Saturday, December 31, 2005

A Quick Review of my 2005

This year has been a fulfillment of several of my life's dreams. I finally got to go to Space Camp with Connor. I have wanted to go since I was his age. With my new job at Flatirons Solutions, I've also been able to work at Cape Canaveral two different times this year on Boeing's Delta rocket program. It was hard leaving Sun after 9 years, and the extensive travel schedule, but I have grown tremendously both personally and professionally. I also spent quite a bit of time in New York City, Kansas City and Washington, D.C. As a family, we also traveled on several trains in Colorado, including the Georgetown Loop and Cumbres & Toltec; we hope to ride more trains next year, and see more of our magnificent state. We also enjoyed our trip for the 50th Anniversary of Disneyland, and spending time with family and friends.

To all my family, friends and blog readers:

Happy New Year
To One And All
Long Life, Happiness,
Peace and Prosperity to You
Lang May Yer Lum Lou
(may there always be the warmth of a fire in the home
and so employment and prosperity)


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Space-Age music for the not-so-bachelor pad

I heard a very interesting rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" on the radio this morning by a group called "Los Straightjackets". After Googling for their home page (, I found I really like the music style! I asked my friend, Cam, if he'd heard of them and other Space-Age Bachelor Pad music. Here's his great recommendation:

If you're asking what I'm into lately or what is a good recommendation for S-ABM, I'd answer differently. To be honest, Esquivel is still the king and always will be in that genre.

Lately I've been into a couple of websites that post public domain records. Most of these are of that genre. There's also a lot that are more 'modern big-band' more along the style of Jackie Gleason or Herb Albert. Oh, and a LOT of Sergio Mendes. He's been hitting the spot just right.

If you're interested, check out:

For the top ten S-ABM picks:

1. Esquivel - He IS space-age. In fact, I think the whole genre name was invented because of him. No other artist will do in the space age bachelor pad. I imagine Esquivel lounging back with a martini while chatty it up with a girl in a go-go suit and classic Sean Connery while Jetson style space-cars fly by his window outside. I repeat, he IS space-age.

2. Sergio Mendes - He put 'Girl From Ipenema' on the map. What more can be said? While Esquivel introduced the genre, Sergio introduced the must have songs of the genre.

3. Roger Williams - Now this is a strange pick, and some may argue, but every good bachelor, space-aged or not, needs a moment of relaxation. Williams brought about 'Born Free' and the concept of waves and seagulls in the background of most of his tracks. If you must relax, either to his piano or guitar, Roger will lull you to another world.

4. Dean Martin - Just as Esquivel is to Space-Age, Dino is to Lounge. Lounge is the close twin brother to Space-Age, so it couldn't be overlooked in this list. The amazing thing is that Dino was the man that THE MAN, Frank, chose to listen to. It's said that Dean was actually one of the greatest singers as far as vocal skill and longevity, but because of life circumstances and the venues that the two men chose, Sinatra will be remembered as the easy listening king. But that's why Dean is the Lounge king.

5. Julie London - Sultry. That's the word. I can't explain her voice. She's equally sexy and maternal. You want her to sing you to sleep and you want her leading the latest red-hot band. She's incredible and her voice stood up over time taking her well into the 70's.

6. Nelson Riddle - Nelson's style is amazing. He is what you hear when you watch stylized action/adventure films from the '60's. That sound of swanky saxophone and what sounds like jungle music blends into something that fits only with Film Noir. It's part exotica mixed with part grungy New York. You can picture island girls dancing to it as well as imagining a lonely gumshoe lighting up a cig under Brooklyn bridge.

7. Les Baxter - Les and his orchestra INJECTED ultra-cool into the bachelor pad. I mean, this is the man that orchestrated Route '66. He is synonymous with muscle cars and the wind blowing through your hair as the Beach Boys are with surfing. He uses that jazzy trumpet mixed with a persistent cymbal rhythm that makes you want to don shades and talk like a hep-cat.

8. Billy May - Another close brother to Space Age is the Tiki. Tiki is the lounge scene of Las Vegas, only transplanted to a far away island. Tiki is about escapism. You listen to Tiki while drinking exotic sounding drinks with umbrellas in them. Now a lot of the men already discussed on this list dabbled in Tiki but one of the band leaders excelled at it. I dare say that the concept of Muzak came from Billy who took famous songs of the time and transplanted them in a cool samba version. He loved multiple trumpets and bizare rhythm instruments like sticks and bongos. He also had a strange love affair with the organ. If you can imagine a Polynesian native playing his people's music on an electric organ... that's Billy May.

9. Jackie Gleason - While better known for his acting and his 'Honeymooners' series, Jackie LOVED music and would have preferred to live his life in a night club. And it shows. His music is the stuff of champagne. And even more, his album covers are the artwork that inspired the exotica art that is classically associated with the music. You see, Jackie was also known for his women...

10. Ann Margaret - The thing about Ann Margaret is that she just had to pose and there was music. Her singing is the epitome of the seductive she-kitten motif. She's talented, but not the MOST talented. But you put her in a pink sweater and skin tight pants... FEVER! She was the perfect mascot of the genre and the first choice of any self respecting bachelor to share his pad with. Many of her songs have taken on mythic proportions over the years and I have seen few mixes where she isn't included.

The wonderful thing about this music is that at the time, everyone was doing it. It was the Rock'N'Roll of that time. And there wasn't mass marketing of bands either, so there are a LOT of people out there, a LOT of big bands, a LOT of singers... that are just waiting to be discovered again by the modern recording. If you read through the commentaries of most of the albums discussed on bellybongo you'll find that there were many recordings that were done in very small quantity and then only handed out to the area that the band's nightclub was in. So now with the Internet, there's a lot of artists that are starting to become big only because they're being heard for the first time in 60 some odd years. And they say that the electronic era is bringing about the death of music. :)

On top of this list is the 'ethnics'. In fact, I was hard pressed to include Tiki music into this list, but Tiki is so much a part of Space-Age. But aside from this, there was a huge Latin movement (Herb Albert), Hawaiian music, Polynesian music (that launched into the Tiki movement), and film scores (this was lead by Henry Mancini and the birth of a little ditty known as 'The Pink Panther')

Even though I'm not a bachelor, I think I'm hooked on this music style. I've been a fan of Herb Alpert since I started learning the trumpet back in 6th grade. Now I've got some additional choices to start listening to!


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Photo Fun for the Holidays!

Want to give that special someone a personalized movivational poster? Magazine cover? Movie poster? If so, you should check out the cool tools at You can also add conversation bubbles to photos, or make trading cards!

Here's a sample of what you can do:


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Roundtripping DocBook and Word

Steve Ball has announced the release of a set of XSL stylesheets to transform DocBook to WordML and back with minimal structure loss. This is indeed a welcome development, as I've faced many painful migrations from Word or Frame to DocBook. Some solutions work better than others, but they ALL require cleanup. I'm very curious to try this method, and see if it is truly painless yet...

More details are available at: These stylesheets will also be added to the DocBook XSL project in SourceForge in the wordml subdir.

There have been some concerns raised by Jens Stavnstrup, such as a lack of support for Chapter/Appendix, and some issues with Saxon.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Blogger Categories - Thanks Freshblog!

By now you have probably noticed my new Topic links on the right side of my blog. This is all thanks to my friend Jason (for pointing it out to me!) and Freshblog!

