Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The White Castle

This is the first attempt I've ver made to make a book review. I want to initially put this out there because I don't claim to be a literature expert by any means. I have finagled a way to avoid any literature classes in college. I just like to read, don't make me over analyze every bit. The White Castle by Orhan Pamuk is no exception, so my review will be all praise and not much analysis.

The story is about a young intellectual in 16th-17th Venice who is captured by Turks and made a slave. He intelligence is used to help his master gain favor in the eyes of the Emperor, but the young man never gets credit. The clash between the slave and the owner is the bulk of the text, but it becomes clear through the end that despite this outward hatred for each other, they deep down admire and aspire to be each other.

The part that make the whole thing interesting is that the owner and the slave could pass for twins. The struggle of the book then becomes not one of who gets credit, but one of identity. At the end you are left to wonder not who was treated fairly, but which of the two is narrating the story. A very thought provoking exchange of personalities and desires. It was a relatively quick read, and is at times significantly depressing.

Strange to say, when you are about to finish the book you feel that it is a very happy ending. However, on actual completion you are left wishing for something more. Not that the book needed to be longer, but you wish that the lives of these two men end up differently. So despite what would seem a happy ending, the reader isn't happy. I think that is the magic of this book. I give it my full recommendation.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Google's Caffeine at Work

Back in June, Google introduced their newest search index with the capability to update on the go. Essentially this helps your searches find the most recent documents that match your search the best. I wanted to test this out and so I put the title of my latest blog post "Dashcode and Eclipse" into the Google search bar and was quite surprised at what came up. You see, this afternoon, my friend Scott posted an article on his blog, "The Low-Tech World," about my blog, which included a reference to my latest blog post. So when I typed enter on my search, his blog came to the top (see the pic below). I call that some snappy indexing. I just hope that after this post, searching for "The Low-Tech World" will soon show my blog instead of his. That would be a nice return for Large Marge.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dashcode and Eclipse

Well I've been working on becoming a web programmer for a couple months now. I have created a couple applications that don't really do anything exciting, but the level of app complexity is increasing. I have even added an RSS feed so that there is a way to keep people updated with my javascript adventures. To check out my javascript page, go to:

The thing that really helps with writing code is a syntax program that can help you see if you typed your code correctly or not. I was led to eclipse, an open source platform for writing code, by my friend and programming mentor Joey. I also kept seeing a program known as Dashcode on my Mac and tested it out a few times. Here are some screen shots of the two applications.



It might not look like much, but they are both helpful. The real key is having something that can pinpoint your mistakes, and both have that capability. Dashcode has tons of templates to make some real powerful web applications. You will probably see some of those as I get a grasp on it. I am just glad that I didn't have to pay for either one.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Ajax of All Trades

The phrase "A jack of all trades, master of none" has been easily applicable to me for years. I've professionally done many different things, and even more as a hobbyist or DIY-er. Recently I've been involved in quite a range of activities. I've been working on remodeling our bathroom (click here for pics). I've been keeping my company's web page up to date. I've been working on my capstone project for my Bachelor's degree (a future post about it will come). I picked up an electric guitar and have been fiddling with it. On top of all these activities, I feel compelled to broaden my skillset further.

I will be graduating from the University of Cincinnati with a bachelors degree in Organizational Leadership and a minor in Business. However, as I look to the future I see the world of software to be taking a role that can't be ignored. I have been a hobbyist programmer since I was in high school, but I have never learned any useful programming languages. Now I am beginning to start into Javascript and Ajax. I've already been able to use my javascript skills to enhance the free quote widget on the right of this page.

To enhance my learning, I found some free resources available to me through w3schools and the University of Cincinnati. I am excited about learning to program web pages, and hope to migrate this blog to my own domain within the next six months. I will use that location to experiment with the programming that I am learning. I've even contemplated taking classes at Cincinnati State Technical College after I graduate from UC. Unfortunately it is too late for me to get a minor in Computer Science from UC, which I would have done if I knew about it three years ago.

