Cammy's Big Rambly Journal

Hello! I notice you're using Netscape (or other CSS-noncompliant user agent—in which case, consider this an easter egg) to view this journal. Because Netscape is so titanically shit, I have disabled image viewing on Netscape specifically. If I didn't, you would notice random images being replaced with each other and similar such strangeness. The posts are still visible, but you'll be missing the images, which are half the context of these posts.

You should use RetroZilla if you can; it runs on Windows 95 and up and gives you a perfect cammy.somnol viewing experience, plus more comfortable Web browsing on retrocomputers in general. Failing that, Internet Explorer 3 (which amusingly also displays this message, since it doesn't support the display CSS property) and up will also work perfectly fine for seeing my journal posts.


April 09, 2024
Chloroform days

No stopping the weary sun


If that wasn't the longest pause on journal entries yet, it's probably close. I'm so out of practice with these! For a bit, it was because I genuinely didn't feel like updating it, and now I have a bit of a pileup of stuff to cover, so let's not let that put me off further. I'll split them up into sections. Let's go!

Protoweb!

I've already posted this literally everywhere, but my first Protoweb restoration has been accepted! I restored imax.com, circa 1998. It was in incredibly good shape for a Wayback grab, and it was fun recreating what images were lost and learning how server-side imagemaps work for backwards compatibility. Read the full story over on the ProtoBlog, and look out, because I've already got my next site lined up.

At a crossroads with cammy.somnol

Part of the reason I stopped with the journal entries for a bit is because I've suddenly grown a little dissatisfied visually with it and with the site in general. It's not the aesthetic necessarily (love the cuteness and the textures), and it's not even that the art is approaching two years old now in some cases. It's just that I draw Setter differently than I used to, and that makes any new pages with him not match the old ones unless I intentionally stick with some of my old, wonky ways of drawing, say, his ears, or the dot eyes.

That leads me to ponder that, if I do redraw everything, if I should stick with Setter or replace him with Cammy as was the original idea (I just couldn't draw him yet, and now he's got a design I love drawing). Aesthetically, do I want everything to stay hand-drawn, or do I mix in some Bryce 3D primitives and lattices for the islands? Do I stick with fullbodies, or do I go with proper bordered banners a la Netscape's old site (or Districts)?

I'm still feeling out what I want to do, but I probably will redraw everything and finally get everyone else's sona on here like I've been meaning to. Back when I started illustrating cammy.somnol, everyone was very drawn out in full, head to toe, no real stylization, no effects on anything, and I dunno, I might be in the mood to do something a little different. Plus, the posing fullbodies as decoration was roughly what I had in mind for mari.somnol, now that that is coming more into focus for me, so giving cammy.somnol something unique might be in order.

Various server shenanigans (ZNC, vhosts in Apache)

Whatever I decide to do with cammy.somnol, I've started to expand out what I use my little beta testing home server for. Apache can actually support running many servers on one instance through what are called virtual hosts. I've been meaning to set up more of these for a few months now, because it's actually really fucking useful for site debugging in ways that editing local files isn't. For one thing, you can experiment with .htaccess settings or anything without disturbing your live setup, but you can also run link checkers and spiders across your site to find broken links, which came in super handy when I was working on imax.com for Protoweb.

A pretentious index page for various testing sites

I also put together a cute little index for easily linking people to all the sites that I'm currently working on. Not everything has been uploaded yet (because I haven't started those projects, generally), but my next Protoweb project is up there, ready to be worked on, plus cammy.somnol as before.

As a bonus, now that I'm spending a lot of time in IRC, I figured it'd be a good time to finally set up a bouncer! Bouncers let you share one IRC login across multiple clients and keep track of chat history, even when you're not connected to it. Basically, it makes IRC feel a little more like a modern group chat app, but in the ways you'd want and none of the ones you wouldn't. I'm quite pleased with the setup; now, I can close MegaIRC when I'm playing a game or off to bed and not miss anything that happened while I was offline, and no one can tell I'm not there. Win-win!

Whoops Cammy might be working two jobs soon

I'm leaving details of this a little vague until stuff starts landing, but it just so happened that I've applied for two jobs, one in real life and one remote, that are both interested in hiring me. I've never worked two jobs, and both of them alone pay better than Staples, so hey! Infinite money cheat??? (I'll see how I like both jobs and the workload of having two jobs once I've got them. It sure would be cool to be making so much money though. I'll finance that car and those certifications I swear I will focus more on in a bit in no time, with money left over for stupid shit and computer upgrades, maybe! My daily driver is turning ten this year, I should eventually look into a properly new PC...)