Prior to this, I had only bookmarked my links (on the left side of my blog) in It was a bit of a pain to go back through all 242 of my blog entries and tag them in, but I think having the Topic categories for my blog entries is definitely worth it, and improves some of the user experience on my blog.

I also quickly realized that I have a lot of tags, so I had to adjust the tagroll to only display my top 25 tags. The other benefit of this approach, is that Techorati will also pick up my tags.

Since I've also switched to Firefox 1.5, I used the new Firefox extension. It makes tagging a breeze!

There is also a cool foxylicious extension for adding your tags to your Firefox bookmarks. Hopefully Dietrich will add support for tag bundles in the near future.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Save those frequent flier miles!

Looks like I have something to save my frequent flier miles for! Too bad it's only on Virgin Airlines... Check it out: Only 2 million domestic miles needed for me to get my Astronaut wings! :-)


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

DocBook Tutorial slides now available!

Norm Walsh has been gracious enough to post his DocBook Tutorial slides from the XML 2005 conference. Norm's most excellent tutorial is available at:

Check it out!

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The New Voyages

The latest issue of Wired magazine brought Star Trek: The New Voyages ( to my attention. I used to be quite in touch with Trek, even through Star Trek: Enterprise, but since Paramount cancelled what I considered to be a quality show, my interest has waned.

I grew up on ST:TOS (Star Trek: The Original Series to the uninitiated...). My mom and I used to watch all of the classic episodes after I got home from school. Mr. Spock was actually my favorite, followed closely by Scotty (hence my blogname). I have tons of the novels, engineering guides, and various props. Sure, the effects are limited, but the best science fiction encourages the imagination, and is not merely about futuristic special effects.

Along with ST:TOS, I've loved The Time Machine, The Day The Earth Stood Still, The Forbidden Planet, War of the Worlds and other classic sci-fi shows and movies because of the science and imagination involved. In fact, I'm rather disappointed with the remakes because the focus is more on CGI effects, than story.

The New Voyages brings back that focus on story. It's a labor of love, and not a greedy $$-generator that Paramount has turned into. The producers are pouring their personal money into the project, and because they are using the characters and designs with permission, they are not allowed to make a red-cent on it. The episodes are freely distributed on the internet, as zip or torrent files, too!

I was able to get at least one episode downloaded, and am quite pleased with the production. Most fan films are parodies (like the one my friends and I made in high school, entitled "Star Wrek: The Home Video" or the popular "In the Pirkhinning"), but the New Voyages is earnestly finishing the 5-year voyage of the Enterprise, which was cancelled by NBC after its third season.

Check it out!


Thursday, November 17, 2005

Take-aways from XML 2005

Well, another great XML conference has come to a close. It's always a pleasure to interact with the industry experts, and meet all the first-timers! My favorite sessions were David Megginson's closing keynote, Bob DuCharme's schema and XSLT sessions, Ken Holman's XSL case study, and Norm Walsh's XSL unit testing, and Bob Stayton's "Linking outside the box". Thursday had a heavy emphasis on XSLT, but all of the sessions were quite informative.

I learned a fair amount of new things this year. Here are just a few of my take-aways:

Cool things to follow up on:

Did you know?

DocBook XSL stylesheets consist of:

  • 2,500 match templates
  • 800 named templates
  • 250 modes
  • 115 modules
  • 62,000 lines
  • with 485 parameters

Subversion will allow you to set up pre-commit tests, to make sure all tests pass before checking the code in.

End to end XML processing performance estimates:

  • Best: XPath
  • SAX
  • Worst: DOM

Security and Identity Standards in the land of XML are complementary, not overlapping!

  • XML Signature – fine grained data origin authentication
  • XML Encryption – fine-grained confidentiality
  • XKMS – outsourced key management
  • SPML – user provisioning services
  • XACML – auth policy expression and evaluation
  • WS-Security – end to end SOAP messaging headers
  • SAML: the universal solvent for identity information

MS Linq is over my head...

Limitations of DITA: current stylesheets for FO are very limited, and not production quality. DITA is more complicated to produce output than DocBook.

Targeted search using XQuery in MarkLogic is lightning fast, and enables the creation of a variety of new outputs!

Not enough XML authoring tools provide validation against RelaxNG schemas! Good job, oXygen. Now, how 'bout the rest of you editors? Arbortext?! DocBook v5.0 is here!

I hope to see you all at XML 2006 in Seattle!

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Imperial Invasion?

It's amazing the way our minds can associate objects in reality with fantasy. For example, look at the proof of Imperial invasion in our solar system:

Tie Fighter in our solar system?
Tie Fighter?
that's no moon, it's a space station!
Death Star?

So, who's going to build a wedge-shaped spacecraft that looks amazingly like a Star Destroyer to complete this little Imperial fantasy? :-)

For the real stories, please see:


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Congratulations, Norm Walsh and Michael Kay: XML Cup recipients!

Today has been a big day for DocBook! Norm Walsh and Michael Kay both received the XML Cup award at XML 2005. Where would DocBook (and XML) be without these giants in the field?! I am biased, but Michael Kay's Saxon parser is THE preferred method for processing DocBook. Okay, my preferred method at a minimum. :-)

And speaking of processing DocBook, the great Bob Stayton gave an excellent presentation on "Linking Outside the Box" that explained olink in DocBook.

We also had the traditional DocBook Dinner this evening, with DocBook TC members Norm Walsh, Bob Stayton, Dick Hamilton, Gary Cornelius and myself. Since we are in Atlanta, we dined at Pitty Pats Porch - a Southern Dining experience. Good food and discussion all around.

Norm also submitted a poster announcing the release of DocBook v5.0b1. Norm, Eric Severson and myself also have posters detailing some perspectives on the DocBook vs. Dita debate, so check them out at the conference!

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Self Contained

Be sure to check out my entry in the XML Artwork exhibit at the XML 2005 conference in Atlanta. The piece is entitled, "<Self_Contained/>".

There are many other great entries, so check them all out in the exhibit hall!

 Posted by Picasa

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Monday, November 14, 2005

XML 2005 Conference

The XML 2005 conference is finally here!I flew in to Atlanta yesterday, and am really looking forward to all of the great speakers and fellow XML'ers. The conference wiki is available at:

There is also a news page and Technorati tag:.

My interests, as you can tell by many of the posts on this blog, are: DocBook, XSLT, RelaxNG, Topic Maps, and Content Management. Some of the sessions I'm planning to attend include:

    • DocBook: From Markup to Publication
    • Cause-and-effect Web Application Development with XForms
    • New Ecology of the Semantic Web (Jim Hendler keynote)
    • XML and Web Services: Blueprint for NextGen Web Services (Steven Harris keynote)
    • Linking Outside the Box
    • Performance in XML Application Data Structures
    • Federated Identity Management: An Overview of Concepts and Standards
    • Microsoft's Language Integrated Query and XML
    • Benefits of Avoiding Runtime/Build-Time Distinctions for Metadata Vocabularies
    • Intro to DITA
    • Plugging into the pervasive XML Infrastructure (Soumitra Sengupta keynote)
    • The future of XML Information Management (Robert Picciano keynote)
    • Your schema and the industry-standard schema
    • XQuery By Example: Making O'Reilly Books Sing and Dance
    • XSL Transform Self-Documentation
    • XML Authoring Panel
    • XSLT Throughout the Document Lifecycle
    • Global large-scale stylesheet deployment case study
    • Unit Testing in XSLT 2.0
    • Automated mass production of XSLT stylesheets
    • Developing a Business Case for XML-based Content Management Systems
    • The eXtensibility Manifesto: A Blueprint for XML Implementation
    • DITA Case Study: Encoding the Joseph Smith Papers
    • Reaching New Levels of Interoperability and Collaboration with DITA
    • Everyone's Using XML, but Does Anyone Care? (David Megginson keynote)
    • RESTful Web Services: building them without tears, SOAP, or WSDL

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Thank you, Veterans!

