On reinventing yourself


I've always fought against memories of the past. In doing so I've deprived myself of the chance to actually enjoy what they mean.

What's the first thing you remember when listening to Guns 'N' Roses' Sweet Child of Mine? To me it's Slash and his guitar at the beginning of the song.

I don't know about you but but music, Naginata and sometimes being a mean and nasty son of a bitch is so liberating.  Fuck the consequences and just go with it

I've decided that this is the last time I talk to the person I've been having problems with and then let the chips fall as they may.

Part of reinventing yourself is to keep yourself flexible and nimble. I heard news @work that put the June conference into perspective. Now it makes sense why I have to take vacation time to go and it defused that piece to the point where it's a non-issue. What brought my anger level up 'though is the fact that where I want to go professionally does not match where upper management wants me to go and no one has seen fit to tell me so.  I had to pry it out of my supervisor today and I know that he's as uncomfortable with this whole situation as I am but he really can't do much about it either. SO I have to decide if my peace of mind is worth calling attention to myself and the possible consequences of that action.


I can't get this song from my head and haven't been able to for a while. The emphasis to me is in the chorus:

We're fighting for the gods of war
But what the hell we're fighting for
We're fighting with the gods of war
But I ain't gonna fight no more

The first step is to take inventory of yourself, your priorities and your goals (both short and long term).

The last few posts have talked a lot about priorities, goals and commitments. For more details see Sometimes I just wishPriorities, realizations and commitments, and Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish so now I think  it's time to do an inventory of who I really am and take another, more serious, look at where I want to be or perhaps who I don't want to be.

I want to be someone whom people can trust, and not be afraid to approach; I want those around me to know that, if I see a reciprocal effort, I'll put 110% effort into our friendship. People who try to, in their words, "be nice" have a problem that I don't want to be a part of: in being  nice they deprive their friends of the opportunities to change and grow. I tend to be opinionated, sometimes too opinionated for my own good, but I'll always do my best to be open and honest with my friends.

I think that we all want to work on something we enjoy and can grow to love. The disagreements are more in the shape and nature of what that job is and the areas of responsibilities that it's associated with "the dream job". Some things are about the job itself and others  are more about what I want and the challenges I want to stretch me professionally.

  • I want flexibility;
  • I want room for growth: not be pigeonholed into one specific area but to be allowed to branch out as needed to get stuff done and not get bored to tears;

Perhaps that's the key to reinventing yourself.... To keep enough versions of you around that each one of them can take whatever is coming your way.

Am I really ready to do that? Am I willing to embrace the flexibility I need not to be afraid of whatever is coming?

One of the things that I've never learned all the way through is that there is no gain without pain.... intellectually I can understand it but I don't think I've ever internalized it and the fear still stops me when it's time to move on. I've said it before that I couldn't understand why was it that I didn't trust my instincts when they told me it was time to move on. Being totally blunt

I was watching, again, the series final for JAG: Fair Winds and Following Seas. The last scene when Bud flips the coin and everyone  keeps staring to see who is going to have to give up their life dreams to achieve happiness.

As I've said before what do you have to give up in order to get what you really want.

Being totally honest, I don't know if I could give up my job and be totally happy. I know I don't want crap like what happened today to repeat itself but I also know that  I'm not ever going to be happy without being able to exercise the atrophied skill sets.

I've hardly done any training or presentations since I moved to Chico. 10 hours or so in 3 years hardly qualifies as keeping your skills sharp.  I'm afraid that my instructional design and development skills are going the same way.  If you don't use them or at least keep current with the literature I'll loose what little of those skills you have left.

Back to what I want and don't want. So far these are the elements of what I'd want in an "ideal job." I realize that some of these things are not realistic and/or even possible but, hell, we're talking about an ideal so why not? 🙂

  • I want a place where I can actually practice training and instructional design even if it's as a secondary area of responsibility
  • I want a team, not a place where people feel empowered to dictate to other teammates. I've been as guilty about this as anyone and that's what I hate the most about the situation
  • I want a job where the rules are clear from day 1 with room for change, evolution and improvement where it's appropriate. It's not that I'm averse to change, it's just that I want to know when it's coming.
  • Related to the one above is wanting to at least get a voice on what direction my job is going. I know this is totally unrealistic, but it's one worth writing down even if it means that I'm never going to get a job that's 100% satisfactory
  • Communication, communication, communication. Things haven't been put on context and it shouldn't have to be my job to figure out what it is that I'm supposed to be doing.

