Friday, December 31, 2010

On tonight's menu...

...we will be missing the traditional prime rib we've become known for (see illustration in my other post today). We've ironically found it frequently throughout the year and yet no good deals at year's end. So, how about a little variety?
  - French country loaf bread
- little Quiches
- assorted appetizers*
- salad
- pasta capellacci in a sage and butter sauce
- meats:
roast lamb
pepper steak
paprika chicken
- potatoes dauphine
- mixed vegetables:
zucchini
yellow squash
baby carrots
sugar snap peas
baby potatoes
- triple mousse cake

We're minimizing the portions this year not only just to cut down on what we ingest, but also to minimize the amount of waste we inevitably find when we go to clean up the kitchen the next morning.

* A plate of tasty little things like marinated artichoke hearts, mozarrella balls, varied olives, tiny pickled peppers, tomatoes, etc.

Au menu ce soir...

A notre repas tradionnel de réveillon, nous invitons les amis habituels plus un sculpteur qui éxerce dans notre voisinage et son épouse. Tout est (toujours) fait maison. La photo ici est d'une année passée. Au menu ce soir :
  - pains
- quichettes
- plat crudités*
- salades**
- pâtes capellacci en sauce au sauge et au beurre
- assortiment de viandes :
gigot d'agneau
steak au poivre
poulet au paprika
- pommes dauphines
- macédoine de légumes :
courgettes jaunes et vertes
carrottes bébé
petits pois « sugar snap »
pommes de terre nouvelles
- gâteau à triple mousse

Nous nous passons de l'entrecôte de bœuf magnifique qu'on fait habituellement—faute de pouvoir en trouver de valable au magasin cette année.

Nous offririons du fromage s'il n'était pas le cas qu'il n'en existe point en Utah : notre seule magasin d'importation de fromages, à Salt Lake City, a fermée voilà quelques années déjà. (Hélas, le Camembert me manque au point d'en chialer.)

Aussi veillerons-nous cette année à ce que les portions soient beaucoup plus petites d'une part pour éliminer l'excès et d'autre part pour limiter le gaspillage typique que nous retrouvons dans la cuisine le lendemain matin.

* Ce plat contiendra un assortiment de délices tels que cœurs d'artichaut, boules de mozarrella, olives de sortes différentes, petits poivrons saumurés, tomates, etc.
** Aux Etats-Unis la salade vient toujours en début du repas (ben, voyons).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Cupcakes in the park

There was a large and spacious park in a distant city, with many trees and flowers, and visitors come for the day to enjoy it. One afternoon, a table was erected there by a kind and generous gentleman who laid it out with tasty cupcakes, free to all who would take them.

The park was so large that there were many who did not learn at first of the cupcakes, but of those who saw and ate from the table, there were some who were pleased to go throughout the park at the man's bidding to spread a word of invitation. Some came; others stayed away.

There were many more who knew of the table who ignored it. Still others spread rumors about the cupcakes not being tasty or healthy, or the man not being good or kind or fit.

Many were inexplicably opposed to the cupcakes being made available in the first place and angrily wished to ban the man and his table. It went to the point of ridiculing those who would eat the cupcakes as childish, silly and to be avoided.

Some who had eaten the cupcakes were ultimately embarrassed to have done so.

The angry ones acquired a large following. Instead of enjoying their day in the park, they bent their energy upon the task of persuading others not to eat the man's cupcakes.

But, the man persisted; he stayed all day. Seemingly, his supply of cupcakes was endless.

And that's where things stood late in the evening when the park was set to close.

Happy Christmas to all.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Guys' day out...

The annual guys' day out. We hold it every Christmas holiday. We eat out. We take in a movie. We talk. Guffaws, hyperbole, laughter.

Unplanned. Unrehearsed. If we knew ahead of time what we would do, it wouldn't be spontaneous. It wouldn't be "guys' day out."

This time we saw the recent Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and we ate copious quantities of roast meats at Tucanos. Love the meat. Love the side dishes. Love the real lemonade made with actual lemons and limes.

Oh, and 3/5ths of us looked for and bought Julene a car, a 2007 Mitsubishi Galant, low mileage, very clean, very pretty. Transferred the spirit of our old Galant into it at the base of the Mother Tree.

We missed Taylor again. Where is that guy anyway?

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Christmas season tragedy

The Provo Tabernacle burned down this morning. Shortly after 2am, a fire that appears to have begun in the attic structure that would wreck much havoc. The Provo Fire Department responded within a scant minute of the first call, a security guard noticing smoke sometime later, but it was already impossible to reach into the roof. Firefighters attempting to stem the tide from within the building were ultimately withdrawn for safety and the roof itself finally collapsed sometime a couple of hours later.

By the time I got there, shortly after 8am, the scene was reminiscent of something out of a period piece on the Great Fire of London. The walls stand precariously; the four towers still stand, but you can see through the windows and doors the detritus that is all that is left of the interior structure and its contents.

I just finished interviewing with Fox 13. They sent a reporter with camera all the way to my workplace to do this. Owning http://www.provotabernacle.org as I do, I've been getting e-mails and calls for information. I don't have a counter on my site, but I can tell by how hard it is to get into some of my other sites that my nephew Richard's network at home, where my web server took refuge against some ISP trouble I had earlier this year, that the Provo Tabernacle site is getting some serious traffic. Some of the pictures are huge once you reach them via the thumbnails. The prints thereof hung in the back passageways of the tabernacle and are now gone.

I'm glad I can play even a tiny part in the preservation of any of this via my website.

Of course, I'm nothing and nobody with respect to our Tabernacle, and have protested as much, but they seem to want my reaction. They say they want me to be on a television program Sunday morning. I can just see myself finally breaking down in tears...

...because it's been hard this morning. I walked around zombie-like watching them putting out the last tongues of flames when I got there. I took pictures of all that I could reach while respecting the police tape. I turned my head away from people as I crossed by them, but some had the same expression that must have been written upon my face. After getting the first e-mails at work, it really came home to roost when I began to think about all the wonderful things that have gone on in that grand old building including those small few over the last 20-30 years in which I've had my own part.

As I write this, I'm thinking of having sung so much great music there. Some of the greatest moments that come to mind are principally with the Utah Valley Choral Society and Lois Johnson. To name just a few (but the dearest to me)

- Mozart's and Rutter's requiem masses
- Rachmaninoff's Vespers (or All-Night Vigil, yes, in Russian)
- Handel's Messiah
- Rob Millet's and Doc Taylor's arrangements of traditional and folk hymns
- a gala night of opera choruses in German, Russian, Italian, French and English

On two Christmas Eves, I sang under the baton of Mack Wilberg with Doug Bush at the organ.

And now I'm thinking about how I conducted some one hundred men singing two Don Ripplinger arrangements and also my own very first choral arrangement in a stake conference when I was Lewis Billings' stake music chairman. I'm remembering now how directing the congregation there was a little disorienting to me because of the building's delayed acoustics. Imagine: to think I got to conduct choral music in that building! It seems almost a sacrilege.

Those days were wonderful and fulfilling for a young, pretty much talentless music aficionado. Working with others with talent to be a part of something so wonderful as the music we made is an indivisible association with the building in my mind.

I'm sure there was much I don't know or haven't thought about that we lost in this fire. Like an original, Minerva Teichert series painting, the one of the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood painted in 1934. This is a heart-breaking loss, significant well beyond the bourns of mere Provo and Utah Valley.

There's the time that Rachmaninoff himself performed. In the middle of his concert, a train on the old line that passed just behind the building rumbled by and the story goes that the great composer and performer showed no more perturbation than simply to suspend his hands above the piano and wait until the noise was finished before continuing his piece. (Okay, I'm an old guy now, but I wasn't around for that.)

Also perishing in the fire, Salt Lake Tabernacle organ pipes deemed surplus from that building's 1917 organ rebuild. Some of the pipes were wood and must certainly have perished; those of metal won't be of any more worth musically.

The stained glass windows might be said not to equal those in the great cathedrals of Europe. I've seen the latter, fair enough. But, I can say that no light was ever warmer and cozier than that pouring in through the beautiful windows of the Provo Tabernacle during a Sunday morning stake conference.

My favorite seat in the tabernacle was on the center aisle, just a few rows from the back, the one with a gallery support. These supports were steel and could be counted on for cooling one's hands or face when pressing up against it during a hot and stuffy meeting.

I remember being disappointed that my own last stake conference was not to be in that building a few months ago, but broadcast by sessions in our stake building. Alas, if I had known. That comfy old chair at grandmother's was always a great place for us children to sit. Then her house burned down and the chair's gone. I don't know who else was thinking about that chair over the years. I always was—hence my website. But I'll bet they're all thinking about now and they will for a long time to come.