I've been in D.C. for the past few weeks, and finally had a chance to take in a few of the sites I haven't seen before. My favorite, by far, was the World War II Memorial. I also got to see the FDR memorial and the Jefferson memorial.

The World War II memorial was especially stunning at night! Since my grandfather, Frank E. Mason, served in the Pacific theater during the war, it was especially meaningful. His brothers also served in the war, though in the Atlantic theater.

To all the Veterans: thank you for your years of service defending this wonderful country! I appreciate all of the training and hardships you have endured for our sake.

Posted by Picasa

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Monday, November 07, 2005

Get it while it's hot -- Saxon 8.6 now available!

Michael Kay has released Saxon 8.6. This is a complete and conformant implementation of the XSLT 2.0, XQuery 1.0, and XPath 2.0 Candidate Recommendations from the W3C! The saxon8.jar looks to be about twice the size of 8.5, so there should be lot's of good stuff in there.

If you're like me and want to use the latest and greatest right away with oXygen, remember to put it in the Oxygen/lib dir... Thank you Michael! A nice gift before XML 2005 and Christmas. :-)


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

DocBook 5.0 - now in Beta!

Announcing DocBook 5.0! The DocBook Technical Committee has released an official Beta 1 of DocBook 5.0, also known as DocBook:NG

The schema is maintained in RelaxNG, which is transformed into W3C schema and DTD versions. RelaxNG is much easier to work with than W3C schema, IMO.

Norm Walsh has also blogged on the 5.0 release here:

Please give 5.0 a try! The stylesheets also support DocBook 5.0, so it's almost ready for prime time! As a member of the TC, I'm very proud of the work we've accomplished here. Also, special recognition goes to Norm and Jirka for the extra efforts on this release!

See also:

Monday, October 24, 2005

Norm blogs on DITA and DocBook

Norm Walsh has blogged a very extensive analysis of how to implement some of the features of DITA in DocBook.

I've not blogged on this topic as much as I would like, simply due to workload and time constraints. I have been looking at DITA quite a bit. At Flatirons Solutions, we have implemented very DITA-like solutions for customers using a combination of DocBook and a content management system (Documentum and IBM Document Manager). Simplified DocBook, IMO, is more compatible with the basic elements of DITA. In fact, I wish they had re-used more of the element names from DocBook, instead of introducing slightly different tag names with the same basic semantics...

DocBook sections are very much akin to DITA topics. That is the typical chunk level we have recommended in our implementations. Then, you have a "master document" that is an assembly of chunks and very much akin to DITA maps. Different master documents can use the same chunks in a variety of orders, in the same way that you can have different DITA maps. The master documents can be at the book, chapter or article level, depending on your business needs.

The biggest advantage of this approach, is that you can leverage existing DocBook tagged content (just chunked at the section level) and take advantage of the wide variety of tools for converting, editing and publishing DocBook. DITA is still relatively new, and has limited support compared to the tried and true DocBook model. You can even assign DITA topic types (reference, concept, task) in the role attribute, or add a DITA topic type attribute through a DocBook customization layer!

FYI, for those attending XML 2005, there will be several presentations and tutorials on DocBook, and Flatirons' CTO, Eric Severson, will be presenting on a DITA implementation we have done with BYU.

Follow-up: See also Eve Maler's interesting post on this subject at:

See also:

A New Pair of Ears

Connor and I both got a new pair of ears recently. While his are from the special 50th Anniversary of Disneyland and help him make a great Steamboat Willie impersonation, mine are helping me at work.

My new ears are the Bose QuietComfort 2 headphones. They are noise cancelling, and I've tested them in my noisy work environment and on a noisy airplane. They are MARVELOUS! Since I bought them before October 16, I also got a free Samsung YP-T6 mp3 player! It's got an FM tuner and will convert from FM or line in to MP3.

If you work in any kind of noisy environment, but need to be able to concentrate above the din and roar of your co-workers, I highly recommend these headphones. Also, if you like Disney at all, I highly recommend getting to Disneyland, and check out the incredible 50th Anniversary fireworks show! Posted by Picasa

See also:

Friday, October 21, 2005

Transforming DocBook with dblatex

Benoit Guillon has released the 0.1.7 version of dblatex, a DocBook to PDF transform tool. This does require an existing Tex/LaTeX setup on your system. Why use this tool?

  • The project is end-user oriented, that is it tries to hide as much as possible the latex compiling stuff by providing a single clean script to produce directly DVI, PostScript and PDF output.
  • The actual output rendering is done not only by the XSL stylesheets transformation, but also by a dedicated LaTeX package. The purpose is to allow a deep LaTeX customisation without changing the XSL stylesheets.
  • Post-processing is done by Perl, to make publication faster, and to parse things not so easily done by the XSL stylesheets like tables.

Here are the details on this release:

The dblatex 0.1.7 release is now available from It 
can be directly downloaded from this URL:

This release mainly includes the callout support for both verbatim and 
graphic elements, some other improvements, and bug fixes. The release is 
synchronized with the SF CVS repository, with the tag v0_1_7.

More precisely the changes included in this release are:

* Callout support:
 -  and  supported, even for external
 -  supported.

* Better  or  support:
 - External files (eg, in ) are handled.
 - literal.lines.showall parameter added, to remove the empty last
   lines, when set to 0. Set by default to 1.

* Legalnotices are printed in the native docbook style.

* An abstract in an article is printed.

* Better  support:
 -  to a list with a title is possible.
 -  to a refentry is possible.

* Other improvements:
 - term.breakline parameter added to have the  on a new
   line below the .
 - Hyphenation forced for text using a typewriter font. Moreover
   the font is smaller.
 - parameter added, to print the dblatex logo on
   the cover page.
 - parameter added, to have DBLaTeX filled in
   the Creator field of the PDF information section.
 - Running dblatex on a root element different from article or book
   does not fail anymore, except for .

* Bug fixes:
 - dbk_table.sty: make \@xmultirow long.
 - empty textdata element handled.

See also:

Monday, September 26, 2005

Running Arbortext Interchange in batch mode

I've been banging my head on my desk for several weeks trying to figure out how to run Arbortext Interchange in batch mode. For those unfamiliar with Interchange, it is an application that can convert Word, FrameMaker, Interleaf and other formats to XML.

I have successfully built a map file, mapping Word styles to DocBook XML tags, and run the map file successfully in the standalone application. My client, however, purchased the E3 content engine and has a large volume of Word documents that needed to be converted. Doing this manually was going to be a time-consuming manual task. I knew Interchange had a batch mode, but kept getting errors, or no output.

