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infinity imagined

Finished Interface Culture by Steven Johnson today (it’s 93 outside and humid, which means it’s reading weather). I’ll leave it up to the reviewers on Amazon’s site to give you more information about the book…

I like books.. fiction, non fiction, but books that make you think… think about things to create, think about things as you’ve never thought about them before. Interface Culture was one of those books. His central premise (I think!) is that interface design is an art form, just like a Dickens novel or a Renaissance painting and because it is an art form, it has social and cultural impacts, some of which we can see with the naked eye, some of which we can discover and some that can only be seen in hindsight.

A second theme I found was the idea that emergent technologies, things like personal agents and Apple’s V-Twin search technology, while brilliant, most often end up being applied in areas never imagined by their creators. For instance, Thomas Edison created the phonograph in 1877. But get this: he thought the phonograph would be used mainly for recording phone conversations. These applications were explained as exaptations, which is my official word of the day. 🙂

Finally, though not an official theme, I found numerous mentions of the idea that some, if not all, radical and sometimes breakthrough inventions are initially rejected by popular and mainstream culture. The Mac, with it’s icons and graphical user interface, was seen as simple and labeled as cartoonish… it was not seen as a “serious business application”. Soon, the icons, trash bin and menu system took over the entire business world and every computer we use today uses the same metaphors that the original Mac did in the early 1980’s. Just goes to show that maybe the heated debate about technologies like Flash as an interface device or wireless devices might be the tip of an amazing iceberg… who knows?

nyc is fun

Just got back from our weekend in NYC (pictures here). I had a great time. Drove down to NYC in a rented 2002 PT Cruiser, got to Yankees Stadium 2.5 hours before game time (4:05pm start). Yankees Stadium staff closed Monument Park before we could get in, so I didn’t get to walk through that, but we did get to hang out on the lower levels for the first couple hours, took alot of pictures. Yankees lost 8-0 to the A’s which made me secretly happy inside. Eric Chavez & Miguel Tejada hit home runs for the A’s, Alfonso Soriano, though he didn’t hit one out of the park, showed some stellar defense. He’s amazing.

Drove to our hotel in the Upper East Side, Hotel Melrose (which used to be the Barbizon Hotel, I stayed here a couple times when I did work for FAO.com last year). I love this hotel! Fun place, reasonable rates, nice area. We learned that the Melrose Hotel, up until the late 1970’s, was an all-women’s hotel.

We walked along Lexington and got down to Rockefeller Center where we had dinner in the Rink Bar located in the bowl where the ice skating happens in the winter time. It was probably 75 degrees with a beautiful breeze… great night.

This morning we got up and had muffins at a local cafe, walked to Central Park and sat on a bench next to Conservatory Water, trying to pick out people that live in New York (in contrast to tourists like us), watching radio controlled sailboats, and drinking in the warm sun. We walked right past the Metropolitan Musuem of Art and then decided to check that out. I was naturally impressed by the fabulous pieces of armor men wore in the Medieval times, but most interested in the stained glass and glass mosaic pieces, probably because Karen could offer insight as she justed finished a glass mosaic class.

Finally, we walked all the way down to 34th and went ‘shopping’ at Macy’s, something Karen’s wanted to do forever… New York city is a cool place.

nyc: here we come

Tomorrow morning Karen and I are getting up early and driving to New York to hang out for the weekend. We’re going to the Yankees vs Oakland baseball game in the afternoon (my first time at Yankee Stadium!) and then exploring various places in New York City we haven’t already seen (hey look! nycvisit.com is written ColdFusion, too bad the developers didn’t put in any effort to catch errors, nor did they turn off debugging). Should be fun!

Last year I taught two Windows 2000 certification courses @ PREP Community Computer Center. They maintain a mailing list for people interested in community computer centers across the country… got this interesting link today from that list: http://www.networkforgood.org/npo/fundraising/donations/, so if you’re a not for profit organization, sign up! Free online donations!

tourist day in Boston

Friday night Karen and I drove to Maine to pick up a friend (hi April!) from California who is visiting the East Coast for the summer to show her Boston on Saturday/Sunday.

Had dinner Friday night @ Wild Willy’s, a mom and pop burger joint in York (have the Bubba burger if you get a chance). Drove home.

Saturday we got up, Karen made Chocolate Chip and Dried Cherry Scones. Drove into Boston. Parked at the Common. We thought we’d get the 30,000 view first so we walked to the John Hancock tower, which ended up being closed. Walked to the Prudential instead. Got some pictures of Fenway, the Hancock Tower, and the Charles.

Then we bought Old Town Trolley passes and hopped on the Trolley. Got off in the Fort Point Channel district, saw the Boston Tea Party replica. Had lunch (King Crab legs, a Jonah crab, chowda, cob, and melon).

