Bionic upgrade en route

I’ve been struggling with this one for a while, but I should probably take some time to let my non-local friends know about the new-ish hiccup in my universe. As a lot of people know, I’ve got an iffy knee, courtesy of a mountain bike vs. hidden ditch accident in 1989. Some of my high school friends may even remember that I spent the summer and fall of our grade 12 year on crutches after some arthroscopic surgery, again, thanks to said accident. (There also was the grad sleepover that year, where Steve Lee grabbed one of my crutches and threatened to beat the snot out of someone in our class for picking on another kid who was passed out. Ahh, good times.)

During that surgery, a portion of the meniscus in my knee was removed/compromised. 16-year-old me didn’t consider this do be of much consequence. 39-year-old me is, however, seeing the result. Most devastatingly, the docs told me that my running career is finished, which has been one of the real joys I’ve discovered since quitting smoking over a decade ago.

I will, in all likelihood, be the recipient of one of two new body parts: either (a) an Oxford Knee partial replacement (which they don’t want to do, because I’m not old enough), or (b) a meniscal allograft, more commonly referred to as a meniscal transplant from a (deceased) donor. The former is a pretty standard procedure: lop off part of the head of the femur and the head of the tibia, throw in a chunk of titanium and plastic, and “new” knee accomplished. The latter, however, is far less common, but (in my mind, anyways), far more awesome, because it means, hey, ZOMBIE KNEE. As the surgeons have all said, however, despite it’s gruesome awesomeness, there is no positive outcome here; a partial is only about pain management, not a bionic replacement, and a meniscal transplant just puts it off for a while.

Unfortunately, my first surgeon has dropped out, because he moved to Alberta (one more reason to hate that damn province), and the second is a bazillion miles away in southern Ontario —  there are only half a dozen in the province that perform it, and although I meet all the requirements (of which there are many), the marginal nature of a few may make me ineligible.

So, do me a favour and say a GRR ARGH for me. And, if I get the allograft, there’s a killer knee tattoo coming.

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An extended leave of absence ends…

Yeah, this has become like so many other apparently-abandoned blogs online. Unfortunately, most of the time, updates that I want to put online are those that require little time, and FB is easier for me to keep in contact with my friends about. A couple of new posts will be going up shortly, however. And, I’m certain that I’m mostly talking to myself right now.

LD

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A dent in the universe. A big, big dent.

I quote lecti, a user on the news site BoingBoing, to sum up this evening for me:

I can’t believe how sad I feel about this.

Steve Jobs passed away today at the very young age of 56, and the web is filled with testaments to the life of a man who, quite literally, changed the world.

And it was his vision that, in part, changed mine.

I didn’t have any experience with Apple computers until after Jobs had left the company in 1985 — ironically, at almost the exact time he left. I started high school in West Vancouver that September, and had my first chance to use both an Apple IIe and and Macintosh that year.

See, up to that point, we’d been a Commodore 64 family. My parents’ home-based business was run on Commodores, an upgrade itself from when I used to listen to my father in his office, hammering away with two fingers on a typewriter. They ran a publishing company, and produced copy for their publications on the commodore, printed it out, and took it to the printer for typesetting and paste-up. (Oh my lord, you kids have no idea how good you have it now.) We used to spend evenings typing in numbers to generate charts and graphs for the newspapers (lottery statistics, in case you were wondering).

I’d been at school for a year, under the tutelage of our computer teacher, Gord Devito, and I saw how all the charts and graphs could be made so easily using what was (I think) Microsoft Works. (I also remember one of the teachers having this big, floppy bag that he lugged a Macintosh 256k back and forth from home to the school every day. Talk about portable computing.) and suggested to my parents that they should totally switch to Macs, so they could do these charts waaaaaaaay faster. They went and talked to Mr. Devito, who hooked them up with a real Mac nerd, and the rest, as we say, is history.

My parents’ company went on to become one of the first companies in North America to produce a weekly, full-colour magazine using desktop publishing. It was fraught with hair-pulling, yelling, late nights and a lot of money spent on hardware, but it eventually worked.

At that point, I didn’t have a ton on interest in the industry, but made spending money doing layout work in the evenings using Quark Xpress. I went away to university in 1991, and took a Commodore 64 and a huge daisy-wheel printer with me, because they weren’t being used any more. In my second year, I bought a Mac Classic II (9″ greyscale screen, $2300) to use, since I was going to have to do desktop publishing as part of my journalism degree. At the end of that year, I had had enough of journalism — but not my Mac.

After a summer spent painting houses, I ran out of work. I needed a job — and my parents found space for me in their office. And suddenly, I found a new passion for desktop publishing, and the Mac in particular. This was before the web had become anything more than a hobbyist’s space, and BBSs still ruled the roost. I still have the 9600 baud modem we used to send files to the printer. But I loved the technology. My new bible was the MacWorld Mac & Power Mac Secrets book. Thicker than a phone book, it detailed how Apple got started, the evolution of the hardware and software, the specifications on every Mac model released to date, every operating system, how the system functioned, obscure commands and key combinations to do obscure things, Easter eggs, and so much more. I read it every chance I had, and can still probably tell you what order the myriad of numbered PowerMacs were released in (oh, PowerMac 7100/66, you magnificent bastard). And a lot of the reason that I was so intrigued and so drawn to it, was because the Macintosh story was so…unique. So different. Grown from a garage, and inconceivably starting a revolution that we still have yet to see the end of.

When I moved to Emo, I took a brand-new Mac laptop with me, and continued to champion the Mac platform, despite increasing trouble for Apple and its users. I argued online, advocated to my friends and family, and fought as only a zealous 23-year-old can. But I was disheartened as I watched the company’s troubles increase, as the licensing program failed, and as the losses mounted.

And then, Steve came back.

I remember when I first realized that something special, something missing, came back to Apple with Steve, and in Steve. It was the November 10, 1997 introduction of the PowerMac G3, which had been teased ahead of time on the Apple web site. As I listened to the audio stream live over my dialup connection, I heard Steve, the consummate showman, introducing the new products, and realized that Apple finally had someone in the house who got it. Products need to easy to understand, and a bunch of meaningless model numbers did nothing to make that simpler. G3. New chip. Fast. Easy to understand.

The Think Different campaign. The Bondi blue iMac. The iPod. The sexy G3 towers. The G4 cube. They weren’t all successes, but damn, were they cool. And while I won’t give Steve all the credit for all the ideas, he was most certainly taking those ideas and making them better. Sexier. Friendlier. I loved his attention to detail; as someone for whom attention to detail in public shows and presentations is crucial, I completely empathized with his drive to make the best product possible. And, no one knew how to put on a show like Steve. Seeing how this skinny, kinda-geeky-looking guy could take people’s breath away with his showmanship was part of what inspired me to change my major to marketing; how awesome would it be to sell something awesome?

It’s late, and I could write for hours about this. I simply want to say this: thank you, Steve. I hold no illusion that you were always the nicest guy, or the easiest to get along with, but no one can fault your dedication to both your family and your vision of a better place. You showed the entire world that companies can make money making history, by making amazing products that change lives.

We’ll miss you — more than we probably know.

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Perspectives on 9/11

I didn’t really want to get all 9/11-y, as so many people are. I experienced the same horror that day that so many others did. Hell, at the time, I was a volunteer ambulance attendant — I almost jumped in a car and headed to New York to help.

But I decided that I needed to blog this from a different perspective.

I will always remember 9/11 as the day that web traffic changed — when traffic loads brought down CNN and others, and the need for disseminated traffic balancing was needed. The irony of that day is that, when a content delivery network provider like Akamai was most needed, was also a day when one of its founders was on board the plane that hit WTC1.
I was at the Fort Frances Times then, and we were mirroring content and imagery as we could grab it from major news sites, when they were actually up. As horrifying a day as it was, it was a fascinating day to work in the news industry in general, and the web news industry specifically. I don’t actually remember what our traffic looked like that day (I know it was up significantly), but I felt like our team was actually able to do something to help, when so many sites were being overwhelmed. I remember the grim satisfaction, as a certified geek, that the sites that stayed up were the tech news site like Slashdot, which was posting constant info from editors and users alike all day, and was also the first time I heard a mention of Osama bin Laden as the possible mastermind, scant hours after the towers had fallen. I got more information there than from anywhere else as the day’s news unfolded.
9/11 is a tough nut for me to crack. I felt the same horror as many others that almost 3000 people died that day. But I weep for what the United States has become as a result of that day. Civil liberties and constitutionally-provided rights have been pushed aside in the interests of national security, and there is confusion even today on the right to take pictures in public spaces, to challenge authority in a peaceful manner, and to question the efficacy of the creation of what is, effectively, a police state, in so many ways. I worry every time I cross the border into the U.S., not because I’ve done anything wrong, but because of the power that the border security personnel now have.
I felt a grim satisfaction when OBL was killed in May, not because I wished him (or anyone else) harm, but because there was some closure. I hoped that the U.S. would be able to move on, to relax its scrutiny, because the “big bad” had been eliminated. I read an interesting perspective from a user on one forum, who said:
“I personally hate 9/11 because it reminds me of how cowardly this generation was when it came to defending their civil liberties. No one asked us to storm a beachhead or put our lives on the line. The only thing we had to do was not surrender what better men and women bled to give us, and we failed. “
Ultimately, I’m angry about 9/11. I’m angry that so many innocent people were killed for a very non-Islam reason. I’m angry that so much has happened since then in the name of “freedom, democracy and security” that had nothing to do with any of the three. And, most importantly, I’m angry that so many thousands of people in Iraq have died, not because the regime needed toppling (it did), but because the U.S. leadership used 9/11 as a reason to invade. I think that the perspective of this piece from Al Jazeera English shows how the world before 9/11 — and after it — are vey different from a non-American perspective.

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Customer link

Just an add for a customer whose web site I worked on a while ago — Strictly Amish. Really, really nice furniture in Winnipeg.

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