Hopefully, all of this will help me to stay a jack of all trades, but instead of a master of none, I hope to be a master of a few. The key areas that I want to master: My understanding of leadership and Ajax.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Five Must-Follow Rules for a Chinese Buffet

So a couple years ago I went to a Chinese buffet in Pensacola Florida and vowed that I would never do that again. It seems like I lose my head when I enter a place like that and eat everything in sight. It didn't help that the place seemed on the verge of being shut down by the Health Department. I don't know how I forgot about this incident, but the other day I felt that going to a Chinese buffet here in Cincinnati was a good idea.

I chose the one over on Ridge Avenue, because it was the closest. It had received some good reviews too, and therefore I felt that it would be a good choice. Wrong again. Don't misunderstand. The facility was really nice. Much better than the one in Florida, but I still went overboard. I went so far that all the Chinese food around me was making me sick. So at that point I got one more full plate, ate it, and then left. Overall, it was such a disappointment that I felt that there has to be something I can do to prevent it in the future. So I present these rules as way to make any Chinese buffet a more enjoyable experience.

Rule #1: Peruse the entire buffet area before you get your first plate.
It is always good to have a battle plan. I put emphasis on battle. If you go with the intention to just grab whatever looks yummy, you will pick up way too much of one thing and then wish later on that you had room for that other dish. Inevitably you will make room for that other dish, and that's when you lose the battle.

Rule #2: A spoonful of fried rice helps the mandarin go down.
Get some rice with every plate. Sure it is a cheap filler, but it will also help you keep from wanting to vomit.

Rule #3: Pair each meat item with a vegetable.
It is easy to pile up a ton of sweet and sour chicken, general tso beef, and a shrimp dish. Meat is the reason for the seasoning right? Well, I felt deprived of vegetables by the third plate and felt that I must have a plate just with vegetables. Next time I'll spread it out.

Rule #4: Slow down, the food isn't going to disappear.
I went with my kids. Apparently I felt that I had to eat fast enough to get my ten plates in before my kids would lose their patience and start throwing their crab wantons at the people next to us. Now I feel that it will be easier to ask forgiveness from the people next to us than to ask forgiveness from my stomach.

Rule #5: Convince yourself that going to the Chinese buffet is a bad idea.
This is the most important rule of all. If you heed this rule, you can avoid any abdominal and gastrointestinal pain that inevitably results from the Chinese buffet. This pain is unavoidable, so if you don't heed rule #5, be prepared to hurt.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Why I Love Craigslist

As many of you may know, Craigslist is a classifieds website where people can post what they want to get rid of and how much they want for it. It is similar to Ebay in that you can find the most random stuff on craigslist. Here is a quick sample of strange items I found with minimal effort:

1. Miniature Cornhole set - $30
2. Wilton chocolate Molds - $5
3. Cow Photograph Holder/Carry Case - $10
4. Dokorder Reel to Reel Tape Player - $75
5. TI-89 Graphing Calculator - $40

That last one was mine. I sold it today for $40. I bought that calculator used for $150 back in 1999 on Ebay. I think I made out pretty well for an 11+ year old electronics device. I wouldn't pay $10 for a 10 year old desktop computer, but the calculator was worth $40 to somebody. I love it, because that gives me that much more money to spend on whatever I want. I think I'll buy an electric guitar.

As cool as it is for me to get money for my old junk, that isn't the reason why I like craigslist. It also doesn't have anything to do with the fact that I can use craigslist for free. I think that the coolest thing about craigslist is that it connects people.

I didn't know the guy I sold the calculator to. In fact, in all my dealings on Craigslist I haven't known the opposite party beforehand and I haven't seen any of them since. Somehow though, for that brief period of time, we connected in a way that Ebay can't provide. In order to get the stuff you buy on Ebay, you pay shipping and handling. To get your stuff on Craigslist, you need to call, text, or email the person and then you meet them at some random location and exchange the goods. This adds a distinctly human element that is not part of any other online service providers method of business.

