Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Belichick for President


I don't have anything to add to the serious political debate so I thought I'd do something humerous instead. I heard about these guys on the radio the other day. They are selling Belichick for President t-shirts and bumper stickers. In case you don't follow American football, they are talking about the famous coach of the NE Patriots, Bill Belichick.


Monday, August 30, 2004

Friday, August 27, 2004

Saturn Fact


Saturn is the only planet less dense than water (about 30 percent less). In the unlikely event that a large enough ocean could be found, Saturn would float in it.


From Space Daily

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

I'm Wallace Shawn

Vizzini

Which Princess Bride Character are You?
this quiz was made by mysti

Greatest Movie Characters of All Time

Premiere Magazine has made a list of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time. It's a good list in terms of depth, but the placement along the continuim is just crazy. I only like a few names from the top 20, while other favorites of mine landed way too low in the ranking: Quint from Jaws at just 28, Tony Montana from Scarface at 74 and Darth Vadar from Star Wars at 84, for example.



The Complete List

Worst Software Disasters

John Dvorak has written an article for ABC on the worst software disasters. Given his years of experience in the software industry I would have thought he could have come up with some better stories than these. It seems his is the pablum version of the list.


From my perspective, products like Frameworks and Symphony were relative successes. During that time a lot of other companies tried to enter that market only to be burned. Back then I worked for Alpha Software and we actually had a low end product in the category, called Electric Desk, that did pretty well. Electric Desk wasn't as powerful as Symphony or Frameworks but it's simplicity appealed to less sophisticated users. (It actually was a top seller for IBM's ill fated PC Jr.)


I was Alpha's UI guy back then and my boss would on occasion ask me to evaluate some of the competition. I saw some real dogs. I can't remember their exact names but one was written in UCSD Pascal and was slow, slow, slow. Another was called Rabbit or something like that, and was just unfathomable. Both of these were a lot worse than either Framework or Symphony and didn't dent the market.


Even worse however, were the stories I heard about a company called Ovation Technologies that folded before they even brought a product to market. We hired their ex director of technology and he claimed the marketing department spent millions of dollars on lavish parties and promotions and burned all the companies cash before they could finish the code. I'm sure if I talked to someone from their marketing team they would claim the software was late. Either way, that's a disaster. (According to this link the Ovation story was the root of the term vaporware)


via Doug Ross

30 Second Bunny Movies

My friend Don sent me a link to angryalien.com's funny animated bunny 30 second movie remakes. Movies featured include: Jaws (bunny Quint to the left), Alien, Titanic, The Shining and The Exorcist. All are very well done.

 

 

 

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Worst Name For a Company; Ever

I was looking through some on-line news articles and I spotted one about the disappointing quarter for a clothing company called Wet Seal. As loyal readers know I have a have a soft spot for all things water and animal related so I kinda liked the name. However, upon hearing the name, Wet Seal, I imagined a funky surf shop or a provisioning themed store for water related sport apparel. Turns out the reality was totally different. Wet Seal sells urban ladies clothes. Why call yourself Wet Seal?



I've decided to help them out and come up with some alternatives. Feel free to play along:


Yak Butter, Log Rot, Hungry Ant, Loopy Veranda or Zen Potato.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Iran

Not sure what I think of this news report from spacewar.com. Maybe the Iranian defense minister always talks like this, I don't know, but it seems like a bad idea to me.

Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani warned Wednesday that Iran might launch a preemptive strike against US forces in the region to prevent an attack on its nuclear facilities.



Sea Hag take 2


When I wrote my short camp fire story Sea Hag I was drawing on images from my memory. I was curious where those images came from so I did a little searching and found that my hag actually resembles the sea witch from Hans Christian Andersen's, The Little Mermaid.


She now came to a space of marshy ground in the wood, where large, fat water-snakes were rolling in the mire, and showing their ugly, drab-colored bodies. In the midst of this spot stood a house, built with the bones of shipwrecked human beings. There sat the sea witch, allowing a toad to eat from her mouth, just as people sometimes feed a canary with a piece of sugar. She called the ugly water-snakes her little chickens, and allowed them to crawl all over her bosom.



As for the name, I found this funny link.
Long before Pluto, Popeye had an arch enemy named Sea Hag. Her lovely mug graces this post.



Not to drag this blog into the gutter, but what's that hanging from her neck?

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

This post sucks

I must be a turdburglar, asshat, wanker, wannabe pissant poser, shitemonger and dickbrain.



Sorry, I had to get that off my chest, I just read this bile blog entry and accompanying comments. A lot of these people are probably nice when you talk to them but, man, what possesses them to write like this.