Listening:

  • Skid Row (Youth gone wild, 18 and life)
  • Linkin Park - iTunes selection
  • Rush - Roll the bones

Reading:

  • Agile web development with Rails
  • Foundation's Edge

Doing:

  • Learning to Program Rails
  • Trying to complete my final paper
  • Outlining my 2 summer writing projects

Watching:

  • Reruns of JAG
  • NCIS
  • Stargate: The Ark of Truth

New Jersey hacker wraps his marriage proposal in lines of code

A future bride, bejeweled

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

For self-confessed New Jersey computer nerd Bernie Peng, 26, getting down on one knee or hiding a diamond ring in a bouquet was, well, just too old school. When it came time to pop the question to Tammy Li, 27, his girlfriend of three years, he preferred to let her favourite video game do the talking for him.

Mr. Peng, a financial software programmer, spent nearly a month last fall reprogramming the popular video game Bejeweled for Ms. Li's Nintendo DS - a handheld system for which no commercial version of the game exists. And buried inside all those lines of code, at a relatively easy-to-reach level, Mr. Peng inserted a marriage proposal and a digital image of a pink engagement ring.

She played. She soon reached the threshold. And she said yes. "It's a very pleasant surprise," said Ms. Li, a TV producer whose ring finger is now adorned by a pink sapphire identical to the digital version.

Plans are under way for a wedding on Labour Day weekend.

But in an age of zealous copyright protection, the global gaming community - who had followed Mr. Peng's feat through his blog - wondered how PopCap, the Seattle-based company that makes Bejeweled, would respond.

It turns out they're impressed.

"What he did was take the game and manipulate and modify it for a particular purpose," company spokesman Garth Chouteau told Double Take yesterday, adding that if Mr. Peng were to commercialize his endeavour in some way, "we might have a different response."

"We were amazed and impressed that he was able to do what he did. Besides, any time a hacker manipulates code so that a guy gets the gal, well, you have to respect that," Mr. Chouteau said.

The company respects it so much, in fact, that it's providing copies of Bejeweled 2 Deluxe as wedding favours for each of the couple's 200 guests, providing $1,000 for jewel-themed decorations and flying the couple to Seattle as a second honeymoon.

Mr. Peng and Ms. Li are busily trying to pare down a growing guest list and making other arrangements.

All of which, for Mr. Peng, makes weeks of rewriting C++ code seem simple by comparison.

"This is a lot more work," he said.

With reports from Associated Press and NJ.com

Here's an example of arrogance, eventhough he's right

Subject: A bike shed (any colour will do) on greener grass...
From: Poul-Henning Kamp <[email protected]>
Date: Sat, 02 Oct 1999 16:14:10 +0200
Message-ID: <[email protected]>
Sender: [email protected]
Bcc: Blind Distribution List: ;
MIME-Version: 1.0

[bcc'ed to committers, hackers]

My last pamphlet was sufficiently well received that I was not scared away from sending another one, and today I have the time and inclination to do so.

I've had a little trouble with deciding on the right distribution of this kind of stuff, this time it is bcc'ed to committers and hackers, that is probably the best I can do. I'm not subscribed to hackers myself but more on that later.

The thing which have triggered me this time is the "sleep(1) should do fractional seconds" thread, which have pestered our lives for many days now, it's probably already a couple of weeks, I can't even be bothered to check.

To those of you who have missed this particular thread: Congratulations.

It was a proposal to make sleep(1) DTRT if given a non-integer argument that set this particular grass-fire off. I'm not going to say anymore about it than that, because it is a much smaller item than one would expect from the length of the thread, and it has already received far more attention than some of the *problems* we have around here.

The sleep(1) saga is the most blatant example of a bike shed discussion we have had ever in FreeBSD. The proposal was well thought out, we would gain compatibility with OpenBSD and NetBSD, and still be fully compatible with any code anyone ever wrote.

