Monthly Archives: April 2007

Star Blazers: “There are only 364 days left”

It used to be life or death to make it home in time to tune in to Star Blazers after school. It still resonates with me on some deep levels I have a hard time putting to words.

Looking back, I’m surprised it made it to the air the way it did. Certainly today, it would be far more censored than it already was. The plot had so much death. So much horror. So much pain.

So much that hinged on faith, honor, and ultimately love, overcoming fear.

Watch the following six videos in their entirety, with an open mind. Then imagine yourself as an eight year old doing so. Pretty profound for a “just a cartoon”.



Star Blazers links:

This post was inspired by a post at Metafilter about 80s Cartoon Intros.

Chris Gardner’s “The Pursuit of Happyness”

Chris Gardner’s autobiography, “The Pursuit of Happyness”, is worth your time to read, front to back. In it, Chris Gardner records his journey, from his fatherless, poor working class upbringing in Milwaukee, to his stint in the Navy, to his first marriage, his second marriage and the birth of his son, to the breakup of his second marriage, his climb from the the streets of San Francisco with his son, through the establishment of his career as a big time stock broker and investor. Along the way he doesn’t flinch from documenting the bad decisions he may have made or emotions that haunted his heart.

It’s an inspiring story, and one I bet many can relate to, even if they did not face the kinds of trials and tribulations that he did on his way to achieving success and purpose in life.

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan press on has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. – Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) – my favorite quotes page

I avoided seeing the movie based upon the book (my manager, Anandhan, has a great in-depth review on his blog), because I was afraid that the story would paint *too* positive a picture of him. From what I’ve read, the movie glosses over much of what the book provides you – a deeper look into a man driven by hopes, dreams, and beginnings. Sadly it seems the movie attributes genius as a major factor to his success (the Rubik’s cube scene is not in the book – just a small example) – where the book makes clear – it was persistence and heart that defined it. I plan on renting it and giving it a gander, nevertheless.

While I may not be a multi-millionaire, I most definitely can relate to Chris Gardner’s story and his perspectives on many aspects of life.

I almost want to say that if you want to know more about me personally – read this book.

Almost.

Forgiveness, fear, understanding, and rubber chickens

Five completely unrelated posts. Well sorta. Damn I love software engineering….

Coding Horror: JavaScript and HTML: Forgiveness by Default:

…The lesson here, it seems to me, is that forgiveness by default is absolutely required for the kind of large-scale, worldwide adoption that the web enjoys.

The permissive, flexible tolerance designed into HTML and JavaScript is alien to programmers who grew up being regularly flagellated by their compiler for the tiniest of mistakes. Some of us were punished so much so that we actually started to like it. We point and laugh at the all the awful HTML and JavaScript on the web that barely functions. We scratch our heads and wonder why the browser can’t give us the punishment we so richly deserve for our terrible, terrible mistakes.

Even though programmers have learned to like draconian strictness, forgiveness by default is what works.

Shelley Powers: Accessibility, Microformats, and RDF as the Bezoar Stone:

…Here I was, tripping along on a well presented argument defining a tricky problem when, bammo: it could have been worse, it could have been RDF.

It’s as if RDF has become the bezoar stone of metadata–people invoke RDF to draw out all the evil.

“Ohmigod, an asteroid is going to hit the earth and we’re all going to die!”

“It could have been worse. It could have been RDF.”

“You’re right. Whew! I was really worried for a moment.”

Jim Waldo: Jini and OSGi, yet again :

…People would be amazed at how long this discussion has been going on. My first encounter with it happened just before we announced Jini to the world, and was an attempt to make sense of the two technologies with the group that was working on OGSi within Sun. The manager of that group was a guy by the name of Jonathan Schwartz (I wonder what ever became of him?), but the questions were the same that we are seeing now. Jini is a service architecture. OSGi is a service architecture. Both have ways of dealing with services written in Java. So why are their two?

This, of course, is a classic example of what I have called the Highlander Fallacy, which briefly stated is the principle that there can be only one. If any two technologies can be described using the same set of words, then there is no need for both of them, and only one will survive. I call this a fallacy because, to use a technical term, it is total crap. Certainly, there are cases where there are two technologies that are described using the same words where the two technologies actually do the same thing in the same context with the same requirements and the same restrictions. In such cases, having two may be one too many.