March 26, 2024
The cammy.somnol retro browser bug squash

More like Notscape


Jesus Christ, that's a rabbit hole I don't wish to go down again. cammy.somnol now officially supports Internet Explorer 3 and up and Netscape 4 and up. And Mosaic for the most part, though it doesn't like my images.

cammy.somnol running in Netscape 4

I seem to get caught up in these occasional 24 hour tech projects, like the 24 hour flu, y'know? It's entirely emotional, it's not rational, and realistically, there's no reason for this one—well, there might be. Also it's a fun story to tell.

We have it really really good as Web developers in the 21st century. We have advanced CSS modules to enable us to easily put together layouts from scratch, and all the relevant CSS frameworks have grid and flex systems to make it as easy as putting a few classes in. This was not the luxury Web designers in the late 90s got to enjoy. They had to deal with two browsers from two temperamental browser developers that each supported a completely different version of the Web, and they were called Internet Explorer and they were called Netscape.

Microsoft has always been easy to put down as the evildoer, bulldozing the competition with their stagnant Web browser included with loads of software and bloating the nice and efficient Windows desktop shell with Active Desktop. This is all true. People also still have a lot of piss and vinegar for Microsoft today, which helps reinforce the idea that Internet Explorer was the bad browser and Netscape was the good one, but—I much prefer dealing with Internet Explorer if I can help it. It feels much zippier and less buggy when you actually compare the two, and here's the big thing, the CSS support is light years better.

Netscape was just as culpable as Microsoft in the "I'm only going to support my technologies" arms race, and the big one that haunts me as a Web developer is JavaScript Style Sheets. In case you're not aware, JavaScript originated with Netscape—and aside from it being used to do things it shouldn't, it's pretty good for what it is. Netscape wanted everyone to use JavaScript; they had plans for a server-side JavaScript (sit down, React users), and with the desire to have stylesheets for people's larger and larger websites looming on the horizon, they figured they could turn their scripting language into a styling language as well.

It didn't work, but it continues to be relevant to those designing retro Web pages because Netscape inexplicably hacked its CSS support around translating to JSSS. If you use CSS at all, and you're targeting Netscape at all, you will have to learn to deal with its hideously bad, incredibly limited, unbelievably buggy implementation of JIT translated CSS. To give you an idea, there's a phenomenal website I've been combing over for the past day or so called RichInStyle.com, which is devoted to turn-of-the-millennium CSS information, bugs, and best practices. They count several hundred bugs for Netscape 4's CSS implementation—some parts of the site list it around 230, other parts 500.

I've known for a long time now that cammy.somnol, basic as though the layout is, ate shit on Netscape 4, but I wasn't too interested in figuring out why...until it crawled up my ass and I started playing with it. Here's some bugs I've personally encountered:

The thing about JSSS is that, because only Netscape 4 supports it, I can write a JSSS file and use it to fix Netscape-specific rendering bugs without resorting to CSS hacks. Why would I want to do this? Originally, I didn't much care, but I got to thinking about how I'd eventually like to have cammy.somnol linked more around the still-growing retro Web community a bit more, and I know folks on Windows 3.x and 9x and other OSes alike sometimes have no choice but to use Netscape. Even if they do have choice (RetroZilla supports Windows 95 and NT4 and is lovely to develop for), it doesn't mean they're taking advantage of that choice.

cammy.somnol running in IE4

So, literally 24 hours ago as of writing this, I got to seeing how much better I could make cammy.somnol work on Netscape without completely rewriting every page. I could've gotten things pretty close looking and fairly consistent across all browsers had I just resorted to presentational HTML, but that's not my style and I like clean markup too much. (I wound up using some anyway, I'll get back to that.) That journey expanded out to Internet Explorer 3, 4, and Mosaic 3.0 fairly quickly; I knew it mostly worked in IE5 and worked perfect in IE6 already, but I didn't have anything I could test the older versions on to hand and had to spend the morning setting up PCem with networking support.

So here's a summary of what all I did:

As a result, Netscape 4 finally works mostly well on cammy.somnol (ignoring the journal), IE3 is near-perfect aside from floated images not working, IE4 is perfect, and Mosaic is almost perfect, rendering my GIFs as black-and-transparent for some reason I can't seem to understand. All of them have some trouble with the journal, either due to lack of PNG support, Netscape's image bug, Mosaic's tendency to crash when it has to get off its lazy ass and render a bigger page, or my lazy ass' tendency to not render thumbnail versions of embedded images, causing load times and images breaking out of their containers. RetroZilla and more recent were already perfect and remain completely unaffected.

I've learned so many nightmarish bugs, hacks, and workarounds over the past evening, trying to target one browser but not another, working around the lack of horizontal centering in basically every browser I was working with, and constantly checking this not-altogether-accurate-somehow W3 specification submission on JSSS for reference. That said, she's working nicely! cammy.somnol will now work in your favorite retro browser, I didn't have to change how I write these pages too much to make it happen, and eventually when I start floating this thing around more, hopefully someone in the retrocomputing scene will appreciate all that hard work. (mari.somnol will avoid this pitfall because I'm going to be writing a no-CSS version from the get go. You can't deal with bad CSS implementations if you don't use CSS, black man taps head GIF.)