I'm sure with some people on craigslist, you can mail a check with a prepaid box for return delivery of your good, but the average person doesn't trust that method unless they are working through a third party (like Ebay). Craigslist takes a no hands approach to the actual transaction process, thus minimizing the need for customer support. All of the grunt work has to be done by the two people wanting to exchange goods. I wanted $40, and somebody wanted my Calculator. We arranged a meeting place, met, talked for less than a minute. I gave him my calculator and it's accessories, and he gave me $40. To top it off, we both walked away happy! You don't get that kind of positive interaction with very many other web applications. I love it.

I think that the connecting people part is the greatest aspect of Craigslist. I've met people all around Cincinnati and continue to be amazed at how positive each experience is... mostly. I have had one bad experience with Craigslist. It was a no show. We had arranged to meet to trade phones on a Saturday morning. When it came to meet, there was no answer to the phone, and no return text. Oh well. Apparently she didn't want my phone as badly as I wanted her phone. And life moves on. A couple months later I post my calculator and all is well again in my happily connected world of Craigslist.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Going Google

I've been a Mac for about five years now. It was a great transition for me, and I embraced Mac OS X rather quickly. I never thought I would say this, but I might be shifting my Mac loyalties. No, I'm not going back to Windows. I have to use windows at work and often at school, which is often enough to keep me away in my personal life. My loyalties are shifting towards Google.

Five years ago, Google wasn't even thought of as a contender in the computer platform market. It was mainly Windows and Macintosh, with a few Linux users. As of now, Google still doesn't have an operating system for home computer use, but they have entered the mobile computing market with their Android Operating system for mobile phones. Everyone is a big fan. Me, I would gladly get an Android enabled phone, except for one thing. I'm a Mac. Why would a Mac ever prefer a non-apple phone over the iPhone. Because the said Mac uses all of Google's services and they aren't easily compatible with the iPhone OS. I use Google Calendar, Google Docs, Gmail, and Google Voice. The only one that is readily available to be used on the iPhone is Gmail. In fact, Apple has even gone as far as blocking Google Voice and Google AdMob which is responsible for making many of the apps on Apple's app store free. Fewer free apps, unusable services, this is a problem for anyone who has gone Google.

I went Google about 6 months ago. I have had my Gmail account for years, and my blog for a while too, but I only recently began using Google Calendar, Docs, and Voice. It was also then that I realized that I wouldn't be able to use these services as easily in any iPod touch or iPhone. Bummer. Hopefully Google will keep fighting to make their services available despite Apple's attempts to block them, but we'll see. If Apple keeps up their stubborn proprietary bologna I won't remain a Mac for whole lot longer. I think I might go Google. I wonder how those cute Apple commercials will change when Mac has to face an even hipper and more versatile Googlized PC.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Will people stop hating the Islamic community?

Someone I know sent me an email today about how evil and horrible Muslims are. It was typical bashing and I wasn't a big fan. I get so frustrated by ignorant people. The main point of the email was to point out that there are 1.2 billion Muslims and only 14 million Jews, yet the Jews have received more Nobel Prizes than Muslims and are therefore better. Here are a few samples of some of the things that the email said, which by extension, he said:

"The [Muslims are]... promoting brain washing children in military training camps, teaching them how to blow themselves up and cause maximum deaths of Jews and other non Muslims.

"The [Muslims] hijack planes, or kill athletes at the Olympics, or blow themselves up in German restaurants."

This is the response I sent to his forwarded message:
If all 1.2 billion Muslims truly did teach all their children to hijack planes and blow themselves up, don't you think that the world would be destroyed by now. That is 4 times the US population. That means that if every Muslim really does want to kill everyone else, there wouldn't be a force big enough to stop it. Why don't you stop sending these emails that don't make any sense? I agree that the Jews deserve more respect than they are given, but so do the Muslims. Al-Qaeda is suspected of having 500-1000 people according to wikipedia. Even if there were 100 times as many, it would be less than 0.0001% of the Muslims in the world! Why do all of the Muslims get labeled as evil, when the ones who want to hurt others are at most less than a millionth of a percent of the worlds population?
Please think about what you send before you send it out to everyone.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

My Computer Analogy

For those of you who are tech savvy, you can ignore this post. This is a simple analogy I derived to help my brother understand the various components of a computer system.