Monday, August 16, 2004

Eliyon

Eliyon is a company mining the web for information on people's employment history. They haven't found me yet but they've found a lot of people I know. Not sure if that's good or bad.


I really like how you can look up people by company. The list of ex Alpha and Iris folks is pretty weak but it was fun to see some names and resumes of people I've lost touch with.



via Themes, Dreams and Crazy Schemes

Google Art Updates

Someone else must have noticed the same thing I pointed out. Googles updated their banner with a less excited Poseidon. I saved a copy of the original. Here's an animation of the changes.

Was it supposed to be his knee?

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Google Art


I don't mean to disparage Google art in general, it's usually very cute. But what's with this picture. I assume the man must be Poseidon, but since when does Poseidon wear a twisted sheet? And, what's on the end of his trident? Is it a blue hat with a bell? No wait, it's a gold medal, and he's jiggling it like a fishing lure. So he must be luring an athlete, but for what purpose? I may be way off base here but his prone position, wry smile and the bulge of his towel suggest only one thing to me.




Friday, August 13, 2004

Code bloat

I found Jason Marshal's article on code bloat via Bob Congdon. It sparked some ideas of my own so I thought I'd write my own post.



Personally, I think this is one of the most interesting and challenging problems we face in the software industry.



Things like the widespread adoption of frameworks have helped reduce reinvention but paradoxically, across frameworks, a lot of code is duplicated. Personally I'm not convinced this sort of duplication is bad; even at more granular levels. Take for example two unrelated subsystems that deal with some of the same value objects. Is it better to couple these subsystems by sharing the value objects or is it better to duplicate them.



The problem today (programming in Java) is that unless there's an IS-A relationship between objects we need to build bridge objects that form the IS-A relationship. To better support this model of objects that are separate-but-the-same we really need a language that supports very late binding to individual methods (like Smalltalk or Ruby) or perhaps some sort of dynamic IS-A detection (I don't know a language that does this)



However, what I really want to see is some innovation around code and project visualization and organization. Tools like UML, Maven and Javadoc are cool in many respects, but I still find them all lacking. I look forward to better things to come.

Thanks Julia

I'm sad to hear Julia Child died. I guess like a lot of my generation, my love of cooking can be traced back to watching her French Chef show on PBS. Her passing is sad news indeed.

Welcome Comrade.

Bird enthusiasts are all a titter because a red-footed falcon has taken up residence on Martha's Vineyard. Seems this particular species of falcon normally calls Eastern Europe and Russia home.



I love this quote from the bird watcher that fist reported the bird:


Falcons are sexy, raptors are great. This ain't no stinking striped sparrow or flycatcher. This is an honest-to-God beautiful little falcon, never been seen in North America before


His enthusiasm is endearing.



I'm curious how the bird got here. Did it jump a freighter, get kidnapped and released, or did it get swept here by a storm? Given the bird’s size and power I doubt it was the latter.


Thursday, August 12, 2004

What's in a name?

I lost interest in search engines when I found Google. I've since used teoma.com and a9.com a few times but pretty much I've stuck with Google. Given Google’s street credibility I think I'm not alone.


So I was a bit surprised when I stumbled on the search engine at devilfinder.com. Despite it's silly name and weird tag line, "Do you dare?", it returns normal results, albeit a lot of them.


I'd think if you were seriously trying to bring a new search technology to market you'd pick a slightly less intimidating name. I don’t know about you, but Angel Heart and the Exorcist scared the crap out of me. What are they thinking?



Stumbling on devilfinder piqued my curiosity so I did some searching. There are tons of search engines now. Who’s using them?


Worker Monkeys

This article scares me. If a corporation can now test your blood/urine to see if it contains a drug it doesn't want you taking, is it so unreasonable to believe they may test to ensure you are taking a drug?

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Cable Channel Choice

Technology Review has an interesting article on the cable TV industry overstating the costs associated with allowing individual channel purchases. I didn't even know this option was being debated. In summary the article says: don't get your hopes up.

Despite the renewed interest from Congress on the topic, it’s unlikely that a la carte models will be mandated during the current legislative session. The last thing President Bush—or any sitting administration—wants to do in the months before an election is anger the networks that will carry his message to the electorate. And with such heavyweights as Comcast and Time Warner Cable staunchly on the side of bundling channels, don’t expect Congress to enact legislation that at the very least would cause the industry to reconfigure its business models, most likely sending cable stocks into a tailspin. Still, it’s clear that thanks to steadily increasing subscription costs and the renewed indecency debate, the cable industry is in the crosshairs. It’s also clear that the technology costs they cite as to their defense is a red herring.

Monday, August 09, 2004

The Sea Hag

A couple of years ago I wrote this ghost story to tell my friends children on our annual camping trip. Given that I tell it from memory around the campfire, I get to tone it down some for the kids. What follows is the original uncensored version.



The Sea Hag

by Pete Lyons



The hag, in her cloak of kelp and shoes of shells, watched as the tiny fishing boats sailed past her rocky point. Black eyes, dark and soulless, scanned the horizon, marking time; waiting in inscrutable contemplation for Neptune’s sign.



A gray sky and a chill wind woke the sea hag from her diabolical watch. At last a storm was brewing. The small fishing vessels had noticed too, and with sails reefed, they were running down the onshore gale, trying to make a safe harbor.



Thirsty for the carnage to come, the sea hag leaped to her fetid cave and took up her hurricane drum, a wicked barrel made from whale bone and sailor’s skin, strung together with the sinews of sea weed and shark. She stood on that head land and beat her drum with a stick topped with a dogs skull - BAM, BAM, BAM - she beat it and cackled an evil laugh.



The sea blackened and the wind whipped to white capped spume. The sails of the small ships tore and their masts snapped like twigs. The tiny boats rose atop the black mountains of water and dipped down deeply into the great maw of the raging ocean. As the drum beat the storm grew stronger. BAM, BAM, BAM. The wind howled a terrifying pitch and the mountain of water turned to great volcanoes of angry sea - ejecting salty foam in a horrid fury.



Mere flotsam to the storm, the schooners, sloops and ketches of the fishing fleet were torn apart and consumed by the furious sea. Not until the last ship sank beneath the waves, did the sea hag stop her beating.



All along the rocky coast, the tattered remains of the once proud vessels and their sailors were washing ashore. Some sailors were still alive, others were not. But even the corpses still had the look of life. The sea and sun had not had time to start the inevitable decay of dead flesh.



The sea hag moved among the bodies, prodding with her tri-tipped stick. The men still alive she stabbed in the throat and filled a wooden bucket with their spurting blood. Other young bodies she flayed for skin and took chunks of thigh and buttock for her winter larder.



No one from the fishing fleet was ever seen again.



When you go to sea, beware the sea hag and her hurricane drum. She’s always waiting, waiting for fresh meat and new skin for her drum. BAM, BAM, BAM. BAM….


Recent Interesting Posts

I generally don't link to other blogs, not because I don't enjoy them, but rather because I don't have anything to add to the conversation. Rather than worry about adding anything I think I'm just going to point out posts I enjoyed. Here are a few:



AlBlue's weblog: Equality For All

Sylvain Galineau's: Rational Irrationality

Martin Fowler's: UmlSketchingTools

Max's Project Management Wisdom

While I'm not a manager, I've often found myself debating the wisdom of my project management's decisions. It's not something I enjoy, but it's usually a fight worth having.



For example, a couple of years ago I was forced to fight the imposition of a waterfall methodology on a product startup team I was on. The manager assigned to the team came from an insurance companies IT department and loved the waterfall approach. When I called the waterfall approach outdated and a 70's methodology, I was met with great indignation and assertions of the opposite. Unfortunately, his direct management experience trumped my years of development experience and he won the battle.



As expected, the entire micro design phase was pretty much a waste of time. Once we started coding and encountered the realities of the platform a lot of change was required. It still bothers me that we wasted this time.



Seeking to arm myself better for future battles I searched the web looking for support and found Max Weiderman's site on software project management wisdom. It's a font of knowlege of the subject. The paper titled:
The Project Management Institute's Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge was just what I needed for my waterfall battle.



If you're interested in project management or you just need ammunition to fight the well intentioned oppressors of progress this site's for you.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Alien Vs. Predator

I haven't seen the AvP movie yet, but I noticed that Lance Henriksen's character has changed names in IMDB from just Charles Weyland to Charles Bishop Weyland. This confirms the tie in I speculated about back last October.

Who Loves You Baby

Due to popular demand, here's a picture of my shaved head.


Being bald is really pretty funny. People who I don't know now talk to me about my hair cut. Just today a well lubricated patron of a local watering hole blurted out, 'Hey Kodak' as I entered the bar. His friends where quick to point out his error: Kojak was what he meant to say. Regardless, I was well prepared and parried with a 'Who Loves You Baby". If only I had had a lollypop.


Short Movie Reviews

It's been a slow weekend around the Lyons household so I got a chance to watch a few movies on DVD and cable.



1. Starsky and Hutch: I didn't have any expectations, so I was pleasantly surprised with this frivolous comedy. I didn't realize Todd Philips, the director of one of my recent favorites, Old School, also directed this. Many of the same actors appear in both movies: Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrel, Juliet Lewis and Dan Finnerty. You might not know Dan Finnerty by name but if you've seen Old School you probably remember him. He was the wedding singer who sang the inappropriate version of the Styx classic, Lady. Dan fronts the Dan Band and he appears in Starsky and Hutch with the Dan Band as the singer at Vince Vaughn's characters daughters Bat Mitzvah.



2. Hell Boy: I've been looking forward to seeing this and it didn't disappoint. I didn't read the comic book so I can't speak to it's adaptation as a movie, but as a fan of quirky sci-fi/fantasy/occult stuff I liked this movie a lot. I rate it right up with Spiderman and Unbreakable as one of the best comic book movies.



3. Secret Window: I'm a fan of most Johnny Depp movies so I expected I would enjoy this one. Unfortunately I thought it stunk. The twist at the ending is so lame I wanted to jump out my window.



4. Accidental Tourist: I was flipping through the cable channels and caught the start of this movie and decided to watch it. It's pretty old but I remembered it was well reviewed. Both Cori, my black Lab/Rottweiler mix, and I enjoyed watching this film. Cori enjoyed the dog that was always scurrying around and barking, while I enjoyed the adult themes of loss and dealing with change. This film was directed by Lawrence Kasdan, the same guy who directed The Big Chill, Body Heat and Grand Canyon. This film fits their mold.


On a related note, I learned a few interesting tidbits from my perusal of IMDB.
I was surprised to find out that Lawrence Kasdan wrote the screen plays for the Return of the Jedi, The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Kasdan also directed a couple of westerns: Silverado and Wyatt Earp. He has quite the range.


I wish George Lucas had hired him for the new set of Star Wars movies. Even if it was too late to fix the first couple I would have hoped Lucas would have realized the hole he was in and gotten some help with the last movie, Revenge of the Sith.


Lastly, I learned Todd Philips is slated to direct Jim Carey in a new adaptation of The Six Million Dollar Man. That should be pretty funny.




Saturday, August 07, 2004

Genetic Savings and Clone Inc



This post's title is the name of a real company that will clone your pet. They currently have developed cat cloning technology but are also working on the technology for cloning dogs.


I've loved all my dogs but I don't think I ever would clone them. That said, it would be an interesting experiment in nature vs nurture. I wonder whether my Siberian Husky T.C. would have been as good a dog if I hadn't been able to bring him to work with me when he was a puppy.


Next holiday season if you're looking for a really unique gift, GSC is selling gift certificates for gene banking your pet; the price is $990. That doesn't include the actual cloning. I couldn't find a price for that.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Science for the masses

I'm glad Space Daily is dumbing down their content.


Here's a quote from a recent article titled: Asymmetric Feature Shows Puzzling Face For Superconductivity


"Below the superconducting transition, the tunneling conductance showed a large unexpected asymmetrical feature near zero bias," Eckstein said.


"This is evidence that crystals of high-temperature superconductors, atomically truncated with a titanate layer, have intrinsically broken particle-hole symmetry."


(...)


"This clearly demonstrates the breaking of symmetry between particle-like and hole-like excitations at this interface in the superconducting state," Eckstein said.



Yes, clearly, that's the case.

Monday, August 02, 2004

IBM would fire this dude

Bob Congdon referenced the Mini-Microsoft site earlier today.

I finally got a chance to check it out. While I don't have much of an opinion of what goes on at MS, my interpretation of the IBM business conduct guidelines leads me to believe such public speech about IBM would be grounds for termination.

If you've noticed, most IBM bloggers (all I know except for Ed Brill who's job it is to communicate) don't talk much about work. It's even sketchy to talk too much about our technology, you wouldn't want to be accused of leaking intellectual property or of skewing the closely crafted marketing message.


I think this close-to-the-vest sort of environment is big part of why old Iris direct communicators like Gary Devendorf or Steve Brown don't work for IBM anymore. IBM just doesn't value that grass roots sort of communication.


Heck, I may have said too much on this topic already.

Kangaroo Kin

I found this ultra cool movie of the last marsupiel Tasmanian Wolf (here) while looking for more information on Convergent Evolution which I became interested in after I read this page on the fore mentioned Tasmanian Wolf.


All this surfing started after I read this article from Reuters on Dingo DNA and I realized the facts make a lot of sense since all of the native mammals of Australia are marsupial and a Dingo isn't. This triggered a memory of the Tasmanian Wolf, which is how all this surfing started.


Watch the movement of the animals front legs. They look very cat like to me. It's realy amazing that this animal is not closely related to dogs or cats.


One a related note, I've always known that marsupiels were mammals but I didn't have a word to categorize or differentiate the non marsupiels like us. I found these folks at Berkley using the phrase placental mammals. Now I know.

 
The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism