free html hit counter

Saturday, March 31, 2007


This afternoon Magaidh (shown here following an earlier, less successful hunt) incremented her kill count by 1, bringing her confirmed total to 6. Today's, prey was some kind of meadow vole type rodent.

Heather Marie was actually witness to the conclusion of the hunt, and because she was trying to intervene she got a close up look at the killing stroke. I missed the kill, but I got to clean up the aftermath. Let's just say that it left Heather rather traumatized and leave the descriptions at that.

Magaidh, of course, was very proud of herself and spent the rest of the day strutting around the yard looking for a new target.

Friday, March 23, 2007

How silly of us!

Duh, of course we couldn't find each other at the blog bash last weekend -- we all forgot to wear our capes and goggles!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fabric Future

We learned today that the Hancock's Fabrics store in Rogers is going to be closing later this year. Add that to the Wal-Mart fabric departments that are being phased out, and pretty soon it's going to start getting hard to buy fabric in NWA. Accordingly, the wife and I were out foraging for fabrics tonight after work, which got me thinking....

It would seem that sewing and fabric crafts, once the domain of do-it-yourself (DIY) homemakers, may be something of a dying art. It's not that people aren't still interested fabric-related activities, it's just that it's obviously hard to make a lot of money selling fabric. Once upon a time, when store-bought clothes were more the exception than the rule, you could save a lot of money by making your own clothes, but that really isn't the case anymore. Unless you have very specific or unusual needs, it's going to be very hard to compete with mass-produced clothing, even just for yourself. Making your own clothes may still worth doing, but not generally for cost savings.

Sound familiar, computer geeks? It should.

Sewing is one of the oldest and most mainstream DIY hobbies, and the fact that interest in it is waning should scare, or at least sadden, DIY computer enthusiasts, since it's symptomatic of a general societal decline in DIY interest and skills.

Once upon a time, sewing was a common skill among homemakers and people in general, because for a long time you couldn't even buy clothes unless you were rich. Even after clothing became readily available in stores, you could still save a lot of money by making your own clothes. As store-bought clothing became cheaper and more accessible, fewer people made their own clothes unless they had special needs or just enjoyed it. Finally, the cultural skills are beginning to atrophy and it's starting to become difficult to find the necessarily materials.

Once upon a time, system building was a common skill among computer users and technologists in general, because for a long time you couldn't even buy computers unless you were rich. Even after computers became readily available in stores, you could still save a lot of money by building your own computer. As store-bought computers became cheaper and more accessible, fewer people built their own computers unless they had special needs or just enjoyed it. How long until it starts becoming hard to buy components?

The same pattern repeats itself in pretty much every field that becomes mainstream and commoditized, so it's nothing new to computing, but it is kind of sad. The passing of an era, if you will.

I've built several of my own computers, and I've always enjoyed it. I like the research and planning that goes into the project, and I enjoy knowing and understanding exactly what's in my system from top to bottom. Plus, I've typically saved between $200 and $400 over comparable manufactured computers, which is nothing to sneeze at.

However, I doubt I'll build any of my future systems. As it stands now, I'd likely spend several hundred dollars more to do it myself than to buy from Dell or HP. (The fact that my next computer will almost certainly be a Mac is beside the point.) And I'm not alone. I work with a lot of computer geeks, and it's been a long time since any of them have built our own computer systems.

Also, consider this: there is no one running Mac OS X on a computer they built. That's obviously self-evident, since it only runs on Mac hardware from Apple, but when you phrase it that way, it becomes a little disturbing to thing that one of the fastest-growing segments of the market completely shuts out the DIY computer crowd.

Since this cycle seems to repeat itself so consistently, in clothing and cars and radio and electronics and computer hardware, how long will it be until software follows suit? Software has obviously moved well beyond the "you have to do it yourself" period, and for most applications the era of "saving money by making your own" has passed. Thanks to downloadable software, most people can easily find cheap software to meet most of their needs, and most users who write programs for their personal use do so because they have unmet needs or just enjoy it, so it seems like that's probably the period we're currently in.

