Monday, May 2, 2005

On the way to ORD

Flying to Chicago for a couple days, mostly sifting through a storage locker left over from last year's fun and frolics, seeing some family, and closing out the remaining estate issues.

Was amazed at how quickly I got to LGA this morning, at most 25 minutes from Brooklyn Heights. Security took another 15 minutes. Now hanging out in the AA Admiral's Club.

e.p.c. posted this at 07:59 GMT on 2-May-2005 .

Spring? Hello, spring?

Somehow, on landing I was thinking it would be warmer in Chicago. Or at least the same temperature, but no, it's in the 40s, and I swear it was snowing as I drove out of O'Hare.

e.p.c. posted this at 15:37 GMT on 2-May-2005 .

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Chicago Building Department approves 28 buildings by dead architect

According to this story Chicago Tribune | The case of the busy, deceased architect, the Chicago Building Department approved plans for 28 building projects which were submitted by an architect who died in 1993. The plans were actually drawn up by a draughtsman who'd worked for the architect, based on plans originally created by the architect. The draughtsman now faces a USD$250,000 fine.

e.p.c. posted this at 09:57 GMT on 3-May-2005 .

Thursday, May 5, 2005

“Irish” Gegen 1989-2005

My cat died today. Now, that will come as a surprise to most people since I've never actually had a cat, however from 1992 to 1994 I shared a house in Wappingers Falls, NY with Pete Gegen and Irish, the cat. Irish of Chicagoland

Irish was a bit of a character. He was very much an outdoors cat and where we lived was perfect for him. We were in a house on a 5 acre lot with a small pond (just right for Fishkill-Myers Corners hockey games in the winter). Irish would go out at night and come back in a half hour on most nights. Occasionally, though, he'd return in the morning, scratch or thumping against the door.

These morning returns usually involved Irish returning and presenting his trophy of the night: a mouse, bird, or the occasional small rabbit. For awhile we kept track of his kills on our whiteboard (being both IBMers, we had to have a whiteboard in our kitchen). Unfortunately being from the pre-digital-era, I have no idea where the photo of the board is.

Irish moved around a lot, following Pete through various transfers (IBM == I've been moved). One move involved my following Pete down I-81 from Poughkeepsie to Winston-Salem, NC with Irish riding alongside in the passenger's seat. On the plus side, I had air conditioning in Pete's Accord; on the minus side: the car had a manual transmission, and Irish was quite vocal about being caged for nearly 12 hours of driving. He also managed to comment whenever I mis-shifted.

Irish across Chicagoland

I last saw Irish last year. He sort of looked at me like Who the hell are you? and then seemed to recognize me. Given it'd been ten years since I last spent any significant time with him that was a bit surprising. Irish and Frisket have even met, briefly. Irish wasn't too keen about a dog in his house. Frisket of course seems to think of cats as friendly creatures to play with. We managed to keep the two separated.

Anyway, Irish was a fun cat. I'd write something up here about how he played some seminal role in the development of the Internet at IBM but other than putting up with Pete and I working late nights on the Books On Internet project in 1993 his role was to demand food, brushing, and adoration for his catch of the day.

Adios Irish...may the mice be plentiful and the racoons declawed wherever you are.

If you ever met Irish or know Pete, drop him a note.

e.p.c. posted this at 23:35 GMT on 5-May-2005 .

Friday, May 6, 2005

Irish's tote board 1993

Kudos to my brother Pat who happened to have videotaped the infamous whiteboard where we tracked Irish's kill count in 1993-1994. He sent me a shot of it overnight, here 'tis: Irish (the cat)'s kill-tote board for 1993

e.p.c. posted this at 08:40 GMT on 6-May-2005 .

The Disney Muppets: why that just isn't funny

This Article in the Times of London on the purchase of the Muppets franchise by the Disney corporation caused me to attempt to buy the The Best of the Muppet Show on DVD from Amazon, my fear being that the DVDs will disappear shortly to be re-edited and re-issued, regurgitating the corporate claptrap that Disney will feel is appropriate, removing all humor that could possibly be remotely offensive to any person, group, and amoeba.

The Muppet Show, by contrast, had an unmistakably American take on psychedelia.
It centred on optimism, modernism — no passing fad, from roller-skating to Star Wars, was ever overlooked — and things such as Elton John singing Crocodile Rock surrounded by crocodiles, rockin’. The Muppets would take off into space, sail the theatre out to sea as a pirate ship, turn into Hell’s Angels, or all get murdered; albeit in an amusing way, and by Liza Minnelli. Furthermore, the show, in an excess of energy, would often deconstruct itself as it went along, whether it was Sam the American Eagle’s neocon analysis of the acts (This is degenerate) to Statler and Waldorf’s sour running commentary (Just when you think this show is terrible, something wonderful happens — it ends!).
The problem is that Disney — as one must expect from a global business enterprise — tends to think of its intellectual properties in terms of merchandising opportunities, rather than the opportunity for some great chicken-gags. It’s telling that the announcement about the Muppets’ relaunch mentioned that Muppet ringtones and screen-savers would precede any actual artistic content.

e.p.c. posted this at 13:27 GMT on 6-May-2005 .

Monday, May 9, 2005

Nivi : Greasemonkey will blow up business models (as well as your mind):

Greasemonkey lets you mash-up websites. It lets you extend and script websites and integrate that script right into the original site as if the designers had intended it to be there. It lets you use their web site, their data, their servers, their work to serve your purpose and function. There will soon be an army of hackers enhancing every site you use. Whether that site likes it or not.

e.p.c. posted this at 15:06 GMT on 9-May-2005 .

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Crystal Meth in Kalispell, MT

The New West Network published a series in March-April 2005 about the impact of crystal meth on the small town of Kalispell, MT. A cycle of drugs, prositution, and criminal activities ensued allegedly centered around a prominent Kalispell businessman.

Yet the [...] story isn’t ultimately about prostitution, or at least not the simple sex-for-money transaction that people associate with the word. Rather it’s about the hunger of addiction - the meth user shooting up more often, with larger doses, trying dope made with different precursor chemicals, always hoping to duplicate that first wonderful rush. Or the businessman run off the rails by a raging obsession, by a need for power, or sex, or a combination of both [...]

e.p.c. posted this at 12:17 GMT on 10-May-2005 .

Tufte on Dog camouflage and interactive sculpture

Tufte on Dog camouflage and interactive sculpture

e.p.c. posted this at 17:54 GMT on 10-May-2005 .

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Technology journalism or blogging: Deconstructing Maui X-Stream

This DrunkenBlog: Deconstructing Maui X-Stream is a fantastic article, technically a blog post, but really a great piece of journalism. It tells the story (so far) of a company which appears to have taken several open source projects and products, relabelled them, recompiled them, and marketed them as its own commercial software. The article is thorough, researching many angles, asking for quotes and confirmations. It's what I thought journalism was supposed to be when I took the required Journalism 101 classes in college, not the ad nauseum on the runaway bride or Michael Jackson. Too much of what passes as journalism these days is simply rehashes of talking points from press releases.

e.p.c. posted this at 10:47 GMT on 11-May-2005 .

Monday, May 16, 2005

Some weekend notes for 15 May 2005

Saw The Interpreter Saturday night in East Hampton. I'd give it 3 stars. There's a couple of "eh" moments, but the pace is decent and there were no sappy romantic scenes. It reminded us of Three Days of the Condor which was also directed by Sydney Pollack (hat tip to Jon H).

If you change the battery in your IBM Thinkpad X31, be certain that you've either shut down or hibernated the system. Changing the battery while the system is simply suspended is a bad move.

I am spending the day tomorrow at the Personal Democracy Forum. I don't expect to blog it.

Later this week, Lisa, I and Frisket will be travelling to Boston so that Frisket can earn additional points for staying at the Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge. In addition I will attempt to lure unsuspecting IBMers to leave.

Frisket got a bath and trim today. She needed one after swimming in the stagnant pool in Amagansett over the weekend.

e.p.c. posted this at 00:34 GMT on 16-May-2005 .

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Crimson Hexagon: Books Borges Never Wrote

Borges - Crimson Hexagon: Imaginary Books: a catalogue of books, monographs, and encyclopædias mentioned by Jorge Luis Borges in his various books, with some elaborations to fill in certain gaps.

e.p.c. posted this at 06:19 GMT on 17-May-2005 .

Elsewhere: Little privacy hole in itp32.exe

I had an odd thing happen while trying to register a copy of Lotus 1-2-3. Read about it here: Little privacy hole in itp32.exe

e.p.c. posted this at 20:02 GMT on 17-May-2005 .

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Road-Trippin'

Driving to Boston today for the weekend.

e.p.c. posted this at 10:40 GMT on 19-May-2005 .

Beware the Storrow Drive-Gov't Center-BigDig interchange

We left Brooklyn around 3:15 p.m. We arrived in our room in Cambridge precisely just in time to watch The Apprentice at 9:00 p.m. A bit longer drive than normal. Traffic was a nightmare from Brooklyn all the way to New Haven, CT. We took I95 since the Hutch and Merritt were both messes from the time we got in the car.

Once in Boston, where I've been, oh, like a zillion times, I managed to make a wrong turn on Storrow Drive. See, to cross over to Cambridge, you get off Storrow at Government Center (or Govt Ctr as the sign reads). However, just this once, I was actually trusting the GPS to remind me when to turn.

And it didn't.

So...we followed this loopy road which looked ok since it took us across the Charles. I then made my second mistake: I avoided the I93 ramp and stayed on US1. That however ramps around and around to the Tobin Bridge. Once on, you cannot get off until you are in Chelsea.

Another set of driving around blocks and we were back on the Tobin Bridge. However, inbound there's a US$3.00 toll. This time we did take the I93 ramp, which isn't actually a ramp to I93 but to local streets in Somerville.

We pulled into The Marlowe and let Frisket out. She's popular here, they even had a greeting for her at her eye level, though as far as I can tell she cannot read.

e.p.c. posted this at 23:16 GMT on 19-May-2005 . , Comments [1]

Saturday, May 21, 2005

APIs to various Web Applications

Internet Alchemy Webapp APIs

e.p.c. posted this at 09:01 GMT on 21-May-2005 .

Just FYI, the Hotel Marlowe has an open access point in the lobby with great signal strength. The Marlowe is on the far side of the CambridgeSide Galleria, opposite IBM's Rogers Street building.

e.p.c. posted this at 12:09 GMT on 21-May-2005 .

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Crunch mode doesn't work

In a previous life, I “worked” 65-80 hours per week. I quote work because what I did ranged from conference calls, to reading and replying to 100s of emails per day, to managing people and the occasional bit of coding. Now, with only a couple of exceptions, no one ever directed me to work that much, but I was constantly missing deadlines and since the company I was at was resolute in not hiring additional staff, the only other avenue was to work longer days and nights.

Initially I was driving 110 miles round trip per day. Some days I would stay in a local hotel, or at the company's management training center, but most days I'd drive home to Poughkeepsie, NY or Wappingers Falls, NY. It was not unusual for me to arrive home at 11:00 pm, fire up the laptop and dial in to replicate my email in case any disasters occurred in the 45 minutes it took to drive home; sleep for four-five hours, and then get up to return to work by 7:00 or 8:00 a.m.

I was not a most happy, cheerful person.

My attitude towards this approach changed after one late afternoon drive home. I'd actually worked until the early hours of the morning, and then slept in my office since I couldn't get a hotel room. The company had showers on site and by then I'd learned to keep a spare change of clothes in my desk. Anyway, I'd had at most two-three hours of sleep in a chair in my office, then worked until 3 or 4 in the afternoon. I don't remember what was so critical about that day that I work that late, but I do remember what happened next.

On the drive home, in the stretch just after 684 meets I-84, I woke up as the car plowed through the gravel on the side of the highway. Just in case you missed that, I woke up as the car plowed through the gravel. Now, I have no idea how I'd managed to get that far (probably 20-30 miles from CHQ, another 20 miles to home) without crashing or hitting anything. The rush of adrenalin was enough to keep me up for the remainder of the drive home, though I got off the interstate as quickly as possible.

After that little incident, I made sure to basically have a ready reservation at the local hotel or training center. Yes, I learned the wrong lesson, I continued to put in insane hours (and I can't even blame reading blogs, I was actually doing some sort of work activity).

Later, I briefly tried commuting from Poughkeepsie to New York and maintaining the same hours. Since hotels in NY are not quite as cheap as they are in the greater North Castle metropolitan area, I had to return home. I only did this for a couple of months before I moved down to the city (again, learning the wrong lesson).

All of this is an introduction to this great article: Why Crunch Mode Doesn't Work: 6 Lessons: There's a bottom-line reason most industries gave up crunch mode over 75 years ago: It's the single most expensive way there is to get the work done. It's published by the International Game Developer's Association and is partially a response to a posting by a spouse of a games developer over the insane hours that they were expected as a matter of routine to put in.

It doesn't work. It doesn't matter whether you call it crunch mode, or startup mode, or even crisis mode. Once in awhile you can draw on your reserves and possible get things done (I know part of the reason I used to work late was that it was the only time I had to myself to actually focus on stuff, instead of answering inane requests for redirects, new web sites, or domain names). But, when it's a regular practice you'll only do far more harm than good to yourself, your team, and the project you're working on.

e.p.c. posted this at 15:33 GMT on 24-May-2005 .

Friday, May 27, 2005

Students blog after high school shuts paper

unmediated: Students blog after high school shuts paper: After a Georgia high school eliminated its student newspaper and journalism class because the paper highlighted negative stories, the student staff responded by posting their opinions and copies of the newspaper on a blog, Speaking Underground.

e.p.c. posted this at 09:50 GMT on 27-May-2005 .

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Dilbert and Focal Dystonia

Scott Adams, the author of Dilbert has a condition called focal dystonia, which I'm going to define as a breakdown in the network between your brain and your hands: you tell your hand to draw a straight line and it starts drawing a squiggly line. According to Scott Adams, Drawing the Line, Adams had to change how he draws the strip and adapt to a new drawing tool because of the impact on his work.

Often, focal hand dystonia patients are people who use the small muscles of the fingers and hands.

Adams switched to a new tool, a Wacom Cintiq graphics tablet, to draw Dilbert:

Since January, Adams has been sketching and drawing "Dilbert" using an interactive display developed largely for graphic artists. Produced by Wacom Technology, based in Vancouver, Wash., the Cintiq 21UX LCD tablet allows artists to use a stylus on a pressure-sensitive computerized tablet. For Adams, this means he doesn't have to push down hard to draw. In addition, the software requires him to draw on an enlarged scale. Together, these effects keep his brain from prompting his hand to freeze up, he said.

Via: Mindhacks.

e.p.c. posted this at 12:27 GMT on 29-May-2005 .

Star Wars 3: RotS

Saw Revenge of the Sith this afternoon. My review: great effects, decent story line. Lose the love scenes and it would be better. I feel sorry for Natalie Portman, her role is rather passive in this episode after her more active roles in Episodes 1 and 2. Hayden Christensen is better in this episode, but I can't help but feel the role was miscast.

I know not to expect high art, but he seemed wooden and stiff, just reciting lines. It does weave together the story lines enough to satisfy me. I'm sure there are people dissecting it and pointing out various plot holes, but I didn't notice anything glaring.

We saw it at a theatre with digital projection using DLP proectors. It seemed a bit sharper and the colors seemed brighter, there was no scratches or odd frames that you see in traditional film projection. I suppose if I see it again I should go to a traditional showing to see if I notice any differences.

e.p.c. posted this at 22:57 GMT on 29-May-2005 .

Slightly acerbic and eccentric dog walker who masquerades as a web developer and occasional CTO.

Spent five years running the technology side of the circus known as www.ibm.com.

More about me here.

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