Yet so many objections, proposals and changes were raised and launched that one would think the change would have plugged all the holes in swiss cheese or changed the taste of Coca Cola or something similar serious.

"What is it about this bike shed ?" Some of you have asked me.

It's a long story, or rather it's an old story, but it is quite short actually. C. Northcote Parkinson wrote a book in the early 1960'ies, called "Parkinson's Law", which contains a lot of insight into the dynamics of management.

You can find it on Amazon, and maybe also in your dads book-shelf, it is well worth its price and the time to read it either way, if you like Dilbert, you'll like Parkinson.

Somebody recently told me that he had read it and found that only about 50% of it applied these days. That is pretty darn good I would say, many of the modern management books have hit-rates a lot lower than that, and this one is 35+ years old.

In the specific example involving the bike shed, the other vital component is an atomic power-plant, I guess that illustrates the age of the book.

Parkinson shows how you can go in to the board of directors and get approval for building a multi-million or even billion dollar atomic power plant, but if you want to build a bike shed you will be tangled up in endless discussions.

Parkinson explains that this is because an atomic plant is so vast, so expensive and so complicated that people cannot grasp it, and rather than try, they fall back on the assumption that somebody else checked all the details before it got this far. Richard P. Feynmann gives a couple of interesting, and very much to the point, examples relating to Los Alamos in his books.

A bike shed on the other hand. Anyone can build one of those over a weekend, and still have time to watch the game on TV. So no matter how well prepared, no matter how reasonable you are with your proposal, somebody will seize the chance to show that he is doing his job, that he is paying attention, that he is *here*.

In Denmark we call it "setting your fingerprint". It is about personal pride and prestige, it is about being able to point somewhere and say "There! *I* did that." It is a strong trait in politicians, but present in most people given the chance. Just think about footsteps in wet cement.

I bow my head in respect to the original proposer because he stuck to his guns through this carpet blanking from the peanut gallery, and the change is in our tree today. I would have turned my back and walked away after less than a handful of messages in that thread.

And that brings me, as I promised earlier, to why I am not subscribed to -hackers:

I un-subscribed from -hackers several years ago, because I could not keep up with the email load. Since then I have dropped off several other lists as well for the very same reason.

And I still get a lot of email. A lot of it gets routed to /dev/null by filters: People like Brett Glass will never make it onto my screen, commits to documents in languages I don't understand likewise, commits to ports as such. All these things and more go the winter way without me ever even knowing about it.

But despite these sharp teeth under my mailbox I still get too much email.

This is where the greener grass comes into the picture:

I wish we could reduce the amount of noise in our lists and I wish we could let people build a bike shed every so often, and I don't really care what colour they paint it.

The first of these wishes is about being civil, sensitive and intelligent in our use of email.

If I could concisely and precisely define a set of criteria for when one should and when one should not reply to an email so that everybody would agree and abide by it, I would be a happy man, but I am too wise to even attempt that.

But let me suggest a few pop-up windows I would like to see mail-programs implement whenever people send or reply to email to the lists they want me to subscribe to:

+------------------------------------------------------------+
| Your email is about to be sent to several hundred thousand |
| people, who will have to spend at least 10 seconds reading |
| it before they can decide if it is interesting. At least   |
| two man-weeks will be spent reading your email. Many of    |
| the recipients will have to pay to download your email.    |
| 				 			     |
| Are you absolutely sure that your email is of sufficient   |
| importance to bother all these people ? 		     |
| 							     |
| 		[YES] [REVISE] [CANCEL] 		     | +------------------------------------------------------------+

+------------------------------------------------------------+
| Warning: You have not read all emails in this thread yet. |
| Somebody else may already have said what you are about to |
| say in your reply. Please read the entire thread before |
| replying to any email in it. |
| |
| [CANCEL] | +------------------------------------------------------------+

+------------------------------------------------------------+
| Warning: Your mail program have not even shown you the |
| entire message yet. Logically it follows that you cannot |
| possibly have read it all and understood it. |
| |
| It is not polite to reply to an email until you have |
| read it all and thought about it. |
| |
| A cool off timer for this thread will prevent you from |
| replying to any email in this thread for the next one hour |
| |
| [Cancel] | +------------------------------------------------------------+

