Archive for July, 2001


everybody’s got one

Monday, July 30th, 2001

Funny, seems every day is somebody or other’s birthday. My wife Clare is [mumblemumble] today. Happy birthday, Clare. Rachel, not yet four, promises to make a cake for Mummy… this i gotta see!

Doc Searls made reference to a great quote on his 54th birthday yesterday:

I’m reminded of what P.J. O’Rourke said about his bad habits. It went something like this: “I know if I quit drinking and smoking and driving fast, I could add ten years to my life. The problem is, I’d be adding them at the wrong end.”

Sjoerd uses a javascript implementation of XML-RPC to do his archive search. Techno-weenie does a similar thing with JSRS. Most cool.


moving target

Saturday, July 28th, 2001

Ironically, the moving target title above applies to both parts of today’s blog…

I was oddly serene today in the strangest of circumstances.

Just after lunchtime, I was rear-ended on Hwy 401 in Toronto.

Now, for those of you who know it, the 401 at Toronto is an imposing stretch of road, sometimes as much as 20 lanes wide, constantly patrolled by traffic helicopters and planes just to let you know where the inevitable numerous accidents are at any one time.

So, the interesting thing is that this didn’t faze me in the least. I calmly got out of the car, surveyed the damage (apparently little to me, but the other car was pretty bunged up). I smiled at the other driver, told her that heck, shit happens. Immediately, we were literally surrounded by a phalanx of tow trucks, all competing for our attention. I didn’t get ruffled by this, I just picked one and let the others know they could leave. Things progressed nicely, we proceeded to the accident reporting center and we were outta there an hour and a half after the accident. I carried on about my business as if nothing happened, called my mechanic, my insurance, set up appointments.

Another day, different shit.

I guess the perspective is that if you have an accident on the 401 and you can still come home and tell your kids about it, you might as well smell the roses along the way, they’re blooming for you.

I released JSRS 2.0 yesterday. Due to popular demand, I gave it POST support for IE/Mozilla.

It seems it’s broken for Mozilla 0.92. I had tested it on an earlier version and it had worked. It now returns undefined when I try to get the document element of an iframe so I can write to it. It also doesn’t let me assign a function to a Select box’s onChange event, which breaks my Select demo.

I can’t tell whether 0.92 is broken in these respects, or whether the Mozilla folks have decided that these previously working features must be changed in order to better conform to the DOM spec.

I could waste a whole bunch of time chasing this with the atrociously nonexistent debugging tools at my disposal, but when I fix it, what are they going to change in






nature vs nurture

Thursday, July 26th, 2001

It’s Chico’s birthday today.

The nature versus nurture argument has always been a one-dimensional issue for me since, being adopted, I’ve only ever known one side of the equation. I’ve always pretty well felt that I’m the product of my upbringing – a good one, with love and support, comfort and opportunity.

Having children of my own has made me more aware of the nature side of the coin. My two girls, Jasmine and Rachel, share traits of both me and Clare that are often uncanny. Still, It’s easy to be convinced that nurture is the biggie.

While trying to diagnose some medical difficuties Jasmine has had since birth (now under control), we decided with our doctors that it was time to ask the government to connect me with my birth parents for historical medical information. It’s a sort of Pandora’s box thing, a decision I didn’t take lightly.

In the spring of last year, at the age of 39, I separately met each of my birth parents for the first time.

I met her first. I learned about her life and family, about a number of half siblings, one of whom I met. We got along quite well, and I learned a lot about my birth ancestry. I came to know the circumstances of my arrival. I told her about my life and assured her I was well taken care of. I expect we will keep in touch from time to time. She is a very private person and I respect that.

She told me a bit about him, too. He was a very talented jazz drummer (neat – I’m a drummer too!). He moved to California in the sixties. He’s 5 foot 3 and his family is Spanish (That’s funny as hell, I’m Edmund Brent Ashley, as anglo as you can get, and I’m 6ft tall and 225 lb.)

It’s funny how the net works. I often say to whoever will listen that you can find just about anything on Google. I’m talking to her about “him” and I finally say “So what’s his name?”. “Paul”, she says, “but everyone called him Chico… Chico Fernandez”. What a scream! Some tiny Spanish guy named Chico Fernandez spawned me?! Couldn’t possibly be more different from me. So I stick it into Google – [“Paul Fernandez” Drums], and wouldn’t you know it, on that day, comes to the head of the list. This is a store that Chico and his brother Vic run together in Santa Monica. She confirms it’s gotta be him and I have the government worker make first contact.

After an initial exchange of letters and then phone calls, I scheduled myself onto a flight to Los Angeles and headed down from the Thursday evening to the Monday morning – almost four days of unbelievable wackyness and discovery.

Talk about separated at birth. It was like we were twins born 20 years apart. Sure, there are notable differences, but everybody we met was absolutely floored by the similarities. We yapped and drank and drank and yapped for the whole time. I met his wife Elena and some of his family. I had a chance to sit in on the drums with his jazz combo – it was magical.

