Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Election: Step Away from The Platform

Am I disappointed? Yes. Surprised, no. As Norman Walsh said on the www-tag list and Elliotte Harold quotes him, "Stupid is not illegal." and I add, not unelectable. But I am comfortable that I supported the best man for the right reasons and when one does the right thing, there are no regrets.

This was the result I expected and blogged that in reply to Tim Bray's blog asking that we fire George Bush. The American electorate will only make big changes when they are comfortable and thanks to the last four years of intense mismanagement, they are very uncomfortable. So they stuck with the evil they know and avoided risking more discomfort even if it is a chance for improvement. Again, that is totally unsurprising.

As to the future, well, the people who have made the mess now have to clean up the mess. You see, elections are not about what is right, but about choosing who wins. Whoever wins has to make things right. Today, there are a lot of things that are not right in America.

Here in Alabama, an ammendment was proposed to remove a law from the Alabama constituion that preserves racism. Quoting the description and results from, a local TV station web site, "...this amendment will get rid of three elements from the [Alabama] 1901 constitution... a requirement for segregated schools, a requirement for a poll tax, and language that says publicly funded education is not a right of citizenship."


Statewide Amendment 2
No 690,247 50%
Yes 687,594 50%

You'd think we'd voted for that if for no other reason than to appear as if we were living in this century, but we failed to pass it. From a state that tried to outlaw diminished 5th intervals in music, this shouldn't surprise you or that we voted 63% for Bush. The sort of unthinking Alabamians do every day has now swept the nation. It also shouldn't surprise you that former Chief Justice Roy Moore, famous for his battle to keep the Ten Commandments on display in defiance of Federal court orders that forced his removal from office, is the main opponent of the Ammendment to remove these provisions. The Alabama Constitution can only be changed by Ammendments, is in desperate need of being replaced, but won't be because both sides fear the other will commit Draconian acts in the revision. They're both right, too.

The economy is sputtering, the death toll continues to climb in Iraq, health care is so expensive even companies cannot afford it so both our premiums and our contributions are going up even as we are laying off high skilled workforces and paying taxes to send their jobs overseas, the price of gas is at an all time high, we are losing our technical edge to the Pacific Rim, and most of our allies are ready to dismiss us from world affairs for having bungled the war on terrorism so badly. Note that while returning Bubba to office, they also soundly rejected gay marriage.

That's a lot of minds to have to change, fences to mend, and laws to pass or remove, or people to screw. The Republicans now have unlimited power with Bush in his second term. I've said before, it is a tough problem to be on the wrong side of history but that is where America is today, not because it doesn't have values, but because it cannot afford its values so it chooses instead to focus on taking more from those who have less to give to those who have more to do less for those who gave so much so that those who have more will keep what they have and get more.

It's a class war. Like it or not. Osama Bin Ladin made it plain that he intends to bankrupt the country, and the Republicans are busy helping him. It would be funny if it weren't so obviously true.

That's a heckuva a mess to clean up. I'm glad it's not my job. It is time for the Democrats to go fishin', ride a bike, take walks, and play with their kids and watch. Do get out of the way of the Republicans. They are going to be very busy. Given the last four years of majority rule in both houses and the executive branch without a single accomplishment beyond death, high prices and creating the most divided electorate in my lifetime, they will have to move very fast. And they don't know how.

That's a train wreck at full steam. Step away from the platform.

Monday, November 01, 2004

The Ten Small Truths of Web Developers

The Ten Small Truths: lessons learned from time spent trying to make three languages compile in one application with five namespaces.

1) It isn't that one standards organization is better than another. In fact, that is precisely the point. They aren't. It comes down to politics and those choices are simple: what's in it for me.

2) One would think we would search for the best design. We don't; we search for the best selling author because he or she will provide the easiest read.

3) If the customer doesn't know, the vendor doesn't have to care.

4) Do the Right Thing: the right thing means the MBAs make their numbers. Certainty is a warm spreadsheet.

5) The web is too much like Canada: it needs a strong leader to offset the difficulty of managing a weak government.

6) The web isn't the easiest platform; it is the hardest by a factor of five. We've gotten used to slow strangulation by the accretion of hacks. Worse is better and we actually believe that.

7) To know that a better universe existed, you have to be old enough to remember it. For the web, that means you have to be at least 50 years old. That means you are in a distinct minority among active developers. Minorities don't matter even if they are right. Socialism works only when minorities don't matter. See Truth 1.

8) If the press says it, it must be wrong. If anyone else says it, the press must be right.

9) A day in the library is a waste of time that could be better spent updating a wiki.

10) A day spent updating a wiki is a better day because now one's opinions about things one knows not nearly enough about will really matter.

So we have come to the place predicted by the Federalists, where the great unwashed masses have inflicted the maximum damage they can inflict and now want the damaged to repair them. Unfortunately, that is exactly what will happen.

sigh.. whimper... whine...

Sunday, October 31, 2004

The Witch Of Endor

Most wretched of the dark angels imprisoned in Lucifer's realm were the crunchers. These creatures toiled ceaselessly creating numbered realms from Hell's finite infinity. Sightless dark eyes frozen open, they worked their leathery wings in Hell's heat making a droning dumb hum, a random chorus of numbers that began, rose, fell, and began again on the same note. Yet nonumber could alter that tone for soaring among the tonalities is an act of imagination, the light of creation. Without God, no dark angel bound by God's edict could image light by their own volition save one.

One dark angel was capable of imagination: Lucifer.

This tortured hum was the single sound of clarity in torment. It was a song of hate for the Creation within which his dark world had been conceived. His mind was its tonal center that could not vary by purpose or accident.

As each number was created, it was dispatched to dark angels that walked on Earth bound to the will of their Master and bound to the realm of mortal man by his hateful sound. The numbers shielded them from the light cast by the heavenly stars. Yetby these obscured points of light in the sky, they made their way to that place where his dark will would manifest through their demonic acts. This enabled them to find the imaginative mind of mankind and to cobble from it's mortality, a semblance of being in the world of light without ever being enlightened.

Mortals follow the imaginative light in herds. Where the stars showed the way, the humans would find happiness and long lives by their own choices. Yet, his insidious dark angels walk backwards among these herds, pretending to lead them by obscuring the stars that would otherwise illuminate their mortal choices.

Thus, they lead those that follow them into wars, famine, pestilence, and dissolution.

Thus, the will of Lucifer to destroy the world of light is done in certain places, at certain times, to certain humans by ensnaring their mortal purposes and leading them to Death.

While the stars looked on, the true witches who could always recognize these dark angels, were sorrowful for the helpless, hapless mortals but it was not their concern or within their power to save them because the will of the mortal to follow the dark angel was inviolate by God's law.

So it was when Saul, King of the Israelites came to the valley beyond Mount Tabor and the Hill of Moreh to the home of the Witch of Endor.

As he approached with his party, she rose above the cushion where she sat cross-legged, red hair wild and eyes glinting with the trial put at her door. This one who had slain all those mortals who falsely claimed the powers of her kind, who now came for answers knew not that he sought his own judge.

Behind her, a small golden haired girl sat also cross-legged but bobbing about as young girls will. "Mama," she said, "Why can't the mortals do magic?"

Her mother replied, "Without our powers and memories, the mortals do love and fear a God whose only evidence is their own feelings, and this is all the magic they possess. Their minds cannot roam among the stars, stand on the planets, push asteroids into each other, and then put them back again. What they know of the universe is memory mapped to events in time in one direction only. Over generations, they will make marks that will become words, and by these, attain some measure of time as it was, is and ever shall be. By this, they will lengthen the measure of years of their life, but death is their end and that is the limit of their knowing while they live. Such is the making of God."

The little girl's eyes grew large as the King's party came nearer. "But Mama, if they have even that much magic, why does the King not see the dark one riding beside him?"

The Witch raised her hands high above her and intoned, "They see the darkness of the sun and moon falling as they think. They feel the coldness in the air, but they do not trust the evidence of their feelings, so their knowledge of God is limited to their belief in themselves. They believe the evidence of their eyes if what they see raises their emotions and thus, the Lightbearer may overcome them in the darkness."

The girl blew her hair away from her eyes. "Then Mama, if their emotions are so unpracticed, so mortal, will they never know the darkness from the true light? Even if they have no powers, can they not know by these feelings, true love?"

Her Mother laughed, "Yes, my dear, they can love many times as a mortal loves, but if by true love you mean eternal love, they cannot know what love exists beyond a small number of years of life, for they have no certainty, and certainty of love is love's truest feature."

The Witch of Endor put her finger to her chin as if puzzled.

"They are eternally loved while they may not know that such love is possible. What such love means to ones who live a short time and then begin another life without memory is uncertain. It may be mercy. Do you not think that should they know such love, their lives would become ever sadder believing that they will lose this love when they lose themselves to death?"

"But God will love them even in death."

"Yes, but we can know with certainty what they can only feel. For mortals, feelings of love are the most uncertain of all."

With that, she smiled possessively at her beautful young daughter, then raised her hands casting a spell to hide their true nature from the party now close at hand.

The cowled king and his servant rode into grove of Endor. Walking up the rise, they saw only an old woman and her daughter tending a small garden beyond the cottage.

"Who is that comes to see me?" asked the hag.

"Strangers seeking knowledge, Mother." said the king, careful to keep his face beneath the cowl he wore so only his lips were revealed and his eyes gave no hint of the fear in his heart.

"Knowledge?", she laughed, "Do you mean victory?"

The king drew a long breath. "If God wills this." he said.

"Ask your question." she said dryly.

"I do not seek your counsel, Mother, but the counsel of my Teacher, now dead. I am told you have the power to summon the dead."

Her eyes flashed fury, "This is an unclean act. Who is it asks this of me?" and she pulled the cowl from his face.

"Saul. King of the Jews. Slayer of the hundred women of Moreh whom he called Witch. Have you come to slay me and my daughter? Would this act not convict us and would you suffer us to live having done your bidding, King?"

Saul twisted his lips nervously. This woman showed no trace of fear as she spoke, as if his power was none to hers. Saul had seen warriors speak with courage but none with the simple direct cold tone of her voice.

"I am only a warrior who wishes to see his old Master before I go to the valley of Megido to face the Philistine army. Summmon the spirit of Samuel the Prophet to this house that I may know God's will in the battle to come.

"Then victory is your desire, Saul. Is fear your dark companion?"

With her words, the servant on the left of Saul began to pulse and glow as if some energy within him grew stronger. Saul stood gaunt but did not move. He had seen God's power and this was not more fearsome, yet within him, he felt a terrible coldness. With that feeling came the sound of a low throbbing hum like millions of locusts beating their wings beyond the next hill, undulating with an ominous pulse of pure evil. Saul shielded his eyes from the awful figure of his servant transforming before him.

The Witch of Endor watched with amazement. She had cast no spell on this servant. She knew that this was the will of the Lord of Darkness joined in this servant, himself a creature of darkness, and the terror that now overcame Saul. From the twisted visage, the features of an old man emerged, eyes rolling first to one and then the other, then settling on the face of the terrified King.

She muttered low and sternly, "What face does the spectre wear, O Mighty King, is it one you know?"

"Yes," he said, "It is the familiar spirit of my teacher, Samuel the Prophet."

"Then" she spat, "Saul, your fate is sealed, for this spectre is of your making, not mine. God has given you power over men. God has given you his promise that as his will is done, so shall you profit by his will. Have you not seen all your enemies fall before you as you have worked his will for his purpose?"

Saul stood as he had when Samuel lived, tall and regal. He did not forget that he was the king of the Israelites, the protector by God ordained of the kingdom of the tribes.

"Yes Woman, I have seen and done all these things. Whathas been required of me that I have not done? I did slay the Amalektites and burned their city. I have even spared the beasts and fowl and fed my people with these and the Amalek grain."

As the deathly face of Samuel came closer to the face of the pale King, she asked her last question.

"God ordered that no sign of the Amalek remain in his land. Are these full bellies the sign of the Amalek?"

Saul replied, "These are gifts of Earth. That my men are well-fed, that their bellies do not grumble before battle, are these not also signs of the good of the kingdom, the good I have made by the will of God?"

The spectre of the old prophet, Samuel roared at Saul, "Who dares call forth the power of God for his own election?"

The king fell back as if struck by death itself. He felt the aloneness, the immortal cold, the earth that would soon cover his face in his funerary robe.

"What can be done?" he asked of the awful spirit.

The ghost replied without pity, "Only that which a man can do." and then vanished.

Saul swooned.

Instantly, the Witch and her daughter resumed their appearance, both beautiful and powerful. The girl approached the unconscious man and stroked his face. "He looks like a good man."

"He is," her Mother said as she levitated his prostrate figure onto his horse, the horse whinnying but unfazed by the Witch's magic, for horses know true witches and do not fear them.

"Will he die in battle?" the girl asked compassionately.

"He will," she replied as she sent the horse speeding toward the valley where many fires burned. "He has his answer and now he believes God has abandoned him. So his will to fight, his certainty of purpose have also left him."

"But the words he heard were not God's words?"

"Deceit is the way of the demon, my daughter, but for a man to be deceived, he must himself work the magic of belief, and because his will is his own, that magic has none but himself as its benefactor, for good or evil."

With that, the Witch wiped a tear from the girl's face. "Come," she said, and they faded away on the smoke that from the fires burning in the valley where the sounds of swords being sharpened on wheels made a low dull hum.

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