Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Siesta, by Hellblazer

Originally uploaded by Hellblazer.
I'm going to try using flickr's blog posting service to put someone else's picture in my blog. This is a beautifully Maltese picture; it reminds me of the short time I was able to spend with my grandfather, Arthur Smith, before he passed away when I was four years old. We sat on the steps of his house in Balzan and played, I suppose :) My thanks to Hellblazer for taking and posting this picture.

I've been working hard on the Shadow Cabinet site ( and I'm quite pleased with it now - it's a fan site for my favourite band and I've learned a lot about content management and also how to use the free software called GIMP for image editing. My fractal explorations are still going strong; there's four new images in the "Brian's Fractals" link on the right side of the page, and I have some more coming.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Me in front of the Melbourne skyline by the Yarra River. Posted by Hello

The family sings happy birthday to Benjamin - the poor little guy was asleep by the time the cake came out :) Posted by Hello

Mum looks at the *huge* Christmas display my Uncle Percy built in the window of his new house. Posted by Hello

A sparrow eats leftover food Posted by Hello

Mum and I watching Dad do his singing at the Yarraville Pokies Club. Posted by Hello

Me and my dad - he's dressed up to go and do a show. Posted by Hello

Me on the balcony of my parents home. Posted by Hello

Saturday, November 27, 2004

I'm In Australia !
Deanne and I decided to surprise my Mum and Dad by sending me on a two week to Australia ! It's just me, though, because Deanne has so much responsibility at work with her promotion to Product Line Manager. I haven't been back home since we emigrated in July 2000, so there will be a lot of catching up to do with friends and family...and lots of baby names to learn !

The trip itself went smoothly, starting with a 5.25AM flight out of Florida, then to LA, then Tokyo, then Melbourne. I had to go via Tokyo because that's all that was available. It wasn't too hard to pass time on the flights - I had two seats to myself on both of the long flights (about 12 hours each) and I had a good book and good movies to watch.

When the taxi dropped me at Mum and Dad's house around 10 AM I left my bags by the front door, knocked, and stepped around the corner. He answered and I waited a few seconds, then slowly stepped out to see his stunned face, mouth wide open. Big hugs and a few tears and laughs later we settled down and had a little drink and waited for Mum to come home from her weekly bridge game. She sometimes goes to lunch afterwards, but thanks to Dad's cousin Rose (who knew I was coming) inviting herself over for lunch she had made sure Mum would be here to see me nice and early.

When she got home and beeped the car horn so Dad would open the garage for her, Dad, Rose and her husband Ray all went outside to say hello. Instead of lifting the door though, Dad just hit it and said "Open Sesame !" She looked at him like he was crazier than usual, but when he hit it again, the door slowly lifted to reveal a set of skinny hairy legs...then khaki shorts...then a blue and white baseball shirt...and then me ! The car lurched forward as she was so shocked that she'd tapped the accelerator instead of the brake !! "Whoah !" says Dad and Mum just stopped the car, got out and gave me a big, big hug. It was really nice to be able to surprise them both - thanks Rose and Ray !

Australia hasn't changed much since I left, of course, but it was interesting to see what I'd forgotten that I'd forgotten. The soft curve of the blue taps in our bathrooms, the earthy, salty smell of the creek behind our house, and how closely packed all the houses are in our suburb. Everything looked a little smaller than I remember too, but it seemed cosy and comfortable to be home again. I'm very happy to be back for a while.

I went back to Westgate Concert Band, a community band that I was involved with for more than ten years. I turned up un-announced, as it gets a good reaction and there were a lot of wide eyes when I walked in. But it got better ! They were just about to rehearse a vocal duet from Phantom of the Opera, "That's All I Ask of You", but the male singer hadn't shown up. No sooner had I sat down to listen to the band rehearse than conductor Roy Hamilton put the music in my hand and said "Can you sing that ?" Wow...two minutes after walking in after four years away, I've got a microphone in hand and warming up to sing a duet ! It went really well, with harmonies and everything - what a great way to walk back into band ! Roy said afterwards he'd just been wishing I was there because it was the kind of song that would suit my voice...and then I walked in :) ! I said hello to everyone afterwards, of course, and played trumpet in the second half of the rehearsal. It's a great feeling to be part of a group again, musically speaking, and I was surprised at how quickly everything came back to me. I'm going again next week and hopefully some of my old friends who weren't there this time will be there.

In the afternoon I helped Dad get set up for his show at the golf club, and met all his friends there - very nice people indeed. He's got a nice setup for doing a show; karaoke machine, speakers, amplifier etc, but Mum and I were feeling too tired to make it to the actual show. But he's doing another one today in Yarraville, so Mum and I will be there for that one. We also stopped by to see my Uncle Percy and Aunt Carmen in their beautiful new house. He's doing a really nice display of Christmas decoration, so watch out for when you drive by !

Lastly I want to thank my wife, Deanne, for her support in getting me to Australia for this visit. She's got a lot to take care of while I'm away and I really appreciate what she's doing for me, Mum and Dad.

I'll start calling some friends today and organizing lunches, dinners and large amounts of drinking (in at least one case) to catch up.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

In front of the Statue of Liberty on a lovely Sunday afternoon. Sadly we couldn't get inside but it was a cool place to be anyway. Posted by Hello

As you can see, we spent the weekend in New York. That sounds mighty jet-setting of us, but it actually the first vacation we've had for a couple of years. Deanne needed to be in the city for a day of training this week, so we decided to make some time and went up early to take in the sights and sounds of New York. There are more pictures on my buzznet account (see the "Pictures" area on the right side of the page) if you'd like to see.

It's a great city; you can really feel the energy of the city as you walk around; every shop seemed to be open all the time, and there was a theatre, or skating rink, or outrageously hip and colourful shop around every corner. It's definitely well-suited to using the public transportation system and just plain walking - there's not much parking space available, so you're better off not trying :) The weather was cool enough to let us wear nice jackets, something we can't enjoy in Florida, but not so cold that you wanted to be inside.

We saw a musical called Dracula on Saturday night, visited the Statue of Liberty on Sunday afternoon, dinner in Little Italy, and the Rockettes at Radio City Musical Hall that night. The first show was not really my thing, but the staging was exciting and the guy playing Dracula was excellent. The Rockettes were perfect - a great show for anyone who remembers Christmas as a child sees it.

