“…it uses Smalltalk, rather than modern-day kludges such as Java, which resembles a modern object-orientated environment in the way that a pub ashtray resembles a cigar store.”
– Andrew Orlowski, “Forgotten language enables nonstop gadgets”, The Reg

“All this pseudo-template stuff is just fear dressed up as syntax.”
– Dave Thomas, commenting on Java’s new generics.

“No, no, you’re not thinking; you’re just being logical.”
– Niels Bohr

“Source code in files. How quaint.”
– Attributed to Kent Beck

Macs and “The more things change…”

I’d forgotten how big a pain in the rear it was do do anything systems related on a classic Macintosh. I’ve been reviving dead macs recently (I now have two IIsi systems, don’t ask, but they were both $10), and getting a 2G SCSI drive working (for making backups of existing disks) was the usual (forgotten) mix of locating file transfer software, debugging RS232 connectivity, getting files across intact with kermit, and patching systems software with ResEdit. A moral high ground: I didn’t have to heat up the soldering iron to get the bits across, which I had to do a lot of in the 80s.

For users, Macs are great. But this brought back just how nightmarish systems-level stuff was back in the day.

For extra credit insanity, I’m going to dig out the MPW shell (“MPW’s Hell”) and time the compiles. Impossible to believe that anyone got any work done in that environment, but somehow we did….

I’ll probably never program a Mac again. But my current platform at work reminds me a lot of the IIsi, with lots less memory, running a UI on what you might regard as a BASIC interpreter on steroids.


The LA Times has dropped Garfield in the daily paper (retaining the Sunday strip). Sounds good to me — the strip has been rotting for about fifteen years.

In 1984, my officemate at Atari, Judy, was given the job of doing a Garfield game cartridge for the Atari home computer. I helped hash out some ideas, I wrote some prototype side-scrolling and animation routines. Judy flew out to meet Jim Davis and his staff (as a mere peripheral geek, I didn’t get to go).

One thing Judy said on her return was that Davis thought Garfield had six, maybe seven years of life left. (Judy worked hard for several months on the game, then was happy to be laid-off by Jack Tramiel’s sons when Atari more or less folded).

These days, every time I bother to read the strip, I try to infer some kind of eschatology. I think things like: Does that turn of a phrase in the punch-line imply that it’s finally over? and: Is Jim Davis being held hostage by a team of evil marketing drones, is he on life-support and every day wish he could reach the switch and please, O please die in peace, and not have to pick up that awful, enchanted brush again…

Coupon Lady From Hell

A month or so ago I was on the way home from work and stopped at a local Safeway to pick up some milk and cereal; a quick stop. Most registers were pretty busy, but there was one with only one customer. I took that line.

The woman ahead of me was fiddling with coupons. She glanced up at the cereal I was buying, and said “You know, there’s a five-for-five-dollars coupon for those.”

“Thanks, I have that.” And I did.

She went back to fiddling with coupons, occasionally handing some of her merchandise to the clerk along with a coupon. The clerk sometimes shook his head and handed the coupons back. She continued fiddling, and began to tear coupons out of a collection of circulars and newspapers, matching them up with the items on the conveyer and in her cart. Her money was crumpled up amongst the coupons, and everything kept falling to the floor.

Five minutes passed. The woman behind me in line started to worry out loud about picking her kids up on time. The fiddling and exchanging of merchandise and coupons continued. Coupon Lady started muttering “Free stuff, I love free stuff.” The clerk and I exchanged repeated silent shrugs.

Five more minutes. If I had picked a different line, I would have been halfway home, but to tell the truth I was curious to see how bad the situation could get. The woman behind me in line bailed, leaving her cart and an apology to the clerk. Coupon Lady and the clerk were deeply engaged in exchanging items and reading fine print. A manager was called in over some Jell-O, which turned out to be the wrong kind.

After a final battle over which coupons were three-for-a-dollar and which were two-for-a-dollar on a different size item, Coupon Lady found her cash, paid, and began to leave. This was a laborious procedure involving which bags to choose for which items.

My turn at last. “Don’t be angry with me,” I told the clerk, “But I have a coupon for this cereal.”

He chuckled. “I don’t usually get Marsha,” he said, “But I’m on a different register today.”

Yesterday I went to that Safeway again, and noticed a small sign on the register about serving customers with integrity. “Does that apply to Marsha, the Coupon Lady from Hell?” I asked the clerk.

She nearly doubled over in laughter.


if it’s not the Gibber, it’s the cat somehow constraining my ability to type. sarah is sitting on my wrists at the moment. at least she’s purring. no caps, it’s hunt-and-peck time

it froze last night in our neighborhood. thus, this photo of a thistle covered in frost, taken on our afternoon walk –