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Mike Macgirvin

mike@macgirvin.com

Hmmm, February 14th

Mike Macgirvin
  from Diary and Other Rantings
February 14th. Isn't this an important day? Somebody's birthday? Oh that's right (smacks head). It's the candy and flowers day. Better get 'em.
The Seven Year Itch

Mike Macgirvin
  last edited: Fri, 01 Feb 2008 16:07:39 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
Sometime later this month "Diary and Other Rantings" (i.e. my weblog) will turn 7 years old, and I'll start my eighth year doing this activity called 'blogging'. Perhaps I'll mark the day, perhaps not. We'll see. Maybe I'll just stop doing it altogether. Maybe not. We'll see.

This all started in early 2001. I was at AOL making lots and lots of money from my Netscape stock options. I had a Netscape employee home page that was visited hundreds of thousands of times a day, but this was slowing. AOL no longer linked to it. I had started running a new server in the spare bedroom in 1998-1999, and later moved it to the garage. It took almost two years to get a working DSL link so that I could actually run a public website off of it. High-speed internet to the home was still an experimental technology. DSL wasn't yet ready for prime time and ISDN had other issues which plagued it. Leased-line required somebody to sell you an end-point on the public net and nobody was doing this, besides being limited to 56k which was now the speed of most modems. Web 'hosting' in those days was mostly for big business and costed big money. I could certainly afford it, but decided to spend my cash on more important things (like buying  a music store a year later).

Running a Linux box with an internet link isn't very expensive in the overall scheme of things. So once the DSL was finally working I made a new home page and started improving it.

I think it was Cindy at 'Off the Beaten Path' (now at 'dustingmybrain.com' ) who first introduced me to the concept of a rambling page. Instead of replacing your 'Current Interests' web page every week, you just keep adding to it. Drop in a date. Write what's happening. I started doing this. I was writing HTML in emacs. I called it an online diary. I didn't have titles, categories, RSS feeds, etc. These would come much later. I wasn't writing 'articles', I was just rambling. Why do you need a title for it? That makes it look so structured. The only important thing is the date, so somebody knows when it was that you thought this way. This was important. After several years of living on Netscape time, I firmly believed that one didn't think the same way for very long, and technology was always changing - so information had to have a date.

The other thing that I did was to take a cue from some of the large online news sites, which were the best model available for presenting information that had timestamps. I started writing in reverse chronological order (recent first). This was born of necessity, since nobody wanted to load a large page and scroll to the end to find recent stuff; which was how we did things previously (logfile format).  

In fact I maintained this format for a few years until it became unmanageable. Then I looked for ways of automating my monthly (or whenever) process of moving the current entries to an archive page and starting fresh. So after looking to see what programs were available and trying a few of them, I instead wrote a program to do it myself. Over time that evolved from a simple diary 'archiver' to the thing that you see today - a mega social portal that does everything but make coffee. (I miss this incidentally, I had my computer turn on the coffee pot from an online request in the early 1980s using my first homebrew social portal).  

I still wonder whether anybody reads these pages. Does anybody care? I don't subscribe to the current notions of SEO and affiliate marketing and trackware and all the other ways to improve one's blog ranking. Most notable these days are the pages and pages of 'widgets' attached to every blog, selling everything from online communities to soap. Why bother? Your only visitors will be other bloggers that are all trying to get you to visit their own blog. They aren't really reading what you have to say, they're too busy 'selling' their own wares. Still even after the RSS fiasco a few months back, I manage to pull in a few thousand humans a week. They come and read a page and leave again. This is the state of the modern internet.

It may be of some interest that I've managed to serve up a few hundred million pages since this all started - mostly to crawlers and robots; however last year activity peaked with about 100,000 daily hits (30,000 human visitors) and we've had six or seven days with over a million hits. I've written close to 1500 articles and there have been about 6600 total articles at one time or another from various feeds - before I was forced to nuke them for legal reasons. Only about 250 comments total, which I attribute to my decision a couple years back to do away with the daily spam cleanup and only allow website members to post comments. [I've since revised this policy.]

The 'community portal' (which I started writing a couple of years ago) doesn't have much community and I don't know if that will ever change. Community folks like big parties and unless you have one, you're late to the party. Bloggers only like communities where they can sell their blog.  I don't know how to convince them that a long-running website with several thousand non-blogging human visitors a week is actually a good place to drop a link. Yeah, I could put you on my blogroll, but I read thousands of blogs. It would quickly grow to be unmanageable and you'd be lost in the noise.

But you can add your own link and profile page and whatever - you don't need me to do it. Hint, hint.  

