Off the Top
Random notes and rants.





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Wednesday, May 30, 2001
I added more photos to the Amsterdam section of the honeymoon photos. I suppose the photo section will need a home page and the honeymoon section will need a page too. This may have to follow some writing for a project that has dropped from my mind for a few days.
This evening we went to see the Gypsy Kings at Wolf Trap. It was a good evening, a little chilly, which made it feel like San Francisco/Shorline. I am in need of a good night sleep.

I found that CVS has a long way to go before they have the automated service down to a science. Maybe the problem is that it is not a science for them. My issue was when I called in to order my perscriptions for allergy medicine refills, using the automated refill service on the phone, they did not have the medicine when I went to the store to pick it up. The automated phone service is tied to a computer that pulls you history and name and the medicine. They should have gone the next step and tied it to their inventory. When I got to the pharmacy they told me one of my two prescritptions was not going to be in until the following day after 6pm. That is just poor thinking on their part. This is not rocket science. I have already run into too much poor thinking or general lack of thinking this week. This needed to flow in to next week, but it just may given CVS history.

Taylor's own Cursor Bot is too entertaining for a weekday morning.
Tuesday, May 29, 2001
This is a fake posting that will have to be reposted if and/or when Blogger ever comes back to working order for me (the template system seems to be completely hosed for Blogger and I modified my templates, silly me).

I found a wonderful resource of Intersection of Art, Technology, Science & Culture Links, which was compiled by Stephen Wilson, Ph.D. a professor in the Conceptial Information Arts (CIA) Program at San Francisco State University. I have spent 45 minutes clicking like mad and have been entertained and educated at each click. It is a wonderful resource.

Monday, May 28, 2001
I posted a few photos from our honeymoon on the site. The pages and some of the images will be optimized and there will be more photos added. A home page of these will also be created over the coming weeks.

Last night's Eric Clapton concert was fantastic. He and his band were incredible. His band included Nathan East on bass, Steve Gadd on drums, David Sancious on keyboard, and Andy Fairweather Low on second gituar. They started with an accoustic set of about seven songs with the Eric, Andy, and Nathan seated around a large oriental rug jammin'. I was really moved by the talent watching these guys in wonderful synch and bring songs I knew well to a whole new level. It was nothing short of stellar.

Sunday, May 27, 2001
The Sunday morning trip to the grocery store somehow managed to encompass a trip to the Apple store at Tysons Corner. I we know I have Titanium lust, which is only tied to the OSX, but I have never tried them in conjunction with each other. I was also intrigued with the Apple approach to the computer store. It was a winner on all fronts. I played with the Titanium w/ 256MB RAM and OSX and was very pleased with the interface and the quality of the media that was produced. The OSX is what would have kicked any Linux variant through the roof, but it is Apple's world to dominate and they have done a wonderful job. The UNIX underpinnings are easily found through the terminal and using the tcsh shell I was able to navigate the Mac like any UNIX or Linux box. The interface is rather intuitive and it light years ahead of what Windows XP is heading towards. I have played around with the Titanium hardware before and have been very impressed with the design of the ports, touch of the keypad, quality of the screen and sound, and the weight.

The store itself is a wonderful experience. It is light and airy so that when it gets filled with people it is still feels like their is room and each person has the ability to see the products with ease. The space is like Banana Republic meets Gateway/Circuit City with the ratio slider quite near the BR end of the scale. The store is a very hands on environment and all the Apple devices worked, but so did all the peripherals (Sony, Canon, Epson, Palm, Handspring, Nikon, etc.). There were plenty of peripherals to play with that were tied to the Apple products and displayed as stand alone products. The Apple staff was very knowledgeable about the Apple and non-Apple products. It is a wonderful setting to get hands-on testing and information. This is what Gateway could have been (Gateway Country Stores always feel cramped and kitschy and the sales staff is not always knowledgeable). The staff was also rather straightforward with information about OSX that is it is not fully featured, which is why OS9 also is accompanies OSX on current builds. The demonstration sessions are another nice touch. The question is "what will become of these stores in one to two years?"

