Monthly Archives: June 2007

Structured Procrastination

I’m writing this blog post today. Sure — it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and I really wanted to blog earlier, but I finally found something more important not to do.

I confess — I am a world-famous procrastinator. But that might not be a bad thing. John Perry tells us that structured procrastination can lead to a happier, more productive life. Take a look. It makes for a light, fun read.

There’s also a procrastinator’s club. It was announced in an Omni Magazine in 1982 (no kidding). I’ve been meaning to join. Sounds like a great group. Going to get around to it pretty soon now.

I should probably renew my subscription to Omni as well. I’ve been missing those cool hi-tech articles. It’s a great rag.

So procrastinators everywhere — unite! Just not today. Maybe next week.

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Happy Birthday ET

This month and next mark an unique anniversary of sorts for humankind — the sixty-year anniversary of the popular realization that we might not be alone out there.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestial -- image from 1980s motion picture of the same name
The popularity of fanciful images and movies such as this in the 1980s was a
result of growing awareness in the possibility of other-worldly life

It all started in June of 1947 when salesman and pilot Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine objects flying in a “V” formation over Mount Rainier, Washington. Arnold told a reporter on June 24, 1947 that the UFOs flew erratically, fluttering and tipping their wings, like “a saucer if you skip it across water” — and a worldwide subculture was born. Just the next month, July 1947, saw a crash in Roswell, New Mexico.

I won’t go into the history of the UFO phenomenon — Wired has a great story on it. The overwhelmingly vast majority of UFO sightings are either misled people or outright hoaxers. Naysayers — one could call them smart alecks or wiseacres — say that the entire phenomenon is simply a product of mass hysteria.

There’s some truth to that. But like all generalizations it is false. Every now and then — perhaps as much as 2-4 times per year — there are stories that quite adeptly challenge the notion that we are alone in the cosmos. I would like to share a few of my favorites.

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Ugly Dog Roundup

I’ve been busy working 16-hour-days on a commercial product release, so I haven’t had a lot of time for blogging.

But something caught my eye this morning as I was scarfing down Red Bull and sketching some activity diagrams — ugly dogs.

Seems like the “World’s Ugliest Dog” contest has a new winner. Here are a few ugly dogs from the web for your perusal. Somebody has to do this stuff.

Just don’t look at this just after eating. You’ve been warned.

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What Does it Mean to be a Journalist, Anyway?

Model Lauren Jones
When old ugly fat people get popular,
Lauren Jones is going to be out of luck.
I promise to be a gracious winner.

What’s it mean to be a journalist? Lately a lot of people are asking.

Take blogging, for instance. I blog all the time. I like it. It is writing about things I care about — reporting it to others. I believe that makes me a journalist. Some folks don’t think so. They feel that you need a expensive degree and some sort of accreditation. These are usually the people who have already paid for an expensive degree and some sort of accreditation, however, so their views are somewhat suspect.

Looks like Model Lauren Jones is on my side in this. The model is going to be a local newscast anchor in Tyler, Texas. She arrived last week in Tyler for a 30-day stint at KYTX-TV, a CBS affiliate. The job will include co-anchoring the 5 p.m. newscast each day Jones will be followed around by a 40-person Fox reality crew, who plan on making the whole thing into a TV show.

Does anybody else think it’s kind of strange for one TV show to be following the stars around from a second TV show? How many levels can this thing nest? Perhaps next year Fox will bring us a reality show about how reality shows are put together. Yikes! Recursion alert!

Some folks seem to have gotten bent out of shape over it. From the article:

TV newsrooms have been a staple of TV shows for years, perhaps most successfully with “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Upcoming Fox sitcom “Back to You,” starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton, will keep the genre alive. But this is the first time that a reality series will feature someone with no journalism experience who will be thrust into a job surrounded by real journalists. It has raised concerns inside and outside KYTX.