For those interested, here is the proper syntax (all on one line for each entry in the batch file):

C:\progra~1\Arbortext\E3\bin\epic.exe -E3w -b -c
 "import_doc('C:/temp/docs/infile.doc', 0, 'C:/temp/docs/outfile.xml',
 1,'C:/temp/docs/infile.log' ,1);quit"

I was missing the -E3w parameter in my script...

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

DocBook element lookup for DocBook:The Definitive Guide

I usually use the quick bookmarks (see my earlier blog entry) to take me to the element reference in Norm Walsh's "DocBook:The Definitive Guide". Thanks to Michael Smith and techntonik, there is a new way to look up DocBook elements in TDG. Go to to try it out. They are looking for a permanent home for this script. Any takers?

I really like the suggested elements, when you first start typing your search. Try typing "ref" and it will give you a list of all the DocBook elements starting with "ref" (refclass, refdescriptor, refentry, refentryinfo, refentrytitle, reference, referenceinfo, refmeta, refmiscinfo, refname). Try it, you'll like it!

Update: Michael Smith has copied the code to, which should be a more permanent home than the farplugins page...

See also:

Monday, September 19, 2005

OpenOffice to DocBook converter

For those who have tried converting OpenOffice/StarOffice documents to DocBook or vice-versa, you probably experienced the pain of trying to get the built in stylesheets to work. I worked on some of the earlier versions of those stylesheets, and the stylesheets still have some obvious problems. There also was no way to limit the styles a user could apply to the document.

A new and promising add-on hopes to make the DocBook/OpenOffice integration easier! Enter ooo2dbk from Indesko. This package supports output to article or book documents that are DocBook 4.3 compliant, using a python script.

I'll provide a review when I get a chance to try it out. I'm also eager to test out the latest OpenOffice 2.0 beta 2, which provides support for XForms!

Update: Thanks to Laurent at Indesko, I was able to get this running on the latest Open Office 2.0 beta 2. You can install the ooo2dbk package by going to Tools > Package Manager. I restarted OpenOffice (to be safe), and the Indesko menu appears with the other menus. I opened the included template, and the ooo2dbk program is available to run from the Indesko menu. After saving the file to a .sxw file, from the command line (I used Cygwin), I ran the following command:

ooo2dbk --article document.sxw

which created a zip file with images and the DocBook XML file. I validated it in oXygen 6.2, and it worked just fine! I'll try linking to the XSLT directly from Open Office next, so I don't have to use the command line. Give it a try!

See also:

Oxygen 6.2 now available!

The folks at SyncRO Soft have released the 6.2 version of oXygen, my personal favorite XML/XSL/Schema editor! Details on the new features are available at:

What I like about oXygen is it's standards support (especially RelaxNG!) and it's highly configurable parsing features. It has Xerces, Xalan, Saxon, FOP , Jing, Trang and xsltproc built in.

It's extremely powerful, including support for XML 1.0, namespaces, DTD, XML Schema 1.0, Relax NG, XSLT 1.0 and 2.0, XPath 1.0, XSL-FO, XQuery 1.0, SVG 1.1, WSDL, CSS, Unicode 3.2, DocBook 4.3, TEI and Schematron!

My other favorite feature: it's multi-platform. I have personally run it in Solaris, Mac OS X, and Windoze.

This editor isn't as user-friendly for the common author as Arbortext Epic, but for XML hacks, I'd say oXygen has all the other editors beat - hands down.

Try it for yourself. There's a free 30-day trial available on the site. I'd be interested in your comments on oXygen and other editors, too.

See also:

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

XQuery Basics with Saxon

The Abbey Workshop has posted an excellent tutorial on learning XQuery basics using the Saxon parser. Check it out at:

I've tried to standardize on Saxon for all of my XSL parsing needs, as it has had the best performance and fewest problems of all the parsers I've tried. Michael Kay has done an excellent job adding support for the latest XML standards. I also use his book on a frequent basis - if you don't have his XSLT Programmer's Reference, you need it!

See also:

Sunday, September 11, 2005

We Live

On this, the fourth anniversary of the September 11 attack on the United States, I have the song "We Live" by Superchic[k] running in my head. The lyrics are particularly poignant and appropriate:

There's a cross on the side of the road
Where a mother lost a son
How could she know that the morning he left
Would be their last time she'd trade with him for a little more time
So she could say she loved him one more time
And hold him tight
But with life we never know

When we're coming up to the end of the road
So what do we do then
With tragedy around the bend?

We live we love
We forgive and never give up
Cuz the days we are given are gifts from above
Today we remember to live and to love
We live we love
We forgive and never give up
Cuz the days we are given are gifts from above
Today we remember to live and to love

There is a man who waits for the tests
To see if the cancer has spread yet
And now he asks, "So why did I wait to live till it was time to die?"
If I could have the time back how I'd live
Life is such a gift
So how does the story end?
Well this is your story and it all depends
So don't let it become true
Get out and do what we are meant to do


Waking up to another dark morning
People are mourning
The weather in life outside is storming
But what would it take for the clouds to break
For us to realize each day is a gift somehow, someway
So get our heads up out of the darkness
And spark this new mindset and start to live life cuz it ain't gone yet
And tragedy is a reminder to take off the blinders
And wake up and live the life we're supposed to take up
Moving forward with all our heads up cuz life is worth living

Chorus (to fade)

We will never forget what happened that tragic day, nor even the recent events of Hurricane Katrina. We must live, love, forgive and never give up!

See also:

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

New, improved URL:

Hi there, loyal readers! I bit the bullet and reserved an easier to remember URL for this blog:! It's not any shorter to type, but hopefully easier to remember. Also, I don't have a great way to track hit stats on the blog, but if you enjoy reading the blog, please post a comment or send mail to scottys.log AT I would enjoy hearing from you!

What's really funny, is that my old blog on still gets over 600 hits per day, and I left in February! So, now might be a good time to update those bookmarks :-)

Technorati Profile

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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Delta II Launch Pads

The Delta II Space Launch Complex (pads SLC-17A and SLC-17B) in the background. These pads were visible from the museum. We actually got an official tour the Delta IV HIF and drive right up to the Delta IV (SLC-37B) with the GOES-N rocket ready to launch, but I didn't dare take pictures. Those guards pack heat! Same reason I don't have any pics of Vandenberg AFB SLC-6...

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To dream the impossible dream...

Scotty fulfilling a life goal: to work at NASA! I've wanted to be an astronaut since I was a boy. Even if that won't happen, working at NASA still fulfills that dream. The Boeing Delta LPD project has been extremely interesting. Even though I missed the Mars Recon Orbiter launch by a day, touring the Cape and VAFB has still been a highlight of my career!
Speaking of astronauts, check this out: Apollo Lunar Surface Journal and go see the new IMAX!

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Boeing: Home of the "Can Do Team"

Boeing: Home of the "Can Do Team". I've been priviledged to work with the folks from the Boeing Delta Launch Preparation Documents team for the last several weeks, both at Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg AFB!

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Launch Complex 14

Complex 14, launch site of the Free World's first man in orbit. We weren't sure how much access our badges allowed us, so we didn't get much closer. I also did not want to park in the bug guys parking spaces...

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The Original Mission Control

The original Mission Control at Cape Canaveral

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Sunset at the Cape

The most beautiful sunset I've ever seen, complete with palm tree and Mercury Redstone!

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Congratulations, Brandon!

Congratulations to my cousin, Brandon, on the birth of his daughter!