Personal highlight for me though was seeing Eric Idle of Monty Python ! Yes, he was walking down 6th avenue and I recognized him right away, said "Mr Idle, it's a pleasure to meet you and thank you for everything you've done, I've enjoyed it all." or something like that. He nodded and smiled at me, but didn't stop - he looked like he was hurrying to get somewhere. He's the main force behind the new Holy Grail musical is opening in a couple of months; perhaps he was organizing some aspect of that ?

So there it is, my weekend in New York City - an immense and exciting city.

Breakdancers in Battery Park. These guys were still going when we got back from our visit to the Statue of Liberty - a long days dancing. Posted by Hello

Times Square advertising Posted by Hello

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Election and Horror Music
It's been a heck of a couple of weeks at Casa ClarkSmith. Deanne voted in the election, of course, and waited in line for 7 hours to do it ! She was going to be out of town on the day, Tuesday November 2nd, and Sunday was the only day she could do it. I dropped her off at noon and went to the library; "wait about 90 minutes then come and get me" was the plan. When I returned she had barely moved, so I went home with the promise to return with food at 5 pm when the doors were locked so she could eat something. I came back as promised, got locked in and we didn't leave till 7 pm. The people in line were very nice though and I think they were mostly Kerry supporters. We talked about life, the universe and everything and I spent a lot of time with a lady who is the editor of one of the sections of the Palm Beach Post. She said she'd never met anyone who thought quite like I did :) She's an artist too, so I talked about copyright law, the Creative Commons, Larry Lessig and Janis Ian and I promised to send her an email with more information and links that I find interesting.

Sadly, President Bush was re-elected in a total bloody surprise to me. I have a lot of faith in democracy and for a couple of days it was pretty shaken by the idea that so many people actually believed what this man told them. But after some reflecting I came to the conclusion that he appealed to that part of their minds where facts didn't apply and nebulous things like faith and morality were more important. Oh, and of course its not a secular morality as in "how can we make life better for more of our fellow citizens via healthcare and better wages", but instead the religious morality that is more concerned with "protecting marriage" by making sure gay people don't have the chance to set up a normal life for themselves. And lets ban abortion as soon as we can load the Supreme Court with conservative judges who'll reverse Roe v. Wade."

The silver lining, if there is one, is that President Bush will have to clean up his own mess and can make no excuses for the misery that is to come. It'll be him that history blames; it's just a shame that the massive deficit he's racking up for future generations can't be avoided, just so he can make evangelicals feel good about themselves.

Musically I'm finally getting down to business ! I downloaded the free version of Acid Express to record my keyboard playing and make loops so I didn't need to actually play correctly for more than 30 seconds :) I used Audacity to generate a click track, and sent my client the music he'd asked for; a reworking of "Ghost" without the drum track.

DSS contacted me and asked if I was ready to begin the next phase of the ROI software, which I suspect will be eating up a lot of my evenings and weekends for a while. I said yes, of course, and mentally noted how many projects I'd better finish (like the music above) before I get stuck into it again.

It's dinner time, then I'll go and see if DSS has sent the specifications for the software.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Hearing The Music Again
It's been a good few days for my music. The nice chaps at, who are using my piece "Ghost" as their intro and credit music asked if I had any more like it - he said "I recently received an email from someone who really enjoyed the show, and the "sweet-ass sounding theme"!. Sadly I don't, but among my projects-for-the-near-future was the task of getting my recording sessions going again. This seemed like a good opportunity to get started, so I went out and bought a keyboard, microphone and little pre-amp doodad for talking to the computer with and will be doing some recording this week. I hope I like what I produce !

I've also made great progress in getting Shadow Cabinet into its new skin. The Mambo CMS I'm using can be hard to set up; they just changed versions and a lot of the old components don't work any more, but with a few nights work I managed to get it all going. It's nice to be able to load up the content and know that I can change the appearance later on without much work at all. I loaded a lot of the old tour photos in this morning and might be able to publish something in a couple of weeks. I feel like I'm into the fine-tuning part now, though I still can't figure out how the menu system works.

Deanne had a long week in Miami and Boston and is catching up on some sleep right now. I'm going to hook up the 200 GB external drive I bought from and start doing regular backups of my whole hard disk - I've put too much time into what's on there to think about starting again !

I've posted my first diary entry over at entitled "Becoming a Shareware King". I'm going to document the trail of woes as I try and get someone to buy Mercury MailRoom, my lovely, excellent and supremely useful email utility. Why am I (and Shannon !) the only one who thinks so ?

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Segway for only $2488 ! Hmmm.....might have to reach for credit card....
I've begun work on the rebuild of Shadow Cabinet, my site about The Church. I'm using Mambo, Apache, PHP and MySQL. It took a couple of attempts to get things configured right, but all the bits are talking to each other and I'm converting all the content into a sleek, modern web site. It'll be nice to have everything in a flexible "skinnable" kind of form, where if I don't like how something looks I can just alter the style template behind the scenes without needing to modify hundreds of pages myself; that's probably why the old site got so glacial - it was just too hard to change anything. I'm going to pop over to and start writing this up.

Buzznet has put in a "buzzwords" feature which will shortly allow you to subscribe to a daily dose of pictures by keyword: I've set up my account to search (another photoblog site) in the same way, looking for pics of Malta, Great Danes and Melbourne.

Y'know, for someone who still thinks of himself as introverted, I'm bloody not.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

My favourite picture of Marty Willson-Piper, taken at a concert in Melbourne...thinking Churchy thoughts again :) Posted by Hello

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Lots to think about doing
Deanne's going to be away for most of the next three weeks, so I'll have plenty of time to make a start on some of those projects I mentioned last time. Thanks to Daniel and Sean for the suggestions about content management systems - I might make a start on a refurb of Shadow Cabinet, my Church web site. Did you know the background on the front page has been there since the first day ? That was in June/July 1995 ! It used to be the only major site with info about the band, but there are many excellent sites out there now, including the band's own official site. But I've still got a good collection of interviews and a lot of photos. I think I'll winnow the site down to just that, and make an "archive" section for the other stuff that was all hand-built that it'd be a shame to lose. I always wanted to make a lyrics page with explanatory notes and discussions about references in the lyrics. A wiki might be just the ticket for that, 'cos I won't have to do any of the work - just make a site available.