I don't know what the best thing to do for the tabernacle is. I can only imagine what the most practical thing to do would be. But my heart is in the building and my voice is for its rebuilding.

Monday, December 13, 2010

In cube hell: casa Russ at HP...

So, it's back to cube hell once more for me after my September-November hiatus from having to make a physical showing at work.

My life appears to continue its downward spiral toward total entropy in accommodations.

What must we endure for the sake of career advancement and fun? Dilbert just isn't funny anymore.

Most places, Novell for one most notable example, are gradually moving toward the low-walled cube with no privacy for the occupants. It's a fact of life in my industry. Behind my four-person star you behold all the privacy of a conference room—entirely glass. This takes some getting used to. At Quest Software, I actually had a curtain across part of the entry into my cube that would hide the sight of my cross-aisle neighbor scratching and other things. In the present arrangement, a few furtive glances and/or patience are required for executing the necessary movements that sustain life (particularly during the very dry and itchy Utah winter weather).

The downward march...

- Novell: private, hard-walled office with magnificent view of Mount Timpanogos.

- Quest Software: dingy, gloomy, high-wall, private cubicle with no view of the outside world whatsoever.

- GWAVA: my home office, private, little view except of my neighbor's back yard, but all mine.

- Avocent: fairly dingy, two-person, shared cubicle with access to windows viewing Mount Olympus and Real Stadium on one side or the Jordan River temple and Kennecott Copper mine on the other.

- Hewlett-Packard: ½ of a low-wall cubicle open to the world; not a bad view of the outside, I-15, Mount Timpanogos, Utah Lake, etc., very open, just zero privacy.

- Next stop: fold-down tables with fold-down chairs?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Out to lunch...

Today I indulged in a little, shameless fan worship at noon. Because of work location, it's been a couple of years since I last ate at Rib City in American Fork.

That's where I've been wanting to go since I started at HP. The restaurant is about as close as any other.

I knew that Rib City was owned by the sister of Vincent d'Onofrio and I asked the woman a few pleasant questions about this as she seated us only to find out that she was Toni, the actor's sister. She and her husband own and run this restaurant. I had assumed she lived in California or something, a sort of absentee owner who owned part of the entire chain. In fact, while Rib City is a chain, this is the only one she owns, having closed another in the Salt Lake valley some time back.

The half rack of ribs was on special. We also had the cheese fries with the amazing and spicy fry sauce. I decided on baked beans and cole slaw for my sides. And, yes it was real good, but I already knew it would be.

Toni came back later to chat about her family which was perfectly delightful. Of course, as a bunch of geeks, all of us are undying "Eggar" fans* and some of us have enjoyed Vincent in Law & Order: Criminal Intent too.

It appears that Vincent comes by from time to time and hangs out at the restaurant. So, we're going to keep an eye out for the opportunity and pleasure of meeting him. His sister is already so much fun to talk to.


* Edgar, whose name his wife pronounces "Eggar," was a country hick who went to inspect a crater freshly made by a meteorite hit on his farm in Men in Black. His body was usurped and used as a disguise by an "interstellar cockroach." He bid goodbye to his wife and left for New York City. Later, she recounts this to MIB agents Jay and Kay (played by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones), "But I know Eggar. And that wasn't him. It was more like something else that was wearing him. Like a suit. An Eggar suit."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Working...

Wow. I just found out that the greater division for which I work at HP is in fact the one that produces printers.

Yeah, that's right: those insanely great printers by Hewlett Packard. Just think...

I've been unknowingly a religionary of this division for most of the last two decades as in my life I've only owned a couple of non-HP printers and have generally refused to buy anything but HP.

Meanwhile, after the obligatory clueless period that lasts a few days, I've settled on a hardware configuration. I put my two Samsung monitors on my i7 notebook along with Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat. I found a crap box to run Windows 7 on which I'll handle e-mail and the odd thing just to keep that off my development host.

Eclipse, Hibernate, Spring, etc. We're just about ready to roll.

(Incidentally, Maverick seems to work just fine. I installed the proprietary NVIDIA drivers and it took a little banging around to get the dual head thing working again, but all is well now.)

Gonna find someone to speak too about beta-testing the next printer out in my diverse home computing environment (Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Linux).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

First day at MarketSplash...

My first day at Hewlett-Packard went well. It's going to be a great place to work. Everybody's polite, there's a tiny and very pleasant HR presence, the building is nice, and the view from the third-floor windows is a luxury unequaled since my Novell days.

And, there's a foolproof way to make an excellent first impression on your new colleagues: get your manager to make your first day on the job an excuse to take the team out for sushi at one of the better places in town! I'm looking forward to someone else starting soon.

Already, I'm booked on a trip to San Francisco the 15th and 16th of December to schmooze with our new teammates from SnapFish with whom we will be working very closely.

Now begins the painful shuffle of attempting to get work done without benefit of competent equipment. I'm supplying my own big monitors, but they will arrive no earlier than tomorrow. Keyboards and mice will not arrive until the end of next week. In the meantime, I've got a notebook computer (HP, of course), a craptastic, unergonomic keyboard and a mouse whose scroll wheel doesn't work. Maybe I'll have better luck scrounging tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Retro holiday celebrations starring peanut brittle!

This recipe comes from my sister, Nesya Collings. It's really good. Peanut brittle is an amazing candy from yesteryear that, in terms of enjoyment, is still very yummy in this world of modern taste.

Following in the footsteps of my man, Alton Brown, ...

How does peanut brittle work? Basically, it's a long period of patient vigilance punctuated at the end by frantic mixing and spreading.

You must just about reach the "hard crack" phase (temperature) of the caramel.
This is what gives the brittle.

The baking soda is the key to being able to eat the candy and it being pleasurable. This ingredient reacts with heat to create carbon dioxide which lightens (adds air bubbles to) the candy so that it can be broken down by your teeth.

How can can you help guarantee the result?

Choose the right peanuts by tasting them ahead of time. If they're rancid, don't buy them (uh, well, don't put them into the candy anyway). Make certain you follow the steps carefully, especially the last one of stirring in the butter, baking soda and vanilla.

Ingredients
  2 cups   sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
2¼ cups raw peanuts*

½ tsp salt
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla

* Note: Nesya says she likes to use 1¼ cups raw Spanish peanuts and 1 cup raw peanuts, or all raw Spanish peanuts, but that it’s important for taste for at least half to be Spanish. The raw peanuts cook in the candy.

1. Grease one or two half-size baking sheets with butter and set aside.

2. In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat combine sugar, corn syrup and water. Cook to 234° (soft ball).

3. Add peanuts and salt. Stir constantly. Cook to 300° (5° under hard crack).

4. Remove from heat and quickly stir in butter, baking soda, then vanilla (all this must be pre-measured and ready at hand). Pour at once onto buttered cookie sheets, spread with spatula and/or tip pan to fill in.

5. Break into pieces when cool.

Other "retro" holiday goodies to check out include divinity, fruit cake, iced sugar cookies and chocolate fudge. Stay away from the "quick" versions that aren't very tasty (especially in fudge recipes) and make the making of holiday treats part of the family holiday schedule itself!

Monday, November 29, 2010

A rare dining success...

It's rare that dinner comes out with no reason to apologize for at least something. Tonight was such an event. We had two other couples over; they've never been here before.

I wanted things to work out, but the afternoon juggling between a project I'm doing and the evening meal were beginning to make me nervous 'cause it's unsettling to spend all day cooking for a simple evening meal, isn't it? So, except for New Year's Eve, I try not to abandon myself completely to the kitchen with no other activity to redeem my mortal soul.

I made a nice, well mouse-holed loaf of bread (no sugar, no milk, no fats) as accompaniment. Here's the menu:
  Tomatoes with minced garlic

Salad with creamy Parmesan dressing

Capellini stuffed with ricotta and parsley in a sage-butter sauce

Flat-iron steaks seasoned and grilled
Macedonia of sautéd vegetables

Pumpkin pie

Our guests were perfect troopers who didn't bat an eye at how rare the steaks were. I think I need more propane for my grill—I was just about to resort to finishing them in a skillet, but in the bright kitchen light they seemed done enough to me (and they were—for me).

Yes, we did bring them back to earth with the pumpkin pie although, as pedestrian as it is, Julene's pumpkin pie is second to none. There was a pile of dishes, but all was perfect including the capellini which, very well, weren't as Venus navel-like every one as they should have been, but for my first time making them and no recipe for the filling, were pretty tasty aided considerably by the delicious sage-butter sauce.

I'll have to get some of these up on russcooks.com, but not tonight.

Friday, November 26, 2010

What's new in Christmas decoration?

These new Christmas tree decorations are becoming all the rage in France where an artist created them. They're now being produced in a factory. They represent clouds, but are prized for their status as objets d'art.


Monday, November 15, 2010

BlackBerry? iPhone? Android? Who cares?

I chuckle whenever I get an e-mail from a friend or colleague ending with the statement

      Sent from BlackBerry

Does anyone care anymore? After nearly a decade, is anyone amazed that someone else has done e-mail from his Smartphone? This is just free, mass advertising. You acquired a Smartphone for the slim advantage that gives you in exchange for money and a promise of free advertising?

So, I've begun signing my e-mailed replies thus

      Sent from my Intel i5 750 Desktop

Do you care? Nor do I. You got back a reply; that's what interested you. You could not possibly care less that I composed the reply on 1980s-era Macintosh, a Timex wrist watch or a XIIth century Chinese abacus.

As long as you get the reply.

If I were a campaign sort of person, I'd say let's get rid of those silly, default signatures from Smartphones.

But I'm not. I don't care. It's only something to blog about on a Monday morning.

Sent from my Intel i5 750 Desktop running Linux

Saturday, November 13, 2010

New websites...

I've got two new domains on tap now, Music for the Christmas Season and the David H. Cannon Family organization, the second such site for that family.

The first one is a convenient place to direct concert-goers (see recent blog entry).

The second started out as a repository for documents that I don't want to keep track of anymore for fear of losing them. However, I've begun to make it a real website.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

No more ¿quando? !

This morning I formally accepted a verbal offer from Hewlett-Packard MarketSplash in American Fork to start 1 December.

The link above (click on the picture) isn't much of a representation of what I'll be doing. That content is descriptive of the original MarketSplash product. The development teams are much broader and do web-based things...

...what I'll be doing: great stuff! This is really what I've wanted to be paid to do: back-end Java work that will include database and various frameworks like Spring, Hibernate, JavaServer Faces (JSF), RESTful servlets and much more. I'm all a-quiver; really!

When you think of Apple, you think of iPhones®, iPods®, Macintoshes, etc. What you don't think of because it's not exactly written all over it is that Apple is also an insanely great software company. Maybe even more so than it is a hardware company.

HP is known for the best printers and scanners anywhere. I myself have never owned any other brand of desktop printer except briefly an early Texas Instruments laser.

On the other hand, I'm going to be one of the guys writing the software. Software is major fun. I'm lucky to be a software guy and lucky to be working as one. It's been a great life; fortunately for me, there's more to come.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dosai, following your own advice, and other imponderables...

Last Sunday dinner, I made dosai (singular: dosa), South Indian crêpes from a package. This isn't the first time I've tried to make them, but it is the first time I've resorted to a package. I bought it from my local Indian market.

Yes! Provo has grown up. After years of boasting two world-class Indian restaurants, Provo finally has an Indian store. No more driving to Salt Lake City. No more running out of spices.

Back to my dosai...

I learned a few things. The owner of the store told me to use a non-stick pan. In fact, this is an understatement: if you don't use a nearly pristine non-stick pan, you'll encounter a great deal of grief.

I have two omelette pans, one of which is brand new and the other still in somewhat good condition.

He also told me to spread a small amount of oil out in the pan using an onion cut in half. Worked for me.

From the package, I learned something even more important that totally explains why my dosai never worked in the couple of years I've attempted off and on to make them: start each crêpe out cold. If the pan is more than lukewarm, that is, so warm that it begins to cook the crêpe as soon as you pour the batter, then you will have a thoroughly miserable experience. The batter will stick, then pull away as you spread it and you'll be left with a mess.

Next, I used the bottom of a stainless steel measuring cup to spread about ¼ cup of batter poured in to the middle of the oiled pan around and around until I pushed it out evenly to cover nearly the entire, level surface. Only then turn on the gas; you can turn it up pretty hot.

Cook only one side until light brown and crisp.

The result? Not really handsome dosai, but very serviceable once I got the hang of it.

What was really yummy, however, was the amazing aloo paliya (or potato masala) I prepared to fill the crêpes with. And, I had bought some Knorr® tamarind sauce (not quite chutney thick) with which I garnished them.

Follow your own advice

When you give a piece of advice, it's well to follow it yourself. In my khurma recipe, I advise against adding any coriander, partly because there's already some in the garam masala. Sunday morning, I ground up a bunch of spices in anticipation of the afternoon culinary activities. With a couple of teaspoons of ground coriander left over, I tossed them into my khurma cringing a little. I didn't have to wait long: once on the table and then in my mouth I remembered why I hated my khurma for so many years. More than anything else I did or didn't do, it was putting coriander into this dish that made it inedible. I had this hard and fast list of "standard" spices I always used in this dish. In one case, I was wrong. I also don't use cardamom although I don't know that it's not good.

Aaargh! Don't do that! In the dizzying world of Indian spices it's easy to lose your head and throw the kitchen sink in. Less is often better.

Do, however, throw cilantro (coriander leaves) into the curry as a garnish just before serving. That is a good thing to do.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Admit nothing!

I committed the all-time faux pas this morning in an interview.

In my defense, the interviewer called one-half hour ahead of scheduled. And I was just sitting down to get my head into it. But, it was set up long enough ago that I was having a hard time remembering the entire context of the interview (and have had numerous dealings with the same recruiter), so I was befuddled at first. So many jobs, so many companies, so many refusals (hehehe). Yesterday afternoon alone, I was better than two hours getting grilled in interviews at a local company.

It's a capital offense not to have researched the product whose development team you are interviewing for. Duh. [Many expletives deleted.] How stupid is that?

So, yeah, I actually knew a lot more than just nothing about it. Checking out what I should have done prior to the interview, I realized that I knew quite a bit at the 64,000-foot level, but I was surprised and inarticulate—a state that I find myself in frequently during interviews. (I guess I'm not getting the hang of this job-seeking thing after all.)

In fact, I could have held my own, but I'm so $*#!! honest that I rush to admit incompetence.

Moral of this sad story: Admit nothing because stupidity might not become apparent in the ensuing interview. And if it does, how is that worse than not having admitted to it in the first place?

Better lesson of this story: As the weeks wear on and the interviews and rejections begin to blur into one giant disappointment, apply due diligence for each since one or two of them in there will be the offer you accept.

On the positive side, the interviewer suggested that I speak with additional engineers on his team. So maybe he correctly perceived that deeper in the awkward cluelessness, there is something useful.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Christmas is finally here!

Each year for the last 20+ I've sung in a fabulous ensemble at Christmas time. Back then, I organized my own such ensembles, generally smaller, to double the fun during the season, but this one remains as the jewel.

One year I counted exactly nine groups I was with, seven or eight of them being my own.

Sadly, with being too busy and losing all my singing friends to their own busy-ness or generally to growing up, graduating from BYU and moving on with their lives, I've not organized choral groups or sung much in long years with this one exception.

Thus, my vocal abilities, which were never great anyway, have sunk to the point where I must resurrect them each October for use at this one concert in December plus helping out at St. Mary's on Christmas Eve (always a distinct pleasure). I have to work myself through the stage of fits of coughing after Saturday morning's hour and a half practice and mastering the unwelcome vibrato that has beset me in my later years. And, I have to re-deepen my bass in order to sing the low notes I've always reveled in.

This year, outside the addition of a piece we've never done (though I used to do it when I was ward choir director), we sing again a selection of old favorites, see my notes for Music for the Christmas Season. With everyone getting a web-capable hand-held device like an iPhone, I've begun in recent years to offer the entire program with copious notes. (This year's are only just begun, so there is a lot of construction detritus on the page as yet.)

Just now, I'm about to return to some SQL work I've begun, but I'm listening to Mannheim Steamroller's "blue" album, A Fresh Aire Christmas. It's nice to get to the point where listening to Christmas music doesn't get me Julene's evil eye (without which I'd probably listen to it year 'round).

Next up will be Chip Davis' "brown" and "red" albums, then Kurt Bestor's few and probably even that old Carpenters' album. This is only a warm up for serious stuff: I've got all of the Cambridge Singers' albums and the Medieval and Renaissance albums done by Joel Cohen(*) and the Boston Camarata. More still.

I'm just a Christmas-y kind of guy.

(* Yup, for real!)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Crikey! Abbey Road's turned 41

My son found this somewhere and posted it to Facebook.

The old man in the article is Paul Cole, an American Tourist serendipitously photographed on the album cover. Though a few weeks later he discovered himself there when it came out, he admits never having given it a listen. "It's not my kind of thing. I prefer classical music."

I looked up this Paul Cole. He joined John's and George's Dirt Nap Band in 2008.

Wait a minute: Abbey Road is classical music!

—and not 'cause it just turned 41 a couple of weeks ago. In recent months, millions of people of all ages rediscovered what it is to listen to some pretty classy and very classical music.

Where were you when…
I had just gone back to junior high school in my hometown a month before the album release. Bountiful, Utah was an up-scale suburb of Salt Lake City. As children are ever wont to annoy, Alan Battacchio and I immediately memorized Maxwell's Silver Hammer and sang it at the top of our lungs for days in the hallways between classes.

And uh, yup, I had green bell-bottoms, a paisley shirt and beads. (But I wore shoes and my hair was pretty short.)

[Old man's sigh: Alas, things were simpler then.]

Abbey Road
If you're interested in seeing what's happening on Abbey Road this very minute, check out Visit Abbey Road: The Crossing web cam. This zebra crossing has become quite a tourist attraction and, at any random moment, you'll see people taking pictures of each other—usually from the direction of the original photograph which is almost 180° around from the web cam's point of view. Looking just now I saw this happen myself. Great stuff!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A day of stress passes...


Last night's little foray into the world of Alton Brown and Rebecca Ray went well enough. But, I'm not a stand-up comedian; my talents lie more along the lines of being a smart alec.

I pre-cooked the paste underbase of my khurma, the part composed of bloomed cumin, four softball-sized onions, a head of garlic, two serrano peppers, a couple of inches of ginger and a large can of crushed tomatoes. It's well I did this; I guess I'd never timed it before and had the vague notion that it was a 45-minute affair. It took twice that time, but was done perfectly so that I could go an hour ahead of time to prepare my demonstration at Macey's grocery in Provo.

If there has been any revelation in Indian for me over the years I tried to do it without satisfaction, it has been the need to cook this base thoroughly! Indeed, the foundation of a good curry sauce is utterly and completely cooked onion (and the other aromates listed here). There are lots of other important things to know, like how best to bloom which spice or aromate, but this one thing is more important than all.

It was a little awkward: electric range, two grates covered with my griddle for baking roti, another for the saag shorba and the remaining one for the khurma, when to light up my rice cooker, an hour to pull off all the dishes, and distraction galore with questions from the attendees (not offended by that).

My one regret was that when it was time to mix some chopped cilantro leaves into the khurma, I didn't have any. I didn't know if the woman running the demonstration for the store had stocked the refrigerator (she had), but under the pressure of direct, public scrutiny, I decided against looking and having possibly to ask her to go get some (which I'd then have to wash, dry and chop). With the addition of that garnish, however, I think the dish would have been perfect.

Indian is complicated: it's easy to over-look preparing something. At home, this is no problem since I usually cook in a very lazy mode, taking 6 hours to piddle around doing what would only require 2. I figure, that way, I won't tire of it. I took the same approach in building the mother of all decks on the back of my house: I started in April and finished in November.

Julene said it was a little spicier than usual. I was going for that; I'm usually conscious of not serving food that the squeamish can't eat, but as someone who could not for medical reasons eat hot and spicy food until just a few years ago, I haven't acquired the taste myself. I'm not averse to eating hot, I just don't because I like to perceive the flavors rather than them losing themselves in my mouth along with my now-numb tongue. Last night, however, I wanted to raise the spiciness just a little. I think I failed, though. I didn't find the curry spicy and the soup wasn't either. I should have discoursed on this fact, but it fell through the cracks.

Imagine: nambi-pambi Indian food. I should be ashamed of myself. Still, this doesn't prevent anyone from leaving seeds and veins from the chilis in when they do the cooking.

So, the attendees were duly polite and appreciative. One man pressed me with more questions about India, the Indians and their religions, meat-eating and all sorts of other cultural issues than culinary ones. And, of course, the difficulty of managing food over an electric range kept interrupting and distracting me—lest disaster ensue. By the end, I couldn't decide if I was doing a food demonstration or teaching a high school geography class with a food demonstration on the side. I surprised myself by how much my dear Indian colleagues have taught me about the Subcontinent over the years. I hope I didn't betray them in any way.

So, as I told the Macey's lady, I'm glad to do this for whatever motivation they may find to ask me, but I don't crave attention or glory or honor and so won't volunteer to keep doing it. I said this in response to her announcing that the next opportunity would not come until after the end of the year. Fine by me.

Last, I was interviewed by the food columnist from the Provo Daily Herald. I had completely spaced that she was there until she came up to me afterward. That can't have been a bad thing.

As if to save me (and I needed it), Julene attended too. She helped clean up the kitchen at the end. We got out of there after 9 pm.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The sharks are beginning to circle!


The dreaded moment is only hours away...

Tomorrow evening I will present my Indian menu of saag shorba, vegetable khurma, fancy rice and roti at the Provo Macey's grocery.

Already I've had friends pester me to tell them when. I long declined, but now give in. I hope it's too late for most of you.

It is not too late, apparently, for the Provo Herald who are detailing a food columnist to attend and to interview me afterward. This amps up the pressure.

Unfortunately, I can't "do better" because presenting a cooking show isn't something I ever do. While Macey's is talking about me doing this regularly, it's wishful thinking on their part: I'm not so certain. Why would I do this? It was to be a one-shot, let's-see-how-terrifying romp through a personal discomfort zone. A decision taken flippantly and without much commitment.

I have decided I had better put on my best (and only) black chef's jacket, maybe dig around for those trousers I haven't worn in a long time too. (But, I draw the line at donning the toque.)

Nevertheless, these emotional sharks pale in the overall everyday angst of job-seeking especially now that, since last Friday, I can no longer claim to be "employed, seeking new opportunity."

Vivement la retraite !   (How to say that in Hindi?)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Cloning good equipment...


Last November's build of a Windows 7 box was a qualified success. I'm equivocating only because, a month after building it, I lost the motherboard and had to get a replacement from Intel. It was the luck of the draw and Intel created no obstacles to the exchange although they waited for my old board to arrive before sending me out the new one. (With Dell Computers, you have the new component in hand within a day or so and can then simply reuse the packaging to return the defective component.)

Since replacement, I have had no other trouble attributable to the hardware.

I have had grief with Windows 7 supporting peripheral devices. It simply will not support my internal card reader, my external card reader or my HP Deskjet 5550 printer. As always, I'm willing to admit humbly that I'm a total idiot, but seriously, do you think a platform is really a popular, turn-key solution for the masses if a career software engineer can't overcome what should be simply plug-and-play after several hours bent over the problem? (And Google says I'm not alone!)

Well, I've also got a Linux box next to me, running Ubuntu Lucid Lynx (10.4), but it's just too slow to do my development work on. I find, in particular, that launching the Android device emulator from Eclipse takes more than just "for freaking ever" (as many places on the web say about launching that emulator normally) and is simply intolerable as compared to my Windows box which is long, but tolerable. I think it's the horsepower in my case.

After nearly a year ignoring Linux as my main development host (Avocent was a decidedly Windows shop), I've grown lonesome and decided to clone last year's build to build for myself a competent Linux host again.

So, here's my build-out, arriving from TigerDirect today; I'm a little tamer and it's costing me about $200 less with much more disk (although I later added a 1Tb, unmirrored disk to my existing Windows system):

Case Ultra X-Blaster Black ATX Mid-Tower
Power Supply Ultra LSP550 550-Watt SATA-ready, SLI-ready 135mm Fan
Intel Mobo DP55WB Micro ATX, Intel P55 Express Chipset
CPU Intel Core i5 750 2.66GHz, 8Mb L3 cache, Quad-Core Lynnfield
DDR3 Memory 2 OCZ 4Gb DDR3 PC10666 1333MHZ 4096Mb
Video Card GeForce 9500GT 1Gb PCI-E 2.0 VD 01G-P3-N958-LR
Hard Drives 2 Seagate 1Tb LP SATA
Optical Drive LightScribe DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-RW, DVD-RAM

Additionally, this will allow me to take that otherwise nice if slow box running nevertheless modern Linux here and use it as a replacement for my old web server still running openSuSE 10.2.

I'm running my two, five-year old Dell 20" wide-aspect monitors for now (3360 x 1050 pixels total) until I swap my bigger Asus pair from the Windows 7 box to Linux.

The hard drives would be arranged in RAID 1 but for the fact that Ubuntu desktop doesn't support RAID. In order to do RAID, you must either use Ubuntu server or an alternate non-GUI installation that only supports Karmic (one release backward) at this hour. So, my installation of Lucid Lynx 64-bit 10.4 was successful and I've built the disks as follows (hoping to facilitate setting up with RAID 1 later):
  16 Gb swap   (/dev/sda)
80 Gb /
904 Gb /home
1000 Gb /home2 (/dev/sdb)

I have excellent news: the Android emulator starts up on Linux as quickly as it does on my Windows host. I'm back in business.

Persistence in job-seeking


One word: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Persistence in Java


This morning, amid the thousands of other things I'm trying to get done, I decided to formalize my understanding of and opinions on the Java Persistence API (JPA). This is the subject of a new article, Companion Notes on the Java Persistence API and using EclipseLink with Apache Derby at Java Hot Chocolate. I piggy-backed my comments atop an existing tutorial, one of the many fine from among those published by Lars Vogel.

I discuss a few subjects that go beyond the scope of the original tutorial. I note that, while this is a pretty light framework, it's heavier than simply using XStream and the file system which can more easily be done depending on how complex your persistence needs are.

I also discuss the dismal absence of a solution to allow POJOs to evolve respective to this framework and point out that the @Version annotation, whose existence might at first make you think there is such a solution, is really an unrelated, optimistic locking mechanism in JPA.

What's the solution to issuing subsequent updates of your application in which you've made schema changes? There isn't one although I can think of ways to implement one depending on whether you're willing to go outside the framework and test subliminal version references you sprinkle into the POJOs yourself.

It's easy to observe the SQL statements used by JPA via a setting in the metadata file, so no experimentation is necessary to figure out how to go around it. Could you attach triggers to sort some of this out if you wanted to be totally clever (and perhaps a bit obfuscative) in your code to avoid adding too much to your Java corpus?

Each schema class is its own entity and, in the end, each modified class is basically a totally new entity. This is what it comes down to. I've worked on products that couldn't move forward for their schema being so much an anchor around their neck, so I'm interested in having a ready solution next time.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ah - ha: I've been a victim of bad advice!

I am freshly disabused of a wide-spread piece of ill advice that I now dare expose.

When I left Novell and entered the job market as a candidate years ago, I learned a number of skills for job-seeking. The one I'm thinking about today is the resume. (If you've been following my blog at all, you know that I've been looking casually, then more intensively for another position since earlier this summer.)

Like everyone else in the software industry, the more years I worked and the more places I worked at, the longer my resume grew. It had disturbingly reached about 4 pages already back then. (Almost sounds like a line out of the mouth of Jacob Marley, doesn't it?)

A veteran of twice attending the LDS Employment workshop, I learned that your resume must not exceed a page or two and, anyway, no one will ever read even to the bottom of the first page before making a decision on whether to consign it to the "round file" or keep it in the list of people to consider.

This makes a great deal of sense to me. Human Resources people process incredible numbers of resumes and can't afford to become students of the life history of everyone applying with their company (times the number of job postings for that company).

Fair enough then, the resume must be short.

Second, the resume's content, like the cover letter, must hook the reader with the idea that you are at very least one of a short, few good candidates for the job. Resolved: the resume must be carefully composed.

However, that's where the resume advice currently propounded by modern would-be employment advisors stops. These would have you eliminate the traditional list of places worked, activities, associated skills and objectives accomplished in favor of a more succinct, "Here's what I can do for you" evoking your entire work history without exploring any of it.

That idea of a short, killer resume is seductive, but erroneous, particularly in my industry.

The truth is that even assuming your resume gets read, you'll be rejected no matter how "cool" it is if the hiring manager or even HR person is unable to get a feeling for who you are and where you've been.

Now, I admit that this may just be my industry. For a teenager vying for his third job as night manager at Pizza Hut, the results-oriented resume may be better. However, I've spent a great deal of effort hob-nobbing with software recruiters, HR folk and engineering managers. To a man (or woman), each has insisted on getting my traditional resume.

In the last few days, one of them took pity upon me cued by an oblique comment I made on the telephone to the effect that I kept having to ante up my old-format resume when I'd been told never to do that. He enlightened me a great deal and I'm relating some of that here.

Merely listing a skill set and technologies employed is meaningless to the resume reader. It's crucially important that your skills be named it is true.

I'm also told that the cover letter gets the resume read or left in the stack (no argument from LDS on that point). And I'm told that the list of skills and technologies performs the same function, i.e.: it keeps the resume reader from tossing the resume into the trash. So far, so good and...

(A parenthesis: To this end, the skills must be listed clearly. The human eye can sort out mistakes at this point, but if the manager is using a query to search a database like Monster, Dice or his company's that comes from a blind, robotic extraction mechanism, he can't be bothered with trying out Java AND Java/JEE AND Java/J2EE, etc. He's only going to try Java AND J2EE or JEE, etc. If you've put "Java/JEE" it's unclear that both "Java" and "JEE" will come out of it: you're at the mercy of the resume parser on that point and you didn't get to write it. You'll probably fair better with something like "Java, JEE (J2EE)" and "Linux (UNIX)", etc.)

But, I'm also told that the engineering manager wants to know "how much skill" one has and "how much acquaintance" one has with the technologies listed. "Extensive experience with relational databases" goes nowhere. What the hiring manager wants to know before going to the trouble and spending the time to interview you is how you gained the skills and the technological familiarity.

The engineering manager figures this out by undertaking an examination of where you've been and what you've been doing most recently. Therefore, it's crucial to say what you've done and how you've done it in order for him to gain an idea of how deep the skills run.

This is an important point: say what technologies and skills were used company by company and project by project. In this way, the manager knows he wants to speak with you. If it's unclear, you're relying on having piqued his interest enough and there not being an adequate number of other candidates.

Another person I'm in contact with actually works occasionally for LDS Employment (I shan't give out his name). He's required to toe the party line on this point even though he knows full well that the advice is unsound or, at least, misapplied when it comes to the software industry. So he's quiet on this point during his "volunteer" life.

In summary...
The resume must be virtually short with content to grab the attention of a) the HR person who is probably not very technical, but has a list of keywords to search on, and b) the engineering manager who wants meat to eat, expects a seasoned professional to have been around the block and have something to show or say about it (i.e.: four pages or more).

If the manager is interested, he'll want to save time by delving into the short statements about each place worked and be able to weigh in his mind the likelihood that the whole resume adds up to someone he wants to go to the trouble to interview. The length of a traditional resume gives him that capability.

Unless your name is Mahatma Ghandi, a one-page resume with a few really powerful statements about you will probably not suffice. Software engineers can only rarely cough up some heart-grabbing assertions such as "increased sales through field leadership by 80% year-over-year" or even "saved three companies' payroll departments 46% in the first quarter after shipping a second, refactored version of the software."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Smartphone wars: our side is winning!


I knew that sales of Android phones were already surpassing those of Apple's iPhone, but I had no idea that actual Android marketshare had overtaken all other types of smartphones!

Looks like I'm on the winning side. Well, okay, I'm on the winning side to the extent that I fancy myself an Android developer, which I've become of late, having a lot of spare time left over from my present employment debacle as Emerson Network Power closes down Avocent's offices in Salt Lake City. So very sad; but, as I say, an opportunity to learn something new and exciting!

If you've been following, I've also dabbled a wee bit in BlackBerry. (Be warned: I lapse into the arcane for the next few paragraphs.)

That platform is a great deal less exciting than Android because the Java support is constrained to what's referred to as J2ME or Java Platform, Micro Edition. It is super-restrictive, so tiny, there is a great deal missing from it that an ordinary Java programmer finds important. In my case, I need to write an XML parser that runs on BlackBerry because (so far) I haven't found one available. Not a huge task if I settle for just the functionality I need, which is very slight, but a difficult challenge without Java reflection, something missing from J2ME:
import java.lang.reflect.Method;
.
.
.
private void doThis( Class c )
{
    Method[] methods = c.getMethods();
    .
    .
    .
}

Sorry, mate: can't possibly do that!

Rolling separate code in the form of a library (JAR) into a BlackBerry application is another mountain I've not succeeded in climbing yet either. It appears to be a black art. Precious little of any code I write for Android will work on the poorer platform and none of it in the form of an external JAR.

Moral: buying BlackBerry is like buying a car sporting a hand crank, spark-advance control and a manual choke in our day.

Anyway, I'm having lots of fun on Android doing some cool things that seem to work well and I'll have an application out in distribution soon. Which is not to say that it will make me any money. It's a free part of a bigger product and money will only come in based on many other factors. Alas, there the planets and stars may never align. Nevertheless, the journey is the reward and I will not have sunk my entire life into it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Broad experience: the browser plug-in


My nephew, Richard, rather amazes me by the breadth of his experience sometimes. I think true geeks grow up "broad" now days. Many of the rest of us have had careers in very vertical pursuits sometimes and breadth has come to us more especially at the moments of technological shift, from ALGOL and Fortran to C, from C to C++, from C++ to Java or C#.

Anyway, among the myriad things he's done in his as-yet short career of PHP and web work, streaming video and a few other undertakings is an open source project that grew out of experience gained at Move Networks to enable rapid development and easy maintenance of browser plug-ins written for just about any platform. Move is a now-struggling concern with some pretty super streaming video technology whose future is a bit uncertain to say the least at this point. Browser hosting of video streams was the name of the game.

The project is called FireBreath, but that doesn't so much tell the tale. Check out A Year in the Life of an Open-source Project.

Browser extension vs. plug-in

While we're at it, let's note that there is some confusion in the space between browser extensions and browser plug-ins.

The first is code extending the browser, usually to give it the ability to do rather sweeping things like debugging. I use something called FireBug with my FireFox browser to help me find trouble in my web pages or to inspect other web pages when there's something cool in them I haven't seen before or want to know how to do.

It would be a real stretch to unify the development of browser extensions across multiple browsers and platforms.

The second is a bit more conservative undertaking: the plug-in affects pretty much just the web page being viewed (and not the browser application displaying the web page) and is often brought in via the <embed> tag in HTML I have much experience with, and more modernly, the <object> tag.

An example of this would be something that plays MIDI files or sets up for viewing Windows Media files, both things I do in some of my pages. Apple's Quicktime player and Macromedia's Flash are two more examples of browser plug-ins. I also use temperature converters on my cooking site, from poodwaddle.com that I helped design, and a calendar on other pages of mine (also from poodwaddle) that are plug-ins. You may remember having to install such things before gaining the full user experience of some web sites.

In summary, we've been talking about Richard's plug-in framework, FireBreath, and not about browser extensions.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Irony drips...


Because of the sorts of things I do on Linux, mostly work related to software development, I have little need ever to print there. For years I've relegated printing, something I do very little of anyway, to whatever box happened to be my primary Windoz computer host. (I always keep a Windoz box alive for my personal use in order to use software I like that won't run on Linux such as PaintShop Pro 7 even though I know that there are solutions to doing that from Linux too.)

Since I acquired a new Windows 7 Professional 64-bit platform late last year, printing has been a largely unworkable solution. At first, in fact, it seemed to work perfectly well, but about the time I lost my motherboard and replaced it, then found I had to reinstall from scratch, it stopped working. While I didn't detect any anomaly during re-installation and resurrection of my data that I had carefully backed up for the most part, nevertheless, printing was thereafter very hit-and-miss. In fact, I had only printed one or two pages just to try things out, so I don't know for certain that it ever worked permanently and well.

How the mighty one has fallen!
Usually, things went like this: Plug my Hewlett-Packard 5550 into a USB port, note that Windows loaded the driver, then print something. Early on, this often worked the first time only to stop working the next time I tried to print. In frustration, and because my office has been in an awkward flux since the first of the year, I'd unplug the USB cable and forget about it for a week or two or three. However, very soon, it would stop working at all.

Of late, I've pulled my hair out over this printer and my Windows box no longer able even to get them to work together a single, initial time. Incidentally, I can't get this box to support my built-in multi-card reader either, nor my external reader. And Google tells me I am not alone by far in my observation: Windows 7 doesn't reliably support printers or card readers.

Decidedly, not only does Windows have its usual troubles with inconsistent interfaces, but since the last version of Windows that worked (XP) in true plug-and-play fashion, its utility has sunk very low indeed.

I mean I'll grant you that I'm an idiot, but so's your grandmother. And yet, until Windows Vista, even she could plug in her new printer or card reader and immediately get a working peripheral with no need to Google to find out how to overcome a lack of support for such common devices. It just worked. It no longer does.

So, that irony I was speaking about...
I grew up under the UNIX operating system in my early career. Configuring a system was a pretty hard thing to do. Even after years getting used to the ease of Linux in doing most things, I continue to be surprised by it. Such was the case this morning.

I really needed to print out a recipe in order easily to take notes on it later today because I'm going to present this recipe to a formal gathering in a local theater. I'm making this dish today. Annoyed at the prospect of spending fruitless hours messing about with getting my printer working on Windows 7, I decided I might be ahead learning to get it running on Linux.

From my UNIX years, I have a knee-jerk expectation that it's not going to be straight-forward, so I cast around up front on the web for some help. Not finding very recent articles on how to get it running (reading out-of-date articles on Linux can be an exercise in frustration as the myriad distros have progressed very rapidly), I gave up and just plugged the #$*@ thing in. A few seconds later, a notice popped up on my desktop announcing my printer by (accurate) name and claiming that it was set up and ready to go. I'm not one to be fooled by such a cheap trick, so I put it to the test, brought my recipe up in Firefox, then printed it. What to my wond'ring, but grateful eyes...

Of course, this dripping irony as I call it is of my own making: I should henceforth believe that Linux can indeed do everything. And, I should turn my back on Windows forever. But I won't. I will still keep my foot in the door out of some sense of misguided interest. And I will continue to snipe and complain about Windows as it falls from utility.

Hehehe, now I'm going to attach my card reader someday soon—another peripheral I've always and only consumed from Windows.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Amy's grand day out!


I got a call this morning around 1030 announcing that Amy had been in a multi-vehicle accident an hour or so before. She was transported to St. Francis Medical Center in Grand Island, Nebraska.

Amy's health
Amy is in stable condition, very sore, scratched and bruised all over with particular trauma to her knees and chest. It's like someone beat her mercilessly with a rubber hose in a dark alley. She has two cracked ribs. By all rights, those should have broken and punctured her heart or lungs. She has been able to get up more or less by herself to shower, so that's a good sign, right?

Details of the accident
It happened on Interstate 80 south of Shelton, Nebraska, about 25 miles west of Grand Island. She came upon a car that was stopped, veered to avoid it, then found herself embedded in an 18-wheeler. She crossed the median into the truck hitting it more or less head-on. She had to be cut out of her vehicle. She was driving a 2006 Chevrolet Malibu belonging to her employer, KHAS-TV, a television station.

Her boss and one or two coworkers went to the scene soon after the accident and described the vehicle to Julene as "little left to show it had been a car," so that fact and given the apparent little injury to Amy, it is nothing short of a miracle. It was probably a very good thing this happened in KHAS-TV's vehicle instead of hers. And not just because hers would be gone. The station's vehicle was newer, safer and probably bigger.

Julene's trip out
Coincidentally, Julene had planned a trip out there next week; those plans were accelerated a few days. We looked for flights, but from Salt Lake, it's literally impossible to reach Amy faster than it takes just to drive it. So, even if we'd bought a ticket, she couldn't possibly have reached Amy until Saturday evening.

From Provo to Grand Island is 800 miles and dust, 95% of it on Interstate 80. Google Maps says about 13 hours. The major points of itinerary are Evanston, Rock Springs, Rawlins. Laramie, Cheyenne, North Platte, then Grand Island. She took a Garmin GPS, her cell phone and my iPod. She drove our little Mitsubishi Galant, which recently passed inspection, an oil change today, new tires and windshield a month ago.

Saturday, 4 September
Julene reached St. Francis Medical Center in Grand Island around 1400 Central. (I've updated Amy's health higher up.) Julene tells me that everyone acquainted with the details of the accident says nobody survives that sort of thing. It is being proclaimed a miracle.

Everyone from her work is sending her flowers and stuffed animals. Her room is full of them.

Sunday, 5 September
Amy was released today. Julene will be staying with her a few days while she gets better.

Apache Tomcat configuration explained

In an echo of "better late than never" and a post a couple of weeks ago, I have released a short article detailing the workings of that erstwhile bane of my existence, web.xml.

The impetus for this was the need a few days ago to define two separate RESTful servlets I was comparing in the same server I'm writing.

It's gratifying when one looks back to realize that the scales have completely fallen from one's eyes.

Monday, August 30, 2010

In an uproar!

I spoke with my son, Danny, this morning about his recent promotion on tour. Since the end of Van's Warped Tour, he's been working another one named Rockstar Uproar doing the same sorts of things as on the tour he's worked for five or six years now. However, he was quickly promoted to "tour festival manager." As I understand it, his duties include the entire layout of the park, the emplacement of the stages, the concessions, where the buses, trucks and trailers are parked, etc.

Uproar will be in Salt Lake City on 15 September out at the USANA amphitheater.

Gotta love bad musicians playing ear-piercing music and shouting the f-word at the top of their amplified lungs!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Apache ant: something mean in our sandpile when we were children?



I'm always behind the times. For example, my definitive ant tutorial at Java Hot Chocolate.

I should have written this up almost a year ago when I was hot and heavy on it. Instead, I waited until I had a moment, something that never came.

I don't have time today either because I'm busy writing an important application for Android. However, I figure, while it's hot in my mind, while the ant build script I'm writing for my application is closer to what I'd want to present than the humongous thing I wrote last fall for GWAVA, which is proprietary anyway, I had just better do it.

Anyway, I've got it about one-half written today, mostly the ant stuff proper, and I'll finish the Eclipse integration stuff next week, which won't be much more to add in terms of column inches.

However, I'm really behind my time. Maven's been here for what, forever now?

I've been playing with Maven for a couple of years, but because of Eclipse, have just never made the leap. We use Maven at Avocent for our builds, but I haven't undertaken to integrate it for my own use at home yet. And, I still feel very intimidated by it. It's so easy, so powerful and yet so nightmare-ish when things go south.

One day, my Maven prince will come. (Ooooo, did I say really that?)

Friday, August 20, 2010

The tubby gourmet from Provorampour

Namaste!

Out of the blue this morning I got a ping from the local store of Macey's Grocery chain to do a one-night cooking demonstration in the Little Theatre of their Provo store. I'm thinking of
  • Saag shorba
  • Tandoori chicken
  • Vegetable khurma with cauliflower, also carrots and peas
  • Fancy rice with traces of roast cumin and coriander, plus saffron threads
  • Roti brushed with oil, garlic and parsley

I'm having trouble imagining myself as Provo's Indian answer to Yan Can Cook. I mean, some fat, white guy who, until he got corrective surgery at 40, couldn't eat spicy food? On the other hand, I do a passable imitation of Indian software engineers arguing about how much turmeric to add to a dish.

Well, I could do something like a French country loaf. That would take me all of 10 minutes. —Nah, too boring.

I'd have to do the chicken ahead of time because there probably isn't a grill handy, at least not inside the theater, plus I've only got an hour and it would ruin the presentation (and possibly the rest of the food) to have to pop out constantly to watch over the grilling. So, uhhhhh, reheat the chicken in the oven?

I'm supposed to do stand-up, make bird calls or carry on other entertaining antics during the cooking so it doesn't get too boring. I'm thinking I'll have to do a dry-run at home to make certain I've got enough material. Maybe if I work hard on my Indian accent and memorize something out of an episode of Flying Circus? Hmmm... well, I don't want to offend.

They've got an electric range. That will be a challenge, but then, that's what I have to use when I'm doing Thai at the house of my friend, Jay Sevison. Anyway, the trick will be to prepare just enough ahead of time not to fail, but not so much that there's nothing going on during the demonstration.

My nightmare? Someone Indian actually shows up.
If this little activity happens, it will be in October. I won't be crying the date from the rooftops for all the reasons you can imagine.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

BlackBerry: All in a day's work


I'm scrambling to get this done before leaving for the Utah Java Users' Group meeting tonight. I'm leaving as soon as I post this.

I've successfully put together a development environment and a Hello World application for BlackBerry. And, as usual, I've written it up concurrently so that a) I have a place to return to for links, information and to see what I've forgotten, and b) others can step up faster and easier, or so I hope.

This is an experiment after nearly three weeks of deep-ending in Android development, quite successfully so far, I might add.

Of course, the two display systems are radically different, so the code I write for one will not be reusable for the other unless I can figure out how to get a little MVC separation, my next project.

At least I'm "up and running" in BlackBerry.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Today was my annual Van's Warped Tour outing with my youngest son, Danny. It's been a couple of months since I last saw him.

Danny runs a bus, some trucks and a crew who oversee various concessions at the venues. They travel all over the United States and Canada to do this. It goes on nearly three months.

My fellow Provo attendees included my wife, Julene, and her youngest, Sam. Other family members included my daughters, Andrea and Penelope, plus their daughters, Trista and Leila. My son Vic went on tour the night of the Paul McCartney concert and won't be back until October. He's tattooing all over the country out of this RV/bus he's fixed up.

Salt Lake City was treated to a rather cool day, only 90° or so and lots of wind and threatening thunderstorms that mostly glided by the Utah Fairgrounds without disturbing much other than to force the tour crews to stake down some of the tents that had been erected shoddily earlier in the day.

We made our usual pilgrimage to eat at the local Red Ignana, always excellent, best Mex anywhere!

When we got back to the fairgrounds, we wandered around collecting junk for the little girls (my granddaughters) who are always up for the trick-or-treating aspects of the show where their uncle Danny's connections net them at least a pair of sunglasses, a t-shirt, a bag to carry them in and some candy. Speaking of candy, most of us got some Skullcandy® paraphernalia too.

Then we stood on a VIP platform overlooking the main concert venue to watch Big Fish perform until I had my fill of f-words and lewd gestures, and retreated to the bus—probably four songs in all. This annual show has rather become my live, mental image of an old Gothic depiction of what hell will be: bad music, horribly dressed and empty misguided children, as well as vulgar language screamed at the top of amplified lungs. Right off the canvas of Hieronymus: Gotta love it!

Between sorties for food and fun, we chilled on his tour bus and jabbered while his mother and sister did massages in the main business office on the grounds.

A fun time was had by all and we love our Danny. His tour ends in a couple of weeks, then he's doing a two-month Skullcandy tour before coming home in early October.

I have such interesting children. I love them all.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Attaching sources to the Android SDK JAR in Eclipse


An annoying thing about Android development is that you can't easily penetrate down inside Android library code because of an inexplicably misguided decision by Google engineers who've all but disallowed it. I'll stop editorializing there because I'm trying to be kinder and gentler.

In the land of Eclipse, as long as you have the source, you can easily attach it (refer to it) from the IDE in such a way as to a) Ctrl-click an identifier to jump to its implementation or b) step down into it when running in debug mode.

I spent the greater part of today researching this problem. Much has been written about it, mostly bitter (and justifiable) complaining, but some have tackled the problem and tried to solve it. Maybe the solutions I read worked back a couple of years ago when they were inked on the Internet, but you could not prove it by my own experience following them.

I also found a lot of solutions required somewhat non-standard tools on your utility belt like git, Python and other stuff you might not ordinarily associate with Eclipse use and Java development. I'm no wimp, but my productive hours aren't ones I'll willingly spend on planet Geeky Prime just to show off my technical manhood.

In the end, I solved it (probably again 'cause I'm surely not the first) with help from a more recent website that graciously posts the source code in almost exactly the form I need it for association with Eclipse.

Pursuant to my great frustration and deep-seated desire for no one else to have to rack their brains over this, I've detailed it in my article on Android development on my Hot Chocolate site. See here.

I hope this solution saves more than one person a lot of time.



Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The hawk's afternoon...

...or l'après-midi d'un rapace !*

Cruising toward the I-15 on-ramp after work this afternoon, I saw a hawk dropping out of the sky near my road bordering undeveloped land. Its peculiar action drew my attention. Despite my speed, as it was on a corner that I have to take, I saw just about the entire movement.

It fairly floated by the time it was 10 feet above the ground with its tip feathers extended and talons deployed.

As I passed by within probably 20 feet of the spot, it settled on prey I could not see by reason of the ground being elevated just a bit above the roadway and the dry grasses being also just a little too high. Though there were no other vehicles on the street, I had to turn my attention back to my motorcycle: I did not see the mouse or rabbit that supplied the ensuing feast.

It was pretty remarkable, just the sort of thing you'd not think twice about after seeing it on PBS Nature, but this was live and within a few feet of me.

* Meant to evoke Debussy's tone poem, Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune and Mallarmé's verses that inspired it and which also speak of "prey."

Friday, July 23, 2010

Welcome to caste, American style


“Nowadays, the members of our ruling class admit that they do not read the laws. They don't have to. Because modern laws are primarily grants of discretion, all anybody has to know about them is whom they empower.”

“[...] if you are not among the favored guests at the table where officials make detailed lists of who is to receive what at whose expense, you are on the menu.”

“[This] surely increases the number of people dependent on the ruling class, and teaches Americans that satisfying that class is a surer way of making a living than producing goods and services that people want to buy.”

[Emphasis added.]

Angelo M. Codevilla in America's Ruling Class—And the Perils of Revolution

What this guy says is fundamental to an understanding of where we've come since beginning the Great American Experiment. We all yawned during Civics about this topic because it was so just a part of our past and present. However, few if any other nations in the history of this planet have ever enjoyed the personal and professional liberty American have enjoyed.

Other people (many of us and all we meet from other countries who believe themselves free under their respective political system) do not understand this because they've always lived with oppression. A person born without the physical advantage of another rarely grasps that advantage since each adapts his life to his circumstances.

We ourselves are apathetic to our plight re-adapting ourselves to enduring the requirements of the new, national identity driver's license, what we must do to get our vehicles inspected that is quickly making it impossible to drive older cars, especially ones slightly damaged in accidents, that we must corral together an array of proofs of citizenship each time we begin a new job.

These little encroachments are excused on making us somehow safer and on the fact that, taken each by itself, it's not that big a deal or frustration.

Read this article to understand how a ruling class emerges that turns the rest of a nation's citizenry into slaves. It has been the plight of every country in the world and is now assimilating the United States. It is natural entropy to sink to this level. It has never been the expectation of a people to live truly free under the rule of law and without the boot of oppressors exercising arbitrary, unrighteous dominion upon others.

And there is the insulting insinuation that somehow others could know better for us than we do. Pride is ever man's tempter. Pride to think he's better educated, more intelligent, has better ideas, and can solve other people's problems. Pride is what drove the inquisitor to burn others at the stake for their religious ideas; it is what encourages the atheist to think it's necessary to persecute God-fearers and believers at the point of a gun.

The Great American Experiment is just this: that no expectations are created upon people enjoying life, liberty and private property that are not reasonable and crucial. No laws infringing upon their liberty of action will be created that are other than utterly critical to the well being of the citizenry.

Obviously, you can say that it's crucial that everyone have medical insurance and be forced to pay for it. You can say that everyone should be forced to pay into a pot to support those people who can't pay for themselves.

But, you'd be wrong. You'd be creating rights where none exist. We have the natural right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. No human is born with any right to a job, medical care, guaranteed income or any certain standard of living. The fact that some teary-eyed liberal seizes the opportunity to get the state to pick some richer man's pockets to aid someone handicapped or worse, someone unwilling to lift a finger to help himself, does not create a magical right where none really exists.

It is right to help those who are in need. But it is a choice to do so.

And we put up with it. We debate, then embrace reluctantly all the burdens progressively imposed upon us by our rulers.

It's like a toad tossed into a pot of boiling water. He jumps back out immediately. Wilson and Roosevelt could not impost their ideas of ultimate social order on a people used to autonomy. Instead, they soaked us in a pot of cool water. FDR and every administration since has been turning up the heat a little each time. We lose the right to keep and bear arms. We endure limits to our right to assemble. Etc.

Obama arrives just a little early to impose his agenda of progressive socialism. It's rough on him, but he has faith that we've sunk this low. And I think he's right. I think we're going to get in line because he's done things in less than two years that would have gotten any other president impeached, then thrown into the pokey. We're screaming a little about the change in water temperature, but not too much. Things will go his way. He may even get re-elected.

Read here how this goes, then you can sit back and watch America become just another country in the world.

If you would like to understand how government is really supposed to operate in the United States of America, view this video illustrating a speech by a clear-seeing former United States Secretary of Agriculture.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

These are the dog days of summer...

...and of impending unemployment as noted in an earlier blog. Emerson, parent of Avocent, will shut the doors to its Salt Lake office come the first of October.

No, I haven't found the Java/JEE dream job yet. The dreamiest one slipped from my grasp as some lucky soul internal to the company in question got the chance of his lifetime. Alas for poor me; kudos for him.

But, as my best friend pointed out, grace is not in finite supply nor is it contingent upon the relative hardships, needs—or merits—of potential recipients.

In the meantime, the relief brigade from Infosys has begun arriving. We'll be handing the Avocent Management Platform (AMP) off to them over the next couple of months. It's always fun to work with people from out of town (in this case, way out of town places like India and China).

And, the ride home each afternoon at 1500 is nasty hot in ¼" of leather, gloves and a helmet. On the other hand, the ride into work at 0600 is ordinarily pleasant and cool.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

It is unwell with my soul?


The last couple of weeks have tested me in a rather disturbing way: I depend upon the Internet for survival to an extent similar to food and sleep. You have to wonder just how healthy this can be.

Some background...

Broadweave, the local iProvo ISP monopoly, summarily took me off the Internet saying one of my IP addresses was maliciously attacking other IP addresses on the Internet. They said it's been going on since May and refused to work with me to identify which of my computers might have been doing this. As all of my computers are behind a router, it's not a no-brainer to discover the culprit. I would like to have known a lot more about the attacks (what ports if not what addresses). They rudely turned down all pleas for help. I was basically treated as if I were some evil hacker whose address should be Bluffdale, Utah (the state penitentiary) rather than Happy Valley.

I didn't even have words with them from my side (I try not to do that anymore; it's not productive and one inevitably regrets saying nasty things later).

The point here isn't to rant about Broadweave (although I'm keen to say some very disparaging things about them), but to note that I was without Internet service two weeks ago.

In case you are wondering, I relocated my web server, windofkeltia.com, and associated domains, to my nephew Richard's house. We actually relocated my Java Hot Chocolate pages to one of those five nine's sort of environments where its reliability will be total and never in question as it has been especially with Broadweave's unreasonable treatment.

I moved to Comcast for Internet service. They told me it was none of their business if I used their network for the most heinous denial-of-service attacks on record. They would not turn me off. I'm sure they were exaggerating, but I appreciated that their service will give me the time and liberty to figure out this problem.

Yesterday, I was doing some serious packet sniffing in an effort to discover if there is any malware on any of my computers. I launched Wireshark on Julene's Windows XP box and my Windows 7 box in an attempt to get started. I filtered out port 22, port 80 and port 1990 (SSDP) traffic hoping to minimize the size of the traces, since I don't expect whatever my computer(s) to be doing wrong will be happening on those ports. I kicked off Wireshark and retreated to other occupations including some television viewing.

The inhibitor of IT services strikes me again...

At an unspecified point, my Internet service went south last night. I came back around 2200 to see what sorts of packets were flying between my machines and the Internet only to find my Internet service gone. I rattled around for a bit, called Comcast, then went to bed.

This morning, I arose, mowed a couple of lawns, got some breakfast, chatted with a neighbor, then returned to do battle with the ugly Internet denial monster.

Trying out another router I had, I discovered that both routers failed to get a WAN address from Comcast. Otherwise, my internal LAN worked just fine, but no Internet service.

Comcast passed me off to some service that wanted $150 to fix the problem. I thought this sum might be a little steep to learn some basic factoid and, sure enough, after chatting with two nephews and a neighbor, I re-discovered the latency of cable modems. Comcast had me unplug and then plug back in my modem several times. That's not nearly enough to reset it. At one point, my nephew suggested I try powering down the modem for at least a minute. That jarred something in my distant memory of back when I had used Comcast cable Internet service in the past and so I did that and it immediately solved the problem.

What this comes down to, however, is that I'm not a viable person without Internet service. This fact struck me two weeks ago when Broadweave exorcized me from the human race, and it struck me hard again last night. This is very disturbing. My instinct is that there is something very, very wrong about feeling this way. Nevertheless, thinking about it, and about what I do for a living, it appears an inescapable state of things in my life: I simply work on the Internet. Not only is it where the work I do shows up now, but my very ability to do much work at all (software development using rapidly changing methodologies) assumes an Internet connection.

Alas, I'm useless without it.

Post script:

I know people say a lot of things about Comcast. However, I've been a customer of basic cable television and Internet connection service for a decade or so including at this house and our old house which I never moved to iProvo fiber. I've never found much to complain about. When I call them with a problem, they're usually about as helpful as they should be within the responsibilities of their service.

"Not my job!"

In Broadweave's case, they aren't too interested in helping a single customer remain a customer if they think it's going to be much work to help him. Is this not the conclusion I'm meant to draw? It may be that they don't have the technical competence to offer and just don't want to "get it all over themselves."

Their sanctimony is more than a little surprising, though, and it's odd that they would let a bad situation go on for a couple of months without alerting me, imposing a time limit beyond which they just cut the service off. If I had known in May and they let my service continue until late June, I'd probably have had more than enough time to figure it out even without their help.