Carina Akela was born on August 15th at 7:27pm via c-section. She was 6lbs 15oz and 20.5" long.

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Monday, August 15, 2005

Single Sourcing for Beginners

I'm often asked for good resources on writing modular documentation for single-sourcing, chunking, and reuse. It's a learned skill, and a task that takes planning and effort, but can be immensely valuable.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and has some Information Architecture and Schema development resources thrown in for good measure...

If you want an exhaustive list, visit:

There is also a course/book called Information Mapping that is good for getting authors to think about writing self-contained information objects, too.

For DocBook newbies, I'd recommend: Norm Walsh's Tutorials and, of course, DocBook: The Definitive Guide.

For those of you in the industry, what do you recommend?

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DocBook XSL 1.69.1 available

This release was actually made available on Aug. 11 by Michael Smith, but I was working down at Cape Canaveral, and didn't get a chance to post on it.

The 1.69.1 release is production-quality, and fixes a minor bug-fix to the 1.69.0 test release, after a performance issue was identified with annotation support in xsltproc. The parameter is now off by default.

I've been testing the 1.69.0 release on Saxon 6.5.4, and did not notice any performance issues.

The latest stylesheets are available at:

Thanks Michael!

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Sunday, August 07, 2005

For such a time as this

Timing. That's really what most of life is about. And only God knows the best timing for each of us.

For me, this year I wondered when was the right time to leave Sun. It turns out, the timing was perfect. Since working at Flatirons Solutions, not only have I been able to go to Space Camp with my son, but now I'll be working on a project for Boeing at Cape Canaveral!

So for bad timing, I didn't know when the Shuttle Discovery was scheduled to return when I bought my tickets, and it looks like I'll miss seeing the landing by about 12 hours (Godspeed and safe return, STS-114!). Then I scheduled my return home in time for the Perseid meteor shower peak (camping trip), but I'll miss the launch of Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite N, or GOES N, for NASA and NOAA aboard a Boeing Delta 4 on Friday!

Oh well, for good timing, I've always wanted to be an astronaut on Mars, so I'm hoping to catch the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter launch on Wed, Aug. 10 at SLC-41, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Definition: Cheesy Goodness

Cheesy Goodness
Gastronomic euphoria initiated by the consumption of heated artificial processed cheese-flavored substance from the culinary proprietors known as Taco Bell: Creators of the "I think I'm in Love" Talking Chihuahua™ and Baja Mountain Dew.

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Shuttle audio for HAMs

Just found a link with info on listening to audio from the Space Shuttle on your ham radio: (145.460 MHz in Boulder). I'll have to try it out. I've been a little lax on turning on the radio lately.

My primary reason for getting my ham license was for storm chasing. I wanted to be able to report in and warn people of dangerous weather. I've been a member of SKYWARN for a number of years, but seem to be under deadline at work when the best storms come up!

I've always wanted to talk to the Shuttle or ISS, so I'll have to try it some time.

In other space-related news, check out this cool blog: Good luck, Damaris!

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Welcome to the Blogosphere, Dearest!

After much prompting, my wife has entered the blogosphere!

She's been thinking about writing a book for a while, and I've been encouraging her to start with a blog, and see how it goes first. We've taken and taught Growing Kids God's Way classes together, which she's taken a few ideas from.

She's also come up with a lot of her own great ideas on raising children. A lot of the techniques are tried and tested, on our kids as well as the Little Lambs (preschool) class at our church. The techniques are extremely effective, with the goal of raising children to be a blessing to everyone around them.

When we read Seth's advice for authors, she decided to take the plunge.

So, make way and please visit Shining Examples!

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eXtreme parsing: Saxon 8.5 now available!

Michael Kay has just released the Saxon 8.5 parser, in time for eXtreme Markup, too! (wish I could be there...)

Saxon is by far the most powerful, and speedy XSLT parser I've ever used. Sure, I started with Xalan, but after working a lot with the DocBook stylesheets, Saxon is the best way to go. To be fair, I have also used xsltproc, but Saxon is usually my first "go to" parser.

Oleg Tkachenko's blog has a much deeper explanation of new features, but basically Saxon 8.5 provides:

  • hash join optimization for both XSLT and XQuery
  • binary disk representation of validated source documents
  • sequential XSLT processing of input documents without reading the whole document into memory for serial transformations
  • integrated processing of an entire directory of files using John Cowan's Tag Soup parser

You can download the latest version of Saxon at:

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Friday, July 29, 2005

My favorite show returns on DVD

AirWolf. I've been waiting for it for a long time. I finally picked up Season One on DVD a week or so ago, and it's awesome! This was one of my favorite shows back in junior high, and I remember my friend Don and I making blueprints and chopper drawings constantly due, in no small part, to this great show.

My dad also picked up the Ertl model for me on a business trip to New Mexico, and I was ecstatic when he brought it home as a surprise. Too bad I later chopped it in two, trying to make a custom spaceship or something.

Now you can build your own AirWolf in Lego! Check out for the instructions.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Way to go, Discovery!

I'm so thankful Discovery had a safe launch this morning, and the US Manned Space program is back in action! NASA TV had great coverage, and thanks to the DVR, I can watch it later!

My son, Connor, wore his flight suit for the occasion. He's seen the Shuttle Enterprise at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington Dulles, and been to Space Camp in Huntsville, AL. Watching the STS-114 coverage helped tie it all together for him. I've also been to Kennedy Space Center twice! Now we just need to see a launch in person, or get a ticket for the BIG trip!

You can get all the latest information at: and at and

Also, thanks to Jason for the link to track the shuttle:

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Monday, July 25, 2005

DocBook NG: The "PTO" Release

Norm Walsh has just issued DocBook NG: The “PTO” Release.

Changes are primarily around XInclude support and the section content models.

This may very well be the final NG release prior to the DocBook V5.0 alpha release we are planning for August.

Please try this out, and report any problems ASAP! Norm has been gracious enough to also produce a Simplified NG version of "PTO", available at: :-)

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Google Moon

This is TOO COOL! Check out, based on Google Earth/Maps technology.

From this site, you can locate the landing sites of the Apollo missions. Today also happens to be the anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing (and my cousin, Brandon's birthday).

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Farewell, Scotty

Today we mourn the loss of another member of the Original Crew of the Starship Enterprise. James "Scotty" Doohan lost his battle with Alzheimers at the age of 85. It would be quite appropriate to accompany this blog entry with the playing/listening of Amazing Grace on the bagpipes.

Thankfully, James Doohan was awarded his Hollywood star last year in his final public appearance.

I always liked the episodes and scenes where Scotty wears his kilt. ("Is There No Truth in Beauty?", "The Savage Curtain"). I also liked his crossover to Star Trek:The Next Generation in "Relics".

Scotty's ashes will be launched into space via the same private launch service that carried Roddenberry's remains into orbit after his 1991 death. That's the way I want to go, too(or in a Photon torpedo casing like Mr. Spock)!

Scotty's Engineering Log will continue to bring you the latest news in Space and Sci-Fi in James Doohan's honor. Farewell, Mr. Scott.

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Monday, July 18, 2005

New DocBook Stylesheets!

It's been a few months since the last stylesheet update, but I think it's been worth the wait! Michael Smith has announced the release of version 1.69.0 of the DocBook XSL stylesheets. This is not the production release, but the public experimental release. If no bugs are found, a 1.69.1 version should be released in short order.

