Code, nerd culture and humor from Greg Knauss.

I love the idea of Mozilla. I really do. I was as excited as anybody when Netscape released the source. I have wanted, do want and will continue to want the thing to succeed.

But I've also been on enough lost-in-the-desert projects to recognize when things are going very, very badly. And the stink coming off of the Mozilla Project is stomach-turning.

Sometimes, it's better to just cut your losses, save what can be saved, and move on. Sometimes, a good idea doesn't always work out. Sometimes, you just need to say enough is enough.

"Tom, do you love your brother?"

He shakes his head "no."

"Do you love your mommy?"

He shakes his head "no."

"Is your name 'Tom'?"

He shakes his head "no."

"Are you wearing pants?"

He shakes his head "no."

"Do you think the Categorical Imperative is a rational basis for an objective morality?"

He shakes his head "no."

I can't wait until he turns two.

Today is the first anniversary of Continuus Software Corporation's IPO, an event that had all the terrible, slow-motion horror of a motorcycle accident. As of yesterday's close, the stock had dropped to a scanty one and nine-sixteenths, less than a fifth of the original offering price and a new all-time low.

Once you subtract out what I paid for them, my oh-so-New-Economy pre-public options -- my bonus for putting up with the howler monkeys that ran the place for two years -- are now worth:

$16.09

Not counting commissions and taxes, of course.

So I'm driving to work and a van passes me, zooming by on the left. In the rear window is an "I [heart] Jesus" sign and half a dozen small stuffed animals, each suction-cupped to the glass, each dangling from a string.

And, given the way they sway and jerk as the van rumbles along, I can't help but think that they're infidels and blasphemers, strung up as a warning to others toys.

The last three times I've been in Las Vegas, I haven't gambled, not one penny. I ate in coffee shops instead of buffets. I watched cable movies at night rather than prowl the Strip. No shows, no souvenirs, no nothing. There on business, just passing through, the allure of the town has gone cold and dead for me. Thank God.

I pity the poor television critics who have to write about shows they like. Getting to execute "Shasta," gangland-style, is so much more fun.

I must have been a grade-A bastard in a previous life, because the Fates are working over-time at payback.

I've been lucky enough to have three kidney stones up to this point in my merry little existence, one in college and two after. They passed -- with much cursing and gnashing of teeth and rending of cloth -- by themselves, the calcified, male equivalent of giving birth. Each hurt like hell, the last two landing me in the hospital begging for whatever drugs they had lying around.

It turns out they were the easy ones.

My new kidney stone -- I've decided to name it "Eddie" -- is the size of the end of your pinkie, from the last knuckle to the tip. It's wedged high up my left ureter, the x-rays show, and isn't going anywhere. My kidney aches and throbs and pain radiates in unhappy, southerly directions.

I'm going to be admitted to the hospital next week and they'll run various apparatuses up my urinary tract -- I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to that -- and sit me in a sonic bath and break the little SOB into "gravel." (That's the word the doctor used, by the way, like you could use the remains to pave a driveway.) The pieces will then make their agonizingly painful way out of me.

Hello? Whoever's in charge of karmic retribution? Isn't the receding hairline enough?

"Oh, my God," Joanne said. "I just realized that I live in a house with three guys."

"Zoe's a girl," I said.

"Zoe's a dog."

"So?"

"Well... All dogs are guys."

"So you live on a house with four guys."

"Oh, God..."

Rather than play on the slide or in the sandbox or with any of the other backyard toys he has, Tom has decided that it's a lot more fun to root around in the dog's food dish, pull out a handful of kibble and stuff his whole fist down her throat in order to feed it to her.

And who am I to tell him he's wrong?

"Heh, heh," he must have thought to himself. "The looks, the looks of confusion and wonder, the looks of amazement and of befuddlement. They are truly awestruck at the power of my message."

Part of me wants Tom and Mike to grow up to be curious, questioning, skeptical, rational kids, busily applying Occam's Razor and a big helping of doubt to every piece of bunk that the world tries to sell them.

And part of me wants them to just get lost in the moment every once in a while, to accept -- with a faith both absolute and pure -- the wonder and terror that surround them.

It had been hard enough just getting out of the damned car. There was no way I was going to be able reproduce all the contortions I had gone through -- backwards -- to get back in.

I had parked too close to the cart-return corral, giving the door barely a foot of space to swing open. I had managed to get out by sort of oozing through the crack, popping various bits through one at a time, but there was just no way I was going to be able to wedge the sack of fat I laughingly call a body back in the same way. Or, at least not without doing considerable damage to it, the car and the psyche of anybody who happened to be watching.

So on a whim, I just run at the car. The driver's window is rolled all the way down and I plant one hand on the cart-return dealy, another on the top of the car and lift my legs up and through the window, dropping my ass in after them. "Hey!" I think. "It wor--!"

At which point the pain starts.

My leading knee catches the automatic shoulder belt and folds back against my torso, trapped between it and the steering wheel. This, of course, causes the car horn to honk. Continuously.

I push at my knee a bit, but can't get it to budge. People all over the parking lot are looking over at me, wondering why I'm trying to get their attention while ducking down in my seat and turning all those amusing shades of red. A kid, over by the entrance to the store, starts laughing to himself, making jerking gestures with his hands and pointing his mother in my direction.

It never happened that way on the Dukes of Hazzard.

Pick-Up Lines That Will Not Impress Anybody: Second in a Series

"Plus, I'm the King of Norway."

Pick-Up Lines That Will Not Impress Anybody: First in a Series

"Yeah, I make seven figures. If, um, you count the pennies."

In high school, I played the father in a production of "My Sister Eileen." I was awful, of course, completely and profoundly inept, Geneva-Convention terrible. I had no place being up on the stage and that tiny secret was shared only by me, the rest of the cast and anybody who had the misfortune of being in the audience.

I only tried out for the part because I very badly wanted to date someone in the cast, and trying to get into the play seemed marginally more likely to impress her than sitting at home and goofing with the computer.

But I am -- and I'm saying this without even the slightest bit of false modesty -- the worst actor alive. It's not so much that I can't remember my lines or blocking, but that I have no feel for character, for what a particlar person might do in real life. I follow the script, step by plodding step, instead of bothering to understanding why the script is the way it is. I don't act so much as recite.

This does not lend it self to improvisation. And high-school plays usually offer you plenty of chances for improvisation.

Like, say, when the stage-manager who also happens to be playing the cop forgets to make his entrance. It happened twice in a four-performance run and both times, I ended up mumbling and going "um" and basically forgetting where I was.

"Ah," I said to actress playing Ruth, my daughter. "So. Ah." I gestured at the door, indicating that the person who was supposed to come through it hadn't and I had no idea what to do as a result.

"Um," I added.

Afterwards, she yelled at me.

But for all my woodenness and ineptitude, for all my fierce resistance to competence, for all my desire to flee the stage screaming like a little girl, there was one time when I managed do the right thing, to nail the character, and without even realizing it.

Dad is upset. He's visiting his daughters in their small, nasty apartment in big, nasty New York and he finds Ruth -- the older, competent one -- in fishnet stockings, selling cigarettes, and Eileen -- the younger, ditzy one -- being followed around by a parade of horny South American sailors. Much wackiness ensues as the daughters try to explain things away and dad finally gets a quiet moment to demand an explanation from Ruth.

"So tell me, Eileen..." I say. "Ah, Ruth. Whoever you are."

And I freeze. It came out without even thinking about it. Oh, God. I'm playing a father who doesn't even know the names of his own children.

But the audience laughs. They laugh. And it wasn't a look-at-the-dork-screwing-up-ha-ha laugh either. It was an actual laugh, the laugh of parents who recognize the situation. They've done the same thing, called their children the wrong name when they're frustrated or flustered or tired. A few people even ask me afterwards if that was a line that was supposed to be in the play, the situation is so familiar, so common, so true.

I hope Michael will remember that, because I keep calling him "Thomas."

Of course, I ended up marrying her, sophisticate that I am.

Have you ever had a moment, a perfect moment, when life presents you with an opportunity to make a point, a perfect point? I have, once, long ago.

The problem is, of course, getting past the naked guy.

I'm walking to lunch, minding my own business with a vengence, when I see him: skinny, tanned and stark naked. He's strolling along the sidewalk ahead of me, foot-loose, fancy-free and not wearing a damned thing.

No, wait. He's got ratty flip-flops on, and a thong, it looks like -- I can make out the twine-thin red cord running around his waist and down into the crack of his... ass.

I, um, didn't actually intend to look at his ass.

He's walking slowly, ambling down the middle of the sidewalk, his arms swinging in wide arcs. I'm approaching him much faster than I'd prefer and I can't for the life of me figure out how to get by.

I mean, what's the ettiquette here? "Excuse me?" Just sprint past? Given the whole host of body image problems that I tote around with me, I've got some pretty serious suspicions about the mental health of anybody who can walk around stark naked, or awfully near it. He's obviously not armed -- ba dump bump! -- what if he touches me? Ewwww.

So I cut into the parking lot of the auto dealer we're passing, intending to discretely speed by hidden by the cars. Then I'll pop back onto the sidewalk ahead of him, like I was just finishing up some business. Problem solved!

Though struggling through the bush and jumping the retaining wall probably didn't make it look as casual as I had hoped.

So it's three in the morning and I'm feeding Michael from a bottle since Jo is wiped out and, briefly, just for a moment, he opens his huge, dark eyes. They're deep, stormy blue -- blue just this side of black, his eyes -- and I can see a thought, a coherent thought, perhaps his first, forming deep in his soul:

"Jesus, Mom," his eyes say to me, "when the hell did you get so ugly?"

