Adapted from the about and disclaimer pages I wrote while setting up my web site in March 2004.

Photo of Calatrava expansion lobby

Milwaukee Art Museum - interior of Calatrava expansion, June 1, 2004.

I began free lance computer consulting around 1990 while still working full time as a scientist. My computer experience dates from 1969, the era of Fortran programming on mainframes. I chose Fortran over COBOL because it was supposed to be better for scientific applications. So, I wasn't able to cash in on the Y2K frenzy. My approach is different from what is typical for Information Technology projects because of my background as a scientist and designer.

I am semi-retired, growing up during the Sputnik or Baby Boomer generation. In a way it was a golden era because of the Cold War fears that lead to government increases in spending for education. We had very nice new books in high school, then I got a full scholarship to study Chemistry in college. (You didn't end up with debt of a size more appropriate for a house mortgage when you graduated.)

Believe, me, web design isn't rocket science, but it can be quite interesting and fun. I work with a small number of select clients so I can give web sites, publishing projects, or database solutions the attention they deserve.

All material whether text, graphics, scripts, database designs, or layouts on this site are my own work and © Copyright by Kathy A. Graff, all rights reserved, unless noted otherwise.

Many of the pages on this site, like this one, are static HTML. I make extensive use of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to control appearance and keep the page source clean. If you find a page here that takes more than a few seconds to load, even on a dial-up connection, please let me know. Exceptions are some of the examples, such as this one illustrating the effect of loading a large background graphic.

I do most of the site preparation in my apartment using a Macintosh G4 desktop computer running OS X 10.2.8 -- the combination of the Mac interface with BSD UNIX underpinnings is a joy to use. Most of the photographs on this site are from my Canon PowerShot S110 digital elph camera. Image Capture, included with OS X, works great to download them. I use Adobe Photoshop and Graphic Converter if images need editing. (In 2006 I added a G4 iBook laptop and now it is my main computer. Still hook up the Studio Monitor where color accuracy is essential.)

I use text editors extensively for preparing:

I have adopted the practice of using a text editor to write prose as well. As word processing programs got more feature rich, I found them distracting. Using a text editor lets me concentrate on the ideas and words. An extra benefit is that the files contain a lot less junk if I want to bring them into a page layout program or add them to a web page.

When working in a terminal window I have been using vi since around 1993, when I started working for Omnifest. It is quite rich in features and once you catch on to using i or a to toggle text entry then ESC to navigate, having the cursor keys and commands at your fingertips is more efficient than reaching for a mouse.

BBEdit is my workhorse though. I am currently using version 7 and have been using it since version 4. The multiple file search and replace is a life saver and you can use regular expressions for grep and store patterns you use frequently. Syntax coloring and checking is helpful too. Lately (August 2004) I am finding the Perl syntax coloring works well for writing prose. It makes it easy to see if you forget to close a quote. If you like to write, try it!

This site also contains dynamically generated pages. My favorites use Perl scripts with to make templates which are supplied with content by using the DBI module to connect to MySQL databases. I learned this approach while working at the WATER Institute on Waterbase, my first part time job after leaving full time IT work. It was later converted to PHP though.

I consider myself a scholar, scientist, and a bit of an artist.

I work by asking questions. If you are accustomed to dealing with "consultants" who give you answers without asking questions, they are probably more interested in pushing what they know rather than assessing your needs. I like to ask the tough questions, especially the "why" ones, and learn from them.

Many people rely on proprietary software. While imitating what the competition or a former employer does may be reassuring, you really need to ask yourself if you want to level the playing field like that. Managers, how often have you had to alter your business practices to accommodate software limitations? If your answer is "more often than I would like" perhaps it is time to trust your instincts and try an original, custom solution.

Unfortunately, many managers of IT Departments have been forced to make tough decisions due to the troubled economy, resulting in shifting a bigger work load onto remaining employees. Although much of my work is technically outsourcing , my goal is to concentrate on getting a project started, bring employees up to speed, then hand it over once the details are worked out, not to take away jobs.

Personal Choices

Although I have a lot of experience, I do not claim to be able nor willing to do everything. In addition to the responsible stewardship of time, talents, and resources everyone deals with, I have chronic health problems.

the author at the lakefront

As much as I love to administer servers, that is no longer a viable option. Being on call 24x7, working full time plus overtime on nights and weekends when users are off the system, moving and servicing hardware, lifting panels of raised floors in machine rooms to check connections, etc. are more than I can deal with responsibly. It is good to have an understanding of how servers work and years of experience providing solid support in what I do now.

During 1997 my physicians discovered that many of my medical problems were due to mitochondrial disease. This has lead to some profound changes in how I work and live. More information about mitochondrial disease and mitochondrial myopathy is available on the MDA , UMDF (be patient, this one takes a LONG time to load) , and MitoAction sites.

Personal computer (PC) support

At the risk of this sounding like an old joke, I don't do Windows.

I won't participate in the operating system "Holy Wars" other than to say that I have made my choices, you make yours and accept responsibility for them (i.e. if you decide to rely on proprietary software, be prepared to pay for proprietary support from the vendor and to live with their business decisions).

Read about a typical experience here.

I keep my fees for web and database design and development modest because I don't have to pass on expenses for Microsoft training, certification, and support and I work from my home, so don't have to pay for separate office space. I have also decided to concentrate on what I can do best given my current situation.

If you need help with your personal computer there are several options:


I don't accept work that involves breaking the letter or intent of the law. This extends to anything that will result in dishonoring other contracts, including for my web hosting arrangements. This includes but is not limited to:

Copyright Infringement

The site content clients supply, whether for HTML static pages or web-searchable databases, whether in the form of text, graphics, sound clips, compiled or interpreted computer programs, etc. needs to be:

We can work with other material, but you should be prepared to: