Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hi Tech?

This is what the lobby of our office building looks like every time it rains:

Nice work, Equity Office..

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Dancing at Waterfire with the Ladies of the Rolling Pin

My Morris team (well, a fraction thereof...) danced in Providence last night at Waterfire, at the invitation of the Ladies of the Rolling Pin. Several other teams were there, too, including a partial side from Newtowne; we teamed up to dance about a half a dozen dances.

After the dancing I wandered around for a while, taking in the sights and people.

Downtown Providence is quite lovely at night.

There are a few more pictures, and a video clip of the lighting of the Waterfire lamps, in this album:

Waterfire w/LORP, August 2012

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Can you spare 3 minutes...

...to debunk the myth of "You didn't build that!"?

The Romney campaign has been flogging the notion that Socialist President Obama said to business owners, "You didn't build that [business]!" In fact, in context, the "that" in the sentence is clearly referring to"roads and bridges." Obama was talking about all the infrastructure that enables business to thrive.

But don't take my word for it. Take a look at the entire, unedited video of Obama's speech in Roanoke Virginia on July 13th that set off this little firestorm. If you don't want to watch it all, just grab the pointer and drag into 32:30. Then watch the next 3 minutes.

If you want to find reasons to prefer Romney over Obama, at least do so with a little integrity.

The rest of the speech is pretty damn inspiring, too, in this viewer's opinion.

A note: I received an anonymous comment that I will not publish, even though I don't find any of the content particularly objectionable. I don't blog anonymously, and I hold commenters to the same standard.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

My love-hate relationship with Amazon

This morning I read in the Times that Jeff Bezos has pledged $2.5M in support of same-sex marriage in Washington State. I wanted to let Amazon know that I'm happy about this support by its CEO, so I clicked on over to amazon.com to find their "contact us" link.

Without success.

Unless I'm just hopelessly blind this morning, Amazon doesn't seem to have a mechanism for receiving general feedback.

And so goes the ongoing saga of my relationship with Amazon. for example: I'm a long-time Kindle user; I own every model of the Kindle so far, except the DX. Obviously I like reading on the Kindle. It's great to be able to carry a whole library with me in a small, light-weight package that can go a week without recharging, and my eyes appreciate the ability to change font sizes to accommodate changing reading conditions. Being able to sample a book before buying has made me a more adventurous reader.

But -- the DRM periodically drives me crazy. Subscriptions are especially painful. I was delighted when the New York Times Kindle Edition finally became good enough that we could cancel our paper subscription to the Times; I hated putting out pounds of paper each week in the recycling. But I can only have the Times delivered to one of my Kindles - making it impossible for Katy and I to share the Sunday Times. We can sort of work around this by using the digital access that comes with a Kindle subscription to read the Times on an iPad, but it's not the same.

Then there is Amazon's stance on sales tax. It's just utterly bogus to claim at this point in the history of the Internet that requiring online retailers to collect and pay state sales taxes is "too onerous" or would "suppress online sales." Many online retailers manage this without any problems; surely Amazon could as well. Yet Amazon continues to lobby against this.

Ah, well. Thanks, Jeff, for the good; can you try to do something about the bad?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Boston Dining Cards, 2011-2012

I gave Katy a deck of Boston Dining Cards for her 50th birthday today. As an added bonus, I created a map with showing all the restaurants.

View Boston Dining Cards 2011-2012 in a larger map

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

And now we are Qlikies

Today Expressor Software, the little data integration software company I work for, was acquired by Qliktech, makers of the Qlikview Business Discovery Platform. This is very good development for us; Expressor Studio complements Qlikview very nicely, and since Qliktech is a rapidly growing, publicly traded company,we're going to have a lot more development horsepower to move our product forward.

Expressor has come along way since I joined almost three years ago. We introduced a completely new UI in late 2010, along with a mostly-new data movement engine (the piece I work on), and each of the subsequent releases has added major new functionality.

