I miss the web

Not so much that I miss using the web, which I do every single darn day. More that I miss working on all the cool web- and user- facing technologies that my many ASF friends talk about over on PlanetApache. My current job is both internally-focused (hence I don’t talk about it much) and mostly business process improvement and based on somewhat legacy technologies. So while it’s comfortable, and has plenty of great co-workers, it’s not quite as exciting as what I read about most days on the web.

But that’s not what I came to tell you about.

Came to talk about the draft.

Well, no, really, came to talk about my morning. Had to get the mail, so I stopped at Au Bon Pain for coffee since I really needed some. Got to my garage and stopped my car, where my coffee got knocked down, got imploded, got fallen over, got smashed up, got spilled all over. Havin’ a bad day, I was, feelin’ hung down, brung down, and all kinds of tired and blahy things.
So I walked on over to the mall about 100 yards away, and I headed into the one big chain coffee shop right next door, you know the one, with the big green lady in the circle on the 8 by 10 colored glossy sign over the shop.

I walked on in, stood on in the line, waited on up ’till I got to the counter, and I said: “Barista, I wanna wake up. I mean, I wanna be really awake. I wanna be flyin’ off the ground and bouncin’ off the walls, and pound out that work all day long. I want a triple large vendi-grande latte drink with extra this and some of that with a big old shot and more of everything else. I want it so much I want to THRILL, THRILL, THRILL.”

And the barista smilled at me, and said “You’ll get a THRILL THRILL THRILL!”

Then he said: “That’ll be $4.04 please.”

And I stopped. $4.04. 404. No wonder I’m having such a bad day today. I’m missing. Part of me is not found. Something’s gone; not sure what, can’t be that important, but it’s messin’ me all up anyway. Sigh.

So I paid the man, four singles and a nickel, and I got myself my one penny for change, and got my drink, and came on over to work to post this blog entry.

So here I am, just waitin’ for whatever it is I’ve lost to come around on the keyboard again, gettin’ ready to write my reports and build my websites and dream my little AJAXy dreams.

And I hope you have a better morning than I did today.

When will billboards be facing the sky?

I mean, with the various combo satellite/road map websites out there, and the frequency with which satellite imagery of popular areas is refreshed, when are businesses with large buildings going to go the extra mile and print their name and logo on the roof?
Seriously! It’s already well established in SecondLife. There are plenty of businesses who’ve already done it, usually on a sloped roof that can be seen from nearby hills or roads; it’s an old tradition going back to Burma-shave days and earlier.
My question is: when will someone setup a billboard or advertising consultancy that specializes in this stuff? Proper fonts, best way to adapt logos to be visible from satellites, astrophysical analysis of common photo satellite orbits and the best way to position the sign, etc. etc.
This isn’t just “first mover” advertising hype, either – although I’m sure that’s worth a sale or two as well. Think about the last time you used Google Maps (or anyone else) to find directions to some new Big Box Store. The directions say to take the highway to “Commerce Way”, sure, that’s informative. But checking out the satellite view, there are no fewer than 3 Big Box Stores, one major mall, and three mini-malls all along Commerce Way. Imagine how cool it would be to recognize the logo to Big Box Store on the roof of the right building, perhaps with an arrow pointing to the side of the building with the main entrance, so you can plan where to park!
Whoever it is, I want in on the business. Given that I’m not doing the footwork to find my own VC, I’m willing to take services-in-kind in exchange of an equity stake. It’d be an interesting market, especially if since you could probably get away with a lot to start with, since most community’s billboard regulations probably wouldn’t trip you up, since it’d only be visible from the sky.
Bonus tip for coatings manufacturers who team up with imagery specialists: if you could figure out the right paints (that reflect well at a distance, but not up close), it’d be wicked cool to paint the logo on the entire parking lot. A bit tricky to get coatings that wouldn’t obscure the parking lines for drivers, but that would pop out in a satellite image of the parking lot. Darn, wish I were in manufacturing, that’d be worth a patent.

Real Conversations with a 2 year old

Driving home from dinner, she spotted the big fat almost full moon low in the sky. Part-way home, it disappeared (behind the trees).
“Where did the moon go?”
“It’s behind the trees over that way.”
“I want to see the moon again.”
“Well, it’s behind the trees, but later when we’re driving we’ll be able to see it again.”
“I want to see another moon.”
“I’m sorry, sweetheart, there’s only one moon and we all have to share it.”
“Well, I’m two years old, so I want two moons in the sky for me.” [1]
{Stifled laughter erupts in the front seat.}
“Sweetheart, there really is only one moon for everyone. It’s the same moon for all of us.”
“Well, there should be another one.”

