Archive for January, 2007

Harsh Thoughts, Frequently Delivered

January 30, 2007

I’ve been reading Violent Acres for a bit now and I’m really torn about it. On the one hand, it’s very well-written and takes controversial sides. That’s refreshing in the blogging world of sameness. On the other hand, it oftens seems to be controversial for controversy’s sake—a John C. Dvorak of the political and cultural realm. With all the ads on the site, it’s hard to tell whether she’s an Ann Coulter for advertising or a serious blogger who’s just trying to cash in.

This recent entry, though, has cinched it for me. It’s another salvo in the long-winded tirade against the phenomenon known alternately as the “echo chamber” and a “circle jerk”.

If you don’t have the guts to step outside of your comfort zones, you will never grow and change as a person. If being well liked is more important than being yourself, then you will never say anything of value. If you don’t have the balls to be hated, then you don’t deserve to be loved.

This sentiment sounds bold and fresh at first blush, but rapidly unravels when you start to think it through. It’s a false dichotomy—there’s more to writing than being loved or hated. There’s plenty of reasons for writing that are not incendiary: education, edification, or clarification, for example. Any of those reasons could involve a style that is qualifying or tempered or measured. Writing need not be passionate or inflammatory to be effective—any traipse through the literature of any culture would indicate that.

I’ve come to the conclusion that she is a troll, taking positions and writing explosive commentary for the purpose of driving traffic. It’s been quite successful, but I don’t like it and it seems phony. I think her popularity is akin to Dr. Phil’s: he’s got nuggets of wisdom and good advice but people watch him for the outrageous things he says. I’m done—unsubscribed.

Affordable Bead Jewelry

January 29, 2007

My wife and I have finally gotten the initial rough draft of our online store out there, Need2Bead.com. The layout and design still need a lot of work, but all of her products are done so there was no sense in waiting any longer.

I think this venture is going to be pretty successful. She does local bead parties (in metropolitan Phoenix) in addition to the online business. I think that will be an important marketing vehicle in the future since all partygoers will be familiar with her site because the invitations list the address prominently. Plus, the name is un *pause* believable.

Once the design is finished, then I can move on to my projects and get them started. I’ve been putting them off for a long time; I felt like I made a commitment to help her get an online presence and that it would be wrong to put it aside to work on my own stuff. But I can’t help but feel jazzed at the prospect of adding a few more revenue sources to the family coffers.

On a technical note, the store is built using the fabulous open-source ecommerce engine Zen Cart, an offshoot of openCommerce. The templating system leaves something to be desired, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it at some point. It is an extremely powerful application, which is partly why it’s taken me so long to get it going. But the dizzying array of options have helped me more often than they’ve hindered me and I would heartily recommend it to anyone.

Un-forgivable

January 29, 2007

I am so tired of the “un *pause* believable” phenomenon. In nearly all the times I’ve encountered it, it seems to be a form of unexpressed emphasis. In my mind, it’s a verbal crutch and a cliché. I hate it. There’s so many better options for the user: “absolutely incredible,” “friggin genius,” or even “totally bonkers” spring immediately to mind.

If you’re an abuser of this, please think harder.

Revisiting the Past

January 27, 2007

Today I finally had the chance to revisit the first service I ever wrote. I christened it Pingarooni and it handles all the outgoing trackbacks and pings for Quick Blog. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a position to re-examine early code done in a state of relative ignorance—I’ve been coding in ASP.NET for so long that my code is generally something of which I’m quite proud.

But I had never created a Windows service. The only non-Web application I’d ever created was a console application—certainly a world apart. I didn’t really know what I was doing so my code evinced a certain textbook formality that subsequent services I wrote had thankfully shed. The flow of it was horrendous and I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did.

