Monthly Archives: January 2006

IE 7 Beta 2 available

The Microsoft team has made the Beta 2 version of IE 7.0 available for download to developers and adventurous users. Even if you aren’t brave enough to try that yet, you might find it interesting to view this video of the team leaders who created the new version of the browser. You’ll find it interspersed with a lot of jargon, such as CSS, RSS, etc., but if you’ll just watch the video, you’ll get a sense of the people who make this product and some of the functionality in the new browser. Watching the Channel 9 videos of such interviews as this is a really good way to become familiar with the technology behind the new developments in the industry, providing you can allow yourself to tolerate the ambiguity of not understanding completely what everyone is saying. This is not a problem, by the way, with the video itself but rather with our level of familiarity with the technological explanations of things. I find them fascinating, as I think you will too.

Chastened, I blog again

I’ve just completed a Skype call of about an hour and a quarter with my friend, Juan Gutierrez, in which he observed that my blogging has dropped off of late. Like many of you, he checks my blog periodically to see whether 1) I’ve written anything and 2) whether what I have written is of any interest to him.

I confess that periodically I get a “blogging block” where I either can’t think of anything to write or just don’t have the motivation to do so. And when that mood strikes me, I just drop out for a while. But I guess such stumbling blocks impede the progress of everyone from time to time.  So if you see me in one of those phases, just know that after a while I’ll be back and while you are waiting, go read one of the other 8 billion or so web pages that are out there just longing for readers.  Eventually, like a bad penny, I will return, because I’ve been doing this for too long to stop entirely.

Knoxville Flock users?

I’m interested in locating any other Flock users here in Knoxville.

The reason for my interest is that over the weekend I exchanged a few messages with Daryl Houston about his recent podcast concerning Flock. During our exchange, I suggested to him that we might meet one evening to get to know one another and to discuss Flock and its progress. He was open to the idea after the next version of Flock comes out in early February, and he suggested that we might invite any other Flock users in our area to attend as well. Then the question arose about how many other users there are that are local to Knoxville. He doesn’t have that information and neither do I.

So I’d like to request that if you are a Flock user who lives in Knoxville or the East Tennessee area and if you think you might be interested in being part of a meet up with one of the staff of developers of Flock (Daryl), please contact me at talktoperry (at) gmail.com so that I can notify you when we have made plans for the get together. In fact, I’d extend this invitation to anyone who may be interested in learning about Flock, even if you haven’t yet downloaded and tried it. The time, date, place, and exact agenda are still to be decided, but we need to know how many of us there are and the level of interest. So far as I know, there is no “critical mass” we have to achieve to hold this event because Daryl and I can meet alone, but I’d like to give you an opportunity to be a part of it in the event you are interested.

Let me hear from you.

A podcast about Flock

Daryl Houston, a fellow Knoxvillian and a Flock community shepherd, has done his first podcast about the new social browser Flock.

I have been using Flock since around the end of October last year and have found it to be quite innovative, despite the fact that the version I am using is a “pre-alpha” version. That means that all the rough edges haven’t yet been smoothed out, but Daryl indicates that a new version will be coming out around the first of February. Designed primarily to make two-way communication with the Web easier, this browser makes it easy for a blogger to locate information on the Web that he wants to quote and add it in to a blog post, using a thing called the shelf that Daryl discusses in his podcast. There are lots of other neat features that you can learn about either from the podcast or from the link to the Flock homepage above.

Celebrating with Carole

On Sunday, January 15, I drove to Carole’s home in Lula, GA, to surprise her and help celebrate her birthday. It’s the first time I’ve been down to Georgia in many months, and I did catch her by surprise. We went out in search of a Greek dinner on Tuesday night but when we got to the restaurant, we found it closed because it is only open for dinner from Thursday through Sunday. So despite the fact that we had gotten all geared up for a Greek dinner, we went to a restaurant down the street called Seabones and had a very nice seafood dinner there. I came back home yesterday. While I was in Georgia I didn’t have access to the Internet, so if I missed contacting you, my apologies.

