My Wishlist

So now that I’m done with “The convention I was stressing about” (I’ll be heading back to Boston tomorrow), it’s back into the long term contract I picked up a few months ago. A lot of very cool Java coding that’s abstract, fascinating, intense, and occasionally screamingly frustrating.

But it also means I get to think about other things, all of which will cost money, which is workable, but it’s not like we have bottomless pockets just waiting to be plumbed.

So, my wishlist… projects, ideas, things I want to to, stuff in the works, etc.

Continue reading “My Wishlist”

http://www.overshopping.com

Overheard on Mythbusters

I get to watch a little TV when travelling – it’s a great ‘run away!’ space for me where I can avoid all the chaos that are conventions. Every once in a while I get to watch something that just leaves me cracking up everytime I play it over in my head.
While watching Mythbusters the other night (a great show no matter how you slice it), the topic was “Free Energy”. The boys decided to test several ‘free energy‘ offerings on the internet, and see if they actually work or not. Needless to say, all of the various offerings failed miserably in their tests.
In the “summary” part, where Jamie and Adam are ‘discussing’ the results of the tests (usually rather woodenly and obviously pre-scripted), Jamie (the more taciturn of the two) asks Adam (who is far more animated) “So Adam, does the all this talk about Free Energy make you feel all warm and fuzzy now?” And Adam, in a very matter of fact tone, replies “Sure Jamie. In fact, it reminds me much of things like the Easter Bunny and Santa clause, because it’s A FANTASY!!!” (the last line delivered in a loud voice directly into the camera.)
This show is definately one of the good ‘uns on TV nowadays.

Brunching Shuttlecocks and Household Hints

From the same folks who brought you the geek hierarchy (a truly masterful project – be sure to look at the super-huge unabridged version), heres’ some handy household hints. One I found particularly amusing:

Keep Computers From Taking Over The World
First, take note of the year. Before 1974, you must confront the computer with a paradox such as “I’m lying right now” or ask it to compose a love poem. Between 1974 and 1987, you should guess the ridiculously obvious backdoor password. After 1987 you should upload a virus to it using your Apple

Flight to Tampa. Song Airlines Cool

I’m in Tampa working a convention this week. Since this was a “I pay for everything” trip, I booked a flight on the cheapest airline I could find, which ended up being Song Airlines (apparently the ‘cheapo’ side of Delta). $170 round trip from Logan to Tampa. Not too shabby.
What I didn’t count on was the entirely pleasant experience of it all. Song has a great checkin system at Logan. I was initially dismayed at the horrifically long line at the Delta desk, then I glanced over and saw the ‘Song Checkin Kiosk’. The kiosks were great, and after asking for my credit card (which they siad on screen they were using only to get my name – a neat trick I thought), my reservation came up just fine. I was able to reassign my seat to an exit row right on the screen, and off I went to drop my bags in for checked baggage.
All that done, I had an hour to kill before my plane departed, and after playing Spaceward Ho for a while (a great little game for the Palm), I was able to board, only to find that my seat, which was labelled as an exit row… wasn’t an exit row.
The attendants were very pleasant, checked the bookings, and said “Try 16A, that row isn’t booked.” “Thanks!” and I plunked myself down.
The first thing I noticed was that all the airline seats had a little display in the back of the headrest, facing the person behind. I’d seen something similar before – usually it’s for showing in-flight movies or the like, but this seemed a little more robust. It was just idling while we were at the gate, but after takeoff, the system powered up and I was presented with… a menu system! It was a touchscreen. Well okay!
It turns out this is a Linux based in flight entertainment / media system that Song airlines installed in all their 757’s. You can build your own MP3 music list from their library (which was okay – I listened to Eurythmics Greatest Hits, Purple Rain, and Depeche Mode while I was doing some coding). There’s also a great scrolling display showing the position of the plane on the trip, but that wasn’t the coolest part.
In the menus, there’s a ‘Games’ section. Okay, why not. Wait. A trivia game. No, A NETWORKED trivia game! Holy cats! You can play the trivia game against other people in the plane. When you start it up, it asks you for a name to use in the score list (I typed ‘GEEK’ on the little keyboard that came up), and voila, you’re in. The games are 20 questions long, and scores are kept for the game and for the entire flight. Your seat number is shown as well, so you can get an idea where the people you’re playing against are sitting on the plane. The top player for a while was someone named BOSOX in seat 1A. I suspect it was the pilot. 🙂
This game definately made the 3 hour flight go very quickly – it was interesting hearing folks all around going “Ohhhhh! Michael Jackson did that? Huh!” when a question came up that folks were guessing on (Who collaborated with Paul McCartney on ‘The Girl is Mine’?), and then seeing everyone getting the easy ones right (“Spock, from Star Trek, came from what planet?”). You’re scored based on how fast you answer – if you answer right off the bad, 500 points. As you think about it, the score drops down eventually to 50, then 0.
The system also had movies on demand, basic television, and other goodies. It’s great to see such an outstanding system on a ‘bargain’ airline.

Inversion House!

This is just too cool.

Havel and Ruck will create a large funnel-like vortex beginning from the west wall adjacent to Montrose Blvd. The exterior skin of the houses will be peeled off and used to create the narrowing spiral as it progresses eastward through the small central hallway connecting the two buildings and exiting through a small hole into an adjacent courtyard.

Myers-Briggs – or a facsimile thereof.

Every once in a while I run this test just to see if I’m drifting around. I think I’ve changed a lot in the last 10 years, at least since I first took this test, but to me things seem to be on the level. Maybe I’m just more aware of myself than I used to be.

Catya, who has a background in these things, points out that this test represents how I perceive myself, rather than who I am as defined by an external metric. Understood, but it’s still interesting nonetheless.

this online version is as good as any that I’ve seen, and resulted in me as INTP. In the 4 categories(Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Perceiving) the strengths of each came to 22 50 1 11 (those are percentages).

Summarized:

  • slightly expressed introvert
  • moderately expressed intuitive personality
  • slightly expressed thinking personality
  • slightly expressed perceiving personality

There’s a great link to Keirsey’s summary of the iNTp category. “Rational Idealist Artisan Guardian”. Say what you want about these things, but this summary IMHO speaks pretty well to me:

Of the four aspects of strategic analysis and definition, it is the structural engineering role — architechtonics — that reaches the highest development in these Rationals, and it is for this reason they are aptly called the “Architects.” Their major interest is in figuring out structure, build, configuration — the spatiality of things.
 
As the engineering capabilities the Architects increase so does their desire to let others know about whatever has come of their engineering efforts. So they tend to take up an informative role in their social exchanges. On the other hand they have less and less desire, if they ever had any, to direct the activities of others. Only when forced to by circumstance do they allow themselves to take charge of activities, and they exit the role as soon as they can without injuring the enterprise.
 
The Architects’ distant goal is always to rearrange the environment somehow, to shape, to construct, to devise, whether it be buildings, institutions, enterprises, or theories. They look upon the world — natural and civil — as little more than raw material to be reshaped according to their design, as a formless stone for their hammer and chisel.

Update 8/16/2005 6:30am – fixed some bad HTML in the post. Sorry!

eCost – no longer a partner of mine.

It’s a wonder these companies can function at all.
I have a convention in Florida this week, and to make things a little smoother, I was planning on having a pair of flat screen monitors shipped to the hotel. It was time for some upgrades to my home systems anyway, so a pair of new monitors would come in handy.
I got a call back from eCost saying “Sorry, we don’t ship to hotels.” (this a good 5 hours after I placed the order – so this conversation started at 8:05pm. I get on a plane tomorrow morning at 10am).
“Why not?” “It’s not our policy.” “But I’m going to be there, just ship it.” “It’s not a valid shipping address.” “Why not?” “It’s not on your credit card.” “So?” “So we can’t ship to it.”
*pause* *deep breath a few times*
“Okay, so how can we solve this?” “You have to add this address to your credit card.” “WHAT?” “Yessir.” “I’m not going to do that, this is a one off shipment.” “That’s our policy sir.” “I’d love to see that in writing.” “Sir?” “Never mind. I’m a guest at that hotel, I arrive tomorrow night.” “Then we can use a signed letter from the manager of the hotel stating that you’re a guest there. It has to be on the hotel letterhead.” “You’re joking! It’s 8:30 at night, there’s no way we’re going to get that in time for this shipment. Why don’t you just call them? Want the number?” “No sir, I ahve it.” “Good, call them, I’ll wait.”
*10 minute on hold*
“Sir, they won’t verify you’re a guest there, since it’s just a reservation, you’re not there yet.” “Oh for petes sake. This is absurd. Who are you trying to protect here?” “We’re trying to prevent fraud and stealing sir, we’ve had problems with hotels before.” “And who are you trying to protect?” “Us, from being stolen from” “Okay, listen carefully…”
(by this time, btw, we’ve escalated to the ‘supervisor’, which I suspect wasn’t a supervisor at all, someone in billing) … “Listen carefully. The only person you’re protecting is me. You don’t want someone using ‘my’ credit card to ship items and have them stolen. I’m the owner of the card, I authorize you to ship it. Ship it please.” “Yes sir, as long as you update your credit card with the appropriate information” “I’m not going to alter my credit card information for a one off purchase.” “That’s our policy sir.” “If tha’ts your policy, why did you change it 3 times in the last half hour?” “…” “I’ll put this bluntly. Unless you take me, an existing, well established customer of yours, and help me solve this problem, I’m cancelling this $600 order, and never doing business with you again.” “We will help you, sir, but you have to do something for us. Alter your credit card information.” (this really got my goat. Quid pro quo? WTF?).
“Fine. If you won’t make this order work for me.” “You jsut need to alter your credit card sir” “No.” “That is, of course, your choice.” “Fine. Cancel this order. I want a mail within 1/2 hour confirming that this order is cancelled, and there will be nothing billed to my account.” “You will have that sir.”
And that’s the end of my business relationship with eCost. I’d council others to take this story into account when doing any business with these folks. It’s now 25 minutes after that conversation, and I still have not gotten the mail. We’ll see.
Update I just got a message from the ‘Credit Card Processing’ group at eCost saying she has ‘removed the authorization’ for this transaction. I’ve specifically asked for the section of their policy where they state they will ship only to a hotel when getting a signed letter from the hotel manager on letterhead.

