...the feeling one gets after climbing out of a deep cavern by bare hands alone, and immediately falling into another seemingly bottomless crevice. See also Microsoft Windows listing.

Friday, September 6, 1996

The Weird Computer Saga. Continued.

ots of things get me down, but I've always (since last year) been a big believer that it's not the size of the problems you have, it's the way in which you handle and resolve them that shows great strength, character and personality. Of course, some carry this precept to extremes: the Mafia simply dispose of a problem by Killing the object of their scorn. Others laugh it off. Some cry about it. Still others ignore it.
I go for walks. Or get on a piece of machinery and do some heavy work: moving a 10,000 ton compost pile over 15ft, a half-yard (13.5cuft) loader scoop at a time. Anyway I approach it, it's with the thought process of a chess-step-move at a time. My temper has mellowed out considerably with time. As all things do.
Both computers now have this problem intermittently: the 586 Pentiums have identical software installed, ported from one unit to the other's HD. I was roundly admonished by several people not to port program files, but laplink only data and art-graphics files. They said that program files must be re-installed. Hey, who knew?
If that's true, and I have no reason to suspect otherwise, it means that all these years when I've ported-over entire HDs to another unit, I'd done it wrong. I wonder why it chose to show up this time?
On Friday, Windows NT 3.51 will be installed and we'll all be amazed if that does a damn thing. I think the final scenario will be wipe it clean; reinstall everything. shit.

The Martian Rocks.

At first I was excited when I saw the Time magazine cover with the headline: ``Life on Mars.''
But on closer inspection, I realized that the two weird life forms pictured below the headline were actually Bill Clinton and Al Gore. That realization should have prepared me for the bad news inside the magazine, which is that the Martian ``life'' we have discovered is 3 1/2-billion-year-old microscopic worms inside a rock. How can we expect to discover intelligent life on Mars if we can't discover it in our presidential campaigns? Or in any political campaigns, for that matter!
The scientific community reacted to discovery of the fossil worm with great jubilation. But the scientific community is one big frat party, anyway. The scientific community, between shooters of tequila, noted that the worms might turn out to be dried mud.
My reaction was bitter disappointment, with a tinge of relief. Relief because it now seems unlikely that Earth will be invaded by Martians who will ship us back to their planet to be used as fireplace logs or chew-toys for their pets. That has long been a human fear, although less so for Pennsylvanians in recent years. If hostile space aliens invaded our state, you know Tom Ridge would find a way to drive 'em out. Governor limits illegal-alien vision-care benefits: Two eyes per patient Mostly, my reaction was: That's it? We're thinking ``War of the Worlds,'' Darth Vader and Mindy's Mork, and you give us bacteria wannabes?
Am I a dolt because I was expecting more bang for my interplanetary-life buck? Teensy worms and slug-like creatures? What's the earthly benefit, other than a vast new audience for the Jay Leno Tonight Show? The discovery doesn't even solve UFO mysteries. It's obvious that these worms are not the creatures who buzz Earth in their flying saucers with nifty colored lights and supersonic propulsion. These worms would have trouble operating a turn signal. They almost certainly are not creatures that would be armed with cosmic death rays. Which is a good thing, considering how they might react upon learning what Earth fishermen use for bait. If these Martian life forms ever came to Earth, they probably traveled in something less sophisticated, like cosmic cow pies. And rather than coming to exchange wisdom or bowling techniques, they probably came in hopes of dating our foxy disease microbes.
My dream, fueled by science-fiction books and movies, has always been that space aliens would bring us the meaning of life. Or, should they prove to be less highly evolved, they would at least haul away our LeRoy Neiman paintings.
Maybe I'm alone in my disappointment. President Clinton said, ``Today, Rock 84001 speaks to us across all those billions of years and millions of miles.'' Truly a poetic sentiment, even if it was spoken at a press conference in reply to the question, ``What's your latest deficit-reduction proposal?''
To me, what Rock 84001 says is, ``Hello, we're dead. Not that we were a hoot when we were alive. We never got off our lazy worm asss to evolve into interesting neighbors. You probably can't even tell whether we're fossils or dried mud. We're not even sure. Better luck with the next planet.''
Not that I have written off Mars as a total loss. It has become far too hot to support life as we know it, but it's still in the running to host the 2008 Olympics.


From the minute I set up the my office's former 586 Pentium in my kitchen (that's where the most convenient phone jack is), my two cats - Murphy and Mama Kitty - have had a new friend. Each is extremely respectful of the new furniture stranger, living on the round, butcherblock kitchen table. Previously, that was part of their domain.
Meanwhile, they are in my face and on the keyboard in waves. Murphy chases the browser pointer on screen; Mama Kitty likes to crawl up onto my chest for some nuzzling while I'm on-line. Never fails. About every 30 minutes, by the clock. If I can get them to sit still for just 15 seconds, I'll get some pictures and put them up. Good thing Pickles isn't on-line yet...
Both cats know they're not supposed to be up there in the first place.

Political Conventions.

When I was growing up, I used to watch the televised republican and Democratic National Conventions, every four years at about this time. Ours are now over, and supposedly the campaigns begin in earnest. What has it all been to this point? Chopped liver? Ha. I remember the spirited, lively, cigar-smoke politics of Cook County, Illinois and Chicago's Democratic Political Machine. It was awesome. Gave JFK the 1960 Election by 40,000-plus votes, about 10% were "deceased voters" who made the difference.
Knowing that politics really stinks and nothing I can do will change that, I missed both Conventions on TV and still feel great.

Busy, Busy Weekend.

