Saturday, December 27, 2008

Pages Boxing Week Sale


People have told me I'm hard to buy for, but I don't see how that's even remotely possible.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Interactive Media

I was on the Ceeb on Sunday morning. I didn't know when it was going to be on, it's pretty weird being half awake and hearing yourself come on the radio.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Book: Fargo Rock City (I didn't like jazz, I didn't like funk)

Almost a month later, I'm still slogging through Fargo Rock City. It's ok, but it's not really thrilling me. I think the problem is, the background assumption Klosterman sets up is that basically everyone likes rock n' roll. It's just the background music to our culture, the dichotomy is between punks and metal heads (and really, this is just a proxy for urban vs rural). If I'm picking a side in that fight, then I'm a punk, a 33 year old, computer programming, tea drinking, book reading, sweater wearing punk. But this book is about the tiny wars within the metal camp, and that's something that's just not that interesting to me.

Part way through the book, Chuck presents a list of his essential metal albums and how much cash money you would have to pay him to never listen to each of those albums again. In my life, I've owned exactly one of the albums on his list (Appetitie for Destruction), so we're clearly coming at this from different perspectives.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Bis-nass

Shit just got real in the Canadian federal parliament.

Me? I love it, I think coalition governments are great, but people in The West are screaming mad, saying this is anti-democratic, treasonous, etc.

Leaving aside the facts of the matter, that this is how a Westminster-derived parliamentary democracy works, that the parties are totally allowed to do this, and that this means that more Canadian voters will have their choice of MP in the ruling coalition, leaving that aside, I've been trying to figure out if I like this just because it gives parties I like more power, or if it's actually ok.

So I got to thinking, how would I feel if the Conservatives formed some kind of alliance with a loony right wing party just to hold a tenuous grasp on power? Then I realized that that's what we've had since 'aught-three.

So eff-you with a bear you shouty hypocrites singing the national anthem in question period like you own it, like patriotism is your cross and holy water against the vampire socialists. You won the slimmest of minority governments in an election with one of the lowest voter turnouts ever, you over-reached and you screwed up. Take it like a grown up.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Christmas Songs That Bear Repeated Listening

Fairy Tale of New York - The Pogues


You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch - Thurl Ravenscroft

Book: Fargo Rock City

Comparing Nevermind and Appetite For Destruction

There's no doubt about which of these records is more socially important, but there's also no question about which one gets played in my apartment when I want to hear something badass.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Book: Fargo Rock City


Fargo Rock City
By: Chuck Klosterman
Started: Sunday Nov 16, 2008

Anyone that's stood within earshot of me for more than 15 minutes knows my opinion of Klosterman's collection of essays, Sex, Drugs & Cocoa puffs, namely that it is pretty good and an entertaining read, but much like Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, it offers honest insights in to the inner workings of the mind of a certain class of man, the introspective, hyper-verbal insecure genre nerd, and for this reason, neither book should ever, ever be allowed to fall in to the hands of a woman. It would be a disaster.

Anyway, Fargo Rock City, so far, seems to be a history of heavy metal, specifically a history of the nomenclature and sub-genre classification of different kinds of metal, and more specifically, Chuck Klosterman's relationship to the nomenclature and sub-genre classification of different kinds of metal over the course of his life. I'm not really sure why I'm reading this book. I was never in to metal, I'm not from the rural U.S., I'm not Chuck Klosterman. I'm hoping it gets funny, fast.

Book: Lives of the Monster Dogs, finished

Finished Lives of the Monster Dogs over the weekend. It was poignant and sad. Much like a communicating with a dog, I'm not sure if I got everything it was trying to tell me, but important parts came through.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Book: Lives of the Monster Dogs


Lives of the Monster Dogs
Kristen Bakis
Started: Sunday Nov 9th, 2008

Ian made me pick this up years ago in a used bookstore in a plaza of used bookstores in a university town in New York state. I'm about 60 pages in and so far it delivers what the title promises, it's the story of a group of sentient bipedal, talking dogs, who rebelled against the isolated mad-scientist founded commune that created them, and decide to go to New York. But it's not told for comedy or crazy science fiction, it's for pathos and romance.

So far, all the action takes place in Novembers, historical, future and startlingly, November, 2008. It's a very November book. Told in greys and windswept empty streets, bundled coats, fireplaces, dusks and clear night skies. It is exactly what I want from a book right now.

Back To My Roots

L: what did you do?
Me: Brown shoes, brown coat, grey sweater
L: er, it's camo for the bookish
So a while ago I tried to reboot my reading habit. Mistakes were made at multiple levels of management and I'm not here to point fingers, but the project was canceled half way through, and 4th quarter performance was impacted.

Anyway, let's try again, without the rigid itinerary or inflexible schedules.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Box Factory!

This totally sounds like something from the B plotline of an episode of 30 Rock.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I am trying to save lives

Ok, this is a crazy idea, but stay with me. Everyone knows that day-light savings time is

  1. A crock
  2. Killing people
But everyone (and by "everyone", I mean "me") loves the fall-back weekend. You get an extra hour on the weekend, it doesn't come with the pressures and obligations of a whole day off, it's just an extra hour. You're early for everything, better slept, it's fantastic.

Now, what if we kept the fall-back weekend, but lost the spring-forward weekend? The "day" would rotate around the day-night cycle over a 24 year period, but in this 24 hour go-go world wide global economic market, that's good. Think about it people.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ripping off Sedaris, and my own IM conversations

This week's This American Life is all about the campaign in Pennsylvania, and there's a long item on the "Democrats for McCain", a group of jilted angry Hillary supporters.

There a part in Philip Roth's The Plot Against America, where a conservative rabbi endorses the crypto-anit-semetic presidential candidate Charles Lindbergh, and one of the characters realizes that this isn't to get the Jewish vote, it's to give all the not-really-sympathetic-to-the-plight-of-the-Jews voters permission to vote for Lindbergh.

That's actually happening now. Democrats for McCain found the only two black guys from New York in the movement and sent them door to door in Pennsylvania, to give racist democrats permission to not vote for the black guy.

Why? It seems to me, back during the democratic primaries, democrats had a choice between a MacIntosh apple and a Red Delicious apple, and they picked the MacIntosh. But during the primaries, the Red Delicious campaign was so vitriolic, so vehement in their derrsion of the MacIntosh, that they whipped up the Red Delicious supporters in to such an anti-MacIntosh frenzy that now, in the election, when faced with the choice between the MacIntosh and a hot-dog, they've convinced themselves that the hot-dog makes a better apple than the MacIntosh.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Silly

Is there a patron saint of people who shop at certain stores? A patron patron?

How about of a brand of tequila? A Patron patron?

Of den mothers? The matron patron?

Oink

St Anthony The Great is the patron saint of both butchers and pigs. That seems like a clear conflict of interest to me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Jobs jobs jobs

This is kind of what it's like being an Apple fan:


"Do you really *need* a right mouse button?" "Do you really *need* a matte display?"

Monday, October 13, 2008

Not actually about poker

Sometimes to liven things up in my usual poker game one of the habitual gamblers will propose a "prop" bet. A prop is a bet outside of the usual regulatory structure of the game, between two or more players. A popular one is: up to 4 players each pick a suit, and if all the flop cards for a hand are of that suit, all the other players in the prop pay the winner a buck.

Once in a while, when someone's feeling extra gamble-y, he'll propose a prop on a prop, for example "I bet you 2 bucks no one makes their prop in the next 3 hands". This is usually declared far too silly for a respectable poker game and the prop-on-a-prop is shouted down.

In the recent This American Life episode, Another Frightening Show About The Economy, Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson explain that the financial instruments that may have caused the recent Wall Street disaster were, at heart, prop-on-prop-on-prop-on-prop-on-prop-bets.

Friday, August 8, 2008

I am going to be laughing for at least a week

From what I can only assume is an on-going series in the USA Today, CYBER SPEAK with Kim Komando!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Check out Shock Effect at this month's Zuda



Hey, check out Zuda it's a monthly comics competition from DC, where readers vote for and rate the submissions. There's some really good ones this month, but my fave is Shock Effect.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wikipedia I love you


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hilariously incompetent

Jack's chief source of discomfort, then, was a feeling well known to soldiers of low rank, to doctor's patients and the people getting their hair cut; namely, that he was utterly in the power of an incompetent. -- Neal Stephenson, The Confusion
My ISP, Rogers, is Doing It Wrong again. This time they've broken DNS, the service that turns hostnames, like ihaterogers.ca in to the numbers that your computer can use to actually contact the computer at that address. Now, if you enter a non-existent host name, instead of returning an error, the Rogers DNS servers return the address for one of their computers, and if you ask for a web page from that computer, it gives you a page of ads.

Now this sounds shady, but it's not actually bad, right? If you asked Rogers about it, they'd tell you that it's actually doing you a favor, that instead of a scary nasty error page in your browser, you get a friendly Rogers branded page of ads, and who's to say that one of those ads isn't for the thing you were looking for? And if Rogers makes a couple of dimes, what's the harm?

Well, I'll tell you
  • The internet is not the web! Most people, most of the time use the internet to browse web pages, but there's lots of other things on there. Email, IM, FTP, SSH and all kinds of other stuff, and this breaks all of them. If you mis-type an server name when you're setting up your email client, it will ask Rogers' servers for the address, Rogers will return the address for their ad servers, and you won't be able to get your email and your email software won't say "Sorry, you mis-typed the address" it will say "sorry, I can't find the email software on that server" and you'll be confused.
  • It breaks web browsers too. Now, my web browser is pretty smart. If I type in, say "reddit" it asks the DNS server for that address and if the server says "that doesn't exist" my web browser will try "reddit.com". Now I'm lazy, and I've gotten used to that behavior, but since Rogers made this change, their DNS servers never say "that doesn't exist"
  • Everything else! This pollutes the internet with bad data. At a basic level, the internet runs on trust, and Rogers is breaking that trust, saying they own all the unclaimed land in the wild west of the web "asdfadszzzfsadfadsf.com? oh yeah, we own that. weoruiwerkjsdf.com? That's us too"
Now, fortunately Rogers offers a way to "opt out" of this service, if you scan through the page there is a link you can click, unfortunately the way they've implemented this opt out is just another hilariously incompetent disaster.

First, the opt out only works in web browsers! So email software, IM, and all the other things that aren't web browsers are still broken!

Second, they way they've implemented the opt out is not to have their servers say "sorry, couldn't find that address" but rather to do what they were doing before, but instead of serving up a page of ads, it serves a page that looks like the page Internet Explorer gives you when it gets that error. Not only that, but the page has code that will ONLY work on Internet Explorer.

Not only does Rogers think that the internet is the web, they think everyone is using Internet Explorer on Windows.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

2 things

  1. How I know I'm old: I tweaked my back making popcorn
  2. How I know I'm a nerd: Set my laptop to do something hard but useless and used it as an improvised heating pad.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Appologies to Merlin Man

5 Rap Pseudonyms Taken From Things In My Kitchen

  1. Chocolate Noir
  2. Milk Fat
  3. Smoked Salt
  4. Magic Baking Powder
  5. Butter Chicken

Monday, July 14, 2008

Rock Band 2 Setlist released

Here it is

!
8. Beastie Boys “So Whatcha Want” 1990’s
9. Beck “E-Pro” 2000’s
11. Billy Idol “White Wedding Pt. I” 1980’s
52. Red Hot Chili Peppers “Give it Away” 1990’s
69. The Go-Go’s “We Got the Beat” 1980’s
71. The Guess Who “American Woman” 1970’s
73. The Offspring “Come Out & Play (Keep ‘em Separated)” 1990’s

!!!
21. Elvis Costello “Pump It Up” 1970’s
42. Modest Mouse “Float On” 2000’s
60. Squeeze “Cool for Cats” 1970’s
63. Survivor “Eye of the Tiger” 1980’s
65. Talking Heads “Psycho Killer” 1970’s

Monday, June 30, 2008

Aw crap

I don't have the space or discretionary income for all this!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Idea for an iPod feature

Idea for an iPod feature: Your whole iTunes catalogue should be sync'ed to the iPod. Not the music, just the track information: title, artist, album, etc. Then there should be a way to select tracks to be copied to the iPod next sync.

Friday, June 13, 2008

I lied

Alright, a short rant about the new copyright bill.

One of the worst parts of the bill is the blanket prohibition on breaking digital locks, and not just breaking them, but having or using the software used to break them. Here's the thing, if these (scare-quotes) locks (scare-quotes) actually locked anything you wouldn't need these laws, right? If DRM kept media secure and un-copyable then there would be no need to push for laws to punish people when it was copied.

Now it turns out that pretty much any DRM is broken as soon as it hits the market. It's not trivial to do, it takes a lot of work and brain power to break it, but there's a whole army of nerds out there who'll do it just for the intellectual exercise, and once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it's trivial for anyone to get the software and break the DRM.

So, when a company puts some DRM on some media, it doesn't really prevent copying in any serious way, it only causes inconvience and headaches for people who have legitimately purchased it (while people who download it get an unencumbered, more functional copy), all it does is let the companies say "this media had DRM on it, and someone broke it, and because of the new law, that is illegal, give us money now."

