Friday, August 31, 2007

Life: At least the editorial stance is clear

But that's really searching for the silver lining. Today's National Post front page has a big picture of a Puffin. The headline: "Is this bird a Liberal?" The layout and text were reminiscent of "Is this man a killer?" (Note: the link to the online version of the article is not identical to the print edition.)

Sufficient to capture my attention, I crouched down to read the caption through cloudy, filthy plastic. It said, among other things, that the Puffin is Newfounland's official bird, that a Liberal MP has suggested it as a symbol to represent his party, and that it "...lays one egg a year, flaps it's wings a lot, and hides it's excrement."

I am no fanbay for the Liberals. I apperciate the wit and the sentiment. Oh, and I think editorials should remain on the editorial page.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Future: Traditional Bacn

When I talk about the pace of change accelerating, I am not kidding around. I just read this on the CBC site:

Providing free SMS "...comes as Yahoo Mail faces stiff competition not only from traditional rivals such as Microsoft's Hotmail and Google's gmail, but also social networking websites such as MySpace and Facebook."
How can a company incorporated Oct 22 2002 be a "traditional rival" to a company incorporated in March 1995? Gmail hit the scene as a beta circa 2004. Three years makes a tradition now? Less? Facebook is still a toddler in human years (started 2004, grew from 24 to 32
million users
in June and July 2007).

The thing that really struck me about all this was that the word felt right. Google and Yahoo are mature web citizens. Facebook is a perky kid, and Microsoft is geriatric. The time frames for traditions are quickly shifting: already, they are o longer based on the last human generation, they are based on the last digital one.

So what's this "bacn"? Last week (Aug 18-19), at Podcamp Pittsburgh this term was invented. Pronounced "bacon", it's any email you receive that isn't spam, but isn't really personal either. An electronic phone bill; Facebook updates; Google alerts: these are bacn. (BTW, the 'o' is missing in homage to the current trend of dropped vowels - like the blubrry network.)

Today, only eight days later, the search "bacn +spam" turns up thousands of entries on Google. It's a legitimate word, invented and in common use in days. I remember my excitement when "pythonesque" joined the 'official' dictionary. Etymonline says it originated in 1975, but I know it didn't become a 'real' word for at least a decade (I can't find a reference for this one - just my memory, from high school, I think).

The singularity will always be just a moment away - but the moment is getting shorter, fast.

Life: I was sitting in a Tim's down in Miss'auga...

...where it bubbles all the time like a great big carbonated Soda. Es oh dee ay, Soda.

All the references, implied and , are relevant.

I sit sipping, reading and writing for work and the IIBA. A figure: wrinkled and craggy; short and rotund; waddling walk into the shop; long ears; lips pushed up, cheeks pulled down; green tinge.

I spend a busy moment looking for a light saber or Frank Oz or both.

Then, as I examine the profile, I wonder: Yoda or Yodette? I can see only the left side. Gold earring. Old man golf clothes, but with that walk, not a golfer. Feminine shape to the face. Short.

I have no idea. I return to my laptop.

On the exit waddle, I see the person from the right. Much more masculine profile. Merlot shoes. No earring on the right.

Oh, I think. Wrong song; this soundtrack is by the Kinks, not Weird Al.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Technology: Vista my @$$

I just spent hours trying to get a new Dell to connect to the internet, update it's preinstalled software and actually be good for anything at all.


The parts that Microsoft had a direct hand in were actually surprisingly simple - Outlook Express, and an Office installation were quite easy. Everything else was a horrible mess. Sympatico - I don't even want to type about that phone call!


The PC is mostly working now, but it's not there yet. I'll be back at my friend's place next week to try, once more, to make it go.

Damn Pakleds.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Libationary Pursuits: New Best Time!

Not that this will increase my reputatation with the headhunters, but I hit my new personal best time: 5.55 seconds to down a Guinness.

Note: I refuse to pay for a sub-ten-second Guinness, so if you want to see it in action you have to buy it. It's the only way to keep a lid on the madness.

Life: Who Knew? BINGO!

Day of excitement! I'm on a schoolbus (yellow), with 20 or so colleagues, on the way to Dave & Buster's, and just won a bottle of New Zealand Chardonnay playing BINGO.

Who knew a company off-site could be so much fun? The people up front are singing "Wasn't at a party" from the Irish Rovers.

I like my job. :)

Monday, August 20, 2007

I Am Walter's Father: He went galumphing back.

Walter has been growing like crazy, but everyone who has seen the old pictures says, "But he's HUGE!"

He's also insane. I mean starkers. Really. Right now he's blasting from the back of the back yard to the front of the house, carrying a small piece of paper. Nuts.

