Before the dawn of the dawn of time…

Continuing my attempts at computational archaeology: before the dawn of the dawn of time … or at least the dawn of the Internet … computer people had .plan (“dot plan”) files, chunks of text you could read from the command line using the finger protocol.

This protocol is often deactivated nowadays, but it was Facebook at graduate school at Georgia Tech in the early nineties. The following was mine, from apparently late 1995. Like my attempt to find my first web page, this obviously isn’t the earliest version of my .plan file, but at ~15 years it’s the oldest bit of online presence I’ve found about myself yet.

Obviously, some things have changed … the “love of my life” died (the love itself part, not the person) shortly after writing this, as evident from the editor’s note. I then went on to marry the lovely Sandi Billingsley, the real love of my life. Some of the other friends listed are no longer with us, or no longer with me and my friends. For the rest, well, read on – this is a completely unfiltered snapshot of me fifteen years ago:

The Centaur’s Bio (his Old .plan File)

Hi. This is the personal page of the Centaur, otherwise known as Anthony Francis. I’m ostensibly a graduate student in Artificial Intelligence at the College of Computing, but that’s just a hobby. For the past eight years, I’ve been a science fiction writer, a vocation that became professional when I published my first short story, “Sibling Rivalry,” in the February 1995 issue of _The Leading Edge_ magazine.

The love of my life is a redheaded historian, Shannon Duffy. When I’m not with her I spend time with my best friends in the Edge Group, which consists of Michael Boyd, David Cater, Anthony Francis, Derek Reubish, David Stephens, and Fred Zust in the core Edge franchise as well as William Morse, and Stuart Myerburg in our recently opened Atlanta branch.

[Editor’s note: Sad to say, Shannon and I are no longer together; we simply had different ideas about where we wanted to take our lives. We’re still friends, though, and hope to keep it that way.]

I’m sorry, I can’t tell you what we at the Edge Group do; we’d have to kill you (we do bad movies, good software, and great times, in no particular order). When I’m not hanging with the Edge Group I’m jamming with my other best friends Steve Arnold, Eric Christian and his fiancee Chalie, Joe Goldenburg, Kenny Moorman and his wife Carla, Ruth Oldaker, Mark Pharo and his wife Yvette, Patsy Voigt, and Fred’s girlfriend Marina.

The weekend tradition is to jam with William, Stuart, Mallory and sometimes Joe at Anis, Huey’s, Oxford at Pharr, Phipps and wherever else we can get into trouble. (Occasionally, you can find me at the Cedar Tree or Yakitori Den-Chan with Mark & Yvette). If not, I’m either hanging with Fred & Marina, Eric & Chalie and Dave & Ruth up in ole Greenvile, South Carolina, watching (or filming) movies at my house, eating dinner with my loving parents Tony and Susan Francis, perforating the odd target with musket fire at Eric’s or just noshing on late-night food at Stax’ Omega or IHOP. If I’m not doing any of the above, I’m liable to be curled up with Shanny in O’Flaherty’s Irish Channel Pub in the French Quarter in New Orleans, listening to Irish ballads and soaking up each other’s company over an Irish Coffee (her) and a diet Coke (me).

Since people have asked, my favorite authors are H.P. Lovecraft, Larry Niven, C.J. Cherryh and Douglas Hofstadter, in that order. My favorite TV show is Dr.Who, followed neck-and-neck by Babylon 5 and Star Trek (TOS TNG TMS DS9 VOY ANI, in that order) and nipped at the heels by the Tripods and the Six Million Dollar Man. My favorite comic book is Elfquest, followed closely by Albedo Anthropomorphics, Superman, Cerebus, and Usagi Yojimbo. My favorite band is Tangerine Dream, although I do listen to Rush, Yes, Vangelis, and Genesis. My favorite style of music is now called “New Age” (uuugh) but used to be called electronic music, minimalist, or just electronic rock. My second favorite style of music is soundtrack music (music for the visual image). I can stand rock. I hate disco. Rap held my interest for a while, but it officially lost me with “Whoomp(t) there it is.”

My favorite cuisine is Lebanese, a gift from my parents and my family, the best damn extended family in the whole wide world. I shock my parents and family by also appreciating Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Cajun, Mexican, Italian, Korean, Vietnamese, Spanish and Indian cuisine; I also have a great appreciation for the foods of the South, a culture which I find to be both vastly underrated and overdiscussed abroad. When I’m not dining out or curled up with a good book or laptop computer at Captain D’s at Corporate Square in Atlanta drinking inordinate amounts of iced tea, I’m at home honing my patented personal tabbouleh (Lebanese salad) recipe, slowly learning to cook Chinese, and honing the art of grilling steaks and microwaving potatoes so that they both finish at the same time.

