Friday, 30 April 2004

A Meditation on Desktop Zen Gardens

To me, a Zen garden is a profoundly beautiful thing, with raked sand around stones. Of course, that's not the only form of Zen garden, but it's the form that we've latched onto as Westerners. It seems either stupid or strange to condense such an object into a size conventient for desktop use. It seems like a typical Western bent on an Eastern design: distil, condense, simplify, mass-produce and sell. I'll admit that it is entirely possible, say, to create a desktop Zen garden that does not betray its philosophy, but when it's made of plastic and sells for $9.95 with colourful pebbles, someone's gone too far.

Think of a Western icon, like a sports car or a cathedral, then reduce it in size, make it of poor quality, and put it on your desk. Now what's it for? It doesn't represent anything it did before, and most of its actual function has disappeared. If I was a Zen Buddhist, that's probably how I'd feel about desktop Zen stone gardens.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - But then again, if I was a Buddhist, I'd have a different personal philosophy.
PPS - So I can't actually say for certain how I'd feel about it all.

Thursday, 29 April 2004

The Limitations of Tools

My web browser Firefox (and, I would presume, Mozilla proper) has a nifty feature I discovered this morning - keywords for bookmarks that can be parameterised. So, for example, you can define a bookmark to Google in a certain way, give it a keyword, and then search just by typing "google frogs" in the address bar. (Not that you would do that, however, since Firefox has a built-in search box, too.)

The second part of the puzzle is our web proxy running here at work. It performs extensive and over-paranoid site blocking, but does save us heaps of bandwidth on banner ads. Still, some sites are blocked unfairly, and a way around the proxy for those sites would be good.

I found a way around it by using Google translation - tell it to translate from English to English, and the proxy is blind. I've memorised the URL prefix to append to any blocked site to view it via this method.

Parameterised keyword bookmarks seemed like a perfect way to avoid typing the longish URL prefix, so I gave it a go. I defined a parameterised keyword bookmark, found a blocked site, and typed my keyword before the URL in the address bar. Firefox couldn't handle all the dots and slashes as part of a parameter and fell flat on its face. Sigh.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I don't think I'll file a bug report.
PPS - For all I know, this is by design.


On the Blogger main page at the moment is a link to "Blindfold Blog" - a blog written by Ann Marie, who is apparently training to be a Guide Dog trainer. Confused yet? Anyway, as part of her training, she had to spend ten days blindfolded and working with a trained dog, to get an inside perspective. I found it really interesting, especially the blindfold removal on day 10.

I've seen documentaries of people with restored sight, too, and I think it's fascinating to observe people learning to use their eyes again (or for the first time). I think learning is one of the most interesting phenomena to observe in this world.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Almost forgot the link.
PPS - Silly me, forget me own head next, etc. etc.

Wednesday, 28 April 2004

Childish Picard

I can't help but think that Captain Picard was laughing on the inside every time he called Riker "Number 2".

"Make it so, Number 2."
Hehe. I called him "poopie".

Eh? Eh?
[crickets chirping]

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Well, at the very least, it might have taken Patrick Stewart a few days to learn to say it without smirking.
PPS - Or maybe he's not that childish. What do I know?

EDIT: After my personal Star Trek knowledge and experience has increased, I've realised that Riker is not referred to as "Number 2" at all, but "Number 1". The joke may stand, but it's not quite the same.

And I'm Spent

The last, final, absolutely never again meeting for the church fair was last night, where I presented my final report and bowed out. That's it. No more. People there seemed to be assuming I'd be taking the job again next year. Not on your life. As with everything, it seems less stressful in hindsight, but I must remember that my time spent planning this fair was full of stress and pain. I did not enjoy it, and I'm extremely happy it's over.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I will, however, be around to give advice to the next coordinator.
PPS - I won't be actually doing anything.

Tuesday, 27 April 2004


Every minute of every day we leave behind the person we once were. Change is not just inevitable - it is essential. Without change, there is no growth. Without growth, we cannot adapt. If we cannot adapt, we spend more time trying to change our environment. Eventually all of our time is taken and we have none left to live in. The world will change whether you want it to or not. As long as you live here you will have to make peace with change.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - So it is with software, too. You must design for change.
PPS - Because, frankly, your users will change their minds EVERY. FRICKIN'. DAY.

Monday, 26 April 2004

I Suppose All Things Come to an End

I met Emily at AGMF in Toowoomba over the Easter weekend. I haven't seen her since then and, although I could technically get in contact with her, I won't push for it. Call me crazy (I would) but I'm sure it's better this way. I don't really trust that we felt anything real for each other, and I'm probably already reading way too much into it. I do that, by the way.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - One weekend, one day, only a few hours, really.
PPS - I'd better let it go.

Friday, 23 April 2004

Disconnected Thoughts

I'd like to think that all I needed to get over my little funk was the good sleep I got last night, but I suspect that's not the case. Oh, well. I did need it, though.

I fold paper cranes as part of coping with stress. I have about twenty here at work at the moment, and more at home. It works reasonably well, as long as there are a few other methods in the repertoire.

Soon enough I'll have to start walking to the train station to procure my daily Tazo, since the vending machines here are running out, and I haven't seen one in the shops for over a week.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm looking forward to the weekend.

Thursday, 22 April 2004

Wearing Down, Burning Out

I'm not sure how it's happening, but lately I've felt very busy all the time. I've been unmotivated and unproductive, and I'd really like to take a week off to just relax. I've got to spend some time by the beach and wake up without an alarm clock for a few days in a row. I don't think I've even been doing that much. Maybe it was just that I didn't get to rest on Sunday as I usually do.

Here's hoping I'll be back to normal next week.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Of course, I can't tell in advance.
PPS - But next week I have other extra-curricular things to do.

Wednesday, 21 April 2004

Service With a Smile

I seem to be the only one who can get service with a smile from one particular "sandwich artist" at the local Subway. It seems that everyone else only catches her in a bad mood, but I see her smile and even occasionally sing. For now, the phenomenon is considered coincidence, but if the pattern is observed to continue, we may be forced to conduct experiments.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Yes, we do know it's the same person.
PPS - I'll be going there today.

Tuesday, 20 April 2004

Not Literally

"You have a harem!" She kept repeating it, as if trying to come to grips with the idea. She didn't mean a literal harem - it's a joke we have. The group of adoring girls who follows a guy around is what we call his harem. I was the guy who didn't have one, and now it seems I've been catching a few eyes myself. Not many, but enough. It's an ego boost, I guess, and it can be a delicate game to play at times.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm definitely not complaining.
PPS - Because, soon enough, they'll be gone again.

Monday, 19 April 2004

It's a Funny Old Game

Sometimes life works itself out in the end. Emotions die down over time, shrinking to a point where you can step on them. Sometimes things go better than you could have hoped. Sometimes - just sometimes - everything works out for the best.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The content of this post has been abstracted, to protect the innocent.
PPS - As much as that is actually possible.

Saturday, 17 April 2004

Jedi Rock So Hard

After watching the Clone Wars cartoons, particularly episodes 12 and 13, I have to say that the Jedi are some of the coolest characters ever created. Fending off laser blasts almost absently and defeating droid armies single-handed and without a weapon definitely ranks among the most impressive feats undertaken by a fictional character.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I was once briefly known as Jedi Master Jolt-Ko La.
PPS - And one web page named me Jedi Nicjo Brbri. I don't take either name seriously.

Friday, 16 April 2004

Three Days

We are very slowly developing a running joke at work about time estimates. One of the guys who used to work here gave an estimate for a job of "three days", by himself. That work has now been going on for about six months with three people working on it. Today, I have turned it into a slogan:
Three Days
One Man
No Way
Mokalus of Borg

PS - No wonder managers get frustrated with software projects.
PPS - And programmers get frustrated doing database cleansing.