But beyond the software, we've also become a highly productive engineering team. We've been introducing a new release every 3 months or so for the past 18 months. Without the close coordination we have among our UI, repository, engine and QA teams, we never could have done this without sacrificing product quality -- but we've kept the quality up, and even managed significant internal improvements that helped performance and stability while we did this. This is a great group of people to work with, and even though we've been working our butts off, I've really enjoyed the work.

Next week we're all going to Qliktech's office in Lund, Sweden, for an introduction to our engineering counterparts - and to celebrate midsummer. It's not technically a vacation - but it sure is a nice break from our usual routine. It's a pretty amazing way of welcoming us into the company. Katy is coming with me, and we'll be spending a few days on either end of the trip exploring Copenhagen.

Qliktech, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. (roll credits)

Friday, March 30, 2012

The end of the line for the Juxtacomm patent?

It looks like the U.S. Patent Office has issued a final, please-get-out-of-my-face rejection of essentially all of the claims of the infamous '662 patent, which the Canadian patent trolls software firm Teilhard Technologies has been using to shake down litigate against software vendors, including IBM, Oracle, Informatica and many others.

See my earlier posting about the USPTO's ruling on the '662 patent to find out how access the decision from the USPTO web site, or just follow these links to my copies:
According to Pacer, the current round of litigation is winding down, with dismissals already issued or pending for many of the defendants. At last.

Friday, March 23, 2012

SmileTrain - a protection racket

For literally years now, I've been getting mailings about every 2 weeks from SmileTrain, a charity that helps children born with a cleft lip or palate get the repair surgery they need to lead relatively normal lives. A worthy cause, yes? I suppose - but their fundraising strategy amounts to a protection racket. I quote:

"Make one gift now and we'll never ask for another donation again."

 Right. According to a report by CharityWatch, this is a lie. Further, in 2009 SmileTrain had an overhead rate of about 30%, while claiming that "100% of your donation goes to program - 0% goes to overhead." Part of that overhead was the $678,058 that President and Co-Founder Brian Mullaney received in compensation.

 I hate to see scumbags making money off unfortunate children.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Loud and Close

Katy and I just got home from seeing "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close." Wow. Fantastic acting all the way around, and absolutely riveting. It'll be a while before I calm down enough to be able to sleep.

See it.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Where did the jobs go?

Today's New York Times has a long article (How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work) that offers a discouraging picture for job growth in the U.S. The problem isn't labor costs per se; rather, it's that the entire manufacturing supply chain has shifted from the U.S. to Asia. - a change initially caused by labor costs, but now self-perpetuating.

One former high-ranking Apple executive said that the focus on Asia “came down to two things.” Factories in Asia “can scale up and down faster” and “Asian supply chains have surpassed what’s in the U.S.” The result is that “we can’t compete at this point.”

The glass used in the iPhone's display provides a great example, As Corning's CFO observed:

“Our customers are in Taiwan, Korea, Japan and China. We could make the glass here, and then ship it by boat, but that takes 35 days. Or, we could ship it by air, but that’s 10 times as expensive. So we build our glass factories next door to assembly factories, and those are overseas.”
This isn't a change that can be undone overnight.

 But besides the supply chain issue, there's labor flexibility. That innocent-looking comment that factories in Asia “can scale up and down faster” really means that workers can be hired - and fired - on short notice. The jobs may pay well, by local standards, but there is no job security. Large portions of business risk are outsourced to employees.

Job security is an issue labor unions fought hard for in the first half of the 20th century, with considerable success.  It's hard to argue that job insecurity is a good thing for workers and the communities they live in, but this is exactly what U.S. manufacturers - and Republican politicians - are asking for when they want an easing of labor regulations and oppose unionization.

So what's the solution? Over time, I have to believe that Asia's workers will insist on better conditions, there will be greater balance between regions in terms of labor rules, and manufacturing will gradually redistribute closer to the point of consumption. But that will take decades.

I don't know how to solve this problem. But I do know that any politician - Left or Right - who promises a short-term solution is pedaling snake oil.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Rick Santorum is Google-bombed...

...and it made this week's issue of The New Yorker. The short article Bombs Away is a cautionary tale regarding importance of managing search results (to the extent that that's possible...). Warning: the top Google hit for Santorum is Not Suitable for Work.