Saturday, July 31, 2004

Life of Pi Flash

As I mentioned in my previous post I was reading Life of Pi over vacation. While I haven't finished it yet (I was too busy whittling), I am certainly enjoying it.

Canongate Books, the publishers of Life of Pi, have created a Flash based promotional game/animation for the novel. The 'game' elements of the flash are weak but the animation is cool.

Back from vacation

I'm just back from a very relaxing vacation to a nice little campground in Maine called Hermit Island. I've been camping there every summer with a group of friends for around ten years now. The vacation was full of activities: fishing for striped bass, snorkeling for a lost anchor, reading Life of Pi, making a big sand castle, drinking a lot of beer and whittling, a lot of whittling.

I didn't start out this vacation intending to whittle but I found myself sitting next to the campfire one morning poking the fire with a stick I had selected for just that task the night before. The stick was a little short for duty as a fire poker but I liked the way it felt in my hand so I had used it all the previous night. This morning as I stirred the coals I had the idea to carve a fish into my fire churning stick.

Carving this stick would become my passion for the next few days. I finished the fish after a few hours and decided to try a larger shark following the fish. I did the shark project mostly from memory but thanks to a tasty bottle of Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA I had a fin model to work from.

All the kids became fascinated with the progress of this work. The little store at the camp ground sold out of pocket knives because every little kid in my group wanted to carve like 'Uncle Pete'. Luck was with me, as no stitches were required for any of the enthused new knife wielders.

The environs of all the campfires I attended were soon littered with little wood chips as I feverishly whittled. Both thumbs developed blisters from working the little blade of the cheap little knife I was using. The knife was a little plastic handled, locking blade model that I selected from a bowl of similar knives at the checkout counter of my local Ace hardware store. The little thing cost only three dollars.

Once I finished the shark, I added a small leaping whale to the poker end of the stick, sealing its fate to not be used as a fire churner again. It's a simple carving but I think it's pretty cool. I didn't have time to do detailed fin work or sand the rough spots so it's not really done, but given that vacation is over it's complete as it's ever going to be. If you want to see the carving click this link. The beer bottle in the picture is only for scale, but similar beverages did fuel the effort.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Stout Infantfish

I found this article over at Science Daily. Seems marine biologists at Scripps have classified the smallest vertebrate yet. It's a little fish call the Stout Infantfish and it's approximately 1/4 inch in length when mature. Scientist believe the little animal lives only about 2 months.


Here's a link to a good introductory article on emerging memory products from ExtremeTech.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Close Shave

I shaved my head last weekend. While I have been thinking about doing it for a while, it took my wife to give me some ribbing on the subject to finally get me to commit to doing it.

It's an odd feeling not having hair. I now understand why guys who shave or are bald wear hats more frequently. I certainly notice the air conditioning in my office more on the top of my head than I used to. I didn't have a lot of hair before, but I guess enough to make a thermal difference.

Head shaving is pretty popular these days, so it's not surprising that there are products and web sites dedicated to it. My manager Roy, pointed me at this cool doodad called the Head Blade. It's a razor with a special form factor for use on the head. The Head Blade company not only makes razors but they sell funky branded apparel and skin care accessories too.

If you just want general information on head shaving I suggest, they have lots of information on both tools and techniques. I could have used some of this information before I took the initial plunge.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Pixeltee review

I received the t-shirt I designed at last week. I was initially disappointed at the thickness of the cotton, it was a Hayne's Heavy Weight as opposed to the thicker Beefy-T, but after wearing the shirt on the weekend I have to say the lighter cotton made for a cooler shirt.

The graphics came out nice and the iron-on image was neatly cropped to within a quarter inch of the design. The image on the back of the shirt was a little smaller than I expected but not too small.

The shirt hit the wash last night but I haven't seen how it survived the experience. I ordered a 2XL and it was plenty big so it could absorb some shrinkage without being ruined. All in all I give the shirt a thumbs up.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Mycenae Lookout

I was re-reading a favorite poem last night, Seamus Heaney's "Mycenae Lookout.". I'm neither a student of Greek literature nor of poetry so my fondness for this poem is based more on it's visceral language and imagery rather than anything more erudite.

If you dismiss poetry as too flowery or self referential I suggest you read this work. Here's a short snippet from the beginning.

Some people wept, and not for sorrow÷joy

That the king had armed and upped and sailed for Troy,

But inside me like struck sound in a gong

That killing-fest, the life-warp and world-wrong

It brought to pass, still augured and endured.

