A concoction most foul

The building I work in threw a building BBQ last week. There were hot dogs that were actually pretty tasty, diagnosis there were tough hamburgers that made me think of beef recalls, and there was Tropicana “Lemondade” Juice Drink that made me rethink all the connotations that Tropicana had for me.

It used to be that the Tropicana brand meant some combination of pure, natural, and juice. Indeed if you go to their web site, there are real people who make their juice talking to you about how great it is, and I think everything there is 100% juice. Unfortunately there’s a seamy underside to the brand. I present to you, Tropicana Brand Lemonade Flavored Juice Beverage.

Only after drinking a third of the bottle did I stop to ponder the label. 260 Calories per bottle (cleverly divided up into 8oz servings that no one ever actually drinks), lots of high fructose corn syrup, and my favorite: glycerol ester of wood rosin. If that doesn’t quench your thirst, I don’t know what will. Oh there’s some lemon juice in there too, just one of thirteen ingredients.

The tropicana web site fails to acknowledge this line of delicous and nutritous beverages, which is a real shame. There’s only an entry here at a PepsiCo FAQ.

I just think its a shame when companies whore out their relatively good name like this.

Interviews on Trivia

I’ve started interviewing again now that I should be finished with my Master’s degree in a month or so. I’m reminded again of the wide range of interview styles people use. My least favorite is the trivia test. This seems to happen more often with Java-related job interviews than Ruby-related ones.

I may never understand why any employer would value memorizing the Java API over being able to reference the docs and know where to find things.

I had such an interview just last week. Here are some of those questions

  • How do you execute a PL-SQL stored procedure from JDBC?
  • How do you import classes into the classpath of a JSP page? (apparently ‘no one in their right mind does that anymore’ isn’t a good answer to this one)

Who memorizes that stuff?

My favorite question of all was this : what are the two conditions under which a finally block is not called. I got one of them, (System.exit()) but the interviewer wouldn’t even tell me the other one (“You won’t learn that way”). I googled it later to find the answer not well defined. One of the ways I saw mentioned was the thread “dying” but Thread.stop() is severely deprecated so that shouldn’t ever happen. The other answer I saw floating around doesn’t really fit – when a exception is thrown from the finally block it doesn’t complete, but the finally block is still called.

I was talking about this with Frank and he came up with another way: infinite loop in the try block. I then thought of calling PowerSystem.getMainPower().setPosition(OFF).

Now I can’t wait to get that question again!

Olympic Torch Relay

This morning I was reading about protests during the Olympic torch relay in Paris forcing the torch’s security team to extinguish the flame.
That got me to thinking: does anything say “committed to reducing carbon emissions” like carrying a glorified burning stick 85, 000 miles around the world? That’s a lot of jet fuel, not to mention all the resources used by security teams in each site, as well as traffic jams caused by that kind of disruption. For reference, that’s more distance than the previous two torch relays, combined. In fact it’s only about 3000 miles more than the previous three torch relays combined.

Torch relay distances

(Stats from Wikipedia)

The carbon footprint of this endeavor has to be pretty large- measured against the problem its a drop in the proverbial bucket, but huge endeavors like this must signal some people that continued consumption is ok. Why trade in the SUV for a smaller car if this stuff is going on?

Astute graph readers may notice this tradition got its start in Nazi Germany in 1936.

Another fun fact is that the relay for the 1976 Olympics traveled only 775 physical kilometers, because it was transmitted by satellite from Greece to Canada by generating an electrical signal from the flame.

Here’s the torch tracker google gadget:


I’m really lax about updating my wordpress install. Turns out I got burned this time, and inadvertently hosted a bunch of links to various flavors of porn site.

I was on an ancient (and security hole ridden) version of WordPress, and I wouldn’t even have noticed if the hack didn’t also break posting new entries. I was attempting to post my previous entry on Ruby programming, and the post wasn’t working. So I figured it wasn’t working because of the programming language syntax being rejected somehow, so I would update to a more modern version. Which I did, and that still didn’t work so I started poking around the log files. Lo and behold, my access log is full of requests for html files in a subdirectory of the site. They shouldn’t be there I thought!

So I’d been hacked- someone got remote access to my account using this hack in a file “ro8kfbsmag.txt” (more info). All cleaned up now (I think) but not how I’d meant to spend my afternoon.

My personal info on lost IBM tapes

I received a letter today marked “Urgent message from IBM. Please open immediately”. What’s this I thought? It turns out my information relating to my IBM employment was on the tapes lost back in February. I had read about the incident some time ago when it became public back in April.

At the time I figured I couldn’t be involved, because I hadn’t already been offered this free id-protection for a year. Turns out they just took a month and a half to notify me after it became public knowledge (3 and a half after it happened). Nice job all around IBM.

Not so much java for local web startups

There’s a local group of entrepreneurs and developers that meets every couple of months in Cambridge. I was curious about this month’s presenters’ choices of development platform, so I took at look at their headers and here’s what I found.

Of 7 presenters the platform stats fall out thusly:
2 Ruby on Rails (plus one suspected, but not confirmed)
1 Asp.net
1 Python (cherry py)

By way of contrast, a quick and dirty survey of jobs in boston/cambridge/brookline on craig’s list turned up the following stats
232 jobs containing Java
113 jobs containing ASP.net
164 jobs containing PHP
46 jobs containing Python
34 jobs containing Ruby

Presumably the difference is because of lots of folks in the area are working at medium sized companies on older, established (i won’t say “legacy”) systems?

Shoo-in for a pulitzer

Next year’s pulitzer prize has to go to Marianne Lavelle of US News and World Report for this article titled “Is a penny a gallon worth a detour?” and subtitled “Cutting back on driving rather than searching for bargains is often a better way to save money on gas.

Wow! Who would of thought driving less would save you money, and that going out of your way for a few cents per gallon savings wouldn’t be worth it?

Now that she’s gotten this difficult study wrapped up we can all look forward to her future work on ending the war in Iraq and converting to a hydrogen economy – should be easy by comparison 🙂

Long hold times at Authorize.net

Over the past two days, I’ve had the misfortune of gathering a good sample of Authorize.net’s support hold time. (fyi, they are an internet credit card processing gateway) Four calls – each with hold times between 12 and 15 minutes! At between 9 and 10 eastern time, so a good chunk of the country is still sleeping no less. That doesn’t seem like any way to run a business. When I asked about the hold times (on the third call), the guy said its because its the first weekdays after the monthly billing cycle. That was meant to be reassuring but its got to make you wonder what are they doing wrong with their customer billing so that everyone has to call them about it?

In their defense, the problem I was calling about wasn’t their fault, and they indicated they thought some of our information was wrong right from the get go.

Hopefully it’ll be smooth sailing from here on out and I won’t have to call them again.