But far more often the two technologies are described using the same words because the English language (or any other that I know about) allows very different things to be described using the same terms. Descriptions, after all, have to elide a lot of the detail, and it is often in the detail that the distinctions are to be found. The shorter the description, the more detail is elided. A description like X is a service architecture is so short that almost all of the meaning is elided. There are going to be lots of different technologies that fit this description but that are different enough in the elided parts to make it worthwhile to know, and use, them all.

In fact, OSGi and Jini are service architectures built for completely different contexts. OSGi is a service architecture for services that are in the same address space. It allows you to build programs out of cooperating services. And for that sort of thing, it is pretty good.

Jini is a service architecture for distributed systems that are built out of services that are separated by a network.

James Shore: Continuous Integration on a Dollar a Day:

There’s an easier, cheaper way to do continuous integration than using a build server like CruiseControl. In fact, it’s so easy, you can start doing it right this second and stop feeling bad that IT hasn’t okay’d your request for a build server yet.

(The dirty little secret? What I’m about to tell you is better than using CruiseControl!)

the.codist: All I Need To Know To Be A Better Programmer I Learned In Kindergarten:

Programming is complicated stuff, but a lot of what makes a good programmer isn’t all that different from the earliest learning we did in school.

Herniated Disk Update

Things have been steadily improving – the pain in my left leg is no longer constant, nor as bad. It still strikes while standing or sitting too long, or when carrying additional weight on the left side of my body.

A few things I still miss however – I can’t play my guitar for any length of time, and the combination of medication and sudden bouts of pain leaves me continuously drained.

I see light at the end of the tunnel now though. There’s no residual pain in my right foot from my fall – it’s completely healed. And they’ve been adding additional exercises at my physical therapy sessions (three times a week) to both strengthen my trunk and my upper body. Shoot – I’ve lost ten pounds over the last two months.

I’m looking forward to keeping exercise a part of my daily routine. Who knows, maybe by the end of all this, I’ll be healthier then ever.

Then again, I better shut up, or I’ll take another spill!

“Miserable comforters are ye all.”

LATimes: Editorial: Too terrible for words:

IN THE BIBLICAL Book of Job, the anguished hero is visited by three friends who attempt to comfort him by drawing airy and sententious lessons from his agonies. Of course, they end up adding to his troubles; Job endures not only the real pains of grief and sickness but the indignity of having his suffering milked for rhetorical effect.

If only it were true that Monday’s mass murder on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University was the kind of tragedy that moves us to quiet reflection. In fact, the shootings that killed more than 30 people and wounded nearly 30 others occasioned a blizzard of hasty conclusions, instant position-taking and the rehashing of old arguments. For the sake of the dead, for the sake of the living, and even for the sake of honoring this grim milestone — the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history — we should remember that there are times when silence is the best response.

Events like these are almost impossible to react to sanely. A group of people you don’t know have been killed in a senseless crime. Too young to have established much of a past, they’ve been robbed of present and future; the weight of the offense, the rotten meaninglessness of it, makes it awkward not to have something to say.

So the ghastly death toll — perhaps inflicted by one man with a pair of semiautomatic handguns — becomes an obvious argument for enhanced gun control. Or, conversely, for the right to bear arms because Virginia Tech is a “gun-free zone,” and the Virginia Legislature last year killed a bill that would have allowed students to carry guns on campus.

For those who support universities’ in loco parentis functions, the school’s apparently unconscionable delay in alerting the student body to the presence of a gunman on campus is at the heart of the tragedy. Then there’s the male-violence angle, supported by a shooter’s apparent rage at an ex-girlfriend. Most pernicious of all, perhaps, is the request to put the matter “into perspective.”

“I have heard many such things,” Job says. “Miserable comforters are ye all.” No newspaper is in a position to criticize anybody for capitalizing on tragedy or taking convenient positions. There will be time for both in the days to come. But now is a time to respect, quietly, the tears and the pain of this terrible event.

On Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut passed away last week, at the age of 84. Wish we had the chance to hear him about this past week’s events, from Imus to the blogger Code of Conduct. But we’ll always have his books, and the innumerable writers he influenced.

NYTimes: Kurt Vonnegut:

…the time to read Vonnegut is just when you begin to suspect that the world is not what it appears to be. He is the indispensable footnote to everything everyone is trying to teach you, the footnote that pulls the rug out from under the established truths being so firmly avowed in the body of the text.

He is not only entertaining, he is electrocuting. You read him with enormous pleasure because he makes your hair stand on end. He says not only what no one is saying, but also what -as a mild young person – you know it is forbidden to say. No one nourishes the skepticism of the young like Vonnegut. In his world, decency is likelier to be rooted in skepticism than it is in the ardor of faith.

So you get older, and it’s been 20 or 30 years since you last read “Player Piano” or “Cat’s Cradle” or “Slaughterhouse-Five.” Vonnegut is not, now, somehow serious enough. You’ve entered that time of life when every hard truth has to be qualified by the sense of what you stand to lose. “It’s not that simple,” you find yourself saying a lot, and the train of thought that unfolds in your mind as you speak those words reeks of desperation.

And yet, somehow, the world seems more and more to have been written by Vonnegut and your life is now the footnote. Perhaps it is time to go back and revisit that earlier self, the one who seemed, for a while, so interwoven in the pages of those old paperbacks.

David Shenk, author of “Data Smog”, posted an interview with him that took place back in the beginning of Shenk’s career, “Duty to One’s Country: A conversation with Kurt Vonnegut about freedom of expression, life, liberty, and happiness”.

InTheseTimes: Joel Bleifuss interviews Kurt Vonnegut back in 2003: “Kurt Vonnegut vs. the !&#*!@”

InTheseTimes: Kurt Vonnegut essay: “Cold Turkey”:

…When you get to my age, if you get to my age, which is 81, and if you have reproduced, you will find yourself asking your own children, who are themselves middle-aged, what life is all about. I have seven kids, four of them adopted.

Many of you reading this are probably the same age as my grandchildren. They, like you, are being royally shafted and lied to by our Baby Boomer corporations and government.

I put my big question about life to my biological son Mark. Mark is a pediatrician, and author of a memoir, The Eden Express. It is about his crackup, straightjacket and padded cell stuff, from which he recovered sufficiently to graduate from Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Vonnegut said this to his doddering old dad: “Father, we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.” So I pass that on to you. Write it down, and put it in your computer, so you can forget it.

I have to say that’s a pretty good sound bite, almost as good as, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” A lot of people think Jesus said that, because it is so much the sort of thing Jesus liked to say. But it was actually said by Confucius, a Chinese philosopher, 500 years before there was that greatest and most humane of human beings, named Jesus Christ.

The Chinese also gave us, via Marco Polo, pasta and the formula for gunpowder. The Chinese were so dumb they only used gunpowder for fireworks. And everybody was so dumb back then that nobody in either hemisphere even knew that there was another one.

But back to people, like Confucius and Jesus and my son the doctor, Mark, who’ve said how we could behave more humanely, and maybe make the world a less painful place. One of my favorites is Eugene Debs, from Terre Haute in my native state of Indiana. Get a load of this:

Eugene Debs, who died back in 1926, when I was only 4, ran 5 times as the Socialist Party candidate for president, winning 900,000 votes, 6 percent of the popular vote, in 1912, if you can imagine such a ballot. He had this to say while campaigning:

As long as there is a lower class, I am in it.
As long as there is a criminal element, I’m of it.
As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

Doesn’t anything socialistic make you want to throw up? Like great public schools or health insurance for all?

How about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. …

And so on.

Not exactly planks in a Republican platform. Not exactly Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney stuff.

For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

“Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!

Flex, Flash, and Comcast Interactive Media’s Fan 4.0 Alpha

The team I belong to at Comcast, Comcast Interactive Media, released an alpha version of our video player, The Fan, this week.

You can give it a try here. If I say so myself, it’s pretty sweet.

While more information is available on its official cimLabs page, including links to give feedback, I’d like to point you towards one of its developers, Arpit Mathur, and his blog entry about it.

This version of The Fan was built with Adobe’s Flex and Arpit has a lot to share about the project. Feel free to leave a comment and tell him what you think.

As Arpit mentions, we’re on the lookout for Flash developers. But there’s more to the CIM story than Flash. In fact, the development stack we use at CIM resembles what Bruce Eckel proposed in a piece called “Hybridizing Java” on Artima a while back. We are looking for experienced Web developers of all stripes to join us. Check out cimLife for more.

Update:

Arpit’s post about the new version of the Fan is earning some buzz.