Saturday, May 26, 2001
Today's adventure was to the National Building Museum. I can not believe I had never been until today. It is an amazing space housed in the old Pension Office Building which was built after the Civil War in 1882-1887. The building is huge open hall which measures 316 by 116 feet (a narrow football field) with two sets of large columns holding up the arched supports for the ceiling, which reaches about 15 floor above your head.

Joy and I were drawn there by two current exhibits The Architecture of Reassurance: Designing the Disney Theme Parks and On the Job: Design and the American Office. The Disney exhibit was well done as it offers scale models that were used as marketing and design tools for the various Disney parks around the world. There were copies of original plans that you were able to leaf through, plan drawings, and design drafts for building and sections of the parks. I left that exhibit wanting much more, like a pre-opening tour of the parks (I have been behind the scenes are Disneyland in California when I was in High School as our band was in the parade - yes I was a band geek too - and college for a media criticism course). I have read articles and seen documentaries about the building of the parks and the use of scale and line of site to mold the guests complete experience as Disney folks would want.

The On the Job exhibit I enjoyed even more (could be attributed to my "proportion to prior expectations ratio", which my enjoyment is proportionate to how much I expected going into an activity) as there was a collection of office furniture, office tools, office construction, and social environment interwoven throughout the exhibit. The exhibit included hands on use of office tools to get a real experience of them, multimedia on iMacs, and a smart card system using Sun workstations to enter information at the beginning of the exhibit then at the end to analyze your ideal work environment based on you and your job. This exhibit really triggered the thought processes on how environment is shaped to encourage better work and how the structure of work has changed over time.

One of the best part of the Building Museum was the bookstore, which was great. The Disney exhibit did not have a specific book tying the exhibit together, but the Job exhibit did. The bookstore covers the world of architecture, design, city planning, how space defines community, and children's books. I found a great book on Airline : Identity, Design and Culture, which was reinforced the Disney engineer surroundings thoughts I had earlier. Another find was New Design Amsterdam : The Edge of Graphic Design (New Design) encompassing poster, print ads, and other media with orange and blue themes throughout. These books have not yet been purchased, but may be in the near future.

I own and have read quite a few books on how the city space and physical environment influence how we interact with others and how we work, relax, and view our place in the world. This trek started in college reading City People by Gunther Barth. This book examines the turn of the century city and its community spaces (including the press) as a method of enculturation and how the differing entities interacted with each other and the community. Barth uses the department store and ball park as some of his venues for community interaction. A central component of this work is the blending of cultures and the immigrant's use of these elements to gain a common ground with others and a focal point to learn language and central cultural themes. The professor has now changed from this book to City Life, which is similar is its focus on the structure of the community and how the city and its people interact and each helps form the other.

Friday, May 25, 2001
SoftDevices has a cool new product for review, "Review Me". It is a great concept that really fits the iterative process well and it seems like a great execution of the idea. I was rather impressed and intrigued.
Ah it was a good day in a very odd way. Bugzilla is still missing components, which will have to sit unbuilt for a couple days while I get some planning and building work done. I may just clear the hard drives and rebuild the box with a Linux 2.4 kernel. That way I would know what was on the box. I am amazed at, what I consider basics are missing from the box. The whole thing is rather munged as it believes I have a running copy of sendmail, when sendmail is also hung in the middle of a build awaiting Berkeley DB, which is missing components (this is the Linux box that Jack built). A week or so ago I went through a slightly less painful process getting Webalizer running on a Sun box. I figured the Sun box would have some GNU products missing and I got through that build with out great hassles.

For those of you unfamiliar with the UNIX/Linux vs. Microsoft OS matrix. UNIX applications take some effort to get them running properly, but once running they will continue running with very little need for attention. Microsoft is a breeze to install, but is a pain to keep running. (These are stereotypes, but well deserved).

