Okay, so I am a Mom. I am a lot of other things, too, but the Mom part seems to take up most of my life.

Some days I feel as though I will die of boredom and no one will even notice. I will just sit here amid the smattering of toys and books with titles like "The Foot Book", and quietly give up the ghost.

Of course, if I died loudly, my children might notice. But I will have to compete with Steve from Blue's Clues and an orange car that plays La Cuccaracha over and over.

I watch as my carpet slowly changes from white to a kind of dingy brown, and wonder if the vacuum cleaner will even make a difference. I try. It doesn't. I sort of knew that it wouldn't, but you have to try, don't you?

Yesterday, my children started school. For the first time, they are not with me. I had five hours to fill. They loomed ahead of me like mountains, and I have no gear to climb them.

I got a ticket on the way to the school in the morning. I didn't care.

When I got home, the house seemed so large and empty. I decided to fill it with music. I cranked up the stereo with Black Sabbath and vacuumed the dingy carpet again. When the CD player switched to my Steve Miller Band CD, it was time for lunch.

I called a friend and we headed to a Chinese restaurant. When we were finished eating, it was time to pick up my children. The day passed so quickly, that I hardly had time to miss them.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, that I'm more than a disciplinarian, injury kisser, clothes washer, food dispenser. I used to be cool. I once had purple hair. Did I mention that? I was in a band. I remember high school. I had friends. And now what I am is a woman, no longer a girl, who has dreams and ideas and loves a man.

The man is brilliant, and he is a writer. Maybe not for a living, but a least for a life. He had dreams, too. And ideas. And I wonder, do I inhibit them?

Maybe tomorrow after I'm done watching the grass grow, I will ask him. And I can hear his answer. It is always the same. "I love you", he'll say. And I can live with that. For now.

An acronym for Message Orientated Middleware. This is software that passes data between applications by means of enscapsulating it in packet-like structures called messages. The movement of these messages is co-ordinated over the network from application to application by middleware. This is like e-mail for programs, though middleware provides other functionality too.

To give an example, suppose Widget Inc. wants to create a website to sell it's industry leading resons online. It has to connect it's existing infrastructure (production orders, invoicing, etc.) to the web frontend. This existing infrastructure is spread over various machines on its network.

How could you do this? Assuming the old applications already have some exposed APIs, one way is to invoke them directly when a customer hits the submit button on their order basket.

This is nice and simple, but potentially has a number of problems. What if the network fails while the customer's order is being processed? They might receive an invoice but no delivery of resons. Or what if slashdot posts a story about reson cooled PCs performing better than water-cooled ones? Your order system might quickly become overloaded.

Middleware can handle these problems (god, I sound like a salesperson). Here, when a user hits the submit button, messages are generated and put onto a queue server. The middleware delivers these to the legacy applications (they have to know about messages which may require some rewriting or adapter programs) which process the order in the same way as before.

But this time, if the network goes down, the middleware can preserve all the messages so that when it comes back up, nothing has been lost. Equally, if the site is suddenly hit with large numbers of orders, the middleware can start up more instances of the handling applications, in much the same way that Apache can create and shutdown extra instances of itself to handle demand for web pages.

These are some of the advantages. What are the disadvantages? It's certainly a lot of infrastructure to put in if you don't already have it. And it costs, if not for the software, then definitely for all the extra staff you'll need to put it in

An associated buzz phrase is EAI - Enterprise Application Integration.

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