Archive for April, 2004

Latest Project

April 27, 2004

If it seems like I’ve been remiss in my blogging, it’s probably because I’ve been hard at work on Vanishing Phoenix, my new site devoted to Phoenix history. I’ve been working on amassing content on my lunch hours, so it’s been pretty slow progress and I don’t officially have anything done except the forums. My goal with the site is to become a focus point for those interested in Phoenix history—a distant and perhaps lifelong quest.

Eventually, I’ll get around to developing its sister, PhoenixHistory.com, into everything that Vanishing Phoenix is not. Where VP covers the past as viewed through artifacts and remnants available in the present, PhoenixHistory.com will take a more general and academic look at Phoenix’s heritage.

It’s not really ready for prime time at this point, but I want to sic Google’s spiders on it early on so it’ll have some status when it is ready. I’ve used the Wiki format because my reach is limited—you may notice that most of the Phoenix landmarks are within an hour of my work and my home. My hope is to eventually attract a community of amateur and professional historians who will write about the periods and subjects they care about.

I’ve got a slew of other plans for future directions as well, but they’re fairly ambitious and long-term. Visit the site now, if you’d like, but stay tuned for when I’ll announce its general opening. If you’d like to join the community, drop me a line and I’ll get you set up.

[UPDATE: Oh and the site design is still in flux. I’m trying to focus on the content and will worry about the presentation as soon as I’ve got a comfortable amount of the former.]

Money Well Spent

April 25, 2004

Rafe Colburn asks if this is money well spent and I’d have to say it’s amazing the obviousness of the request. It’s especially funny that the questioner asked for the response to be removed as soon as he got it. Spammers don’t share!

Phew!

April 22, 2004

So I finally made it into the Gmail beta test program. I was very concerned that I wasn’t going to get my favorite userid, “bbrown,” and would be forced to choose something like “bill-brown” or “bbrown1.”

Now that I’ve got it, I’m starting to see why people are underwhelmed. I’ve got three active domains right now, all of which have passable webmail facilities. I don’t see myself having a canonical email address that isn’t off of one of those domains. The closest I ever came to such an address is my b-b-r-o-w-n_a-t_—screw it, it gets so much spam as it is that I don’t need to be sekr1t1ve—bbrown@asu.edu address. Right now it just forwards to my dial-up account’s box, but I don’t really give it out anymore since I created bbrown.info.

That being said, it looks very well conceived. I like the layout and the functionality. I just wish I could think of a reason to use it.

Moving Day

April 20, 2004

If you’re reading this, then your ISP has already received the new DNS instructions for UplinkEarth. It’s been a pretty smooth move and the support folks at UplinkEarth are absolutely incredible. Their responsiveness is exemplary; they’re everything I would want in a host—well, I wish SQL Server wasn’t $15 extra per month.

I’m still using Blogger to manage my blogs because I can’t find a good CFMX-based blogging engine that doesn’t require <cffile> and I can’t find a good ASP.NET application that supports MySQL. I toyed with writing my own, but that would just mean that it would never get done. So, I’m looking at Movable Type since it’s a packaged solution and it seems to have a lot of the features I desire. I’m also evaluating FarCry as a sitewide content management system. Either way, it’s going to give me a lot of bang for no bucks.

The People of Phoenix

April 16, 2004

I’m always interested in famous people who make metropolitan Phoenix their home. My wife used to serve Jack Lemmon coffee at Paradise Valley Mall when we both worked at the McDonald’s there; my mother-in-law was once in line at her bank behind Randy Johnson, who was cashing a $50,000 endorsement check from Nike according to the teller—clearly violating her fiduciary responsibility for confidentiality; and my wife’s co-worker’s husband used to ship Rick Schroeder’s packages when he worked at a Mailboxes, Etc. It would be fascinating to list the celebrities who live in the Valley.

This New York Times article lists one surprising one. Okay, maybe it’s not that surprising, but I would have thought she’d be a California girl. Oh, and a five-minute trip through various government web sites found her address using only information from the article. That’s the aspect of the Web that’s a little scary.