A lot of gardening and landscaping got done over the Labor Day Weekend. My staff and I helped hundreds of people with design, project estimates, plant material review and selection over the 3-day period. I had 13 landscape evaluation meetings to be at on-site with the customers, in between helping back of the Center. At times, it was frantic. It is merely the prelude to the dreaded Fall Rush.
At a quickly-approaching point in time, all of the people in this area will want to landscape something. And a great many will call us. The job estimates that I do after meeting with someone for a prospective job, range from simple through very complex plans on Microsoft Excel 7 Spreadsheets. There was no software for this kind of intricate job estimating available when I opened up six years ago. It's all come about in the last four years or so. I had to invent my own based on MicroSoft's software. And, with some upgrades and tweaks over the years, it's served this company well. With another rough winter looming, it once again promises to be a very busy Fall season.
There's a lot of red sold tags hanging from the over 3,000 available trees in the nursery display area.

It's Tuesday. The US bombed Iraq with 44 cruise missiles. I'm on-line all day and don't hear about it on the InterNet. Instead, someone who's just read the evening paper, tells me. Duh. I remember updating PointCast News, but I don't remember reading it. Duh. I remember turning on the radio and talking past the news at the half hour. Duh.
I hate it when that happens.
Although being tethered to the world's foremost information conduit, I would think I'd be smart enough to check in with a news desk once in a while. Funny thing, I always do. Except for the past 3 days.
Besides being very busy at the Garden Center & Nursery, I was busy building another Website.

You've Probably Already Noticed.

Things have changed around here just a wee bit. If you came in through the Pine Trees in the growing fields, you noticed a new look to the Website.
For a while, I've been re-designing the original, elegant Website built for me in early January by Adam Viener, President of Cyberia Communications, Inc., York's InterNet Specialist and friendly ISP. He did a wonderful job. It had about eight links then, and went several sub-pages deep. It was a high-end Second Generation Website. I added seven additional links, animations, photos and dozens more sub-pages. It was easy to navigate in and visitors became buyers there. They returned, they told their friends and they also returned.
My Website is a very deep and richly-developed site. The metaphor and content are there; I felt it needed a structural change, rather than just a graphic revision to carry its life further along. The graphics will change over time, after I've finished the Photoshop course at The Bradley Academy of Fine Arts, here in York, starting next week. I needed someone who could design with structure and a sense of humor.
I spent many hours looking at Art Sites, Designer Sites and various High Five sites. I interviewed six or seven award-winning, graphic designer-artists, who wanted $4,500 to $6,000 to redesign my site graphically and edit the content. I wanted to design a site around the existing content. By losing the content and metaphor for the sake of a high-end graphic Website, real damage would be done to its future on the Web. Then I decided that a metaphor such as that wouldn't work for my position on the Web. It would require a different approach altogether. I contacted Jeffrey Zeldman, a kindred and former advertising spirit of mine in New York City; my link back to Madison Avenue. (Actually, that's a misnomer. No one has space on Madison Avenue anymore, it's way too expensive.) He and his collaborators built the Batman Forever and Ace Ventura Websites. If you haven't been to Jeffrey's Website yet, GO! (But wear a welder's mask: his stuff is hot!) Wait until you're finished here first; many people have been seen with glazed eyeballs and a wry smile on their faces since visiting his domain. Like my Garden Center & Nursery, it's "Well Worth The Ride..." There is even a reference to his great work on my Website.
We talked by phone, I sent emails of sites that had features I wanted to incorporate into this next Website. And it went on for two days: ideas, suggestions, references, comments, pointers, remarks, tips and then the work began.
Jeffrey went to work on Friday evening. He showed me many graphically-structured possibilities on a hidden folder page within his site; some were on the right track, and some weren't. Then we distilled things a bit and he hit it directly. I liked it when I saw it. I okayed the concept and he took it from there. He's a MAC-guy, a Photoshop wizard and an html machine! In under three days, he had it 95% there. I helped a little with the last 5% and on Sunday it was ready for me to upload. It got so busy at the Garden Center that I couldn't spend the time FTP-ing files from New York to York. Monday was even busier, but I started the process anyway.
After getting the "new files" moved from Jeffrey's server to my HD, I transferred the "old files" down from Cyberia's server to a special folder on my HD, and sent the "new files" back over to their new home on the Web. Whew. That was a load of files to transfer. I used a scorecard to keep track of all that! I messed up a few transfers, but finally got them all in place. I'm still checking links and making adjustments. Jeffrey's work was flawless; I caused some breakage in spots.
It's Wednesday now, and the comments coming in are extremely complimentary. Not one return visitor or regular customer got lost or thought they were in the wrong site. The metaphor continues to work.
Here's what David Siegel, the Web personality behind High Five Award for Website Design, the Web's foremost HTML terrorist and one of the great designers of websites, had this to say when he stopped by for a brief visit:

"... saw your stuff. getting better!
You're no master of graphics,
but the structure and content are excellent. Nice work."

David Siegel

512 2nd Street,
San Francisco, CA 94107

415 278-9900
FAX 278-9911

I'll Take It From Here...

After Jeffrey finished, I spent hours viewing each page, looking at and learning from the excellent html he wrote. He's a real structural artist. After spending the last 8 months developing my own style of html, I now had to get used to a new way of doing things. Again, I put myself through some more changes. It felt good. I won't tell you what it cost to redesign the Website; you'll have to ask Jeffrey yourself.
Over the past several days, I've started to finish more of the sub-pages on this Website and have drawn out another two potential links plus their pages. The incredible flexibility of this new structure allows me to quickly add what I want to the site, without being consumed in the process. I like that.

J o h nS h e l l e y

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