Here are the things I learned in revising it:

  • Make your service work on batches at a time. By doing so, you’ll be able to see progress and some freak error will only affect a small number of work items.
  • Make the service work on discrete work units so that many instances of the service can be run in parallel.
  • Make the service update the database to report its progress as soon as possible. At the least, it should report every batch if not throughout the batch.
  • Make the service run continuously if possible, stopping only when an OnStop event is raised. If the work load is neverending, there’s no sense in pausing between runs.
  • Make the service use plugins along command pattern lines to define its work. If possible, these plugins should be put into a separate assembly or module so that additional plugins can be introduced with a simple restart of the service.

The views expressed on this website/weblog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Go Daddy.com Software, Inc.

Review of Idiocracy

January 26, 2007

Mike Judge’s new movie, Idiocracy, is a dystopic comedy about two completely normal, average people who are forgotten in a top-secret Army hibernation experiment gone awry. Instead of the one year that they signed up for, they find themselves awaking in an America five hundred years in the future. Expecting an advanced civilization, they quickly discover that the dumbing down of American culture has left succeeding generations dumber and dumber. In that climate, they are hailed as the smartest people in the world and quickly placed in the service of resuscitating the degenerating American economy.

I was eagerly awaiting this movie’s release since it had had a very limited run in theaters. As you may know, Mike Judge is the man behind Office Space, Beavis and Butthead, and King of the Hill. Like each of these works, Idiocracy is a mixed result that is more good than bad.

The premise is rife with possibility since it represents an excellent opportunity to make fun of current events and culture using slippery slope. Given 500 years to play out, nearly any penchant or fashion in our culture could lead to the most bizarre and fantastic conclusions. There are times in Idiocracy when this is used to great effect, such as with the most popular show on television, Ow My Balls!, and the most popular movie in theaters, Ass—which is just 90 minutes of footage of someone’s behind along with accompanying flatulence. But there are times when it just falls flat, such as when the Rock Army plays electric guitar in the House of Representing or a Carl’s Jr. ATM-like device calls the police to take custody of a woman’s child because she can’t afford the large fries. To my recollection, the ratio of biting satire to eye-rolling groaners is about 40-60. That’s acceptable and consistent with Judge’s other works.

I would recommend this movie keeping in mind that it is a light comedy.

Humorous Anecdote

January 24, 2007

Yesterday as I was egressing from the parking lot, I pulled up behind a Cadillac something or other that had the license plate “IBSHARP”. I chortled because I just got my own license plate that reads “ICSHARP”.

Job Satisfaction

January 24, 2007

This entry by Jeff Atwood made me realize why I like working on Quick Blog so much. It’s not just that it mirrors my own interests or that it’s challenging on a daily basis. The thing that makes it all so wonderful is that people are using it. As Jeff puts it:

A smart software developer realizes that their job is far more than writing code and shipping it; their job is to build software that people will actually want to use.

I’m not turning into some altruist. Be sure that I’m doing what I do because I get paid. But it’s enormously satisfying to know that you’re helping people find their voice. Every day I see the entry counts grow, the comment counts grow, and the number of fascinating blogs grow. Sure, there are other blogging engines out there—but they’re paying me (well, Go Daddy) for mine.

The views expressed on this website/weblog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Go Daddy.com Software, Inc.

Working Theory

January 22, 2007

Brown’s Theory of Multitudinous Object Cleanup: After cleaning up seemingly all of the objects, there will be one remaining unretrieved on the periphery of one’s vision. And then one more after that.

Also known as my developing theory of Lego and puzzle cleanup.

Grammar Girl

January 22, 2007

I discovered Grammar Girl awhile ago but thought nothing more of her at the time than “Oh, she’s using Quick Blog.” Then a co-worker brought this CNN article to my attention and I realized that she’s actually quite popular.

I don’t know why but it’s always astounding to me when I find a Quick Blog being popular or being used by someone high-profile. I shouldn’t be surprised—it is a quality product after all—but I can’t help it.

The views expressed on this website/weblog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Go Daddy.com Software, Inc.

Checking In

January 21, 2007

Status: so tired