It is as if, to prevent you from reading a book, they taped the covers together, and then, because they can be used to break this high-level lock, they had the government outlaw butter-knives and fingernails.

Finally, there's the question of what constitutes DRM? This encryption is just math. If I encode a file in a way that you can break in 5 minutes on a piece of paper with a calculator and a pencil, does that count? It's not enough for the bill to say something like "effective DRM" since as we know, no DRM is effective and in any event, the state of the art moves too fast for any law to keep up with specific implementations. Here, check this out:

The following encrypted text is copyright Richard Platel, 2008, all rights reserved

Guvf zbeavat V ernyvmrq gung V unq ab fhccyvrf sbe oernxsnfg, naq V jnf nyernql xvaq bs yngr, fb V tbg n ovt pbbxvr jvgu zl hfhny pbssrr, ohg gurer jnf n arj crefba jbexvat gur gvyy, naq fur qvqa'g xabj ubj gb punetr zr sbe gur pbbxvr, fb vg gbbx n ernyyl ybat gvzr.
There, I created some media and put some digital locks on it to protect it (cleverly shifting each letter in the text 13 spaces down in the alphabet). If you go to rot13.com and break it, you'd be in violation of this new bill, and the sophisticated piracy software at rot13.com ( letter = (letter + 13 %26)) would be too.

Please, do this.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Again

Look, I'm not going to go off on another rant about copyright and digital rights and all that crap. Just know that there's a new copyright bill introduced, and it's really, really terrible. There are a few provisions in there as sops to the digital rights crowd, but they're ALL undermined by the "anit-circumvention" provisions that say you're not allowed to break any DRM to do the things that the rest of the bill says you're allowed to do.

The long and the short of it is while the government is saying that the bill will give you more freedoms, in fact, it will give the media companies the power to restrict what you can do with their media, and they don't think you should have the freedoms you have now, much less expanded rights.

Here, take a look at this if you want to know more.


Bah!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Please update your records

  • Still funny:LOLcats
  • No longer funny: "The cake is a lie"
  • Funny once again: saying "BAM!" after doing something unimpressive

Monday, June 9, 2008

A New Service That's Sure To Benefit Consumers

I heard that the power company is going to start doing Deep Power Inspection on the household power they're delivering. It seems some people have been using electricity to commit crimes, and these "power pirates" are using up all the power that should go to legitimate users.

Thus the power company is taking it upon themselves to police the use of their utility. They're going to install monitors on everyone's feed that will keep an eye on what the power is being used for, and report back. So if someone is running grow-lights the power company can throttle their power, and since grow lights are pretty much only used for illegal things, that's ok.

Also, since the power company makes appliances now and they'll be able to tell when you're using their appliances, or appliances made by their business partners, and they'll be able to give you "premium electricity service" for those outlets, and this will let those appliances work faster and better.

As a further benefit to their customers, since they'll know what electrical devices you have, and when you use them, they'll be able to provide targeted advertising to you on the screens on all of the appliances you bought from them. For instance, if you have a treadmill, and your usage of it declines, they can send ads for diet meals and such to your power-company supplied fridge. This, of course, is not an invasion of privacy.

Sure, there are some kooks out there who argue for so-called "grid neutrality", claiming that you should be able to just pay for however many watts of power you want a month, and it's none of the power company's damn business what you use it for, that if they start policing some uses of their power, then they should become somewhat legally liable for all uses of their power, but that's ridiculous.

Furthermore, these radical, pro-power-pirate fringe groups claim that if the power companies control both the quality and amount of power that go to different appliances, and have a vested interest in keeping you using their appliances, that they will intentionally degrade the performance of other, third-party appliances, and that this will stifle innovation in the marketplace, since any new use of power would have to be approved by the power company, but that's simply not the case.

Friday, May 30, 2008

I want to have Dean Kamen's babies.