My favorite form of literary expression is science fiction; my preferred style is flashbacks within a framing story, usually in third-person limited, although I’ve begun to experiment with a more liberal third-person style derived from the narrative structure of contemporary motion pictures. My primary means of plotting and expression are visual images. My favorite fictional creature is, of course, the centaur; however, the genetically engineered spaceborne professionals of *my* fiction bear little resemblance to the bearded primitves that stalk the wooded glades of your average fantasy novel (unfair though that may be to my inspirations, which include the very nice halfhorse folk of the Giesenthal valley dreamed up by Donna Barr, the ambiguous Titanides from _Titan, Wizard, Demon_ by John Varley, and Timoth the warrior sage of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons comic. Just don’t call my Porsche St.George a halfhorse too; she’ll be liable to pummel a fictionalized version of you in a story sooner or later if you do).

My favorite style of AI is symbolic AI with a situated/behaviorist twist. I play around with memory, agents, case-based reasoning, natural language understanding, and semiotics; I have nothing against genetic algorithms or connectionist systems other than the fact that I don’t have time to pursue them as avidly. I also fiddle around with animal cognition, and can talk your ear off about chimpanzee culture and dolphin language if given the chance.

My favorite style of science is Kuhnian with a cognitive flair. I have no respect for positivism or any of the horrible things it’s done for science. My philosophy is somewhere between Kant, Plato and something no-one has a name for yet. To sum: the universe is real; deal, but don’t assume you have the answers and *don’t* assume that a single level of description can capture all of reality.

My religion is theist; I believe in the tripartite single God at the heart of mainstream Christianity, and accept the messiah aspect as my savior. My theology is liberal Episcopalian with a strong theological background in my Catholic upbringing. My disagreements with the Catholic Church are primarily theological and only partially pragmatic; I gave up on waiting for them to catch up with Jesus, but they’re still mostly good people. The religious right, on the other hand, is a bipartite oxymoron: neither religious nor right, and certainly not in keeping with the anti-Phariseean radical I follow. Genteel religious discussions are welcome; rude evangelizers will be biblically and theologically diced *before* I turn you over to Shannon, Joe, William, and Eric. Bring references to authorities, but don’t expect me to respect them. Arguments against evolution will either be summarily flushed or buried underneath my copies of Eldredge’s _Time Frames_, A.G. Cairns-Smith’s _Genetic Takeover_, Dawkin’s _The Selfish Gene_, _The Saint Paul Family Catechism_ and my copy of the New American Bible, flipped to the part of the preface discussing evolution. Read the gospel of Thomas; it’s an eye opener, and you haven’t even seen the Dead Sea Scrolls yet…

Politically, I am a Goldwater liberal. I believe in war, gays in the military, religious freedom, no state-mandated prayer in schools, free ownership of automatic weapons, licensing of gun owners, aid to the Contras, prosecution of IranContra, investigation of Whitewater, and support and respect for the president regardless of party. I voted for George *and* Bill once each, don’t regret it, and would do the same knowing what I know now. I believe in AIDS spending, military spending, research spending, and the space program; I also believe in welfare reform, cutting waste, a line item veto, and perhaps even some kind of budget amendment if I could be convinced it wouldn’t get us into trouble in wartime. I don’t believe in “school choice”, “political correctness”, “multiculturalism”, “Rush as Equal Time”, “the liberal media”, “the conservative media”, or “anti-special-rights amendments”. I don’t think we should take “In God We Trust” off of our coins and I don’t think we should picket funerals of people who had AIDS. I don’t believe acceptance of homosexuals as equal citizens has anything to do with the disintegration of the American family. I don’t believe in hobbling industry with overregulation nor do I believe in letting them cut down trees holding endangered species just because they planned our logging programs poorly. My political heroes are Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Margaret Thatcher.

Interesting. Well, that is what it was. There are definitely opinions I would tweak, things I now think I got wrong, and snapshots of relationships that no longer hold. But the Edge is still here, I’m still here, I’m still writing, I’m still a Christian, and still a scientist. SO, all things considered, I think I’ll have to stand by my dot plan file after all.

-the Centaur

Before the dawn of time…

…there was my ORIGINAL home page at the Georgia Institute of Technology:

Amazing, yes, the frames, the under construction sign, the ‘bouncer look’ photo, etc.

What amazes me even more? It’s still up, as of 2010-07-16. Wow.

But wait! This just in … according to the Wayback Machine, this wasn’t even the first version of the page; this is the first version of my home page:

Actually I can tell this isn’t the actual first version of my page – there are some links missing from it that were in the very earliest version of the page, and it has frames, which I don’t think were in the very first page I put up – but this is the oldest recorded version, from almost 14 years ago. Aeons in Internet time … especially considering the very first web page was only six years earlier, about 20 years ago:

How things have changed in two short decades.

-the Centaur

Reblogging

Way back in the dawn of time, the Library of Dresan looked very different.

And I didn’t just write all the articles … I formatted all the HTML by hand.

Now, thank goodness, publishing to my blog is easier than I ever imagined, back in the day (and no, I’m not going to snark about Blogger having as many problems then as now, it served me well for many years before it, well, finally stopped serving me well).

SO ANYWAY, I’m reblogging all of the old articles of the Library, tagged now as, um, Reblogging. I will of course leave the original Articles up for historical interest and my eternal embarrassment. I mean, adding banner ads to my own site … pointing to my own site! What was I thinking?

Really, next I’ll get so self-referential I’ll be critiquing myself as I’m writing this!

-the Centaur

A Strike Against Blogger

Continuing the translation of “articles” to modern blog entries… Article 34 from March 16, 2004.


Strike one against blogger.

I haven’t been using it for a week and already I have problems. I can no longer publish blog entries to my web site.

I’m not sure of the cause yet, so I’m going to do some research and give them a few days to work out the kinks.

But, regardless, this is pretty stale for week one.

Little Soho Midtown Street Fair

Continuing the translation of “articles” to modern blog entries… Article 33 from March 14, 2004.


A quick note — the community of merchants at Georgia Tech’s new Technology Square at 5th and Spring Street are sponsoring a street festival. Sandi and I just returned from two days showing her art. Even though Georgia Tech is on spring break and the advertising for the fair was pulled at the last moment, we got a lot of foot traffic and Sandi sold one of her newest paintings.

The organizers of the street fair are determined to make it a success — they want to turn 5th Street into a popular Midtown walking location on the weekends and plan to hold a street fair like this every weekend. They are actively seeking artists, musicians, vendors, and passersby to help turn this festival into a really big thing. Email rgarrison135 at aol dot com if you want to set up a table.

It runs from noonish to fiveish on Saturdays and Sundays. So check it out!

Dresan Today … An Experimental Weblog

Continuing the translation of “articles” to modern blog entries … Article 32 from March 10, 2004. Coincidentally, the announcement of this very Blogger blog.

I am continually interested in the language style of these “old” articles, some of them composed as long as two weeks ago. The ingratiating “check it out” style of the pointers, I do not like. Presumably, in future I will not like my current LOLcat style. Edison hate future. Yes.


Check out Dresan Today, my new weblog — as well as the home for my experiments with weblogging software.

Manually adding entries to this site is a pain, which is one reason I tend to write big chunks spaced out over a long period of time. I’ve been meaning to set up software to help me automatically add updates to the Library for some time now, but between work, art and writing it’s been a challenge to find enough time to work on the prototype AND work through the limitations of hosting the software on my web provider’s account.

SO today I decided to cut the Gordian knot and experiment with the freely available services. The http://www.dresan.com/daily/ directory will house both my current weblog Dresan Today as well as any experiments I’m doing with weblogging tools.

Currently, I’m experimenting with Blogger, which is quick and easy to use, free, configurable, and (most importantly) doesn’t require any software running on my web provider’s server. This is exactly the feature set I wanted in my roll-your-own blog (not counting source code availability, extensibility, wiki features, and a searchable database of blog entries on my home machine) I decided to give it a shot. Since it took less time to set up the blog than it took to create this “normal” entry in InterDev, I think it is definitely worth a try.

So see what’s on Dresan Today!

She Was Dancing All That Time

Continuing the translation of “articles” to modern blog entries… Article 31 from February 7, 2004.


SO Mom contracts pneumonia early in January, and life goes on hold.

I’ve learned a lot in the last month: “pneumonia” is not so much a disease caused by an agent, like SARS or Alzheimers, as it is a physical condition: buildup of fluid in the lungs which impedes the ability to breathe – often progressively, sometimes fast. Sometimes this condition is caused by a virus, sometimes by a bacteria, and sometimes just by inflammation; but for smokers, people over 45, or those unlucky enough to be both, it can be VERY difficult to fight off.