Hopefully, thanks to the accessibility provided by the Internet, there won't ever be a lack of DIY software tools, but with trusted computing initiatives, the move toward locked-down platforms like cellphones, and the general public's ignorant unwillingness to insist on open platforms, we may start to see an environment where DIYers who want to write their own software won't have a place to do it.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Lessons Learned

We made it to the Celtic Grill tonight for dinner and the Blog Bash, but it wasn't quite like we'd planned, and there were a few lessons learned in the process:
  1. If you're going to a crowded place to meet a bunch of people you've never met, make sure you know what at least one of them looks like.
  2. Irish-themed restaurants are really not a place you want to be on St. Patrick's Day. Honestly, if I worked there, I'd go out of my way to get the flu every March. Despite the craziness, though, the staff was great.
  3. Octogenarians swilling green beer are not something you want to see.
  4. No one in a random sampling of NWA bar patrons knew what a blogger was. (Me: "Do you know if the bloggers are here?" Waiter: "No, the band is called Cullen's Hounds. The Bloggers aren't playing tonight.")
We got there a little late, and we had to wait a little over an hour for a table. While we waited we got to meet Valerie, who was also there for the bash. For a while we took turns venturing into the maelstrom trying to find our group, but to no avail. Heather Marie and I had put our names on the list as soon as we arrived, but Valerie finally decided to head home and try again some other time.

We finally got a seat in a booth in the bar area, and the meal was excellent (as always). My St. Patrick's Day pint of Guinness was good, but judging by the foam, I'm not entirely sure they poured it quite right. I think I've been spoiled by Guinness' cool, self-carbonating can contraption.

As we were just finishing our meal, Joe from Techography came up and asked if I was Ryan and if I had a blog. It turns out that they had all been at the table next to us the entire time! They had been debating whether or not I was me for a few minutes, but they weren't sure, since the only obvious pic on my blog is the cartoon one. Personally, I'm flattered to think that I did a good enough job on it that they recognized me at all. In retrospect, I think I should've recognized Matt, though, since he actually does look a little like the drawing on Overtaken By Events (minus the brick, of course).

Over all, we had a really good time. It was great to meet some of the locals whose blogs I read, and to finally put faces with their names. Plus, Heather Marie got to bring home a couple of the cool little Erin Go Bragh flags that the restaurant was decorated with.

Maybe with St. Patrick's Day on Monday next year the Celtic Grill won't be so crowded, but I wouldn't count on it. I think it has definitely been discovered now, and although Heather Marie and I love it, I think from now on we'll plan our visits for lunches and non-holidays.

Caed Mille Failte!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Heather Marie and I will be attending the NWA Blog Bash tonight at the Celtic Grill. We'd already planned to go there tonight anyway, so we might as well attend a party, too!

I'll be the completely average-looking guy with the really cute red-head. And she'll probably be wearing something that jingles.

Until then, it's a great time to brush up on handy Irish phrases and sayings.

"Pionta Guinness, le do thoil."

I've definitely gotta remember that one.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Wii Will Rock You

Yes, I finally managed to get a Wii. And, yes, it is as much fun as everyone says.

I've been really impressed by how well the Wii Remote actually works. It's surprisingly responsive and accurate, and I think it may really be a good indicator of one new way that we'll play games in the future. At the very least, it's great that Nintendo is willing to try new approaches, and the effort seems to be paying off for them in spades.

I do have some problems with Wii Sports, which comes with the system, but they're entirely personal. First, let me say that all the Wii Sports games are really fun. Even Heather Marie enjoys some of them, which is interesting, since she doesn't particularly like most sports, and the only video games she's consistently interested in are fighting games. That preference (especially in light of her affection for Hurling and Gaelic Football) is sometimes mildly disturbing, but I try not to think about it too hard.

There are five sports included: tennis, boxing, golf, bowling, and baseball. Really, tennis is the only one I'm really struggling with, and I think it's because I actually play tennis. In fact, tennis is the only sport that I've ever been really, genuinely any good at, and those skills definitely work against me. In real tennis, the direction of the ball is controlled primarily through a combination of foot position and follow-through. In Wii tennis, it's controlled by when you hit the ball (for right-handed players' forehands, hitting early means hitting to the left, late to the right, "on time" is straight).

You also don't have any control over where your on-screen player moves, so he often lines up for backhands when I would've moved around the ball for a forehand. It's incredibly frustrating when I can see the opening, and I know where and how to hit the ball, but when I do exactly what I know I need to do in order to make that happen, the ball goes off in some seemingly random direction.

Still very fun, but it helps if I don't think of it as tennis. I suspect that if I were any good at golf or bowling, then I'd have the same problem with them. At least I'm in good company, though, since one of the Williams sisters lost to Conan O'Brien.

Several people have written about using the Wii for exercise, and I can see how that might work, but in my case, I think it may be an indirect benefit. That's because playing Wii Sports has made me want to go play tennis and go bowling and maybe even try golf. Those sound like healthy compulsions, so maybe I'll follow through on them since the weather is warming up.

Likewise, if Zelda makes me want to grab a sword and save the world, I'll be sure to mention it here.

Labels: , ,