The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Friday, January 01, 2010

It sounds like a war zone out there …

Happy New Year!

And the neighbors around here are definitely in a celebratory mood as it sounds like they're shooting .45s right outside the window, although I think they're fireworks that are a bit more powerful than an M-80. It actually sounds like there are more fireworks being shot off now than on the Fourth, which always reminds me of this:

[Picture of fireworks exploding at ground level; caption: Amateurs: There's a reason professions exist.]

It's something to keep in mind when working with fireworks


I resolve …

So, being the New Year and all, I thought I would take this time to make a New Year's Resolution: “This year, I resolve not to make any New Year's Resolutions.”

D'oh!

Well, there go the resolutions, right out the window …

Saturday, January 02, 2010

No flying cars, but then again it's forgivable, as airplanes haven't even been invented yet …

Predictions are funny things. Some are spot on, others turn out correct but not for the reasons stated and others are just plain weird. I came across Predictions of the Year 2000 from The Ladies Home Journal of December 1900 (link via Hacker News) and it makes for facinating reading. Some of the predictions are dead spot on:

Prediction #6: Automobiles will be cheaper than horses are today. Farmers will own automobile hay-wagons, automobile truck-wagons, plows, harrows and hay-rakes. A one-pound motor in one of these vehicles will do the work of a pair of horses or more. Children will ride in automobile sleighs in winter. Automobiles will have been substituted for every horse vehicle now known. There will be, as already exist today, automobile hearses, automobile police patrols, automobile ambulances, automobile street sweepers. The horse in harness will be as scarce, if, indeed, not even scarcer, then as the yoked ox is today.

Prediction #18: Telephones Around the World. Wireless telephone and telegraph circuits will span the world. A husband in the middle of the Atlantic will be able to converse with his wife sitting in her boudoir in Chicago. We will be able to telephone to China quite as readily as we now talk from New York to Brooklyn. By an automatic signal they will connect with any circuit in their locality without the intervention of a “hello girl”.

1900 Predictions

Not much more to say than that, other than an apocryphal story I heard: AT&T around the turn of the previous century was concerned at the growth of the phone system and that at that rate, “they would need to hire everyone to become an operator”—and oddly enough, they did, only they don't pay us, we pay them.

Now, some of the predictions are right, but for the wrong reasons:

Prediction #1: There will probably be from 350,000,000 to 500,000,000 people in America and its possessions by the lapse of another century. Nicaragua will ask for admission to our Union after the completion of the great canal. Mexico will be next. Europe, seeking more territory to the south of us, will cause many of the South and Central American republics to be voted into the Union by their own people.”

Prediction #21: Hot and Cold Air from Spigots. Hot or cold air will be turned on from spigots to regulate the temperature of a house as we now turn on hot or cold water from spigots to regulate the temperature of the bath. Central plants will supply this cool air and heat to city houses in the same way as now our gas or electricity is furnished. Rising early to build the furnace fire will be a task of the olden times. Homes will have no chimneys, because no smoke will be created within their walls.

1900 Predictions

We have around 350,000,000 people and yes, it's party because of land and the passage of time, but it has nothing to do with Nicaragua or Mexico (although Mexico seems to be doing a good job of taking over the southwest). I have no idea what the bit about Europe means though.

And we don't exactly get hot and cold air from spigots, but we do have it, although it's produced locally, in the house, than at a hot/cold air plant.

Then there are the predictions that are just plain wrong:

Prediction #4: There Will Be No Street Cars in Our Large Cities. All hurry traffic will be below or high above ground when brought within city limits. In most cities it will be confined to broad subways or tunnels, well lighted and well ventilated, or to high trestles with “moving-sidewalk” stairways leading to the top. These underground or overhead streets will teem with capacious automobile passenger coaches and freight with cushioned wheels. Subways or trestles will be reserved for express trains. Cities, therefore, will be free from all noises.

Prediction #11: No Mosquitoes nor Flies. Insect screens will be unnecessary. Mosquitoes, house-flies and roaches will have been practically exterminated. Boards of health will have destroyed all mosquito haunts and breeding-grounds, drained all stagnant pools, filled in all swamp-lands, and chemically treated all still-water streams. The extermination of the horse and its stable will reduce the house-fly.

Prediction #12: Peas as Large as Beets. Peas and beans will be as large as beets are to-day. Sugar cane will produce twice as much sugar as the sugar beet now does. Cane will once more be the chief source of our sugar supply. The milkweed will have been developed into a rubber plant. Cheap native rubber will be harvested by machinery all over this country. Plants will be made proof against disease microbes just as readily as man is to-day against smallpox. The soil will be kept enriched by plants which take their nutrition from the air and give fertility to the earth.

Prediction #13: Strawberries as Large as Apples will be eaten by our great-great-grandchildren for their Christmas dinners a hundred years hence. Raspberries and blackberries will be as large. One will suffice for the fruit course of each person. Strawberries and cranberries will be grown upon tall bushes. Cranberries, gooseberries and currants will be as large as oranges. One cantaloupe will supply an entire family. Melons, cherries, grapes, plums, apples, pears, peaches and all berries will be seedless. Figs will be cultivated over the entire United States.

1900 Predictions

Prediction #4 is a riot, and I like the optimism of it. Predictions #11, 12 and 13 are not only wrong, but weird, but I guess it made sense at the turn of the previous turn-of-the-century.

And then you get the ones that are so right, yet so wrong at the same time, such as Prediction #19 (which I love, because what it got wrong was just so out there, and yet, it's still so right):

Prediction #19: Grand Opera will be telephoned to private homes, and will sound as harmonious as though enjoyed from a theatre box. Automatic instruments reproducing original airs exactly will bring the best music to the families of the untalented. Great musicians gathered in one enclosure in New York will, by manipulating electric keys, produce at the same time music from instruments arranged in theatres or halls in San Francisco or New Orleans, for instance. Thus will great bands and orchestras give long-distance concerts. In great cities there will be public opera-houses whose singers and musicians are paid from funds endowed by philanthropists and by the government. The piano will be capable of changing its tone from cheerful to sad. Many devises will add to the emotional effect of music.

1900 Predictions

But in 1900, airplanes didn't exist (although the time had come for them), radio had just been invented, television was still a couple of decades away, no one could have forseen the rise of computers (fifty years away), modern container shipping (some seventy years away) or a global informational network (some 90 years away). I have to wonder what marvels we'll have one hundred years hence …

Monday, January 04, 2010

This is what I'm looking for

A few weeks ago Jeff mentioned an e-reader he was interested in using. It's nice, but what I'm really hoping for is the Mag+ (watch the video, it's worth it), which I think would also make a killer tablet computer in general.


Name one word that describes “Han Solo.” Okay, now one word that describes “Queen Amidala.” Yeah, I thought so …

This 70 minute review (link via Jason Kottke) of “The Phantom Menace” is incredible (even though the attempts at humor really fall flat and the reviewer's voice is severely annoying)—while I knew the movie was bad, I never knew it was that bad. I never knew that even George “I don't need no steeenking editors” Lucas knew “The Phantom Menace” was bad. Jeeze!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Unintended consequences of outlawing common sense

The rapid introduction of full body scanners at British airports threatens to breach child protection laws which ban the creation of indecent images of children, the Guardian has learned.

New scanners break child porn laws | Politics | The Guardian

Ooooh, I just love unintended consequences, or as jwz said when he posted this: “What happens when the immovable object of terrorism meets the unstoppable force of kiddie porn?” I can see this playing out thusly: those under 18 are exempt, so terrorists now use kids to smuggle the bomb materials aboard. Once that is discovered, the next step is to force parents and kids to separate sections of the planes, so now the terrorist kids are trained to trigger the explosions themselves. Kids are then banned from flying (not that I would argue with such an outcome).

The other scenario—pedophiles attempt en mass to become security screeners.

Speaking of unintended consequences and pedophiles, comes this story of a grandmother charged with kiddie porn because she took the obligatory grandkids in the bathtub photo. I swear, given the level of hysteria here (and it's not even limited to the United States) that one would think pedophiles by now would know to develop their own film, but I guess common sense has been legislated out of existence.


“Oh, did you pee in your pants again, Firefox?”

Thank you so much Firefox for deciding right now was the perfect time to force a download and upgrade of yourself. Never mind that I was in the middle of using you, but no, it's more important to you that I not run a version of Firefox older than 20 minutes.

Sigh.

Worse still, I have to rehack Firefox 3.5 so it even runs on my system. It's actually amusing (and rather pathetic) that I not only installed a program I don't even use just to get one pre-compiled shared library on the system, but I have to reinstall Flash every time I launch Firefox (bascially, I copy two files just prior to starting Firefox) or it doesn't work.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Oddly enough, these three things do have something in common …

Just in case you haven't noticed, I've been clearing out some links I've accumulated over the holiday season, and this is no exception. My Dad sent me a link to The Webcycle; not only is it a web browser, but an excercise machine, a desert topping and a floor wax! I wonder if he's trying to imply something …

Also (Dad didn't send this; I found it to it from somewhere)—a collection of control panels <shudder> that I wouldn't mind using. Very cool stuff here.

And a final link for today—10/GUI, an interesting concept GUI that uses a multi-touch pad.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

It's all Greek to me

I knew APL is terse and incomprehensible, but seeing Conway's Game of Life in APL was mindblowing (link via Hacker News):

life ← { ⊃ 1 ω ∨ . ∧ 3 4 = +/ +⌿ 1 0 ‾1 ∘.θ 1 - ‾1 Φ″ ⊂ ω }

(I think that's close—it was hard to find the right symbols) Yes, that really does calculate a single generation. To run multiple generations was one additional line of code:

{} { pic∘ ← '⋅☻'[ω] ◊ _←[]dl ÷8 ◊ life ω } ★≡ RR

I remember years ago at a ham fest I was on the lookout for IBM keyboards (the only true keyboard, mind you) and I missed picking up an honest-to-god IBM APL keyboard by just seconds—a friend I was with got to it before I did (grrrrrrrr, and at $5, it was certainly a steal).

