Sam'l Bassett
M. Covington Loren Heiny
Jim Mishel
David Stafford
Scott Smith


February 2005
January 2005


December 2004
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April 2004
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Way back in 1998, I was the editor-in-chief of Visual Developer Magazine, which in turn had grown out of PC Techniques, a programmers' magazine I had founded in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1990. Like nearly all magazines, we were advertising supported, and I had a very good ad sales rep. Lisa Marie Hafeli was constantly on the lookout for things that would make us stand out from the crowd of programmers' magazines, and in the spring of 1998 she came up with a whopper: Create a sort of daily diary on the Web, to which I would add something every day. What she had in mind were capsule reviews, musings on the future of technology, things like that. I didn't really get underway until June of that year, and I had a little trouble deciding what to say at first, but once I got underway I discovered that I loved it. It reminded me a little of a short newspaper column I had enjoyed as a teen in Chicago, written by (I believe) Sydney J. Harris. He would occasionally list "things I ran across while looking for something else," which is basically what my "odd lots" format is.

Visual Developer Magazine began having trouble in late 1999, and come late fall I had other things to think about than keeping up with VDM Diary. In January 2000, I came to the decision I had been dreading for months, and the last issue of VDM appeared in February. When VDM folded, so did VDM Diary.

One of our former advertisiers called me that spring and told me that although he missed the magazine, he missed VDM Diary even more. And in truth, I did too. Again, it took me awhile to get underway, but by July of 2000, I had recast VDM Diary as ContraPositive Diary. It no longer had any strict connection to my job (which had simply shifted to Coriolis Group Books after the magazine folded) so I felt freer to explore other subjects, and to treat them in a more personal manner. Contra's first entry appeared in July 25, 2000, and well, here we are.

Note well that I do not use the word "blog" without a gun to my head. VDM Diary was not the first daily Web diary ever posted, but Lisa and I invented it independently long before the B-word was coined. I refuse to accede to a term that sounds like a jackal drowning.

I have always been an optimist, a contrarian, and a bit of a wiseass. I was going to call my new diary "The Contrarian Optimist," but then I recalled the word "contrapositive," which is a perfectly fine word from the field of logic. It has nothing to do with contrarianism or optimism, but once I got my mind set, there was no stopping me: I simply taped the poor word's mouth shut to muffle its screams at being repurposed and went ahead with my plans.

By what do I claim the right to call myself a contrarian? Here are just a few contrarian positions I've taken in my life:

  • I program either in Delphi/Pascal (at the top) or assembly (at the bottom.) Why the hell do we need programming languages that operate in the middle?
  • I hate both political parties, mostly because I hate bad manners, slander, sleaze, rapaciousness, truth-mangling, hatemongering, and everything else that politics has become. I stand firmly in the middle and throw things at both ends. Somebody has to.
  • I build radios and audio amps out of vacuum tubes. At least they're big enough to see. (No small advantage once you're in your fifties.)
  • I believe in God and I go to church every Sunday.
  • What's more, I am a non-papal Catholic. You don't have to be Roman to be Catholic. Google on "Old Catholic." If there's no Old Catholic community near you, the Episcopal Church is Catholic as well, though the Romans dispute that. Too bad. It's true.
  • I have been madly in love with my wife since 1969.
  • I like small, white, fuzzy dogs. The French term for this is "bichon frise." When I desperately need to chase ducks, I'll buy a golden retriever.
  • I like sweet wines.
  • I will have none of cynicism, which is nothing other than cowardice in a politically correct wrapper.

And so on. You'll see these positions and much more explained, examined, and (occasionally) abandoned in ContraPositive Diary.

As for optimism, well, it follows naturally from swearing off cynicism. We live in the finest of all human eras, and although we're nervous about a few things in today's world, hey, would you rather be in Poland in 1939? In reading history, I see progress in the world, real progress, away from the bestial cruelty that was taken for granted prior to 1900 toward something that I could honestly call justice, freedom, and mercy. It's not universal, but the bright spots are scattered widely throughout the world, and like rust they will gradually eat away the heart of human nastiness. I think human beings are fundamentally decent at birth, and remain decent until somebody or something warps them beyond recovery.

Life is good, if you choose to make it so. Quitcherbitchin and make it so.

The graphical design of Contra changed in April, 2005. The prior design, while acceptable in 2000, has gotten to be a bit of an embarrassment. It would take a long time to reformat all my archives to match the front page, so forgive me if when you click to one of the archives it looks nothing at all like this.

You can email me by taking my first name, appending that magic email symbol to it, and then appending my last name, followed by a dot, followed by com. Even if something in Contra annoys you, I would appreciate not being flamed. I try my best to be gracious and courteous at all times. Please reply in kind. Make a reasonable response, and I may even quote you. Act like a dork and you go in my email killfile.

I try to answer all questions and comments, but I get quite a few, so if I'm slow about it, don't despair. I do my best.

I do give interviews on technology (or whatever) to the media, I lecture on my topics of interest, and lord knows, I'll do damned near anything to give my books a little more exposure. Let me know what you have in mind.