I step out of the car at the top of the parking garage and start walking towards the elevator, where a guy is already waiting. When I'm maybe twenty-five feet away, the elevator opens and the guy steps in, looking briefly back over his shoulder at me. He then makes no effort whatsoever to stop the doors from closing so I can cover the last few yards and get on.

So I charge down the stairs and stop at each floor, punching the elevator button. The bastard won't make it to the bottom for the next three days.

Everything becomes more exciting if you hum the Indiana Jones theme while you're doing it -- washing dishes, taking out the trash, sitting in traffic, everything.

Here, try it: brush your teeth while going "Dum da dum daaa, duh da da! Dum da dum daaa, duh da da daaaa!" Suddenly that minor act of daily tedium because a daring adventure.

Becuase, Lord knows, we could all use a little less daily tedium and a little more daring adventure.

She's right, of course, I don't know what I have -- didn't then and don't today, really. But I'll be damned if I'm going to cede the job of defending it to a pack of two-faced weasels who are happy to keep me in the dark for my own good.

Repeat to self until it sinks in: Picnics good, picnics good, picnics gooooood.

Times to worry:

  • Your TiVo automatically records "Escape to Witch Mountain," thinking it's something you might like.

  • The woman who takes the drive-thru orders at El Pollo Loco recognizes you.

  • Your newborn, still thirteen years away from his teens, manages to flip you the bird while you're feeding him.

I dearly, deeply love CostCo. Industrial-sized warehouses piled with industrial-sized products for industrial-sized people, CostCo sums up, almost perfectly, everything that America is about. Like hams, for instance.

The other night -- standing in line with a ten pound box of dish washing detergent -- I saw a guy push by a cart sagging under the weight of seven -- seven -- Black Forest hams. Huge hams. Monstrous hams. Fearsome hams. Hams, hams and more hams.

There is not a single conceivable reason that this person could possibly need maybe a hundred pounds of ham at one time.

But this is America, dammit, so he didn't need one.

I -- me, personally, all alone -- am responsible for the entire profitability of the salsa industry.

Every time I go to the store to stock up for making Mexican food, I'll pause in the condiment aisle and think, "Do we have any salsa at home? We must. We have to. We always have salsa at home. We live in Southern California and there's a state law that requires slasa at home.

"But if we don't, I can't make the meal. Damn."

So, of course, I drop a jar into my cart and take it home and open it up and half-empty it and stick it in the fridge, right next to the six other open, half-empty jars I already had.

Every once in a while, when I get a chance to go back and re-write some code, I stumble across comments -- eye-popping, rage-filled comments -- that are sprinkled like bread crumbs between #ifdef (WIN32)s.

/* NOTE: Wow, do I hate Microsoft. Guess how long it took me to find the documentation for _this_? Ha! Trick question! There is none! */

/* NOTE: HATE, HATE, HATE! Is the handle overlapped? Isn't it? The documentation says it's supposed to be, but that's not the case _most_ of the time. Jesus, is this any way to run an operating system? */

/* NOTE: This is needed because Microsoft doesn't follow their own goddamned rules about shell command parameter replacement. Aaagh! AAAAGH! */

If you teach a toddler that pressing your nose makes you honk, eventually he's going to wonder what sound you make if he jabs you in the eye.

An actual conversation I had with my wife yesterday morning:

"What you looking for?"

"My pants."

"Downstairs. In the dining room."

"Oh, yeah. Now I remember..."

When I'm in charge -- and, oh yes, the day will come -- we'll have fireworks every night.

My house screams.

The pipes that were originally installed when the house was built, fifty years ago, have filled with enough corroded gunk that they resonate on the odd occasion that, oh, water passes through them. This makes the whole house -- walls, floors, anyplace with a pipe running -- scream, and howl, and wail.

It's, um, disconcerting.

I've been told the only way to fix the problem is to re-plumb the entire place, the thought of which makes the little spiral-bound notebook that contains our budget scream, too.

So the house screams. And will likely stay screaming.

But it is fun to watch a guest come out of the bathroom as the sound of a thousand lost souls erupts from every direction.

"Oh, come on," the guest will say. "It doesn't smell that bad."

Things the baby has expelled directly at his parents this week, and the number of times for each:

Substance At Greg At Joanne
Urine 3 0
Vomit 2 0
Nasal Mucous 2 0

But I did get an average of six hours of sleep a night.

Damp pants, damp pants, damp pants.

Damp pants! Damp pants! Damp pants!

Damp pants.

Things Toddlers Think: First in a Series.

"When I grow up, I'm going to eat all the goddamned Cheerios I want."

Hi there! My name's GREG KNAUSS and I like to make things.

Some of those things are software (like Romantimatic and Buzz Clock), Web sites (like the Webby-nominated Metababy and The American People) and stories (for Web sites like Suck and Fray, print magazines like Worth and Macworld, and books like "Things I Learned About My Dad" and "Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard").

My e-mail address is greg@eod.com. I'd love to hear from you!

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