I'd dream of blood in bright webs in a ford,

Of bodies raining down like tattered meat

On top of me asleep÷and me the lookout

The queen's command had posted and forgotten,

The blind spot her farsightedness relied on.

And then the ox would lurch against the gong

And deaden it and I would feel my tongue

Like the dropped gangplank of a cattle truck,

Trampled and rattled, running piss and muck,

All swimmy-trembly as the lick of fire,

If the beginning of the poem is too long winded give the second part Cassandra a try. It's less verbose but just as hard core.

I've never read Aeschylus's Agamemnon nor do I know much of that period of history, so I can't comment on the historical accuracy of the poem, but Archeology magazine seems to think Heaney's done a good job. I don't think that's important to the enjoyment of the work, but it's interesting none the less.


I first heard about stratellite technology from an article in Space Daily on the sucessful test of the Sanswire Networks stratellite. It's neat technology. A stratellite is like a satellite but is stationed in the stratosphere instead of in orbit. This lower altitude allows for simpler two way communication so it can be used to support existing technologies like cellular, 3G/4G mobile, MMDS and paging.

A stratellite is reminicent of a blimp but has a rigid hull and is designed to operate at 65,000 feet for periods of up to a year. The stratellite maintains station using a combination of GPS and solar powered electric engines. Once a Stratellites finishes its deployment period it can be remote controlled back to the ground for service and electronics upgrades.

See the Sanswire Network page for more info.

Blogger's New Text Editor

I'm adding this entry from a Mozilla 1.6 browser because Blogger's new editor changes don't work in Mozilla Firefox. That wouldn't be so bad if Firefox displayed the old UI , but it doesn't. In Firefox you get a simple text window with no additional options. As any of you who read this know, I need the spell checker. Hopefully soon they will remedy this and either get the new changes working on Firefox or at least have it revert back to a more functional UI.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Dream Machine

Many years ago I was handed a check for $20,000 dollars by the owner of the company I worked for and asked to go pick up two new Compaq Deskpro (20mhz AT class 80386) computers from a local computer store. These were top of the line machines at the time and I was going to be one of the lucky ones to get one of these babies.

Even then when computers were less of a commodity than they are now that was a lot of money to spend on two PCs. Today as I was dreaming about getting a faster computer, I decided to look around and see what sort of computer I could get for 10 grand today.

It's wasn't that hard to get up into that price range but in doing so It usually required I purchase a 30" flat panel display along with the machine. I've never seen a monitor that large but I believe I could find a use for all that screen real estate.

If I was in the market for an Apple I could get a very nicely configured dual processor G5 with 4GB of RAM and a 30 inch flat panel display for $9652.00.

Dual 2.5GHz PowerPC G5
4GB DDR400 SDRAM (PC3200) - 4x1GB
2x250GB Serial ATA - 7200rpm
NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL
Apple Cinema HD Display (30" flat panel)
AirPort Extreme Card
Bluetooth Module
56k V.92 modem
8x SuperDrive (DVD-R/CD-RW)
PCI-X Gigabit Ethernet Card
Apple Keyboard & Apple Mouse - U.S. English
Mac OS X - U.S. English

If I was thinking more along the lines of a gaming PC I could get a very cool Alienware ALX Aurora for $9,675.00

Power Supply: 650 Watt Max Power Supply
ALX Heavy Duty Power Cable: Alienware® ALX System Power Cable
Thermal Management System: Alienware® ALX Active Liquid Cooling System
Performance-Enhancement: Alienware® ALX System Performance-Enhancement
Performance-Enhancement: Alienware® ALX Graphics Performance-Enhancement
Motherboard: ASUS® A8V Deluxe - VIA K8T800 Pro Motherboard
Processor: AMD Athlon™ 64 FX-53+ Processor with HyperTransport Technology
Memory: 2GB Corsair™ XMS Dual Channel DDR SDRAM at up to 550MHz - 4 x 512MB
Video Card: NVIDIA® GeForce™ 6800 Ultra 256MB DDR3 w/Digital and S-Video Out
Video Optimizer: AlienAdrenaline: Video Performance Optimizer
Video Cooling: AlienIce™ 2.0 Video Cooling System
System Drive: Extreme Performance - Serial ATA RAID 0 - 148GB (74GB x 2)
Western Digital® Raptor™ 10,000 RPM w/16MB Cache
Storage Drive: Extreme Performance - Serial ATA RAID 0 - 500GB (250GB x 2)
Western Digital Caviar® SE 7,200 RPM w/16MB Cache
Optical Drive One: Plextor® PlexWriter Premium 52x32x52x CD-RW Drive
Optical Drive Two: Plextor® PX-712A 12x DVD±R/W Drive
Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster® Audigy® 2 ZS High Definition 7.1 Surround
Network Connection: High Speed Gigabit Ethernet
ALX High Performance Network Cable: Alienware® ALX Network Cable
Operating System: Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional
Display One: NEC 30" LCD 3000 Black
Speakers: Creative GigaWorks™ THX® S750 - 7.1 700-Watt Speakers

Both machines look great. Unfortunatly, I don't expect IBM will be supplying me with either any time soon.

Distributed Teams

IBM is a global company and the team that works on Lotus Workplace is global as well. While I'm based in Massachusetts, I work regularly with folks in Ireland, New Hampshire, North Carolina and a little less frequently with folks in Israel, Germany, China and one lucky guy who works from home in Honolulu Hawaii.

Very frequently I've never seen or even spoken with the people I work with. Our communications take the form of email or instant messages. For example, over the past couple of months I've been working with an engineer in North Carolina. We trade daily IM messages and emails but I wouldn't know her if she walked into my office.

This sort of distributed workforce seems to work just fine, but it can be kind of weird too. The building I work in is pretty big and houses a few hundred people. The odd thing is I only know a hand full of them. In most cases our work paths never cross. I am much more likely to need to work with someone half way around the world than I am with someone a few offices down the hall.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Short Diversions

Pepsi Pinball - a Western pinball game. The sounds effects are pretty funny, but the pinball action is a little weak. It's certainly fun enough for a few plays

Ronin Spirit of the Sword - a Samurai adventure game. I haven't made it past the tutorial but it looks cool.

Samurai Warrior - A simple fighting game.

A lot more free games can be found at: and

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

New favorites in Eclipse

I've been digging through the options of Eclipse 3.0 and have found a lot of features I want to try and use. Some of these feature aren't new to 3.0, but I just hadn't noticed them before.

1. Source/Sort Members: This is an old feature I hadn't found before. It does what it says, it sorts all the attributes and methods of a class or interface. You can choose the basic sort order under Preferences/Appearance/Members Sort Order. New to 3.0 is the ability to order members of the same type by visibilty as well.

2. Source/Generate Delegate Methods: Another old feature. Point at a field in a class and it generates methods that delegate to the fields methods. A great typing saver.

3. Preferences/Java/Editor/Enable advanced highlighting/Method declarations: This is new to 3.0 and it allows you to set a special color and text attributes for just the declaration of a method. I generally don't like to use bold text in code and I always disable the default bolding of keywords, but here's a place I think bolding works well. It turns the method declaration into a subtle header.

public void begin() {
_counter = 0;

4. Preferences/Java/Type Filters: This option allows you to specify classes or packages you want features like code assist or organize imports to ignore. The one great use I've found for this is to eliminate java.awt.List from the list of possible import options for the type List. I use lists a lot and more than once when performing an 'organize imports' operation I've selected java.awt.List when I wanted java.util.List.

Demons Attack Pupils

I don't know why Don was reading, but he was and he found this article. It's a lot better than my previous fake.

"I wonder why people really acquire demons and resort to bewitching others," Kasaija lamented before she cautioned the public against acquiring demons.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Talking Tombstones Bear a Message from the Grave

The above title is from a Reuter's article. The story was such a disappointment. I wanted it to be about some undead bear that wandered the woods delivering messages from the after-life, not some silly computer display for headstones.

TOMBSTONE, AZ (Rooters) - Residents of the self proclaimed "Town too tough to die", have been reported unusual sightings of a large gray bear wandering the Dragoon mountain area. Some of the people making reports have claimed the bear is 'speaking' as it wanders the scrub covered, rocky hills.

Bill Vicars of the Tombstone saw the bear last Saturday while hiking the Cochise Trail.

"I was coming out of this grove of cotton woods when I started to hear this odd gurgling speech. I kept hearing, 'huhugiog haahama daam kaacim odham". Sounded like Indian to me. So I keep walking and there I see this big ugly grey bear standing on its hind quarters and waving it's paws at the sky."

There have been at least 25 reported sightings of the bear according to Tombstone city marshal Rolph Spincer, "I've been in law enforcement for 40 years and I've never seen anything like this." he said.