The good part, other than getting my hands dirty assembling applications, was I was able to wrap my mind around a classification problem. The construct and basis for the problem changed in scope by a magnitude plus. The complexity of the final build should easily fit the model I worked through today. I need to write it down as it is just in logical form, which rarely escapes as it is a logical solution but it need to share it with others the first part of next week.

Thursday, May 24, 2001
Looks like a good weekend to go to the galleries. The Phillips Collection, Corcoran, National Gallery, and the National Building Museum are all options. The Building Museum has a couple of exhibits that sound intriguing, The Architecture of Reassurance: Designing the Disney Theme Parks and On the Job: Design and the American Office.
Trying to get bugzilla up and running at work. I have been having to load most of the essential component of Linux, which seem like they should have been there before (inherited box) with four terminals running so I can load the next item that the sub-elements of bugzilla require (each component needs another thing that is not loaded, which then impacts something else I just built). Trying to do this around planning documents that we are rewriting for the third of fourth time. Today found out that we have never written a planning document prior to starting work. That was news to most of us. We wondered what we wrote and e-mailed and got "looks good" comments on.
Wednesday, May 23, 2001
My other pet peeve, beside inefficient use and storage of information is poor decision making when building information applications. I have run across poor choices of use of technology where the technology was not needed. Using technology (Flash, dynamic Web pages, maps, or color choice for backgrounds) with out a good reason to use it seems brain dead. It is fine for personal sites to go over board, but to add technology that makes and interface more difficult to use or inhibits the use of the information is a backward use of technology. Technology should be used to help not hinder the situation. Much of this is akin to the use of Java apps to scroll news headlines or make a flag wave. We got over those poor uses a couple of years ago. Most of us have been there and done that and learned from our experiences how to make better decisions. We are willing to teach if they are willing to learn.

N2S:: I need to learn Zeldman's tact. I have his love and passion for Web development, but sharing the experience has been tough (not from my part but the willingness to learn to do it right or even knowing there is a right way).

Yesterday the first issue of The Perl Journal arrived is what seemed like forever. It is a treat of a tech magazine as it is extremely informative and gets the juices flowing for my bag of personal projects and solutions for the day time hours.

This arrival and a very good Xblog today triggered updates to the Links page. Today's additions are TPJ, Intranet Journal, and Usability Infocentre.

Intranets and knowledge management are pet loves as they are grounded in the efficient use and reuse of information and data, which includes putting it in the hands of the people that need the information when the need it. Far too many times in large and even small organizations information is trapped in the hand (or file drawers) of a few. Often the rest of the organization does not know about this information and depends the effort to rebuild what was already built. The other problem is information that can best help make informed decisions for the enterprise or the clients that are paying them, is not found in a timely basis is not even known about by the parties that require this information to be efficient and productive.

Caution Web turbulence. A handful of folks have their Web presence down or stalled for various reasons. Some of my daily reads are down for technical reasons: Metafilter, Matt (who is posting a blurb at, Meg, Meg's mom jude, and pb (funniest post). Others are going through tough times, redesigns, or refocusing: Anil, glish (very cool message, of course, what else would eric do), Lance (although he is currently posting memolog). There are many places that I follow through others links that are in hiatus, but I will link them upon their return.
Tuesday, May 22, 2001
The whole Kaycee Nicole death mystery chronicled at Meta Filter in four threads (1, 2, 3, and 4) was entertaining this weekend. I was googling on Saturday night as it was unraveling. The result there was no death as there was no Kaycee Nicole. The pictures were of a local high school basketball star (who did not know of this). MeFi proved to be a no-bozo zone, which is a nice change.

There was some joking about a movie of the whole fiasco. An appropriate title, "Crouching Debbie, hidden Kaycee".