I have a box full of Church clippings from Brett Leigh Dicks, who used to be (still is ?) a freelance journalist and gave me his whole collection of Church newspaper clippings. Back when there was literally almost nothing to read about the Church and I was a ravenous fan, this was such a treasure trove. I read most of them, but got lazy and didn't actually type any of them out. A big hello to Brett if he sees this :)

Things are going great at work - I'm almost 100% comfortable with all the stuff I'm in charge of, Patch enjoys going in to the office with me, and I stream the DroneZone all day, which puts him to sleep and me in a working mood ! I've ripped almost all my CDs to this hard disk now, to the extent that it's takes quite a bit of peering at the CD rack to find one I haven't already done. Winamp tells me I have 7201 tracks; about 27 GB of music. It's great to have it all at my fingertips, but it's hard to remember what I wanted to listen to next...I may have to get moodlogic to build some playlists for me.

Oh, and thanks to everyone for the alphagrams (which, it turns, was a bad choice of name for them) - there are several in the comments on the previous postings. I think CAD's is my favourite (Chris, was that you ?), followed by the lawyer one. I'll have to try and write a coherent one myself too !

Saturday, October 16, 2004

I thought this picture of the huskies was really nice - they look almost attentive and obedient, don't they ;) ! Posted by Hello

I've been using a lot this week; they have a lot of ambient/electronic music that I'm interested in and they're even carrying Margot Smith's two albums, which is a good thing. She worked with three members of my favourite band The Church on her "Taste" album but sadly she hasn't put out any more albums since then. They also have several Ashra Tempel albums, who Marty Willson-Piper said are really good. We'll see :) I'm also enjoying Daniel Lanois's "Shine" and Basque's "Falling Forward".

I downloaded the Google desktop, which is such a no-brainer I can't see why Microsoft have not done it. Their file find command in Explorer is *so* slow and inaccurate and there are already so many shareware products that index the content of your hard-drive that it seems very strange for MS not to come out and write their own. Oh well, you snooze you loose.

My friend Daniel Bowen has asked me to start writing a regular diary about my efforts to sell my utterly cool and wonderful program Mercury MailRoom, which so far have yielded zero sales. Doesn't seem like there'd be much to write about, but I have plans...why do all geeks have plans ? My List of Plans is currently as follows:

  • Try and promote MMR to small businesses that get too much email
  • Promote MMR to overworked tech support bods in small firms
  • Following my friend Paul Qualls's advice, promote customized versions of MMR to firms that want it to do something special with their database or whatever. Big bucks
  • Resurrect my Reptile screensaver and do "something" with it in OpenGL.
  • Get my home studio working again. Erm...step one should be get a home studio. Need a microphone and good sound card, so I can record more little tunelets.
  • Learn how to set up a web site that gets its content out of a database. Using all Open Source tools, of course.
  • Learn how the hell CSS style sheets work.
  • Learn to use Blender, the free 3d animation and rendering package.
  • Scan all my old photos into digital loveliness.
  • Record all my good videos into DVD format. I'll do this when some software comes along that makes it easy to add chapter points on a DVD.
  • Print out some of the 10 000 digital pictures I have and put them in frames - I love my family, why don't I have more pictures of them ?
  • Learn to draw - my doodling started to look almost interesting a while ago.
  • Various home maintenance things too boring to think about :)
So that's all my cunning plans. Not quite Rimmer's "Daily Goal List" (Number 37...learn Portugese) but a nice group of interesting projects.

Hey, here's a new blog meme I'm declaring: write a paragraph where each word begins with the next letter of the alphabet. Lets call it an alphagraph for easy googling/memetracking later.Here's my alphagraph:

And begin counting down, even following grey housewives into junk-kindled lines made noisy, or perhaps quit. Raise security though under violence we x-ray your zipper.

Tell your friends :)

The "album cover" pose by Jacob, Brandi and Patch. This was Patch's first trip to the park with other dogs since his spine problem seems to have come under control, and he had a great time :) He's down to one Prednisone pill every three days. Posted by Hello

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Venice Window Light
Venice Window Light
photo by: sirenbrian

I found this while trawling through my photo collection. I took it in 1999 and its in the cathedral in Saint Marco's square in Venice. I remember the floor being really uneven and sort of damaged - it's amazing how much history is left exposed to the elements, but I guess in Venice they don't have much choice.

Monday, October 11, 2004

I'm a Jingle Writer
Another one of my little tunes is going to be used in someone else's work :) I'm proud to pass on the news that Frightmares will be using my short piece "Ghost" as their intro music and on their credits. I'm very pleased that two people have now found a use for my music, which I was always a bit embarassed at never having fleshed out into longer pieces or perhaps into songs. But maybe I'm good at writing short, punchy pieces :)

You can listen to some of my music by following the "Brian's Music" link on the right.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Team America
I managed to get tickets to this much-anticipated movie's preview showing last night. It was hilarious ! "I'm Ronery", the musical lament by North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il was a classic, as was the dicks, pussies and assholes speech. Its structured exactly like a Hollywood blockbuster with the reluctant hero stepping into a role that holds great fear for him, bonding with the team, facing a setback and reaching eventual triumph etc. It strips bare the formula and shows that most of those films would be comedies if they didn't take themselves so seriously.

It was interesting to see this interview with Trey Parker and Matt Stone in which they said they edited the film while they were filming it, which enabled them to alter the script as they went. This makes a lot of sense to me and leads me to wonder why more films aren't made this way. It'd be like me, a programmer, trying to write a whole program without compiling it in small increments as I went. I'd almost certainly miss the mark like Michael Bay did when he made Pearl Harbor :)

So go see this film; you'll laugh, I promise.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

A multi-storey boat shed in Stuart got opened up by the wind. Posted by Hello

This is very close to where Hurricane Jeanne came ashore, and lots of power poles were blown over like this one. Posted by Hello

Patch is feeling much better ! This is an older picture of him, but he could certainly do this if he wanted to :) His pinched nerve in his spine seems to be under control thanks to the Prednisone that he's taking. His dosage is down to one pill every two days and he hasn't had an attack since the one I last wrote about a couple of weeks ago. We're hopeful that the condition won't deteriorate any further and that he'll live many more years without that sort of pain again, though as all big dog owners know, the poor things are just not bred to live a long life.

