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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Restful Weekend

After all was said and done, this turned out to be a pretty relaxing weekend. We didn't really get a ton of stuff done (other than finishing season 2 of the Gilmore Girls), but I think that was just what we needed at the moment.

This evening we met some friends in Rogers to celebrate a birthday, which was a lot of fun, and that was pretty much the highlight. Now some bed and sleep is sounding really, really good.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Called on Account of Rain

Heather Marie and I had talked earlier this week about going camping tonight, but the forecast was looking bad, so we decided against that. Then yesterday we briefly discussed finishing some yardwork, but the forecast was still calling for rain all day, so instead we just rented some DVDs and made plans for a quiet, snuggly day inside, which sounded wonderful.

Imagine my disappointment when I got up this morning to find a beautiful sunny day! It's not that I was opposed to good weather, I was just really in the mood for a long, rainy day spent indoors with Heather and Magaidh. Fortunately it clouded up and started raining before I even finished breakfast.

Later this afternoon, we tried to take Magaidh for a walk around the block, but it took two tries before we could get more than two houses away between downpours...four tries, if you count the times we didn't even have a chance to get out of the house.

It turned out to be a great, relaxing day after all. We didn't get much done, but we got a lot of good relaxation finished, which was great!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Made it to Friday

This week seemed to stretch on and on, but it was pretty good and reasonably productive. Now I'm definitely ready for a weekend, though. We'd wanted to go camping tomorrow night, but it's been raining all day, and it's looking to continue through tomorrow, so camping is probably out.

There's a good Seaside video up on Google Video. I haven't gotten to watch the whole thing yet, but I'm looking forward to it. As much as I like Smalltalk and Seaside, I keep finding myself attracted back to Ruby and Rails, and a big part of that is documentation. I tend to learn best from examples and written documentation, but although Seaside examples are readily available, written documentation on Smalltalk and Seaside is hard to come by. There are more Smalltalk books than Ruby books, but most of them are at least 10 years old, while the canonical Ruby book is relatively new.

I also find many of the Smalltalk book frustrating, since they seem to focus on explaining the hot new object-oriented approach to programming. Since I haven't been living in a cave or writing exclusively in BASIC for the past 15 years, that's not really something I need a book for. And even though Rails only has one book out at present, it is an excellent one, and it's one more than Seaside has.

That's sort of a catch 22 for me, though, is part of my attraction to Seaside is due to its cutting edge, outsider status compared to Rails, so if it were popular enough to acquire the same level of documentation that Rails has, then I probably wouldn't like it nearly as much. Silly, I know, but I appreciate the irony.

Quite the conundrum....

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Blog Relief

Since the end of the blogathon, I've found myself enjoying blogging more than I have in a while. The daily posts weren't ever a serious chore, but I often felt rushed an stressed as midnight approached.

Now, however, although I'm still in the habit of daily posts, I feel free to fall asleep on the couch at 10:30 without worrying about whether I'll awaken in time to post something.

As it happens, tonight I did wake up in time, but it would've been ok if I hadn't. Since I did, though, I'm going to bed.

Falling Behind

It's bad enough that my wife has a website, while I still don't, but now my sister-in-law is blogging! Not only that, but Heather Marie is thinking about starting a bellydance podcast! Neither one of them has started programming yet, so I guess I still have an edge, but it's probably just a matter of time.

I guess that means I should get a move on and at least get my personal website done.

Sadly, I also noticed this week that Dan's blog went away, presumably due to inactivity. It's sort of the passing of a generation, since he's the one who first got me to blog. I'll have to see if I can get ahold of him via IM to see what's up.

It was a little frustrating that I couldn't get this posted earlier due to Blogger having problems. Thanks to the end of the blogathon, though, at least I didn't have to stress about it. :-)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Feeling Clumsy

In general, I feel like a moderately clumsy guy. With the exceptions of Aikido and tennis (actually racquet sports in general), I'm not particularly good at anything resembling a sport. In school, mental activities were my forte: quiz bowl, Math Counts, drama, public speaking -- I was agile in those fields.

I think that's why Scott Bellware's post today struck a chord with me: Visual Studio doesn't make me feel agile. I'm sure there are people doing agile development with Visual Studio and .NET, I just seldom feel like one of them. (Disclaimer: I haven't gotten to try VS 2005 yet.)

