Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Suicide Prevention Help

One thing I've learned from my involvement with the suicide prevention organization See A New Sun is that no matter how much you want to help people there will be some set of people who object to how you want to do it. Take for example Massachusetts budget items 4590-0250 and 7010-0005. These items seek to provide funding for the Safe Schools programs that work to provide a safe environment for Gay and Lesbian students in our schools. Tied into this program is funding for suicide prevention that seeks to help Gay and Lesbian students during an often difficult point in the lives. Rather than supporting the health and well being of all people, homophobic organizations like have organized a campaign to encourage Governor Romney to veto these budget items. If you're a Massachusetts citizen and want our government to fund these causes, please contact the Governor and let him know you support these budget items.

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Shark Crackers

The movie Jaws has been a fan favorite for 30 years. A lot has been written about the impact Jaws had on the movie making business and summer swimming habits but there's one aspect of the movie that's seldom been discussed, the impact Jaws had on the image of the saltine cracker.

Before Robert Shaw's Quint, a cracker was a bland cake of baked flour only good as a surface to hold peanut butter or cheese, but not after. Quint elevated the cracker into the snack of sailors and shark hunters. What man has not wanted to calmly snap chunks of a cracker while saying the words:

Y'all know me. Know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish! Not like going down to the pond and chasing bluegills and tommycocks. This shark, swallow you whole. No shakin', no tenderizin', down you go.

Much like the Eucharist is a symbol of Christ in the Catholic tradition, in Jaws, the cracker forms the edible representation of the salty trinity: Quint, the shark and the sea. This metaphor is emphasized both in the cracker eating scene by the having Quint consume the cracker as part of his performance before the 'congregation' of islanders while sitting in front of an effigy of the shark and then finally in Quint's death scene where Quint, arms splayed as on a cross, is half in the sharks mouth as it slide back into the water thus merging the trinity.

Over the coming Fourth of July weekend, enjoy a cracker or two, swim in the ocean (but avoid the sharks) and remember the most influential cracker eater of all time, Robert Shaw.

Happy Fourth everyone.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Pass The Pigs

A co-worker has his kid in work today and as I walked passed his cube I noticed them playing 'Pass The Pig' on the floor. It's simple and silly and works really well as a drinking game. You can play an on-line Java version here.

Top 100 Albums of the 90s

While looking for a review of a recent CD purchase (Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over The Sea), I found a list of the Top 100 albums from the 90s. It's sad how few of the albums I've heard of. My guess this has less to do with the list being wrong as with my choice of radio stations and the general Jam band rut I've been in. I do really like the recently purchased album however and it turns out it was #4 on the list - who knew.

Ulysses for Dummies

I started reading Joyce's Ulysses a couple of years ago. I initially made good progress but when I hit the hallucinogenic Circes chapter, my eyes rolled back and I nodded off to sleep - for years. The other day I picked up the book again and have been plowing through. I could have saved myself a lot of work if I had just viewed Ulysses for Dummies. On a more serious note, I've actually found the Cliff Notes to be helpful in understanding the chapter.

On a related note, according to this guy, because I've mentioned Joyce and Ulysses I'm an official AFPM - Artsy-Fartsy-Pretentious-Mofo. Luckily the same exclusion that applied to him applies to me (a friendly responder gives him a pass because he drinks Miller from the can).

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Running roughshod or ripshod

A common euphamism for political power abuse is saying someone or organization has 'run ripshod' through the land. I was going to use the phrase myself the other day when I realized I had no idea what ripshod meant. I searched around and found many other users but no place that could define the word. This started me thinking that perhaps every example I found was just a perpetuation of a common mistake. I tried aother variations on the phrase and finnally hit upon a more common usage: run roughshod. The words roughshod and ripshod don't really sound the same but people use them in the same manner in similar contexts. Does anyone know the proper usage?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


I've never had Absinth but I've always been a bit curious about it. My first recollection of hearing about it was from the W.C. Fields movie 'The Bank Dick'. The movie features an exchange that goes like this:

Man at bar: What can you give me for some shattered nerves, the inside meemies, the jitters...

Mr Sousse : Joe, if the gentleman has some butterflies in his stomach I suggest a dash of rover in it.

Man: Rover?

Mr Sousse: Dog...Absinth...It's very good for the nerves...

(Man then proceeds to down a large glass much to the amazement of Mr Sousse (W.C.) and Joe the bartender (Shemp Howard))

Absinth hasn't been sold in the U.S. for a long time, for a variety of reasons, but It appears you can order it from over seas. Anyone have any experience with it, either pro or con?

Book Sales

If you haven't seen this link some place else...Tim O'Reilly shares a graph of book sales by programming language. Interesting notes: Java is by far number 1, VB is in steep decline, .NET in general is flat, Python is rising and lastly, Ruby made the chart but its share is so low its line is hardly visible.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Music Genres

This mini-rant started because I am growing very dissatisfied with the standard ID3 categorization mechanism called 'Genre'. With the current system there are keywords for general categories like Rock, Country, Jazz, there are broader sub categories for Indie, Alternative and Punk, Trance, House and very narrow categories like Lo-Fi, Acid Jazz and Porn Groove. Even if we ignore the fact that someone would need a degree in music to be able to aptly apply this broad categorization scheme, my basic complaint is that music just doesn't fit into simplistic buckets like this. The fact is genres overlap and change over time - in ten years we will need 100 more sub-sub-sub categories to keep the musicologists happy.

The way I've been dealing with this in my own music catalog is to ignore the default CDDB categorization and set genres into very broad buckets: Rock, Jazz, Classical, Country. I then use the Grouping field to add a comma separated list of qualifiers to the base genre: alt, jazz, jam, live, blues, that further describe the music.

I'll give you a couple examples. In my library, all of Neil Young's songs are categorized as Rock genre, but they have various grouping keywords: Country, Grunge, Folk, Live, depending on the work. Something genre bending like Gov't Mule might also be placed in the Rock category but then have grouping keywords such as: Southern, Blues and Jam applied.

Given the current music player's support for grouping beyond Genre, this isn't a perfect solution. I can create playlists that select from the grouping field, but I cannot sort by the keywords or list the albums that way. While that's not a huge deal, it still rather annoying.

Paul Allen's Octopus

If you're looking for definitive information and lots of pictures of Paul Allen's mega yacht Octopus check out the information on this page. Be sure to view the power-point slide deck, it contains great pictures of both Octopus and all of its toys including both helicopters, its 63 foot tender 'Man-o-War', and its mini-submarine. The only thing we don't get to see is the map to Allen's secret volcano lair.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Language Oriented Programming

A recent post on Java lobby pointed to a lot of interesting content about the Language Oriented Programming paradigm. I haven't had a chance to read everything yet, but Segey Dmitriev's article and the demo for his Meta-Programming System are great food for thought. I've been waiting for the next big thing to show it's head and this looks like it could be it. It's all very raw still but It's hard to miss the potential.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Notes "Hannover" Waffle

I've been reading the reporting on Hannover with some interest. First off, it's nice to see IBM indirectly supporting Kubi's direction of activity based collaboration by citing their own intentions in that area, as the first bullet item for Notes enhancement.

Deliver unprecedented productivity through a compelling, activity-based user interface

The second bullet item was also interesting, but for a different reason.

Introduce a new class of "composite" applications; delivering innovation by extending Notes applications in unison with a J2EE-based platform of packaged and custom applications

Perhaps I'm wrong, but this sounds a lot like the original 'Garnet' value proposition that was unceremoniously canned a few years ago.

Is all this a tacit admission that they goofed on both Garnet and Workplace?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Quick thoughts on Southern California

I've been away at a family wedding in the Long Beach area of Southern California so I haven't had time to blog. Here are some quick thoughts from the week:

1. The Port of Long Beach is HUGE. If you like watching ships, like I do, this place is awesome. I also understand the security issue posed by the volume of containers passing through a large port, a lot better, after actually seeing the number of containers first hand.

2. The highways in the L.A. area are filthy compared to the those in the North East. I recommend a convict work release program or something.

3. The new '05 Mustang convertible rocks. I only wish our rental version had had the V8.

4. Flying Jet Blue from Boston to Long Beach is a great way to cross the country.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Iris - Where Are They Now?

I was reading and pondering about Richard Schwarz's post on opening up the NSF file format and my mind started to wander back in time, back to the days of Iris Associates.

One of the cool things Iris management team did when they opened up the new building 5 in Westford, was form small decorating teams to pick art and furniture for the hallways and lounge areas. Given the broad range of tastes within Iris each hallway ended up with a very different look.

One hallway near my office, at the time, was lined with prints from the painter Gerhard Richter. Richter is a painter with a mixed reputation. Some people love him, some hate him and many people don't even recognize he's a painter, since many of his most famous paintings are photorealistic. I was ambivalent at first but he grew on me.

Anyway, as I was thinking about Gerhard Richter the name of the person who picked his painting for this particular hallway popped into my head: Eric LoPresti. Eric was a UI designer and budding artist who's among other things, designed and drew the keychain/key spinner for the Notes 5.0 login dialog. Soon after that contribution, Eric left Iris to pursue other interests - a fine arts degree, I recall.

Just for a lark I decided to Google Eric's name and see if I could find what he's up to. Well I can't be certain, since there's no picture, but it appears Eric just won the 2005 William and Dorothy Yeck Award, for young painters, with a set of photorealistic paintings of cords. Given the name, the tie-in with Richter's style and the fact that a computer guy would have a ample supply of cords around, I think it's a good bet.

Congratulations to Eric. Those are some cool paintings.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Spanish Help

I received a blog comment this morning in reference to a post I wrote on November 03 2003, concerning my dislike of certain web layout styles. My problem is that the comment was in Spanish and neither BabelFish nor Google Language tools are offering much help with a translation. The original response is:

pero como se puede ser tan bocas, el rey del blog, anda
chaval vete a tu casa y antes de hablar informate un poquito. Con gente
como tu no hacen falta mas humanos, bueno en tuccaso si , para meterte
con ellos.
Saludos Gañan.

The Google translation is:

but as it is possible so to be mouths, the king of blog, walks chaval vetoes to your house and before speaking informate just a little bit. With human people as your they do not make lack but, good in tuccaso if, for meterte with them. Gañan greetings.

If I had to guess from the text above I wouldn't say the person was congratulating me on a fine post. But then again, this could be nonesense in Spanish too. If anyone can help with the translation I would appreciate it.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Ten Levels of Software Career Wealth

1.) Nice car

2.) Nice House

3.) Startup Funding

4.) House on the water

5.) Fuck You, I Quit

6.) V.C. or Open Source Foundation

7.) Private Island Compound

8.) Super Mega Yacht/Private Jet

9.) Major Sports Franchise

10.) Space Exploration Company

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Gov't Mule Show

I’ve been a Gov't Mule and Warren Haynes fan since the mid 90's but I had never seen Mule play live until last night. My friend Don and I went to the Gov't Mule concert at the Bank of America Pavillion in Boston. It was a fantastic show.

The opening act was Xavier Rudd. I can’t say much about his performance, as I was busy enjoying a couple of pre-show beers and slices of Pizza, but he has a cool bluesy sound enhanced with traditional Australian Aboriginal didjeridu.

With a couple of beers down, Don and I headed to our seats to watch Robert Randolph and The Family band. (Our seats were amazing – 15 rows back, center stage, right next to the tapers. Awesome.) Robert Randolph is a great pedal steel guitar player and he and the Family Band ripped through some blazing rocks and blues tunes. I had never heard of Robert Randolph before but I plan to pick up at least one of his CD. He’s a passionate and electric roots rock and blues player. If you ever get a chance to see him and his band, don’t pass it up, they are fun and smokin’ hot.

Mule came on around 9:00. I can’t recall the exact set list (there was a lot of herbal smoke in the air) but it was a good mix of Mule’s blues and rock tunes. The second set opened up with a few verses of a rather slow gospel like piece that left everyone relaxing in their seats, but this was just a short ruse before Mule transitioned into a blazing and crowd please rendition of Warren’s most famous song from his Allman Brother’s recordings, Soul Shine. Other notable rockers included Larger than Life, Mule, Lola Leave Your Light On, Thorazine Shuffle, Slackjaw Jezebel, Sam and John The Revelator.

For the encores Robert Randolph joined Mule on stage and they rocked through some more great tunes. At this point the effect of the kids in front of us passing around their tenth (not an exageration) 'herbal cigarette' must have really been getting to me because I can't for the life of me remember which songs they played. The light show was pretty fantastic however.

I can't wait until Mule comes around again. I wont pass up the chance to see them in the future.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Shared-Spaces talks about Kubi

Michael Sampson of Shared-Spaces has written a post about Kubi Enable on his blog. It doesn't tell you much about our product (for that, run the demo on Kubi's home page), but it is nice to see Kubi getting some press.

In his post Michael mentions a question he didn't ask when he attended a recent Kubi Web seminar: "What is your reaction to Julio Estrada (who was the founder and original lead architect at Kubi) leaving the company to work on the Microsoft Exchange team?". I can't answer that for the corporation but on a personal level I was saddened when Julio told me of his decision to leave but I can also tell you I was satisfied with his explanation and it didn't effect my decision to leave IBM and join Kubi.

Given that the original question was rather leading, I'll turn it around and ask this: What is your reaction to a senior developer/architect and original member of Workplace product team (me) leaving IBM to work at Kubi Software? My guess is you would say, you're only one person, products are built by teams. I think the same holds true.

Click-it or Ticket Mobalization

Unless you've been sleeping for the last month (or don't live in the U.S.), you have seen or heard advertising advising you to wear your seat belt - 'Click-it or Ticket'. In case you didn't know, all of this has been a campaign by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration called The Click-It or Ticket Mobalization.

I've never liked this law, it always seemed like an unnecessary invasion of privacy and personal freedom. Pursuant to understanding how this all came about and it's legal foundation I went looking for some data on the web. Here are a few articles I found:

Addressing Issues: Personal Freedom

The Fraud of Seat-Belt Laws

While I now understand the issues on both sides better, personally, I would rather see my tax dollars spent on something else.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Red Sox Fan Hater

I was searching the web for a certain green Red Sox hat (not this one, or this one, or even this one) and I stumbled across this blogger who hates Red Sox fans. While the opinions of any Yankees fan is suspect, the opinions of a ex-New Englander who roots for the evil empire, well, their opinions are inherently worthless. Regardless, I link to it for your enjoyment. Think of it as just another reason to hate the Yankees - like we need any more.
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