Life outside of Patch-watching continues unabated. We bought another carpet for the other big room in the house and it really feels warmer and more homely in there. If only the big tv in that room worked, I might actually have something to do in that room ! I called a TV repair place and they said to call back tomorrow to talk to someone who might be able to work on a German television with no repair manual. I also contacted the hurricane insurance people and they'll be sending someone out next week to take a look at the kitchen cabinets, which are smelling a bit moldy now. Hopefully we'll get a new kitchen out of this, which we'd been planning to do anyway. We met a fellow who had put in a new kitchen before the hurricane hit and now had to rip it all out and start again, what terrible luck for him.

I've been reading a few political blogs lately, with the election just around the corner, and find Andrew Sullivan a very interesting read, and the most interesting conspiracy theory I've seen so far is at IsBushWired which asks if President Bush wore an earpiece in some speeches he's given (not such a big deal) and also during the first debate with John Kerry, which would be absolutely shocking if it were true.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

About 8:30 pm, wind around 70-80 mph and things are just getting started. Posted by Hello

We survived our second hurricane in three weeks and this time we sat home through it. It made landfall just north of us again, and Jupiter (our town) was right on the southern edge of the eyewall...meaning we didn't get any of the calm of the hurricane eye. At one point I think we caught some gusts over 120 mph from a micro-burst tornado, which form near the eyewall in hurricanes.

It was awesome to hear the power of the wind and see how it shoved the trees around. I took some video and pictures and will share those later on, but I don't know if they captured everything we saw. The sliding doors actually bowed inwards as the wind peaked, like cheeks being puffed up. The huge fronds on our biggest trees being pulled hard in one direction and a split-second later being thrashed hard in the other direction. The smaller palm tree outside our bedroom catching the light in such a way that it looked like a mad scarecrow dancer prancing, yes prancing, and waiting for the window to blow out so it could come in and poop in my shoes.

And poor Patch kept asking to go to the toilet, but of course I wasn't going to let him out in the backyard. I took him to the front door where there was a small area fairly shielded from the wind. I pointed to the spot and told him "come here. go potty" and he stand there, sniff at it, and just look at me. "Go potty", I'd repeat, and the brave guy would start wandering out into the street, which is where he usually goes ! "No ! Patch, come here !" would get him back and I'd try again to get him to use the shielded spot. He just looked at me, then walked behind me and stood against the door. I think he didn't want to use that spot because it was too close to the house. Anyway, we tried this three seperate times and eventually I just waited for a lull and let him into the backyard. I shone the spotlight on a grassy spot near the back door, which he totally ignored and ran around the house to his usual spot. It wasn't much of a lull - the wind was still pretty damned strong and I was worried about him being blown over and hurting his back, but a minute later he came back, tail wagging and his body totally soaked. We dried him off and he flopped back onto his bed and slept well.

We slept around 3 am, got up again around 10 am, and the power came back at 4:40 pm, which is not bad at all; just 22 hours without power.

We had some water drip into the house in about six places, but strategically placed buckets and plastic dishes took care of that. Of course we'll need to get a professional roofer to inspect it and see what kind of damage is under there. Worst case is that the whole roof will need replacing. Another questions is whether this will be covered by the windstorm insurance that we have; they might just say it was a problem with the roof that wasn't actually caused by the hurricane.

So that's our second hurricane experience in a month - I'm glad we stayed home, especially for the pets' sake, but I'm glad its the end of the season :) Thanks to everyone for the kind emails - see you all later !

Saturday, September 25, 2004

doom 3 is way scarier than this hurricane
We've decided to stay home and sit through this hurricane, unless it does something to change our minds in the next 24 hours. It's the same strength as the last one, and seems to be heading even further north (viz. away from us) than Frances did, and since the house came through with no damage at all, we think this is the easiest place to be. Not necessarily the safest - that'd be a couple of hundred miles away, but moving Patch and the cats at such short notice would be tough.

No sales yet on Mercury MailRoom, but I've submitted it to lots of shareware sites and signed up six affiliates, who will take 30% of whatever sales they generate for me. It's an interesting world, this shareware business, with forums full of arguments between vendors (that's me) and affiliates (that's the guys who built sites designed to sell vendor's software) arguing over affiliates "stealing" sales from vendors by offering discounts, or falsely claiming that the vendor's price is higher than it actually is. My program is pretty expensive for a shareware program ($99) and I'm not banking on making a lot of sales to the general public. I'm actually looking for working tech support staff to find it and buy it. When I get into the next phase of promotion I'll be trying to get it in front of such people in a more targetted way; in the meantime I'm just putting it out there and seeing if anything interesting happens.

I just downloaded the Doom 3 demo and fairly shat my pants when the zombies started lurching at me while the lights went out. I tried turning up the brightness level in the game, but it did no good :) They want it dark and shadowy ! Even on my low end video card (FX 5200) it does a very good job of terrifying you. I'm a total wimp when it comes to things like horror movies...why did I think I could handle Doom 3 ? I think I'd better play it during the day (non-hurricane conditions) with the lights on and happy sunshine daisy sunflower bright cheerful posters on the wall. And happy music playing too :)

Speaking of music, I signed up at intending to try it and dump it quickly, but I'm very impressed. It's the first online music service that doesn't assume you're a thief who needs to be punished before you've done anything wrong. For $9.99 a month you get to download 40 high quality (192K) mp3 files. That's it. No DRM, no "limited number of burns to CD", no "only plays on an iPod". They're unencumbered mp3s, they're yours forever, even if you cancel the service. There's not a lot of mainstream music on there, but luckily I was looking to beef up my Steeleye Span collection, so this is a good thing for me. They have a wide range of music, editorials etc, so if you're interested in music at all I can recommend it.

I'll be taking video and stuff during the storm, so come back for some choice cuts of real life hardcore weather.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

None for a hundred years, then three come along at the same time !
Hurricane Jeanne looks like it's going to hit us, which is a real drag. If it's less than a category three I think we'll stay home - the house stood up to Frances with no damage at all, and if it's weak enough and moving fast enough we might be better off sitting through this one. But that's not set in stone, of course; we'll see how the storm shapes up.

I've set up a streaming music server on the box at home, so anyone who reads this can take a look through my music and listen to it. Point your music player to and you'll hear whatever music the server has been told to play. You can change the music by directing your web browser to and using the menus to build a new playlist. I don't know what happens if more than one person tries to change the music at the same time.

Best of all, this is a free program ! Download the server from, makers of the Squeezebox, which is a piece of hardware that will hook into this same music stream and plug into your stereo system, and some other stuff too. Look at the bottom right of their screen for the "Slim Server 5" software.

Regnow have done what they need to do in order for me to start selling Mercury Mailroom, so here we go :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Working for the men....
Deanne is in Houston this week, and I'm sitting in our quiet living room listening to The Church on my old DSS laptop as I work my second job. We bought a new carpet for this room and it really makes it warm and inviting - we're still looking for a carpet for the other room.

Patch had another attack today, a full-blown fall to the floor howler. He'd been doing really well with no pain for three or four days, but today I walked into my office with my boss, Victor, and though I told Patch to stay on his bed three times, he still got up, walked around Victor's legs a few times and then got hit with the pain. I stroked his ear and petted him while the pain subsided, cleaned the floor where he'd peed a little and put a pillow under his head, but he didn't move from the corner for another three hours when it was time to go home. After this kind of pain if I ask him to stand, he trembles visibly and hangs his head as if he's upset that he's too scared to do what I ask. I always tell him it's OK and he can stay where he is, of course. He's taking 1.5 pills of Prednisone each night, which I stick inside some peanut butter between two small pieces of chocolate - a guaranteed pill delivery system for a Great Dane with sweet tooth :) This medication is supposed to be gradually tapered off though, but he's behind schedule by quite a way. We tried going down to 1 pill per day but his pain was more frequent, and to have an attack even after 1.5 pills is very worrying. I so hope that the inflammation recedes further.

I drive Patch to and from work in our PT Cruiser, which has lots of room in the back. He has seven dog beds in the bedroom, one in the office at home, one downstairs, one in the Saturn, two in the Cruiser and one in the office downtown ! We just got too tired carrying his big beds from place to place, so whenever we found a new place he needed to be, we picked up another bed for him :)

OK, that's it for tonight. Hope you're all doing well !

Friday, September 17, 2004

Patch is in some trouble
We've had bad news about Patch's condition. The best we can hope for is to make him comfortable and hope the inflammation in his vertebrae can be held at bay. His daily attacks (see Hurricane Part 3 from Sept 3rd, 2004 below) are continuing, though they seem less intense now. A vet x-rayed him and saw damage around his C6 vertebrae, where his body has developed inflammation that is pinching his spinal cord. He's on steroidal anti-inflammatories which have some mild side effects, but aren't working as well as the vet would have liked. He's been coming to work with me so I can keep him company and also let him out every few hours to go to the bathroom - the pills make him drink a lot and pee a lot.

The new job is going very well: it's good to have Patch with me, of course, but I'm also starting to make changes to the software and hopefully the previous developers will be able to do some more training soon so I really understand all the subtleties of what they built. I've also begun a contract with DSS, who I just left two weeks ago, to continue working on one of the products I worked on while I was there. I'll be working nights and weekends. Plus I got the merchant account sorted out for Mercury Mailroom and will be, hopefully, getting that into shape this weekend. I can take credit card payments now !

We went out to R.J Gator's for drinks and dinner with some DSS buddies, then met another DSS guy, Kip, for drinks at Quarterdeck, watched a little baseball, then came home.

Life is good, but I hope Patch feels better soon. He's a brave little guy and I can see how nervous he is when I ask him to stand up - he knows it might hurt him, but he's tries his best to do what I ask of him. Good boy :)

The first load of palm fronds and chopped up trunks. It still hasn't been picked up, so it's actually getting hard to get out of the driveway, the pile is *so* big ! That's Patch's sofa in the background there - it wasn't damaged but we decided to get rid of it. It took up too much room and his back pain seems to be worse when dealing with overly-spongy beds that are high off the ground. Posted by Hello

This is the remains of one of four fans outside a cafe on Clematis street, where I work in downtown west palm beach. They were all damaged, but at least the awning stayed up. Not much good to anyone now :) Posted by Hello

"You're human being would ever stack furniture this way." Posted by Hello

Patch on the sofa bed in the the Hampton Inn. Five days later we were still there and the carpet was soggy from water being blown *in* through the air conditioner. But we were glad they let us bring the pets with us ! Posted by Hello

Repair crews at the traffic lights as I drove back to work. Posted by Hello

Monday, September 06, 2004

Hurricane Part Lucky Seven
The house is fine ! I drove up to Jupiter and looked around, then drove back to Miami and we'll probably stay here one more night. The house is fine, no water got in at all and there's no damage to the outside of the house either. All windows are intact and everything is where we left it. Yay :)

I'll post more later.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Hurricane Part 6
It's Sunday night and we're still in Miami, bored and ready to go home and see what the storm did to our house. Like everyone else we've watched the reports on TV, and so far we're hopeful that the house is intact because I haven't seen anything more sturdy than a mobile home that's taken any damage. Flooding is another matter, of course, because West Palm Beach caught 12 inches of rain and we are about 20 minutes north of there. I'm hoping that because the eye passed over our town that the downpour from the west side of the hurricane drained away before during the 8-10 hours during which the eye passed over and no further rain fell. And if so, then the rain from the east side may have stayed low enough to not flood our house.

I'll probably go home tomorrow if I can get gas for the cars, and let Deanne know if its safe to come home. A part of Interstate 95 was washed out, but we'll take the turnpike home if it's safe. I really hope our power has been restored - I hate the heat and the thought of trying to fix up the house without our air-conditioners would really be awful !

