Monthly Archives: February 2011

How Do They DO That???!!!

I have seen an increasing number of tweets questioning whether or not a popular link shortener —  bit.ly — may be collateral damage of the unrest in Libya, particularly if Col. Gaddafi hits the Internet “kill switch.”

Further reading indicates that bit.ly is less vulnerable to being blacked out because of Bit.ly’s redundant name servers spread around the world.  Bit.ly’s CEO responded to a Quora question with this.

So, I guess that answers that! And we probably don’t have to worry about dead links because of our widespread use of that particular URL shortener.

But I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I wanted to know how URL shorteners work.  In so doing, I came across the term “domain hacks.” It is the magikal hackery that gave us del.icio.us.  Sublime.

The domain hack generally (but not always) uses the ccTLD (country-code Top-Level Domain) to construct the desired URL.  (The list of ccTLD’s is here.)

There are some other clever domain hacks out there. See some here.

Who knew?

The Name of the Cat Is “Grace”

I want to thank those of you who took the time to vote on which name to pick for the new cat.  All of the selections (except for maybe “Seven”) were under serious consideration.  The Poll is now closed.

As I sat here in the downstairs office yesterday (where the cat had been confined since her arrival on Wednesday afternoon) a new name dawned on me: Grace.

I think it fits with the circumstances of her life and adoption.  It is by grace that she was allowed to survive the hellish conditions of her early months with the cat hoarder. And it is by grace that I adopted her.  (I actually entered the shelter expecting to look at “Gertrude.” I didn’t get past Grace’s “condo” at the shelter. I was smitten.) See my earlier post here.

So, how is Grace faring?  She spent the remainder of her first day home hiding between a box and the outside wall.  When I woke up Thursday she had moved.  Now she was on the other side of the room behind the futon.  Today (Friday) she’s been all around the room, but has been careful to not be picked up.

This is puzzling because she was not this skittish at the Shelter. In fact, she was described as “affectionate” and “lap cat” on her condo card. I blame the vet. 🙂

The shelter shipped her to the vet’s to get spayed.  The good news was that the vet discovered Grace had already been spayed so the procedure didn’t need to happen. (Apparently the cat hoarder at least had done the right thing and had a lot of her cats spayed.)

The bad news is that I think Grace was PO’d at having to go to the vet’s.  Not only that, but she had to bear the indignity of a half-hour ride home in a dark pet carrier, only to be deposited in someplace that was considerably larger than her “condo” at the shelter.

She’s coming around though.  I just need patience.

Help Me Name My Cat

What's My Name?

UPDATE: The cat has a name. Welcome Grace.

I don’t have a name yet. Well, not a real name that I can call my own. But YOU can help.

My adoptive parents have come up with a short-list of possible names.  You can help them by voting on your favorite or even suggesting a new one.

Falling in Love With a Furry Friend in Need (Can It Happen to You, Too?)

What's not to love?

On Saturday my husband and I went to the Fairfax County Animal Shelter to adopt a cat.  As it turns out they were having a special “Be Mine, Feline”  adoption promotion.

You see, they had so many cats from the November 19, 2010 hoarding case in Annandale, Virginia, (local TV news story) that they are making a special effort to match cats and kittens with loving homes.  They’ve already adopted out a significant number of the cats, but are using this promotion to place all of the remaining ones.

After looking at the available cats on line, we sorta had our eye on Gertrude.  But after we got to the shelter and as I walked by one of the other cat condos, a young brown tabby kitten caught my eye. After a bit of interaction with her I knew this was The One.

She wasn’t yet available for adoption Saturday; but I will be at the Shelter at 12:00 sharp on Tuesday to complete the process.  She will need to be neutered, so I probably won’t be able to bring her home until Thursday. I’ll post a picture as soon as it’s available.

I can’t wait! It will be good to have a cat around the house again.

It breaks my heart that all the cats that arrived at the Shelter on November 19, 2010, have the Intake Type of “CUSTODY/CRUELTY” on their identification cards.  I’m so happy to be able to provide one of those cats with a loving, safe home.

So please, if you have room in your home for one of these cats (or for one of the many others at the Shelter), please contact the Shelter.

The Downside of Creativity?

Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things. — Ray Bradbury

I once nearly got fired (or maybe it was “I almost quit”) from an ad layout job because I was thinking. Problem was, I thought I was being creative, or, at the very least, using my creativity to solve a problem.

The problem:  Fitting a vendor-supplied graphic into a finite space (the ad size the advertiser had paid for).

My solution: Cropping out extraneous elements in the artwork to make it, and the the ad copy, fit in the allotted space.

I must tell you, this occurred in the mid-Seventies (1976, to be exact). At least at the small paper I worked for, ad layout was done with scissors, glue pots, and rulers.  “Cropping” meant wielding scissors at the piece of artwork.  There was no seamless “Undo” function.  So, once I cropped the artwork, there was really no turning back.

Imagine my dismay when the publisher (it was a very small paper) called me into his office to severely (and loudly) criticize me for “thinking too much.” My transgression:  I had cropped out the line-drawing pine trees from the photo of the work boot.  To make matters worse, this was an ad the publisher had sold directly with the vendor; it wasn’t sold by one of his salesmen.

It was almost lunchtime, so I left for lunch, drove to my girlfriend’s house, and wailed that “I’m NOT going back to that place! The guy’s an IDIOT!!!”  Well, she “talked me down,” and I did go back.  And I started looking for a new job.

The Take-Away?

I’ve never forgotten that episode.  I’ve tried to think creatively much of the time.  Unfortunately, when my creativity fails me — or when I don’t take the time to let creativity present me with an answer — I get frustrated.  It’s hard to force creativity; but it’s even harder to force myself to NOT think.

What are your thoughts on creativity? How have you used it? When do you wish you had?

Tripping Over the “Bits and Bytes” of Internet History

And now it’s time for another trip back into digital history.  This time we’ll look at one of the online newsletters from the early days of the Internet and some of the “news of the era.”

I ran across a old printout of “Bits and Bites Online” (Volume 1 No. 14) dated November 4, 1993.  Folks, that was 18 years ago. (Please don’t ask why I still had it.  We’ll get to a discussion on that sometime later.)   Here are a few tidbits in that edition that caught my eye. (Now remember, this was 18 years ago.)

  • The price of workstations – DEC announced a new “top-of-the-line workstation” for $36,000 (yes, that’s thousands). DEC was touting this as a bargain compared to the $70,000 workstation being offered by IBM.
  • A small, but not-so-fast, printer – Office space at a premium? Check the new Panasonic KXP-4400 laser printer with only a 15″ X 15″ footprint.  Oh, and best of all? It prints at a blazing 4 pages per minute. [Just to provide context on the PPM metric:  A Wikipedia article on printers notes that “printers are generally slow devices (30 pages per minute is considered fast.”]
  • Doing Windows – The alpha version of Windows 4.0 “is making the rounds.” InfoWorld (10/25/93) took a look and reported that “the product still needs some work,” but that it will have “far more functionality and sophistication than Windows 3.1 when it ships in the latter half of 1994.”  [Well, 1994 was optimistic.  Sources here, here, and here indicate that “4.0” was released in Summer 1996.]
  • MTV Gets Plugged In (Kinda) – “MTV is officially on the net.” Well, “VJ Adam Curry is running an ftp and gopher site” with materials like “charts, audio, schedules, video, etc.”  And because the folks at MTV “are not ready to commit financially to the project,” Mr. Curry has to pay for the connection himself.  [I couldn’t find the original gopher site on the Wayback Machine, but here’s an article from Wired magazine about about Curry’s Internet forays.]
  • IMD…huh? – Oh, golly, wow! The [mail] server at the IBM PC Users Group in the UK (ibmpcug.co.uk) “accesses a movie database to return information about movies, actors, directors, etc.” The newsletter author asks: “Anybody else know any other cool ftpmail services?”  [The domain “ibmpcug.co.uk” is now for sale.  I guess after IMDB, there was no point….]
  • Access. Yeah, right! – The newsletter notes that “B&B is available for downloading on America Online in their telecom files area, and in Compuserve’s telecom forum library.”  [Not sure if any of my Gentle Readers retain access to either of these services. If not, the B&B author has archived all issues (except 1) on his website. They can all be found here.]

Hope you enjoyed this brief look at life “before the Web.” Not sure where I’ll look next.  Any ideas?