Ducks, Peas, and Web Sites

Susan and I took some time off today and didn’t do any work. After a late breakfast we walked down to the park and fed some bread to the ducks and turtles. There’s quite an assortment of ducks this year including the usual white park ducks (well, I call ’em park ducks but I think they’re really Pekin Ducks), Mallards, Muscovies, Northern Shoveler, American Widgeons, and Coots. It was warm enough that some of the turtles are begining to show themselves – mostly Red Eared Sliders. There were some assorted other things around like Egrets and Cormorants but they don’t eat bread so they just ignored us.

Afterwards we practiced our Tai Chi in the park – something I’ve never done before. We’re both able to get most of the way through the first sixteen positions though it gets a little tricky after the second set of brush-knees.

I’ve finished reading Jules Verne’s The Floating Island to Susan and now we’ve moved on to The Monk in the Garden by Robin Marantz Henig. It tells the story of Gregor Mendel and his experiments cross-breeding peas which allowed him to discover the principals of inheritance. So far the book is moderately interesting but the author feels if you can’t find enough facts to fill in the whole story, you should just make up something that sounds good so that the story flows along like a novel. So periodically, she will insert a paragraph or two of ridiculous speculation on what Mendel might have thought about or what he might have said to someone. Usually the made-up parts are about as historically believable as the dialog on the Hercules or Zena TV shows. Fortunately those portions of the book are infrequent and small enough they can be easily skipped.

Mozilla. 0.8.1 is out. My advice is to stick with 0.8. The new release is far less stable than 0.8 and is crashing several times a day (in fact it’s less stable the Netscape!). Also, it’s full of bugs that weren’t in 0.8. Yes, I’ve filed bugzilla reports on them, so I’m allowed to complain. :-) Hopefully they’ll get things back on track with the 0.9 release next month.

Meanwhile, is keeping me busy. Lots of Perl coding as well as lots of bugs fixes and changes to mod_virgule. One things that keeps amazing me about most of the web portal software like mod_virgule and slash and scoop is how primitive and slow they seem compared to the multi-user BBS software we used to have. It takes a fast Pentium II or III to do what your average BBS software could do back in the ’80s on a 20Mhz 80286. Mod_virgule seems a little better than the others (and has Raph’s cool trust metrics stuff – that’s something that does work better than what we had back in the good old days). I ran several of the old BBS packages for years and they were much more versatile in general. I’ll probably get all the features I need for hacked together out of mod_virgule and lots of Perl code but I think when I’m done I may just have to write an Apache module of my own that takes the best of modern web software and adds in the best features BBS software.

The Floating Island by Jules Verne

It’s been a slow week so far. I got an nice form letter from the EFF, thanking me for a contribution and they sent along a shiny black bumper sticker with their logo on it. The sticker is printed on some sort of plastic and smells just like those inflatible toys that kids play with at the beach. Another Tai Chi class monday. I’m finally getting the hang of the first three or four moves.

I picked up an out-of-print book on eBay that I’ve been searching for. The Floating Island (aka Propeller Island) by Jules Verne. Like most really cool ideas, Verne seems to have thought of constructing a floating city on the ocean long before most. Buckminster Fuller came up with the same idea back in the 50’s and there must be dozen groups promoting the idea today as if they’d thought of it, such as Oceania, Freedomship, Celestopea, and Aquarius. One of these days I’m going to put together a web page of info on the whole Sea City idea. The other claim to fame for The Floating Island is that it is supposed to be the first novel in a European language to be written in the present tense and third person. The copy I bought is just under 100 years old but is well-preserved and includes all those cool illustrations that you don’t get in modern reprints of Verne books.