And then there are the complications. Forget bedsores and rashes, arms scarred from IVs and throats raw from intubation, or even the simple indignity of a nose dried out by the omnipresent oxygen tube; the real fun is still to come.

Pleurisy, another “process”, arises when fluid collects between the lung and the chest wall, making what little breath you CAN draw an agony; it becomes worse when the pneumonia infection leaks in, filling the space with pus. You have to drain that out surgically, in a procedure called a VAT (Video Assisted Thoroscopy) which is far better than cracking the chest wall open but still leaves the patient with tubes draining fluid slowly, slowly, from a hole in their side.

Which opens the door to staph.

Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aurorae — MRSA or, more poetically, drug-resistant flesh-eating bacteria. A third of us have *some* strain of staph colonizing our bodies peacfully at any given time; but given the right conditions, staph can turn nasty, blooming into an itchy red rash which is ripe to infect others or, worse, slip into a healing wound to cause blood poisoning (septicemia or bacteremia).

But a bacterial infection is not an annoying neighbor named Ted or his ill-behaved dog Spot, to be easily cured by a restraining order or a stiff whack with a newspaper. An infection is an entire *population* of a particular type of bacteria, millions of them, breeding and reproducing according to Darwin’s law of evolution by natural selection.

In the hospital environment, Darwin’s law rewards the toughest individual bugs — the ones who can colonize and survive on the insides of IV tubes or cling tenaciously to an ill-washed hand, the ones that inflame your body with infectious sores so they can spread like wildfire — and the ones who can surivive the typical spectrum of antibiotics that the hospitals typically use.

Hence MRSA — a description of a particularly nasty evolution of staph, typical to populations of individuals in close contact like prisoners, drug addicts, high school wrestlers … and hospitals, where it colonizes health workers and attacks vulnerable patients.

Doctors are aware of this now. They’re careful with the antibiotics they *do* have, using only the ones they need. And they bring in the big guns only rarely in an attempt to keep knowledge of their arsenal from the mindless gene-memories of their bacterial foes. And they try to alert their patients — use all your antibiotics, as prescribed, so that your body isn’t left with a tiny residual population of the most resistant bugs.

Oh, and they wash their hands. A lot.

Staph still slips through, of course; but they stop it, most of the time. But you can’t *count* on them to stop it, unless you or your loved ones take charge of your care. The doctors care about you — really, they do, even the ones you wonder about — but they have ten, twenty, fifty or a hundred patients to consider, and if they see something unusual — a fever, restlessness, unexpected difficulty breathing — that could … just … quite … fit into the normal progress of a disease, they’ll assume the treatment is working and will stay the course.

And of course they have to contend with a vast number of fools, both patients and family, where by fools I mean those people who don’t really want to know what’s going on and don’t really want responsibility for their own health care decisions. So even if you do ask, the doctor is likely to tell you “she’s getting better”.

Only you can know your loved one’s health condition. Only you can see that this fever IS unusual, see that this restlessness IS getting worse, see that she is visibily NOT improving — and it is up to you and your relatives to read up on the condition; to assess that more needs to be done; and to send in your very own IFFM (Infinitely Formidable Family Matriarch, in our family my father’s younger sister) to bust the doctor’s heads and get them to call in the specialists your loved one needs.

So your mother’s getting better. And you do what you can. You HAVE to do for her, but you CAN’T do to much. If you DO too much, you’re likely to wind up in the hospital yourself, puking your guts out because of the stress, doing no-one any good. So you need to get help. But you can’t do everything — not even you and her cousin and the IFFM and all the aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews can do everything. Even when you have to turn to outside help, they can’t do everything.

You can hire a sitter to stay the night with her so she doesn’t pull out her IVs, leaving you to go get a good night’s sleep, but then the sky can fall and the roads turn to deadly sheets of ice and you’re left with the realization you, yes you, are the only one who can stay to help her. But even then, sooner or later, you WILL have to leave her, even if only for a little while, to put food in your belly. And when the roads clear, you’ll have to leave her longer — or you’ll have no job to go back to, and no food to put in your belly even if you want to.