A computer is similar to when you sit down to eat. You are the processor and eating is like processing of information. Info can therefore be compared to food for this analogy. The speed at which you eat is your processing speed, which is usually measured in bits (32-bit or 64-bit) and hertz (Mhz or Ghz). Bits can be compared to the size of your mouth or how much info you can process in one bite (no relation to byte). The hertz is how many bites per second you can handle. Today's processors average around 2 - 3 Ghz, which is the equivalent of two or three billion bites of food per second. Now that's chomping.

Now you can only eat what is in front of you on your food tray. The tray is the computer's cache. The bigger the cache, the more info that is readily available. It is obvious that it is faster for you to grab food off of the tray than to walk to the refrigerator for food. Therefore a larger cache or tray significantly enhances the speed at which you can eat. The refrigerator would be the RAM. Most people these days have the equivalent of a monstrous walk in refrigerator in terms of RAM. It can store tons of easily prepared food items. Now someone has to bring the food to you eating at the table. This person is Mrs. Bus. There are different types of Busses (Front line bus and internal bus, etc), but for this analogy we will keep it simple and consider them all the same. Mrs. Bus has a speed, which is also measured in hertz, usually around 800Mhz these days, which means she can get mor information for your tray 800 million times per second.

Most people's refrigerators aren't big enough to hold all the food they will eat at any given time (especially if they are eating at two billion bites every second). Therefore there is a need for an ultra large food storage system. This is like a monstrous pantry. The pantry is your hard drive. This way Mrs. Bus can go and get the food that they need and load it into the refrigerator in preparation for you to eat it within the next 20-30 seconds. When your computer bogs down and is going slow, it is usually because you just asked it to prepare a gourmet meal for which it doesn't have all the ingredients readily available in the refrigerator. Depending on the size of the meal and the number of courses will determine how long it will be backed up trying to process your request.

This brings up another aspect. The system setting in which all this food is being eaten. Are you in a restaurant or in a someone's home kitchen. These could be compared to the Operating Systems. A fine dining environment would be Mac OS X. A typical run of the mill Outback Steakhouse would be Windows 7, and your home kitchen with the paint pealing would be Windows 95, etc. The different meals, complete with recipes, courses, and recommended spices would be the various applications that are being run by your computer.

Now many new computers these days have multiple processors, which is like having a date at your meal. They can be eating one meal (ie. Microsoft Excel) while you are eating another (ie. Google Sketchup). This is handy and is something that the super computers specialize in. Some can have upwards of 1000 processors.

Occasionally you'll want to eat something that isn't an option in your food storage or refrigerator. In this case, you either go without, or you send Mr. Web to the store to get the information you need to make your ideal meal. Mr. Web has gotten faster over the years as he has upgrade his mode of transportation from a moped called "dial-up" to a Porsche called "DSL" or "Cable." For those who can really afford it, occasionally Mr. Web gets to ride in a Ferrari called "T1" or a fighter jet called "T3."

Now the one part I didn't discuss was what do you do with all this information when you eat it. Well... you process it. Once processed, it gets returned to the user in a form of an output. I'll leave it to your imagination to finish the analogy from here :)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ball of Cards

So I was interested yesterday to see that one of my friends posted a little blip about making a ball out of playing cards. I thought it looked cool and so naturally I spent yesterday afternoon building this instead of working on homework. Here is the result:

Saturday, May 22, 2010

4 Reasons to Make Blogging a Priority

I haven't written in a while. This is by no means because I didn't want to. I just didn't make it a priority. Here are four reasons from a new favorite book of mine for why I need to make it a priority:

1. "Full, free self-expression is the essence of leadership. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, 'The man is only half himself, the other half is his expression.'"