Patch went to the vet today, after another attack of terrible pain. The vet diagnosed a pinched nerve, also called a "lumbo-sacrial condition" which thankfully should be able to be kept under control with pills and hot water bottles three times a day. The good news is that Patch is in great condition other than this new thing - his artificial knee joint is in perfect shape, his hips and joints are strong, his weight is fine, muscle tone is perfect and he's just a big friendly guy :) I'm very glad he's not in any danger and this condition is treatable. He's going in for X-Rays ASAP to nail down the diagnosis. He had singapore noodles, General Tso's Chicken and rice for dinner last night, sausage, egg, muffins and yogurt this morning...he's eating the same stuff we are :)

Thanks to everyone for calling Mum and Dad to check on our condition - sorry I didn't blog again sooner, but the net connection here is flakey.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Hurricane Part 5
It's a bit of an anti-climax so far. The storm has slowed down a lot and seems to be weakening, though there's a good chance it'll strengthen again when it hits warmer waters. So we're hunkered down in our hotel, eating, watching TV and using the free WiFi provided by the Hampton Inn - thanks Hampton !! I ate like a pig this morning - seemed to have a bottomless stomach after all the lifting and moving yesterday, which started at 6.45 am Thursday and didn't end till 1:00 am Friday.

Patch hasn't had any pain this morning, and is eating like a king: five sausage patties, two biscuits, a yogurt, his dry food and some leftovers from yesterday. Garibaldi is still a bit skittish but his appetite has returned. We've also managed to extend our stay to Sunday night, which gives us a nice stable situation to last out the storm.

We've stopped watching hurricane speculation on the TV and Deanne has the movie Starman on, which is a sweet film. I'm going to do some more work on Mercury Mailroom now; simplify the shareware key and add some more functionality that was suggested by my friend Shannon.
Hurricane Blog Part 4
We made it to our hotel in Miami and are settling in for the night. The weather is very mild right now; the occasional shower and thick clouds is the only a tiny, tiny taste of what's to come. Unfortunately Patch's leg has not improved - he's howled without much warning twice tonight. We hope a good night's sleep on his bed (he has a mattress with real springs in it ! He definitely enjoys having a good springy mattress over the foam ones that crush down to nothing under his weight) will give him some stability. He seems to be bouncing back very quickly and there's a vet on the same road we're staying on, so tomorrow morning we'll take him down for a look-see.

The cats hated the trip, as they usually do. But Aura bounced back very quickly and within a minute was exploring, bouncing all over the hotel room and playing with a catnip mouse. Garibaldi, the brave hunter of lizards and small furry creatures, immediately retreated to the space under the sofa and took twenty minutes to emerge. This is par for the course for both of them.

I made four trips carrying stuff from the cars to the room before I realized that hotels have those big rolling baggage carts, and picked up all the rest of the stuff in one trip. We have enough food for about a week, which we'll only need if the hurricane takes out the power to the house for a few days. Our neighbor, Toni, works for Hilton and got us rooms at short notice at a great rate, but as of now we're only booked in for two nights...we definitely need another night ! Hopefully Toni can pull some strings tomorrow.

Thanks to Keith, Dad, Anne and Deac, Vicky, Scott and Rebecca for calling to see how we are. Good mojo to Rebecca, who lives in Sebastian and is the likely target for Frances' landfall at the moment. And good luck to Vicky and Scott who are driving to Tampa with two huskies in tow !

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Hurricane Part 3 - Patch is hurt
We're just about to leave for Miami. It's 7.00 pm and we decide to give Patch, our Great Dane, a shower outside, so he'll smell better at the hotel. But while drying him I press on his hip and he collapses to the ground, screaming. I don't think anything has torn at my heart more than hearing my dog in pain. I tried to help him up but he nipped at my hand "Don't touch !", howling the whole time. After about ten seconds he struggled to his feet and jumped in the pool - I guess he associates that with cooling off and reducing burning. We dried him off again, carefully, and I took him for a short walk to see if he was ok - he seemed alright and even stood on the leg while relieving himself. I hope he's OK on the drive down there; we're going to look for an emergency vet ASAP, assuming the worst of the weather misses Miami and the power is still on tomorrow.

You can read more about Patch at his website.
Hurricane Part 2
We're going to Miami to ride the storm out - we've picked up all the plant pots (I hate oograh - always said we shouldn't bother with it !) and lawn furniture, picked up all the furniture and stacked it up (we're expecting flooding - hoping for just a few inches, but a 15 feet surge is predicted) and will be leaving in a couple of hours. Our neighbour works for Hilton and got us a room down in Miami, which is about 1.5 hours away.

So we'll be doing the whole "come back and see what's left" routine. I'm glad hurricane & flood insurance are compulsory in Florida ! If some stuff gets destroyed - hey it's only stuff and can be replaced. Except Steve Kilbey's bass guitar and his gold record award for Starfish, which are safely stored away upstairs. We're taking our photos with us, and the pets of course.

Next post from Miami !

Hurricane Blog Pt 1.
A hurricane hasn't hit this part of Florida for a hundred years, but on Saturday that right might come to an end. We live half a mile from the ocean and are in the evacuation zone - it's nearly noon and we have to leave at 2PM. We're planning to sit out the storm at the offices of DSS, which is a new building and should be sturdy enough to stand up to Hurricane Frances, although it is still pretty close to the ocean.

Deanne is talking to her mother on the phone, trying to calm her down....that didn't take long :)

We went and put gas in both cars this morning, bought about $300 of groceries, withdrew $500 cash from the bank and took pictures of the house, cars etc. We're planning to take one of the cars out of town about ten or twenty miles to park it somewhere so that one of them will be, hopefully, out of range.

The TV is full of Very Scary People with dire warnings about how destructive the storm will be. We're hoping, of course, it will miss us and that can happen just a few hours before it is due to cross land. Apparently all the weather models agree it will turn more to the north and we're really hoping it does it soon. If it does so, we'll not bear the brunt of the storm, the 140 mph winds and 15 foot storm surge and hopefully get those numbers down to something our home can manage.

We have about 36 hours before the winds start to reach us, so I'm hopeful that we can move all our belongings upstairs and hope the roof stays on !

I'll try and connect later and post more.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

the new job begins
I've been at my new job for two days now and so far it's been very good. I still feel a little useless, but I'm learning quickly and will soon be able to compile the projects myself. I have my own office, installed the software I wanted on my PC etc. I still have to get my speakers in here though - I'm not at home until my music is playing here :)

The drive in and back home is the biggest difference so far. DSS was only 5-7 minutes away, ScriptRX is about 30 minutes. It's a little strange driving in thick traffic and through downtown which is all one-way streets and construction right now. Driving home last night I totally screwed up and went south out of town instead of north. After about 15 minutes I realized I'd made a mistake and reversed direction, and got on the highway north. I screwed that up too - I was in the wrong lane and had to exit when I actually wanted to stay on, and it took about ten minutes to find a way to turn back around, get on the highway and get home. 45 minutes in all, but hopefully I'll get the journey home right tonight.