At the most basic level, it seem like probably 20% of the development problems I deal with on a day-to-day basis are problems with the IDE. If I'm dealing with a bug or build error that I just can't figure out after 10-15 minutes, restarting Visual Studio fixes it nearly every time, although occassionally it takes multiple restarts. Not being able to trust your tools is really tiring.

On a higher level, though, it's just really hard to provide and receive feedback sometimes. What I want is to be able to sit down with a user, show them a working version, get their feedback, then implement their suggestions right then (at least the simpler ones). I don't want them to have to wait a week or more for a new build and installer, and I don't want to have to wait at least that long to see if I'm building what they want.

I really want to be an agile developer, in every sense of the word.

To me, development is an extension of mental activity, a physical manifestation of my thoughts. Thinking is what I've always been good at, though, and it's the only realm in which I feel agile, so tools that interfere with that are incredibly frustrating. After a while, I start to wonder if some development tools aren't some kind of Harrison Bergeron-style plot to enforce equality, then I have to wonder why that might be.

I still haven't installed my copy of Visual Studio 2005, so I'm hopeful that the IDE update and .NET 2.0 assuage some of my frustrations...but I won't be surprised to be disappointed.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Who do your Senators work for?

It's really only just starting to pick up momentum, but IPac is apparently already starting to cause some waves, at least judging by the reaction of Senator Burns (R-MT). Now, in his defense, an iPod is an unorthodox campaign contribution, and his campaign was probably unsure how to handle it.

Let's be clear, though: the contribution was completely legal. It would be classified under essentially the same rules that govern computers, TVs, recorders, and other office supplies. The guys running IPac are not wild-eyed Internet yahoos, they're smart, experienced lawyers and lobbyists, and they made sure the i's and t's were dotted and crossed, respectively.

It's my understanding that the iPods would also fall under the same rules governing such campaign contributions as airfare and car rentals. I'm not a lawyer, though, so I'll freely admit that I could be misunderstanding the campaign finance laws.

Now, faced with the unusual, apparently unprecedented iPod contribution, the senators have three real options:
  1. Graciously and publicly accept them, possibly with some platitudes about taking digital rights very seriously, blah blah blah.
  2. Ignore the contribution all together and hope it goes away.
  3. Return them.
Option 2 would generate essentially no publicity, good or bad. Option 1 would most likely generate favorable publicity from the online community, but might annoy the RIAA, MPAA, and other Hollywood coalitions. Option 3 would warm the hearts of the aforementioned special interests, while igniting some fires on the Internet.

Obviously he chose 3. Why? Could it be the larger contributions he's already received from the entertainment industry? Could it be that the iPod, small as it was, was obviously meant to affect his thinking directly rather than acting through his pocketbook?

I really have little doubt that his intention was to avoid the appearance of impropriety, which is laudable. At first glance, though, it sure looks like a nice way of declining a potential bribe on the grounds that you've already accepted a larger competing offer, though. If that were actually the case, at least we'd know that some of our elected officials have the decency not to play both sides.

In reality, my guess is that his campaign got this thing, didn't know what to do with it, and so figured they'd do what they perceived to be safest. There aren't many ways to break campaign finance laws by declining contributions, and the staffers probably figured that the internet crazies who'd get upset are "those other long-haired geeky people," not the Senator's real-world constituents.

That was their real mistake. They are likely still thinking of the Internet as a thing "out there." They haven't realized that it is made up of people, most of whom are completely normal, and who comprise a group that is, in general, better-informed than most "normal" people.

I'm blogging about this at midnight in Northwest Arkansas, and who am I? I'm a freakin' nobody to a congressman from Montana! But how many nobodies in Montana are reading this? Or another similar story? Or -- the horror! -- writing their own?!

How many people elsewhere are reading reports of this and wondering who their Senator works for?

Here's a hint: As I write this, IPac's website is really, really slow. I suspect that means it's being Slashdotted and/or Dugg at this very moment. That translates into tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of interested readers.

Now there's a thought to keep a campaigning politician up a night....


Addendum: It isn't my intention to imply that Sen. Burns, specifically, is any worse or better than any of his colleagues. I'm sure he isn't. But his office's actions in this case demonstrate something interesting about our attitude as voters. What's offensive to us isn't that he wouldn't accept a donation, but that he wouldn't accept ours. The implication is that what we've come to expect as a best-case scenario is something akin to The Simpson's Mr. Burns' health condition, in which all the diseases racking his body perfectly balance and counteract each other.