Hank Roman, Vice Chairman for the Tohono O'Odham Nation, says, "Mother Earth is something very sacred, the first helper Jufum has been sent to cleanse the land."

Other tribal leaders could not be reached for comment.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


Marlon Brando's eccentricities made for great parody. This SNL skit from 1997 has Brando playing in a game of celebrity Jeopardy with Burt Reynolds and Phil Donahue.

Brando: You know, I was riding a bicycle? that I made myself?
and I was with Wally Cox and, God, I miss that good man!
He had fingers like a sailor. [Marlon bends down and takes off his pants]
I remember one time in Bangkok... [He now takes off his boxers]
time buzzer rings.

I recognize two of the weird things Marlon says and does in the parody from real life reports of his odd behavior. I suspect other things are rooted in truth as well.

The taking off of his pants come from reports of his behavior on the set of The Score. The final "You- you- you're a squawking parrot, you're- you're an ant. " line, I believe was some spur of the moment improvisation Marlin did while shooting a scene in Apocalypse Now. I recall seeing it in one of the documentaries on the film. After he says it, Coppola throws a fit. The implication is they have done a million takes and Marlon just wont stick to the script.

After doing a little more research, the Wally Cox reference concerns an old Hollywood rumor that they had a gay love affair.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Der Ring des Nieblungen

I found this site while looking for verification that the proverbial opera 'Fat Lady' who sings before the ending was in fact the Valkeryie Brunnhilde's lament for Siegfried at the end of Wagner's Gotterdammerung.

I didn't find a definitive answer, but I like the opening Flash sequence's dramatic use of the counterpoint between Siegfried's Death and Funeral march and the text display. I imagine the professor must really love Wagner to go to such lengths to advertise the class. It makes me wish I was a student at University of Texas at Austin.

Programming Mythology

I can see some parallels between the way Greek mythology evolved and how we view the evolution of programming technology.

The first elder god of the Greek pantheon was the Titan Gaea (also spelled Gaia), who is thought to be an incorporation of an early earth-mother myth. The same inclusion strategy can be seen with the other Titans who tend to represent core elements of nature; Uranus, sky; Oceanus, sea; Hyperion, sun. Later, the newer Olympian gods represented more complex ideas like love, beauty and war.

In programming we've moved from foundational deities such as computer to elementals such as memory, processor speed and storage to more modern gods such as design patterns, garbage collection and object oriented design.

In the world of technology we don't dismiss the predecessor's we merely incorporate them into the current mythos. Just as with the Greeks, nothing is lost, only the importance is changed.

Synergistic Paradigms

You've probably already seen this, but the Sun cartoon about their relationship with Microsoft is pretty funny. I especially enjoyed their depiction of marketing, it was way too realistic.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Developing Storm t-shirts

I was playing with one of my favorite little pieces of flash animation, Fly Guy, and I noticed at the end of the credits a reference to Pixeltees is a design and sell your own t-shirt site. For fun, I made a shirt and it's available for sale from their site.

Update: Pixeltees seems to have lost my graphics. I ordered a shirt for myself, I hope it doesn't come in all white. It would be funny actually if it came with a unfound image icon.

The shirt graphics are all set now.

Chicago/Earth Wind and Fire

The only concerts I've been to in the past few years have been The Dead or Jimmy Buffet shows; my annual pilgrimages of debauchery. When my sister called and asked if my wife Jayne and I wanted to go see Chicago/Earth Wind and Fire at the Tweeter Center, I was less than enthused. EWaF was always too disco for me and Chicago too light rock. But Jayne actually likes EWaF and the tickets were corporate VIP seats with in seat beer service, so it seemed like a fun night out.

I'm glad I went. The show was very entertaining. I'm still not a big EWaF guy but I actually knew many of their songs. Chicago, on the other hand, floored me. They cranked out many of their hit songs with screaming guitars and a blaring horn section. They were much rowdier and rockin' than I expected.

The two bands played together at both the opening and close the show and their combined efforts were fantastic. My wife counted 22 musician on the stage at the end when they teamed up to play one of each of their big hits, Shining Star and 25 or 6 to 4. The EWaF guitarist Vadim Zilberstein really got to crank it up during the 25 or 6 to 4 finale. He was a really great player.

From the review of the Pittsburg show from a few nights earlier, it looks like they do the same exact show every night. The description fits what I saw very closely, right down to the coin flip and the kiss on the forehead. I just don't agree with the reviewer that Chicago's guitarist was too loud.

The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism