I haven't taken a short haul train trip since Mulroney killed off the local trains in NS. Ah, those were the days - summer job in Truro, hop on a 7:00 pm train Friday, a couple of cold Olands Ex's in the bar car with Capers and a short hop from the train station in Halifax to the Seahorse to rub elbows the other regulars. Trains are great - 3 hours from my house in Kingston to downtown Big Smoke. Snacks on route. A good look in everyone's backyard for 230 km past towns with OHA teams.
Anyway, I was in the land of my birth to go to the IT.Can course at the LSUC for two days. Had dinner with Chip and Jenny at this place. Talked about Phil Sedor, The Guys at the Library, Blackpool and Kearney Lake Road. Over all, however, Toronto is not looking so good. Hotels are cheap and empty. The homeless are as utterly abandoned as I have ever seen. People running by me at 5:02 pm down Bay to Union Station to catch their 5:15 pm GO train. My VIA train sat in Oshawa station for a few minutes as a GO train unloaded - a thousand people as one rushing from the train they rushed to get to, to get into their cars in the mega mall sized parking lot to rush to the traffic jam at the parking lot exit.
VIA has first class and coach. GO is steerage.
I guess I have been sidetracked for a few days. My dad's hometown team - Greenock Morton Football Club - won the big game yesterday. This morning after, I feel a level of relief that surprises me - I didn't realize I got so caught up.
I suppose making phone calls to strangers in the Norseman the pub across the road from Third Division soccer ground should have told me I was a little obsessed. And spending hours on a bulletin board site with other fans of this not quite obscure club was another give away. And having a programme subscription. And buying 1914 cards of the keeper on eBay. And emailing the Sports editor of a major UK sports news service last week to tell them to get a camera to the game so I could catch the sight on my TV of the goal I prayed would come.
And the goal did come. And a little team which won the Cup in '22; had it stolen from them in '48 during the over time in a replay second game by the flash of a camera bulb at dusk; played with the big boys in the late 70's and early 80's in the premier league; almost died in the 90's due to incompetant ownership; but which has been brought back to life by one who must be the greatest most generous owner in all of sports scored the goal and won.
They won the Third Division of the Scottish Football League and are on its way up to the Second next year. 8,500 folk gathered where 2,000 or 3,000 had watched most games this year and hundreds more - economic exiles and their children ship builders computer workers and profesionals of exiles around the world followed through the internet.
I've only been to see them play at their home at Cappielow Park once - a few more times away. But since I've been old enough to know what sports are I have loved this little team.
In another place, a word has raised its head - as used by me: usability. I came across it - though pals - as used by Jakob Neilsen in reference to his calling to webpage usability - weighing what is on the screen. Trouble is...I don't know what it means: the "ability to be used" sounds pretty close to either useful or functional to me...
I think - use, usable, useful, utility, useless, capacity, capabilites, functional - and I am thinking of a list of words that pre-date the web. Did a new word really have to be created? Was one?
I do know what the coining of a word like "usability" does - it creates an expert, a gap in the expertise of others, a billing stream and, who knows, down the road, maybe a bachalors degree my kids may take. It makes an industry. Not that I am slagging (or, indeed, praising) Jakob Neilsen. It's the industry thing. The gathering. Unmeasurable metrics. When I was a kid an industry was not tourism, it was not consulting, it was not even medicine. It was oil fed metal moving and making. It made sounds so loud you needed ear plugs. It was smelly like a gas station.
I don't know why this grates me. I am a big believer in new words for new things. The thing is I also want to keep using good old words, too. Look at the upper left of this page. The implication that kneeding dough is a matter of usability. But bread's been kneeded for thousands of years - how old is the word usability? Its root, usable, is medieval. But was anything assessed for its usability before the web? Spoons? Gaskets? Shoe eyelets? Due to the web swampings of an industry, even Google can't seem to tell me.
When thinking about this blog over the last few days, I started wondering about their beginnings. When listing all the obvious successes of the internet - email, eBay, Google - things like personal pages had not struck me as up there, despite spending more than a year posting comments to a circle of them authored by folks located in my old home of Prince Edward Island.
Now that I have opened up these pages, I wanted to know where they started to see if there was something back there to which I ought to be true. Quite quickly I came across what is called the first weblog I think from January 1992. As I said here, I had forgotten that the weblogs were basically indexes of favorites, like Netscape what's new, presenting the encapsulated new details of the whole new world.
Looking at the back of my wood burning PC, I noticed something interesting: the date of its birth, March 19, 1996 - pretty much when personal blogging grew out of indexing when topical bulletin boards were much more the thing: hey, there I am, six years ago, talking about draining the celler before the move to PEI.
So what is new about this? We are doing much what we have all along. Talking about stuff. Stuff we like with people who we like. Once I ran an old friend's email though Google and found a wack of posts about home aquariums - I never knew he cared.
Really sunny at Stonehenge. 1970 holiday to see the relatives. Saw Pele and Brazil win the World Cup on a tiny TV in King's Lynn.
I have three criteria for buying:
- like Aalsmeer, I bought it someplace I visited,
- it relates to a relative, like Sweden or
- it just must be goofy.
So I was greatly pleased to come across this flag for Tanganyika (1919-1964) at what must be the best flag site on the internet.
Flags do so many things well, I imagine if I ever become fantastically wealthy, they would become a subject of one of the public service announcement ads I would pay to run on TV during Super Bowl half-time. The are bright, they are like kites, the best are still reasonably cheap and they can teach about history, geography, politics as well as tolerance. One lawyer in my former firm had a USSR Soviet naval lighthouse service flag - red, hammer and sickle and a nice little cartoony lighthouse in the fly...he kept it up on the wall in his office to test the tolerance of his fellow partners in corporate.
Jevon has recently written about egos and blogging. This made me consider what writing on these things is like and I keep coming back to that wonderfully dead-end technology of the 1970's - CB radio.
In both, you get on the medium, yap about what ever comes into your head and use funny names and other stuff inherent in the medium to abstract who you want to be seen as from what you are - "Foxy Lady". Also like CB radio, you have to lug one bit technology around [PC or Mac/Chevy van or Mack] to get at the communication media [blog/CB radio].
So who will be the Red Sovine of bloggetry?
My name is easily misspelled. Alan can be Allen, or Allan or even Alain and still be legit. McLeod can be MacLeod. It can also be M'Leod as it was in my grandparents' time. It can also be butchered as McCloud or MacLoud. My new account with a BCE regional telco called Bell, however, has granted me a name I have never known before - "A Mc>Leod."
The lack of a period after the "A" makes it clear to be not a contraction or initial so it can only be the indefinite article. One of a set of roughly similar things. But what sort of a thing?
- I am Mc "is greater than" Leod mathematically.
- Linguistically, I am Mc "has been replaced by (historically)" Leod.
- To a cartographic symbologist, I am Mc "east side of lock on a north-south canal" Leod
- In HTML I am Mc "the end of something" Leod
Given that "Mc" means "son of" in Gaelic and Leod is "the many who turns into a bear in battle" in Norse, it's all a bit confusing. I sure hope the good folks at Bell have a cartographical symbologist on the help desk...if that's who I'm going to need to speak with. They may want to get one. We may be many.