Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Quizlet 1:

Out my plane window, Orion is slowly rotating counterclockwise as it sets. What direction am I flying, and what side of the airplane am I on?

I'll post the answer when I put up the next quizlet.

 Sunday, February 12, 2006

One continent to go:

Someday I will get to the ice, but for now, this will do:

Visited Countries


Get your own create your own Visited Countries Map
Somewhat misleading because a week in Moscow does not really mean I wandered all of the Russian Far East...

I have a list of overnight stays in cities on my Newton server. If it is running, it's here.

Hiram Bingham, for dinner:

Downloaded Google Earth for Mac, and fired it up with... "Macchu Picchu."

What comes up? No, not the last refuge of the Incas, but a restaurant. Feh.

That told me exactly what I wanted to know, and I nearly threw the App in the trash. I wish Keyhole had never disappeared into the maw of Googledom, and become the dumbed-down Google Earth.

Curmudgeon back on duty.

 Saturday, February 11, 2006

Esther Greenwood, I hear ye:

"...how all the little successes I'd totted up at college fizzled to nothing outside the slick marble and plate-glass fronts of Madison Avenue..."

Ouch. That phrase of Sylvia Plath's from The Bell Jar hit hard when I read it today (she died on this day in 1963). It wasn't simply a phrase, it was a sentence. She might as well have written 'graduate school' rather than 'college,' and written 'Pennsylvania Avenue' rather than 'Madison Avenue.'

Over ten years ago, when I was interviewing the first time in this area, the phrase that stuck with me was drawn from its quiver by an elderly gentleman at IDA. He leaned over his desk, pointed at my eager young face and said: "PhD's like you are a dime-a-dozen in this town, and I've got a thousand dollars in my pocket. You don't add anything here." I think I only got my breath back when I was back sitting in my all-paid convenience suite hotel.

The worst interview I ever had, however, was with Oracle. Because of it, I will never knowingly spend my own money or participate in a decision that involves their products. MIT used to set up series of interviews for its students on campus, and a steady stream of spiky haired students with stiff shoes, store-creased shirts, and navy blue polyester sports jackets (some with the label still on the sleeve) would parade in and out of a the concrete interview room while the HR types from 3M, Ford Motors, Dupont & Nemours, and Biogen, would sort through the cookie-cutter engineers.

I had signed up for a series of interviews with all kinds of different companies, and I had done a lot of work with fairly powerful computers on my thesis, so I figured I had a pretty good head for how to tackle a computing problem and design code to approach it. No, I did not have a degree in Computer Science, but I did not expect abuse at the hands of an interviewer. After all, I had just "totted up" a Doctorate in Geophysics.

Perhaps it was late in the day. Perhaps the previous computer science clone interviewee had abused the Oracle interviewer. But after I greeted the interviewer and sat down after there was no reply, the man snapped: "Resumé!" I realized I was in trouble because he immediately started snorting as he read it. Then he looked over my shoulder and said to the secretary: "Why are you wasting my time with this kind of crap?" He looked at me and spat: "Interview over."

I didn't even bother to spar with him, as I had done when I went to interview with McKinsey & Co. in New York, where I felt I had held my own against their "ultra-slick marble and plate-glass fronts." That Oracle interviewer had told me everything I needed to know his company. To this day, I carry and trust that feeling, even though good friends have gone to Oracle, enjoyed it, and done well.

 Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Drawn, Verbal and Physical Missiles:

Listening to all the stories about the uproar in the muslim world over the publishing in September of cartoons blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad (BBUH), I thought that the Wahabbis must be rubbing their hands in glee. Very unifying indeed. But also distressing, since the non-muslim world's view of all muslims as violent extremists is simply reinforced.

I will be interested to see how long it takes the Danes and later Europeans to turn their dismay over the reaction into anger with the US for "causing all this." Sigh - the Athenians of the modern world, we.

Watching the Federal budget rollout this week also reminded me that terrorism, especially with a new strike within the US, could cause us to spend ourselves into oblivion, much as the Reagan administration did to the USSR by promoting the Strategic Defense Initiative. I am sure this has not gone unnoticed in the tea-laden discussions of Waziristan.

 Friday, February 03, 2006

Electric Pie:

A colleague in the Computer and Information Sciences Directorate passed me a link for a paper about a pie-shaped menu system that was very interesting. The article looks like a class project of some sort (since there is no information on publication). I followed the trail, and found the following link for a Mac application that I have found very useful.


The fundamental application is QuickSilver, and the specific implementation (or plug-in) that the paper is referring to is Constellation.

The basic idea is to minimize transitioning the user's hands between the mouse and keyboard, and to maximize the automation of repeated processes. QuickSilver is a text driven application that automatically chooses items from your computer based on your keystrokes, and then offers a set of common actions for that item. Constellation takes these common sets of actions and can present a graphical pie-shaped menu that uses icons and text to identify the actions. The interesting contrast here is that while QuickSilver keeps your fingers on the keyboard, Constellation keeps your hand on the mouse. QuickSilver is also able to bind specific actions to triggers. For example, I can e-mail any file (text, photo, application), simply by click-and-dragging the item to the lower left corner, and a pie menu of possible destinations appears. When this is combined with photos of people or company logos, recognition is much faster.


I have combined this with MightyMouse so that I get a pie menu from the active application with a single button click. Nice.

Good setup instructions here.

 Thursday, February 02, 2006

She's gone:

Metro finally got to replacing the independence air poster:


But none of the others changed, which blows the "replace them all on the same cycle" theory. Metro is simply about a month behind the times...