RIApedia: Comcast Launches New Flex Based Video Site

Masable: The Fan – Comcast’s New Flex Video Site

Ryan Stewart: Comcast jumps into Flex 2 for media content

Shelley Powers: Cool Thingie

Update:

Aaron Held, my manager at CIM, checks in with more about Flash, Java, and The Fan.

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Follow the linkage on Techmeme.

Tim O’Reilly == Tipper Gore?

No of course not.

But this still looks like to me.

The push to have blogs adopt a ‘Code of Conduct’, including content warnings for visitors, reminds me of the P.M.R.C. and the “Warning, Explicit Content” stickers that are smacked on on just about every album worthy to buy.

I wonder what Frank Zappa would have to say?

Watch the whole Frank Zappa video. Then read Tim O’Reilly’s post and comments about the proposed ‘Code of Conduct’. Then revisit the conversation taking place about it (more links later). The overtones are there.

Question… where can I find the blogosphere equivalent of the “Filthy Fifteen” so I can subscribe to their RSS feeds?

Update: Frank Paynter has a way forward that sounds right to me – and I think it can still be effective.

Update: I’m not alone in seeing the similarities. I like that icon :)

Update: Additional links and commentary:

Jeff Jarvis: No twinkie badges here.; “This effort misses the point of the internet, blogs, and even of civilized behavior. They treat the blogosphere as if it were a school library where someone – they’ll do us the favor – can maintain order and control. They treat it as a medium for media. But as Doc Searls has taught me, it’s not. It’s a place.

deep jive interests: Why Are We *Still* Confusing “Blogging Code of Conduct” With “Having a Comments Policy”?: What we really mean to discuss is the more mundane aspect of blogging, which is to merely having a comments policy.

Shelley Powers: badges: I’ve seen as many vicious comments in men’s weblogs, as I’ve seen in women’s. I think the perceived ‘threat to all women’ supposedly inherent in weblogging has been exaggerated-not to our benefit, either.

Boing Boing: Blogger “code of conduct” trades freedom for politeness: Tim O’Reilly’s well-intentioned Blogger Code of Conduct is an attempt to come up with a voluntary set of behavioural norms that will keep blogs civil and honest. However, I was very uncomfortable with Tim’s draft, as it seemed to preclude real anonymity and invite censorship.

Dan Gillmor: In Blogosphere, Honor Should Rule: They’re creating a bit of a monster, as they discuss asking people to put logos on their work defining various categories of behavior. Who’d be the judge of it? The government? Libel lawyers? Uh, oh.

Nicholas Carr: Thanks, Tim and Jimbo!: In the future, blogs that can safely be ignored will be marked with a cute little badge..

Dave Winer: O’Reilly’s code of conduct: We all seem to be speaking with one voice today, this code of conduct idea is not a good one.

Robert Scoble: Code of conduct or not?: So, for now, I guess I’d have to wear the “anything goes” badge.

Seth Finkelstein: “Blogging Code of Conduct” – WHO ENFORCES IT?: I am simply shouting to the wind here out of frustration with the failure of blogging to provide any defense whatsoever: WHO ENFORCES THE CODE-OF-CONDUCT?

TNL.net: Blogger’s Code of Conduct: a Dissection: Because of such lapses and because I believe that “the interest in encouraging freedom of expression in a democratic society outweighs any theoretical but unproven benefit of censorship,” I have to say that this code is not only a bad idea but one that should strenuously be rejected by members of the blogosphere.

A comment I left on Tim O’Reilly’s post:

“I think I’m still very concerned that saying you take responsibility for the comments on your blog means you actually take *legal* responsibility for them.

The only people who can take such responsibility are those with time on their hands – with money and resources.

Which leads to thinking that only those with money should enable comments on their blog.

Maybe I’m the only one concerned about this angle because I’m the rare exception of someone still in touch with poverty and being poor and folks that aren’t tech savy – in this discussion mainly filled with technologists and such.

I’m sorry but that and the addition of the badges make this feel like a form of self-segregation – just another way of identifying ‘us’ against whomever ‘them’ is.

Aggregators will be able to use such badging to further filter the Web, keeping other voices from its edges from being heard.

Having commenting policies makes a ton of sense. That’s obvious. But what this is evolving into….

I’m sorry, IMHO it’s reactive and needs a re-think.”