+------------------------------------------------------------+
| You composed this email at a rate of more than N.NN cps |
| It is generally not possible to think and type at a rate |
| faster than A.AA cps, and therefore you reply is likely to |
| incoherent, badly thought out and/or emotional. |
| |
| A cool off timer will prevent you from sending any email |
| for the next one hour. |
| |
| [Cancel] | +------------------------------------------------------------+

The second part of my wish is more emotional. Obviously, the capacities we had manning the unfriendly fire in the sleep(1) thread, despite their many years with the project, never cared enough to do this tiny deed, so why are they suddenly so enflamed by somebody else so much their junior doing it ?

I wish I knew.

I do know that reasoning will have no power to stop such "reactionaire conservatism". It may be that these people are frustrated about their own lack of tangible contribution lately or it may be a bad case of "we're old and grumpy, WE know how youth should behave".

Either way it is very unproductive for the project, but I have no suggestions for how to stop it. The best I can suggest is to refrain from fuelling the monsters that lurk in the mailing lists: Ignore them, don't answer them, forget they're there.

I hope we can get a stronger and broader base of contributors in FreeBSD, and I hope we together can prevent the grumpy old men and the Brett Glasses of the world from chewing them up, spitting them out and scaring them away before they ever get a leg to the ground.

For the people who have been lurking out there, scared away from participating by the gargoyles: I can only apologise and encourage you to try anyway, this is not the way I want the environment in the project to be.

Poul-Henning


Here to a long-running TV show

Dr Who 'longest-running sci-fi'

Doctor Who has been named TV's longest-running sci-fi show, after 43 years and 723 episodes, according to the Guinness Book of Records.

"This achievement is all thanks to the remarkable production team who first created Doctor Who," said Russell T Davies, who penned the TV revival.

He also thanked the audience "who have kept it alive for all these years".

The series began on 23 November, 1963, and was revived in 2005 after 16 years off the screen.

William Hartnell played the original Doctor Who, with Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker and Peter Davison among those following in his footsteps.

Christopher Eccleston took up the mantle of the ninth Timelord last year - following the show's relaunch. He was replaced after just one series by David Tennant after Eccleston dropped out.

Guinness World Records editor, Craig Glenday, added: "This is a proud day for Doctor fans everywhere."

US series Stargate SG-1, now in its 10th series, holds the world record for "longest-running science fiction show (consecutive)".

It launched in 1997 and has run for 203 episodes without a break. Hit US series The X Files previously held the record, notching up 202 episodes.

Adobe Rolls Out Integrated PDF/Flash Products

Adobe puts Macromedia technologies to good use in the soon-to-be released Captivate 2 and Acrobat 8.

By Tim Siglin
September 24, 2006

One test of success in any merger or acquisition is how well the corporate cultures of the merging companies mesh together. While the jury is still out on the meshing of Adobe and Macromedia’s corporate cultures, Adobe seems to be passing another vital test--integrating Macromedia technologies into newly minted Adobe products that add additional value to the general user. Two particular products, Captivate 2 and Acrobat 8, are leading the integration charge.

Captivate 2, to be released later this fall, builds on the basic premise of the original Captivate program, which was Adobe’s first screen capture program. Captivate was designed to allow lectures or other training events to be recorded and then played back.

Captivate 2, however, takes a much more holistic approach to training content creation and distribution. Employing a scenario-based wizard, a Captivate 2 content creator is able to create multi-path scenarios--which take into account more than just yes or no answers--with ease. Scenarios created in Captivate allow the end user to explore a series of potentially right answers, gaining points or credits for some partially correct answers and more points for exactly right answers. Captivate 2 also provides content creators both a visual view of the flow of answers from screen to screen as well as a table view that displays pertinent information about multiple slides in a spreadsheet-like format for easier modification of content.

Captivate 2’s real power, though, lies in its ability to output the content seamlessly into a Flash file. This means that fully self-contained training modules, complete with multimedia content like Flash 8 Video files, can be loaded on to a standard web server.

"We feel the integration of Macromedia’s Flash interactivity--a strong part of our ongoing strategy--into Captivate 2 provides a solid platform for branching beyond the standard screen capture feature that Captivate 1 provided," says Silke Fleischer, Adobe’s product manager for the Captivate product line. "Scenario-based training modules that contain Flash 8 video files continue to add benefit to the new product."

Acrobat 8, the newest version of Adobe’s flagship page creation product that was announced last week, will contain a single-button collaboration solution. This solution, formerly called Macromedia Breeze, is now being called Acrobat Connect. Connect comes as a hosted solution that allows up to 15 participants to collaborate together; the service will be launched in November 2006, and will be available for either $39 per month per user or $395 per year per user. A free trial of Acrobat Connect will be available from late November through the end of the year, while the Acrobat Connect Professional version will be available in December.

The integration into Acrobat 8 is one way that Adobe hopes to drive the hosted service forward, counting on ease of accessibility and ease of use to leverage the service for the average user.

"We believe web collaboration needs to be as easy as sending and viewing a PDF document, so anyone can reap the benefits of meeting online in real-time," says Tom Hale, senior vice president of Adobe’s Knowledge Worker Business Unit. "Since nearly everyone already has the Flash Player installed, Acrobat Connect makes it extremely easy to go from looking at your computer screen to sharing it with others, regardless of their platform or version of software."

The move toward Flash and PDF as the two primary tools in the Adobe arsenal, each with a paid creation portion and a freely distributed player portion, allows Adobe to argue that developers should use the Acrobat Connect Collaboration Builder SDK to create custom interactive applications like engaging learning games and simulations.

"The motion forward is around personal and project spaces where people can communicate around certain issues and topics," says Ricky Liversidge, a product marketing manager at Adobe, said. "It's like having my personal meeting room--a URL where you go forward and store documents."

Hari Seldon, here we come

Experts believe the future will be like Sci-Fi movies

9/24/2006 9:52:16 PM, by Ryan Paul

In the latest study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, over 700 technology experts were asked to evaluate an assortment of scenarios in an attempt to determine potential trends for the year 2020. With responses from representatives of the World Wide Web Consortium, ICANN, the Association of Internet Researchers, and major corporations like Google and IBM, the report reflects the perceptions of "Internet pioneers," more than half of whom "were online before 1993."

The highly speculative scenarios presented to respondents are all vaguely reminiscent of various themes commonly found in contemporary science fiction. From artificial intelligences dominating humanity to disgruntled Luddites engaging in violence, the poll looks more like an abandoned script by Michael Piller than a serious exploration of the future. Let's examine some of the more colorful quandaries, and see how many of the concepts have been prominently featured in Star Trek:

Attack of the Amish

Expressing belief that some who reject technology will perpetrate terrorist attacks against technological infrastructure, almost 60 percent of respondents agreed with the following scenario:

"By 2020, the people left behind (many by their own choice) by accelerating information and communications technologies will form a new cultural group of technology refuseniks who self-segregate from "modern" society. Some will live mostly "off the grid" simply to seek peace and a cure for information overload while others will commit acts of terror or violence in protest against technology."

Will disenfranchised LoTeks wreak havoc on society? Comparing future anti-technology vigilantes to modern day "eco-terrorists," Internet education expert and poll respondent Ed Lyell pointed out that "Every age has a small percentage that cling to an overrated past of low-technology, low-energy, lifestyle." Respondent Thomas Narten, a member of IBM's Internet Engineering Task Force, believes that "by becoming valuable infrastructure, the Internet itself will become a target," and FirstGov developer Martin Kwapinski feels that "random acts of senseless violence and destruction will continue and expand due to a feeling of 21st century anomie, and an increasing sense of of lack of individual control."

Some of the respondents sympathized with the Luddites. Respondent Denzil Meyers said, "we need some strong dissenting voices about the impact of this technology in our lives. So far, it's been mostly the promise of a cure-all, just like the past 'Industrial Revolution.'"

This particular theme is examined at length in Star Trek Deep Space Nine season two, episode fifteen, "Paradise," in which Captain Sisko and Miles O'Brien become stranded on a planet populated by the followers of an extreme Luddite philosopher who believes technology is detrimental to human growth. One is also reminded of season five, episode two, "Let He Who is Without Sin...," in which a group of "Essentialists" sabotages the weather control system on the planet Risa in order to convince vacationers that dependence on technology has weakened them.

