Wasted days – ugh!

I’d rather be programming than trying to make an application work – I hate losing days to trying to figure out why some fairly opaque application (or worse a group of them trying to interact) is not working – shutdown the server, change a config file, start up again and see if that mattered. Repeat until my brain feels squishy and I want to just curl up and take a nap. I’d feel better after programming for 20 hours than i do after having issues making something work that i need to test.

The future is scripting and templating

I was *really* impressed with the Turbo gears 20 minute wiki screencast. (eventually I’ll get around to checking out the Ruby on Rails screencast as well, though I’m sure it kicks a similar magnitude of ass.)

In 20 minutes, the screencaster (Kevin Dangoor) builds a simple wiki using a object-relational mapping library and a templating library, and even throws in some AJAX-like functionality into the client (which works in no time because the data to be displayed is already in a dictionary, ready to be rendered in any format)

Anyone doing development for the web should think twice about bringing the slow, expensive and overly complex J2ee stack to the party. Complexity is not a virtue.
One couldn’t get but a tiny fraction of the amount of work done in 20 minutes with J2EE. So why is the software industry so wedded to the Java train?

Public Radio Podcasts: or lack thereof

I’ve never thought much about podcasts – why do I want to listen to some pimply-faced nerd’s heavy breathing over his thoughts on Magic The Gathering? *Until Now…*

One thing (ok, the only thing) I miss about not driving to and from work is listening to the radio, specifically the news in the form of MarketPlace Money. Without a portable radio, and with a good chance of being underground on a train that time of day I’m pretty much out of luck – enter the podcast!

But wait, even though I can stream the show live when its on WBUR, or anytime from the marketplace website, they don’t offer podcasts. I can listen to the show anytime, anywhere there’s internet for free, but if I want to download the show to place and time-shift **offline** I am asked to fork over some money. It would cost them nothing extra (as in close to zero marginal cost) to get a small script written that will generate a podcast XML file and provide that file along with an MP3 of the show (at a negligable bandwith difference over streaming) .
I’m all for public radio making enough money to continue production, but it doesn’t ring true that podcasts are more expensive than streaming- especially since real audio server probably costs money, and none of the tools for podcasting have to.

Fortunately its pretty easy to record the realaudio stream to an MP3 and create an XML wrapper, and I can have my damn podcasts. (Unfortunately they don’t stream any faster than real time when recorded) Fair use? Isn’t it the same as if I recorded it off the radio directly?

Is the audible.com fee for podcasts just a tax on lack of scripting savvy?

Toby Lightman mini-show at the head of the charles

I first discovered Toby Lightman by randomly wandering around Music Midtown a year and a half, killing time before the next show I planned to see. She’s captivated the crowd with her fantastic voice, great songs and some fun covers – that’s a really long prelude to say I saw her again yesterday making the most of a cold and blustery mid-afternoon set at the Head of the Charles regatta, which I wouldn’t go to if not for the entertainment and people-watching, because as far as I’m concerned, if you’ve seen one boat row by, you’ve seen ’em all. I think she’s better live than on her album.. I wish I’d thought to bring her CD to get it autographed!

Apparently its ok to kill people if you’re old

Boy, I can’t wait until I’m 93 years old. Apparently in Florida, they not only let 93 year olds with dementia drive, but don’t charge them with a crime if they happen to say, kill someone while driving around, then drive around for another 3 miles with a the body of their victim in their windshield. I don’t know anything about dementia, but how can you forget a **corpse in your windshield**? Wouldn’t that tend to block the view a bit? See AP story on cnn.

States seem to have thoroughly cracked down on teen/inexperienced driving with various graduated licenses, isn’t it high time we started requiring frequent (every year or two) relicensing above a certain age?

Managing Interruptions

The field of HCI known as Considerate Computing or Interruption Management appears to be taking off, shoving its way into widespread consciousness in the form of a New York Times Magazine article “Meet the Life Hackers” and a follow up segment on NPR’s Day to Day (Thanks to Frank)

One can find a slightly deeper overview of the field of considerate computing in here [Warning: PDF] , published January 2005 in Scientific American.

This is a fascinating area of study (for me at least) and its really just in its infancy – computers have finally gotten so powerful that there are lots of left over cycles to make users come first, and taming the information firehose that was enabled by computers in the first place. The foundational studies of just how much interruptions affect users accomplishing their primary task were published in 2002. One study [(McFarlane, 2002) ](http://www.interruptions.net/literature/McFarlane-HCI02_2.pdf) of a set of users playing an interactive game interrupted by a dialog posing simple questions showed a 36% decrease in accurate game play, and 70% decrease in accurately handling the interrupting dialog.

I wrote a paper surveying some of the basic research in the field, as well as focused on managing person-to-person remote-collaboration interruptions in the spring for my HCI (Comp 171) class at Tufts if you’re interested.

The best resource I know of for material in this area is www.interruptions.org which has PDF available of much of the important research in the field, including the two “foundational sources”, one of which I referenced above.

Truth in Advertising: A Tale of Two Bags

What does resealable mean to you? To me, it means a container that has some mechanism for resealing the container – for a jar, that might be a lid, and for a bag, I’d go with some zip-lock mechanism. Perhaps even a little patch of adhesive could make a bag pass as faux-resealable.

The box of Sunmaid raisins on my desk at work has neither, yet the box proudly boasts of “resealable bag inside”. The bag is no more resealable than any other zipper less bag – that is to say it isn’t. Kristi points out this is a step in resealability from the previous “raisins loose in a cardboard box” configuration, but I’m not buying it.

On the other hand, I bought a 6-pack of champion socks in a bag that boasts of its resealability, and comes with a ziplock!

So I can have my socks never lose that new-sock smell, and stale, maggoty raisins. Because no one likes stale socks.

You can’t make this stuff up.

IBM Five Year Service Award on Ebay

Apparently news of this ebay action for a IBM 5-years of service award is flying around the IBMer and ex-IBMer ranks.
I apparently got shafted on my 5-years of service award which I should have received right about 2 weeks before I got my proverbial pink slip (which was really a half-inch stack of paper, a “memorandum”). Just another thing my totally inadequate Lotus mis-management chain didn’t do right.
One of these days I have to enumerate the ways in which getting laid off from working on IBM Workplace Client is the best thing to ever happen to me…

News Map

Saw Ben Shneiderman present for an hour today at Tufts on information visualization. Will post much more from the notes I took in the coming days. Did see this cool application of Treemaps for representing news articles from (i presume) google news though: http://www.marumushi.com/apps/newsmap/newsmap.cfm
Everyone’s probably seen that already, but I’m always the last to know 🙂
Another news map that isn’t as pretty, but is more interactive is here, and a few other consumer applications of treemapping can be found by the hive group here.

Weezer and Foo Fighters in Worcester

Saturday night we went to see Weezer and Foo Fighters in Worcester, Massachusetts at the DCU Center. Had floor tickets, which ruled! It was an **excellent** show. My personal highlight was two different perspectives on Kurt Cobain with respect to Foo Fighters.

– First was in the bathroom line, these two numbskulls behind me were talking about the relative merits of Weezer and Foo Fighters. One of them said he’d like Foo Fighters if they acknowledged Kurt Cobain and Nirvana – the (clearly) smarter of the two said someting about Dave Grohl setting out on his own.
– Second was this really high, drunk and loud man in the crowd who said something close to “I’m glad Kurt Cobain died, this guy has really made a name for himself”

There you have it, and something I agree with- **Foo Fighters are way better than Nirvana: Kurt Cobain died so that the Foo Fighters may live.**
Weezer was good but not great – I think I enjoyed their appearance in Hartford several years ago more, they seemed a little too chill for my taste. They did all their good songs, and the obligatory bring a fan up onto stage set-piece that is still fun.
Clearly there were people in the crowd that were there only to see weezer, because a whole bunch of people split from the floor after the weezer show.
###Foo Fighters:
Were awesome. Played all the classics, and a bunch of their new stuff. I was kind of bummed they didn’t slow down to play any of their acoustic stuff from the second half of their recent double CD, but what can you do? They also had a mini-U2 style light show, with 3 video screens, a bunch of really low-res LED displays, and some awesome laser light effects.
###DCU Center
Thumbs down. An email I got from there said they’re the “#3 music venue in the world according to billboard magazine”, but that had to be the subset of the world “in Worcester” or “in Western Mass”, or just some crazy parallel universe. I’ve seen shows at Madison Square Garden and the FleetCenter/Banknorth Garden and they’re definately better, and I think its highly likely there’s got to be another better arena “in the world”.

Ridiculous bathroom lines – and the mens rooms with 2 stalls and 2 urinals each. Who designed this “arena”? What happens during intermission of hockey games?
Then there were the hassles endemic to surburban “cities” – principally traffic in the parking garage that took well over an hour to empty. Let me jump on a train to get home any day.

**Update (10/17/2005):** Wrote to the marketing folks at the DCU center and received clarification that the statement actually means “#3 based on gross ticket sales among the top 10 US and British venus with capacities of 10,001 to 15,000 people”- Perhaps thats what should be at the bottom of the email, since the statement “#3 music venue in the world” implies some kind of quality to me.