Wait, I had a bunch of other stuff to work on? Like, other sites, pages, a trip diary, drawings, IT certifications? Ah geez dude.


March 19, 2024
The post-trip CabyCammy update

Feeling being gone


I'm back in the US now. It's 6AM local time as I write this—or 10AM in Wales time. I'm still operating four hours ahead of myself. I fell asleep at 10PM accidentally the past two nights.

Of all the days I'd have to fly to Ireland for a connecting flight, of course it'd be St. Patrick's Day. I didn't intend for that, nor did I even remember the day existed (due to my allergy of sixth- and seventh-generation Americans who still consider themselves Irish). That was fun! Dublin is the only airport in Europe that has something called US preclearance, where you go through the bag scan and "interview" (like a question and a webcam photo) with a border agent before you actually fly off to the US. As a result, when I touched down in New Jersey, all I had to do was grab my bag and get in my mom's car. It was pretty easy breezy.

Less easy breezy has just been being back. I'm alright—in some ways relieved, because I'm not crammed into Caby's bedroom without my setup and all my stuff, but in most other ways, really feeling being gone. Last time was so intense and emotionally overwhelming that I think her and I both felt we could breathe afterwards, which masked the isolating feeling. This time was so much more comfortable and natural that that's all that's noticeable, feeling being gone. All the 2AM giggle fits over awful memes and impressions of Phil Thomas Katt. Meeting her after school and walking into town together to eat and window shop. All the long chats with her family, late trips into the village for booze and snacks and mouthwash and whatever else. That's all stopped for the moment.

I'm mostly glad it happened though. We were much less clingy this time, more like close friends, which meant the lovey snuggly stuff happened so much more naturally. That bodes well. I've been more confident in myself, realizing my needs and limits and and what I need more, which means it's easier to defuse messy situations and just keep myself at ease. That bodes well. I can read Caby better and navigate her stresses better too. That bodes well! Her folks love me to the point of her dad offering to pay for me to fly out next time, in case money was what was keeping me from coming back so soon. That bodes well.

The goal now is to be able to prop up a place together. To do that, I'm gonna need more skilled work. I've decided I think I'd be most interested to do something with networking, so I'm gonna start doing research into that field and into certifications to get something that pays nicer and is less customer-facing than retail. If I play my cards right, I might be able to get into the UK via a work visa, which is better than the marriage visa because you can actually work while you're still being naturalized. Then comes just finding something there, getting a place with Caby, and managing the move. It'll take a lot of money and planning, but we're the people who can pull it off.

Ironically, while we've lengthened our timeframe for all this happening (thanks to there not being the desperation of being together Or Else anymore), it feels so much more within reach. No doubt a lot of the stress had to do with lockdowns; hard to feel confident in your ability to immigrate when you don't even know when you'll be able to see your girl in person for the first time. I thought it'd never happen. It's now happened twice, with the full support of our parents. I feel like I can do anything, really, and I think Caby's feeling a lot more confident too.

So yeah, I'm missing Wales, but I made it home safe, her and I are on better terms than ever, and we have a much stronger plan going forwards. I'm gonna work on my side of the Atlantic to secure our financial future. By 2030, I'll be in the right country with the girl I love permanently.

I'm gonna go play Red Faction, I think. Check mari@macintosh.garden for some new Cammy content if you're so inclined, and stay tuned for reviews on all the CDs I bought and a deep dive into the Conet boxset on the group blog!


March 11, 2024
Drawing to pass the time

Gotta take advantage of Caby's screen tablet while I'm here, yeah?


I have my flight out of here scheduled for this Sunday, the 17th. With any luck, by next week, I will be back in the US, comfy and with all my new CDs to finally listen to.

On another note, I've been hitting the art stuff seriously hard this trip. I might try to finally update the mari@macintosh.garden art gallery, seeing as it was last updated in November of last year. Here's a drawing I did just yesterday and one I doodled this morning, neither of which have been posted anywhere just yet, so you guys get first dibs for sticking with a sporadically-updated journal.

Prince, doing a fruity stand

Prince! I've struggled a lot to figure out how to draw his funky crazy one-sided hair style, and it wasn't until Caby doodled a simpler version of it that the shape became apparent to me. This was done for her Please Draw a Cat gallery on Neocities, and spoilers, I wound up being one of two (and then three when Savannah drew one) people to do an anthro cat instead of a feral one. It still counts, I'd say. I adore this fruity bastard, very pleased with how solidly he came out. I gave it the airbrushy color style because soft suits soft.

