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NORDSTROM Children’s Shoes

Visit Children’s Shoes Friday & Saturday, February 18th and 19th.

Come get your toenails painted. Piggy Polish “Peticures” on Friday, February 18th

Paul Mitchell will be on hand from 12-4 PM doing updos on Saturday, February 19th.

Man, just say the words “Piggy Polish” and “updos” and I am there! So, the girls and I headed down to Nordstrom on Friday for “Peticures” and Saturday for a taste of the hair glamour that is conspicuously absent from their lives when they’re with me.

You see, while I am pretty good at most of the girly stuff associated with…well, girls…I can’t do hair. I not only lack a basic knowledge of hairstyling techniques, I’m completely unfamiliar with the tools. I’ve only used a blow dryer once in my life (during an ill-conceived, junior high, pre-dance grooming session that is still referred to as “The Dandelion Incident”) and the thought of using a curling iron leaves me clammy.

I know women who have used curling irons for decades who still manage to char their flesh on a regular basis, so, as a rank amateur, I’m a little reticent to brandish a wand of white-hot death near my daughters’ faces. Perhaps if my morning grooming ritual growing up had carried with it the ever-present possibility of grotesque, disfiguring burns or self-immolation (like applying my contact lenses with a soldering gun, or trimming my sideburns with an acetylene torch) I wouldn’t be so squeamish. But, as it stands, when they’re with me they usually have to settle for a few spritzes with a squirt bottle, a thorough brushing…and, if I’m feeling especially bold, perhaps a few barrettes.

So I went to this thing hoping to pick up a few “idées de coiffure” that I could use at home, but this probably wasn’t the place to go for practical hairstyling tips.

Emma's Crack Team Of Follicular Engineers
Emma’s Crack Team Of Follicular Engineers
Zoë, Obviously Pleased With The Process
Zoë, Obviously Pleased With The Process

When it was over, Emma ended up with a remarkable recreation of the fountains of Versaille:

The Fountains of Versaille
The Fountains of Versaille

And Zoë’s hair was like an Escher woodcut. It seemed to turn in on itself and circle around and turn in on itself and circle around and turn in on itself and circle around…:

The Gödel, Escher Back
The Gödel, Escher Back

But even though I didn’t learn much in the way practical techniques, I studied the process carefully enough that I’m pretty confident that I could recreate the hairstyles if the girls ever get invited to a cotillion…or the Westminster Dog Show.

The Novell Beigepapers

Beginning in 1998, I had the privilege of working on a special team at Novell, Inc. whose mandate from then-CEO Eric Schmidt was to drag Novell’s products and processes kicking and screaming into the 21st century. It was Novell’s first real attempt to embrace the Internet and it was a massive undertaking. The project began with migrating Novell’s colossal and entrenched infrastructure from IPX/SPX to TCP/IP, but the ultimate goal was to move all of Novell’s business processes to the web.

In 1998, this was considered madness. No one thought you could provide business applications securely via the web without requiring, at the very least, a VPN client. But while everyone else was arguing about whether such a thing was even possible, we just went ahead and did it.

Interestingly, one of our initiatives was to create and implement a web-based email service that could be used by both employees and their families. Eventually, we were going to open it up and make it available as a free service to the general public as a showcase for Novell’s products. And would you care to guess what this free web-based email service was called?

Gmail. The “G,” in this case, standing for GroupWise, Novell’s email product.

So imagine my surprise when Eric Schmidt accepted the job as Google’s CEO and two years later announced…well…Gmail. If memory serves, I spent two days wandering the halls, bellowing, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”


As part of the project, I was asked to write a series of technical documents that would explain the sometimes painful process we were going through in hopes of helping our customers avoid some of the same pain. The result was The Novell Beigepapers.

Here’s the introduction to the series:

Most documentation starts as hastily scrawled notes from sleep-deprived developers who weren’t necessarily hired for their keen communication skills. Those notes are then fleshed out by recently-graduated English majors who have spent their last four years immersed in works of fiction. The results are then passed on to the marketing department whose job it is to make sure that no word or phrase, even if it’s true, will reflect unfavorably on the product (“I don’t think that the word ‘Basic’ properly communicates the exciting nature of the product. Why don’t we call it ‘Visual Zesty!?!’”). It is then beset by lawyers who finish the job by making sure that they haven’t explicitly promised that the product will actually do anything.

By the time the documentation gets into your hands, it has been so sanitized for your protection and generalized beyond recognition that you usually have to go out and buy a 3rd-party manual (that was, more often than not, written by the same non-technical technical writer who wrote the original documentation) in a vain attempt to get an unbiased, unexpurgated, and/or unfiltered view of just how you’re really supposed to use the stuff.

That’s where the “@ Novell” series comes in. Rather than the vague, generalized, and wholly fictional examples found in most documentation, we’re going to tell you exactly how we use our own products to run our own company. We are not, after all, a small, tidy computing environment suitable for documentation. We are a big, sprawling, untidy computing environment made up of over 500 production servers and 20,000 workstations in 130 locations throughout the world. In other words, we’re probably an awful lot like you.

But please keep in mind that this document may be more than a little rough. It wasn’t conceived by a committee, written by a committee, or approved by a committee, so it hasn’t been edited, re-edited, tidied up, sanitized, and whitewashed. Don’t think of this as an official whitepaper. It’s more like a beigepaper.

Writing these things was a blast, and even though they’re now quite dated (and I cringe at the crude formatting), I’m making the PDFs available here for archaeological purposes. Enjoy.