He's been frolicking with Hannah, who has been frolicking back, and life is great. They spent over an hour rolling around today, entertaining each other. Hannah did get tired eventually (which is when Walter started to entertain himself) but then Kath came home and frolicking began again.

It's cold enough tonight we've put a fire on. Kath is sitting in front of it with a bowl of popcorn. Walter is trying to climb into the bowl. Oh - now she's feeding him a kernel at a time. Bad Kath! Bad! ;)

Did I mention the ice cubes? I have to get some video of him with ice cubes. He chased one around the entire yard, rolling around and growling at it like it was vermine in need of execution.

...and now he's chasing Sammy, who leapt onto the counter to avoid him. Never a dull moment!

Right, enough for today. From Walter, Hannah, Kath and I:

Good night.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Entertainment: the Mootrix

Wulffmorgenthaler are a couple of whackjob comic writers with a freakish, bizarre and rude sense of humour. NOT for everyone. This one - I call it the Mootrix - is VERY tame compared to their others. You have been warned.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Questions: Why can't I see magnetic fields?

The question is a bit disingenuous. I know that magnetic force and electrical force are the same force (electromagnetism) and that the wavicle (has wave and particle properties) that transmits this force is the photon.

We can sense photons, but in a narrow energy band, and frankly, our sensitivity is poopy (for examples, most of what we call colour is illusory (or reconstructed, depending on your point of view) ) and the resolution is terrible.

Wrong rant.

My real question is: How powerful would a magnetic field need to be to emit photons that fall in the visible spectrum - if that even makes sense.

P.S. I'm not worried about the damage such a field might cause to a person (for the purposes of the question, at least).

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Libationary Pursuits: Whisky

Today I was asked "What's your poison?" I answered 'whisky', which was easy, and then got curious, which lead to shame and humiliation.

Okay, not that bad, but still.

I learned that (for years) I have been using the word "libidinous" when I meant "libationary". Related? Sure. Same? Not so much. They're esoteric enough that people may have thought I was being clever (but not clever enough to keep that to myself).

Back to whisky. There's a lot of interesting information about the drink, so I thought I'd look at the word at (one of my favorite sites). They say:
  • whisky and vodka have the same etymological root: water.
  • there's no real difference between 'whiskey' and 'whisky'.
  • usquebaugh is the Gaelic word for the drink, and means water of life.
I happen to prefer scotch from Islay, if you're buying.

Next week: In libationary pursuit of Guinness.

I Am Walter's Father: A Massive Responsibility

It's happened. We've crossed the 20lb mark.

The growing is not smooth - every few days he's suddenly stumbly, because his legs are longer.


Sunday, August 5, 2007

Business Analysis: It's all about the the toast

When your mom asks you what you do, how do you answer? Some jobs are easy to describe. Mine? Not so much.

For years I was a computer programmer. When most people asked, there was no point going into more detail - eyes would glaze instantaneously. On an adventurous day, I might say, "When I'm not navigating the bureaucracy, I write programs to solve problems." I never got a date that way, though.

When I changed roles, to Business Analysis, Mom asked, "What's that?"

"Well," I said, "I work with customers to figure out their requirements, and then..."


It took the better part of a year to come up with a story she could sink her teeth into. This is (a version of) that story.


Every day my customer (let's call him Flxxl) - tells me, "I need a toaster. I need *that* toaster. It's shiney, and I played golf with the guy who sells it."

I am a BA. I respond by asking questions. "Tell me about this toaster," I say. Flxxl looks at me with a sad/funny 'Oh-I-didn't-know-he-was-challenged' look. "How will you use it in your kitchen?" I continue. "Will you use it at breakfast?"

"Yes." Now Flxxl is irritated *and* pitying.

My face is completely innocent. "And lunch?"

"What?" That one catches Flxxl off guard. After a few seconds his ire breeches the surface of his confusion, and he says "No" with a tone that intimates that the simians in my ancestry are rather more recent than usual for a human.

"No cluhouse, then," I say, "and you never have chilli with toast...?"

There is a long pause. Now Flxxl looks suspicious. "...I might."

"Ok," I nod, "great. Now tell me, do you make anything other than toast? Tuna melt? Cheese toast? Home-sliced thick bread? Bagels?"

Now Flxxl rebels. "That doesn't matter," he says. "I need that toaster!"

"Are you sure?" I ask. "It sounds like that toaster won't do you much good. It doesn't meet your needs."

A long pause. "But I need..."

"...a device that will make several kinds of toast and toast-related items. You have a selection of bread products, a selection of toppings, and a variety of circumstances for cooking them."

"...Why, yes," Flxxl says. "I do!"

"So let's work out those details. Then we can talk to someone who can help us find the solution that best fits your needs, your budget, and your schedule."

Flxxl, working through his cognative dissonance (now that he has discovered that he had confused a solution with his needs (and that the golfing salesman got'im *again*)), agrees.