A WIP of Cammy being haunted by some ghosts from a book

And now a Cammy! This one is for my toyhou.se profile, which I wanted to take private starting January 1st of this year, but wound up not for lack of an updated profile image. I've had this one in my head for a few months now, Cammy getting haunted by some of my long-neglected OCs, and today was the day it happened to fall out. This was fun! I don't do dynamic poses enough...or props, or expressions, or magical things. This is like four generations of OCs I've fixated on in one picture, Cammy, Felix, Colton, and Prince from left to right. Can't wait to line and color it.


March 08, 2024
Five minutes late

Cammy is not in the US!


Well, I was supposed to be back home yesterday. I am not. I am still in Cardiff.

Let's talk about how this all happened.

  1. My flight was to depart at 10:45. I was not aware of the rule that check-in closes an hour to departure. For extra hilarity, thanks to a rule with my carrier in the US, my phone's international calling and roaming is disabled by the 5th. "I'll be home soon, it's all good," I think. I'll get back to that.
  2. Caby and I make it to Heathrow departures at 9:50. The check-in fails. I am confused and the ticket slip tells me to seek the assistance desk.
  3. I go to the assistance desk and they proceed to tell me that I was in the wheelchair queue and I need to move. I did not obtain assistance there.
  4. Asking another member of staff, I learn of the hour-before-departure rule. He asks me if I booked through British Airways or through a third party. Because I booked through Expedia, he says British Airways can't provide any assistance and he tells me to contact Expedia. (Caby's dad, himself a regular flyer, tells me that they weren't very nice about it, in retrospect—sometimes they just hurry you through anyway.)
  5. I find Expedia's US customer support number, though because I have no roaming and Caby doesn't have international minutes, we can't call it. I soon locate their UK number, where the automated prompts are all in an American accent anyway.
  6. The kindly Indian gentleman representative I eventually get ahold of tries his best to get British Airways to get me on another flight and fails. I'll have to buy another plane ticket. I accept this, and he tells me of two same-day flights out of Heathrow to Newark, the airport I was returning to. One is a 24 hour connecting flight to Lisbon. The other is a direct flight for $2600.
  7. Without any way of properly contacting my mom (all I have is her number, again, US-based) and without email on my phone, I use Caby's email to explain the situation and to tell her to please do not make the long drive to Newark, because I won't be there.
  8. We get breakfast at Black Sheep Coffee in the airport (very tasty by the way, much recommended) to calm the nerves of missing the flight and regroup. I'm already set on going back to Cardiff for another week; I figured if I rushed back a day or two later, it would disrupt my mom's work schedule, be more expensive, and introduce more room for error. Caby, who I'm soothing through a mini meltdown, eventually agrees, and both her parents and my mom agree that slow-rolling it and waiting for the best price on my mom's next day off would be ideal.
  9. We go back on a coach for another three hour trip and eat chippy when we get home. Caby sleeps for ten hours. I spend half the night playing Gran Turismo 2.

In case you're curious, you can stay up to six months in the UK either without a visa (if you're from a country that doesn't need one, like the US) or on a standard visitor's visa (if you're from a country that does need one). The concern isn't staying long enough to arouse the authorities, but just making sure I can land in a way where everyone is on the same page, ready, and isn't breaking the bank.

I've already let my bank know I'm here another week—another reason I wanted to go back to Cardiff, because I couldn't do that at the Travelodge on my phone without my passwords (I have since gotten Bitwarden on my phone)—so I won't be cut off from my funds while I'm still here. I've also established alternate forms of contact with my mom that don't require texting, and I'll probably get WhatsApp as well since Caby's family uses that and that means I'll get to join their family group chat. I'd say we handled it pretty well, all things considered.

What a fucking bizarre situation, though. We'd emotionally prepared ourselves for me to leave, saying our goodbyes to everyone all through this past Wednesday and Thursday, only for me to pop right back up in the coach park like nothing happened. I'm so grateful and thankful her parents are cool with it and agreed that was the best course of action, because the alternative would be a week in a hotel, and that shit is expensive. It helps that they've been all over the world and know how difficult flying can be. My mom was also cool with it, so long as I'm not blowing all my funds (I'm not, only some)—I do miss her, though, and she misses me.

I was supposed to be home today, in my bed or at my desk playing Red Faction or one of my other phenomenal CEX finds on the eMachines Box, listening to one of the now-25 CDs on my big stereo, recovering from the trip. That hasn't happened yet, but I'm okay. I'm accounted for, I have enough money to make it as long as I need, and Caby has ever-so-kindly offered to cover the plane back with all her savings. There's still stuff I can do here while I'm here, castles to visit and trains to get on, so I can vibe.

It's not ideal, and we're still occasionally laughing exasperatedly at the past two days, but we're alright. And hey—lot worse places to be stranded than with your girlfriend.


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