The stylesheets can be found at:

Changes in this release include:

* This release adds localizations for the following languages: Albanian,
    Amharic, Azerbaijani, Hindi, Irish (Gaelic), Gujarati, Kannada, Mongolian,
    Oriya, Punjabi, Tagalog, Tamil, and Welsh.

  * Added support for specifying number format for auto labels for chapter,
    appendix, part, and preface. Contolled with the appendix.autolabel,
    chapter.autolabel, part.autolabel, and preface.autolabel parameters.

  * Added basic support for biblioref cross referencing.

  * Added support for align on caption in mediaobject.

  * Added support for processing documents that use the DocBook V5 namespace.

  * Added support for termdef and mathphrase.

  * EXPERIMENTAL: Incorporated the Slides and Website stylesheets into the
    DocBook XSL stylesheets package. So, for example, Website documents can
    now be processed using the following URI for the driver Website
    tabular.xsl file:

  * A procedure without a title is now treated as an "informal" procedure
    (meaning that it is not added to any generated "list of procedures" and
    has no affect on numbering of generated labels for other procedures).

  * docname is no longer added to olink when pointing to a root element.

  * Added support for generation of choice separator in inline simplelist.
    This enables auto-generation of an appropriate localized "choice
    separator" (for example, "and" or "or") before the final item in an inline

    As a temporary workaround for the fact that most of the DocBook
    non-English locale files don't have a localization for the word "or", you
    can put in a literal string to be used; example for French:
    <?dbchoice choice="ou">. That is, use "ou" instead of "or".


  * Added content-type property to external-graphic element, based on
    imagedata format attribute.

  * Added support for generating <rx:meta-field creator="$VERSION"/> field for
    XEP output. This makes the DocBook XSL stylesheet version information
    available through the Document Properties menu in Acrobat Reader and other
    PDF viewers.

  * Trademark symbol handling made consistent with handling of same in HTML
    stylesheets. Prior to this change, if you processed a document that
    contained no value for the class attribute on the trademark element, the
    HTML stylesheets would default to rendering a superscript TM symbol after
    the trademark contents, but the FO stylesheets would render nothing.

  * Added support for generating XEP bookmarks for refentry.

  * Added support for HTML markup table border attribute, applied to each
    table cell.

  * The table.width template can now sum column specs if none use % or *.

  * Added fox:destination extension inside fox:outline to support linking to
    internal destinations.

  * Added support for customizing abstract with property sets. Controlled with
    the and parameters.

  * Add footnotes in table title to table footnote set, and add support for
    table footnotes to HTML table markup.

  * Added support for title in glosslist.

  * Added support for itemizedlist symbol none.

  * Implemented the new and attribute sets.

  * Added id to formalpara and some other blocks that were missing it.

  * Changed the anchor template to output fo:inline instead of fo:wrapper.

  * Added support for toc.max.depth parameter.


  * Eclipse Help: Added support for generating olink database.


  * Added a first cut at support in HTML output for DocBook 5 style
    annotations. Controlled using the parameter, and
    implemented using JavaScript and CSS styling. For more details, see the
    documentation for the annotation.js, annotation.css,, and annotation.graphic.close parameters.

  * Generate client-side image map for imageobjectco with areas using calspair

  * Added support for <?img.src.path?> PI.

  * Added support for passing img.src.path to DocBook Java XSLT image
    extensions when appropriate. Controlled using the
    graphicsize.use.img.src.path parameter.

  * Added support for (not valid for DocBook 4) xlink:href on area and (not
    valid for DocBook 4) alt in area.

  * Added new parameter default.table.frame to control table framing if there
    is no frame attribute on a table.

  * Added initial, experimental support for generating content for the HTML
    title attribute from content of the alt element. This change adds support
    for the following inline elements only (none of them are block elements):
    abbrev, accel, acronym, action, application, authorinitials, beginpage,
    citation, citerefentry, citetitle, city, classname, code, command,
    computeroutput, constant, country, database, email, envar, errorcode,
    errorname, errortext, errortype, exceptionname, fax, filename, firstname,
    firstterm, foreignphrase, function, glossterm, guibutton, guiicon,
    guilabel, guimenu, guimenuitem, guisubmenu, hardware, honorific, interface
    , interfacename, keycap, keycode, keysym, lineage, lineannotation, literal
    , markup, medialabel, methodname, mousebutton, option, optional, otheraddr
    , othername, package, parameter, personname, phone, pob, postcode,
    productname, productnumber, prompt, property, quote, refentrytitle, remark
    , replaceable, returnvalue, sgmltag, shortcut, state, street, structfield,
    structname, subscript, superscript, surname, symbol, systemitem, tag,
    termdef, token, trademark, type, uri, userinput, varname, and wordasword

  * Added support for chunking revhistory into separate file (similar to the
    support for doing same with legalnotice). Patch from Thomas Schraitle.
    Controlled through new parameter.

  * l10n.xsl: Made language codes RFC compliant. Added a new boolean config
    parameter, l10n.lang.value.rfc.compliant. If it is non-zero (the default),
    any underscore in a language code will be converted to a hyphen in HTML
    output. If it is zero, the language code will be left as-is.

Thank you to all who have contributed to the bug fixes, stylesheet coding, and testing! Thank you as well to everyone in the DocBook user community for your feedback and continued support of DocBook!

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Monday, July 11, 2005

Lars' DocBook Cheat Sheet

Lars Trieloff has created a DocBook Cheat Sheet based on Jeff Beal's DocBook Quick Reference Card. Very handy! Thanks, Lars. Details are available at: Software Documentation Weblog

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Friday, July 08, 2005

Citation processing and DocBook

Bruce D'Arcus has just announced the CiteProc project.

This project uses DocBook NG, MODS from the Library of Congress, and formatted with his citation style language (CSL).

Bruce is also working on the OpenOffice bibliographic project, which may incorporate some of this technology.

Check it out at: Thanks, Bruce!

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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Riding the rails

We had a very special 4th of July weekend treat: riding the Cumbres & Toltec Railroad.

So, now we've done two of the trains in Colorado this year. We still need to ride the Durango/Silverton, Pikes Peak Cog, Cripple Creek, Royal Gorge, Leadville, and others. We are probably done for this year, though. Some of them can get pricey with a family of 5! There's a complete list at:

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

DocBook 4.5CR1 now available.

Norm Walsh has uploaded DocBook V4.5CR1 to the OASIS mirror on (it will appear on the official OASIS site asap).

There are no technical changes in the 4.5CR1 release (from 4.5b1), but a formal motion to make a 4.5 Committee Specification followed by ratification as an OASIS Standard. This will be made official if no errors are reported before the next TC meeting.

Changes from the 4.4 Spec include:

Please try this version out, and report any problems or concerns ASAP to

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

My new favorite app

Google has really done it now. Not only is Blogger extremely easy to use for blogging, but they've come out with Picasa and Hello to make it even easier!

I really don't want my blog to turn into a photo blog, but as busy as I've been, I'm finding less and less time available to blog. I have many emails in my gmail box reminding me of cool things I've found that "I should really blog someday..."

