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Thursday, April 6, 2006

If It Walks LIke a Duck...

The first review of this book is totally awesome and hilarious.

Actually, I'm not sure how to link directly to reviews... so if it is no longer first, look for the review by John E. Francisco entitled, "Ping! I love that duck!," written on January 25, 2000.

I guess it helps that I read that book while I was growing up.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Evening With an Author: Dominick Dunne

Saturday night, Corinne and I attended a fundraiser dinner in support of the Otis Library of Norwich, at the Meshantucket Pequot Museum. The keynote speaker was the famous author, Dominick Dunne. Corinne's a huge fan, and was very excited about this evening.

The Otis Library is the public library of Norwich, CT. It's in dire need of an overhaul, but they have now raised most of what is needed. Didn't get all the details, but the Meshantucket Pequot Tribal Nation just donated a million dollars, which rather dwarfs the $72K they raised with this charity dinner.

In attendance were most of Norwich's high society (having paid hundreds of dollars per plate)... and us (as guests of Chelsea Groton Bank). We may not have paid so much, but Corinne was the prettiest girl in the room in her new blue dress and fancy, high-heeled, hard-to-walk-in shoes! (I was the, uh... tallest? cyclingest? funniest? ;-)

We arrived at 6 PM, and both had a beer. We thought dinner would start at 7, but it seemed that everyone there knew each other and they were in no hurry to sit down and really start the evening. Finally, a little after 8, they asked -- then told -- everyone to sit down so as it was time to start.

Dinner was served buffet style. The salad was nothing special, but had a tasty blueberry and strawberry vinaigrette dressing that I loved and Corinne detested. The roast beef was out of this world, though. There was also shrimp and scallops, some interesting wild rice, and a truly decadent chocolate pie for dessert.

Amazingly, there was no water at the tables. This drove me nuts! They served it for free at the bar in tiny, eight ounce bottles... but do you know how fast I can go through an eight ounce bottle of water in a stuffy room just a few hours after I've done a 42 mile training ride!?

Ok, we weren't there for the food, nor the water. Dominick Dunne showed up while we were eating and sat at a table with the event's organizers. Once most people had finished eating, they started the serial speech-giving.

The first speech was -- literally -- just a verbatim reading of the first page of the attendee's handbook. I don't remember the second and third speeches, except that the second speaker introduced the third as the most tenacious fundraiser in the history of the world, and warned us all to hold onto our wallets, but all the third speaker really did was introduce the fourth speaker. The fourth was Ellen Lind, president and publisher of the Norwich Bulletin.

Lind was pretty good. She started out a little rough, bragging about how she was going to break all the rules they'd set for her in giving this speech, and might embarrass a few people, but once she settled down and started talking about Mr. Dunne, it was clear that she had at least done a little research before taking the stand. She did her best to describe him as a "real person," not just a star producer, stage manager, and author. As a war hero, a friend, someone who has suffered loss and found success. She didn't get every detail right, and she wasn't a particularly good story teller, but looking back on the evening from two days hence, how could she possibly look good in light of who came next?

Dominick DunneDominick Dunne. He's 79 years old. He's a small man, both short and slender, but his voice is strong, his back is straight, and his eyes are bright. All signs of a man that's still fully alive, completely there.

He wasn't there to talk about the library, of course. He was just there to entertain and amuse, to be the "draw" for the evening. So, he told stories, which -- of course -- is what he does best. He reminded me of my grandfather at his best: funny, fascinating, reminiscent, and carrying so many story threads at once that you think he's just meandering aimlessly until he ties everything up at the end with a neat little bow and you sit there, in the audience, scratching your head. "How'd he do that?"

He talked about a woman coming to visit him, to ask him about his old war (WW II) buddy. (The woman was the buddy's daughter.) He talked about the war, and the saving two men at the Battle of the Bulge that earned him and his buddy each a Bronze Star and a salute from a general. He talked about losing touch with his buddy after the war, and never talking about what happened, but forty years later they saw each other in a café at the Waldorf Astoria, and his friend bragged about being "very successful." Mr. Dunne's response was, "I'm not exactly chopped liver!"

Agreed.

At some point in his story, he casually mentioned "chatting with Steven Spielberg about my (Mr. Dunne's) daughter," who had acted in one of Mr. Spielberg's movies. Anybody else, and I would have called it a very big name-drop, but this is the type of person that Mr. Dunne associates with. (I should mention that his daughter was murdered in her early twenties.)

I can't retell his whole story... it was too long, and I remember the imagery better than the words or the order he presented them. I'm not even sure for how long he spoke! Frankly, I had tunnel vision most of the time. He was fascinating, and the room was utterly silent except for a few interruptions for applause. He did mention the book that he's hoping to have finished by the Fall, which I think he said would be called "A Solo Story." It's semi-autobiographical, and sounds like it'll be very entertaining.

After it was over, someone from the Pequots got up and "closed" the evening with some sort of Pequot Prayer. That was fairly uncomfortable and utterly unexpected, but he translated it for us and all he really did was ask "the creator" to guide us all safely home. Of course, I don't speak Pequot, so he may have actually prayed for all of the settlers to go broke in their little casino. ;-) We'll never know.

Corinne is a real fan of Mr. Dunne, and actually got a chance to meet him, briefly, after the event was over. (Have to admit that I'm a bit of a fan now, too. You have to love a good storyteller.)

Update: Corinne posted about our evening, but didn't link to me! So, I've added a link to her story at the top of this one.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Hitchhiker's Guide to Seth

Other geek-types married to lovely-but-non-geek women (or vice versa) will probably find this endearing.

Corinne, my ever-devoted and wonderful-yet-utterly-non-geeky wife is struggling her way through the book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. This has nothing to do with the movie, nor would I ever suggest she read it.

Why, then? In her own words, "so I can understand you better."

Is that sweet, or what? Probably a lost cause, but maybe not.

Last night she started quizzing me on some of the stuff in the book (like, "what are the uses for a towel?"). I had to explain that the book wasn't formative in my youth (except for the number 42. Ok, maybe a little formative.), and I'm not a fanatic devotee. I don't have them memorized, and haven't read the books in well over a decade.

Maybe she's just hoping to figure out why I often answer "42" to poorly worded, imprecise questions; or what, exactly, I mean when I refer to travelling by improbability. :-D

She'll never be a geek (maybe a kitchen-gadget geek, but the current over-use of "geek" is another topic entirely), and I love her for it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

The Unpublished Hack: UDDI in Mozilla

This is one of the five 'hacks' that I wrote for the book, Firefox Hacks. It wasn't included in the book because it's too geeky even for most advanced web developers, and Firefox's support for UDDI is incomplete. Still, if you need to work with UDDI, then Firefox could make an excellent test-bed because it's so easy to rapidly develop a user interface, and the missing pieces are easy to download and install.

This guide is just intended to help you start working with UDDI in Firefox. It's not comprehensive, by any means. If you know nothing about UDDI, the best you'll get here is a link for learning more somewhere else.

Note that everything mentioned in this 'hack' applies equally to Firefox and the Mozilla Application Suite (a.k.a. Seamonkey).

Read Hacking on UDDI in Mozilla or Firefox.

Saturday, April 2, 2005

Slashdot Did and Did Not Like My Contributions

There's a review of Firefox Hacks on Slashdot.

Overall, the reviewer liked the book. He even mentioned my contributions! You'd think that was a good thing. You'd be wrong.

I have to say I felt the chapter on Power XML (with 17 of the 100 hacks) was far too general on Web technologies and a little out of place; easily half the hacks in that chapter could have been dropped without any real loss to a reader's understanding of Firefox. I would have preferred more on the browser itself. No insult intended to Seth Dillingham, who wrote four of the hacks I'd throw out -- they are well written and do show how best to deal with Web technologies inside Firefox. I just felt that the space would have been better devoted to more "core" topics.

Nigel and Bryan had enough trouble coming up with 100 topics. With that, and the fact that Firefox has the "highest market share" among technophiles and web developers, can you really blame them for including some topics related to web development?

So, he liked my writing, but didn't think it belonged on this book. Could have been worse.


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From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put. - WC