July 2011 Archives

On Two Wheels: Maniac

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It was the song “Maniac” from Flashdance which was going through my head for the last part of yesterday’s ride. But more on that in a moment.

By way of introduction, my wife and I like to ride bicycles, though I use the term “like” differently for each of the two of us. I like to ride bicycles, used in the same way as one might say, “I like ice cream.” She, on the other hand, likes to ride bicycles, used in the same way as one might say “Lance Armstrong likes to ride bicycles.” or “Danica Patrick likes to race cars.” She likes riding bicycles so much because she is training for the Pan-Mass Challenge, a fundraiser of epic proportion for the Jimmy Fund. (Feel free to donate with this link.) It’s a giant fundraiser, but because it involves two days of bicycling—111 miles the first day and 90 the second—it’s not the kind of fundraiser one participates in lightly.

To ride this kind of ride, one goes from “liking” cycling to liking cycling. And that’s why we were out yesterday. Though she’s the only one riding in the PMC, I’ve been training right behind her. (Note about word choice to fellow cyclists: behind. She’s the one in training, after all…) And I have loved every minute of it, until yesterday.

Yesterday, we were out on a “taper” ride where we’re going from weekends of 150+ miles down to a weekend of only 100 miles. It was only going to be about 70 miles, and I knew I was in trouble from the start when my soundtrack took over.

I think I acquire a soundtrack in my head when it’s necessary to focus on something other than the task at hand. It distracts me from what I’m doing and makes it tolerable. And when “Back in the Saddle Again” started up in my head, I knew that taking two weeks off because of handlebar palsy was a huge mistake, no matter how good the reason, especially because I know only about 20 words of the total song.

Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t change the channel. It kept repeating, over and over, and I finally declared my disgust to T. She suggested I try Queen’s “Bicycle Race.” That was a good suggestion and got a chuckle. But I would have collapsed in fits of laughter if I hadn’t been cycling at the time when she suggested “Fat-Bottomed Girls.” (Remember, I said behind and, to be fair, she is not a fat-bottomed girl!) It was at that point that I was successful in replacing “Back in the…” with “Hot for Teacher.” It was the best I could come up with.

The ride didn’t get any better, though. I was struggling the whole time, and I knew I was beaten when she left me in her dust on the final hill climbs from Vernon to Tolland. These hills will give you a pretty good workout, and I was easily 1/4 mile behind her each time she stopped to wait for me under the guise of waiting for a traffic light. Worse, I was turning as best I could in my granny gear. But she wasn’t. She was almost completely cross-chained in her big ring and her almost-biggest cog. In short, and not-so-politely, she was kicking my ass.

That’s when the soundtrack went to “Maniac.” I was so impressed and so incredibly proud of her that I couldn’t help going to the refrain “She’s a maniac, maniac…” over and over. She was really doing it! She’d gone from a pretty soft cyclist (and a “pretty, soft cyclist,” too) to someone who was holding her own against the hills of Tolland. She wasn’t even winded, for Pete’s sake!

And that was the best part about yesterday’s ride. Though I was the one left in the dust, she had done one better: she had conquered Tolland’s hills. Will she be ready for the PMC? You betcha’!

Maniac… “Never stopping with her head against the wind,” indeed.

Chart here.

It makes me wonder, though, if there’s a breakfast/lunch/dinner rush at the App Store, though.

Money quote, edit in italics is mine:

“This is a cautionary tale with a deeply chilling message for any federal scientist who dares to publish groundbreaking wrong research on conditions in the Arctic.” —Jeff Ruch, president of the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Groundbreaking crap research is still crap research.

(The article does not indicate whether the polar bear research or the scientist’s work in general is being questioned.)

Wow. Just Wow: Lanes | xkcd

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Don’t miss today’s xkcd. If you’re like me, you’ll read the hovertext after you read the ‘toon, and it will get you right here.

Go. Read now.

No, I've Got It

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John Gruber jokingly suggests that a better moneymaker for Microsoft’s money-losing Bing search engine would be to charge to listen in to the negotiation of Bing’s sale between Steve Jobs and Steve Ballmer. While entertaining, it probably wouldn’t make billions.

OK, so this idea that I have won’t make billions either, but it might put a bit of a dent into the red ink that Bing is making.

There’s a distinct need in Corporate America for a decent intranet search engine. My company’s corporate website has a search function, but it’s of little use as it won’t search our common network drives, where search is desperately needed. It also seems to return random results based on random words in a random result order. And it knows nothing about the popularity or quality of the retrieved results since it doesn’t keep track of who eventually used what results.

Google recognizes this problem and makes the Google Search Appliance to solve it. The GSA is a box that sits on your corporate network and indexes all of your stuff for easy, Google-quality searches. But the biggest problem is that it is a separate box with a separate OS and separate security concerns from a separate company and so forth. Non-Microsoft boxes and operating systems seem to scare IT people. Chances of adoption? Zero.

But… what if MS rolled Bing into their Windows Server product? All of the advantages that Google touts for their search appliance could be included as a native part of Windows Server. Bing, a respectable search engine in its own right, would be able to search anything served up by Windows Server, whether it’s web content, E-mail content, or network drive content, and would be able to make use of the same security models already part of the Server product.

