Older blog entries for MichaelCrawford (starting at number 173)

14 Apr 2004 (updated 14 Apr 2004 at 07:26 UTC) »

I never thought I'd get homesick, not while I was with Bonita. The main reason we moved to Canada was that she was homesick. I like Canada just fine, so I figured I'd never get homesick living here.

But just now I was listening to Radio Paradise - which is located in Paradise, California, a small town in the Sierra Nevada mountains - and they played a song called California Stars by Billy Brag & Wilco.

I found my eyes filled with tears. I miss California so much. The song reminds me so much of Santa Cruz. I lived there for fifteen years. I never thought I'd leave.

I am so far from home.

I'd like to rest my heavy head tonight
On a bed of California stars
I'd like to lay my weary bones tonight
On a bed of California stars
I'd love to feel your hand touching mine
And tell me why I must keep working on
Yes, I'd give my life to lay my head tonight
On a bed of California stars

12 Apr 2004 (updated 12 Apr 2004 at 03:20 UTC) »
Writing and ZooLib

I've decided I ought to finally get around to finishing The ZooLib Cookbook, which I started quite a while ago and then got sidetracked away from.

My article on happiness is turning out to be much more difficult to write than I had anticipated, so I'm leaving it off for now to spend time thinking more deeply about the subject.

I've been wanting for quite some time to write a book, and figure that finishing the one I've already started would be the best way to go.

I approached a couple publishers about having them make a dead-tree edition of the zoolib cookbook, and even wrote up a pretty good prospectus, but got turned down by both because not enough people were using zoolib yet for the publisher to be confident they would sell enough copies to recoup their investment.

But I know the biggest complaint most people have about zoolib is that it's poorly documented. That's all my fault - I promised Andy Green I'd document ZooLib way back in 2000, and I haven't fulfilled my promise yet.

I think that if I actually completed the zoolib cookbook, it would encourage so many new developers that the chances of getting a dead-tree edition published would become pretty good.

I'm working at configuring my iBook both to support writing documents in docbook and to hold the zoolib source code and serve it to my other boxes. ZooLib being a cross-platform framework, what you want to do is put the source on a file server so that computers running other operating systems can get the same set of sources.

I have a Mac running Linux as a dedicated file server, but I want to be able to take my ibook to other places to work.

Update: DocBook

I could use some help from anyone who has successfully processed docbook XML documents on Mac OS X using the toolchain provided by Fink (a port of debian's apt package system to Mac OS X). I'm making progress, but right now I get hundreds of errors that are all like:

"X0174" is not a function name

I've gotten docbook to work on slackware and debian before, but it is always a chore, and I haven't found a nice way to do it yet that doesn't involve scripts with lots of hardcoded pathnames.

Married Life

Bonita told me the other day, that if she really wants something that she feels she should not buy, she will ask me about it, because I am sure to insist she should have it.


badvogato, I agree I haven't done such a good job on What is the Key to Happiness? - yet.

But I'm determined to do well at it, to do very well at it.

I wouldn't have publicly linked my first draft in the past, but I'm experimenting with requesting criticism earlier in the process than I have before. I do find it tremendously helpful to have others critique my writing as I write it. Previously I just asked a few friends to critique my early drafts but thought I would try opening it up to everyone.

Sometimes I think I've done a great job on some particular part of an article, only to find that other people just don't get it. That means I have to work harder to make myself clearer. That's something that wouldn't happen if I waited until I was all done to publish an article.

Bonita read my draft last night, then we had a long discussion about it. I really enjoyed the talk we had. Bonita seems to think I have bit off more than I can chew with this topic, and I do find that it's harder to write about intelligently than other articles I've written.

But Bonita thinks I should persist in writing it, but to take longer to work it out, so that I ultimately can do a good job. And that is what I shall do.

She thinks I should read more books than the two I'm writing about in the article. She also doesn't think I should have posted my very first draft online - but that was an experiment, you know what they say: "release early and often".

One reason I write on a particular topic, the reason I pick the topics that I do, is that writing helps me to clarify my understanding of some question that is bothering me. I spend some time trying to figure something out, but there's only so much that I can hold in my head without writing it all down. Writing an essay or article, and doing the work it takes to write it well, helps me to understand.

Quite aside from any benefit anyone else may get from reading my new article, it is a question I need to answer for myself. I have spent so much of my life so desperately unhappy, struggling to understand how I could possibly ever be happy again, that to really understand this would be more valuable to me than just about anything.

I'm happier than I was a few months ago, but not as happy as I would like to be.


I have posted the first draft of my new article, intended for publication at Kuro5hin when it's ready.

I have found it incredibly helpful to solicit comments from readers with other articles I've written. The subject is important both to me and I think most other people. I want to do the best job I possibly can, not just so that my article will be voted to the front page by K5's moderators, but so that it will be genuinely helpful to anyone who might read it. So tell me what you think I can do to improve:

Although I've expressed most of the concepts I want to cover, I'm not at all happy with what I have so far. But I'm confident that if I work at it for a while it will be much better.

I have more to say about it, and I hope there will be some discussion in my Kuro5hin diary.


I have written quite a few articles and essays over the years, that are mostly posted online, but are scattered widely. So tonight I created an index to all my writing.

New K5 Article In The Works

I discuss my plans for an upcoming kuro5hin article in my k5 diary.

It will be about happiness.

Spring is in the Air!

I was incredulous to hear it was the first day of Spring a few days ago. It was still bitterly cold and there were several inches of snow left on the ground.

But today it is sunny and, while not warm, I could go outside comfortably in a sweater.

I don't think I mentioned it here before, but Bonita got me a guitar for Christmas. I had mentioned in the Fall that I'd like to learn an instrument more portable than a piano. I've been working through a beginning guitar book, and can play some simple songs like Yankee Doodle.

So today I sat out on the front porch and practiced my guitar. It was joyous.

With the coming of each winter, I am always entranced to see the first snowfall, but by the end of it I am always very weary and eager to see the Spring.

It's a good day today.

24 Mar 2004 (updated 24 Mar 2004 at 22:28 UTC) »
Recommend a Digital Camera?

My wife wants a digital camera for various reasons. I've put off buying one for quite some time because cameras as fancy as I would like, to prefer them over film cameras, are still very expensive. But my wife has proposed we get an inexpensive one for her use, and I get my fancy one later.

But still I will be using it sometimes. There is one feature I absolutely require in a digital camera, that is surprisingly hard to find - the option to take uncompressed images.

Most cameras offer JPEG file formats, which is a lossy compression. Now suppose you resize a picture in the Gimp or Photoshop, and save as a JPEG again so you can put it on the web - then you've done lossy compression twice and introduced artifacts.

A friend has a camera (an old model now) that offers both JPEG and TIFF formats, and close examination showed that we could find artifacts in the highest quality JPEG setting that were not in the TIFF files.

It can be difficult to shop for cameras when this is a factor, at least when shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. We went to wal-mart yesterday, and they had a handy booklet of data sheets, so one could check the file formats, but only one camera offered RAW format, and they didn't actually have that camera in stock.

We went to Staples today and the file format wasn't listed on the product display. I asked a salesclerk and he said "just a couple of the high-end cameras have it". He seemed a little vague as to which cameras exactly, and recommend that we "could always convert JPEG to TIFF". When someone makes such a statement, I know not to listen to anything else he says.

Is there a website somewhere that lists which cameras offer RAW or TIFF format?

It really seems to me that a camera should not have to be expensive to offer RAW format. Very little extra work would be required in developing the firmware to support RAW. After all, the image starts out uncompressed. I could see how an embedded TIFF encoder could be hard to write, but certainly it won't be as difficult as encoding JPEGs.

Other features we would like are optical zoom, a threaded hole for tripod mounting, and somewhere around three megapixels.

Cameras that have all of the above except for the uncompressed format cost about CAD$300, which my wife seems comfortable spending.

A camera for me that I'm waiting to buy would have lenses you can change, adjustable exposures, including the ability to take long exposures at night, uncompressed format of course, and higher resolution. The Sigma SD9 is my current favorite. It costs around a thousand dollars - I'm not sure if that includes a lens or not. Maybe if work goes real well this year.

Oh yeah - one more thing. My wife hates it when I get involved with the purchase of any sort of consumer electronics. I just about drove her around the bend while shopping for her recent laptop purchase. She is threatening that, if I give her too much trouble over her choice of camera, she'll run out and buy some random one when I'm not looking.

She actually did that when she wanted a new boom box, because I wanted to select one that had quality audio fidelity. She bought one for $69 that sounds like absolute crap but she is very happy with. She finds it hard to understand why I care about shooting uncompressed digital photos, in much the same way that I think she really can't tell the different between good and poor audio quality.


I talk about how my piano lessons are going in my kuro5hin diary.

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