Digital Cowboy

Digital Cowboy
Poker is life. Life is poker.

Archive for October, 2006

As long as I’m posting audio

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

Behold the power of a catchy jingle. This is an accurate recreation of what I listened to tried to block out for about 15 solid minutes recently during breakfast.

I’ve experienced this phenomenon on a number of other occasions since, as well. I’m sure the Vonage marketing droids would be thrilled.

Reading really is fundamental

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

My five year old has recently taken to coming into my office while I’m working or reading online and reading “over my shoulder.” (She actually stands next to me between me and the monitor; she’s a little short to literally read over my shoulder.) A few days ago she did this while I was working. I happened to be at the jQuery web site reading the developer documentation for a plugin to that excellent Javascript library. She understood none of it but, much like her Dad, it’s unnatural to her that words within her range of vision should not be read.

So without missing a beat, she just started reading out loud, “Using jQuery.extend to extend jQuery itself. In the above section, we checked if any options are given before we applied jQuery.extend(settings, options). The reason for this: If you specify only one parameter, the jQuery object itself is extended with the given object.”

She never so much as struggled with any of it, reading it almost as quickly as I do. (As an excuse, I’ll say that I read it slower than I could because I’m trying to actually comprehend it and she’s not. So there! Thfffttt!) She even correctly read the oddities in the first line, a section header, as “using jay-query dot extend to extend jay-query.”

No matter how many times I see her do these things, I still find it amazing.

That night, I was reading Opinion Journal’s “Best of the Web” while the kids were getting ready for bed. She came in and again automatically began reading. This time, I decided to record it for those who don’t have the opportunity to witness firsthand what home education can do.

That was completely impromptu. She had no preparation and had never seen the text before. The SMOG calculator says that the column she was reading is at grade level 13+ and the section she reads in the recording above is nearly grade level 12. You can hear me helping her some in the audio but what you hear is all the assistance I gave her. I was not helping her in any silent way.

Granted, the SMOG rating is the grade level at which one understands everything they have read and I’m sure she didn’t understand what she read. Then again, I’m not sure anyone including Dubya understands the current Iraq policy. (HA! couldn’t resist!) Anyway, I suspect that is what the ignorant/evil critics of phonics are getting at when they say comprehension suffers – it’s because phonics allows one to read way beyond their level of understanding. Help me understand how that’s a bad thing.

She had real trouble with the words “Rwanda,” “Sunnis,” “ideological” and “Shias.” My guess would be that many high school graduates in this country would as well. Other words, such as “century” and “nonstrategy,” she had to work at but she got them on her own. (It should be noted that “nonstrategy” isn’t actually a word either.)

She made a few mistakes, too. But as someone that has seen her do this frequently, I can also say she wasn’t in her top form when I recorded her. It was past her bedtime and she was very tired.

This child is not yet six years old and would be two months into kindergarten if we had not chosen to educate her at home. Incidentally, my older daughter can read just as well but usually doesn’t. She’s an artist and not as interested in reading so she tends to get in a hurry and guess at the words instead of actually reading them.

A fix and prelude to a rant

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

Live comment preview is now working in the pop-up comments. Try it out. It’s pretty slick. It gives you real time preview of your text, including tags. It can handle links (a href), ordered or unordered lists and blockquotes in addition to the more common bold (strong) and italic (em). It will even update as you modify text or tags in content you’ve already typed.

It’s been available in the traditional, embedded comments form here for a long time but I never got around to getting it working for the popups until now. That’s thanks to a complaint from one of my favorite readers that she was getting Javascript errors with every key stroke.

I think this will solve part of her problem, though a much better solution would be to use Firefox. Granted, in this case, the root cause was broken code on my site but a decent browser would handle that much more gracefully. There’s still a layout problem because IE 6 doesn’t handle floats right and I tend to not pay much attention to that (to my own detriment unfortunately) when writing style sheets.

Internet Exploder sucks more than most Microsoft stuff and that’s saying something. (I find myself saying that about more and more Microsoft products these days. I forget what the original standard of Microsoft suckage was. Maybe I need to start a “Bottom 10 list” to keep track of which MS products are worst.)