Picasa is my new favorite app. I've been managing all my photos on the iMac with iPhoto, but Picasa (even though it doesn't run on Mac, yet. GRRR. HINT, HINT Google dev guys...) goes a step further. Not only can you assign Keywords for metadata, create slideshows, organize, touch up, burn CDs, backup, create posters and collages, and more, but with Hello, can also publish straight to your blog!

This feature alone makes it worth moving all my pics to Picasa. If I get too busy to do updates, but actually have had a semblance of a life and take pictures, I can slap on a caption and post!

I wish there were some blog templating things I could do around the photos (like adding my XML wrappers), but it posts the captions, and that's usually enough. I'd like to auto-assign or templatize the addition of technorati tags, though.

I also found another cool tool called Google Earth, but I haven't had time to play with it yet...

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Monday, June 20, 2005

Another Father's Day treat: The Georgetown Loop Rail Road! This is Engine #12.

The best singing cowboys around: The Flying W Wranglers! Truly a Father's Day treat. If you are ever in Colorado Springs, you have to plan a dinner at the Flying W.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Connor and I during our EVA as Mission Specialists during our first shuttle mission (in 5DF chairs to simulate weightlessness).

Scott in the Multi-Axis Trainer (MAT), simulating a spacecraft tumbling out of control.

Connor spins in every direction in the Multi-Axis Trainer (MAT).

Connor experiences weightlessness in the 5DF (5 Degrees of Freedom) trainer.

Monday, May 30, 2005

First Glimpse of Space Camp

Connor and I would have to say that Space Camp has been one of the best experiences of our lives!

We travelled on Thursday, attended Space Camp 1/2 day Friday, full day Saturday, 1/2 day Sunday, and then travelled back on Monday. They had us going from about 7am to 10pm, so it felt like a longer camp. We got to ride 6 different training simulators, performed 2 full shuttle missions aboard a life-size replica, built and launched rockets, watched 2 IMAX movies, took several museum tours and attended several history and information briefings.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

First Flight

Connor took one step closer to being an astronaut this weekend. He flew a Cessna 172N during his introductory flight!

Connor's introductory flight

Erie was having an Air Fair at Tri-County Airport and promised "free introductory" flights. Unfortunately, when we went in the morning, the line was terribly long so they said "come back in the afternoon". When we came back at 3pm, they said "oh, we stopped the free flights at 2:00". Connor was so looking forward to it, that he was near tears. Of course, they were more than happy to take us up for $50! ;-)

I am very proud of him. He did such a good job, and the instructor said he had just the right touch on the controls. He did need some booster cushions to see over the instrument panel, though!

We flew over our house, and Mom waved to us from the patio. I took my camcorder and captured the flight for posterity.

He's got a half hour in his log book, and is on his way to get his pilot license. Actually, I think we have the same hours now in our log books, so I'll have to try to keep up with him! I've taken ground school, so I've pointed him to my books so he can start studying too.

First Flight Certificate

Only 2 more days to Space Camp! This was a good prep for Space Camp, too. We are both really excited to go!

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Friday, May 20, 2005

Review of the Sith

The circle is now complete. I saw Episode III last night with my best friends, Cam and Don, my lovely bride at THE place to see Star Wars in Colorado: The Continental Theater.

We got there at about 3pm, and were 40th or so in line (by 6pm, the line for our 7pm show stretched from the front door all the way to the end of the parking lot!). I brought my laptop, with the latest IMPS: Relentless chapter and a podcast from Cam brought Star Wars: Trivial Pursuit, with companion DVDs. Thankfully, since my laptop has a DVD drive, we were able to play the full version while waiting in line! It was very fun, with Cam playing Obi-Wan, Don playing Yoda, and myself as Vader. In the end, Yoda triumphed.

Waiting for Episode III

I was disappointed to not see very many people dressed in costume, but I chickened out of wearing a Vader costume, myself... Actually, my friends and I went to Star Trek V in costume as Klingons back in high school, and it was a painful experience (more from itchy makeup than anything), and hard to enjoy the movie. OK, Star Trek V in itself is a painful experience to watch itself, so you can imagine our pain...

So, what did I think of Episode III? Perhaps it's best to give you my preference list:

  1. Episode IV: A New Hope
  2. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  3. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  4. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  5. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  6. Episode I: The Phantom Menace

My biggest disappointment: I can't take my boys, who also love Star Wars. The majority of the film, though dark, I think they could handle. There are two scenes, however, that are extended far longer than a simple "cover your eyes" can handle. These scenes include the Windu vs. Palpatine battle, and the immolation (burning)of Vader, which are both 5 to 10 minute scenes.

The opening sequence, and actually the whole first half of the film is in a word: AWESOME!

I don't want to give away too many spoilers, but my favorite characters are the clone pilots, the Kashykk troopers, and Commander Cody. I was so glad to see Temuera Morrison get so much screen time!

The Star Destroyers are incredible, too. The opening sequence is by far my favorite part of the movie.

So what do we have to look forward to, now that Star Wars is complete? We had prepped by watching Episodes I and II last week, and now I plan to watch Episodes IV-VI!

I am also looking forward to the new Star Wars: Battlefront II game coming out this fall, which will feature many Episode III locations as well as X-wing vs. Tie Fighters!

There is also rumor of a TV show that will be going into production soon, though I think it will be computer animated, not live action. Perhaps it will be a mix, but we will see...

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

A Day Long Remembered...

Today is the day. The official opening day of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

My best friend Jason got to see it last night in Arizona, but I haven't heard his review yet. From everything else I've read, it will be awesome. And I'm seeing it today!

I do NOT encourage Wookie Hooky (or space opera-related sick day). Instead, do what I did: work extra hours during the week, and make arrangements with your manager!

This has been a big month of closure for Sci-Fi fans: the last of the Star Wars movies, and the last episode of Star Trek:Enterprise

I love them both, so I find these articles very interesting:

Live long and prosper, and may the force be with you!

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How Lightsabers Work (theoretically)

I passed the How Lightsabers Work link around to some friends of mine, and a lively discussion ensued.

For your entertainment and/or edification, here is the discussion...

[G] That's always puzzled me. If the energy shaft were round, it would have to vaporize a one or two-centimeter swath through anything it cuts, resulting it potentially violent explosions as so much solid matter is converted directly to superheated gas.

[P] True, I suppose.

[G] Which leads to the obvious next question, how does the blade orient itself to the cut? I.e. how do you keep from spanking the target with the flat part of the blade? Is this part of the "gyroscopic" action mentioned in the article? Is the wielder not free to swing willy-nilly in an omnidirectional manner? Or is the perceived width of the blade merely the result of a glowing energy field around what is really a molecule-thin cutting beam? So many questions...

[P] Ummm... I'm guessing you've never used a sword. Or, more particularly, a saber. I don't know how to explain it other than to say that it's easy to tell by feel if the hilt is right-way-up in your hand, and the rest is all in your wrist action. The blade feels like an extension of your arm, and the blade is on the same plane as the back of your hand - the motions are instinctive, whether you're chopping, blocking with the flat of the blade, or stabbing.

[G] But the lightsaber *hilt* is round, with radial symmetry if you ignore the occasional knob or odd protruberance. The thing doesn't even have a contoured handgrip! In any case you're comparing ancient Earth battle gear to highly-advanced technological weaponry from (let's face it) an alien civilization. It's apples and oranges. Furthermore, it's apparant from the movies' historical documents that there's no planar orientation required for a lightsaber swing. It's just willy-nilly wherever.

[P] I don't know what that 'gyroscopic' stuff is supposed to be about, unless it means that the thing resists twisting (rotation about the long axis of the blade). That feature would help you make nice straight cuts, but I'd hate to have to fight the 'gyroscope' to twist the blade every time I reached the end of an arc and had to turn the edge back on target. Metal sabers have their own quirks, though - at the end of a stroke, you "fly" the blade around in a tight turn like an airplane wing before swinging hard back the way you came.

[P] As to why the lightsaber blade looks like a round column from any viewing angle, my guess is that the blade is unraveling the air molecules next to its surface and making them glow. Across the width of the blade, there are a lot of particles-formerly-known-as-air doing their best to radiate heat and get the hell away from the blade, so you'd expect a bulge of high-energy glowing crap to be at its thickest against the center of the blade. Off the 'edges', though, the superheated plasma has more room to escape and dissipate into the surrounding medium.

[P] Apart from being able to deliver obscene amounts of energy on target, though, lightsabers are 'teh ghey.' They make noise, and they light up the whole d@#n area. The beauty of a real cavalry saber is that you can pop out from behind a tree and take someone's arm off - QUIETLY.

As for me, "ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid"!

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Weather on Bloglines

I immediately subscribed to Mike Nelson's weather blog from when he started it earlier this month for cool and interesting weather facts.

Today, Bloglines has made available a feed to get your local forecast, with preferences for US or Metric!

I also use the WeatherFox, er sorry, ForecastFox extension in the Firefox browser, as well as the Desktop Weather application. You can never get too much weather information! :-)

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Monday, May 16, 2005

T-Minus 3 days...

A countdown of another kind today. Three days until Episode III!

I got tickets online over a month ago, and I'm going to see it with my lovely bride, and my two best friends that I've known and played Star Wars with since Third Grade!

We didn't see the original Star Wars together, but have seen quite a few of the others, and traded Topps movie cards in school, collected and played with the ships and figures, later played Star Wars roleplaying, and then the Star Wars CCG (Collectible Card Game).

We also went to all of the Special Edition re-releases of the films at the old Cinema 70 in the Springs.

I relish those childhood days, and am proud to call them my closest friends.

They were even quoted in the Gazette Telegraph:

Don Morgan’s parents recorded “Star Wars” on their VCR the first time it aired on television. Morgan and his brother watched the tape so often, they wore it out.

“Not only did we have the movie memorized, we knew all the funny commercials in between,” he says.

Cameron Crawford went to kindergarten with Morgan in Colorado Springs. They’re still friends and they still love to talk “Star Wars.”

“It’s happy season for us right now,” Crawford says.

As he grew up, Crawford says, “Star Wars” grew up with him.

“By the time I reached my teenage years, there was the romantic element to it,” he says. “There’s a little bit to it that appeals from the darker side, the blacker side of it.”

Now that he’s all grown up, “Star Wars” is still there for him. His latest toys are tabletop statues that are almost artistic.

“It’s something you can put on a nice table and not feel so geeky,” Crawford says.

Don has always been a huge fan of the Jedi and rebel forces, and more recently, the clone troopers.

Cam has always been closest to Han, Chewie and Lando.

Myself? I'm shamelessly a fan of Jango Fett, Boba Fett, Clone Troopers and Storm Troopers. The Imperial theme gives me chills. I know, there's one in every crowd...

My wife? She likes Leia, and is amazingly understanding of my sci-fi sickness. :-)

My earliest memory of Star Wars, though, was of Luke and Leia swinging across the Death Star. I was five years old.

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Saturday, May 07, 2005

T-Minus 19 days...

Happy 7th Birthday, Connor!

This means that Connor is old enough now for his birthday present.

Connor and I are going to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama! This has been a long-time dream for both of us.

We had a space-themed party with about 20 friends, complete with alka-seltzer rocket launches, and balloon-ar transfers, music from The Right Stuff, 2001, and more...

Watch this space for more of our experiences preparing for and attending Space Camp!

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Happy 05-05-05!

Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Today is significant in many ways. And, you won't get to see 05-05-05 very often!

Here are a few other significant events on May 5 in history:

  • 1494 - Christopher Columbus sighted Jamaica on his second trip to the Western Hemisphere. He named the island Santa Gloria.
  • 1862 - The Battle of Puebla took place. It is celebrated as Cinco de Mayo Day.
  • 1865 - The Thirteenth Amendment was ratified, abolishing slavery in the U.S.
  • 1904 - The third perfect game of the major leagues was thrown by Cy Young (Boston Red Sox) against the Philadelphia Athletics. It was the first perfect game under modern rules.
  • 1917 - Eugene Jacques Bullard becomes the first African-American aviator when he earned his flying certificate with the French Air Service.
  • 1961 - Alan Shepard became the first American in space when he made a 15 minute suborbital flight.
  • 1966 - Willie Mays broke the National League record for home runs when he hit his 512th.

Today is also the National Day of Prayer.

From the Presidential Proclamation:

The Congress by Public Law 100-307, as amended, has called on our citizens to reaffirm the role of prayer in our society and to honor the freedom of religion by recognizing annually a "National Day of Prayer."

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 5, 2005, as a National Day of Prayer. I ask the citizens of our Nation to give thanks, each according to his or her own faith, for the liberty and blessings we have received and for God's continued guidance and protection. I also urge all Americans to join in observing this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.


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Monday, April 25, 2005

A Pleasant Apertif -- DocBook NG: Lillet

DocBook NG is really more of an appetizer for the main DocBook 5.0 course to come later, but Norm Walsh has released the DocBook NG: "Lillet" release.

As of the April DocBook TC meeting, we've also adopted an official namespace for DocBook NG and 5.0:

Norm has Lillet releases for full DocBook NG, Simplified NG (Thanks, Norm!), Slides NG and Website NG! From Norm's post, changes in this release include:

  • Support <annotation>s as per the 20 Apr 2005 DocBook TC meeting.

  • Allow <alt> in more places

  • Allow <area> to have either linkends or xlink:href.

  • Allow floatstyle on <table> and <informaltable>. Remove float.

  • Restore <caption> to <mediaobject>; add it to <figure>, <example>, <table>, <informalfigure>, <informalexample>, and <informaltable>.

  • Change method attribute values to lowercase; make action an xsd:anyURI on <html:form>. Add enctype and accept attributes to <html:form>; support <fieldset>.

    Move the HTML form elements to a separate extended schema.

  • Allow common attributes on HTML table elements; allow orient, pgwide, tabstyle, and floatstyle on HTML table element.

  • Allow <title> to be optional on <equation>.

  • Restored <olink>.

The files for this release can be downloaded at: or Simplified NG at:

Bon Appétit!

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Sunday, April 17, 2005

DocBook vs. DITA

I was planning a post discussing this topic, but it looks like Lars Trieloff beat me to it with his post on DocBook vs. DITA.

Now that the DITA TC has approved the 1.0 version, it seems to be gaining quite a lot of momentum. Our (Flatirons Solutions) CTO, Eric Severson, spoke at the Content Management Strategies Conference, where they had 14 presentations on DITA related subjects! See for details.

I plan to get a lot more involvement in DITA in the near future. Perhaps you will see a new "DITA" category on the blog.

I will continue my involvement with DocBook, as I'm extremely interested in DocBook NG and Simplified DocBook!

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