Anyway - we'll see if this lasts or whether I just decide that there are better things to do. Write into space everyday and maybe a couple of people will read it. Maybe not.

That's what it's all about.

Don't ask yourself if it is actually relevant or important or whether anybody cares. You might not like to hear the true answer. It's one blog amongst hundreds of millions, all trying to be visited. All thinking they should be relevant to somebody. It's like asking if one star in the entire universe is relevant. Maybe one is relevant to somebody. But the big question looms, is it yours? Unless it's the sun and brings life to this planet, it's likely just another star in the vastness of space.  

In fact, nobody really cares whether you blog or not when all is said and done. Well maybe one or two folks. In my case those are the same one or two folks that cared back in 2001. Everybody else is just passing through on their way to somewhere else.

Still every day (sometimes two) I go to my website and ramble about what's on my mind. I tweak the software to make it better. Even knowing that it is all an exercise in futility. Strange.
Happy Australia Day

Mike Macgirvin
  last edited: Sat, 26 Jan 2008 10:36:06 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
Happy Australia Day - celebrating the landing of the first group of European colonists (actually convicts that the British were trying to get rid of) at Sydney Cove in 1788.

Wherein we ingest large quantities of alcoholic substances and roast all manner of meat products on the BBQ.  

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Care for a kanga steak, mate? No? That's OK, we've got bangers and burgers too.
Merry Xmas

Mike Macgirvin
  from Diary and Other Rantings
It's Christmas morning over here. I've posted the obligatory photos (for family and friends only), so they can see them before their own celebration tomorrow.  I got an electronic cabinet rack, a maple tree, 1.4 kilos of lollies (candy), and more. Isabella of course made out like a bandit as she always does. Too much stuff to list, but she did get a trampoline to replace the one we had to leave behind in America.
Happy Turkey Day

Mike Macgirvin
  from Diary and Other Rantings
Thanksgiving came and went here yesterday without much fanfare. Just another work day. We had a ham dinner at the pub - which is the only place in town that serves food after 8PM. We'll probably have something a bit more traditional tonight (Friday) to go along with the U.S. holiday.

But all eyes here are on the Australian election tomorrow. Kevin Rudd seems to have a strong lead. He's Labor Party or what those in the states would call a 'democrat'. The Liberal Party here is John Howard and would be what would be called a 'republican' in America.

Howard has made some pretty bold moves in the last month, but 80% of it is pure financial bribery to get re-elected. Most people are genuinely tired of him. If he comes out on top, it's going to be expensive to make good on all the financial promises he  has made. His main argument for staying in power sounds reminiscent of Bush in 2004. Stay the course - you are a fool if you want to change horses in the middle of a stream.

Well, yes - valid point. But I personally think it's OK to jump off a horse in the middle of a stream if in fact you had no intention of being in the stream in the first place, and the durn fool horse just decided (against all better judgement) to go swimming in flood currents.
Halloween in Australia

Mike Macgirvin
  last edited: Thu, 01 Nov 2007 08:57:58 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
We were warned not to expect much - that Halloween is an 'American' holiday that just isn't practiced here.

The numbers tell a different story.

As far as children are concerned, it was about 97% participation. We had 30-40 visitors at the door, which accounts for every kid in the neighborhood except for 1 girl across the street who didn't join in.

As far as adults are concerned, the participation rate was about half. Many folks had the TV on in the living room, but didn't come to the door. Couldn't be bothered. Of the half that participated, it was quite common of them to run out of lollies (candy). It's a new neighborhood, and they probably expected about a dozen kids, which is what we were told the youth population was a year ago.

Now I took a group of my daughter's friends around the block - six in all. Five had never done Halloween before. Upon knowing this fact, I didn't expect much, but there were kids in costume everywhere. It was quite funny that these girls were more concerned with their costumes and various wardrobe malfunctions than they were about getting to the next house. It took 45 minutes to get through one little cul-de-sac of about 10 houses, and almost an hour to get down the next side street. Obviously amateurs. We saw some teen-age boys that had it down - they came back around probably three times before we finally shooed them away at 9:30. I'm sure they covered the entire east side of town - because if I was their age, I would've been one of them.

So to say Halloween isn't really practiced here isn't entirely true. It has a solid foothold, and with such high children participation rates,  it's only a matter of time.
Miscellaneous Stuff

Mike Macgirvin
  last edited: Sun, 02 Sep 2007 20:27:19 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
The neighbor backed into my car yesterday. Smashed up both doors on the driver side a bit. (That would be the right side). It's still drivable. Took out her tail light.

