Successful Launches

Today has been a good day for launches! In my last post, I mentioned the successful launch of the W3C Audio Incubator Group, which I’ve been working on for a few weeks.

The second launch is a bit more visceral. When I realized that there would only be a few more space shuttle launches, Megan and I decided that we would try to see one if we could. This occurred to me about a month ago, but I wasn’t sure we could fit it into our schedule. But this week, Megan had to cancel a long biketrip, and that opened up a spot for us to drive down. So, we drove ten and a half hours to Cape Canaveral, slept a few hours in a cheap hotel, and got up early (for us, 8:00 AM is really early) to drive to Jetty Park, which was already crowded by the time we got there.

But we still landed a good spot right on the waterfront across from the launch site. A few low clouds threatened the launch early on, but it cleared up by early afternoon. A passing Korean car cargo ship gave us a little anxiety, fearing it might block the view, but it cleared in plenty of time.

Finally, the countdown blared out of someone’s radio, and the whole waterfront chimed in. 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…

We were pretty far away, but the rocket flame was impressively bright in person, and when the sound reached us, we could almost feel it. This is the final flight of the Atlantis, which makes me a bit sad. I’m ambivalent about retiring the shuttles… single-launch rockets are probably a cheaper option… still, it’s drawing to the end of an era, and I hope we keep pushing forward. Gauss-gun launch rails, anyone?

So, it was a successful launch, which makes me glad. Definitely worth the trip.

We did come away from it with reddened, painfully sensitive skin. I assert that this is rocketburn, not sunburn. Need a higher Rocket Protection Factor next time.

Sonnet to Liberty

For the Fouth of July, America’s Independence Day, here’s a poem by Oscar Wilde, from 1881:

Not that I love thy children, whose dull eyes
See nothing save their own unlovely woe,
Whose minds know nothing, nothing care to know,—
But that the roar of thy Democracies,
Thy reigns of Terror, thy great Anarchies,
Mirror my wildest passions like the sea,—
And give my rage a brother——! Liberty!
For this sake only do thy dissonant cries
Delight my discreet soul, else might all kings
By bloody knout or treacherous cannonades
Rob nations of their rights inviolate
And I remain unmoved—and yet, and yet,
These Christs that die upon the barricades,
God knows it I am with them, in some things.


Last year, I noticed that my blog had lost all its styling… I was busy with other things at the time, preparing for my presentation at WWW2008 (and my subsequent vacation in China), juggling cats, and so forth, so I didn’t really fret about it. I thought it was probably just my host temporarily flaking out.

But when I futzed around with it, I noticed that if I changed themes, the styling came back. Hmmm. But again, didn’t think much of it. Well, it had been hacked, and hacked good. I rebuilt the theme from scratch, and that seemed to fix it (the hacker had injected some hundreds of fascinating links inside the header and footer templates). But for some reason, nobody could leave comments anymore, and some of my posts had disappeared. Days turned into weeks turned into months… and Google let me know that my site was still hacked in some mysterious manner that honestly doesn’t interest me much, but which had a pragmatic downside: they removed my site from their index. Simple fix, they said: just uninstall your site and start from scratch.

For a while, I just put my excess energy into my twits (other people may have “tweets”, but mine are so inane I think “twits” is more appropriate). But I had a hankering to blog again, so I finally put a few uninterrupted minutes together and un- and re-installed my blog software, exporting and importing my history. Maybe this will fix it? Only the Shadow knows…

But at least comments seem to work again, and over the next few weeks, I may play around with new themes and other adjustments.

A Sentimental Journey

Megan and I travel back to my hometown of Jefferson City, Missouri every year, at least at Christmas and sometimes in the summer when we can, to see my family; most of them still live within an hour or so of where we grew up.  Xmas get-togethers are always fun… with a family my size (I’m the youngest of twelve), we have to rent a hall, and the adults do a playing-card white elephant gift exchange (the kids do an open Kris Kringle).

Since Megan is in graduate school this year, and has a longer break than when she is working, and I can work from anywhere I have a Tube connection, we decided to make it a little longer than usual.  En route, we visited a couple of friends and a few cities.

Continue reading “A Sentimental Journey”

Last Day in Tokyo

I wish I kept a more detailed journal… I have chat logs and emails as a quotidian reminder of my doings, but it doesn’t capture all the great conversations and interesting people I meet when traveling.  This short trip to Tokyo, only 10 days or so, was jam-packed with cool folks with cool ideas.  But now I’m jaunting back to Tokyo from the W3C-Keio office, and then to the airport, so no time, no time…

Maybe on the plane I will sketch out my erstwhile meanderings.  The short version: spoke at Web Directions East (and will speak again at Web Directions North) about SVG and Canvas, was blown away by the other presentations there, hung with cool Web community folks (locals and internationals) who I hope to see again, ate good food, wandered the streets of Harajuku and Shibuya and Asakusa and Ebisu, watched mochi being made at a temple festival and ate the results, met with the Japanese chapter of the SVG Interest Group and some Japanese Industrial Standards folks regarding SVG 1.2 Tiny and further on, and collaborated with my awesome and inspiring W3C-Keio teammates.  Had no access to my cash because of a mixup with Visa/RBC.  Stayed in another capsule hotel, in Fujisawa.

And saw Mt. Fuji two clear days in a row, with lovely warm winter weather.  Sayonara, Japan!

Canadian Roadtrip

The SVG Working Group met in Ottawa for the SVG 1.2 Tiny Test Fest this week, which went very well.  The Test Fest was sponsored by BitFlash at the Brookline Hotel, which is where the Bilderberg Group met last time I was up here.

With airlines prices being what they are, and anticipating having to rent a car, I decided to drive up instead of flying.  I actually looked into train tickets, but was sorely disappointed… it would have taken 2 days, required finding a hotel room in NYC, and booking a connecting train in Canada, and it would still have been the same price as a flight.  Apparently, Amtrak is not only not ramping up their service to meet what you would think is a growing demand for cheap, eco-friendly travel… they are actually removing passenger lines, because the freight industry controls the rails. What a pity… I would like to have taken a train.

As it turned out, though the drive was long (about 13 hours), I didn’t really mind it.  I kind of enjoy road trips.  I loaded my iPod with podcasts and audiobooks; I loved the podcasts so much, I haven’t even gotten to the audiobooks yet.  This is the first time I’ve ever listened to a podcast, and I am definitely going to subscribe to some feeds (I know, I’m behind the times, but I work from home and normally just listen to NPR or music while I’m driving).  The changing leaves were beautiful, too.

On the way back down, I decided to detour to Niagara Falls.  The only other time I was in this area, as I was roadtripping across the States with a friend (on my way to move from Missouri to North Carolina by a very circuitous route), she didn’t want to go to the Falls, and I’ve been wanting to go ever since.  So, I figured, hey, since I’m in the area… But we worked pretty late last night, so I ended up leaving the hotel just before midnight… I was pretty drowsy about half the way to Niagara Falls, so I pulled over and slept in my car in a rest area.  But that gave me a chance to see a bit of Toronto by day;  I detoured from my detour to see the CN Tower and Kensington Market in Toronto, which seems like a nice city… it’s one of the few major Canadian cities I’d never been to before, so I’m glad I did it.

In Niagara Falls, I did the normal tourist thing, strolling along the walkway above the falls, snapping pictures, and taking the Maid of the Mist boat tour that takes you into the deluge under the falls.  I got soaked, naturally, and the roar was deafening. It was pretty fun.  The falls –American Falls and Horseshoe Falls– are pretty impressive, with the rainbows and towering mist and translucent water rushing over the edge.

So, off to dinner, then I’m hitting the road again back home to North Carolina.

Some Say in Fire

Today, the Large Hadron Collider started its slow proton acceleration to our inevitable doooooom (stay tuned for changing conditions)!  My two favorite doomsday scenarios are:

  1. It will produce persistent micro-blackholes, which will devour the Earth in a massive fiery conflagration.
  2. It will produce super-stable strange matter, which will convert the less-stable nuclear matter of which the Earth is composed into more strange matter, like Vonnegut’s ice-nine.

I find this kind of dualism comforting.  Whimper or Bang.  Good or Evil.  People are consistent, even in their nightmare scenarios.  God bless you, Robert Frost:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Home Safe

As I grabbed our last bag off the carousel, my mobile rang with a call from my sister C.  This was the first I heard about the devastating earthquake in Sichuan, China.  We had considered traveling there, based on a recommendation from a Sichuan local we’d met while visiting the rice paddies, but the stomach flu cut our travel schedule a day or so short.  So, we were never anywhere really near the danger zone (though some did feel it in Beijing, I understand).

Thanks for everyone who contacted us to make sure we were safe.  This adds a sad note to our great experiences in China, with the warmth of the Chinese people and the beauty of the country.  When I visit a place, I get an emotional connection to it, making it more real for me, and I hope we can somehow help… though with so many lives lost, so much destruction, it’s a little hard knowing we can only help the survivors, and then only so much.  M and I feel really lucky.  (Sorry, this comes out rather clumsy, but I don’t really know what to say in the face of something like this… I guess I just wanted to let everyone know we’re safe.)