Corporate Greed and Inflexibility

For some of us, it would be far better to do away with all weekly/monthly/yearly service charges and have those costs absorbed into transaction charges. For example, instead of paying $40 a month for dial-up Internet access with a limited free bandwidth and a charge per megabyte over that, you'd just pay a small fee per megabyte and no monthly fee. Your bank would not charge you account-keeping fees, but each deposit, withdrawal and transfer would cost you a tiny amount - that is, if your bank is petty enough to charge at all. Your cable television service would provide all channels without question, but you'd be charged a few cents per hour for what you watch, and just settle up at the end of the month.

The only barrier standing in the way of this microcharge service model is the greed of big companies. For most of us, the microcharge model would work out cheaper, which means less money going into big pockets. The unacceptable answer is to charge more per transaction, at which point customers balk at the thought.

Also, the model only works well for small consumers. To high-volume customers, such as mid-sized companies, monthly fees work out better than microcharges. That can be incorporated into the model with high-volume plans that charge only a regular flat fee that would probably be slightly higher than current service charges.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Economics is fun.
PPS - I learned all the economics I needed to know in two weeks.

Thursday, 15 April 2004

Adam Sandler

After watching 50 First Dates and remembering The Wedding Singer, I get the feeling that perhaps Adam Sandler has started to make movies purely for the chance to show off his songwriting.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I won't really start to worry until it seems that the movies are written to fit the songs.
PPS - I'm a bit uncertain whether that happened in 50 First Dates.

The Guilt That Never Left Me

I remember one Christmas when I was younger - I forget how old, and I can't reason it out - one of the stocking-stuffer gifts I got from Santa was a pair of very low-quality plastic scissors. In an extremely uncharacteristic action, I decided they were worthless and destroyed them.

Now, these scissors were just about the worst and cheapest scissors you could ever find, and they probably would have lasted about a week if I'd used them. Even all these years later I feel a little guilty for breaking them on purpose, although their total value probably amounted to about fifty cents. I don't know why I should still remember it, let alone feel anything about it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This has been yet another introspective psychological insight (tm).
PPS - I still don't know what I'll do on Sunday.

Wednesday, 14 April 2004

Standing on Shifting Sands

Do you ever have that experience when you think you've got it all sorted out and are about to make your move, then the whole game changes? Human relationships can do this. The way forward is never clear. I don't want to mention names or specific details, which makes this a little harder to express, but I'll give it a go.

There are three hearts involved, and one of them is mine. There is the same very good reason that I must reject both, and one has already rejected that reason, forcing me to come up with something else by Sunday. I will have to deal with both on Sunday, which is just the final little twist.

Did I blink? Has it always been this complicated? It would be good to have some advice on the issue.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - My argument on Sunday will have three solid points designed to make her abandon the whole idea.
PPS - It will fail, because she is blinded.

Tuesday, 13 April 2004


This coming Sunday I will have to choose whether I am a bastard or a hypocrite. That's what it boils down to, and that's probably why I'm having a tough time deciding. Neither is better than the other, and I cause problems either way. It's definitely not something I can or should run from. I do not envy anyone these kinds of choices. The damage is already done, it's just waiting to be unleashed, and I must decide which way I direct it. I absorb some of the damage either way. I can handle that. My concern is the collateral damage I'll cause.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Curse these non-threatening good looks!
PPS - How does life get so much harder when there are other people involved?

The True Greatness of Programming

One of the things I like about programming computers is this: if you can't find the tools to do the job, you can make them yourself. In software there is no difference between the tools you use and the programs you write with them. So if you need, say, a personal organiser and what you can find doesn't suit your needs, you can write one that does. There are any number of programs I've thought about writing for exactly this reason. Usually it turns out someone else has done it for me, which is one of the things I like about the Internet. But that's another post for another day.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I forgot to mention Alabaster Box and Blind in yesterday's post.
PPS - I also saw them at AGMF both this year and last year.

