers is incredibly bad at the moment; companies don't see the value in hiring designers when they need to spend money on programmers. But one of the reasons I know I'm right about this path is that instead of feeling resigned to this, I'm angry about it. I'm almost ready to walk into corporate boardrooms, throw copies of Alan Cooper's The Inmates Are Running The Asylum (highly recommended reading, btw) at them and scream about misplaced priorities.

'Course, that's not likely to get me a job either, so I probably won't. At least not with the yelling and the throwing and the "ow ow" and whatnot.

Anyway, the good news for me is that I actually did know what I wanted back in college, so I have a master's degree in HCI on my resume. And I had enough memory of it to try to work in a few interaction design projects through the years, so I even have a little bit of real-world experience. Still, the job search is slow and will probably take a long time, and now I have to figure out whether I can afford to eat through my life savings while I figure out the details, or whether I need to move to a cheaper place. (Of course, any job leads in this area would be much appreciated. :)

ObFreeSoftware: I have volunteered as a member of the core group working on the first version of the GNOME HI Guidelines -- a "mini-guidelines", really. We're currently working on an outline of topics, which will hopefully be done in the next week or so, and then we'll be doing the document. It won't be a finished product, but hopefully it will serve as a good seed for future GNOME HI improvement efforts.

One of the things I'm struggling with at the moment is the feeling (exacerbated by Cooper's book and Jef Raskin's The Humane Interface, which is also a good read although definitely requires an open mind :) that there are fundamental aspects of the open-source/ free software community(ies) which work against the creation of truly usable (or, I would argue as a better term, "useful") software. I'm working on an essay on this topic, and will likely post it here or somewhere else when I'm done. Let me know if you're interested in reviewing it and offering me suggestions before I post it publicly: the more eyes, the better :).

Being unemployed has its pluses and minuses. At least I live in the City now; if I do nothing else during the day I have plenty of time to wander around marveling at all the interesting stuff within three blocks of my apartment.

And that's nearly all I've been doing in the past two weeks; a couple of interviews and other things, none of which have yet born fruit, but I'm hopeful. I'm enjoying the time off, anyway. I did order a new toy the other day; I'm getting one of the new iBooks. It's the first Mac laptop since the Duos that's small enough to satisfy my need for a tiny notebook. BTW, if anyone wants a Sony VAIO SR17 for a reasonable price, let me know.

I did manage to fix my ancient Powerbook, finally; after $75 for a new SCSI cable and a new logic board, it turned out that I had just blown out the memory expansion card. When I took that out, it booted just fine. In fact, the screen problems which I had observed previously were gone; other than the fact that it only has 4MB RAM and a broken floppy drive, the thing is now as good as new. So I now can grab all those files which I don't really need, but which will help satisfy my pack-rat nature.

It's official, as a billion other people have noted. I'm more relieved at this point than sad; it was a real roller-coaster ride and it's kinda nice to have some resolution, even if it wasn't what I was hoping for.

So here I am in a coffee shop in San Francisco, just a block from my apartment, with nice fast 802.11b access thanks to Surf 'n' Sip, and an indefinite vacation punctuated by job interviews. Hopefully I can make the vacation last long enough to get the apartment unpacked and maybe even do some writing -- prose and music. And find a trumpet teacher. And hack some code. And solve world hunger.

Ok, maybe not the last one. If one of the first couple of things I'm looking at pans out, I'll be really happy, and if the vacation ends up a little longer that's okay too.

Whee! Today I am a Real Free Software Developer. Got on Freshmeat & everything.

Now to actually document the code & tighten it up so that other people might actually be interested in using it...:)

Sigh, I feel dumb. I had my old Powerbook 145B up and running, and had it copying files to an emulated Mac running under Basilisk II on my laptop. Then it crashed, then the Powerbook failed to boot; I know those unhappy-Mac tones all too well. The drive wasn't spinning up at all.

Then I tried to unplug the SCSI cable connecting the HD to the motherboard, and RIPPED the damn thing. I am such an idiot.

Fortunately, a quick Google search turned up a place that actually sells old Powerbook accessories, including said HD cable. So I have it on order, it should be aWt the office in a couple of days. 'Course, that still doesn't mean the HD is going to spin up.

The truly stupid thing is that I had finished the copy about halfway earlier, then crashed the powerbook trying to plug in a battery. I then ended up _deleting_ the disk image with the copied files on the laptop. Figured I'd get a clean start. AUGH!

Oh well. The garage sale went well over the weekend; we got rid of what we needed to, and made a few bucks in the process, which will help in the moving process. And in software news, I got my DOM-based SOAP/SDL handler working today and should have WSDL sometime tomorrow (it's actually working, but there's a problem in the response handling). Hopefully I'll be able to commit this to Reef sometime tomorrow (need to get a couple of dependency issues figured out first).

So I finally decided that since I've been committing actual code to Reef that I can finally consider myself a "real" open-source developer and therefore create myself an Advogato account. Yay! (yakk notes that I probably could've felt justified much sooner, but hey...:)

So Reef now has SDL/.NET support for Python. WSDL support should only take another day or two, although interoperability with other SOAP servers might be, well, somewhat trickier. Gotta love standards.

Preparations for my big move to San Francisco are proceeding apace; the living room is filled with boxes (mostly my roommate's), the garage is mostly cleaned out, and we went up to the condo to take measurements. Forgot to check whether the couch will fit up the stairs, though, so probably need to go up again next week.

New Advogato Features

New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.

Keep up with the latest Advogato features by reading the Advogato status blog.

If you're a C programmer with some spare time, take a look at the mod_virgule project page and help us with one of the tasks on the ToDo list!