Patch is suffering a bit because now I can't pick him up at lunch at take him to work. I'll ask if I can bring him in here occasionally if he's not going to be OK at home.

I made two more good fractal images last night - see the link to "Brian's Fractals" on the right. I'm going to start bringing the camera in to work and take pictures of the new digs and the downtown area - it's quite pretty.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

I've made a fractals page to show off what a even a talentless hack like me can do with a good bit of fractal software. I hope you'll give it a try too - there's a good mailing list to support new users too. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The Wedge available online
My hobbies all seem to have hit me with good progress at the same time. Curt Stewart's short film, The Wedge, is available online for a week or so. I wrote one of the pieces of music in it - it's the part where the girl is introduced. Curt edited it together from stock footage and provided the voiceover - a mini horror story !

My fractal explorations (see below) are rocking along nicely and I'm going to post a page with my best results. Stay tuned !

Deanne is out of town this week, and I've been saying my goodbyes at work. There's been nothing but nice comments and I think I'm having another two farewell lunches ! It's a sad thing to leave a job you love, but I'm really excited about the prospects of the new one.

Monday, August 23, 2004

A picture I made with UltraFractal 3.0. It was only my second or third try, but since then I've improved a little with practice. It's a great program and you can try it free for 30 days. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

A'ash al-Iraq !
That means "long live Iraq" and it's a phrase I learned from reading the excellent Iraq The Model website, run by three brothers in Iraq. The news came today that two of them are running for office in the new Iraqi government ! Their accounts of daily life, their observations of politics in the new Iraq are very enlightening and I really recommend you read it and I really hope they do well in the elections this December.

I've also been reading Chrenkoff's blog, especially his Good News From Iraq series. Its a roundup of all the good news stories you might find if you looked hard enough. He castigates the "liberal" media for ignoring the "good news" stories, but I think he's a little unfair here: nobody reports on a daily trickle of good news. Everybody reports the "if it bleeds, it leads" stories about death and destruction. This is the same for any subject, not just Iraq. But whatever his motives it's great to read about steady, unstoppable progress being made on issues like international trade, commerce, security, education etc.

I was especially moved by the work done by Spirit of America who buy what is needed in Iraq and Fedex it out there. Bam ! It's fast and effective and it produces good results, quickly. I donated to the program that supplied good quality tools to a program that teaches Iraqi men about construction and carpentry. I've always thought people donated to children a bit too much, and didn't think about donating to the parents. Yes, the children are the future, but if you help their parents today, the children will be fed, clothed and educated by their own families !

Sunday, August 15, 2004

dont' be that guy
The hurricane missed us completely, and thanks to friends and family phoning and writing to see if we're alright. We survived ! Through gusts of up to 15, maybe 16 miles per hour, and enough rain to form small puddles in the driveway, we drank a couple of beers and watched telly, bravely braving braveness bravely :)

It was a total non-event in our corner of Florida, though 13 people died elsewhere, including the man who died when he went OUTSIDE for a ciggy ! Yes, this man was dying for a smoke (I had to say it and I won't be the last) and he did when a palm tree fell on him. How did he light the cigarette ? Who makes a lighter that works in 140 mph winds ? Or who makes a cigarette that can stay alight in a bloody hurricane !?

A word of advice, kids. Don't be that guy who's death is reported in the Odd Spot column of the newspapers. Don't be the guy who's the subject of "Hey, did you hear about the idiot who..." conversations around office watercoolers around the world. Death is coming for all of us one day, but for sooth's sake, don't make it easy for him to find you ! "Hey Death, I'll be outside under that palm tree IN A GODDAMN HURRICANE !"

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Financial Analyst's Holiday
Just listening a story on the radio about the toy store Toys 'R Us possibly splitting up and spinning the Babies 'R Us into a seperate business. The Babies stores are doing much better than the others (and having seen the prices, I can see why) because "people buy for babies year round, but only buy for their kids on birthday and during the 4th Quarter Holidays."

The 4th Quarter Holidays ? "Happy 4th quarter, Johnny ! If you've been good, CFO Santa might bring you fiduciary instruments at 1 point above the prime rate !" HAR !

No, I know, he was being a nice guy and including all religions who have a different holiday at that time; but it took me by surprise and sounded utterly heartless, which is how economists sometimes seem.

I've heard back from the president of the company about me leaving - he asked me why I was going, of course, and wished me luck. He was nice enough to say I could come back if it didn't work out, but I told him I was pretty confident that ScriptRX had answered all my questions about stability, future prospects etc. So it's a done deal, and now I wait to say goodbye to the friends I've made over the past two years. I should take some pictures too.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

storm's a comin'. Yyyyyup.
I have some news. I've been sitting quietly on this for a while but I sent the fax today and made the phone call, so there's no changing my mind. I've accepted a position at another company, ScriptRX and will be leaving DSS at the end of the month. I've had a great two and a half years here, but ScriptRX have made me a great offer that I simply couldn't refuse.

They have a project they've been working on for a couple of years but recently their development team all left to form their own software development shop. Scriptrx needs someone in-house to oversee the source code, develop and design new features, manage any other programmers brought on board or manage communications with other contractors. They work in downtown West Palm Beach, right on Clematis Street and they've made me a very sweet deal.

Document Storage Systems has been a great company to work for and I'll miss it. I'll miss the respect and friendship I have with everyone, and the excellent feedback I've had about the software I've written there. It's a place that's given me a lot of confidence, and also experience in the medical software field, which while I was in college I swore I'd never do, because bugs in medical software can get people killed ! Well, here I am, moving into medical software for the second company in a row, and it seems like there's a great future in it. Very few hospitals have electronic medical records systems, and what I've seen at the VA, which has the best in the world, will help me greatly at the new position.

It's a pretty wide-open scenario which kind of reminds me of what I walked into when I joined Sausage Software in August 1995. I was the second employee and was hired at the kitchen table of a man who is now worth 70-80 million dollars :) Ah, the Internet boom; wasn't it great !? I got a big ol' house out of it, but I foolishly turned down the opportunity to become project manager of HotDog, our flagship product at Sausage. I figured that I liked software design and programming too much to get involved in management and didn't want to be held responsible for other people's work. I was probably right at the time, but over the past few years I've learned a hell of a lot about software design and become a more confident person.

So I'm stepping off one boat and boarding another train, happily mixing metaphors in the airport of life. Thank you to everyone at DSS, hello to everyone at ScriptRX !

Friday, August 06, 2004

New Stuff
We got a series 2 Tivo and I have it set up to play the music from my main computer. It's really cool to be able to turn on the TV, hit the remote control and choose any piece of music from my huge collection of music. Deanne and I have about 1000 CDs between us, so it'll take a while to rip it all to my computer.

Deanne has been away for a couple of days and I've really missed her - I don't sleep well when she's away...though that might be because I bought a Tivo and spent hours getting it set up, then walked the dog, shot some pool with my friend Scott, and couldn't sleep till 3AM. She's going away again on Sunday, so I'll try and get to bed at a better time...I can only do one five hour sleep per week :) But there's a Farscape marathon, the XGames, West Wing episodes....damn you TV !

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

tired of news
The news about the execution of the Turkish truck driver really turned my stomach. I've heard about all the others, of course, but this one really hit me, because the poor bastard was shot right after he read a statement urging all other Turkish drivers to stop working in Iraq. Then one of those disgusting thugs walked up and shot him in the head. I hope these animals get run to ground and feel some terror of their own before they' I want them dead ? Do I want to see them erased from the face of the earth, or treated like any other criminal. I honestly don't know. But I do know that I've reached some point where this same thing has happened too many times. Iraqi people, on the whole, want free and happy lives, but a few thousand thugs can threaten that, and it's not fair.

Y'know, I liked most of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, except the part where he tried to paint the Iraqi insurgency as freedom fighters, or some kind of noble movement who are resisting American aggression. It's total crap - they're power hungry control freaks who's Daddy was kicked out of power and they're terrified of having to make decent, civilised lives for themselves and work with other Iraqis instead of being handed everything they want. Moore has this image totally wrong. The war was the right thing to do, and it's wrong that the rest of the world didn't take Saddam's government down a long time ago. Not because of the War on Terror (you can't do with that with guns - you need good schools and tolerant societies), but because he was a brutish dictator who slaughtered his people and kept his country in fear. And shame on the Arab media for filtering all information through a "America Is Bad" filter. I think Mahmood (see a couple of posts down) said it best - I won't even try to match what he said.

Iraq will eventually be a prosperous democracy because that's what the majority of it's people want. If it receives support from the rest of the world, it'll happen, no doubt in my mind.

Looking back to South Florida though, we're still waiting for our fridge to be repaired (3 months now). I got tired of being ignored by Fisher & Paykel's office in Jacksonville, so I called Australia and ordered the new fan and motor myself, and will have a local repair guy try and install it. Apparently I have the only F&P fridge in the whole USA and I totally broke their heads trying to get a part sent over to replace the dud one. They were so paralyzed they couldn't even phone me back...I hope they recover soon so the healing can begin. Bastards.

Curt Stewart told me that my piece of music "A Good Beginning" is the most prominently featured music in his short film, The Wedge, and that he'll try and send me a DVD of it soon.

Mercury Mailroom is nearly done - we need to set up our ordering page, but lots of the other little tasks are done and we'll start our publicity blitz soon !

Saturday, July 24, 2004

If any blue men with no faces or legs float up to me, I'm ready to knock 'em down. Posted by Hello

My friend Scott took me to a shooting range for my first experience with guns. I've never been a fan of guns, but I think people should be allowed to own them for sporting purposes and self-defense, as long as they make sure their kids can't get to them, and they're prepared to be held responsible for whatever that gun is used for. Semi-automatic and fully automatics seem to have no redeeming use outside of the military: nobody should need one (or more) of those and I agree with Australia's ban on those types of weapons.

Getting off the soapbox now, it was pretty amazing to fire a Magnum .357. It's such a simple device - Scott showed me an automatic pistol in pieces and there were surprisingly few components. You drop six bullets into the chambers, snap it closed, rotate the chambers till it locks...and you're ready. I wondered if the other shooters had ever thought..."what if I just turned around and shot all these people ?" Or maybe that was just me...a weird thought to have, but then I've never held a gun before.

They all seemed to be having a good time - the serious rifle guy next to me was aiming at tiny targets at the furthest extension of the range, about 50 feet, and getting a nice cluster of bullet holes. A tall, balding guy with buck teeth and a tight black tshirt, jeans and big boots fit the stereotype of the gun-totin' redneck perfectly, and was smiling as he fired the loudest damned gun I've ever heard, and picked up the spent shells afterwards. It was a .50 calibre Desert Eagle, I found out later, and Scott said he was surprised the range allowed that size weapon to be fired. Picking up the shells was common practice - you can refill them and fire them again two or three times before they start to warp and become unsafe to fire.

So...I was *really* nervous as Scott showed me how to load and clear the gun. It was heard to hear him because of the earplugs we wore, and every few seconds someone would fire and make me more didn't know when one of the .50 cals would be fired, and you'd feel the air bump against your skin, and resonate in your chest. After a while you get used to it though. Scott loads the gun for me, tells me to keep it pointed downrange always, and I pick it up.

My hands are a bit shaky and I'm sweating a little because the range isn't airconditioned. It's fairly heavy, and cold. I cock it and aim at the blue man target, 15 feet away. I pull the trigger and BLAM ! It kicks back hard and a neat circle appears in the guts of Mr Blue. Wow...I fired a gun :) ! I do this about 87 more times at different ranges...I think all that video game time paid off. The gun cocks easily and each set of six shots goes by too quickly. I get into the rhythm of loading up, firing, and clearing the chamber, and I find my aim tends to be low and quite erratic. But, and this is the important part, I didn't get any power thrills from hefting and firing such a powerful gun. No red mists over the eyes, no visions of soldiering against evil enemies, no defending myself against hideous hordes. It was just an exercise in aiming and firing; a game.

Both of Scott's automatic pistols have problems, so we finish up and leave. I enjoyed the experience, but I'm probably not going to do it again - it's expensive, my hands hurt a little bit for a couple of days afterwards, and I'd rather play my games on the computer. Deanne and another lady at work each took one of my target sheets and stuck them on their office doors as a warning to others :)