Showing posts from May, 2008

New assignment...whew...

Well, after 10 months, I'm right back on the same floor in the same building I was in for 6 years. I'm sharing a 12'x12' office with a boisterous guy, Patrick, and have a terrific view out the window onto "downtown" Lexington (such as it is).

This building also shares a parking lot with Del's building, so we don't have to drive to pick one another up. Good all around, though I'm now much farther away from the other guys on the printer I need to be working with.

Quote for the day, yesterday


Well, I subconsciously forgot for a couple days, then I thought I'd just wait for ______

Just wanted to remember that one. Boring, out-of-context, yet utterly significant.

Payback: Whitney's 10-year reunion

So, last Fall, I drug my beautiful wife to my 10 year high-school reunion to her great amusement, disgust, indifference, and consternation. This past Memorial Day, it was my turn.

Ten year reunions are pretty egotistical things, everyone showing-up in their best (rented) sports-car, displaying the hot wife/husband they caught, and boasting about the great job they're using to climb that ladder of success. Old flames are to be properly derided like a decade-old divorce proceeding. Old social pecking-order is to be re-established, if only for one shining moment of decoration and falsity.

Oh, and one's kid is supposed to run around like a maniac and split her lip wide open. Wait that was just us. Quote of the day:

Me: "Wow, that was a total trainwreck. Seemed like everyone was having a blast except for us."

Bella: "Yep, welcome to my LIFE throughout high school."

* * *

So yeah, in true type-A fashion, this mighty crew of 20 persons had not only planned an out…

There I was, at the top of second gear....

or "Man, do I need a swaybar"

Six runs on a ~70 second course where you hit 60mph before a 10mph right-hand hairpin. YEEEEEEHAW.

It was a good day, except: I came in second, I forgot to pack lunch, and I forgot to pack sunscreen. I've a nice beet-red thing going on on my arms, legs, and face.

I think a front swaybar (at minimum) is in my future, if not a full STX-compliant wheel & tire package. I'm a tad tired of playing on (and destroying) my all-seasons.


Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Let's get this out of the way first: This is an unnecessary movie made solely to bilk folks out of their hard-earned money. It stars an over-the-hill actor (Harrison Ford) and features a contrived plot line with holes like Swiss Cheese.

It's also great fun, laugh-out-loud funny in places, well-paced, and genuinely exciting. It doesn't take itself too seriously, since the whole thing feels like National Treasure 2 and 1/2, right down to the treasure map and the hokey history references.

In this installment, we find "Doctor Jones", 20 years after his Last Crusade, happily teaching in his tweed jacket after running afoul of the KGB--specifically the mentat Thufir...whoops wrong movie...noted psychic Irina Spalko, played by a sword-wielding Cate Blanchett. A greaser straight out of Brando's Wild Bunch turns-up delivering the suddenly jobless Indiana a treasure map written in a dead pre-Columbian tongue (which, naturally, he and he alone can decipher).

Fast forwa…

Evil Plolyglot programmer ploy

We had a share-session on Polyglot programming the other day, after Mark returned from SDWest 2008.

Tonight, I had an evil thought:

Half of these languages are ones most in the audience have neither seen nor played with--what if you added some "trick" language names to the slides to see how full of crap your audience was. It's a play on the same allegory from "The Emperor's New Clothes":

"...yes, and so your application logic should be components written in a systems language like java [sic], with the higher-level being in a dynamic language like JavaScript, Ruby, or Dimebag."


"Yes, you've surely heard of it! It's a language represented using flickr images manipulated using 4D Holographic gloves that parallelize any algorithm using only 2 lines of code. And it compiles down to machine independent machine code."


"Oh yeah, I've heard of that. Just testing you."

Manager: "Say, could we rewrite the …

Ah, memories...


There was one gal who I had a devestating (and persistent!) crush on for 3 years. Never heard from her except when something was broken on her darn computer.

She'd flash that megawatt smile, though, and there I was, fixing it again. And hating myself in the morning.

Shout out to Stu

Just a shout-out to my FIL, Stewart Brentzel, who met with success in selling his Olds Intrigue on the internet, with a little clerical work from me. He did his homework, took some great pictures, priced the car fairly, and executed the deal.

Good for him!

