# Wednesday, September 01, 2004

It's been quiet here on the old blog lately.  Partly because I've been pretty busy, and partly because I spent 10 days on vacation in SoCal.  I've got to say it pretty much rocked. 

I hadn't been to Disneyland since I was in high school, and this time I got to take my kids (who are 6 and 9).  It was fabulous.  There are a bunch of new rides, and many of the old rides from when we were kids are gone to make room for them, but all the new ones were pretty great.  Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones, etc were very cool.  My kids had a great time, and it's a lot of fun to see that kind of thing through them.  We spent three solid days at Disney (2 at Disneyland and 1 at California Adventure) and that was just about the right amount of time.  One of the new crazes that's sprung up since I was a kid is getting the characters to sign autographs.  Both my kids had a good time hounding people in big fuzzy suits to sign their books.  It gave them a goal that kept them focused on moving around even when they were tired.  If you're kids are into autograph hunting, it's worth checking out some of the "character meal" opportunities.  There are several restaurants around the parks and hotels where the characters hang out, and will come by your table and chat (in pantomime) with the kids, etc.  We went to "Goofy's Kitchen" at the Disneyland Hotel (where we staid) and "Ariel's Grotto" at California Adventure and both had pretty good food and lots to entertain the kids, although be prepared for some sticker shock, they aren't cheap.  Some pretty groovy, although less kid-friendly dining was to be had at the "Blue Bayou" which is actually inside Pirates of the Caribbean.

This was the first time I'd been to California Adventure, and I was really impressed.  I had heard that it was more adult-focused than Disneyland, but I didn't find that to be the case.  Both my kids loved "Soaring over California" and there was lots of kid related activity in the Bug's Life area.  The rides were pretty cool.  My son drug me on California Screaming twice (the big roller coaster) and I coaxed him into going on the "Tower of Terror" with me, which was pretty dang fun.  My daughter really like the Redwood Creak Challenge Trail, which is basically a big forest-ranger-themed play structure. 

After our three grueling sun-up to well-past-sundown days at Disney we hit Legoland, the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, and last but not least my son's big requested attraction, the La Brea tar pits in LA.  And somehow we still managed to get in most of a day at the beach in San Juan Capistrano. 

All that's behind me know and it's back to work.  Not only is there plenty of work at work, but I've got a new Web Services class coming up, and then SellsCon in October. 

Home | Work
Wednesday, September 01, 2004 9:53:43 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, August 16, 2004

I got my first real chance to use my new radio this weekend (a Yaesu VX-7R(b)) at the Oregon Airshow.  I was volunteering, along with lots of other fine folks, not only as an amateur radio operator but as a CERT volunteer just in case anything untoward should happen. 

Before I got interested in such things, I had no idea that at most big public events like parades, marathons, bike races and airshows, there are fleets of hams providing communications.  The reason for it is that in most places, police, fire and other official agencies use radios that don't inter-operate.  It seems silly, I know, but it's true.  So hams show up for these events (since all our radios are compatible) and relay traffic between people without radios and people with radios who can't talk to each other.  Luckily all the traffic yesterday was pretty mundane, and we didn't have much in the way of emergencies.  A few heat exhaustion victims, but otherwise pretty quite.  Quiet in the sense of no emergencies.  The Airshow itself was far from quiet.  You find out pretty rapidly that headset or no headset, when the Blue Angels fly right over your head, you're not going to hear the radio. 

CERT | Radio
Monday, August 16, 2004 9:12:10 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Friday, August 13, 2004

Looks like Scott and I will be speaking at Chris Sells' XML DevCon this year.  Last year I spoke on XML on transformer monitors.  This year Scott and I will be talking about the work we've been doing with online banking and XML Schema. 

If it's anything like last year's, the conference should be pretty amazing.  The speakers list includes some pretty serious luminaries.  In fact, it's pretty much a bunch of famous guys... and me.  :-)

Sign up now!

Friday, August 13, 2004 4:50:12 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, August 09, 2004

We had my son's 9th birthday party this weekend, and decided to try something different, so we had it at a local climbing gym in Beaverton.  It was awesome!  The guys at Stoneworks were great, and fabulous at working with kids.  For a very reasonable price we got private use of the gym before it opened to the public, shoe and harness rentals for everyone, and two expert belayers to make sure we didn't kill ourselves. :-)

The guys were very encouraging with the kids, and I think they all had a great time.  We didn't get quite as many kids as we'd planned for, so 4-5 of us adults got into the act too, which was a blast.  I haven't been climbing since I was probably 8-9, and had a great time.  I made it up to the top of the high wall, which was a good way up there.  The gym itself was amazing, with probably a good dozen different faces, plus a little cave for bouldering practice, etc.  The faces themselves were really cool, with all kinds of handholds, shaped both like actual rocks and like just about anything else you can imagine.  I saw several skulls, a fish, turkey, owl, and a couple little grinning homunculi.  Ivan had a great time, and his little sister Gwyn climbs like a little monkey girl.  She just turned 6 yesterday, and I think she was up and down the wall more than anyone else.  I shot a bunch of video, which I may get around to editing into something interesting one of these days. 

Monday, August 09, 2004 10:35:18 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Wednesday, August 04, 2004

I realize this is a rant, and not strictly technical, but here's one soapbox (among many) I'm willing to step up to. 

For ~95% of business software, the actual code needed to implement them ends up being, if not trivial, then at least not technically challenging.  Business software projects go over budget/schedule etc. because the business rules aren't known (to anyone) or because no one in the organization really knows what they want.  As a further complication, people who are tightly focused on a particular domain tend to make things sound way more complicated than they turn out to be because they aren't building their models at the right level. 

When it actually comes down to writing the code to implement the loosely defined business system, it's almost always "just code".  Not challenging to write, often tedious and time consuming, but not in any way difficult from a CS standpoint. 

So, the challenge when writing such software is in cutting though all the BS to get at which little bits of "just code" you have to write.  Once you get that part out of the way, the actual coding bit is easy.  So when people complain that projects are going way over budget/schedule/what have you, it's almost always (in my experience) due to the fact that engineers spend 6 hours a day poring over vague and conflicting sets of documents, and 2 hours writing code. 

Along the same lines, anyone who's looked seriously into enterprise level web services understands that the barriers to real business to business communications aren't technical barriers.  They are organizational.  If only two or more businesses could agree on what the schema for a purchase order should look like, we'd see a real renaissance in B2B computing.  The technologies are all there, the hard part is getting the organizations to work together.  That's the problem to solve. 

 

Wednesday, August 04, 2004 11:42:05 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 

I'll be teaching at OIT (in Portland/Beaverton, not K-Falls) again Fall term.  This time it's "Practical Web Services".  If you're interested, sign up through OIT.  The course number is 15048.  Description follows:

Practical Web Services

Web Services sound like a great idea, but how do you actually go about using them?  How do you go about actually writing your own Web Service to expose your data or functionality?

This class will cover all the details involved in using and building your own Web Services using the Microsoft .NET platform.  The first half of the class will cover the building of a client application to consume a Web Service from the Internet.  The second half will focus on building an equivalent Web Service using ASP.NET.

Students will leave this class with a firm understanding of how to use Web Services built by other people, and how to implement their own Web Services using the .NET platform.

Students should either have taken the previous "Web Services Theory" class, or have instructor approval.  All work will be done in C#, so a firm understanding of C# is required.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004 9:47:02 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, August 03, 2004

In pursuit of my new nerdy hobby, yesterday I got a new radio.  A Yaesu VX-7R.  I'm amazed by three things so far:

  • How small the thing is (it's tiny, the antenna is about 2.5 times as long as the unit)
  • How amazingly complex the UI is (and how small the buttons are)
  • How fabulous the receive audio sounds.  I was listening to some guys yakking on a repeater last night, and it was amazingly clear.  Much more so than the old Kenwood I've been using.

The UI is amazingly complex, and I have a few issues with it so far.  Given the very limited space they had to work with and the paucity of input controls, they actually did pretty well.  But there are a few instances where you have to press an additional key to edit something, or an additional key to finish editing something, and they aren't always the same, so you "just have to know".  That's frustrating.  Much is accomplished with the tuning dial, which is pretty cool, but again it's not obvious when it works and when it doesn't.  Given all the space and control limitations I'm willing to forgive a lot though, so overall I'm pretty favorably impressed.  Which isn't to say I don't want to get the programming cable so I can just edit all the memories on my PC.  That'd go way quicker. 

Tuesday, August 03, 2004 2:42:34 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Friday, July 30, 2004
Eric Gunnerson points to a post by Jeremy Rule about how he flash-cooked a hamburger using a giant Fresnel lens.  Pretty groovy stuff, although Jeremy says the burger wasn't very tasty.  It got me thinking, though, that a really fun project would be to take one of those giant Fresnel lenses and see if one could build a miniature solar-thermal generator, like these.  A nice big cast-iron pot with a lid, a few holes drilled, very small steam turbine...  See where this is going?  Unfortunately I'm way to lazy to actually try it myself.  I haven't even gotten around to trying out the DIY solar pizza oven.  :-(
Friday, July 30, 2004 2:26:39 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 

After an inspirational post by Loren Halvorson, we decided to emulate his team's use of an Ambient Orb to track the status of our continuous integration builds. 

After being backordered for a couple of months, it finally show up yesterday.  It's happily glowing green on my desk as I write this.  Unfortunately, what we didn't know is that in order to bend the orb to our will and get it to show our build status, we have to shell out $20 a quarter for their "premium" service.  Humph.  Plus, I've been having some "issues" with it.  It's supposed to reflect the current status of the DJIA, which is down right now, but the orb is green, which is supposed to indicate that the Dow is up.  I can't seem to make it be anything but green.  I know it's not a problem with the lights, because when it was "synchronizing" it strobed through just about every color there is.  After it's done though, I only get green. 

Anyway, all that together has prompted us to order their serial interface kit, so we can control the thing directly without depending on their wireless network.  Maybe not as elegant, but it should be deterministic, which it more important in this case.  Seems like a lot of work for what was supposed to be a funny toy.  :-)

Friday, July 30, 2004 11:36:02 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Friday, July 23, 2004

Back in the day I went to High School in what passes for "inner city" in Seattle (Garfield HS: Go Bulldogs!) and was therefore exposed to a pretty fascinating cultural milieu. :-)  Anyway, out of pure nostalgia for days bygone, I couldn't resist picking up copies of Breakin' (1 and 2) on DVD.  While not great pieces of cinematic history, they sure are fun to watch.  My 9 year old son is totally into them.  He says #1 is better.

I wonder what every happened to the lovely Lucinda Dickey?  Her career just wan't the same after Ninja III: The Domination.

Now I just need a copy of Krush Groove:-D

Friday, July 23, 2004 2:53:36 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  |