Sunday, July 31, 2005

Bob Congdon

This is my farewell toast to my friend Bob Congdon who recently resigned from
IBM and is heading to Seattle to work of Microsoft.

I once heard someone describe Bob as ‘scary smart’ and that’s true, Bob is way
smarter than the average person. But, the world is full of smart people and
that’s not what really differentiates Bob. What makes Bob better than all the
rest is he makes everyone he works with better. Bob never uses his intellect to
hammer down co-workers or put himself on a pedestal; quite the opposite. Bob listens to
ideas from the team and steers team discussions like a conductor steers an orchestra.
The end result is a team that produces better product and everyone feels like a contributor.

I’ve also heard Bob described as a ‘man of few words and of many’. Bob can cut to the core
of a topic like a precision drill or meander around a topic like a lazy river. This later
tendency has proven most amusing over the years. I’ve worked on and off with Bob for around
5 years and over that time we built up a friendship around some core shared interests. We
share a love of programming languages, development methodologies, movies and of course blogging.
I cannot count the number of lunch table conversations we’ve had on those topics where Bob has
barely let me get a word in edge wise.

In summation, let me state this emphatically, If I had to pick the best engineer I’ve ever worked
with, it would be Bob. He’s brilliant, a great co-worker and just a nice guy. Good luck Bob,
keep in touch and keep on blogging.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Popsicle Centennial

The popsicle is 100 years old or so says this article from Space Daily. The popsicle was invented by accident in 1905 by a man named Frank Epperson.

Fun fact: originally they were called Epsicles.

There be whales here!

Does anyone else find it ironic that the day after James Doohan, Scotty from Star Trek, passed away there's a story of some scientists wanting to fly whales from California to the UK in order to reestablish Grey whales in that region. Transparent aluminium aside, that sounds like a daunting task.

Literal Deep Dive

Do you enjoy adventure stories? If so you should read Raising the Dead over on Outside online. While the stories tag line is a bit much:
At the bottom of the biggest underwater cave in the world, diving deeper than almost anyone had ever gone, Dave Shaw found the body of a young man who had disappeared ten years earlier. What happened after Shaw promised to go back is nearly unbelievable ?unless you believe in ghosts.

It's a great tale. What drives people to do things like this is beyond me, but it makes for entertaining, albeit nerve wracking, reading.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Ruby Formats

I've been hacking around in Ruby again and I've started to use a feature I've ignored in the past, the format operator. It's just syntax suger for doing a C style sprintf but I think its makes the code a bit more readable.

s = "My name is %s and I like the number %d" % ["Pete", 7]

Little things like this make me happy.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Abecedarium Encore

OK here's one more for the fans...

Amorous barmen calling Dance!.
Enchantresses flinging giddily, heart-fully.
Innocent jewels keening love
Moon noise, open pathways,
Questing romancers silently
twisting under verdant wood.
Xiphopagus youth’s zeal.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Abecedarium etc...

Ned's recent post about Abecedarium poems piqued my interest enough that I wrote a couple. They're fun little challenges. I wont defend their virtues as works of art but I think they're pretty cool.

A basic conundrum.
Does eloquence follow general hubris?
In jest, kindly lummox make noise,
overly pompous quills reign.
Simpletons talking under veils
Whilst xylophagous yeoman zig.

Apple butter churned
during early frost
Golden hearth illuminated
Jam knife laid mecurialy near oyster plate.
Quiet rain. Snow threatens.
Under vermilion winds,
xenial yearning's zeal.

I had to use the web for help with X words and the best source I found was this page on If you like unusual words it's a fun site to browse.

Another interesting thing I ran into during some Abecedarium related web searching was the Abecedarium Nordmannicum rune poems, a set of Norse abecadruim using the younger futhark script. I can't say I've spent a lot of time looking at the pages but there's a whole world of rune study out there that find this stuff fascinating.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Art History Timeline

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Timeline of Art History site is pretty impressive. I wish there were more pictures of the art but the text is interesting too.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Cultured Meat

I've never been much phased by so called Frankenstein food, you know, the ones enhanced by genetic engineering. But this new engineered meat replacement just sounds disgusting. Actually the whole thing reminds me of this scene from The Restaurant At The End of The Universe.

One question I have is since it doesn't come from a living animal could a vegetarian eat it?

Jeff Angus on Leadership

Here's a great column from Jeff Angus on Leadership. Granted, I'm pointing it out because it echoes my own sentiments on the subject and supports my previous complaints about IBM. The following are his words not mine:

Because all human organizations tend to be self-amplifying (see Angus' Eighth Law), accountability-sloughers will tend to get chosen for advancement by accountability- sloughing decision-makers and therefore get concentrated at the top.

My one gripe with the article is that is confuses the concepts of leadership and charisma. Angus repeatedly says leadership is ephemeral. I would say charisma is ephemeral but leadership is pretty concrete. Leadership is the act of convincing people to willingly do what you want rather than what they want. Being charismatic is certainly one way of being a good leader, but others such as being a good manager (Angus's point), and developing trust and respect are just as, if not more, successful and a lot more practical.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

NoScript Extension for Firefox

If you're being bothered by the new crop of pop-behind and pop-out adds that are appearing on various web sites you may be interested in the Firefox NoScript extension. NoScript works much like Firefox's built in popup blocker, but instead of blocking just popup windows it blocks the execution of JavaScript on a domain by domain basis. You can enable JavaScript for those sites you trust and leave it disabled for those you are unsure of. Just like with the popup blocker you get visible notification of scripts being blocked. Notification take the form of a header bar that you can click on to allow script permanently for that domain or as a one time thing. It works well.

Planet and Moon comparer

Here's a link to an interesting set of pages for comparing the size of various celestial bodies. I never knew that Mars's moons where so small.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Don on WBCN

My friend and fellow blogger Don was guest DJ on WBCN in Boston, Wednesday afternoon. Unfortunately I didn't listen - silly work - so I cannot comment directly but I wanted to congratulate him anyway. Everyone I've talked to who did listen said he was very funny and very Don. Good job man.

BBQ linked to Cancer

Here's a link to some great holiday weekend reporting from Liz Brunner of NewsCenter 5. Minimize BBQ Cancer Risks This Holiday. Yeah, I'm sure burnt meat is the primary health risk most of us face over the next few days. Personally, I'd place it way south of these other risks I also plan to ignore: holiday traffic, indulgence of alcohol, fireworks and hypothermia or shark attack while swimming. Note to self: If Liz Brunner ever invites me to a party, don't go.
The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism