November 8th, 2004

Atacama

At long last Mozilla

I started work at Netscape in the summer of 1998. I was tired of seeing Netscape getting their ass kicked by Microsoft, curious what it would be like to work for one of the true stars in the software industry, hoping to challenge myself in ways I hadn't previously experienced. And yeah, I also wanted to show Dan that I could do a better job than he could[we've always been very competitive with each other, and at the time he was managing the Mac IE test team at Microsoft].

When I left Netscape just over three years later, I was disillusioned. A lot of the hard work had amounted to nothing, for various reasons. The place was infested with open source zealots who tended to forget about what customers wanted, preferring instead to hijack company time to deliver a better Motif widget replacement kit to boost Linux, which is an admirable goal, really, but not when Fortune 500 companies are paying you to fix your broken S/MIME support. You know, stuff like that. Other folks disappeared up their own asses aiming for ultra-perfect CSS support, or better PNG support, or [insert religious battle here]. Very, very few of us were still focused on delivering useful software to existing customers, and our market share had dropped to something like 2% as a result. So, I left to take a year off and travel.

Now, three years later, it looks like Mozilla finally got there, somehow. Is it perfect? No, not by a long shot. It's still kinda creaky in terms of how IMHO good software should behave, but it's closer than it's ever been before, and I'm proud to say it's finally competitive with Microsoft. In fact, it's better than IE in a lot of ways.



Check it out.

It's not often I can confidently point at something a lot of people may potentially use and say "yeah, I helped make that what it is." Lately, I've been working on small things of little consequence - at least as of right now - but I need to remind myself that perhaps three years from now MSP, G-phone, Pocket MSN etc. may be as useful to people as Mozilla is today.
Atacama

For sale: Toshiba 56" HD ready widescreen TV

It's time to put our old TV to rest. It's taking up too much space in our house. If you want it, it's yours for $250 - and you'll need a pickup truck or van to get it at our house in Redmond. Has component inputs for awesome DVD viewing, etc. Picture is a little fuzzy, and there are small glitches at the top of the screen, hence the low price.
bzbear

Failure

Degas, a great artist, also aspired to be a poet. As he confided in his friend Mallarmé, however, he had somehow never succeeded in writing a good poem despite having had good ideas. 'That,' Mallarmé replied, 'is because poetry is made not with ideas but with words.'
Last night I decided to scour the bookshelves for something to read, and I happened across Gilbert Adair's Surfing the Zeitgeist, which is a fine collection of very, very short essays [generally two pages]. One of them, entitled On conceptual art, contains the passage quoted above. It makes sense as a stand-alone snippet, but what it means to me is something a little bit different.

You see, I've always had good ideas about writing, but I've been pretty much a complete failure when it comes to actually writing anything. Like Degas, I too have had aspirations to be a poet, or at least a writer. Like Degas, I've never succeeded at this. Most of the time, I'm conveniently able to forget I ever wanted to be a writer at all, but whenever I'm confronted with my friends' artistic successes1, I tend to start thinking about the poor quality and/or just plain nonexistance of my own work, and I feel drained, useless, failed.

How do I change this? Beats me. When I was younger, I tried to at least sign up for university classes to help me learn how to write, but I was never successful at even gaining entry to one of those classes. [That of course is the drawback to having attended a low cost public university - imagine hundreds of students vying for one of ten spaces in Isabel Allende's workshop. Now try applying as a white male. Fun!] Now that I'm older, and now that I have financial obligations [read: a mortgage] that require continued success in the profession I've more or less accidentally stumbled into, I've completely lost all insight into what I'd have to do to, say, finish that abandoned manuscript from 2001, or at the very least get paid some small sum of money for a moderately interesting, hopefully reasonably witty couple of pages hidden away in the back of some magazine I don't even read.

Coming home this evening, I couldn't help but feel even more of a loser upon finding an Amazon.com package with that Mondo Homo book Dave White contributed to. Yeah, it's hit or miss, and whichever editor chose that picture of "a bear" needs to be taken outside and shot.

Still, Dave's bits are awesome, even if I don't believe for a minute that he's actually read Dead Souls. I mean, has anyone? But I digress. Reading his last piece, which I think was called Why You Need To Have Sex With Me Right Now, I started feeling really good about myself for the first time in a while. Until, of course, he started talking about simonbear's indisputable hotness2, and suddenly I'm overwhelmed again by that feeling of loserdom. I can't write like Dave, I'm not hot like Kevin, and well, what am I good at exactly? What is it about me that makes me specifically me? I have no idea. I don't cook like Jason, I don't have a laugh as wonderful as Dave's, I'm not as comfortable with my sexuality as Dan, definitely not as loving as Kim, as fit as Richard, as smart as Brodie... and so on and so forth.

I suspect, though, that if I ever figure out the answer to that question, I might actually become a good writer. Or at least get laid. Either one would be fine.

I didn't ♥ Huckabees much, but I definitely got a huge, silly grin on my face when I heard the question How am I not myself? asked in the movie.

Anyhow.

Thanks Dave. You rip, lover.3

1. For example, watching The Incredibles last Friday night, I of course thought of mindplay.

2. For all I know he could have been referring to booddhabear or e_ticket - Dave did that old "a friend of mine, let's call him x" trick - but I'm guessing that'd be Kevin S.

3. Especially in the whole proofreading game. I couldn't help but think of moroccomole reading that book... your sections are near flawless [there's a missing space and/or a kerning problem on the last page, but that's it], but some of the other sections... ugh, typo city. I'd list 'em but the book's downstairs and the marmot's sleeping.