Sunday, January 29, 2006

Hello from the new blog

This is my first offical post created with my new blogging tool I've been calling Dog. It's still a bit rough, so I will be dual posting on Dog and Blogger for a while until I work out the kinks. If you want to switch your RSS feed to the new system, subscribe to You can find the regular html blog at

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Agile Web Development with Rails

I've been reading the book Agile Web Development with Rails and building some Rails applications over the past few days. I like the book a lot. Previously, I had played around with Rails and read a few of the web tutorials but they all left me a bit underwhelmed. The tutorials all showed how you can get a lot done with just a few lines of code but none of them really teach you about Rails and how to use it. This book really filled in the gaps.

The book follows the standard format of starting out with a tutorial and then diving into a deeper analysis of the technology. The tutorial in Agile Web Development with Rails is more in-depth but still left me a bit cold. Where the book really started to shine is when it went deep on the underlying technologies. I've not finished the book yet, but the section on Active Record, the object relational mapping service used in Rails, alone was worth the price of the book.

With the help of the book I'm building a new blogging system I call Dog Blog. Why Dog Blog? Because I like dogs and it sounds funny. I know the world doesn't need another blogging system but it's fun to write and Rails makes if easy. My master plan is to move off of Blogger to Dog Blog at some point in the future, but I still have more Rails to learn and bunch more code to write before that will happen.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Time management in a feed happy world

Time is a precious commodity and I never have enough of it. As I've complained before, my stack of unread books keeps growing, my list of pet projects I would like to work on is never ending and my thirst for knowledge (and beer) of all sorts is unquenchable.

I'm sure this is a truism of life but I've reached a point now where I need to reset some priorities. As much as I enjoy reading articles like The 50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2005 (on Redit), Company bets on woman to die quickly. Woman lives, company sues (on Metafilter) and the wealth of other interesting but frivolous tidbits that cross my path thanks to the likes of Digg, Slashdot, Kuro5hin and Memepool, I feel the need to make a late new year resolution. I'm going to unsubscribe all those feeds and try and forget all the URLs and live without those sources of trivia. I don't know if I'll use the extra time wisely, but It's worth a shot.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I've got Goose Bumps

This afternoon I put on my headphones, dialed my iPod to play Neil Young's After the Goldrush (It was on my mind from my previous post), and sat down to do some coding. After 15 minutes or so of work I needed to do a full build, so I kicked that off, and opened a browser to do some reading. I quickly found this great Zeldman article titled Web 3.0 on A List Apart, and started to read. The weird coincidence is that as I reached the last paragraph of the piece - called "It's only castles burning" - Neil Young was singing the last verse from "Don't Let It Bring You Down".

Don't let it bring you down

It's only castles burning,

Just find someone who's turning

And you will come around.

This wasn't a loose overlap either. As my eyes parsed the sentence, Neil sang the exact words. Very, very cool.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Top 100 Albums

This list of the Q magazine reader's top 100 albums of all times is annoyingly safe. There are quite a few artists on this list that I don't know, but among those that I do, the album choices are bland. Are there really any Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin fans out there who thinks Dark Side of the Moon and Led Zeppelin IV are their best albums. And don't get me started on the choice of Neil Young's After the Goldrush as a top pick, either. I found the whole list very uninspired.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Bruised Ego

I don't know what to make of The site supposedly ranks your presence on the web based on some Google based metric. When I first tried the site, I received a rating of 1950. After playing around for a few minutes I had a rating in the three thousands. Today, for some reason, I'm down in the three hundreds, and dropping fast. I have no idea what this is telling me, but I feel the need to make it better.

via Ben Poole

Friday, January 13, 2006

I've lost that freedom feeling

There's been a lot of talk about Constitutional freedoms lately in the wake of the domestic wire tapping report and the Alito hearings with its impact on Roe vs. Wade. I know this is important stuff, but I have to say the whole debate confuses me. I'm not confused about the details of these issues; while I'm certainly not an expert they've been covered in enough detail by the press, that I get the jist of both sides of the argument. What confuses me is why we fight so hard for these when we gladly give up other freedoms.

When I was a child, I can recall a time when people had responsibility for the safety of their children and their own personal conduct. Back in the late 60s and early 70s, my family took a lot of weekend skiing and hiking trips. On almost every trip my father kept a couple of beers in the car for the ride home. Even now, 40 years later, I can still see the beer can sitting on the dashboard, with my father smoking his pipe, as we ride down Rt. 16 through Pinkham Notch in New Hampshire. If this wasn't bad enough in a modern context, the entire time, because I'm the youngest, I'm stuffed in the back of the station wagon with no seat belt or safety restraint.

A parent doing something like that today would be in a lot of trouble. They would not be allowed to decide how to safely transport their family, they wouldn't be able to decide to have a beer while driving, even if their blood alcohol levels was well within the legal limit. I'm not arguing that the laws that have been passed are somehow wrong from the sense of being unreasonable, they certainly make some level of sense. But that said, some restriction of freedom of speech or privacy makes sense too, especially if we're measuring personal freedoms against public welfare. From my layman's point of view, it looks like we've got ourselves onto a very slippery slope.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Honest Role Models

I found Bode Miller's 60 minute appearance refreshingly candid. Apparently, however, I'm in the minority. During the interview Bode admitted to skiing wasted the day after he clinched the world championship. Seems he was out late that night and still had a buzz-on from the celebrating when he hit the course the next morning. He admitted it wasn't the smartest thing he ever did, but he wasn't apologetic either.

Of course, it didn't take long for the nanny patrol to come down pretty hard on him for this. It seems people would rather he pretend he's not a partier. It's OK that he hurtles himself down mountain sides in reckless abandon, that's all fine and dandy, but admit to enjoying a deserved celebration and you're a horrible role model. Personally, I like someone who says what they mean and lives life on their own terms. In fact, I think that's a perfect role model.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Whale

There's an old saying that when you study literature you're really studying death. Here's a couple of paragraphs I wrote that certainly fits that motif. I'm still thinking of how to incorporate this into some bigger context, but for now I think it stands alone pretty well.

The Whale

I've been swallowed by a whale. It's not like the stories of Jonah or Pinocchio would lead you to believe; to begin with, a whale's throat is much smaller than you would think. Second, while the gapping baleen mouth quickly engulfs you, the actual swallowing process is a lot more violent. At first you're all cold and wet, with salt stinging your nostrils and the stench of krill filling the air, but then as the water drains from the baleen and the big warm tongue pushes you back into it'’s mouth, the esophagus starts to squeeze you in crushing rhythmic pulses. When what little air you've managed to hold in is finally squeezed from your lungs and the panic reaches its peak, everything goes dark. Luckily, this is when I always wake up.

The dream starts the same way every time. I'm standing on the bow sprit of a clipper ship, alone. No other crew is in sight. . The sky is clear blue, a strong wind is blowing and the seas are in a long swell. At first I'm exhilarated; the sails are a beautiful bone white against the sky and billowed by the stiff wind. The speed is impressive and the ship is rising and failing in thunderous claps as the bow cuts into the passing waves.

Then, without warning, I start to feel apprehension. I want to yell to the captain to reef the sails, to cut back on the speed, but I'm mute, transfixed by the now great gray crags of ocean before me. The sky is gray now and I know I'm in severe danger but I don't run. I stay on the bow sprit, holding the rigging with all my might. Then as if I've been waiting for this moment all my life, a wave larger than all the rest looms ahead of me and both the ship and I are engulfed by crushing water. At first I'm tumbling in a turbulent world of cold and darkness. But then I hear it, a whale's mournful call. I want to be strong but I know it's coming for me. Alone in the dark I wait for the end.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Magic numbers

I've been reading the Constitution this morning and I noticed something I hadn't before, namely that the pohibition was the 18th amendment and that its repeal was the 21st. The numbers 18 and 21, the same numbers of the old drinking age and the new one. Coincidence or supernatural drinking numerology? OK, maybe it's just a handy trick for remembering them.

On a related topic, have any of you living or working in Massachusetts noticed this odd numeric coincidence? Route 62 intersects both Rt. 495 and Rt. 3 at an exit numbered 26. What's the chances of that happening?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Meeting Doodles

In a recent post Ned Batchelder asked for bloggers to publish some of their meeting doodles. Here are a few of mine back from my days at IBM. I had to add some black censor boxes to one of the doodles, to remove a client companies name, but otherwise they are as is from my notebook.

Alpha Five V7, CRN's 2005 Database product of the year

Even though it's been many years since I worked at Alpha, I still consider Alpha Five to be my baby; so it's with some parental pride I point out A5's most recent accolades. Congratulations to Selwyn, Richard, Cian and the rest of the Alpha Software crew for receiving this award and keeping a great product going.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Burning Bed

No, this isn't a post about a Farrah Fawcett movie, my bed actually caught fire Friday morning, or at least my pillow did. Jayne was out of bed already and I had turned on my reading light and planned to snooze for a few minutes before getting up. I was laying there relaxing when I heard a crackling and snapping sound. I turned my head in a start and was surprised to see the corner of my pillow had been ignited by the bulb of my reading light. In a daze I grabbed the pillow, threw it on the floor, jumped out of bed and stomped on it until the fire was out. Luckily, nothing was damaged beyond the pillow, but it was a scary event that only gets scarier the more I think about it. Had I gotten up and been in the shower when the pillow ignited, my house might not be standing now, not to mention what could have become of Jayne, Cori or me. Scary stuff. The really weird thing is I recall a dream that night where I stomped out a fire.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The decline of the generalist

I really like this post by Bill de hÓra concerning the impact of broad frameworks on the role of the generalist. The comments are great too.

Searching for a metaphor

Just like life, software evolves; over time it adapts to catch new trends, fit new niches and exploit new technologies. For various reasons, some software does a better job of adapting to its new environment than others. Unfortunately, the software that generally evolves with the most warts and vestigial appendages is the software that gets used the most, the enterprise platform and framework software. We've all seen these software beasts - bloated and blubberous chimera of patchwork parts.

This post came about because I was reading Bob Congdon's post on the integration of SOA into the world of enterprise Java and the image of that bloated beast sprouting a new set of limbs came to mind. I might have lived with that metaphor in my head if I then hadn't then seen this poetic piece of technical writing that casts things in a different light. Its image of a giant turd really does seem to nail it beautifully.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Lattix Dependency Relationship Management

Lattix is a neat looking tool for exploring and managing the relationship between Java packages. I've only watched the demo, but it's clear enough from just that, that this tool would be useful in most any medium to large Java project that cares about component interdependencies. My one nit about the product web site and demo is that they repeatedly refer to the layout of code modules as 'the architecture'. While a clean layout of the code modules and their interdependencies is certainly an important aspect of managing a large software project, it in and of itself is not 'the architecture'.
The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism