Technology, politics, life

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Dear reader

Oh strange new Internet that has such people in’t.

The few very hasty blog posts in the last year is a clear indication to y’all that Brainsnorkel is barely registering in my consciousness. I don’t blog about work, and work is hard at the moment.

Actually, home is hard too.  To make our house bigger, we have to squeeze into one end of it for a while. Hopefully all of this squeezing will be a thing of the past soon. We’ll move back into our proper places and the sardines can move back in to where we’re living.

Enough excuses! Brainsnorkel doesn’t need excuses.

Brainsnorkel needs the dust blown off it.

Given how consuming work is, maybe meta-work is fair game now. It has been in the past.

Yet another Röyksopp video

There is so much to love about this music video.

iPhone 3GS

I can’t review my new iPhone 3GS. Frankly, I haven’t used it enough. I’m still waiting for my old carrier to port my number so I can use it as something more than a very expensive iPod Touch.

One of the first things I did after getting it was to sit down with a couple of our kids and show them the maps, video camera, photos, some Wall-E, Phineas and Ferb and then an iPhone version of Peggle which they had played on PC extensively.

When I had decided that demo time was over my 3 year old daughter insisted that the iPhone was hers. To encourage me to hand it over she started ripping up and throwing things around the house with some impressive, wanton, and very primal, rage.

This experience has brought me to the realisation that slavish iPhone desire is nature, not nurture.

I’m seriously considering buying a decoy.

Doom Bunker!

This (and the clip that follows) has to be the best Colbert segment for some time.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Doom Bunker – Glenn Beck’s “War Room”
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor NASA Name Contest

Battlestar Galactica: A great TV series ends

When I recall very good TV series like Six Feet Under and The Wire I feel could go back and watch the final episode any time for a reminder of the quality of the series and the characters in it. Battlestar Galactica is an excellent TV series, but I think I’ll be watching the pilot episodes, season 1, and not the finale.

Tonio sums up all that was good and bad about the series finale (beware, here be spoilers):
Battlestar Galactica Ends

Here’s my take on the end of the best Science Fiction TV series in history: it hit the right emotional notes, and it was reasonably satisfying, but it was not a worthy ending to the series, and I suspect that as we all go back and watch the whole thing through we’ll find a lot of threads left dangling or essentially forgotten by the writers.

Two ideas for Christmas gatherings

Christmas can be a long day. Hopefully these two YouTube gems will help pass the time.

How to fold a T-shirt in 5 seconds:

Orange teeth:

A short review of Adobe Soundbooth CS4

It crashes a lot.

I’ve been using Soundbooth to clean up speech from about 10 people recorded in a conference room, on a tiny digital recorder, while it sat next to a projector’s fan, under an air-conditioning outlet, in a slightly echoey conference room, open to a common area where people gather to take the elevator.

Cleaning up the audio was a reasonably fast, if crashy, experience.

Once I had a reasonably clean recording I thought I’d try out the automatic transcription feature. This feature performs some cursory speech recognition on an audio file to produce tags that match recognised words to their location in the audio file along with the speaker’s identity (e.g. speaker 2). As it’s only 75% accurate (for my samples, forgivably, it was much worse) it’s more useful for finding points of interest in an audio file than as an auto-transcription service.

I don’t think it ever completed the transcription task. At some random point it would offer to send Adobe a copy of a crash report.

Though it doesn’t have transcription capabilities, I think I prefer Audacity.

Levelling up

Tomorrow, December 5th 2008, marks the 20th anniversary of my starting work in “the industry.”

This calls for five minutes of reminiscing.

I turned up for my first day of work as a trainee systems programmer at a big Australian bank’s EDP department. I recall being more than a little shocked at having to be at work before 8:06am each day. I was introduced to everyone I’d be working with shortly before being sent off to North Sydney to do MVS and IBM System/360 Assembler training for a few weeks.

At training I learned that the most powerful instruction in Assembly language was the no-op. The coding standard dictated that you sprinkle them throughout your code so that smarter programmers than you could patch your code, in memory, while running by overwriting your no-ops with useful code and then adding a statement to branch to the patch code over the defective instructions.

The bank had some great people. Some were consummate professionals and some were real cowboys.

Towards the end of my time at the bank I was introduced to the pointy-end of the economics of software development and process improvement.

A colleague returned from a long liquid lunch and let me in on the “big secret.”

He said only fools write good code. Code has to break for you to get called in. Being called in gives you overtime and visibility. Overtime is extra money. Being called in is heroism. Develop skill in writing bugs that are serious enough to call you in about, yet easy enough to fix soon after you get into the office. Overtime was paid for in four hour minimum units. Nobody notices people who write reliable code because they never get to perform heroic acts. Notice that the people who get promoted are those that handle high stress situations. Notice that the people handling these high stress situations are generally responsible for creating the high stress situation in the first place.

It was good motivation to find a new job.

iPhone application idea

Regrettably, I don’t have an iPhone. I do, however, have iPhone envy. I can tell, because I have dreams about accelerometers and iPhone apps I’d like. Also, I have nightmares about dropping my imaginary iPhone.

Given I don’t have the necessary equipment to develop an iPhone application, I hereby give you, The Internet, my idea for an iPhone application. My envy-inspired dreams have resulted in an idea for an App whose sole purpose is to add a little levity to those near-miss moments when you think you’ve accidentally destroyed your iPhone.

My imaginary app patiently waits for the accelerometer to report extreme acceleration events, such as when the phone has fallen to the ground. Shortly after the high-G event, the app plays an audio file that says “Well that was close!”

That’s it.

No additional logic is required for the case when the G force is so great the iPhone stops working. Those moments are best kept levity-free.

Merry Xmas 2008

From the virtual Cecil B. DeMille’s of Bennelong.

Yes, we’re early. But we did let a month go by after Myer put out their decorations.

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