Monday, 12 April 2004

Australian Gospel Music Festival

Over the Easter weekend I camped out in Queens Park, Toowoomba, for the Australian Gospel Music Festival, and had an excellent time. Besides seeking out ska, rock and a little pop (not too much) I managed to take in a set from Christian metal band Fearscape. It's extremely bizarre to see a band talk about Jesus in between songs that sound like that. Still, they do good work, and fill a niche in the Christian music scene for anyone who prefers their music heavy. Really heavy.

I caught Gerald, as I always do, and Crying Out Loud and Sounds Like Chicken immediately afterwards. I saw Rookie twice, and I'm now officially a fan. Rebecca St James on Saturday was excellent, as were The Lads and eLi. I saw a set by Claire Hazzard, too, which was very good. I saw bits of other bands and probably some other full sets, too, but I've rambled on quite enough.

I met many interesting people who all liked my hat, and saw the kind of fashion sense that only comes out at festivals and raves. It's great to see people so free to express themselves, and I love to do that myself, too. I just wish it was a little more acceptable day-to-day. I left on Sunday night after eLi, which meant I missed Propane, the last band to play the festival this year. I'll get a report from someone, I'm sure.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There are two things that would make the festival complete: soap and hot showers with a little privacy.
PPS - I didn't wash for the whole weekend, and I'm sure I started getting sick.

Thursday, 8 April 2004

Tazo Shortage Strikes Spring Hill

It's getting a bit harder to keep up my habit of acquiring a new Yu-Gi-Oh Tazo disc every day. The chips in which they are distributed seem to be disappearing. This morning all I could find in the shop were Burger Rings. The other chips all had Crash Bandicoot Stunt Wheels in them - which I do not care about in the slightest.

I wonder what I'll do when I can no longer find any more to buy? I'm sure my collection will be incomplete, and as I have only one fellow collector to swap with, it will likely remain incomplete. I don't even know why I care.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - My Life (tm) is apparently as exciting as this.
PPS - Perhaps I'll go watch the grass grow at lunchtime.

Wednesday, 7 April 2004

Inspiration strikes

He woke with the sun, eased out of bed, and picked up the horse's head that had appeared beside him in the night. With a sigh, he threw it out the window onto the growing pile. Frankly, he'd be worried if he didn't wake up next to yet another horse's head. He dressed, being careful first to remove the poisoned needles from the sleeves of his coat, then walked downstairs. He carefully stepped over the missing step and avoided using the railing that had been sawed almost, but not quite, completely off. He prepared a quick breakfast, avoiding the wide selection of poisoned foods, and boiled some water for coffee. As he took a sip and ducked a crossbow bolt that came flying in through his window, he sensed it was going to be one of those days.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This is probably most directly inspired by the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork and the Assassin's Guild.
PPS - These are both from the Discworld books.

He's a lousy shot

In the modern view of the mythical Cupid, we seem to have lost sight of the fact that he was a mischievous bastard. He's not working to make people fall in love, he's working to make trouble through misguided infatuation. How often have your own romantic involvements gotten so confused that they can't be called "triangle" in even the most liberal sense? At the moment I have chains and side-tracks along with any number of good excuses as to why each arrow points only one way. The tangled graph grows and shrinks, and all of us are just waiting to see a little spark in return.

I don't know if we'll ever figure it out.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It all seems so much smaller when it's written down.
PPS - It's still just as hard to handle, though.

Tuesday, 6 April 2004

The Microsoft Usability Push

As part of the Windows XP development, Microsoft hired a lot of people to look at interfaces and usability. I know this because Tyler knows this. It's paid off, too. I'd rather not sound like an advertisement or MS propaganda, so I won't go on a long spiel about how much the Windows interface has improved. I'll just say that I'd like to congratulate Microsoft for finally getting properly behind usability, because that's what computers are supposed to be about. We should be looking toward a world where nobody needs to be trained to operate a computer, because it's so simple, or even invisible. That's still a long way off, of course.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - But we're getting there. Slowly.
PPS - "Computer! Publish now!"

Monday, 5 April 2004

Life, Or Something Like It

Y'know what? Today I've got nothing I want to share. I could talk about television I watched last night, or how my new PC is coming along nicely, or even about the borderline-inappropriate discussions last night at supper after church, but I won't. And I don't have much to offer in the way of introspection, either. The continuing slow building of my Tazo collection is hardly news or exciting, and I have no software design thoughts to offer yet. Maybe I'll try to get some inspiration from Slashdot. Be right back.

Okay, it seems there's some lake under Antarctica that's completely cut off from the rest of the Earth, and scientists hope to dig into it to prove there is life there. Which there very likely is, considering what they've found in the ice above it. This will allow them once again to crow that extra-terrestrial life is possible, and probably fund a robotic excursion to Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. But of course there's life in a lake on Earth. It's EARTH - you know, where the life comes from? You live there? I'm sick of scientists wasting their time looking for aliens. The main reason they think it's possible is that they assume life is evolving from nothing all over the universe. I disagree, and I'm willing to wait for time to prove me right.

This opinion of mine is one of the reasons I like Red Dwarf. In the Red Dwarf books and television series, Earth is the one planet on which life existed to begin with. Genetically-engineered lifeforms, robots and so forth are widespread, but every single one can be traced back to Earth. It is phrased most poignantly in the books. I highly recommend them.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - In space, no-one can hear you scream.
PPS - Mostly because there is no-one else there.

Sunday, 4 April 2004

Blessed Relief

Now that it's all over, I can relax again. The church fair came and went with little incident, though I had underplanned, as usual. On the day, I was missing the following items:
  • Eskis and ice for prizes
  • The equipment for two stalls
  • Some of the equipment for two other stalls
  • Several workers
  • A radio to stay in contact with other organisers
Well, we managed to find one large eski and a small cooler, plus ice, as well as improvise for the partially-missing equipment. I cut my losses on the two missing stalls and used their staff to shore up the numbers on other stalls. I made do without a radio, too. I don't know the figures yet, so I can't say whether I got my section to break even or not.

What I know for sure is that all my stress vanished the second after the fair closed for the day. I'm so glad it's all over. Now I just have to write a report. That's much less stressful and has only minor consequences if it's late.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - These have surely been Interesting Times.
PPS - Today's recommended reading is the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett.

Friday, 2 April 2004


Last night I had a mole cut out, because it got in my way, so to speak. It was sitting right on my belt line, and for years it's been rubbing raw and healing, then rubbing raw again. I'd had enough, so I had it cut out. It actually scared me a bit, because it's the first time anyone's taken a scalpel to me for any reason, including threats. The procedure itself didn't hurt, because of the anaesthetic, but there's been a dull ache and an itch there ever since.

The stitches are staying in until after Easter, which is a bit longer than usual.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Or so the doctor tells me.
PPS - And why would he lie?

Thursday, 1 April 2004


My new PC is now up and running with all its basic software installed, and very little else. I took it for a test drive last night, not looking for a benchmark or anything, just seeing if it would work. After installing video drivers and DVD player software, I spun up Eddie Izzard's "Dress to Kill", a recording of a stand-up comedy show he did in San Francisco. I only got through a third of it, because it was getting late.

The only troubles I had with hardware were the floppy drive (recycled from an old 486, it seems to be dead) and the keyboard that I mentioned earlier. I think I've figured the keyboard out now, and I don't need a floppy drive right away, so I'll call it complete for now.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I could still use more desk space.
PPS - Today's wirewater is an iced coffee Big M.