Monday Rambles

Pretty awesome (if mundane) weekend:

Saturday, we went to Sam's Club and filled two carts in supplies for our new Chest Freezer (thank you, Tax Rebate!) Then, I mowed & trimmed the yard while doing an oil change on the Odyssey. Pretty quiet, stress-free day.

Sunday was just...perfect. Church was great--our pastor preached a message on how unbiblical debt is (unless for urgent necessities), complete with a "come forward and shred your credit card" alter call. (only 1 person did). Then, Maria and I cruised down (at 55mph!) to Mom & Dad's in the Camry.

Got to drive Dad's new GMC 1/2 ton. It's a bruitish truck, very powerful, but very, VERY stiff. I think I liked the old GM trucks better...they didn't feel so massive. It's got a 3.73 rear axle (same ratio as my BMW) and it feels very touchy out on the highway. Also, they seem to narrow the windscreen, so you feel like you're driving a tank. OY.

Mom's going in for her first post-treat…

Programming: Ever wonder if...?'s all just smoke and mirrors?

Ultimately, any program running in 99% of the computers out there today is running the old fetch-execute cycle on a Von Neuman architecture: A processor fetches the next instruction, executes it, stores the result, and goes to the next instruction.

Atop that, we've layered: Subroutines, Modules, Functional Programming, Structured Programming, Object-Orientation (Objects, Inheritance, Polymorphism, Composition/Aggregation), Closures, Atoms, Processes, Multithreading, Semaphores, etc.

We're desperately trying to make the digital computer be more than the sum of its parts, just as a living human brain is somehow more than a collection of neurons and synapses. We *desperately* want abstractions...need them, in fact.

That's the whole point of the progression from bare binary programming, through assembly, to high-level languages, etc.--abstraction. The speed and capacity of computers grows. The speed and capacity of the minds of programme…

The other day while in the lab...

Image, they've put together an "Innovation" lab over here, populated with all sorts of cool gadgets, gizmos, and decorations, everything from a Magic 8-Ball to the latest iMac and Nintendo Wii. There's remote-controlled this, electronic that, and lots of "so, what's THAT good for?"

One thing I was really salivating over showed-up the other day:

Yep, it's a Kindle Amazon's eBook reader.

VERY neat.

It uses an 'electronic paper' display...instead of being the normal LCD screen on, say, an iPhone, it's a contrasty, easy to read display that looks like a super-duper Etch-a-Sketch. It looks like, well, a printed page. After a few minutes, the device disappears, and it's just like you're reading a book. Controls exist for flipping forwards and backwards through the book. Even the form-factor is pleasant and intuitive--like a big paperback or a small hardcover.

It's pricey at $399, but that includes integration over Sprint's …

The great irony..., in 2001, I started working on our top-notch java app, avoiding working on Drivers & Printing, and a surefire job in Inkjet Firmware.

Fast forward:
2007: Working on the Printing stuff.
2008: Working embedded with the Inkjet Firmware.

Still waiting for the guys in this meeting tomorrow to go, "Say, aren't you that fat kid with glasses and the bad haircut?" :D

Random and RFP: Commuter car 2010

* After talking to Jeff, looks like there's a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) class just across the street from me. Don't know if it's something I'd like to do or not, but seems like a good way to learn. Bit pricey, though. Though, as my in-laws commented the other day, it's not so good to announce you're riding a 600cc motorcycle in a residential neighborhood w/o a license (or even a learner's permit). Have been researching, and sounds like most 250cc entry-touring bikes get like 66 mpg and don't have a problem cruising down the interstate. (Put the phone down, Mom...)

* * *

Yes, it's spring, and I've got car fever once again. Something about Craigslist's RSS feed capability is just...evil...

In that vein, I'm thinking requirements for a new commuter ride. Some are general, some are OCD-level specific.

- Fun to drive
- Manual Transmission
- Backseat suitable for for small humans
- Reasonable cargo capacity with said humans aboard.
- …

WTF: Surviving on Credit Cards?


Finding themselves strapped for cash and unable to use their home as an ATM, Americans are increasingly turning to credit cards to cover gas, groceries and other living expenses.

Huh? "Using their home as an ATM"..why do you want to do that?

For many people, racking up credit card debt is not a choice they want to make, experts say. Not too long ago, they could have tapped into the equity in their homes through loans or lines of credit or refinancing. But this debt, which usually carries lower interest rates, is no longer as widely available with the collapse of the housing market.

Or...umm...they could live within their means?. Geeze, personal finance is not rocket science: This is how much money I (or we) make. These are our expenses, listed from most to least important. Subtract one from another. If they don't balance, cut expenses if you can. Try to live on substantially less than you make, and stop caring what Buffy down at the gym thinks of your old car…

Who's that chicken-leg guy on the scooter?

Yep, me holding Maria (Mom: Put the phone down...They only sat her on there with me for the picture!)

The weekend...

Some tweets on the weekend:

Drive-ins rock. Grab the van, lots of food, and enjoy yourself some Americana. When the kids get sleepy, let 'em stretch-out in back.
Finally bought myself some new shirts, after Whitney declared she was burning my shrunken, 5-to-7 year old collection of Polos. Only regret: No pictures of how ridiculous I looked in the pink (PINK!!) polo she insisted I try on.
Big Brown looked like a stud out there, but I can't get the image of Eight Belles out of my head. When Big Brown took off at the top of the stretch, she dug deeply (too deeply, maybe), and kept pace. It's impossible to know, but seemed like she wanted to win that race. Then, that was it...both front ankles shattered, and she had to be put down immediately. I turned around, and Whitney was in tears, saying "Why do they *DO* this? Why do they keep running these horses like this, if it's going to kill them?" Amen, sweetie. Amen.
Sunday was to ride a motorcy…

Review: Ironman


This was an absolutely fun move. Great (not overwhelming) SFX, tight editing, and excellent performances from Downey, Paltrow, and Jeff Bridges.

This movie made me appreciate:

How dull the Superman movies are
How overwrought the X-Men franchise is
How truly BAD DareDevil and Electra were
How much of a genius the Batman series was (Burton's two and "Batman Begins", only!)

Look, I'm no comic-book geek (I know, I know, surprise!). I had no preconceptions going into Ironman but it's a frickin' feast--action everywhere, neat "gee whiz" gadgetry delights, and the quips and one-liners from the top-level actors remain punchy throughout. Robert Downey, Jr., is a revelation--Smart, self-deprecating, and yet utterly human. Gwyneth Paltrow plays the demure wallflower, Pepper Potts, and the stunner proves her acting chops by making us believe she IS unsure of herself.

I am buying this movie when it comes out on DVD, and slotting it between Gr…

w00t -- AutoExtremist on TTAC

First there was Car and Driver, the irreverant magazine full of gearheads who told the truth. But, that was before the internet era. Then, there was a little-known beacon of truth, Bob Bowden's The Car Place (now defunct), where a guy told even more truth.

Then came the grand poobah, Peter DeLorenzo's AutoExtemist, from an insider who ranted and raved about how uncompetitive and doomed Detroit was. Selling Chevy's is nothing like selling Tide detergent. And it was very good.

Then came another beacon of excellence, a muckraking blogger who runs The Truth About Cars (TTAC). Daily (sometimes hourly!) commentary on the news from the industry, with the same tone and ferocity as AutoExtremist.

Now, it looks like they've joined forces. Excellent!

Review: Kubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron)

It's been a few years since I tried out a new version of my favorite Linux Distribution (ubuntu), so I downloaded the 64-bit ISO and put it on my 3GHz AMD64 Dell box here at work.

The short version? It's sick. Good sick. SIIIIICK, yo!

In prior lives (back when I ran Redhat 6 on my 866Mhz PIII in college), I was a KDE fan, so I grabbed Kubuntu (KDE + Ubuntu, get it?) instead of the Gnome-based Ubuntu this time. It's flashy and fast, and includes the new KDE 4 GUI. Nice *enough*, I suppose. Having programmed in Qt once upon a time, I have lots of respect for the GUI paradigm that Qt & KDE enforces.

Visually, the KDE desktop isn't as nice as Windows XP or Vista, and it's leagues short of Mac OS X. Font rendering stinks. It's just plain hard-to-read compared to TrueType and ClearType. The softness of Aqua or Mac OS is missing. This is just the sort of boring, nebulous, hard-to-define stuff that nerds hate, hence it's probably never getting better. …