The first good electrical storm of the summer and I was heading back from work in the middle of it. I drove so as to keep our new car out of the predicted hail, but was engulfed in the midst of a huge downpour. The wonder of big storms in a new car is great wipers. The advantage this time was also four wheel drive and great tires. The lightening was pretty spectacular also.
Sunday, May 20, 2001
I did not make it to moving the site to a new server this weekend. The host has modified the passwords and was not available to explain the issues until Monday. Customer service is not a nicety it is a necessity.
I made an addition to the links page by adding heyjud to the list. This is megnut's mother. Heyjud is based in Paris and this is allowing me to escape back to our honeymoon, memories of college, and learning french in Montessori school. The site has great stories and great photos. It is a nice way to step outside my current world.

I have never been able to put my finger on my Euro-pangs. It is almost a home sick feeling at times. It may be watching The Red Balloon when I was young. It may be the European women running the Montessori school. The education system in the U.S. and the culture in general floods our minds with pictures of other places which are accompanied by stories and sounds. Or, it may even be the lighting that is similar to Seattle and Portland where I lived until I was a toddler through to my teens.

I moved from San Francisco more than seven years ago and one of the benefits I told my self was the ability to get to Europe more easily. It was only this last year for my honeymoon that I made it back to Europe. We went to Amsterdam, Brugges, and Paris. It made for an amazing two weeks and I have not been able to get the wanderlust out of my system since. I enjoyed living in England and spending extended time in Lyon in 1987 and '88. I would relish the opportunity to live in Europe again. I hope someday that it is more than a wish.

Saturday, May 19, 2001
Xerox Parc has an interesting section on Knowledge Ecologies. This research area includes Internet Ecologies, User Interface Research (which has some great information visualization pages), etc.
I found an intriguing article (warning :: Wall Street Journal subscription required) in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about the philosopher S.D. Noam Cook and his involvement with the knowledge management community. Cook is a consulting researcher at Xerox Parc.

Does anybody know how or where to get access to the Wall Street Journal articles online if you do not have a subscription. I have been trying to share this article with those I know may have an interest in reading this, but there are many of you I do not know that would most likely find the article interesting also. The closed information loop is frustrating to deal with.

Please contact me if you know the work around (thomas at vanderwal_dot_net). Thanks.

There may be some disruptions over the next few days as the back-end systems will be in the midst of changes. These changes will permit my rebuilding an annotated link tool (version 3, first one built in 1997 then a whole management tool built in 1998) to manage my links and add meta infomation that will help add depth to the links and the tool will make sorting and finding what I am looking for much easier.

The changes will also add a comment function to the posts.

Friday, May 18, 2001
Web Review, an on-line Web developer / designer 'zine, has an article covering Planning your site with UML. The Unified Modeling Language (UML) is a great place to start laying out how you plan to build your site. UML is essential the standard visual representation for flow and process. This is UML is a standard structured method visual explanations. By using UML others with the understanding of the standard structures will be able to easily interpret what you are trying to depict. UML is used plan as it makes scenarios of user paths through the information, site, and applications easier to follow. By laying out the site, information applications, or information flow it is easier to build. Many of the problems that are highlighted an iterative building process are caught in this design phase.
As started by kottke, the weekend fun is to raise a rather non-descript photo to the top spot on Yahoo's most viewed content list. The photo is this one. So please click this link a few times, you may even e-mail the photos to others to raise the ranking on most sent photos. Enjoy.
Thursday, May 17, 2001
The Washington Post recognizes blogs, but does not mention local blogs, like PerpetualBeta. Maybe Leslie Walker's column is now a national column, which would explain the lack of bringing this story home to the locals.
Wednesday, May 16, 2001
Blogger is lightening fast since the last patches and rough spell. I may add some of my ideas for categorical tagging for this area, which will ease the mixed strings of information and burst of long brain dumps that flood to this page at times. I would like a way to sort and only view tech related, cool links, fun ideas, or general rants.

Other additions are books I am "reading". I have many books on a broad selection of topics and usually have a few going at once, particularly if they are tech related. Example, current reads: Mapping Websites, Experience Design, Information Design, The Art & Science of Web Design, and Bobos in Paradise. These are not the regular resources that I am using, although many of them are becoming resources.