That's pretty sad, if you ask me.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sunday Night

I guess I don't technically have any definite need to blog tonight, but I want to try to stay in the habit anyway.

We had a load of fun today. Some old dorm friends came over for a cookout this afternoon, then we went out and flew kites for a while. Man, I haven't flown a kite in years, but it was pretty cool. I was able to get a stunt kite up in the air, and even do some basic stunts with it. Flying a stunt kite is definitely more active than any kite flying I've done in the past. Keeping it in the air required almost constant adjustments. It wasn't as soothing and relaxing as a high-flying, more traditional kite, but it was certainly more exciting!

After all the activities here, we went out to see Inside Man in Rogers. Not a fantastic movie, but definitely one of the best heist movies I've seen in a while. That caused us to start thinking about all the movies coming out this summer that we'll want to go see. It really looks like there may be one nearly every weekend starting in May. It'll be a great change from the past few months when there hasn't been much of anything that we really wanted to see.

Well, crap

Looks like we lost the blogathon. We had an evening wedding to go to tonight, followed by a Wal-Mart run for cook-out supplies for tomorrow, which put us home late, and we only just now realized that we didn't blog on Saturday. I knew it would happen eventually, but Heather is really ticked off that after all the effort she went to in order to keep blogging during her trip to Smackover, it was a stupid late night Wal-Mart run that did her in.

She suggests that we keep going to fight it out for second place, but in that case I may skip a day just to let her have it.

I've actually found myself looking forward to the end, although I am disappointed in how it came about: with no heroic efforts or tragic interference, just a moment of "Oh, crap, we forgot" at about 12:15. Not with a bang, but with a whimper....

I'm trying to debate whether we should begin anew or not. On the one hand, I have often found myself foregoing good, interesting topics in the interest of getting something posted by midnight. On the other hand, though, it has forced me to blog every day, which I certainly wouldn't have done otherwise. If I truly believed that I would write a quality post every three days instead of an inane one every day, I wouldn't even consider doing it again. As it is, though, I suspect I'd just fall out of the habit. I'll have to think about it.

Another option might be to compete with friends for quantity of posts or number of words or even page hits, but that way lies madness. I'm actually thinking that I may setup an additional blog, focused more on professional or personal topics, then dedicate this one to the other area. I'll just have to think about it some.

For the time being, though, I'll just offer my congratulations to Lance, then enjoy a week or so with a simple bedtime deadline instead of a midnight deadline, which will be nice since that'll give me an extra hour or so. ;-)

Friday, April 21, 2006

Really Friday Night

We finally had a fairly quiet, relaxing night tonight. Heather Marie got the Blazing Saddles DVD for me this afternoon, so we just lounged on the couch and watched it most of the evening. What a great movie!

And now we're going to bed, before midnight no less! We're both so tired, though, that it already feels like 2 or 3 am.

Thursday, April 20, 2006, Thursday Night

All day long I've felt like today was Friday, which has resulted in repeated and serious disappointment every few hours when something reminds me of reality. We've got fun company this weekend, though, and going to bed early is looking good at the moment.

Work has been pretty good this week, but it usually is when our lead developer is in town. It's due to nothing in particular that's different when he's around, as far as I can tell, just a general attitude and feeling in the air, I guess.

Now it's off to bed.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Heather's presentation today went very well, with only a few minor hitches, and those were nothing that a couple of extra trial runs wouldn't have caught. She did great, and I'm really proud of her!

While she was doing that, I was cleaning and managing the house in an effort to de-stress her as much as possible, so the house is looking pretty good for the most part. There's still work to be done, but not much that's major or publicly visible. :-)

Now, my toils complete, I'm going to bed. It'll be the first time in a week that I've gotten to bed before 2 am, and only the third time in that period that I will have gotten to bed before 3 am.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Final Countdown

It's only 12 hrs 10 minutes until Heather Marie's presentation, and the clock is ticking. I've been splitting my time between house cleaning and helping her get ready, but there's still quite a bit to do. There's not much more that I can do, but I'll probably stay up just for moral support.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Long, Crappy Day

Today definitely earned the label "One of Those Days." Nothing bad, really, just one small annoyance after another. Poor Heather Marie is totally engrossed in preparation for her talk on Wednesday, and I don't want to distract her, so who do I have left to vent to? Why, of course, you -- my imaginary readers! ;-)

I spent the entire morning moving from one desk to another. This was theoretically good, since it will give us the space to add another developer, plus fit in some interns and testers more easily. Could we have arranged that without my moving and downsizing to a smaller desk? Probably. Would doing so have had the added benefit of shedding the "prima donna" label we've slapped with for taking the opportunity to get bigger workspaces that was presented by more floorspace? Probably not.

Really not a big deal, since I still have plenty of space. It was just one more inevitable step toward cube land, and the move itself was frustrating because it took time away from other things that I needed to do.

Plus, in the process, I tore a rather nasty cut in the back of my thumb, all the way into the cuticle. I'll spare you further details, except to say that I expect the healing process to be long and irritating....

Then this afternoon I had to go mail some stuff and deposit my paycheck, so I ran to the post office real quick. The line was out the door. No problem, I'll just use the stamp vending machine. Wrong! It was broken. Come to think of it, I've never seen it functional that I recall.

So I write off the letter mailing, and figure I can at least deposit my check. The line at the bank was long, too, so I stopped by the ATM near our office. It let me get all the way up to the point where I put my deposit envelope in the slot before it told me it was unable to accept deposits. You know, I can handle machines that are out of order, but at least tell me soon! Like when I select the deposit option! Or better yet, don't even provide that option: just put a little notice in its place. Even the stupid stamp machine managed to do that!

In between and around the doomed mailing/deposit trip, I was trying in vain to get some actual work done. This involved trying to fix (for the 7th time in the past year, unless I've lost count) a project that I'm mostly in charge of that keeps getting broken by changes elsewhere in our framework. As part of that process, I discovered that one of the changes had broken the only part of that code that had been fully functional nearly the entire time, and frankly I'm not entirely sure where I should even start trying to fix it tomorrow.

Then I capped off my work day with a little over an hour of test documentation writing. Whee.

So I finally left the office, intent on hitting Wal-Mart real quick before heading home to what sounded like a very nice dinner Heather Marie was planning. But first I had to spend 20 minutes looking for my wallet (finally found it fallen under the seat in the car). Then it turned out to be "Stand Around in Ryan's Way Day" at Wal-Mart, wherein the goal was to stop directly between Ryan and the shelf he was trying to get something from, then stand there reading labels. You know what's in that bottle? MILK!!! That's all! Just milk! That's why it's in a bottle labeled "milk!'

I finally got to deposit my paycheck in the bank next door to that Wal-Mart, then I called home to tell Heather to start cooking dinner so it would be ready when I got there. Since I was running late, though, she'd assuming I'd forgotten to call, and dinner had been done for 20 minutes already. Mercifully, it reheated well.

Through out the day, there were dozens of other minor things, none of which would've been all that bad alone, but taken together they just piled on. Only so much water can roll off a duck's back before he starts to get wet.

The funny highlight of the day, though, was Heather walking in, seeing my writing this, realizing that she hadn't blogged yet today, and growling, "Oh blog!" as she went back to her laptop to write her post. The great part was how he embued "blog" with enough venom that it could have easily taken the place of any curse word I can think of.

So now I'm going to close out this rotten blogged day and go get some bloggin' sleep!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Quick Post

I may try to post something a little more lengthy later, but for right now, this is it. It's getting late, I'm helping Heather Marie with some visual aids for her presentation on Wednesday, and I've still got several little projects I'd like to do before bed, so this is just a quickie daily update.

I feel like I made some good progress on household chores today, mostly cleaning in preparation for our company this weekend. Nothing exciting, but fairly productive, I'd say.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Good Day's Work

I feel like we got quite a bit accomplished in the yard today. I think what helped was picking projects that we knew we could finish today instead of only getting half finished and having to leave some things half done. Hopefully the seeds we planted today will take root, although we'll probably have to water the heck out of it.

I am seriously tired now, though, and looking forward to a good night's sleep.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Yard Warriors

Tomorrow is planned as the big spring yard cleaning day, although I'm afraid it may interfere with Heather Marie's presentation prep. Hopefully not, though. On the agenda are mowing, weed-eating, seeding, and flowerbed filling, which should make for an exciting day.

After that's done, there are some programs I think I want to download to help with the stuff I want to do with my blog. Nothing major or expensive, just fun.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Don't Make Me Think in Your Restaurant

I think some of my biggest frustrations this week have been related to the service I've received in restaurants.

First, there was Buffalo Wild Wings in Fayetteville. Their daily special on Wednesdays is 50 cent drumsticks, which is pretty cool, if only for the novelty. At our office, we've really been enjoying eating lunch there on Wednesdays. We could each pick out the right number of drumsticks for our stomachs (ranging from 2 to 8 most days), and whatever assortment of their excellent sauces each of us wanted, then round it out with some potato wedges or appetizers.

That got screwed up this week, though, when we were informed that their new policy is that you have to order a minimum of four drumsticks per sauce flavor. Huh?! I could understand a minimum order of four drums, since it's got to be a hassle to make just one, but four per flavor? I don't think so. My orders typically consisted of 4 or 6 drumsticks, split evenly between two -- or occasionally three -- flavors, since I like a little variety. That's about average for our group.

Now, if I want two different flavors, it's a minimum of 8 drumsticks. Three means 12. Granted, if we all pool our orders, we can still get the right numbers and varieties, and maybe that's what they expect. I think they'll be sorely disappointed, though.

Why? Because that's a lot of thinking. When we go out to lunch, we really don't want to have to figure out who's combining orders with whom, how many legs everyone gets of which flavors, or how to divide up the bill. Don't make me think during my lunch, dang it!

The net result for the restaurant will be fewer of us going, and those who do ordering less food than we previously did. Nice plan.

The other restaurant lesson, from a completely different establishment, is that if you close at 8pm, and I come in at 7:55pm, I'm going to be really disappointed if you don't want to sell me food. I'll get over it, though. However, if I come in at 7:50, and wait around 5 minutes for service only to be told that you've just closed, then I'm going to be really ticked.

Not ticked enough to stop eating there, but frustrated enough (and uncertain enough) to no longer plan on late suppers there.

Honestly, I'm really not neurotic enough to lay awake at night worrying about this stuff, and after this post, I'm probably done thinking about it at all, but it probably wouldn't have bothered me if I hadn't already reached my annoyance and frustration threshold at the office. Oh, well.

It's nearly bedtime, and sleep is good.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Is Ruby Doomed?

How's that for a sensational title, huh? I really am worried about Ruby, though, so let me walk you through the train of thought.

To begin with, I really like Ruby. Not just "Ruby as the Basis of Rails," but Ruby itself. It's a very nice, very fun language. Likewise, some cool stuff is coming out of Web 2.0. Unlike the Internet bubble of the 90s, this time the web really does seem to have developed into a platform instead of just a gee whiz novelty, with Ruby and Rails as two of its most visible components. And therein lies my concern:
Once upon a time there was a great language with enormous power, simplicity, and accessibility, and lots of cutting edge development was being done in it. One of the areas where it was most popular was an exciting new frontier, one which promised to change the way people thought about computers and the world, and this language became synonymous with that area.
The language and area above aren't Ruby and Web 2.0, they're Lisp and AI, but the similarities are obvious, and I'm afraid the story doesn't have a happy ending. After the decline everyone's great AI expectations in the late 80s, there wasn't a sudden crash, just a gradual descent into disillusionment and frustration that may have developed an edge of cynicism in some quarters.

Maybe AI had it coming to some extent, that's beside the point. The real tragedy is that AI took Lisp down with it. Even though Lisp had a 20 year history before AI really latched onto it, and even though it was well-established as a viable (if not particularly widespread) general purpose language, it became widely known as "that AI language." It became so inexorably linked with AI that when AI fell out of favor, Lisp became tainted by association.

My fear is that Ruby is in danger of becoming the Lisp of Web 2.0. Ruby isn't the only thing being used for web development, nor is web development the only thing Ruby is being used for, but they are perhaps the most visible examples in both domains. What happens to Ruby when the bloom is off the Web 2.0 rose, though?

I'm not saying I think we're heading for another Internet crash, but I do think it's likely that the New Web, like the Old AI, will reach a progress plateau where new advances are no longer explosive, Earth-shaking revolutions. Instead, progress will slow to a gradual, evolutionary (and less exciting) pace, at least until the next paradigm shift, which will probably be associated with a new "in" language, one seemingly better suited for the new problems.

So, will Ruby be able to escape Lisp's fate? Is that even a realistic danger? I honestly don't know. My first guesses are maybe and yes, but those are just gut feelings, and may indicate some degree of wishful thinking. I certainly hope Web 2.0 doesn't take Ruby down with it, but that may be a hard trap to avoid. As great as Ruby is, I'm afraid the perception may be that it has an awful lot riding on one horse...and as with Lisp, perception may mean more than reality.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Yeah, it's the week of the original post titles. I'm tired and brain numb. Sue me.

Joel Spolsky absolutely nails a lot of the frustrations I've been having at work lately. It's really not all that bad, and being able to work on a variety of projects (as opposed to just writing code all the time) is nice. The frustration comes, though, when it feels like the other stuff is overwhelming what seems like it should be the main work. Sigh.

The main highlight of the day was probably fixing the lawn mower. When I got ready to mow last week it wouldn't start, so over the weekend I cleaned the air filter, checked the sparkplug, cleaned the sparkplug cable, flushed out the fuel intake and carburetor, tweaked the choke, and replaced the blade (not engine-related, but needed), but it still wouldn't start, no matter what settings I tried or how hard I pulled the start cord. So tonight I came home from work got out all my tools, donned my work clothes...and remembered to put gas in the tank.

Yeah, it's been like that recently.

Monday, April 10, 2006


Today was a typical long Monday. Work was slow, boring, and filled with hours of tedious stuff, and the second biggest highlight of the evening was a trip to Wal-Mart. The biggest highlight was that we got the kitchen table cleaned off enough to eat supper at it. Yeah, it was that kind of night.

I finished Ireland last night, and it was really good. Now I'm back into Eragon, trying to make my way through it before the movie comes out this summer. I'm actually enjoying The Pragmatic Programmer much more at the moment.

At the moment, I've got the free version of VoodooPad installed on my iBook. It's basically a personal wiki, which is looking pretty handy so far. I'm thinking, though, that I may setup a household wiki on my desktop computer instead, and just use it instead. That'll give me remote access to it, plus Heather Marie can use it, too.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A Real Post

Today was nice. Heather Marie and I slept in some this morning, then went for a nice hike at the Shaddox Hollow Trail east of Rogers.

The hike was noteworthy because we took Magaidh with us for the first time. When we got her, we'd planned to take her on all sorts of outdoor trips and treks with us, but she's been with us over five years now, and this was her first real hike. We feel kind of bad about that, but she's really only missed two or three camping trips or hikes in that time. We really need to get out more.

Tonight I've been using my new pen tablet to edit some maps for Heather Marie's presentation on the 19th. What an exercise in frustration! None of the three image editing tools I have on my system would do all of the things I needed, so I've had to switch back and forth between them. After finishing that, I wanted to do some image stuff for a new idea I've got for my blog, but even though it's a simple thing, I simply have not been able to suss out how to do it. Sheesh.

Fast Post

Just a quick post to check in. My Cox broadband has been down for two hours now, and it's back up, but who knows for how long.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Something Like Saturday

Didn't really get a whole lot of Saturday today. Heather Marie had to work, so I had to get up at nearly as early as usual to get her there on time, then I went to the gym to run and work out. A quick lunch, and some computer volunteer work at the museum, then finally home. That was pretty much it.

The day wasn't without some fun, though, since I took Magaidh with me to pick Heather Marie up, so we could walk around the museum grounds for a while, then Heather and I went to look for some stuff at Hobby Lobby and grabbed supper at the mall.

Pretty uneventful day, overall. We're talking about going for a short family hike tomorrow, but since it's 11:45 and we haven't actually done any planning yet, that's not looking too likely.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Battlestar Allegorica

Yeah, I'm a bad geek. I only just tonight finally got around to watching the Sci-Fi Channel's Battlestar Galactica mini-series. As you read my impressions, please keep in mind that the initial mini-series is all that I've seen, so these thoughts are unaffected by later events in the series.

First, I was struck by how much more somber this version is compared to the original series. I suspect that probably reflects current events now versus the 70's as much as anything. Whereas in the original show, the Cylons embodied the Cold War era Communist enemies: faceless, soulless, and completely inhuman. The new Cylons, though, definitely reflect our Terror War paranoia and fear of an enemy that looks just like us, not to mention the terrifying possibility of sleeper agents who won't even know they're traitors until too late.

Perhaps because of that, for me a lot of the early war stuff felt a little forced and strained. Taking Star Wars, for instance, in 1977 using the power to destroy an entire planet certainly seemed villainous and evil, but it also seemed prosaic and remote. In today's world, seeing entire cities suddenly and unexpectedly destroyed by nuclear weapons is too realistic a possibility to be very entertaining.