  • Make a wheelchair that can climb stairs a balance up on two wheels? Check.
  • Thought controlled robot arms? Check.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Firstly, you must be skint and on the dole. Anybody with a proper job or tied up with full time education will not have the time to devote to see it through... Being on the dole gives you a clearer perspective on how much of society is run... having no money sharpens the wits. Forces you never to make the wrong decision. There is no safety net to catch you when you fall.
-- The Manual - The KLF

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

So Microsoft is talking about removing unpopular games from their XBLA download service. This is a terrible idea for all the reasons in that linked article, so why are they doing it? I think there are a few possible reasons:

  1. They made some kind of bonehead technological or contractual mistake, such that keeping games available for download somehow costs them money.
  2. Microsoft wants to flex some muscle with smaller developers.
  3. They are compensating for a craptacular UI.
I think option 3 is the most likely. The Xbox 306 dashboard UI is pretty terrible, everything (games, add-ons, movies, etc) is listed by a short unhelpful title, if you want to see what something actually is, you have to select it, wait for it to load, and then wait again for all the legaleese to scroll out of the 4 line text-box they give you, and watch the description slooooooooly scroll past, with no way to skip ahead, and if you hit any button, you have to start over at the beginning. This is just one of the problems with the UI, the whole thing is a disaster. It's bad enough that the Rock Band people did an update to their game, so that that there was a music download store in the game.

Given this malovelent UI, it's easy to make the case that you would only want the 20 or 50 "best" games on the system, otherwise it's too hard to browse and find the stuff you want. Microsoft, you are solving the wrong problem.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Monday, March 31, 2008

It is a self correcting problem

On the CBC radio this morning, on The Current they had a piece on a service from Consumer Genetics, the Pink or Blue test to determine the sex of a fetus as early as 7 weeks in to a pregnancy.

There was a lot of hand wringing over if we should let those filthy immigrants, with their backward ways, use this. Given half the chance, these backwards people would probably start aborting all over the place, so they could only have babies of their preferred sex.

I want this to happen. I want this to happen so much.

Let's pick a random ethnic group, say Australians (oh gawd, I hate them so much! coming over here, stealing our jobs and our women, with their crazy digeridoo music and their surfing! They're all descended from criminals, you know.) Say Australians really like to have boys, not girls, it's a cultural thing.

Say down in little Australia (you know, in the east end of downtown, near all the BBQ shops and the boomerang warehouse), all the shelias start only having little boy Australian-Canadians. In a generation, there aren't going to be enough girl Australians for all these Crocodile Dundees, they're going to start marrying outside of the community. The generation after that, the family will hardly be Australian at all.

It's a problem that fixes itself. Any culture that strongly favors one sex over another, when they're inside a larger culture like Canada, gets washed out.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Synchronicity Part III

I never though my interests in kitchen gadgets and medieval torture implements would overlap.

Synchronicity Part II

My day was going great today, until I left the house. Nothing makes a day like finding a dead rat in your laneway. Poignant reminder of mortality and the ephemeral nature of life, and also a rotting lump of parasites and plague.

Anyway, Penny Arcade (apparently) made a comic about it for me.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The hulk vs

The Hulk vs Yonge & Carlton

Members

I just got an email, and I'm not sure if it's viagra spam or not:

Is your agile implementation under-performing?
Is your agile team lacking the enthusiasm you think it should have?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

CRITICAL INFORMATION

I just realized that Cat Stevens' Father and Son and The Flaming Lips' Fight Test have basically the same melody. That is all, carry on.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Monday, February 25, 2008

I am a bad person

Listen, I know this is sad and tragic, but I lol'ed at this headline

Consider

I think there was a European film director, competent, but not destined for great fame, and then a transporter malfunction split him in to good and evil clones. The good clone became Micheal Gondry and the evil clone became Lars Von Trier.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Yeah, cut it out

Well, I guess I'm an old programmer now

It's funny to me when the fresh-faced young pups 'bouts these parts find out that they have to do something in Java. They stamp their feet, ball up their fists, puff out their cheeks and start whining "but Java's so old and boring and doesn't have all the fancy stuff they're always talking about on Reddit, and didn't they just find a dinosaur fossil in Alberta that was wearing a Java baseball cap and clutching a fossilized copy of Teach Yourself Java In 24 Hours?"

This is hilarious to me, because In My Day, back in university, Java was
pants-pissingly hot. University departments were talking about switching all the first year classes to Java. Cool companies were "in to" Java, Sun was holding Java events on campus, wearing Java-logo giveaway swag was common, all the freshly-hatched pleiosaurs were reading The Java 1.1 Developers Guide in the food court. The feeling was that you didn't so much have to sweat out programs in Java as draw some class diagrams, then wave them at the monitor, and programs would come out.

What you have to realize is that, compared to the alternatives at the time, this wasn't that far off the mark. If you were writing real computer programs in the early and mid 90's, you were doing it in C or C++ or something with clockwork gears and a steam boiler you had to heat up before you could open the editor. Writing in C is like telling someone how to bake a cake over the phone, only the person can't remember anything by themselves, and they don't know what any of the ingredients are or where they're kept, and if you tell the person one little thing wrong, HE WILL DIE. C++ is exactly the same, except you can make bread too. Compared to that, Java seemed like a verdant Eden, a land of milk and honey and built in garbage-collection.

These day's Java's the ghetto. Java's for banks. C and C++ are for historians and people working in the basements of banks.

It looks like the same thing's happening with Subversion now. I remember In My Day, fighting tooth and nail to replace the source control system at work with Subversion, and how when we did, suddenly every day was a little sunnier. In my universe, Subversion is still a brightly shining star that shoots beams of candy and cupcakes and good development practice in every direction. Apparently this is not the case for everyone, apparently Subversion sucks with a lower-case x, and now all the cool kids are using git. Subversion's what your dumb manager forces you to use at boring old work, but at home you can keep all the source code for your racecars and speedboats and Ruby On Rails apps in git.

I guess what I'm saying is, maybe you think you're cool and with it, but THIS WILL HAPPEN TO YOU TOO.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Also, IKEA

Michel Gondry
Difficult Breakups
Arrested Development
Expensive Sandwiches
Japan
Arts Degrees
Public Radio
Apple Products

What do these things have in common? They're all Stuff White People Like.

Monday, February 18, 2008

So I'm reading the application form for the RCMP (why? that's not important). There's like 162 questions on this thing. I like to think that they started out with a very short form, but then every time they had a problem with an officer, they added another question.

70. Have you ever started an illegal fire?

72. Have you ever paid or asked anyone to set a fire for you?

76. Have you ever illegally hunted at night?

79. Have you ever hacked or attempted to hack into any computer system, business or private without permission?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Good Enough For You

The company I work for, we do something on the Internet, I think we provide some kind of service, but I'm not really sure what, I can never follow all that technical stuff, so let's just say we rent out uniforms. Our uniforms, honestly speaking, they're not that great. I mean, they get the job done, no one's going around naked, or getting a pair of coveralls with three arms and no neck hole, but they're a few season's out of date, fashion wise, they're a little tattered, and they have some annoying quirks, like the zippers don't always work like you'd think, and so on. Frankly, you can get uniforms that are a lot nicer from other companies. Yet, people keep giving us money, the company's not doing too badly, and my paycheque hasn't bounced yet. How come? Well, I think it probably has something do with the sandwiches at my lunchtime meeting yesterday.

Now no offense to the good people at the catering company, but these sandwiches tasted like failure and sadness. But that's the service they provide, something that meets the minimum acceptable standards for "food", delivered on time, cheap and in volume. The question isn't why do they sell terrible sandwiches, the question is why does anyone buy them.

It's what happens whenever someone is spending their money on a group of people that they're not really responsible to. You're presented with option A (for Awesome) and option B (for Boo) and you think to yourself, "well, B's good enough for you".

It's the same for our webmail, erm, I mean, uniforms. We don't wear the uniforms, we all have our own clothes. the people that buy our uniform service, our customers they sure as hell don't wear the uniforms, it's their customers, that get the uniforms as part of the package they buy from our customers and they have to put up or shut up.

That's a lot of levels of buck-passing, between the people that make the product and the people that actually have to use it. It's pretty easy to disengage from your customer's customers because you're so insulated from them. It's easy to imagine them as the great unwashed herds, and put out something that's good enough, for them. But the problem is, making software that tastes like failure and sadness isn't really satisfying, and as much as I'd like to improve the product, if the corporate will isn't there, if the focus is not "how can we provide a really quality experience" but rather "how can we make software that minimally acceptable, so that our customers think it's good enough for their customers, and lock them in" then it's just not going to get better. Maybe it's not supposed to, maybe it's going to be a race to the bottom. But it seems like there are people out there doing good work and making a living, maybe the secret is to be one of your own customers, or to give them all baseball bats and let them stand behind you while you program.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Today's notable IM conversation with a co-worker

She: I think that if porrn producers can't make puns out of popular movie names, that they should just pack it in and call it a day

Me: True
Me: The Sorrow And The Titty

She: what is that based on?