2. "No leader sets out to be a leader per se, but rather to express himself [or herself] freely and fully. That is, leaders have no interest in proving themselves, but an abiding interest in expressing themselves. The difference is crucial, for it's the difference between being driven, as too many people are today, and leading, as too few people do."

3. "Codifying one's thinking is an important step in inventing oneself... Writing is the most profound way of codifying your thoughts, the best way of learning from yourself who you are and what you believe."

4. "To be authentic is to literally be your own author (the words derive from the same Greek root), to discover your own native energies and desires, and then to find your own way of acting on them."

The book is On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis. Bennis was the President of the University of Cincinnati in the 70's, and is known for his leadership expertise.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Are Business Schools Going "Soft?"

So I'm graduating soon. By the end of 2010 I will have a bachelor's degree in Organizational Leadership. As a part of my 30 year-old plan I have to seriously start figuring out what I want to do for a masters degree. I've been looking into various options for my graduate schooling over the past five years. My general idea of what type of schooling I want to pursue has changed along the way. This is largely due to the various mentors and advice givers I've had along the path. These people include friends, family, academic advisers, various professors, and the occasional stranger. Please feel free to share your opinion with me and possible alter the course of history.

I have looked into programs of planning, organizational leadership, public administration, and most recently communications. I have been criticized by some advice givers that my preferred option (as of now) in communications is "soft" and that communications is mostly "fluff." I've been told that I would do much better to go toward business, organizational psychology, or planning. That I needed to stay away from those "people who talk about Discourse." I personally have never felt like business schools would satisfy me. I didn't feel that I was MBA material because I felt that most MBA programs were too rigid. It's somewhat hard to explain exactly what I mean by this, but I will try.

The business field has conventionally focused on "good business." What sells, what makes a profit, how to maximize the profit, and how to develop more efficient processes are the typical stuff of business schools. They call these various routes to success "business models," and will tel you how to be successful using these various models. Anyways, I have always preferred the "soft" approach of the social sciences that discuss things like implicit costs and social impact. I like the idea that everything is interconnected and that if we mess with one area to get a big profit, it can have disastrous results in another area. I like this because it's true! In business they generally don't care. The only entity to consider is the business and its stakeholders, which is a very narrow point of view.

So I was highly surprised when I was turned on to an article in the New York Times by one of my professors. The article explained that due to the recent economic crisis, many business schools felt that they needed to provide a more holistic thinking graduate. The article mentions that "[MBA Graduates] need to sharpen their thinking skills, whether it’s questioning assumptions, or looking at problems from multiple points of view." The article then echos my previous understanding that "learning how to think critically — how to imaginatively frame questions and consider multiple perspectives — [is] historically ... associated with a liberal arts education, not a business school curriculum." So what has been the solution? Change the curriculum to match the need. My response... about time. The article states that this shift in curriculum is "tectonic," which is to say foundational. A couple of the schools mentioned in this shift are the business schools at Stanford, Yale, and the University of Toronto.

This is wonderful news for me. My gut feeling that I would be better served by going "soft" is actually something that several business schools are trying to do as well. It's a strong affirmation that I wasn't in the wrong as a couple advice-givers suggested. Some business scholars such as Henry Mintzberg believe that all MBA programs should be shut down and that the only programs for business education should be those for people who have already earned some of their management stripes. Interesting thought.

Without doing away with one of the most profitable degrees for universities across the globe, I like the approach that several programs are taking. I really like the title of some of the courses mentioned in the article as well. Titles such as "Fundamentals of Integrative Thinking," and "Problem Framing," and "The Opposable Mind." These changes are in the face of traditional thinking, and not everyone is on board. The idea is that by creating a more socially aware and capable thinking graduate, economic crises like the ones we've seen in recent times will be less frequent and potent. However, as the article states, if the pay systems that reward huge short-term profits over steady long-term success remain, it will negate much of the attempted changes. The article quoted Upton Sinclair who said, "it’s amazing how difficult it is for a man to understand something if he’s paid a small fortune to not understand it."

For me, I've added a couple business schools to my list of options. They made a huge shift in their thought and so have I.