My links page has added a small Information Architecture section. The structure for the page is really streching its usability as there is a lot of information below the fold that I am forgetting about. Section links to anchors in the page are one option, but the links deserve better.
A great new resource for IA is IAslash. This is a repository of IA articles and postings based on the Slashcode software the are is the underpinning of slashdot. So far iaslash is without the acerbic tones and trolls. This is could be another great place to hangout and share experiences and learn from each other.

I may add a link section just for IA. I also need to get an annotated link page built.

But, first some sleep as caring about what I do keeps me from sleeping. Things have settled slightly.

The Iterative Finger Pointing Process (IFPP) = Where there are two or more sponsors with different sets of requirements each with dependencies that are not attainable for the developers.
Tuesday, May 15, 2001
The state of Ohio has a very detailed catalog of all of their railroad crossings. (Thanks to Gary for finding this). Some of the things that the project's mapping applications do with rail data would be greatly augmented with this type of information. It is just stellar to consider. There has not been any determination if the locations in the Ohio data can match the data captured at the federal level. This is also only one states effort, which is an outlier for the rest of the nation.
A very good day, which turned very strange.

We laughed. We were appalled.

I am ready to be pleasantly surprised.

It is kludgy enough it just might work.
Monday, May 14, 2001
Newest iteration of the project is in place and running. There are a couple JavaScript "issues" that need to be ironed out caused by communications between browsers, in that IE does allow this communication as they are being served from different servers. Can not find this documented anywhere, but it is not impeding the services. The final pieces began to come together after 8pm, but it was nice this time as it was a team effort.
XBlog found a great piece on Grassroots KM through blogging. The article and its related links point to using story telling as a way to impart knowledge of what an organization does, what are its goals, history, and vision. Organizations that don't bring in their new employees, volunteers, or new members with an orientation of any sort seem to greatly lose productivity from these individuals as they try to get an understanding of the basic functions and premiss of the organization. An intranet at a minimum is a first start, if an organization does not have a formal process an intranet is a great place to start (better yet is a personal guide or group orientation). For extended organizations an Internet site can really help get, not only the facts, but the feel of an organization.

Personally I am looking at bringing in a weblog on the projects I am involved with as it is a central place for individuals to share their strides, frustrations, needs, and successes that others on the team rely on to see a project come to successful fruition. E-mail is only a passable solution. The group weblog or discussion board that is a collection of individual's progress journals would benefit the whole during and after a project, when maintenance and repeatability are important. Many software development projects require their developers/programmers to keep a journal. Often this is done on paper, which is inefficient as it is not searchable or not friendly to recategorization of the information with out great extra/repeated effort. There are few perfect answers, but this one get to the core goal of capturing information in a usable and reusable format.

As a follow-on to Sunday's comments, peterme posted similar comments. Peter, it seems, is putting his thoughts that IA should follow some of the practices of marketers in today's post. Peter's reflections really have had me thinking about this stuff more than I usually do, which is incessantly. In digging through my copy of Tom Peter's short book, The Project 50 he mentions in rules 22 and 23 are to sell and sell all the time. The selling he is discussing is the success of the project and the skills the team and individuals bring. To this end I greatly agree, we need to point out the success IA can have on projects and organizations.
Having Blogger back is nice, Ev went through hell getting it back functional. One maxim that comes to mind is any project or application that require heroic efforts are poorly planned or poorly managed. In this instance Ev really has no choice at this point. Blogger is suffering from success and poor choices in the past. It takes more than one person to maintain and keep this product reliable, which so many rely on to post their thoughts for fun, efficiency, and communication.
I inadvertently became cool, thanks to Blogger. The cool kids stopped posting. Blogger went on the blink and therefore my ability to post here was gone. Yes, acting like the cool kids is fun, but this causes problems. I am not trying to be cool and am trying to post information that allows me to trace back my thoughts and find links. This also allows me to share ideas with others. So, while Blogger assisted me in acting like the cool kids I rather was losing my cool.

This last string of outages may have just bumped up the homegrown web logging project, which also has team capabilities for various projects.

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