Monday, March 31, 2008

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Saw this on Slashdot, had to me2 it. An Internet entrepreneur in Sweden wanted to demo a new long-distance connection technology. So he chose a random consumer -- his mom -- and gave her an insanely fast hookup: 40 Gbits/second. The followup story on The Local ("Sweden's News In English") points out that this would let you download an HD movie in two seconds, and asks how she's been using the bandwidth. "It was a big bit of gear and it got pretty warm", said an exec. "She mostly used it to dry her laundry."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Clean Water On the Cheap for the Third World?

Well, Dean Kamen (of Segway fame) thinks it can be done.

This could be absolutely huge. I like that this guy is really trying to change the world. Didn't happen with the Segway, but personal transport and water purification/energy production on the village scale are definitely some of the right problems to be bashing on.

An Interesting Juxtaposition

This is straight from Salon Magazine, you should go there and read their stuff, but as an appetite-whetter, this item appeared today in the "War Room" section:

Quotes of the day

Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes the merciless reality of war.

-- Sen. John McCain, March 26, 2008

I must say, I'm a little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed.It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks.

-- President George W. Bush, March 13, 2008

Alex Koppelman

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Read Obama's Speech. Please.

Hopefully this NYT site will let you in, because you badly need to read this if you didn't hear it.

I cannot remember when an American politician at the national level last brought tears to my eyes.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

What She Said

My bride was excited to note an item in the local paper about a show entitled "Walking With Dinosaurs". Since our children were utterly entranced with the PBS show, this seemed like a shoo-in. It's a stage performance with big animatronic dinosaurs -- cool. But tickets start around $70.

"For those prices", she said, "I want real dinosaurs. Real dinosaurs and...and the Rolling Stones."

"Maybe that's redundant."

Friday, March 07, 2008

No, Really, I Was There!

Here are some obligatorily lame I-wuz-there shots from the week. It's not like I'm exactly new to this, but I still -- still! -- get a kick out of seeing my name on the signs.

ROBOTS! Outstanding keynote at SD West 08

Wow, this year's SD West has been bracketed by two absolutely terrific performances. The first one, Alexa's, you've probably already read about. Today's keynote by James McClurkin, "Dancing With Robots", was the single best keynote I have yet seen. I mean, he was funny, he was informative, he had a swarm of robots running around onstage doing stuff, he even got a swarm of programmers up onstage doing some exercises (sorry guys, the robots were better).

And he wound the whole thing up with a call to arms, exhorting his fellow nerds to go out and give back to their communnity, country, and the world at large. The cool thing was that he was so good, it didn't even sound corny!

Stan, you definitely need to tell Colin about this guy. I think they'd get along like a house afoor.

Stay tuned for YouTube video of the robots onstage; probably will be low-fi, but perhaps watchable.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


Well, that's pretty scary -- there's only one more day of this conference and I am now on my second blog post about it.


Since I only work for Think Services (the new company spun off from the dismemberment of CMP) as an occasional speaker now, and don't write for what were CMP's magazines, I hope that I may be permitted to gush about what a great experience this is for a developer. You've got the conference proceedings themselves, which in my experience have largely composed excellent, immediately useful classes. Then there's the chance to rub elbows with your fellow hackers; in my case, I also get to hang out with some pretty high-powered folks who are speaking at the conference, I try not to be too much of a fanboy groupie but when you're in a room with people whose books you've read for years, it really hits you.

I gave my talk today ("Idiomatic Ruby", thanks for asking), and was a little underwhelmed at the crowd I drew -- not crushed, but I'd have felt better if I'd filled the room. Then again, it was 8:30 AM, and I was speaking at the same time as Uncle Bob, Michele Bustamante, Joshua Bloch, and a couple of other names I instantly recognized when Tami rattled them off but have forgotten now. So I guess I should be delighted that I had 20 actual warm bodies of any description in the room!

The talk went quite smoothly; only one person obviously yawned, and only one showed the Long Blink. In my rehearsals I kept coming in right around 90 minutes or a bit more, so I talked pretty fast to leave time for questions.

Of course there weren't any, so I had ten or twelve minutes to spare. Oops. And had I done more material or talked more slowly, there would have been tons, so I guess I won't kick. units.! More tomorrow.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Time for SD West again

I'm out in Santa Clara for another Software Development West conference. My treasured friend (and former editor at SD Magazine) Alexa Weber Morales was singing at the Improv in San Jose, and I managed to get into town in time for the show, though she didn't know it. ("I managed it" thanks to my wife, I might add. "Hey sweetie, how about taking me to the airport 4:30 AM so I can watch some other woman sing and dance, 1400 miles away? See you next week!" I have truly married well.)

Alexa was one of two featured vocalists for Patois Records, the up-and-coming label from Bay Area jazz titan Wayne Wallace, whose band was playing this afternoon. Wow, what a show -- I'm a jazz ignoramus, and these artists really made me feel it today. Alexa and Kat Parra, another multilingual jazz gal with incredible pipes, really made that stage hum, and at least to my untutored ear, the band was tight as a tick.

Of course, geeky guy that I am, the best moment for me came early in Alexa's set. She admitted to the audience that she was suddenly uncharacteristically nervous, and wondered if it might be that the stage lighting was preventing her from actually seeing anyone out there. "We're here, honest", I stage-whispered -- I was sitting right down front -- and waved my arm.

Now, picture the scene. You are a garden-variety male nerd (a good bet if you're reading this blog). You were not voted Most Desirable by your high-school class. Really, really not. Your one date with the blonde cheerleader (OK, from the pom-pon squad) ended in disaster when you were carded out of seeing One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and wound up at The Bad News Bears instead.*

You are sitting in a reasonably trendy club in Silicon Valley. The air is still tingling with sexy Latin jazz, and there's a beautiful woman onstage who has just delivered a totally smokin' singing, dancing, wow-the-crowd number. I'm saying every straight guy in the joint just ran a finger around his collar, OK? She looks your way and exclaims with evident delight -- into the mike -- "My God, ___!" (insert your name here).

I am here to tell you that this would completely make your day. Possibly the remainder of your career, depending on your personal mix of self-esteem issues. Alexa, I owe ya.

Go buy her CD, would you? You won't regret it.

*True story. You think I could make something like that up?