The Old Burningbird Weblog

This site is the old Burningbird Weblog, begun in 2001, though the entries only go back as far as 2002.

Newer work can be found at Burningbird.

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Travel, See the World, Wear a Burqa

The start of the new year has been quiet for me. I finished editing on the book and my editor, Simon St. Laurent, is pleased with it. I think it will do well–it’s definitely not entering an over-saturated market.

I’ve been spending less time on my computer more time outside, which has been nice. The weather has been odd, to say the least. We had tornadoes cross the state a few days ago and now we’re heading back into our normal cold weather. I plan on going bald eagle watching next week, if it doesn’t snow.

I had an odd opportunity open up this week. Several years ago I had volunteered for Geekcorps, the organization created to send geeks into developing countries in order to help them build up their internet and IT structures. This week I received a note about a Geekcorp opportunity–in Afghanistan, of all places.

My first reaction was interest. I do like to travel, and can’t afford such on my own–at least, not to other countries. In addition, Afghanistan isn’t a place that’s on the normal tourist lists. After thinking on it, though, and especially in regards to recent events in the country, I became a little more wary. Right now, if you’re working in Kabul, you’re staying in Kabul. Chances are, you’re rarely going outside of whatever protected compound where you’re doing your work and living. It is dangerous in Afghanistan, especially being a woman–if women in tech are underrated oddities in this country, in Afghanistan, being a woman in technology could not only open you up to insult, but also to harm.

I asked the recruiter if there were other female Geekcorps members in Afghanistan, and she replied that there were no other Geekcorps people in the region, period; the organization was doing a ‘favor’ for a UK consulting company who was looking for people for a project with the Afghan government. The funder behind this effort? The World Bank.

Needless to say, I declined. Also needless to say, I’ve removed myself from the Geekcorps volunteer lists.

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New Year

Once upon a time, when I wrote a story or a tutorial and published it online, it had a beginning, a middle, and an end. It wasn’t driven by artificial deadlines, or created from pieces scattered about in weblogs and in Twitter, and the occasional IRC or email. It certainly wasn’t dependent on whether I would be acknowledged by some ‘leader’ so that I would actually be included in an all important, and soon over, discussion. Now, my writing is becoming less a story and more like that half heard cellphone call of the guy sitting next to us on the train–the only difference being with the phone call, at least there was someone on the other end of the line, listening to what the guy said.

I’ve been lucky at this site for the people I have met over the years. I’ve also been lucky for the excellent discussions that have occurred in my comments, whether inspired by my writing or by the quality of the other commentary. The times, though, are changing.

I’ve turned comments off of Burningbird and am re-fashioning it back to the type of writing I used to do before I got caught up in the ‘social network’ this has all become. I don’t want to come across as I’m taking my social graph and heading home. It’s more that I find myself resistant to becoming yet another data node.

I have found that turning off comments on older posts does not impact on hearing new stories and new views. Some of the most charming and treasured email I get has come from those who have discovered an older story of mine, and sent me an email with a story of their own. I hope the same will continue with the new stories I write, and, perhaps, form the basis for new stories.

Comments are still very welcome at Burningbird’s RealTech, which will become the focus of most of my tech writing. However, rather than focusing on new events, RealTech is going to be focused on real technology–technology I’ll have tried, or technology I’m currently using. As such, I’ll most likely miss the ebb and flow of this minute in tech history that has been the basis of so much of my writing in the past. One other change is, since RealTech is focused on my ongoing experiments, the technology used to build the site is based on specification and not browser. My current list of supported technologies is XHTML 1.1, SVG 1.1, CSS 2.1, and JavaScript. I’ll leave it to your imagination to determine which browser will drop by the wayside.

I’ll still link other posts in some of my writings, but most outside linking will come through the use of my account. We can add commentary using this site’s services, and I plan on using the API to list my most recent entries in the sidebar. I’ll also be linking less to the stories of the moment and more to stories that are fresh, new, and perhaps not given the audience they deserve.

I’m not sure what I want to do on the tech at this site yet. I may not continue using WordPress for this main site, or if I do, use my own customized version since it’s now so easy to keep up with changes and bug fixes in the underlying code. If I do create a universal feed, it will take the place of the existing Burningbird feed. I plan on longer, and less frequent writings, so the main feed will be an excerpt only. RealTech still uses full feeds: got to leave some door open for IE users.

I wouldn’t trade the people I’ve met through my comments here and elsewhere for all of the DRM-free MP3s at Amazon. I’ve known many of you longer than most marriages last. You are my friends, and as such, will always be cherished. If we don’t meet up in comments at my place, I hope we do at yours, or at RealTech, or in emails. As friends, I also know you’ll understand that I need a change.

Thank you for your time you’ve gifted me. Thank you, also, for your patience and support in the past and hopefully in the future.

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Time Lapsed Memories

Sitting here, listening to a freshly downloaded Trans-Siberian Orchestra Christmas album, I’m reminded of when we lived on Grand Isle in Vermont.

We lived in a rented house with a view of the lake from the living room, and the main road and hills from the large country kitchen in the front. You had to turn down into our drive, which made leaving a bit difficult at times during adverse weather. To the side of our drive way was a big red barn. In front of that, in the field all by itself, was a beautifully shaped evergreen in perfect Christmas tree form.