It’s been over a year since then. I brought Clare and the girls and Clare’s mother Hazel down to California for 10 days and we saw quite a bit of the Fernandez clan amongst our Disney and Sea World excursions. Chico’s whole family is so warm and made us feel so at ease and comfortable. We’ll definitely be in touch for a long time coming.

I feel like Dorian Gray looking into the mirror and seeing myself at 60.

Whoops – I mean 61! Happy birthday Chico, or should I say Mini-Me.



Thursday, July 26th, 2001

false economy

Wednesday, July 25th, 2001

Pay now for good quality or pay later when it comes to maintaining your “cheaper” solution, I always say. Buy one $150 pair of great wearing shoes that lasts 5 years, or limp through 5 pairs of $40 ill-fitting shoes that give you blisters, one pair per year, total $200 + grief factor.

My parents have always been quite frugal, a trait unfamiliar to many people under “a certain age”. Sometimes, though, they’ll spend all sorts of time and grief avoiding spending money, to which I say the extra money would have been well spent.

They’ve got a well and a septic bed where they are, so it’s pragmatic to limit the amount of flow. To that end, they put a brick in the toilet cistern to limit its capacity. However, every single frickin time I take a dump, no matter how big or small, it’s at least a three-flush payload because of the goddamn brick in the back of the toilet. Some good that does, limiting the flow.

Ahhh, I feel better having let that out.


functionality versus universality

Wednesday, July 25th, 2001

I know this is a circular reference to ScottAndrew’s reference to my red-green discourse below, but he makes a good point that is less relevant to me as a Canadian but worthy of mention. At least for the US folks, the choice is no longer yours. I think there are similar issues here.

Chris at dithered recalls the TVOntario of his youth. I didn’t watch TVOntario much in my own youth (heck, we needed a special UHF converter to get channels above 13 on our B&W tv!) but I watch a heck of a lot of it now with my kids. TVO Kids is absolutely the best children’s programming available, and I’ve seen all the British stuff too. The Nook, The Crawlspace, the Bodsquad, Patty, Phil, Gisele, the two Julies, Hatatoposit, Tumbleweed – what a lineup, and every mouthful a taste sensation.

“We can’t let people fill out this form more than once”

“We must support users who turn off cookies”

“We must have client-side validation”

“We must support every browser ever known to man and people who turn off javascript”

“We must have cool animation”

“No plugins, must support pre-v4 browsers

“We are committed to using this Java applet”

“We must support people behind draconian corporate firewalls”

“It has to look exactly the same in every browser”

“Pigs might fly”

You can’t have it both ways. Functionality or universality. The choice is yours.


openness and ownership, pride and promotion

Monday, July 23rd, 2001

Just downloaded ZoneAlarm. They (and others) ask me to select a download point close to me. I choose Canada (the vast 4000-mile breadth of Canada all being ‘closer’ to me than anything in the US, I guess) I’m sure, though, that even though the server may be located a mile away, I’m probably being routed via my ISP by way of Moosejaw, Miami, and Menlo Park before I get there. I might as well have chosen California to get a more direct route.

I saw a posting the other day on a mailing list I frequent, musing about what impact there would be on remote scripting in light of Microsoft’s stated intention to no longer include a JVM with their browser.

I thought it would be helpful to let this guy know that while Microsoft’s Remote Scripting would not work without the JVM, my JSRS remote scripting library would. In case he worried that it may not be up to the task, I ran down a short list of features and said it was in worldwide production use and is free for the taking. I gave URL to get it. No embellishment, no shtick, just the facts.

In his response he chided me for inserting a promotional plug for my library into a mailing list discussion.

I was a bit taken aback by this. There is no benefit to me whatsoever if he uses my library or not. I’ve put a heck of a lot of my own time into building and supporting this thing, and he’s welcome to have it. I have no fragile ego requirement to corner the remote scripting market. So I blasted him to chill out. Various blasting ensued.

Anyhow, that exchange is history, but it leaves me with some thoughts.

What’s different between a project I wrote for myself, found useful and released to others to use with no restriction, and I continue to support for free, and an Open Source project, in that people might see my project as a vehicle for personal enrichment, whereas the open source project might somehow be seen as more charitable and open?

Or maybe I’m just spending too much time analysing one person’s whacked-out opinion.


oooh what a lucky man he was

Friday, July 13th, 2001

Steve Krug’s company’s motto:

“It’s not rocket surgery”

If you hadn’t been there, you won’t know, but my business website,, until recently presented me as a company that provides services. I’m not a company. I don’t “provide services”. I’m a guy who loves technology and can provide value to people by having some of that enthusiasm rub off on people I work with when I’m doing cool scripting stuff for them. I can help them to figure shit out. So I changed my site to reflect that.

Since I’ve been quoting it, I thought it was time to go out and buy The Cluetrain Manifesto. A lot of it resonates so well with me that reading it is like spending a day whacking myself in the forehead saying “Wow! I coulda had a V8!!”