It's also interesting that they chose to make Starbuck a woman, and to introduce some obvious sexual tension between her and Apollo. In the original, of course, they were both men, and were best friends and rivals. The mini-series was made about 3 years before Brokeback, so the latter couldn't have influenced the Battlestar producers, but it's impossible for me to watch the new dynamic between the heros without wondering whether it's a knowing nod to the wink-wink nudge-nudge happy homoeroticism that lurked below the surface of so many 70's guy teams and shows. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

In general, I think you'd have to say that Battlestar Galactica is the best space sci-fi on TV today. Sadly, it doesn't take much to earn that distinction, although I think it could still make a strong showing even if Firefly were still on the air (although that would make the camera tricks that Battlestar cribbed from Joss Whedon even more obvious).

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Remote Blogging

I'm actually writing this from the Pontiac Coffee House in Springdale, while waiting for Heather to get out of her bellydance class. It was supposed to end at 8:30, but they're having some belly-drama, so I'm not holding my breath.

My activity for tonight was going to this month's NWADNUG meeting. The speaker, Caleb Jenkins, did a pretty good job demoing Atlas, Microsoft's take on Ajax. It really is looking pretty cool. What I'm most interested in, though, is a way of adapting those approaches to the desktop realm. That's actually what MS is doing with Avalon and smart clients, I think, and it has some promise. Even on a desktop and LAN-connected server, if you're pulling from thousands of list items, it's hard to auto-complete stuff. If you can do that in an Ajaxy way in a Windows form, then it becomes pretty easy.

I'm also contemplating the possibilities presented by essentially doing what Google Desktop Search does, by presenting the client UI in a web interface. Interesting thoughts.

Those thoughts are also counter to what I've been working on in Rails and Seaside on my own, but honestly, even though I love Ruby and Smalltalk as languages, if MS can make those things even easier -- or, in the case of desktop web clients, possible -- then that's a hard pill to spit out.

Did I mention that they served really good kool-aid tonight?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Odds & Ends

Amazon sucked me in last night. I was placing an order, and they offered me a free 3-month trial of Amazon Prime, and I bit like a hungry trout. I've always found the program attractive, but it only took a little quick math to realize I'd never get my money's worth. I did take advantage of the free trial to upgrade to next day shipping, though, which has proven frustrating.

First, I didn't notice that the time to ship my item (a Wacom tablet) was 1-2 days. Choosing a different color could've fixed that, but I didn't notice it in time. No problem. Disappointing, but my fault. My order shipped today, though, and the shipping time is still listed as 5 days. It seems like Thursday or Friday would reasonably qualify as "next day" for an order placed Wednesday, but Monday seems more like "day after next," even counting business days. I'm assuming for now that the estimated delivery date just hasn't been updated yet.

The second odd or end is that I got into the Windows Live Mail beta today. This is the new generation of Hotmail, and so far it's pretty cool. I use Outlook all day at work, and I'd say that Live Mail compares pretty favorably. It doesn't do everything that Outlook does, but it does a good 95% of the stuff that I do in Outlook. My only real complaint is that it chokes on the back button. Understandable, but also annoying in a modern web app.

The third odd end is that I was able to confirm today that I don't much think I like martinis. Maybe it was stirred instead of shaken, or maybe lemon would've been better than an olive. On the whole, though, I think what would've improved it the most would've been replacing the vermouth with coconut milk, the olive with pineapple chunks, and the vodka with rum. Sorry, Mr. Bond.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Another Bad Haircut

Not really bad, exactly. It was a perfectly competent haircut, it just wasn't at all what I wanted. My hair had gotten a little long (not creepy, hippy hitchhiker long, but just a little shaggy), and I was actually rather enjoying it. So when I went to get it cut today, I said that I liked the length on the top, but just wanted the sides trimmed and perhaps the whole lot thinned and textured a little.

"Well, alright!" she said, and she gave me a haircut! It was very Ray Stevens.

Now that it's dried, it doesn't look half bad, and when I begin my second career as either a funeral director or televangelist, it'll be a great look. Until then, though, it is not a good look for me, but I'm hopeful that I can salvage it in the shower tomorrow.

I've really got to find a good hair stylist. I had one once, but her jerk ex-boyfriend was stalking her and she had to move out of state. I saw a survey a few years ago that listed "great hair stylists" as one of Northwest Arkansas' best-kept secrets. As far as I can tell, it's still well-kept.

I want a stylist I can go to and say, "It's long, you've got plenty to work with. You know what my hair is like. Give me a style that looks good. No boundaries except that I don't want anything freakish. I'm ready for a change, so get creative." I've noticed that most of the people I say that to get a bit of a deer in the headlights look: "A change? You want to part it on the other side or something?"

Then they procede to give me exactly the same haircut that everyone else gets.

I think next time I need one, if I can't find a good place, I'll just do it myself. Yeah, it'll just be a short-short cut with the clippers, but why pay $15 for a mediocre haircut when I can get myself a mediocre cut for free?

The most frustrating part is that I can't even ask any of my guy friends where they go, because they all just get the basic guy-cut. I'll keep looking, though. There has to be someplace around here that would be good.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Back to the Oars

It's Monday, and back to work. I actually got up extra early to get to work early this morning, hoping that it would mean I could make it home correspondingly early tonight. Alas, 'twas not to be. I did get a lot done, but I was still a little late getting home, which was bad, since Heather Marie had cooked a very nice dinner for us.

Nothing big or exciting happening this week, at least until Thursday, when a bunch of us from work are planning to attend the Northwest Arkansas .NET User Group meeting. Two of us have been before, but the rest are NWADNUG newbies, which is good, because they're giving away free books for bringing new people. Regardless of the free books, I think it will be well worth the trip. We're pretty heavily invested in C# and .NET, so it's probably good to build those skills.

With that sort of skill-building in mind, I'm once again contemplating going for a Microsoft certification. Long, long ago, when I started working, I studied for the MCSD tests at the prompting of my employer, but we finally decided not to bother with it, since so many of the questions dealt not with real technical issues, but with nitpicky Visual Studio options. I'm not sure that the new MCPD will be much different, but it's newly updated for .NET and C# 2.0, so I thought I might try it. Unfortunately, the study guides (and the tests themselves?) won't be out until this summer. No hurry, I guess.

I'm also not entirely sure that MS certs really advance my skills in directions that I'm interested in taking them, but to the best of my knownledge, there isn't a "General Programming Skills" certification, nor an "All Around Computer Science" verification. Well, I guess technically my Master of Science degree would qualify as the latter, huh?

I've also looked into IEEE and ACM memberships. The IEEE seems a little excessive for my wants and needs, though, so I'll probably just go with the ACM, if either. I think someday when I own my own software company I'll provide professional memberships to my employees. Seems like a nice perk, and one that says, "We're interested in investing in your skills." I'm probably naive, over-optimistic, and under-jaded for that type of thinking, though.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Chocolate Lessons

We made our first gigantic cups of hot chocolate in our giant mugs late last night, and we learned something interesting. You know how when you finish a mug of hot chocolate, you often thing, "Wow, I kinda want another mug of that?" Well, you probably really don't. It turns out that, at least for us, one mug is about all we really want at a time. Aside from the logistics involved (it takes longer to heat three times as much water, it's harder to mix the chocolate powder, and it's going to get cold before you finish drinking it), it seems that one mug's worth really is all you want. Go figure.

I get the creeping suspicion that there's a really good parable there. Extracting it is left as an exercise for the reader.

The day was pretty lazy. The time change meant that although I felt like I was getting up by 10, I had actually slept until 11. Bummer. We did have a nice trip to the park, though, which made up for one of our weekend DVD rentals being screwed up. Netflix is starting to look pretty good, frankly. What we'd save by cutting our cable subscription down from 200 channels of crap to 60 channels of crap would more than cover the monthly cost of Netflix.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Fun Day

Heather Marie and I had a nice, fun day today. We slept in some this morning, then split the morning and afternoon between cleaning the garage, yardwork, and Gimore Girls DVDs.

This evening we went out in search of large coffee mugs. And I don't mean just big mugs, I mean coffee bowls! Well, not actually coffee, mostly hot chocolate. After looking at nearly every store and coffee house in town, we finally hit paydirt at Dillard's where we found not only a big mug, but multiple big mugs, so there was a wide selection.

I'm glad we finally found some after a couple of weeks of looking, but I'll admit to being a little disappointed that we found them so quickly. I love looking for stuff (or questing, as I jokingly call it), usually more than actually buying the things once they're found.

Going back to my childhood, I've usually been looking for something. Leader-1 and Aerialbots were my Questing Beast for a while. Before the mugs, I spent most of a year looking for a good pocket radio. It was really only relatively recently that I realized it was the quest I enjoyed more than its completion, which is probably why just finding the thing online and ordering it has always seemed like cheating.

So, now that we've found the mugs, I wonder what I'll look for next. Whatever it is, I hope it takes a long time to find. :-)