Me: The Sorrow And The Pitty
Me: the joke is that it's a movie about Nazis and death camps and not something really ripe for a porn remake

She: unless you like that nazi fetish porn
She: which I SO HOPE doesn't really exist

Me: Um
Me: I have some bad news for you

She: NOOOO!!!
She: lalalalalalla

Me: the news is called Ilsa, She Wolf Of the SS

She: i can't hear you@@@
She: oh yeah
She: I've seen that
She: never mind then

Friday, January 25, 2008

Thursday, January 24, 2008

41%

I enoy Facebook's naive assumption of honesty

On The Facebook (have you heard of it? I think it's gonna be big someday) if you say you're attending an event, that appears in your feed: "Richard Platel is attending blah blah". Then, after the date of the event has past, sometimes this appears in your feed "Richard Platel attended blah blah blah". Facebook just assumes that you're reliable, and if you say you're going to do something, you do it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

This is what I'm going to do

I'm going to make a chart. Along the left side of the chart will be the names of all the people I work with. Along the top of the chart will be a month's worth of days.

Every day that passes, I will put a gold star in some people's rows, I will have a computer program to generate random star assignments.

If anyone asks me what the chart is for, I will say "oh, just something [the CEO] asked me to do, I'm not supposed to talk too much about it."

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A little more on desktop fabrication.

When I read this, I though "oh man, that's cool, can I get one of those?!" If I had a desktop fabricator, and the artist made them available, I could just download the source files and print one myself. The source files already exist, the artist used rapid prototyping to make this thing, and we have this here Internet that's pretty good at spreading files around, all that's missing is the consumer-grade hardware.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Checklist


























latté-sippingNope
grant-suckingNope
Jack Layton-David Miller-NOW Magazine-lovin'Yup
lifestylistthis is not a word
yuppieNope
hippieYup
hipsterYup
neighbourhood-gentrifyingYup, sorry
all-organic eatingNope
guerilla-gardeningYup
"activist"Yup
Spacing-readingYup
Guelph-Trent-York-graduatingYup
CBC Radio-listeningYup
indy rock-lovingYup
spoiled altera-baby-producingNope
yoga-doingNope
Lulu Lemon-consumingNope
non-profit (of the non-threatening type)-supportingYup
Canadian nationalistYup
trust fund-sustainedNope
MMP-voting (ha, losers!)Yup
Edmonton-Winnipeg originatingNope
Drake-Gladstone goingYup

What the hell I'm talking about

Two Things That Could Destroy The World

The big trick that humans came up with, that let us take over the world as a species was that we evolved the ability to evolve. If the giraffe species wants to reach the leaves at the top of the tallest trees it spends a million years evolving really long necks. If the human species wants to reach those leaves, someone invents a ladder, and then tells everyone about it. We have traits that exist outside of our DNA, our transmitted culture.

If you take a wolf cub and raise it away from other members of its species, it will still essentially be a wolf, it will hunt and be territorial and bay at the moon. If you raise a human away from society, it won't really be a modern human. It won't know language, or music or how to work a microwave or use a revolving door or ride the subway. The point I'm trying to make here is that the survival equipment that the human race brings to the table isn't all biological, it's not claws and teeth and tails and fins, it's ideas and methods and processes. This is what I mean when I say we evolved the ability to evolve, if we want a trait, say, the ability to store water, someone invents the urn, and then that becomes part of the collective culture, and then every human can do it, and we can iterate and improve the design and in 5000 years, we have municipal water systems and man made reservoirs and Evian and so on. We can evolve and transmit traits instantly rather than over millions of years.

Anyway, computer software, what is it? Well, about one lifetime ago, we had machines that could do things with numbers. Adding machines that could, well, add numbers, other machines that could generate logarithms, etc, etc. So, you have a bunch of numbers somewhere, you take the top two off the storage (a punched card, paper tape, whatever) do whatever your machine does to the numbers and put them back in storage. Then someone realized that you could make a general purpose computer, that you could encode operations on numbers as numbers, say "1 means add", "2 means subtract" etc. Then the machine could take, say, three numbers out of the storage, look at the first one, see what it means (add, subtract, etc) and do that to the other two numbers and put it back. This takes the function of the machine out of the physicality of the machine, and puts it in the ephemeral world of software, you have a general purpose machine that can do anything. It's sort of the same trick we pulled with culture.

Now, 70 years later, just from a general purpose number machine, we have a world wide communications network, whole new industries and Facebook.