Apple already does this with Mac OS X Server and Spotlight, but without results tracking and whatnot which differentiate simple search from a true search engine. Even still, it works remarkably well, so we use it in my wife’s office where she scans all of her paper documents, lets OCR create indexable text, and lets Spotlight return relevant documents, E-mails, etc., as she searches for them. If I had this at work (Ah! Utopia!), I would have more hair and more time, especially since I have management which insists on folders buried in folders buried in folders of folders. Give me a web portal that searches all of this stuff and I’d be one happy customer.

And think of the money! Microsoft could not only charge by the seat for Bing, as is the nature of Windows Server licensing, but they could also could charge by the document just as Google does.

But would Corporate America bite? Yes, I think it would, and it just might make a substantial dent in those billions after all…

Why This Chart is Irrelevant

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A popular chart making the rounds of the liberal blogosphere shows just how evil Republicans are in demanding that the Federal Government do what it expects its citizens to do each and every day: balance a budget. The graph claims to show that George W. ran up the debt four times as much as Barak H. has so far. Aside from the unfair comparison of the damage (or good) done by a less-than-complete term vs. two full terms, the argument comes in two ways, either as “If they can do it, then so can we” or “Why are they so worried about it now? I mean, look at what they did already!

Both arguments and the chart miss the point because they are all couched as Us vs. Them. It’s not about Us or about Them. It’s about this:

tumblr_lowmokRAno1qa0uujo1_1280.gif

[chart redesign by COGITATIĀ·VITAE]

Let’s be clear: it’s not about what has already been done. That’s the past. This is about the future, and it’s very clear from the graph above that we cannot possibly continue on the course where the bottom part of the graph continues to grow out of control while the top part fails to materialize, time and time again.

What’s happening in the Congress right now on both sides of the aisle is our representatives are whimpering in the corner saying (in their best Roger Rabbit voice), “P-p-p-p-leathe! P-p-p-leathe let us borrow more money! We p-p-p-p-romith we’ll be good!” We promise spending cuts! And a balanced budget! Really! Just give us our fix now!

What other members of Congress are saying is, “No!” which is what I, and millions of other voters, sent them there to do, and still expect them to do.

History will simply repeat itself if our representatives don’t do what it is we sent them to do, and the time is now. Why now? Because the representatives who are saying “No!” have some leverage, and it’s the debt ceiling. It’s as simple as that. Give up the debt ceiling, and the leverage is gone… as is any hope of ever getting a real balanced budget.

I don’t care who it was who did that. A lot of them were voted out of office, and new blood was sent in with promises that they would change Washington. Unfortunately, with tonight’s announcements, it looks as if we’re going to have to vote them out of office yet again in hopes that another class of representatives can hold their freaking spines+ and actually solve the problem instead of kicking the can past the end of their terms.

But I’m not holding my breath…


+ A play on RedState.com’s call for the House GOP to “Hold the freaking line.”

This page discusses what happens when Pages, part of Apple’s iWork suite, stops spell checking automatically. I discovered this page as I was working this evening on a document which was previously a Word document, and there is one relevant tip on the page which might be of considerable use to those of you who are facing a similar problem.

Symptom

Automatic spell checking (where misspelled words are underlined in red) in Pages does not work. Typically, the document is imported from Microsoft Word.

Fix

The primary problem seems to be that the text is either mis-flagged as being something other than English or is not flagged as being English at all. Selecting all of the text in the document (Command-A), opening the Inspector, clicking on the “T” (for “text”), selecting “More” and then selecting the desired language for the text even if it is already selected seems to tag the text appropriately. Spell check should then work properly.

The mailer shown below arrived today. I cannot find any value in it whatsoever, and yet Joe Courtney felt the need to spend money our government doesn’t have to send it anyway. Is this informative? Not hardly. It’s sound bites on paper, and nothing more.

To me, this is merely indicative of the current mindset of many in the Congress—Democrat, Republican, and Other alike.

2011_07_20_18_28_01.jpg 2011_07_20_18_28_02.jpg

I’ll add only one thing: iPads do not do quite as well in the bathroom as magazines do, though they do prevent the flurry of those stupid subscription cards that comes with the arrival of each new Car and Driver.

"Welcome"? Really?

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I called the technology help desk for my company the other day and heard, “Welcome to the CSC help desk for United Technologies.” And that got me to thinking about the word “welcome” and this kind of use.

In the definitions of the word “welcome” that I’ve found, the word “arrival” is nearly always found, the implication being that in order to be “welcome”, one must physically arrive somewhere. And yet here we have a clear example of my being welcomed to somewhere that doesn’t exist and where I clearly haven’t gone. It seemed strange.

Stranger still is being welcomed to computer systems. I noticed a long time ago that Windows does it every time you start up. “Welcome!” it declares, though I have not arrived anywhere. Mac OS does it only once when you install it, but it does so in a multitude of languages and with a pretty groovy beat. Yet I still haven’t arrived anywhere.

Why am I being welcomed if I have neither left one place nor arrived at another?

What these systems all are trying to say, of course, is greetings or hello. And indeed, why can’t they simply say that? “Greetings! You have reached the CSC blah blah blah” doesn’t sound any worse. Even “Hello! You have reached…” works just fine.

And this? Hello.jpg It’s perfect.

But “Welcome to the [virtual thing which isn’t even a place]…?” Sorry, that just doesn’t work for me.

I saw a marquee at a golf course on a bike ride today. It said, “LIKE US ON FACEBOOK”.

And then I felt sorry for all the poor, unliked-on-Facebook golf courses. They must really be sad.

And sadder still for the golf courses who have to beg to be liked on Facebook. So very. Very. Sad.

So what I can’t figure is, why is OPEC still in business?