As many of you know, Carole has completed her initial treatments for breast cancer (chemo and radiation) and is now on a maintenance drug. She seems to be doing well and will continue to be closely monitored by her doctors.

The arrival of the red sheep

Please forgive me as I entertain myself with a romp through my mind.

Last night I woke myself up … laughing. I can’t recall any other time in my life when that has happened. Not just once did I find myself laughing, but three or four times in succession. Every time the thought came to mind, I would chuckle.

And at what were you laughing, you ask? Well, it was the phrase, “The red sheep are coming. Perhaps they’ll be dumber than the white ones,” that struck me as uproariously funny.

In my dream, this phrase occurred after my having had a frustrating dream about being given a simple chore to do by a naval officer involving some celestial navigation task and being totally inept at achieving it. Though I have been trained in celestial navigation during my years in the navy, I recall little or none of it now. And in my dream, try as hard as I might I couldn’t remember anything I had learned or do anything right. I felt the officer’s frustration with me and his derision and contempt for my knowledge and, I felt, for my intelligence as well. I was embarrassed and humiliated. But when he suggested that “The red sheep are coming. Perhaps they’ll be dumber than the white ones,” I found that incredibly funny.

A man’s dreams, of course, make little sense to any one else, outside the context in which they occur. They frequently don’t even make sense to the one who dreamed them. They appear to be merely random symbols trotted out and merged together into a stream of bizarre plot elements or narrative. Interpreting them is, I think, more a black art than a science. But they are the playground of the mind when it is left unchecked by consciousness, as it is when you sleep. And sometimes when symbols from the playground are brought into the classroom of the morning after’s conscious thought, they can provide the raw materials from which insights can be distilled.

So what do these symbols say to me this morning as I think about them? What associations do they evoke?

First and foremost, I have had the experience of having known something at one time that I can no longer recall or put to any meaningful use, and it is not a pleasant one. As I face the realization of my aging, I dread the thought that this kind of experience will only become more common for me to one degree or another. In the nightmare scenario, this is the fear of dementia, of Alzheimer’s disease, that haunts so many of us. And given medical science’s current state of knowledge, for any of us who are so unfortunate as to succumb to this cruel fate, there are no red sheep in sight.

Another association I have to this symbolic statement, “the red sheep are coming,” is that it signifies that the only hope of being intellectually superior is to compete in less demanding circles or fields. Rather than symbolizing aspiration, it signifies compromise, perhaps even resignation to defeat. If the white sheep are too smart for me, then I’ll have to hope that the red sheep come along, because otherwise I am doomed to be left behind intellectually. Because of my interest in technology, I often experience waves of new developments arriving before I have assimilated the old ones. So I have experienced the reverse of the arrival of the red sheep. Again, this association is not a thought or feeling one would normally think would evoke laughter. And yet, for me, last night it did.

So what was it, then, that I found so funny about that statement?

For one thing, it was a terrific put-down, even though I was the butt of the “joke.” Perhaps my amusement at it was with the cleverness of its punch. As a put-down, it’s a pretty powerful slap in the face. I can think of a number of times when I might have been tempted to say that to a clueless customer who was calling for technical support, but courtesy, and to a degree empathy, compelled me to refrain. Plus, despite my amusement with its power as a put-down, it’s just not my style to say something like that to anyone.

My other amusement with it is that it seems to symbolize the futile hope that things will get easier as time goes on. If anything, the reverse is true. Things that used to be simple, like family life, where the next meal was coming from, or how to spend the day, are no longer simple. The great “red sheep” hope is itself a dream. Instead of that, one must prepare for the competition with the smart white sheep and it seems the even-smarter wolves that are just over the horizon. A friend recently said, “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” And I can only agree with that.

What’s it all about Alfie? I haven’t a clue. Yet, just as it entertained me last night to laugh at that phrase, this morning it has entertained me to try to make sense of all that non-sense. I guess I’ll just have to wait for the arrival of the red sheep when, with any luck, all will be made clear.