It was just outside the front window, which I was sitting in front of, but I didn't hear a thing. My ears were occupied. Finally got the bulk of the studio wiring in place and I was busy adjusting the digital delay units for the virtual drummer - and otherwise going through system tests to make sure all the gear was cooperating after being relocated on the other side of the earth.

This setup had been delayed by a lack of suitable speakers. Speakers here cost a fortune, as does everything else. Professional recording gear has always been one of those maximum gouge industries and it's no different here. The difference is that it's a captive market. To buy this stuff overseas you'll end up with the wrong power supply - or in the case of speakers, a hefty bill for shipping. A pair of Yamaha monitors that I can get on eBay for $100 costs about $800 on this side of the pond.

So I did a lot of comparison shopping and found a pair of Chinese 12" wedge monitors for about $125 each. That's quite affordable so I ordered a pair. The speakers themselves are crap, but it's the boxes I was after. Someday I'll find a used pair of JBL or Eminence drivers I can drop in and bring them up to my standards, but they'll work for now. I can smooth out any shortcomings with the equalizer. It will be a lot cheaper in freight costs to import a couple of better transducers than it is to import a couple of quite hefty wooden boxes. I've been down this road many times before. I know what it takes to get just the equipment I require within a reasonable budget. You can't hang out waiting for the best, or you'll spend your life waiting and not doing. During the dot-com boom I could buy the best (and did). Now my planning is once again like my starving student days, except that I've still got a bit of good gear to work with.  

Anyway, the speakers finally arrived this week and I picked them up yesterday morning (the weekend). The other thing I've been waiting on for the studio setup is furniture. We sold all of it - remember? So off to Bunnings (that's the local equivalent of Orchard Supply Hardware) and I came home with three folding utility tables.  The ones that cost about $30 at Home Depot. I paid about $55 each.

But it was the last piece of the puzzle that I needed to get everything setup and working. So now I can finally get that jumble of cables off the floor of the living room and make Amanda happy (and myself, since I'll be using them for their intended purpose). Glad I didn't leave any of those behind. Each cable runs between $20 and $50 here. And I need a few hundred before all is said and done. 64 RCA cables for patch buses, 16 MIDI cables, 24 XLR's, and 24 1/4 inch cables, 7 or 8 mini (PC sound card) to twin RCA for starters; you do the math. It starts adding up real fast. $40 for a MIDI cable. And that's for a single one meter cable. Ouch. Luckily I've got enough of all this stuff that I don't need to do the math.

I find it amazing that Australian musicians can ever get to the world stage. They would need a lot of capital.  

Oh yeah, Happy Father's Day! (They observe it in September here). Also yesterday was the first day of spring. I don't completely understand, since it has nothing to do with the equinox, but then I never understood how it worked in the states either (for instance they call the equinox the 'first' day of summer, winter, whatever). But the equinox isn't the beginning or end of a weather trend. It's smack dab in the middle. Oh well. I've argued the point 'til I'm blue in the face already. The declaration of seasonal endpoints as occurring during the equinox is logically incorrect but it isn't going to change anything. Just like it doesn't change the fact that Australia celebrates the coming of spring on September 1, which has nothing to do with anything. Happy spring anyway and a toast to the end of an extremely long winter.
Tastes just like chicken

Mike Macgirvin
  last edited: Wed, 16 May 2007 13:27:21 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
Today is my birthday once again. Had a lovely dinner at the Briars in Bowral. So what does a Yankee expat eat at a five-star Australian restaurant?  I went for the kangaroo. In fact it doesn't taste like chicken at all. It tastes like beef. Maybe just a hint of gaminess like buffalo - but without the fat that buffalo has (you can fill a schooner with the fat in a slice of buffalo steak).

OK, a schooner is the 'large' beer glass in most of Australia - 12 oz. When you order a beer, you order either a regular or a schooner. I find this amusing. The bartender or waitress always looks at you with wide eyes like this schooner is something to be afraid of. Now 12 oz. is the normal size beer bottle throughout the world - or around a third of a liter. However in the west (Perth) and some parts of the outback a schooner is the smallest glass in the bar and the normal sized drink is at least a liter. That's more what I'm used to. A liter is a decent glass of beer. I had to laugh the first time. What's this pathetic schooner thing you gave me? I ordered a large beer.

But I digress.

So anyway kangaroo tastes just like any other big yummy steak.

Have some crocodile with that?
ANZAC day

Mike Macgirvin
  last edited: Wed, 25 Apr 2007 13:19:50 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
Today is a major holiday in Australia - the commemoration of a disastrous battle against the Turks in WW1. It's similar to Veteran's Day in the U.S. - except the differences are huge. In the U.S. it's more just a work holiday, with the president laying a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier - and which nobody really watches.