But somehow it all gets done. Someone’s there to stay with her almost every day, to the point that she sometimes asks the nurse to put up a NO VISITORS sign. But even then, you can’t do everything. She will say and do things she would never otherwise do, demanding the impossible, the contradictory, the unbelievable. Her loving friends will leave in tears, distraught because she says they’re not doing enough for her … after they’ve just stayed the whole night watching her to make sure she didn’t pull her IVs out in her sleep.

But it does no good to get upset. Stand up and take it calmly. Comfort the caregivers: remind them that pneumonia and pleurisy and surgery and septicemia are wearing her down, and making her say and do the impossible, the contradictory, the unbelievable. When she recovers, she will be back to normal.

In fact, when she recovers, if she’s lucky, she’ll remember none of it. Don’t be upset when she asks if it’s the first time that you’ve been to see her since she’s been sick, even if you’ve already stayed three weeks at her side. She will get better. She’ll recover from the disease and the drugs and the surgery and tell you about how she remembered going to all those parties.

The … parties, you ask? Oh, yes, she says. Just a few weeks back — when YOU remember a tube stuck down her throat and her tongue dried to sandpaper and her arms restrained to the side of the bed because she kept trying to pull all the tubes out in her sleep — SHE actually came home from the hospital.

While all of YOU waited, breathless, in the ICU waiting room, not knowing whether she was going to live or going to die, SHE had already *gone* home. And she *partied*. She went to her birthday party (six months away) and to her sister-in-law’s birthday party (also six months away) and to a homecoming party thrown by her brother in law — but when she left the party, she left her presents, and could you call the restaurant and see if the presents were still in the lost and found.

You’ll tell her what really happened, and tell her how worried you were; and she’ll
roll her eyes at herself and tell you how she thought she had just gotten back into the hospital, but how she knew that it was just the cocktail of drugs they had her on that was messing with her brain and if she could just get those out of her system, then she’d REALLY get better.

Then the pain and fog will lift and, energized, she’ll tell you to gather her bills, to pay her taxes, and to check out a probate issue that needs to be settled — and at once you can see she’s still sharp as a tack.

And you’ll smile. Because you can see she’s coming back. Because you know she’s going to be OK. But most of all, you’ll smile because you now know that all that time she was writhing in the ICU, she really wasn’t in pain. She was out partying.

And she was dancing all that time.

Centaurs In Space III

Continuing the translation of “articles” to modern blog entries… Part III of Article 30 from December 31, 2003.


Last in the series “Centaurs in Space”, with text drawn from my short story “Death Wish” and images drawn from my sequential adaptation of the same story.

Death Wish
by Dr. Anthony G. Francis, Jr.

…then the remains of the shuttle slammed into the black surface of the asteroid.

Porsche flinched at the impact, then glared as the sparking hulk of the kyore carrier tumbled past the jagged scarp that had caught the shuttle and impacted the far end.

The edges of the black expanse seemed to shiver, and glowing bits of kyore scattered across the far end of the dumbbell like pretty little fireworks…

Centaurs In Space II

Continuing the translation of “articles” to modern blog entries… Part II of Article 30 from December 18, 2003.


Second in the series of “Centaurs in Space”, with text drawn from my short story “Death Wish” and images drawn from my sequential adaptation of the same story.

Death Wish
by Dr. Anthony G. Francis, Jr.

…The mission started well enough: a thousand light years in a trusty B4 shuttle, charting a star factory trailing the shock wave of the Perseus spiral arm. Two days out, and the routine was starting to settle in: dust clouds curdled here, disks of collapsing gas there, and blue supergiants everywhere, burning the candles at both ends.

It looked to be an uneventful jaunt, and she was already getting an itch to see her husband back on the Dragonfire…

Centaurs In Space I

Continuing the translation of “articles” to modern blog entries… Part I of Article 30 from December 10, 2003.


Done Been Gone Too Long. Well, friends, it’s been almost 9 months since I’ve updated the site. In that time, I’ve been through crunch time on a major project, bought a new computer, took a road trip from the Stanford Linear Accelerator, through the Pacific Coast Highway, and ultimately to the Grand Canyon, wrote another 10,000 words on my novel, started a new comic book, and been sick twice (once including a trip to the hospital).

Which is still no excuse for not posting. I’m going to try to rectify that soon … until then, let me tide you over with some art. With no further ado or departure from my sterotypical subject matter, I present “Centaurs in Space” … first of a series of 3 sketches for the upcoming comic “Death Wish”.

Death Wish
by Dr. Anthony G. Francis, Jr.

Ten seconds to impact, the centauress leapt out an airlock without a spacesuit…