Archive for October, 2008

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Geek Thoughts: obsession

An alphabetized CD collection is a sign of a diseased mind.

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Thursday, October 30th, 2008

XiX (XForms in XQuery)

I’m pondering implementing the computational parts of the XForms Model in XQuery. Doing so in a largely functional environment poses some challenges, though. Has anybody tackled this before? How about in any functional language, including ML, Haskell, Scheme, XSLT, or careful Python?

I borrowed the book Purely Functional Data Structures from a friend–this looks to be a good start. What else is out there? Comment below. -m

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Geek Thoughts: E

There exist two kinds of geeks in the world. Those that see a backwards E, and those that see a 180-degree rotated E.

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Monday, October 27th, 2008

Meade Class, the nexte

Another mead class is scheduled for November 15th in Los Altos. Come join me!

Mead, honey wine, “the nectar of the gods”. Whatever you call it MoreFlavor Los Altos is sponsoring a class to help you learn more about this wonderful fermented beverage and equip you to brew your own.

Saturday, Nov. 15, 2008 2:00 – 4:00 pm
991 N. San Antonio Road
Los Altos, CA 94022

Learn about:

Different types of meads
Brewing techniques
How boiling affects mead
The three most important factors in mead brewing
How to taste and evaluate mead

Light food and drink are included in the class materials fee of $10. Seating is limited. Email Micah at to reserve a spot today.

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Online etymology database

I’ve been playing lately with this site, and it’s a fantastic resource. The word carboy probably comes from Persian qarabah “large flagon.” Who knew? -m

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

RDFa is a Recommendation

Haven’t mentioned here that RDFa is a W3C Recommendation. I’m thrilled that something that I’ve been thinking about for a while is ready for prime time.

Also, as of this writing the first page of results at Google still prominently links to a terribly outdated draft of the spec. The first page of results at Yahoo! nails it. Just sayin’.


Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Geek Thoughts: caps lock

On a Mac keyboard, why is “caps lock” in lower case?

Caps Lock is AWESOME!!1!

Flickr photo by catcubed.

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Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Geek Thoughts: polyhedra

Polyhedra: n. (plural) – Sketches done by an artist of the male gender.

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Monday, October 20th, 2008

Running jEdit on Mac Java 1.6

I haven’t seen this anywhere else: jEdit doesn’t start up under the recent Mac Java 1.6. It bounces in the dock a few times then goes away.

The solution: manually run the main jar with java -jar path-to/jedit.jar, which will work. Go to the plugin manager and delete the MacOSX plugin. Java integration is good enough in 1.6 that this really isn’t needed anyway. Quit jEdit and now it will start up fine the usual way. -m

Monday, October 20th, 2008

New MacBook Pro

I tend to be pretty conservative about new hardware. The day-to-day G4 processor machine I’m writing this on was purchased back in 2004. But with all these new models coming out, I couldn’t resist…buying an older one. After all, we are in a downturn.

On Amazon, previous-generation MacBook Pros are pretty cheap, and have a $150 rebate on top of that. Like this one for $1444 after rebate. Perhaps with a memory upgrade, this should keep me set for another 4 years.

How long has it been since you upgraded? -m

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

Geek Thoughts: Penrose

The Penrose is mightier than the thorn.

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Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Judging organic beer

This weekend I’ll be judging organic homebrew at the Seven Bridges Cooperative in San Jose. Yes, not only is this beer carbon-based, it’s certified. :-) If you’ll be there too, be sure to look me up. -m

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

Geek Thoughts: brother can you spare $0.0036?

Tough economic times? Take 1.2 volt, 2.5 Amp/hr NiMH batteries (technically “cells”). Call it 3 W/hrs of energy each. The going electricity rate here is about $0.15/KW-hr. Thus fully charging four batteries with a 50% efficient charger costs approximately $0.0036.

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Monday, October 13th, 2008

Software narratives: write better software by watching movies

Without any exception I can think of: every top-notch software developer I know is also a skilled technical writer. Technical writing requires skill in choosing words, constructing sentences and paragraphs, and putting together the pieces in the right order to most effectively present the material.