Friday, January 15, 2010

“Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways—Chardonnay in one hand—Chocolate in the other—body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, ‘WOO HOO, What a Ride!’”

My friend Kurt is finally tying the knot tomorrow and of course that can't pass without a bachelor party!

His brother Erik planned a full day of activities and those of us that can take off work, have done so. The first stop on today's debauchery was the Bass Pro Shop for a little archery.

[Behold the mighty hunting range]

The place is huge. The store itself must be several acres in size and it includes both an indoor shooting range and indoor archery range. I was running a bit late and once I arrived in the store, I had to call Kurt for directions to the archery range (on the second floor, no less!). There I met Kurt, the groom-to-be, Erik, Rich, Kurt's brother-in-law-to-be, Keith and Mike.

[The groom-to-be taking aim]

We had fun. The various animal targets (an alligator, bear, a wild boar, a few bucks) are on hydraulic lifts and can be raised or lowered by an operator. Given that I haven't shot an arrow since 8th grade, the bows were remarkably easy to use and we were all mostly able to hit (or just graze) the various tagets.

Gregory arrived just as we were leaving the Bass Pro Shop (he could only get a half-day off from work) for lunch. After a brief discussion, we decided to head to Ernie's Bar B Ques and Lounge (formerly known as “Dirty Ernie's”).

[Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways—Chardonnay in one hand—Chocolate in the other—body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, “WOO HOO, What a Ride!”]

The story, as told by Kurt, is that Ernie opened up the place and covered the walls with his sayings on how to live life and whatnot (thus the former name—“Dirty Ernie's”). After a few years of running the place, he apparently got bored, up and left for parts unknown, without even selling the place.

Interesting character.

And good food. And drinks.

Mike warned Kurt that if he passed out tonight, Mike would make sure Kurt ended up with a permanent reminder of the night. It was my idea to make said reminder a tramp stamp. Mike wanted to make it a butterfly, I was leaning more towards My Little Pony, but we still had time to decide.

A few hours later, we arrived at Old Heidelberg for dinner. As this was later in the evening, this meant more friends, and we had the entire back room to ourselves, and two waiters (two friendly fellows by the name of Jeff and Leo). Joining us were Kurt's two other brothers, Neal and Kyle, Russ (who spent the day driving from Tampa), Keener (who spend the day driving from Blountstown, Florida, an even longer drive), Jeff and two other friends of Kurt whose names I didn't catch.

[You'll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy]

For the most part, the food was excellent and the deserts—oh—to die for (the Black Forrest Cake I had was indescribably good). After a few hours of dinner and conversation the group headed out to downtown Ft. Lauderdale for a round of bar hopping, but on the way, the evening was having its affect on Kurt and we ended up making several stops on the Bathroom Tour of Ft. Lauderdale™.

We did hit a couple of bars before Kurt felt the need to visit a “gentleman's club.” And while Ft. Lauderdale isn't Lost Wages, what happened there shall remain there. I will, however, make two comments about the “gentleman's club” we visitied:

  1. there were TV screens mounted everywhere and occasionally they would flash “Feel Free To Use Your Credit Card” and “We Have An ATM” (and as Dave Barry says, “I am not making this up”);
  2. the music was loud. No, I ba-da boom boom boom boommeanBa-Da Boom Boom Boom BoomreallyBA-DA BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOMloudBA-DA BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOMandBA-DA BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOMob …BA-DA BOOM… nox …BOOM… ious …BOOMI MEAN SO LOUD THERE WAS A STIFF WIND BLOWING THROUGHT THE PLACE!BOOMWHAT?

Fortunately for Kurt, he never did pass out (then again, how could anyone pass out with music that loud?). Unfortunately for us, we couldn't give him his tramp stamp.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

“Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam … And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva …”

Ah, mawage, uh, I mean, marriage. Today my friend Kurt said goodbye to bachelorhood and married his true love.

What else can I say? The bride was beautiful. The groom dashing. The venue had a beautiful view of the Miami skyline, and somewhere, David Caruso is wearing his shades.

Congratulations, Kurt and Amanda!

Monday, January 18, 2010

“Help! I'm trapped in a Chinese fortune cookie factory!”

I crack open the fortune cookie, and, as God is my witness, I read:

[Well, why not?  Admit it—you're intrigued.]

And admit it—you're intrigued too!

Obligatory Picture

[Here I am, enjoying my vacaton in a rain forest.]

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

You have my permission to link freely to any entry here. Go ahead, I won't bite. I promise.

The dates are the permanent links to that day's entries (or entry, if there is only one entry). The titles are the permanent links to that entry only. The format for the links are simple: Start with the base link for this site: http://boston.conman.org/, then add the date you are interested in, say 2000/08/01, so that would make the final URL:

http://boston.conman.org/2000/08/01

You can also specify the entire month by leaving off the day portion. You can even select an arbitrary portion of time.

You may also note subtle shading of the links and that's intentional: the “closer” the link is (relative to the page) the “brighter” it appears. It's an experiment in using color shading to denote the distance a link is from here. If you don't notice it, don't worry; it's not all that important.

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