The MS fanboys say IE 7 is much better than IE 6. That’s probably true; it would be hard not to be. The problem is that in typical Microsoft fashion, they’re now more standards compliant but not really standards compliant. At the same time, now that they’re pretending to get with the program, they’re not compatible with the IE 6 specific hacks anymore either. So it’s just a new, different set of problems. Now they’re not fully compatible with the standards or sites that were specifically designed to accommodate the brokenness of IE 6.

(By the way, IE 7 is coming any day now and will be pushed through Windows Update. Don’t be surprised if half of the “interweb” is “broken” for a while after you install it. Almost everything you see correctly in IE 6 only works because the page is specifically hacked to work with IE 6. Millions upon millions of style sheets will have to be rewritten and retested to make them work with IE 7.)

It reminds me of the old cliche, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” In Microsoft’s case, the answer is, “When we need to renew the revenue stream or protect our control.”

On a related note, last Sunday I got an email complaint about the text being too small on I get one of those every couple of months. In this case, the tone of the email seemed slightly snarky and, worse, it caught me first thing in the morning before I had my coffee. I wasn’t even happy to be alive yet on that particular day so I was a little more obnoxious than normal in my reply:

The type face is only too small if you are using Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer is a broken browser that doesn’t support web standards. Vox and I made the decision to leave the site as is in order to remind folks like you that Internet Explorer is not only a poor browser, it’s also a menace to the internet because of its plethora of security problems that spread worms and viruses. is perfectly legible in either Firefox or Opera. If you insist on using Internet Explorer, even that poorly coded excuse for software can be made to render it properly by changing its default font size.

On commercial, for-profit sites, I accommodate Microsoft’s incompetence and terrorist market behavior. With I have the luxury of ignoring their stupidity.


I will apologize to Bob for my snarky tone and really should “fix” (read: “hack”) so IE can figure out how to display the basic text there. But since the site can be easily read even in IE just by adjusting IE’s font size I haven’t made it a priority and now IE 7 will probably fix that for me by the end of the month. There’s more to the story, though. Bob replied to me today:

Hi Mark,

At your suggestion I loaded Firefox. I have been trying it all week. I bagan to notice that once in a while it loads a web site but then presents only a blank white screen. The problem can be cleared up, usually, by using the reload function. Most of the time that problem is frustrating and delaying. Today it did the blank screen problem while I was using Firefox to order some materials. It went blank when my order completion should have been presented. I tried “reload” and got a warning that I might be duplicating my order. Now I have no idea if I ordered one, two, or not.

My experience: when accessing commercial, for profit sites, IE works, Firefox does not.

Conclusion: Firefox is unacceptable. It fails to present proper screens at critical times. Firefox results in expensive failures that cost time and money.

I’m sure you web programmers hate MS. Everyone hates the big guy on the block. But unless the others can operate reliably they just aren’t acceptable for commercial transactions.



I understand Bob’s position but I’m quite certain he doesn’t understand mine, or care for that matter. Not that he should. He makes his point well and in doing so, perfectly illustrates the reality of the situation that I find so frustrating. His position is not unreasonable but I think it’s a bit misguided. I’ll address that in the next post.

The short preview is this: I don’t hate Microsoft because they’re “the big guy on the block.” I hate them because they universally suck at everything but cannot be ignored.

Buckle up. I had my periodic anti-Microsoft rant started and saved as a draft before I even got Bob’s most recent email.

“I needed a hug …

Monday, October 16th, 2006

… and all I got was this stupid Phd.”

Robert Jensen, who describes himself as “A Christian atheist, perhaps. But, in a deep sense, I would argue, a real Christian,” has apparently spent a good deal of his life as a feminist crusader. He probably doesn’t even see how psychologically imbalanced he appears when he insists that radical feminists like Andrea “Queen of the Loons” Dworkin are not man-haters, thusly:

But listen to what she said to, and about, men when she addressed a men’s conference and asked them to work for 24 hours without rape. In her book LETTERS FROM A WAR ZONE, she writes:

“I don’t believe rape is inevitable or natural. If I did, I would have no reason to be here. If I did, my political practice would be different than it is. Have you ever wondered why we are not just in armed combat against you? It’s not because there’s a shortage of kitchen knives in this country. It is because we believe in your humanity, against all the evidence.”

Dworkin is called a man-hater not because she hates men but because such slurs are a way to marginalize her work. In that same speech, she went on to challenge men to take responsibility for themselves:

“[Women] do not want to do the work of helping you to believe in your humanity. We cannot do it anymore. We have always tried. We have been repaid with systematic exploitation and systematic abuse. You are going to have to do this yourselves from now on and you know it.”

We do know it, and it is time to act on that knowledge, not just for women but for ourselves.

I laughed out loud at the depth of this guy’s confused self-loathing. Ummm… No, Bob, she’s called a man-hater because she says preposterous things, like the ones you just quoted, that imply the only reason women haven’t exterminated all the men yet (presumably with kitchen knives) is because women have not yet reached the limits of their magnanimous hope that somewhere, somehow, someday they’re gonna find a man that deep down is … human. Or at least willing to acknowledge that he’s not and promise to work real, real hard towards it as a goal.

I don’t have to marginalize Mister Dworkin’s work. She does it all by herself in a myriad of ways, not the least of which is writing books about gender relations with titles like “LETTERS FROM A WAR ZONE” and “WOMAN HATERS.”

I’ll give Bob the correct answer to Queen Loony’s rhetorical question in a minute but I first have to point out, as an aside, that he and I apparently “hear different.” What he perceived as a “challenge [to] men to take responsibility for themselves,” read to me a lot like a veiled and empty threat, laid on a false premise, by a hostile and extraordinarily presumptuous woman. It’s probably my complete lack of humanity messing up my comprehension.

No, Fruity, I haven’t “ever wondered why ['you'] are not just in armed combat against ['us'].” But since ya made me consider the question, I’m quite certain the reason has nothing to with kitchen knives nor your capacity for blind faith in “our” humanity. I reckon the primary reason is because, like most men, the overwhelming majority of women (if that’s what you meant by “we”) not only disagree with you completely, they think your baler done ran outta twine. (As Jerry Clower once famously told the “She-coon of Women’s Lib,” Gloria Steinem, “Ms. Women’s Libber, Mama don’t want you messin’ with the deal she’s got!”)

If by “we” you meant “me and other crazy broads with bubbles in their think tank,” then the answer is because a) you’re cowards, b) your idea of “armed combat” is a kitchen knife so c) you know you’d get the smackdown you properly deserve for treading where you don’t belong. In short, you lack the capacity for war even if you personally are brimming over with the lust for it. Put yet a third way, despite the blinding rage that consumes your ability to think rationally, even you are smart enough to avoid a good old-fashioned whuppin’.

Let’s make a deal. If you cross your heart promise to keep your word and stop “helping me to believe in my humanity,” I’ll give you a solemn oath to stop systematically exploiting and systematically abusing you. I can’t keep up with all the Club meetings anyway. (Even though girls really are the bunk.)

Anyway, that’s all just background from this article of Bob’s titled “Resisting Masculinity.” It’s not even from the one I intended to comment on. (Shooting the fish in this barrel is so much fun I get carried away. Maybe I’ll create a new category for this stuff.)

Dr. Bob’s most recently posted intellectual morass is titled “Men being men is a bad deal: Guys should evolve beyond masculinity” and posits (among other things):

We need to get rid of the whole idea of masculinity. It’s time to abandon the claim that there are certain psychological or social traits that inherently come with being biologically male. If we can get past that, we have a chance to create a better world for men and women.

Uh-huh. If we can get past that, we really can make the world a better place for all the boys and girls by just wishing real, real hard during all the time we spend riding our pet unicorns and frolicking with the pixies. If that doesn’t work, we’ll ask the elves. They have all the answers.

He concludes with the statement. “For those of us who are biologically male, we have a simple choice: We men can settle for being men, or we can strive to be human beings.” In between he speaks of “the pernicious effects of [decades of feminism] and its relentless devaluing of things female” but misspelled “decades of feminism” in the middle of that sentence. He typed it “centuries of patriarchy” and then drew the wrong conclusion from his mistake:

Of course, if we are going to jettison masculinity, we have to scrap femininity along with it. We have to stop trying to define what men and women are going to be in the world based on extrapolations from physical sex differences. That doesn’t mean we ignore those differences when they matter, but we have to stop assuming they matter everywhere.

I don’t think the planet can long survive if the current conception of masculinity endures.

Notice in the first sentence of that quote he says we have to scrap femininity, not feminism. I doubt that was an accident.

Considering the effect these toxic ideas have on birth rates, I don’t think it much matters how long the planet can survive if we’re to accept the premise that his and Andy Dworkin’s ideas represent a higher level of evolution.

Y’all just go right ahead and evolve yourselves right out of existence, Knucklehead. I don’t see how the future of the planet is of any concern to you and we sub-humans ain’t skeered by Al Gore’s fairy tales.

“‘Cause ya can’t stomp us out and ya can’t make us run …” YEEEEE-HAW!

Cowboy Campmeeting

Monday, October 16th, 2006

I really did intend when I reworked this site to start updating it regularly again and now I will. But right after it went up, Cowboy Campmeeting started at the ranch. It tired me more than I had expected. I helped wrap the steers last Friday night after the service in preparation for the ropings Saturday, worked both ropings Saturday and then we had the family rodeo on Sunday. I needed a little time to recover. It was all fun but three church services, two ropings and a family rodeo in 48 hours wears ya out (in addition to generating more than the usual laundry burden).

One of my favorite muses once said that the smell of sweating horses was like ambrosia to her. I thought of her a couple times last weekend. In fact, I took one particular picture with her in mind and the evil intent of making her jealous but it didn’t turn out. (The description on the picture will explain.)

The ropings were a huge success. They were both team ropings. The Saturday morning roping was a four steer average with a nice saddle for 1st in the average, in addition to the prize money. There were nearly 300 teams entered.

The Saturday night roping was a progressive and what we refer to as a “church roping.” It’s an annual tradition at Cowboy Campmeeting. It’s a money-added, open roping. The church put up $3000 this year. The entry “fee” is that the ropers have to attend the church service just prior to the roping. As Pastor Butch said to them at the start of the service, “There’s no catch and we aren’t trying to hide anything. It’s simple as this: I’ve got a God so good and a message so powerful that I’ll pay you to listen to what I have to say because I know that if you listen, you’ll want to know my God and He’ll change your life.” The pot is increased by the offering in that service. Pastor Butch said, “We’re not trying to get anything from ya. Every dollar in this offering goes into the pot for the roping and we’ll let you know at the end of the service how much it is.” This year it was a bit over $2100, so the roping had a $5000+ pot.

It works. Cowboys (and a few cowgirls) come from miles around and even other states for a shot at all that free money. Every year there are testimonies from some that are back because they had a life changing encounter with God in some prior year. The fun part is that the ropers think it’s too good to be true. Pastor said they were still coming up to him during the roping saying, “When’s the other shoe drop? There’s gotta be a catch.” I think there were over 200 teams in that one and it didn’t finish until almost midnight.

I spent the day (and a good part of the night) Saturday “behind” the arena, at various times running steers, working the gates and stripping ropes in the exit chute. I got the chance to wrestle a few steers by the horns and got kicked a few times while pulling heel ropes without a hook.

If you’ve never had church in a rodeo arena, you don’t know what you’re missin’. We had three great church services in the arena. Friday night was my pastor’s pastor, Happy Caldwell. Now there’s a preacher with country cred. He started his testimony with, “I was born again Feb 11, 1972 at 11:01 pm at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. I didn’t know I was goin’ to the Ryman Auditorium to get saved that night; I thought I’s goin’ to see Johnny Cash.” He went on to say that it was Hank Snow’s son Jimmy that prayed with him that night and led him to Jesus.

Saturday night was Pastor Butch. I always love to hear him preach, but he was really “on” that night, preaching the real gospel in a style all his own. Sunday morning was Jesse Duplantis. Seein’ Jesse is always… well… there ain’t nobody like Jesse.

Your (roughly) regular updates will now resume. Stay tuned.