Strung out on fantasy

Over half of the poll respondents believe that immersive fantasy worlds will completely absorb users, leading to virtual reality addiction. Fifty-two experts agreed with the following scenario:

"By the year 2020, virtual reality on the internet will come to allow more productivity from most people in technologically-savvy communities than working in the "real world." But the attractive nature of virtual- reality worlds will also lead to serious addiction problems for many, as we lose people to alternate realities."

Although some self-described MMORPG "addicts" might be inclined to argue that this particular prediction has already come to pass, compulsive gaming has yet to become a widespread phenomenon with clear societal implications. Technology consultant Robert Eller responded, "we may see a vast blurring of virtual/real reality with many participants living an in-effect secluded lifestyle. Only in the online world will they participate in any form of human interaction."

Virtual reality addiction is a prominent theme in Star Trek the Next Generation season three, episode twenty-one, "Hollow Pursuits," in which Lieutenant Barclay's severe holodeck addiction interferes with his ability to work and relate to others.

Oh no! Cylons and Skynet!

Just under half of the respondents worry about artificial intelligence run amok, leading to the potential subjugation of humanity. 42 experts agreed with the following scenario:

"By 2020, intelligent agents and distributed control will cut direct human input so completely out of some key activities such as surveillance, security and tracking systems that technology beyond our control will generate dangers and dependencies that will not be recognized until it is impossible to reverse them. We will be on a "J-curve" of continued acceleration of change."

Will we become slaves to our own inventions as intelligent computer systems evolve to the point where they can control our society? Earlier this year, I predicted the coming Roomba insurrection. Start stockpiling ammunition now, because it's only a matter of time before those evil little circular dust busters figure out that the best way to keep the house clean is to dispose of the filthy flesh-bags that make it messy in the first place. Elle Tracy, president of The Results Group, comments, "until testing, bug fixing, user interfaces, usefulness and basic application by subject-matter experts is given a higher priority than pure programmer skill, we are totally in danger of evolving into an out-of-control situation with autonomous technology."

Many respondents, like Rob Atkinson of the Progressive Policy Institute, believe that the significant advantages of autonomous technology far outweigh the potential risks. Atkinson says, "The more autonomous agents the better. The steeper the 'J curve' the better. Automation, including through autonomous agents, will help boost standards of living, freeing us from drudgery."

The implications of artificial intelligence is a frequent recurring theme in Star Trek, and it is featured prominently in many of the best episodes. The concept is most effectively embodied in the juxtaposition between the android Data, and his morally uninhibited twin Lore, but occasional holodeck incidents also convey the concept of out-of-control AI. In season six, episode 12, "Ship in a Bottle," a sentient holographic representation of Professor Moriarty seizes control of the Enterprise.

Language, privacy, and equalization

Although the rest of the scenarios are less colorful, they are still relatively interesting. 52 percent of respondents agree that the "free flow of information will completely blur current national boundaries as they are replaced by city-states, corporation-based cultural groupings and/or other geographically diverse and reconfigured human organizations tied together by global networks." 46 percent of respondents believe that "transparency builds a better world, even at the expense of privacy," and 42 percent agree that "worldwide network interoperability will be perfected" by 2020, making mobile communication "available to anyone anywhere on the globe at an extremely low cost."

52 percent agree with the assertion that "The Internet opens worldwide access to success," and 42 percent believe that "English will displace other languages" by 2020. I'm honestly surprised that question made it on the list at all. In a world with sophisticated artificial intelligences and immersive virtual realities, one assumes that the Universal Translator would be invented somewhere along the way.

Are these scenarios really indicative of future trends? Given the prevalence of many of these concepts in science fiction content, it is obvious that the ideas themselves are at least relevant enough to warrant consideration. That said, the nature of the survey and the way that the scenarios are presented makes the entire thing seem less plausible. In looking at classic science fiction films of the past, from Blade Runner to Soylent Green, one realizes that few of them really predict with any accuracy the world we live in today. Culture and technology can change in radically unpredictable ways, and today's experts may lack the foresight to perceive the future with the clarity of Hari Seldon.