There Is No Cat

Hollering into the void since 2002

Monday, November 27, 2006

The survey says....

Defense Mapping Agency Survey Mark

I stumbled across (well, not literally, and good thing or I would have wound up tumbling down into the water, I think) this metal disk embedded in some rock across the street from a lighthouse in Woods Hole, Massachussetts, when we were on Cape Cod recently. The Defense Mapping Agency no longer exists, having been subsumed into the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and there's not much information on the web about these survey marks, but they must have been important for someone to go to the trouble to place one in the rocks on the shore here. Near as I can tell, these were part of an effort to map the Americas for use in weapon navigation systems (although the data were used for many other things as well, that seems to be the most likely explanation for the impetus behind the effort).

Anyway, it caught my eye, and I thought it was a photo of an interesting object.

Posted at 11:44 PM
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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Hyannis Holiday

Laura and I went to Cape Cod last weekend. Everybody wants to go to the beach in Massachusetts in November, right? Actually, we got lucky; the weather was quite nice, not quite balmy but in that general neighborhood.

Empty lifeguard's chair

Laura was there for a dance weekend, which meant I had some free time to explore. One place I visited was Hyannis, ancestral playground of the Kennedys. I took pictures.

Lawn chairs are everywhere and my mind describes them to me

Posted at 6:48 AM
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Friday, November 17, 2006

That Christmas magic brought this tale to a very happy ending

One of the few lasting additions to the canon of holiday songs to come out of the punk and new wave revolution of the late 1970s and early 1980s was "Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses. It's probably the only song of theirs that gets played on the radio any more (not that "I Know What Boys Like" and "No Guilt" got much play on the radio even back then from anyone other than college radio DJs like myself, but no matter), the song that keeps The Waitresses from being something other than a footnote. Which is useful, because they were a damned good band.

Anyway, Chris Butler, the leader and songwriter of the band (but not the singer; the late Patty Donohue sang everything) used a baby blue Vox teardrop guitar on "Christmas Wrapping", a guitar he hocked in 1987 when he was fed up with music. It was a special guitar. Now, on the dawn of the 25th anniversary of the original release of the song, Chris has tracked down the guitar and bought it back. Maybe. He brought along a tape recorder (or maybe an MP3 recorder, or whatever) on his trip to Belgium to do so, and edited together a nice audio telling of the story that wouldn't sound out of place on This American Life. Go listen. Good stuff.

Posted at 5:06 PM
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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Just shoot me now

I find this article in the New York Times about how to make better web sites almost unbearable. Not because anything in it is wrong. But because everything in it is stuff that we've known for just about forever. The article could have just as easily been written in 1998 as in 2006. Even the people who are quoted in the article would have been the same back then (Vincent Flanders and Jakob Nielsen, I'm looking at you). Don't write in jargon. Don't use splash pages. Different users have different monitors that see web sites in different ways. No dancing bologna. Make text as text, not graphics. Gaaah! It's like we haven't learned a goddamned thing in almost ten years!

I don't mean to beat up the reporter who wrote this. Hell, I work on sites that to this day use the words "click here" and "more" for links, and I die a little more every time I add the links. But Jesus Christ, are we ever going to make any progress? It's not like we've stood still. There's a hell of a lot more designers out here who understand the importance of semantic markup now than there was when I ranted about the subject back in 1995. The Web Standards Project has beaten up the browser manufacturers enough that the browsers currently in use actually support HTML and CSS reasonably well. And you could destroy a bookshelf under the weight of all the books published recently that explain the latest and greatest advances in how to create web sites.

Maybe I ought to just go work as a carpenter or something....

Posted at 7:32 PM
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Monday, November 13, 2006

Mission Improbable

Stop sign reading 'Stop Bush'

For the first time in six years, I have some hope that this might be true....

Posted at 11:50 PM
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Tuesday, November 7, 2006

I eat the flesh of the living, and I vote

Polling Place District 14 31

I love Election Day. We live about a block and a half away from the school that serves as our polling place. Unless it's raining, we always walk to the polling place early in the morning and cast our votes. Doing that usually puts me in a good mood, a spring in my step, for the rest of the day (at least until the returns start coming in). This year, I have high hopes that that mood will even survive the results....

One of the nice things about past elections was the voting machines. We used the old mechanical lever booths with the curtains that opened and closed with the switch inside the booth. There was always something so satisfying about the physical sensation of flipping the lever, the clicking sound each lever made as I selected my candidate, and the thunk! of the gears turning and the votes registering as I flipped the red lever to submit my vote and open the curtain. Alas and alack, that ended this year. We were greeted by electronic voting machines, Sequoia Systems AVC Advantages. Sequoia sells these specifically as replacements for the lever systems, so presumably they're designed to fit in to that system. I guess it worked; everything else about voting was the same: the same gymnasium, the same tables staffed by poll workers, the same ledger with all the names in alphabetical order and scanned signatures to compare against the ones we entered, the same pad of white paper where we signed, half of which was then torn off for us to give the person running the voting machine. The curtains in front of the machine no longer open and close on their own; you have to do that for yourself. No smart cards of the type I've read about in other types of machines. Unfortunately, there's also no paper trail for these newfangled voting machines. And there are also potential security flaws in these voting machines, flaws that have not received the amount of publicity of the Diebold ones, but serious nonetheless. I mentioned my misgivings to the person manning my booth, but he was unaware of any concerns. They post the vote totals on the front of the school, after all, so we can see what the vote was. Sigh. I think maybe I should volunteer to be a poll worker for the next election. Maybe that would be the excuse I need to vote by absentee ballot. That would be a shame, because I so enjoy the ritual of voting, but I would rather ensure that my vote is counted and secure than walk up to the school.

Vote Here Today

Posted at 10:21 AM
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This site is copyright © 2002-2017, Ralph Brandi. (E-mail address removed due to virus proliferation.)

What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio


There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

Sylvester (the Dorito Fiend), who died at Thanksgiving, 2000.


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