In Australia, every town has a wreath ceremony. Every town has a list of the fallen in a prominent location. Everybody is involved. A parade in Sydney that's bigger than the Macy's parade in NYC. And at every occasion you are reminded that people died in wars obeying orders (good and bad) - and you should be grateful. A continuous stream of military remembrances on TV.

And at the end of the ceremonies (right after the Australian national anthem) is a rousing rendition of 'God Save the Queen'. I'll have to admit I'm not quite ready to belt that one out. But I hummed along anyway since it's the same basic tune as 'My Country Tis of Thee'.
Happy Birthday Mr. binLaden

Mike Macgirvin
  from Diary and Other Rantings
Ohmigosh, I forgot to mark the date on my calendar. 50 years old. My how time flies. Did anybody send you gag gifts about being over the hill? They sure did when I turned fifty.

Ya' know - I was going to send you a card with a really big surprise in it, but I seem to have misplaced your address. If you read this, could you please let me know how to get it to you? Thanks ever so much.

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Merry Chistmas

Mike Macgirvin
  from Diary and Other Rantings
Happy Holidays to you and your family.
Happy Birthday Isabella

Mike Macgirvin
  from Diary and Other Rantings
Happy Birthday to Isabella - nine years old today.
One more revolution

Mike Macgirvin
  last edited: Mon, 15 May 2006 02:57:43 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
Endlessly circling the flaming gas ball. Each time you complete a cycle you get another notch on your tally sheet. I've now got 50 of them suckers.

What does it all mean?

It doesn't matter. You just keep spinning around the flaming gas ball and counting. That's what it's all about. Does the number fifty have any significance? Why of course it does. You see, humans have ten things hanging from our arms (five on each side). Four fingers and a thumb to be exact. On each side. But the only significant thing is the total, which is ten. If we didn't have thumbs, we'd be counting in octal. But we have thumbs so the issue is moot. Now ten times ten is 100. This is significant because it uses three symbols to represent in our written language, while the number immediately preceding it (99) only takes two. And half of that is fifty. So if you split it (this weird three symbol multiple) into two equal parts, you'd have equal numbers in each pile. Are you following?

So I'd like to raise a toast to travelling through space. A number of revolutions around a gas blob equal to splitting a multiple of the count of human appendages which takes up one more byte of storage into two piles.

I'm fifty years old today.

Some would claim this is significant.

Why?  

[I should probably note that this journey has so far covered a distance of 2.9216 billion miles  or 93 million miles from the earth to the sun times two (radius to diameter) times pi (to circumference), times 50 revolutions. This fails to account for the motion of the sun through the local galaxy in particular and the space/time continuum in general, which also incurs some significant distance. I will leave it to the reader to ponder the significance of that number. But if you ever feel really really bored, consider that every day of your existance your space travel covers over 1.6 million miles.]
Cinco De Mayo

Mike Macgirvin
  last edited: Sat, 06 May 2006 04:34:23 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
Happy Cinco De Mayo - where we honor the Mexican army for repelling an invasion by the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

...Just a few years after they failed to repel an invasion by the United States.

The celebration was short lived. A year later, the French regrouped and took over Mexico anyway.

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This day in history

Mike Macgirvin
  last edited: Thu, 13 Apr 2006 08:51:05 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
25 years ago (1981). Maiden voyage of the space shuttle Columbia.

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(Columbia disintegrated on February 1, 2003).
This won't happen for another hundred years.

Mike Macgirvin
  last edited: Wed, 05 Apr 2006 17:01:08 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
April 5th, 2006. The time is 1:02 and 3 seconds.

1:2:3 4/5/6
This day in history

Mike Macgirvin
  last edited: Mon, 03 Apr 2006 18:12:01 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
April 3, 1882. Jesse Woodson James, professional bank robber - dies at age 34 from a lethal injection of lead (he was shot in the head).

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Another chapter comes to a close.

Mike Macgirvin
  from Diary and Other Rantings
The random CD player has been dishing out some psychedalia this morning. Sergeant Pepper. Janis Joplin. Jimi Hendrix. An era gone by. Good backdrop for closing day.
This day in history...

Mike Macgirvin
  from Diary and Other Rantings
Intel released the 4004 microprocessor on this date in 1971.
More stupid tricks

Mike Macgirvin
  last edited: Wed, 08 Mar 2006 13:46:35 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
One of the benefits of writing your own weblog software is you can do things like this.