Yesterday’s Adventure

April 16, 2004

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that a mountain—Buffalo Ridge for the curious—across the street from my subdivision had a dirt road girding it that I had never noticed before because you have to really be studying the mountains contours to spot it. Of course, that stuck in my craw and gnawed at my consciousness as a new place that begged—no, commanded—to be explored.

Today we had to turn in our rental GMC Envoy with four-wheel drive so I thought that yesterday was my chance to do some offroading with a vehicle that I didn’t particularly care about. I guess I forgot to mention that we got rear-ended by a big ol’ van a few weeks ago and that the Durango has been in Progressive‘s care since then.

My first task was to find a way to get to the dirt road since it didn’t have a discernible entrance. It was interesting because I had explored the entrance area before without noticing the dirt road that continued off to the left. Driving on it was bumpy due to the large rocks, but it wasn’t anything that my Durango couldn’t have done in its 2WD glory. There was a section where I had to really push on the gas to get up a particularly steep grade—an omen of difficulties to come.

My trouble started when I realized that the road—a one-lane affair hugging the mountain—probably continued to the summit and was getting increasingly steep. The thought of coming to an impasse without the means of turning around troubled me considerably, as did the thought of having to retread steep ground in reverse. I came to a wide spot in the road and decided that I’d had enough and wanted out of this business.

It was at the time that I got perpindicular to the road that I realized that I was in over my head. Facing down the side of a very rocky mountain at about a 10° angle with the back wheels spinning fruitlessly, I concluded that my situation was dire and began a frantic rundown of my options. I decided that my best bet was to try and get out of the precarious orientation the Envoy was in. After alternately driving and reversing, I managed to get parallel to the road before I got completely stuck in the soft dirt. Nothing I tried could dislodge me from my excellent view of our subdivision, perched halfway up a mountain ten feet from the road that would let me descend.

So I was stuck and the Envoy was now at the 10%deg; angle with the driver-side tires practically touching the top of the wheel well and the passenger-side tires stretching out the shocks. I had no idea what I was doing and, furthermore, I had no idea how to get myself out. How could a tow truck get to where I was and manage to tow the vehicle out? I saw some workers at the base of the mountain and briefly toyed with getting them to help me, but I figured that they probably wouldn’t be interested in climbing several hundred feet up a 45° grade to help a moron in an SUV.

I called my wife to apprise her of my predicament after a vigorous internal argument about the necessity of such a move. Here’s another vital piece of information about my situation: I was ostensibly running to the post office down the street to drop off our income taxes. This little side trip was unplanned and thus not on my itinerary. Sandi, bless her heart, took it all in stride though I swear I could hear her eyes rolling over the phone. She, too, had no idea how I could extract myself but I remembered that my co-worker and friend was a 4×4 enthusiast.

Luckily, he knew exactly how 4WD worked and what I would need to do to get out. After describing my orientation and environment as quickly and thoroughly as I could, he told me to put it in something called “4 LO” and push on the gas firmly but gently. He said that I should gradually be able to feel some traction and that, by keeping at it, I could make it back to the road. With him as a virtual co-pilot, I was able to get back to the road and descend. I took it really slow because I had had enough excitement for a lifetime.

The moral of the story: I will not be doing any offroading unless he’s in the vehicle with me. I don’t have the patience or composure to calmly do 4×4 activities and I’m okay with that. I will definitely return to that road, but I’ll be doing it with a bicycle, quad, or on foot—something that I can push out of any trouble with my own power.

[UPDATE (4/17/04): Made some minor typographical corrections.]

MM

April 7, 2004

I can’t stand the guy, but you can’t beat his creativity.

To the Moon!

April 1, 2004

Google‘s April Fool’s joke for this year—a lunar datacenter—is hilarious. I don’t think Gmail is a joke, though.

[UPDATE: On a subsequent page in the joke, it describes the complex: “The Googlunaplex will house 35 engineers, 27,000 low cost web servers, 2 massage therapists and a sushi chef formerly employed by the pop group Hanson.” Priceless!]