So now my mom gets it: she understands that I help people define their needs so they can get solutions that suit their business.

Of course, she tells her friends that, "Julian? Oh, he, ah, he does, um...

"He sells toasters."



Many thanks to my Mom, who is a great sport (and DOES understand what I do - really!).

Words: Pound, lb

When writing about Walter's weight, I wondered why “pound” is abbreviated as "lb". Turns out, the Latin word libra means “scales, balances" and it also describes a Roman unit of mass similar to a pound; this is the origin of the abbreviation “lb” or “”. "Pound" itself it comes from the Latin word pendere, meaning “to weigh”.

Interesting side note: the plural form of “lb” is the same: "lb", with no“s” at the end. Units of measure do not have plural forms (I drove 100Km, not 100Kms; I bought 100g, not 100gs).

I Am Walter's Father: Weight Gain Stats

Walter now weighs in at 16.8 lb.


Day 01: 4990 g
Day 21: 7620 g
Rate of change: +125 g per day.

Day 01: 11 lb
Day 21: 16.8 lb
Rate of change: +1.93 lb per week

Rate of change as % of Mass: 153%


Human Interest: The Care and Feeding of your Introvert

These are worth reading. I've certainly learned something. Jonathon Rauch is a writer for the Atlantic. A few years ago he wrote an article called Caring for Your Introvert, which sparked a huge response. He was interviewed about the continuous fervor over his manifesto in 2006 ("Introverts of the World, Unite!"), and the Atlantic has an interesting reader-response article on related topics ("The Introversy Continues").

Introvert, Extrovert...

I had heard most of what he wrote before, but never synthesized into a single, coherent description of the experience of being introverted. I kept having "Hey, that's me!" moments while I read - and many "Hey! That's [insert name here]!" moments too. I did some more exploring, both on the web and in my head, and discovered that 'introvert' and 'extrovert' are not exactly the right terms for me; in the same situation, I may act as either.

These terms are based on Jung's definitions of Introvert and Extrovert, which are a little different from the common use. From this perspective, there is no continuum between introversion and extraversion. The terms are not used to indicate sociability; instead, they indicate if a person is oriented to a subjective or objective attitude. Introverts find focus and energy from within. Extroverts find these in their environment.


It turns out there is a third category, for people like me. There is some disagreement about the validity of the term. In my experience, most people have an exclusionary view of personality traits: that we are each one thing, and therefore not another, opposite thing. Some are obviously inappropriate stereotypes (beauty or brains); some are more subtle (empathy or evil (see psychopathy)). I think we can have many traits and modes of operation which we expose based on circumstance.

In the case of intro- vs. extro-, most of us have an obviously dominant mode, and no choice about acting in that mode. In some cases - me for instance - a person does not have a clearly dominant mode. For us, some combination of internal and external factors pushes us to one or the other. Sometimes we can even choose. I'm sure this makes it hard on our friends and families: how do you know what strategy to use when I'll handle a situation in radically different ways based on no discernible factor?

Temperament Sorters
One of the most popular, the Keirsey, divides people along four axes:

Extroversion (E) and Introversion (I)
Intuition (N) and Sensing (S)
Thinking (T) and Feeling (F)
Judgement (J) and Perception (P)

I've taken it many times, from many perspectives. In each case I have only two traits: high T, low F and high N, low S. I plotted it out and found this (each score out of 20):

Max 18 18
12 19
16 10
14 15
Min 2 2
1 8
10 4
4 6
Average 11 10
5 15
14 6
8 12

If you'd like to take the short Keirsey, let me know - I'll send you an Excel sheet that calculates your scores.


After all that, you'd think I'd have a really serious payoff for the last paragraph, but I don't.


Edit 2012-12-25 in Poughkeepsie, NY

These are still great resources for pretty much everyone. Also, in the new Google Blogger, the title showed up as 'Human Interest: The Care and Feeding of your Intro". So I wondered what exactly I had posted as my introductory blog post. Is that +Alanis Morissette enough for you? :)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Life: Shadow and Smeagol and the Coming Conundrum

I want to be an X-Man. Multiple Man, to be exact.

I've been splitting my time between my house and my home while my parents are in Trinidad for a wedding; my cats, Shadow and Smeagol, are there. They stayed with Kath and I for part of the winter, but Shadow was desperately unhappy with Hannah and Sammy (the current cat in the house), and I can't put him in that stressful situation again. Of course that means that I need to find a home for them before winter - a home with no other cats or dogs, so Shadow can be calm.

Feel free to spread the word - two black cats, 8 years old, sweet and friendly. Shadow is a puff-ball (we call him PuffShadow) and Smeagol is an absolute suck. They're not lap-cats - but they will lean against you and purr like crazy.