Walked to the Aquarium. Got back on the Trolley. Took the trolley to the USS Constitution, aka “Old Ironsides” (pictures: here, here, and here). Took the tour of the USS Constitution. Walked the USS Casspin (a US Navy World War II Destroyer! try to find the Hedgehogs if you ever visit!). Trolley’ed again.

Walked through Beacon Hill. Saw the Bull & Finch Pub (inspiration for Cheers). Walked to the famous ducks in the Garden, took pictures.

T’ed it to Harvard Square. Walked through Harvard’s campus. Saw the Memorial Church of Harvard University. Took pictures of the church.

T’ed it to Park Street. Walked to the North End while taking pictures. Had dinner @ Rossina. Walked to see the Feast. Walked to Mike’s Pastries. Got dessert.

Walked (w/ dessert) through the North End, Hay Market Square, the Holocaust Memorial, Government Center, and down Tremont Street to lay on the grass and watch some of Shakespeare on the Common: Henry V. Ate our dessert (tiramuso, lemon tarte, and chocolate eclaire). Watched the stars and took blurry pictures (can someone help me figure out how to take pictures at night?). Walked to Loews Theater. Watched Minority Report. Movie ends at 1am. In bed by 2am. What a day!

weekend starts today

next birthday I want this. If you think it’s science fiction, check out the movie. Amazing. Can I add it to my Amazon wishlist?

took the day off today, so my weekend starts today. I’m working outta my wife’s office because our house doesn’t have A/C and it’s sticky hot outside.

Ben Forta wrote an article on CF that showed up on meerkat & xml.com (i’m assuming because it mentioned XML). Notice that they’re running CFMX, an Access database, and no error handling. Poor, poor development practices. Come on guys!

What an interesting movement this is (found here). The mailling list lives here.

a new Kephart

Our friends Craig and Kristen Kephart, who live up in beautful York, Maine, just had their second. Pictures are here. Coincidentally (or not?), Money Magazine just picked York as one of the top ten places to vacation in the entire US. If you ever get to York, you definitely have to go to Browns Ice Cream. And after you eat ice cream, drive back north (toward Short Sands Beach) on Broadway and turn right on Ocean Ave. Better yet, walk.

the race

Karen won… well, she finished. 12 miles of biking, 800 meter swim, 3 miles running.. pictures here.

From robots.net: Micromechanical Flying Insects. Essentially scientists are trying to reproduce the fly. Our flying drones supposedly have scared Saddam Hussein into not appearing in public. Can you imagine what life would be like if we had autonomous flies!??? Sheesh, that’s cool and scary at the same time.

Would you believe that there is an Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International?

snow

Finished ‘Telling the Truth: The Gospel As Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale‘ by Frederick Buechner (who hails from Pawlet, VT) tonight. I have 27 technical/computer books on my desk, which probably amount to 10,000+ pages of code, best practices and case studies, but not one of which illuminate *life* in any manner. This book did, however.

“You wake up on a winter morning and pull up the shade, and what lay there the evening before is no longer there — the sodden gray yard, the dog droppings, the tire tracks in the frozen mud, the broken lawn chair you forgot to take in last fall. All this has disappeared overnight, and what you look out on is not the snow of Narnia but the snow of home, which is no less shimmering and white as it falls. The earth is covered with it, and it is falling still in silence so deep that you can hear its silence. It is snow to be shoveled, to make driving even worse than usual, snow to be joked about and cursed at, but unless the child in you is entirely dead, it is snow too, that can make the heart beat faster when it catches you by surprise that way, before your defenses are up. It is snow that can awaken memories of things more wonderful than anything you ever knew or dreamed.” (pg. 83) — I have the most vivid memories of walking to the train here in Boston on a morning just like the one described above. The snow covered everything, it *transformed* our neighborhood, the city… the sun was shining, the birds singing.

And the last words of the book: “Let the preacher tell the truth. Let him make audible the silence of the news of the world with the sound turned off so that in that silence we can hear the tragic truth of the Gospel, which is that the world where God is absent is a dark and echoing emptiness; and the comic truth of the Gospel, which is that it is into the depths of his absence that God makes himself present in such unlikely ways and to such unlikely people that old Sarah and Abraham and maybe when the time comes even Pilate and Job and Lear and Henry Ward Beecher and you and I laugh till the tear run down our cheeks. And finally let him preach this overwhelming of tragedy by comedy, of darkness by light, of the ordinary by the extraordinary, as the tale that is too good not to be true because to dismiss it as untrue is to dismiss it along with it that catch of the breath, that beat and lifting of the heart near to or even accompanied by tears, which I believe is the deepest intuition of truth that we have.” (pg. 98)