In contrast, narrative writing requires an eye towards the bigger picture, an overall story arc. To put it another way, beginnings, middles, and ends. Hollywood screenwriters have got this down to a science, dividing screenplays into three acts. Next time you visit the movies, look for the parts and how the connect.

Act I, comprising about 1/4 of the whole work, introduces the characters and situation. Between Act I and Act II a key even happens to propel the story forward. Neo swallows the pill. Luke Skywalker finds his Aunt and Uncle killed. In Act II, comprising about 1/2 of the story, the “real story” begins. Another key moment happens to introduce the final Act III, which culminates during the final 1/4 of the story. Three acts: beginning, middle, and end. Other aspects of fiction writing, say characterization, are relatively less important in technical narratives.

A great introduction to these concepts is Syd Field’s Screenplay, to give one a broader view on what story is really all about, and why some stories move people more than others. Many of the concepts apply equally to software narratives. And like I wrote about earlier, such narratives are a powerful (if underused) tool in software development. -m

Friday, October 10th, 2008

More mobile XForms goodness

I haven’t tried this, but these guys claim to have a solution where

The form definitions are saved and exchanged as XForms, and the data as XForm[s] models. The data can be exchanged over http (if the phone users can afford GPRS and have a data connection) or over compressed SMS messages.

Sounds like they have the right idea… -m

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

Geek Thoughts: presidential RPG

Debates are boring. Host your own through the magic of RPG. GURPS character sheets for the 2008 US Presidential candidates:

Obama: ST:10 DX:11 IQ:14 HT:10

Advantages: Allies (Wright, Ayers) [0 point advantage], Charisma, High Fatigue Threshold, Unfazeable

Disadvantages: Elite, Pacifism, Stuttering, Pronunciation of “Pakistan” [quirk],

Skills: Administration:14, Computer Operation:12, Diplomacy:12, Enthrallment:11, Law:13, Politics:14, Public Speaking:15, Strategy:13, Writing:12

McCain: ST:10 DX:9 IQ:12 HT:13

Advantages: Allies (Lieberman, Hannity, Petraeus), Combat Reflexes, Daredevil, High Pain Threshold, Military Rank

Disadvantages: Age, Bad Temper, Chronic Pain, Stubbornness

Skills: Administration:12, Carousing:15, Diplomacy:9, Gambling:10, Leadership:13, Piloting:11, Politics:16, Public Speaking:13, Soldier:11, Tactics:13, Special skill–Maverick:18

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Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Possible downtime

I’m upgrading to a bigger and better internet service plan. Some possible downtime in the near future… -m

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Geek Thoughts: details matter

GeekDad to 7-year-old: “You need to include a bibliography in your report.”

7-year-old: “What! I’m not putting naked pictures in it!!”

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Monday, October 6th, 2008

To any recently downsized eBayers

I know what it’s like to be laid off, I’ve been through it twice. If you need help connecting up with a new gig, whether at MarkLogic or a hand-off to one of the zillion headhunters that constantly harry me, let me know. Send me email and I’ll do what I can. -m

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Geek Thoughts: Joe sixpack

Who is this guy anyway? Be sure to hit the link for the equivalent terms in 80+ countries. There’s Jos Bleau in Canada, Jah D in Jamaica, Joe Borg in Malta, and Joe Bloggs in New Zealand. Based on the economic indicators and other predictions, 无名氏 might be popular soon too.

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Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

XForms spambots on the loose

A determined spambot has been submitting the XForms contact form on XForms Institute. OK, so it’s probably more Flash-aware than XForms-aware, but still. -m

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

Evernote: the final piece of “it’s the data, stupid” clicks into place

Evernote now has import/export (in an XML format), meaning it now passes the generation test for data availability and lock-in-avoidance, as I wrote about some years ago. There’s a server API, as well as client-side scripting. I need to look into the details more, but as a start it looks like a home run. -m

Update: looking at the actual export XML, I’m disappointed. Each note is CDATA-escaped XML? Why???