Discovery of the day.

Did you know that PUPILS spelled backwards is SLIPUP ? These and others are the results of my ongoing addiction with TextTwist. I run it on my Kyocera 7135 palm phone, and have figured out the wiggly ways to keep a game going between stops and other life interruptions.
I was just amused at that palindrome.

A Fable for the Age

The folks over at Penny Arcade are having a rough day. Apparently Gabe doesn’t quite grok the concept of backups in the total Zen sense…

I can remember being so proud of him three years ago when he braved the Morlocks at CompUSA and picked up a little USB backup drive. Now, I’m not even sure he knew what he was buying. This is what he did when he got it: he copied every crucial thing off of his computer, to the backup drive, at which point he imagined some mysterious process was, shit, I don’t know. Mummifying his data. Our data, everything we’ve ever done.
I’m not, like, Mr. Computer guy, but this I know: there are no small men in a backup drive who will rub your data with oils. Oils of any kind.
He brought it to me like a wounded thing, scorched around the front, as though it had fallen through the atmosphere.

Read the strip, and article including Tycho’s response.

Juggler Ho!

Hobbit nabbed a great picture of me passing clubs with Phil and (unfortunately I can’t remember his name – Jim? He’s the fellow on the right) while we were at Baitcon last weekend.
This is probably the most juggling I’ve done in the last year or two, and Phil and Jim were great passers. We didn’t, unfortunately, have 9 of the same clubs, which really does throw off balance when trying to do smooth patterns, but we made due on our own. My arms were really tired after a good 45 minutes of this, but it was great shaking the dust out of the ol’ hands.

Carl Sagan spells it out

Pursuant to my last post, I have to share this quote from T. H. Mitchells essay on the nature of of the judeo-christian definition of ‘god’…
This is from Carl Sagan’s “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” [p5-6] :

We humans are like a newborn baby left on a doorstep, with no note explaining who it is, where it came from, what hereditary cargo of attributes and disabilities it might be carrying, or who it’s antecedents might be. We long to see the orphan’s file. Repeatedly, in many cultures, we invent reassuring fantasies about our parents–about how much they loved us, about how heroic and larger than life they were. As orphans do, we sometimes blamed ourselves for having been abandoned. It must have been our fault. We were too sinful, perhaps, or morally incorrigible. Insecure, we clung to these stories, imposing the strictest penalties on any who dared to doubt them. It was better than nothing, better than admitting our ignorance of our own origins, better than acknowledging that we had been left naked and helpless, a foundling on a doorstep. As the infant is said to feel it is the center of its Universe, so we were once sure, not just of our central position, but that the Universe was made for us. This old, comfortable conceit, this safe view of the world has been crumbling for 5 centuries. The more we understood of how the world is put together, the less we needed to invoke a God or gods, and the more remote in time and causality any divine intervention had to be. The cost of coming of age is giving up the security blanket. Adolescence is a roller coaster ride.

Just beautiful.

The Super Secret Mitchell Facts

I like to take the time to poke fun at establishments, and the ever twisted maze of the religion loosely referred to as “Christianity” is such an easy target, it’s sometimes hard to wonder where to start. It’s a never ending pile of suppositions, assumptions, and dogma stacked on folk tales and nomadic story-telling, which should be trivial to tear apart.
Well, someone has. Again 🙂 I give you the Super Secret Mitchell Facts.
T.H. Miller has taken years, slowly detailing all the inconsistencies in Christian dogma. All the holes in the stories and the paper-thin structures that hold this world-wide self-delusion together. A really good example of his detailed analysis is his essay on the nature of the judeo-christian god, and he speculates on why is it human beings feel the urge to create a mythical being in their lives for guidance.
I stumbled upon his works after subscribing to the excellent community Convert_Me, an intelligent forum for folks to discuss religion in an framework that is pre-disposed to “If you want to argue seriously about a belief structure, this is the place to do it.”