Sunday, November 15, 2009

Raising Charlie book signing at Borders

Nan and Scout with me at the Borders book signing for Raising CharlieYesterday afternoon I had my first book signing for Raising Charlie at our local Borders bookstore. It was a surprising success. The ads I had been running in the local paper must have worked because there were people waiting for me before my scheduled time. Most of them were dog lovers, or they wanted to buy the book as a gift for friends or family who are dog lovers. Many had a story to tell about a cherished dog, either living or dead, and some became tearful while telling their stories. It was heartwarming to know that other dog lovers share the same bond of love and affection with their dogs that I shared with Charlie.

The folks at Borders were nice enough to let me bring Scout into the store, and he was well behaved thanks to Nan, accepting all the attention with good grace. People asked if he was Charlie, and I needed to explain that he was the dog that Nan gave me to fill the emotional void that was left when Charlie died. You can barely see Scout in the photo. He's in the lower left corner, wearing a dog-bone bandana.

There are three more book signings scheduled between now and Christmas. On Wednesday, I will be at Aspen Valley Hospital's Annual Holiday Bazaar from 2 to 6 PM. On Saturday, I will be at the Aspen Animal Shelter from 1 to 3 PM. And on Saturday, December 5, I will be at the local Barnes & Noble for their Colorado Authors Celebration from 2 to 4 PM. Stop by and say hi!

Before I forget, I want to express my gratitude to the friends and neighbors who took the time to come out and support me. Thank you!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Linking to files without read-only restrictions

Here's another interesting programming trick I discovered at work recently that I was unable to find a solution to anywhere on the Internet:

Everyone knows that what makes the Internet the Internet is that everything is interconnected through links. Typically, these links connect to webpages with Internet-friendly file extensions, like ".htm" or ".html". One of these links would look like this: But it is also possible to link to files that are not typically found on the Internet, like Microsoft Word (.doc) and Microsoft Excel (.xls) documents. This is done in the same way: The difference is that this link will bring up a dialog box asking if the user wants to Open or Save the document. Choosing to open the document will open a read-only version of the document. Choosing to save the document will open a Save As dialog, with the usual options for filename and location.

But what if the document in question is a collaborative one that the programmer wishes users to be able to update directly? How does he get around the read-only restriction of a standard link? The answer is to use a Universal Naming Convention (UNC) path instead of a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) path in the link. In HTML, a link of this type would look something like this:

Link to file using UNC path instead of URL path
Note the backslashes and the use of the entire path to the file, starting with the server name or IP address. The only other trick to making this link work is that the "docs" directory must be set up with public "write" rights, so the programmer would want to be careful about what files were shared in this way.

If you share my line of work, give this a try and see for yourself how well it works. Good luck!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pinback in Denver

Ogden Theatre marquee with gibbous moonNan and I were in Denver for the Pinback concert at the Ogden Theatre on Friday night. If you're not familiar, Pinback is a San Diego based band fronted by Rob Crow and Zach Smith. Their music is unlike anything else I've heard, a catchy multi-layered mix of guitar, bass and keyboard melodies that are constantly trading leads. The tempo is usually extremely fast, driven by Zach's amazing bass playing, which reminds me of Peter Hook from New Order. Zach and guitarist Rob both sing, sometimes exchanging leads and sometimes harmonizing.

Pinback is another band that was introduced to me by my friend, Dave Beckwith. He included "Boo", a track off their 2001 album, "Blue Screen Life", in a mix CD he gave me in 2004. The song was so compelling, to use Dave's expression, that I soon bought the CD and then every other CD I could find by the band. If you're looking for a new sound, try "Blue Screen Life". You'll be glad you did.

Back to our concert evening. Nan and I took a taxi from our downtown hotel to the City Grille on Colfax for dinner. They have great cheap food and they're only a few blocks from both the Ogden and the Fillmore. We ate there a couple of years ago before the Snow Patrol concert at the Fillmore and were eager to go back. All the booths were taken, so we ate at the bar while being entertained by Suzy, one of the sassiest bartenders we've ever met. At one point, a big guy walked past us with long hair, a huge beard and a black t-shirt showing the human skeleton from neck to pelvis on the front and back. I thought he looked like the version of Rob Crow I had seen in Pinback's video of "From Nothing to Nowhere", off their new album, "Autumn of the Seraphs". But I didn't say anything to Nan until we got to the Ogden and the same guy came out before the show and invited audience members up on stage to sing karaoke with him. So it was indeed Rob Crow. Now I wish I had said something to him at the restaurant.

After the karaoke ended, the opening act, Joe Jack Talcum, took the stage. It was just Joe and his acoustic guitar singing folksy songs with off-the-wall lyrics, like a raunchier version of Loudon Wainwright. Two young girls had done a karaoke version of the Dead Milkmen song, "Punk Rock Girl", so Joe apologized for the repeat before he launched into his own energetic rendition. As he was winding down his set, the theatre started filling up, and we were happy to see that we were not the only Pinback fans in Colorado. By the time the band came on stage, it was wall to wall.

Pinback at the Ogden Theatre in Denver playing 'Penelope'One of the things about Pinback's sound is that it all tends to blend together, so I couldn't tell you for sure what the first song was, but I think it was "Loro", off their 1999 self-titled first album. There wasn't much of a light show, but each of their songs was accompanied by images on a large screen. I smiled to see clips from the 1974 John Carpenter film, "Dark Star", featuring a character named Sgt. Pinback, from whom the band took its name. Other images featured snippets of lyrics, like the ones in the photo: "Don't want to see you floating upside down", from the song, "Penelope", which as near as I can guess is a song about a goldfish named Penelope. But that's one of the intriguing things about Pinback: the lyrics are difficult to understand if you think about them too hard. It's more enjoyable to relax and let the songs wash over you, creating more of a mood than a mental image. My only regret is that they didn't play "Concrete Seconds", off "Blue Screen Life". That song has been a favorite of mine for years. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Happy Halloween?

Halloween jack-o-lanternsWith Halloween falling on a Saturday this year and both of us being in town, Nan and I decided to see what Grand Junction had to offer adult revelers.

After volunteering all day with my neighbors to build some badly needed retaining walls between two of the units, I limped home, drank a quart of Gatorade to loosen up my cramping muscles, and then carved a couple of jack-o-lanterns from some last-minute grocery store pumpkins. As I was cleaning up, the doorbell rang. We had some actual trick-or-treaters, a first for us in five years here. Good thing Nan picked up some M&Ms when she bought the pumpkins.

We donned our costumes, Nan as a little old man and me as Dr. Frankenstein, and headed downtown for dinner at Bistro Italiano. Some of the staff were in costume but we were the only customers who dressed up. We took off our rubber masks so we could enjoy our meals and not have to drink our wine through straws. As we were finishing, our neighbors Rich and Diane came in dressed in their mountain man rendez-vous gear and looking very authentic. We had agreed to meet across the street at the Rockslide Brew Pub, but we were running late. We went back with them to the brew pub, and it was full of people in costumes having a good time. We ordered drinks at the bar, but there was nowhere to sit so we soon left to see what else was happening on Main Street.

We wandered up the nearly deserted street to Quincy's, where a bouncer was standing out front. He wanted us to take off our masks, show him IDs and pay a cover charge. I looked through the open door and didn't see any live music or anything else that would warrant a cover, so I told him to forget it. We crossed the street to see what was happening at the Mesa Theater. There was live music blasting through the doors and it looked pretty lively inside, but we didn't want to pay the ten-dollar cover charge so we moved on to Boomer's. They also had live music and a cover charge so we didn't go in, opting instead to stand out front and watch a funeral re-enactment by people dressed in Victorian clothing and looking like they had just stepped out of an old black-and-white photograph. Then it was back to the Rockslide for a nightcap. Rich, Diane and I were fading from the day's heavy labor, so we decided to head home. It was only 10:30.

Maybe I'm getting old, but I remember Halloween being more fun than this one was. When I was a student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in the late 1970s, Halloweens were full-blown riots, with thousands of costumed crazies on State Street, lighting bonfires and climbing streetlights. It felt dangerous to be there. By comparison, Halloween on Main Street in Grand Junction felt like we were just going through the motions, looking for some fun that didn't feel like a rip-off.