That first winter, snow began to fall before Halloween and never left once it took hold. The lake started freezing all around the shoreline, and ice filled in the small bay in front of our house. Along the access way to the mainland, we could see tentative tracks in the snow near the water as fisherman tested the ice anxiously, checking for that magic time when they could put up their ice fishing shacks.

As Thanksgiving came and went, the snow grew higher–brilliant white, powdered crystals that drifted around the house and along the side of the road. The crews kept the roads remarkably clear, and we could see from our ‘mud room’ the cars zipping down the hill, as it curved around the field where our house lay.

We had feeders in the big, gnarly old apple tree in front, which were appreciated by cardinal and chipmunk alike. The chipmunks were especially funny, because they would stuff their mouths so full of nuts that their eyes were almost forced shut.

On Thanksgiving day, two busy beavers took time off from easting roasted turkey and fresh baked pumpkin pie, in order to create our own special Christmas scene. That night, we flipped the switches, and on came the lights surrounding our house, the red barn, the bushes in front, and especially that evergreen tree–now splendidly lit in its proud isolation in the snow covered field.

Not elegant white lights, no. These were a child’s delight of color. Rich reds, greens, blues, and sparkling yellows and oranges chased themselves around the eaves and danced in their own reflection in the snow and around the icicles hanging down from house and barn.

We stood out on the porch looking at the lit tree, sipping hot spiced cider and enjoying the results of our work when we heard a car coming down and around the hill facing toward the tree. Muffled against the snow was the sound of racing engine almost stalling as whoever was driving took their foot off the gas. What must they have seen? A house covered in lights, and in what was once a dark, formless nighttime field, a perfect tree, glowing with color?

From that night on until New Years, cars would slow coming down the hill, sometimes even pulling over to the side to stop to look at a tableau of moonlight streaking across a frozen lake, fronting a snow softened valley and field filled with home, barn, and tree, sparkling in color.

Christmas morning dawned with sun shining brilliantly on the snow and ice, glowing richly against the red of the barn, the green of evergreen brush and trees; blue sky forming a backdrop for lake and field. Snow had come and gone since the lights had been added and covered the tracks and electrical line to the tree, leaving a field unmarked by human.

I was at the window looking out at the field, drinking a cup of coffee, when I noticed movement to the left. Out from the brush and trees separating us from our neighbors came a red fox. We watched as it stopped for a moment, seemingly also enjoying the view. It then took off across the field; hopping rather than running, as it would sink into snow that almost covered its head with each jump.

The fox hopped to the Christmas tree and stopped once more, looking closely into its depths. Perhaps it wondered what strange stuff was wrapped around the familiar old tree. Maybe it heard the rustle of bird or small creature. The red of its fur was brightened by the sun, saturated against the dark green of the tree. A breeze blew a wisp of powdered snow from the tree down on the fox, and it raised its nose into the air and sniffed at the stream of glitter flowing past. Catching the scent of rabbit or den, it once again began making its slow, hopping away across the field and out of sight.

Merry Christmas.

Posted in Life | 12 Comments

Time Lapse Photography

Photojojo has written a guide to time lapse photography that seems to be very comprehensive.

I’ve not tried time lapse, other than perhaps a photo over a few seconds. It’s an interesting art form, and one that really does require some forethought — after all, typically you’re leaving a camera in one place. Even if you aren’t leaving your camera in one place, you have to ensure that the camera is placed just so for each shot.

One of the best examples I’ve seen is this YouTube movie: Noah Takes a Shot of himself every day for 6 years complete with music.

The music was created by Carly Comando, and it’s really beautiful, but I could swear I have heard it elsewhere, and no not in the Simpson’s recreation of Noah’s work. I think it was in a movie. If it was the same song played in the movie, it was just as compelling. I plan on buying the song at iTunes, eMusic, or Amazon–wherever I can find it.

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Senator McCaskill supports Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007

I’m a happy camper. I just received an email from Senator McCaskill’s office that the good Senator is supporting the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007. I know my House Rep, Carnahan is on board. Now, I have to decide if I want to beard our state’s Republican senator, Kit Bond, on the issue.

Something about pigs flying, or hell freezing over, or something like that.

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Kevin Tweets

I may have to break my “No Twitter” zone just to read Kevin Marks. Yesterday he came up with, It’s an ad feminam attack which, frankly, I will make use of in the future. Then today:

Yes, it’s web 2.0 misanthropy week. Who else is sounding like Scrooge?

Well, me in a way. I’m tired and it shows. I’m heading into my weblog’s seven year anniversary, but my shelf life feels like six. I also reacted to one person, who I should have ignored. Then I used that person to tar and feather the rest of weblogging, which, though isn’t necessarily undeserving, isn’t particularly useful in the long term.

Who is wrong?

Everyone. They’re all bastards.

Oh. Well I guess we don’t have a starting point for improvement, do we?

But, you know, the snow has been pretty. My cat is cute. I have friends, virtual and otherwise. And we’re not being blasted to death by radiation from a nearby black hole. We’re ahead.

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