Sunday, April 30, 2006

A walk recorded

Shira and I took a walk tonight. But to where you ask? And what route did we take? Why, I'm glad you asked. I brought along my new GPS to give it a try and collected some data. I then found the site www.gpsvisualizer.com which takes geo data and maps it for you. The result are some maps below.

So far, I really like my eTrex GPS. It's very basic and very durable - which is exactly what I wanted. It also connects up a computer with a variety of software, which I have yet to try, but am excited to.

Tonight, I manually entered coordinates into gpsvisualizer - though that will get old quick. I'm hoping that I'll be able to slurp a single file from the GPS, and create images like the one below in just a few steps.



Sunday, sunny Sunday

Today was a lawn/car day.

My lawn is looking fairly green, and is over 72% actual grass. Which makes me very pleased. Some useless facts: I walked .63 miles during the process of cutting my lawn, and reached a max speed of 5.7 mph (yes, I was playing with my new gps).

We also washed cars with Jenna. Attached is a shot of Shira waxing her car - showing us a display of elbow grease.

--Ben

Friday, April 28, 2006

Birthday evening

A few pictures from my birthday evening...

Shira bought me steak. This may not seem like a big deal - but keep in mind she had to drive to Rockville (cross state lines!) to visit the Koshermart to get me said item. And she bought me eclairs...mmmm....

My mother-in-law bought me a Garmin eTrex. I'm excited about the device because it's both useful and hacker friendly. How can you go wrong?

Birthday, or no birthday, someone's got to peel potatoes. And that's my job. Luckily, we have a rotato - only the best As Seen On TV device ever constructed. It really does make peeling potatoes an easy task.

Not shown - the cake Shira baked for me. She had this perfect chocolate cake made, and as it was cooling, she managed to shatter a glass bowl right over it. She said that she demonstrated her love for me in two ways. First, she baked me a cake. Next, she didn't feed me shards of glass for dessert. Sweet, isn't she?

--Ben

Birthday revenge of the blog

For those of you who know me and Ben, you know that he desires his life to be an open book (hence: THE BLOG), while I prefer to stay as far away from it as possible and groan every time something about our life gets posted. But, in the spirit of Ben's wishes to have his life be an open book, I will take this opportunity to let all 3 of his readers know that today is Ben's birthday. (This post was probably a waste since two of his three readers are his dad and brother, but what the heck!?) Happy Birthday, Benj!

The Truth About George W. Bush - Bushisms

The Truth About George W. Bush - Bushisms

A fairly extensive, and of course humorous, list of Bushisms. In fact, the entire site is probably worth your reviewing -- if you lean to the left anyway.

Mystery Solved: I actually found the above site, because my browser had www.now.org loaded in it. Which was odd, because I hadn't intentionally visited that site.

It turns out, I just added a quick hack to my emacs mail setup, so that just hitting enter while on top of a URL loads it into my browser. Apparently, the url matching regexp was a bit too permissive, and when I typed:

... now? <return>

My browser loaded the value of now.

So now emacs is finding me random and humorous sites on the web. Try adding that feature to Eclipse!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Top Ten Lies of Engineers

The Top Ten Lies of Engineers by Guy Kawasaki

A fairly accurate set of statements, which if I ever utter, I'm most likely lying about. A good read for developers and non-developers alike.

I thought Guy had a brilliant comment about the notion of outsourcing:

"My theory is that for version 1.0 of a product, the maximum allowable distance between the engineers and marketers is thirty feet."

Dave - tomorrow I'm bringing in a tape measure to see if we are withing an allowable distance.

--Ben

Shots from around the office

One of Tonya's screen rotated. I accidently hit Control + Alt + Left-Arrow and this what I got. Strange, to say the least. Though Kostyantyn did remind me that if you had a tablet PC or the right kind of monitor, this behavior would be quite useful.

I can just imagine the tech support calls they must get over this "feature."

A shot of landing the ball on the tee for the first time. This is no simple feat - and has taken more practice than I'd like to admit.

It's all in the smooth wrist action and the follow through. Oh, and don't forget to bend slightly at the knees.

Yeah, we even got some work done between these distractions.

--Ben

Digital Digressions: Death by Powerpoint

Digital Digressions: Death by Powerpoint

The above post is a quick read with some good points about giving useful presentations. It's amazing, everyone loves to bash PowerPoint, yet it is by far the industry standard.

In terms of technology, I prefer Beamer or PLT Slideshow, but that's just because I'm a tad bit of a geek. But technology aside, the points in this article are relevant no matter what.

One day, just one day, I'm going to work up the courage to pull off this presentation hack.

Boing Boing: New episode of The IT Crowd, awesome sysadmin sitcom

Boing Boing: New episode of The IT Crowd, awesome sysadmin sitcom

The review on Boing Boing promised that this show was laugh out loud funny -- and after watching an episode last night, I have to agree. Two thumbs up. If you are a geek, give it a watch.

Disclaimer: I watched the clip at 2:30am this morning, while using it as a way of taking a break from solving a nasty bug. So, franky, I could have found anything funny in that situation.

So, go watch.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Gliffy.com - Diagram and draw in your web browser

http://gliffy.com/

Another web 2.0 app that looks like a neat concept. I haven't played with it yet - but at least it's not another google maps meets flickr meets craigs list mashup.

My favorite diagraming tool is still Graphviz (aka dot). Graphiv is a very clever language that allows you to describe diagrams in a terse format and it renders them automagically. It's really handy for turing structured data (like database tables, or workflow descriptions) into a picture.

But when it comes to interactive tools, I don't yet have a favorite. I'd love it if a lightweight web app could fill the need.

--Ben

Satellite Office

Check out my new satellite office. It's got a place for my desk, two walls, and good company around me.

At 26" wide, just think of all the developers we could cram into the office using this setup.

Sorry the picture is so dark - it turns out my new space doesn't have much in the way of light.

--Ben

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Thoughts on Process

Seth's Blog: Why are you afraid of process?

Seth Godin makes an excellent point about the power of process and how many resist it (to some degree, including myself -- right Kathy?). The following quote pretty much sums up what he has to say:

Process, on the other hand, appears to be for Dummies.

So we bristle when we're asked for our weekly goals sheets, or when the boss wants us to use a database or when the insurance company requires docs to follow data-driven guidelines. We pass up the tenth novel by a successful author... Because the process has become too transparent.

And yet, in many cases, process is underrated.

Process is your ace in the hole when your intuition stops working.

I really think his point is valid. I know, for example, that as programmers we live and die by process at times. Sure, you need to be creative in designing a solution to a tricky problem. Or fixing a bug by changing the least amount of code.

But in many ways, the simple act of using CVS in a responsible way or tracking bugs, are examples of very useful processes. Heck, just naming files in a consistent way is valuable. Sure, they may not appear to be exciting aspects of doing a job. But they consistently free you up mentally to take on the really interesting stuff, and perhaps most importantly, give you a safety net from doing something you wish you hadn't.

The tricky part, as far as I can tell, is figuring out which are the good processes (like requiring that all bugs be tracked in a bug tracking system, and not on the back of napkins) and which are the bad processes (like requiring a full up front specification before you write a line of code). The only way that I've figured out how to make this decision is to try the process. Give it an honest attempt.

This, of course, means that you need to leave your comfort zone - but hey, as Seth Godin explains, if you can combine your intuition with a powerful process, you'll be much stronger for it.

The ants go marching ...

Apparently, I'm not the only one who has been enjoying the warm weather we've had recently. A whole cluster (gaggle?) of ants were quite active as they marched into our kitchen.

Luckily, Shira's out of town, so she didn't have to put up with this nusince.

This time, rather than covering the kitchen with a chemical haze that does more damage to me than the ants, I did something different. I used my brain.

I said self, where are the ants coming from? Why not solve the problem at the source.

Sure enough, I went outside and found a line of ants marching up the side of the house. A few quick squirts of nasty ant stuff, and poof, problem (kinda) solved.

Amazing what happens when you actually think through the problem before acting.

--Ben

Deep Thought of the Night

Something about this quote struck me as being worth passing along.

Once you have found the meaning of life, will there be enough life left to live meaningfully?

Better to live life as meaningfully as you know how, and find more meaning as you go along. You will gain and so will those you influence.

It's almost like saying: don't spend your life coming up with the functional spec, just build it - and figure it out you go along.

Hmmm, agile methods meets philosophy.

Via: Chabad

Deep Thought of the Night

Something about this quote struck me as being worth passing along.

Once you have found the meaning of life, will there be enough life left to live meaningfully?

Better to live life as meaningfully as you know how, and find more meaning as you go along. You will gain and so will those you influence.

It's almost like saying: don't spend your life coming up with the functional spec, just build it - and figure it out you go along.

Hmmm, agile methods meets philosophy.

Via: Chabad

Monday, April 24, 2006

LED Throwies

LED Throwies

Another fun project - create ultra cheap LEDs flashy dealies. Mix this with the cheap digital fisheye camera and you have the makings of lots of hacking fun, or the right price.

Via: ParentHacks.

Fifty Ways to Take Notes - Solution Watch

Fifty Ways to Take Notes - Solution Watch

An interesting collection of services that give you different ways to save notes. They range from services defined for note taking to podcasting sites.

Heck, you can take notes via IM.

Via: LifeHacker.

Update: OK, the Sabifoo site is pretty nifty. You just add an IM contact your IM client and send a message. The result is a website and an RSS feed.

This seems like a really easy way to publish content from my Sidekick, as it has a terrific IM client. Now I just need to find a use for it.

The Aggregate: Fisheye Digital Imaging For Under Twenty Dollars

The Aggregate: Fisheye Digital Imaging For Under Twenty Dollars

A fun project that leads you through building a digital fish-eye camera from a really cheap parts. This looks like a fun afternoon project.

Via: Make

The Aggregate: Fisheye Digital Imaging For Under Twenty Dollars

The Aggregate: Fisheye Digital Imaging For Under Twenty Dollars

A fun project that leads you through building a digital fish-eye camera from a really cheap parts. This looks like a fun afternoon project.

Via:

Links to this post

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Passover: Lessons Learned

This post has a fairly odd audience: Me. Well, not exactly me. Me in about 1 year. See, the tricky part about Passover (as you can tell from my previous posts this year) is that you pretty much turn your eating life upside for a week. You need separate dishes and food. And while some of the food is very good, most of it you don't want to be eating the rest of the year. Which means that ideally, what you buy and use for Passover should be just the right amount to last you the 8 days.

That's the theory anyway. My mom makes it a practice each year to note down what she learned - so that next year, she won't repeat her same mistakes (or buy yet another 5 boxes of fruit jellies - which don't have any fruit in them, and have the nutritional value of eating a 5lb bag of sugar).

So, here's what I learned this year. Hopefully it will come in handy next year.

Preparation

  • Buy another large roll of shelf page - I finished up our big batch this year.
  • Cover three shelves in the fridge, not two.
  • Buy dish washing bins - how you got along this long without them is beyond me.
  • Buy full sized utensils trays - the tiny ones you own are more of a hassle than anything else.
  • Cover a shelf in the panty - it worked great as a place to store stuff.
  • Buy a strainer. Thanks Vera and Ari for providing one!
  • Buy a cutting board. Thanks again to Vera and Ari - you guys rock!
  • Buy some 4 disposable cookie trays. Shira's cookies are one of the best things we cook on Passover.
  • Don't forget, Mom provided you with salt and paper shakers - use them.
  • Contact the Rabbi early about selling Chametz. You'll be glad you did.

Food

  • 2 boxes of matzah seems like the right number. Nothing worse than having boxes and boxes left over after Passover.
  • The Dannon plain yogurt was a good move - you can skip buying sour cream, as it substitutes just fine. And you should try adding fruit (crushed pineapple worked great), cinnamon, vanilla and nuts to it.
  • Don't buy Streit's Kiddush Wine - that stuff was nasty. So nasty in fact, that I think I may have gotten a bad bottle.
  • 2 cans of tuna fish seem about right.
  • Whatever you do, don't buy La Jolla Farms Classic Russian dressing. Yikes that stuff was bad. How do you mess up Russian dressing? Well, they found a way.
  • Lieber's Marshmallows were delicious. Buy plenty of bags. Granny's marshmallows were nasty. Avoid them.
  • The Manischewitz chocolate covered nut caramel thingys were quite yummy. Give yourself a treat and buy two boxes of them.
  • Buy a single bag of potato chips. Although tasty, we never seem to get through more than one bag.
  • Buy a clump of beets (see below).
  • Pickup a new container of olive oil - never hurts to have one around the house. The same goes with sugar.
  • One word: prunes.

The Seder

  • You should use red wine for the Seder. Though, the Shuchan Aruch goes out of its way to say that if you are in a community where non-Jews believe that Jews use blood in their wine, you can use white wine. Perhaps we should have one cup of white wine to remember that there were (are?) communities where ignorance on this order of magnitude existed.
  • You can use a beet instead of a lamb shank bone. In fact, in some ways it's almost better than a lamb shank bone - because the goal is to remember the sacrifice, not to perform it in any way. The beet can remind you of it without making you think that you are actually using a lamb for sacrificial reasons. (OK, that's me going out on a limb here...you should probably still use a shank bone.)
  • I asked my Rabbi why, during the section that talks about how in every generation they rise up ..., we cover the Matzah. She didn't have a good answer handy - other than to suggest that the paragraph I was talking about was critical. If we can't imagine ourselves leaving Egypt, at least we can try to remember the lesson of always being mindful, and being fortunate for, our freedom. On more than one occasions groups of Jews have assumed that they were living in enlightened times, only to find out that things weren't what they seemed. Perhaps the act of covering the matzah, and making a bit of a fuss over that section, refocuses our attention on that critical area - and causes us to remember all the more, how true the statement made in the Haggadah is. (Anything that sounds good from the above paragraph should be attributed to my Rabbi, anything that doesn't jive is all me.)
  • The section that immediately follows the quote I just mentioned has always been of confusion to me - till I finally got some clarification from the Art Scroll Haggadah. First, Laban is mentioned as proof the of statement that "in every generation ...". Second, the quote that the passage about Laban introduces is one of four quotes that we analyze. These four quotes are essentially an executive summary of the entire Passover story: (1) We went down to Egypt, (2) We were enslaved, (3) G-d heard our cry, (4) G-d miraculously brought us out of Egypt. There you have it, 4 easy quotes that cover the whole process.
  • The Pour out they wrath... section is another area I asked my Rabbi about. She mentioned to me that in many ways it is a way of expressing "righteous anger." That is, we can be angry for our persecution, and we can ask G-d to make amends for this - but it is not our responsibility to exact punishment. We aren't supposed to go around blowing up shopping malls or committing other acts of terror - but we should still feel free to express our anger in a Kosher way. (Again, anything in here that doesn't work is probably me butchering my Rabbi's thoughts - so please, blame me.)
  • Torah.org has a nice service they offer where they will send you a reminder daily of what the count of the omer is. They even include the blessing right in the e-mail, so you have all the info you need at hand.

I think that about covers must of what I learned this year. See me next year.

I'd love to know if you learned anything special this year...please feel free to leave some notes in the comments.

Heavy on the Chevy

Popular Stories - Heavy on the Chevy

Chevy had a nifty idea -- let the world create commercials for their new Tahoe SUV. I'm sure it sounded like a great plan - put the Wisdom of the Crowd to work for you.

Turns out, not everyone likes SUVs. In fact, quite a few people don't like them. And they don't like them enough to spend time creating clever ads using Chevy's own system to bash the heck out of their new product.

The result? Ads like this one and that one. Heck, there's a site that's entirely dedicated to ads that bash the new Tahoe.

Luckily, there's no such thing as bad publicity. The people who want to buy SUVs will still buy them - and Chevy probably got a bit of extra press out of the deal. Apparently, they are even going to leave the negative ads in place (smart move). So everybody's happy.

Via: Church of the Customer

The Personal MBA

Josh Kaufman: Inside My Bald Head | The Personal MBA

The Personal MBA is a list of "42 books and periodicals" that Josh Kaufman recommends you read. A quick look through the list shows some very intersting entries.

Looks like it's time to update my Amazon.com wishlist.

One day I should sit down and make a list of geek'ish books that I think should be on every developer's bookshelf. I know it would include SICP for starters. And I'm sure lots of others too.

What books would you recommend?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Entertainment

Jenna and Justin were kind enough to invite (and coax) me out tonight. Shira's on a business trip, so they wanted me to be social. They have made sure that I ate and was entertained for at least one night.

We were at Whitlows again for live music, which was fun to watch, but awfully loud. Hmmm, I'm turning 30 in a few days and I'm already complaining about how loud the music is. That's bad news.

Soon I'll be complaining how today's youngsters don't know how good they have it (DSL?! Why in my day it was a 300 baud modem - and we liked it!).

Thanks J&J for a fun night.

--Ben

Update: The name of the band was Warehouse.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The perfect mitzvah

On our way into Giant we were asked if we want to support the fight against child cancer. We said yes, of course, and plopped down $5.00.

(For those not in the know, supporting a cause like fighting cancer is essentially a good deed - known in hebrew as a mitzvah. Well, a mitzvah is technically something more specific than that. But for our purposes, this definition is fine.)

Now for the perfect part. They are actually scratch off cards! We ended up winning a few coupons - but just the thrill of knowing we might have won something was worth it. Gambling meets charity.

How can you go wrong?

--Ben

Management Tips

http://www.proft.org/tips/evil.html

Finally, some useful managment advice.

--Ben

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Passover has passed over

It's official. Passover is done. I've already celebrated by having a bowl of *real* ice cream. Yum.

Tomorrow night: pizza.

Now that's something I've really been missing.

--Ben

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Recipe: Mom's Marvelous Matzo Balls

In another few minutes I'll be signing off the computer in observance of the last two days of Passover.

The first night of Passover was marked by me trying to rush around and find a recipe for Matzo Balls - so we could make Matzo Ball Soup (aka Jewish Penicillin) for the seder.

I did what any good geek would do in such a situation, I broke out google and searched around for a recipe. But time was running short, and I wasn't seeing anything too relevant. So I fell back to plan B - I called the Moms.

My mom doesn't cook from recipes, so calling her and asking for instructions is a bit on the silly side. But hey, I had to try. Then I tried Shira's mom. I hit pay dirt. She wasn't even at home, but was able to give me the recipe over the phone, from memory.

And now, I share this recipe with you. If you ever need Matzo Balls in a hurry, this could come in handy.

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 2/3 cups of matzo meal
  • 2 tablespoons melted margarine
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

  1. Combine eggs and salt
  2. Add in water and beat the mixture well
  3. Add matzo meal
  4. Melt margarine and add
  5. Mix it all up real good
  6. Regrigerate for 1hr. Or as long as you have. If you are like us, you have a huge pot that you need to bring to a boil, the time it took for this to happen turned out out to be enough time in the fridge.
  7. Form into balls and drop into boiling water
  8. Let the balls boil for 30-40 minutes (or longer, or shorter)
  9. Add the balls to chicken soup - and enjoy!

If we could pull this recipe off without fully paying attention, it must be pretty fool proof.

Happy Holidays to all!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Closet 2.0

This past weekend we had More Space Place install a custom closet that we had designed. This means we officially recovered from the Great Closet Meltdown of '05.

So far we are very impressed with the new setup. The installers were great - they left no mess and didn't run into any gotchyas. The actual closet materials seem nice and solid - which was our primary requirement.

At first we were concerned that we were going to be left with less space than we started with. But, not only does everything fit - we even have extra space! It is true that we have a bit less stuff, as we did another round of clothing donations (I so love Goodwill) and decided to not store some stuff in our closet. But still, the setup really seems to be space optimized.

Finally, I can hang up clothes without wondering if this will be the final straw. What a great feeling.

--Ben

In Memory

[This post was started 4/16/2004]

Today we laid Shira's grandmother, Bess, to rest.

I knew her for many years, as she lived a few blocks away from where Shira and I grew up. She was the quintisential grandmother - kind, generous and very loving.

At 94, she had a remarkable life. From starting off life essentially persecuted in Czarist Russia to ending up in a quiet suburb in Rochester, NY, she truly personfied the American dream.

One story that comes to mind happened a few years ago. I recall watching her inscribe an appointment in her datebook. I watched as she scribbled some nonesense down. I thought, "wow, how sad...she seems to have lost the ability to write."

Someone noticed my confusion and essentially said, "you idiot, she's writing in short hand." Oh. Rule number one - don't assume.

She'll be missed greatly.

On our way out of the cemetary we passed my father-in-law's plot. The ground had been filled with dirt and had fresh grass seed placed on it. It was surrounded by fresh grass, which made it stand out even more. All I could think was, what a metephor. Here was this huge scar on the ground that was starting the long process to recovery.

The photos aren't anything special - the entrance gate to the cemetary and the police office helping to direct the funeral traffic.

--Ben

Sunday, April 16, 2006

You know you are in the boonies when...

When you come across a *live* bait vending machine. This is just priceless.

Dad: 24 wax worms for $1.75 - is that a good price?

So, if you could make a vending maching that would dispense anything - what would it be?

--Ben

Wiped

Shira's grandmother passed away two days ago (on Friday). She was 94 years old. She'll be greatly missed as can be expected. We drove up just a few hours ago to be here for the funeral today.

As usual, Shira drove the whole 7hrs, and now we are both pretty exhausted. She for driving. Me for passengering (hey, it's not as easy at it looks).

On a plus note, I got to re-read a chunk of a book on Haskell, and for the first time, I think I get it. I mean really get it. Wow, what an impressive language. The combination of pattern matching, lazy semantics, use of automatic currying and just plain emphasis on terseness makes for unique code. Unique good, or unique bad, I have yet to decide. But it certainly is unique.

It makes most perl code look long winded.

--Ben

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Final preparations

We have a big seder planned tonight - there's all this wonderful food being cooked by others while I stand back and blog. Oh, and wash dishes too.

We've got brisket, carrot something or other and flourless chocolate cake planned. Yum!

Special thanks to Vera for catering.

--Ben

MONEY Magazine's Best Jobs

MONEY Magazine's Best Jobs

Check it out, Software Engineering is rated by CNN as the best job in America. Though my Dad didn't fair too poorly, as he's a professor, and they got ranked number two.

  1. Software Engineer
  2. College professor
  3. Financial adviser
  4. Human Resources Manager
  5. Physician assistant
  6. ...

Josh, my brother the ER Dr. didn't make the top 10, unless he would consider a small pay and responsiblity cut to become a physician's assistiant.

And Dave, what the heck? Why didn't Slave Ph.d Student make the list? What were they thinking?!

Update: Whoops, in my haste I forgot to mention that it was Simone Simon Heseltine who passed me the link in the first place. Thanks Simon.

Update to my update: D'oh. I can't seem to give Simon proper credit. For the record, it's Simon Heseltine, not Simone. Sorry Simon. For the next few days you can walk around the office calling me Mr. Simone if you'd like.

DMV - done

What an uneventful trip to the dmv. I've got a new license and I won't have to do this again till 2011. Whew.

--Ben

DMV - photo time

That wasn't too painful... They just called me, I signed a document or two, said I would be glad to donate my organs, and gave them my Visa card. All told, it was a painless event.

Now all I need to do is get a new photo and I'm done.

...

D'oh in the amount of time it took to write this post, they called me for my photo.

Now all I need to do is get my license and I'm done.

--Ben

DMV - start time

OK, for the record, it's 8:47am and I just arrived at the DMV. So far, the experience has been pleasant. I've got a number and think I'm sitting the generally correct area.

Will this turn into a classic DMV horror story? We'll see...

--Ben

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

On readiblity and scheme

Are all those parentheses in scheme (and lisp) readable? That's probably the first question anyone asks when they see something like:

(map (lambda (x) (sqrt x)) '(1 2 3))

Below is an excellent response that summarizes an explanation I've seen a few times.

The bottom line is that the parentheses don't get in the way any more than those pesky space characters do between words. Spaces are only invisible because your brain parses them out.

Now, should you try to write code without using an editor that does smart indentation and paren handling? No, of course not. But try writing Java code or any other language with the wrong environment and you'll get the same results. Massive frustration.

In general, the question of readability is a loaded one. Readable to who? To someone who knows the language? Or to someone who knows a class of languages? Or to someone who knows nothing about the language? Is readability the same thing as "uses a lot english words?" Of course not, otherwise we would all be programming in cobol.

Think about it - is Hebrew a readable language? Well, if you don't know Hebrew, then it's not. If you grew reading and writing it then it is.

In general, I think the question of readability is a discussion worth avoiding. Instead, I'd rather talk about the kinds of abstractions I can build up - which allow you to represent a concept in a clean way. With the right abstractions, I think almost any language becomes readable.

Oh, and you need patterns. Because, as the message below describes, it's the patterns that our brain's thrive on.

From: Richard Cleis <rcleis@mac.com>
Subject: Re: [plt-scheme] question about dr. scheme indentation
Date: Mon, 10 Apr 2006 18:47:06 -0600

[original question about the best way to format Scheme trimmed]

Either of those formats reduces the compactness of Scheme. The 'usual' format is very easy to read; after getting used to Scheme, the parens disappear and your eyes see the relationship between the lines.

(define (myfunction myparam)
   (let* ((myvar 10))
     (+ myvar myparam)))

Not convinced? As you read sentences, you don't literally put individual letters together to make words. Nor do you literally put words together to make sentences. This may be hard to believe until you experience one of those perception demos where you can read entire paragraphs even though most of the letters are removed.

Your brain recognizes patterns then forms thoughts. Likewise, by letting DrScheme form consistent patterns, you can read programs without counting parens.

rac

--Ben

Monday, April 10, 2006

Cleaning time

Passover is fast approaching, which means it's time to clean. That's right, all those stray bread crumbs become a non-kosher nuisance in just a few short days.

I'm always amazed at how many parts I can turn my fridge into when cleaning it out. And how much schmutz I can clean out of the bottom it. And perhaps most amazingly, how it can all go back together in one piece.

Happy Passover and Easter to one and all. May you scrub all the chumetz from your life and only have the good parts left. And may all the pieces fit.

--Ben

The man has skills

Karun has officially mastered the art of getting the ball on the tee. This may sound trivial, but it isn't when the ball and tee are in a snow globe, suspended in liquid.

This little brain teaser is on a few co-worker's desks and provides infinite frustation for most of us. But not Karun.

He's got the system mastered.

Sorry folks if Release 2 is late - my team's been focusing on something much more critical.

--Ben

Review: Takedown

I just finished Takedown, by Rick Cowen and Douglas Century. This is the story of how a NY city cop managed to go undercover and bring down dozens of mob members.

It's actually a remarkable story - mosty because it was all made possible from one cop's quick thinking. In fact, the cop probably allowed the whole investigation to happen simply because he parked his unmarked (but obviously noticeable as a police vehicle) car a few blocks away from a crime scene. If he was lazy and parked in front, this story would never had happened.

I'm not always a huge fan of mob movies and such, but I decided to take the plunge here. It was worth it - the stranger than fiction behavior of the mobsters was precious. From their eating habits and sense of justice to their expressions - it was hard to believe real people act this way. But apparently, they do.

This was one book that I truly appreciated listening to. The author provided a few different New York accents which were priceless.

One major annoyance of the book was that it was abridged. I hate that. But even with missing some parts of the book it was still quite worth while.

I give the book a 8/10 for acting and for being a fun listen. It very much helped that the good guys won out and the bad guys lost big time.

--Ben

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Lost at sea

In a sea of dresses, that is.

I had the pleasure of going dress shopping for the three weddings we have coming up.

Me, I'll wear the same tux to all three events. No questions asked. Being a woman is just tough.

--Ben

T809 and Reversed Photos

http://cellphoneforums.net/archive/topic/207320-1.html

We love Shira's T809 cell phone - the photos are really high quality. Though at some point we noticed that all the photos were reversed. How we did this was beyond us.

After digging around for more than I'd like to admit, I found the above thread which explains how this "feature" works.

(It involves playing with the volume keys on the side of the handset)

Why you need your cellphone to take pictures in reverse is beyond me. Have they really run out of useful features to put on phones?

--Ben

Friday, April 07, 2006

Moved up - a bit

Check it out - the VP of operations herself came by today to provide me with my very own trash can. True, it's the smaller than usual version, but it's all mine. I'm honored.

As an incentive, she also brought by the normal sized one, and promised me if I kept up the good work, I may one day earn that one.

One can only hope.

--Ben

Sinking feeling

Check out the photo of my phone.

How many voice mails do I have waiting? None right, no red blinking lights.

Wrong. I just found out I have 35 (yes, thirty five) new messages.

Uh oh. Looks like have a bit of a usability problem with my phone.

This is just not good.

If you left me voice mail at the office - all I can say is - sorry.

--Ben

Favorite table name

Apparently, I've been dwelling so much on the contents of this table that Karun and Kostyantyn finally just broke down and named it "BensTreasureChest".

I'm honored.

Select count(*) from BensTreasureChest;

Has such a nice ring to it.

--Ben

Thursday, April 06, 2006

More aerial shots

Some more attempts by me to produce some lo-fi aerial photography.

I'm officially on the ground back in DC - which means my Albany trip has come to a close.

I had a fun and educational time hanging with the folks in Albany. The conference calls should be a new experience now that I know what everyone looks like.

Thanks for hosting me - Rich, you can pick a lunch spot any time.

--Ben

Typical gate location

I had to head to gate A6. Not too bad, right? Except, there are only 6 gates. Argh. Last gate as usual.

On a good note, it appears as though Albany Airport offers free wifi, a desk and a plug. What more could one ask for?

--update-- Actually, they don't have free wifi. The service was named WiFiFee, not WiFiFree.

--Ben

Review: Capote

Last night we saw Capote. I went into the movie with zero expectations - I had no idea what it was about, who was acting in it, or what time period it was set in. Heck, I didn't know if it was a comedy or drama.

It was a drama. Oy, was it a drama.

In general the movie felt like a long winding journey going nowhere. I kept waiting for the big twist. And waiting. And waiting. And then the credits rolled.

It just wasn't that kind of movie.

[2 days have passed, and I'm continuing my review]

OK, I still don't have much good to say about the movie. Whenever we see a film like this, Shira simply chalks it up as a zero and moves on. Not me. Nope, I'm going to keep rolling the movie over in my head till I see the value that it has.

So far, I've had no luck.

Tell ya what. I'm going to keep thinking this over and if I have any brilliant insights I'll add them here.

And if you saw Capote and thought it was great, please, please, use the comments below to explain why.

Oh, and I have to say - I knew the movie was trouble from the start. They showed a single preview of an upcoming move. One preview?? Often that's the best part of the film (little known Simon Family lore: my dad always had us watch the FBI warning on videos, because "sometimes that was the best part of the movie"). I felt short changed then, and it was all down hill from there.

--Ben

Albany Visit

I'm writing while at the airport, heading to Albany, NY to visit another one of our offices.

I made it here with enough time to ponder one of the great mysteries of air travel. Why is it that the gate I'm flying out of is always the farthest walk in the teriminal?

Look, I understand if I'm leaving from gate D45 - but I'm leaving from D1 and it still managed to be the furthest away. This always happens to me.

Are the close by gates fake? Is there a whole class of people that always have the near by gates? I know, I know, these are big questions.

Hey, I'm just glad I made it to my gate at all - even if it does require a map, compass and three days of rations.

--Ben

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Helping out

As a cost cutting measure and a good source of entertainment, I don't have my own garbage can in my shared office.

And, as it turns out, I happen to produce a fair amount of waste.

So, about 35 times a day, Tim finds some stange object hurling towards him, which I intended for the trash. Turns out, my aim could be better.

So, in an effort to help me out, Tim (or some helpful soul) setup a backboard for me to improve my shots.

In fact, I've always been bad at basketball. I mean, I was so bad that I managed to score because nobody ever covered me. I used my gross incompetence as a secret weapon. They would ignore me the whole game, only to use me to score trivial shots in the last few minutes.

Maybe one day when I earn a bit more seniority I'll get my own trash can. Oh well, one can dream.

--Ben

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