“One of the last sacred grounds of integrity in local television is the local newsroom, so I guess I would say I’m disappointed to see a station, much less one in our own community, that has evidently sold its integrity,” said Brad Streit, vp and GM for KLTV-TV, the ABC affiliate in Tyler.

Adds KETK-TV GM Mike DeLier of the NBC affiliate: “I see this as a stunt, and it’s a self-admitted stunt and not a journalistic endeavor.”

Al Tompkins, broadcast group leader for the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., is more blunt: “It devalues the work of real journalists who are trying to do real work. It doesn’t do anything to help the reputation of journalists there and around the world.”

I have family in local TV news, and I’ve written for weekly and daily newspapers. I’ve written on a deadline, and I’ve covered a beat. I’ve always thought of journalism in general as a form of entertainment. I understand there is a higher ethical standard practiced by some, but heck, there are different ways of painting landscapes. People “buy” certain concepts of journalism, so the concepts work. If part of the branding for some people includes going on and on about what “real” journalists are, I see that as a form of marketing. But I’m not about to confuse marketing hype with reality.

Model Lauren Jones seems to have had a great career so far. I wish her the best of luck in her new show. The complainers should get a life.

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What’s Wrong with European IT?

“You Yanks are an obnoxious, fun-hating bunch,” my British friend told me once, “on the continent people take an entire month off for holiday, and most Yanks don’t even take a week.”

It’s true — mostly. A recent study by Expedia.com found that

This year an estimated 51 million Americans — more than one-third of the workforce — will not use all their vacation days, according to a survey by Expedia.com. In what the company calls “vacation deprivation,” each worker will pass up an average of three days off.

Other workers face a different challenge. Almost one in four Americans have no paid vacation and no paid holidays, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. In a new report, “No-Vacation Nation,” the group notes that the U.S. remains the only advanced country that does not guarantee workers a paid vacation. By law, Europeans have the right to at least 20 days of paid time off per year. Some countries guarantee 25 or 30 days.

I’m writing up some code for a few clients. I just started last week, and when they asked me when a beta would be ready, I told them it would be ready in a week or two. It was like I had monkeys flying out of my ears when I said it would happen quickly. When I’m on a software development project, I start working and I don’t stop until the program works. That usually means 15-18-hour-days, little sleep, and a lot of fun. Unfortunately, that’s not been my experience with IT shops in general. Most times things take a long time, don’t work right, and don’t do what the users want. For some reason, European shops seem even worse at making IT happen.

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Space: Kill NASA and Really Explore Space

NASA Logo upside down

I am a big fan of anything to do with flying or space. I am an instrument and commercial pilot, and I spend a lot of my free time reading about astronomy, cosmology, and all things space-related. I’m a huge fan of manned spaceflight, and I’m ready to go into outer space on a moment’s notice.

But we gotta kill NASA if we really want to explore space.

That might sound crazy to you, but please hear me out.

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Count me in

Save 70% - Now Enjoy Brilliant Courses in Your Car or Home

Recently I was listening to the Teaching Company’sUnderstanding the Fundamentals of Music” with my children. As part of this experience, the lecturer Robert Greenberg talked about Dave Brubeck and how much he admired him. Brubeck does something called compound meter in some of his works. It’s too much to describe here, but it got me interested so I ordered the “Dave Brubeck — for all time” CD collection a couple of weeks ago.

A picture from 1951 of the Dave Brubeck Quartet
The Dave Brubeck quartet in 1951.
Who knew it?

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Secrets of the Web Monkey Ninja Warriors

Monkey pointing a Glock automatic pistol
Listen up! Or things might get ugly

In an ongoing effort to do as little work as possible, I have been tirelessly scavenging the web looking to entertain you, the reader. Please — no need to thank me now. Send your bags of money to the contact address. Money will be thanks enough.

And that brings me to the subject of today’s rant: how the heck do people spend their time on the web? How do you, technology-savvy person that you are, find and position material that people want to read? If you were a ninja warrior of web content, how would you select material?

The answer is found in monkeys.

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