Did you ever wish you knew what the Next Big Thing was? That you could have gotten in on the ground floor of the Internet, or the industrial revolution, or plastics? Well, I'm going to tell you, right here, right now. Seriously. There are two now-tiny but up and coming technologies that feel to me like they have the same sort of potential to cause world changing upheaval as the general purpose computer. Today, they don't sound like much, but imagining trying to explain to someone in the 40's how a machine that was slightly better at adding numbers would create and destroy whole industries.

The first is software radio. Right now a lot of the most interesting technologies work over radio waves. I'm talking about broadcast radio, ham radio, broadcast television, HDTV, satellite TV, cellphones and pagers, GPS, wi-fi, CB-radio, all the cool stuff. Today, each of these technologies has their own little dedicated piece of hardware, that takes in radio waves, interprets them in a certain way, then maybe broadcasts some more radio waves in return. A cellphone understands the radio frequencies from the cellphone tower, interprets them and sometimes converts them in to sounds for you, then encodes your voice in to radio waves and sends them back. An HDTV receiver hears a different frequency of radio waves, and interprets them as sound and video. A wi-fi router turns network traffic in to radio waves for the wi-fi card in your computer to pick up and convert back, and vice versa. But it's all just radio waves, each device receives radio waves and does some transformation on them turning them in to some other form, sound, video, voice, data, etc.

Imagine a general purpose radio, similar to the general purpose computer. It's just an antenna hooked up to a digital-analog converter, it listens to the entire radio spectrum converts it to data, and sends that to a computer. The computer, in turn, can send data back to the digital-analog converter that turns it back in to radio waves and sends it out over the antenna. Computers aren't quite fast enough to do this over the entire radio spectrum in real-time yet, but they will be soon.

What does the computer do with the radio waves? Basically, anything. The radio waves can be processed via software, to do any transformation possible on the radio waves. This means with the right pieces of software, this device becomes any existing radio device, an am/fm radio, a GPS receiver, a wi-fi node, an HDTV, a regular TV, anything. These devices aren't attached to the computer, they are in the computer, in software, in the same way that there isn't a typesetter or an adding machine attached to the computer, there is typesetting and adding software in the computer. You would no longer have to buy a new radio device, you could just download it.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg, this is just the "slightly better adding machine" phase of the technology, once radio is in software, and anyone can make or modify a radio device just by writing a computer program, application we can't even imagine today will start to become commonplace. Today, a guy is making the software radio hardware in his garage and selling it for $700, that's basically nothing, and with the way economies of scale and manufacturing innovation work with electronics, if these things start being mass-produced, in 10 years, they'll cost 50 cents.

The second earth shattering new technology coming up is desktop fabrication. Here, watch this lecture then come back, I'll wait. Ok. Desktop fabrication is basically software, or culture (in the sense I use above) but for things. Imagine you could download a thing as easily as you can download a song. Seriously, that's what we're talking about here. Sure, right now, today's fabricators can barely make little plastic parts, but this is one of those iterative things, you can use an ok fabricator to make a better fabricator. As we've seen with software, big business is no match for the world-wide army of nerds, either in product innovation, or in the arms race to build and break the locks that keep us from digital content. Imagine the phone or computer or car that the w.w.a.o.n. could collectively build, imagine anyone in the world being able to have it for the cost of a bucket of raw materials. Now that will really upset the apple cart. You see the bad laws and panic lawsuits the RIAA and MPAA are throwing out in their death throes? Imagine the entire manufacturing industry in the same predicament!

Interesting times are coming. Sweet.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New ancient traditions

So, Holiday Season 2007 is officially over, and we've got about a month and a half until the first Ontario Family Day.

Given that the two previous holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas cram a cranberry stuffed, tinsel covered, holly-jolly, passive-aggressive, mandatory two-ton football of family down our collective throat, I humbly suggest that it's high time that we reclaim Family Day from Hallmark and "big-family" go back to the origins of this ancient holiday, re-christen it "Chosen Family Day", and stay as far the hell away from our genetic antecedents as possible.

It was pointed out to me recently that we are presented with a unique opportunity this first Family Day, this is a new holiday and we, right here, right now, have the chance to come up with new traditions and observances. This is my suggested list:

  • Group singing of "Everyday People" by Sly and the Family Stone
  • Annual airing of The Family Guy Star Wars episode
  • The traditional ordering of Chinese Takeout and the reading of the fortune cookies (postpended with either "...in bed" or "...between your legs")
  • Mandatory participation in a game of Eat Poop You Cat
  • Family Day Resolutions, in which New Year's Resolutions are examined, assessed and possibly redacted.
  • Group re-gifting / swap meet.