Priceless. Her delivery was flawless, too.

[1] This comes from our DD strategy, whereby we only buy Munchkins, and the accepted practice is that since she is 2 years old, she gets two Munchkins. When she turns three, she’ll get three Munchkins. I know, it won’t last forever, but I figure that buys us a couple more years of not having to giver her a whole donut yet (too much sugar, and much messier in the car).

Thank you Amy

Thank you for being such a wonderful wife to me, and mother to our child.
No, really, thanks for a wonderful weekend away. Amy called me a Friday afternoon recently, casually asking about our weekend plans. I must have been in a suspicious mood that day, because I thought in the back of my mind she was planning a brunch with her parents, who we’d been meaning to see for ages.
Little did I know that late that night before falling asleep she’d prompted Roxanne to tell me we’d be going to the hotel by the beach! We tried, but Roxanne couldn’t quite get the destination of “Mystic” out, but I understood well enough. Unfortunately it was rather late, so I don’t think I gave her as good a reaction as she expected on my part.
The weather was nearly perfect for the whole weekend, and the trip down was pretty good – straight down I-95 with Roxanne sleeping for a while after our DD lunch. The weather was so right in the middle I ended up getting both a hot and an iced coffee with our sandwiches. Nice contrast.
Arriving, we decided Roxanne would be more interested in the Aquarium, expensive ticket prices notwithstanding. She had a great time watching the whales do some tricks and trying to touch the rays in the pool. I think the highlight was the sea lion show, however. All the glitz and fancy announcers (they’ve gone upscale since I last saw it!) weren’t what she wanted – she spent the whole show staring intently at the performing sea lions on stage. It was one of those experiences where it’s hard to tell how excited she is, unless you’re watching just how intense her gaze is. She even tried to raise her hand to play the game show they do, once she realized the prize was a free ice cream cone.
Our motel was fine, but dinner at Go Fish was great. She didn’t eat all that well, but the fish was just right and the wine flight was certainly pleasant. Sunday didn’t go quite as planned, since she was acting like a 2 year old in the morning, so we never got to go to the beach. We saw dad’s favorite, the submarine museum in Groton, CT. Roxanne was even patient enough for us to walk through the entire USS Nautilus and let me read a few of the signs, which was nice. I tried to get her excited about the periscope display inside the museum – real working periscopes, which you can turn and focus – but that was a little conceptual for her yet.
A necessary detour to Westerly, RI to calm a fussing child strapped into her seat ensued on the way home; other than some serious parking infrastructure issues the damn town has, Roxanne loved the children-only Flying Horse Carousel there, and even after her three rides wanted to stay around just watching the other kids ride. A bag of popcorn and a much needed and surprisingly delicious lemonade saved the day for the long drive home.
One problem with weekends is that they’re too short!

My journey to the dark side has begun

Much like the dark side, I can’t actually share any details of this post, since they relate to work. Needless to say as the result of an hour long meeting – during which I said little, answered 2 instant messages, wrote three emails answering technical questions, and migrate 1,500 documents – I’ve begun a serious slide into the darkness of business processes. The fourth email I wrote came back with management approval for my progress into the dark side during the meeting, which I found highly amusing.
Hmmm, must find a new Darth-name to make fun of…

“Work is about whoever controls the money”

Is it really just that simple? Thinking longer term about how things actually get done at work (a major software/consulting house is where I have my day job), it all comes down to who controls the biggest pots of money.
I suppose that should be obvious – it’s a for-profit company, and anyway money is what makes the world light up (who pays the electric bills!) whether at work or elsewhere. But a conversation today drove home a little bit more about how businesses actually work.
A senior co-worker was mentioning a project idea they had had, that was never explored due to lack of complete funding. They secured half of the money needed to fund, but even with all of their pull due to their position and overall brilliance and reputation, couldn’t find the measly other half of the funding needed. It was an obvious idea, one that was really exciting technically, likely to become something highly useful, etc. etc. And it’s not that the whole organization was low on funds: plenty of other projects found the way forward.
It’s not even that (some of) the right people weren’t contacted. It’s more how the pots of money get allocated, and which people in the pot control lines value what kind of products. It’s just frustrating that sometimes excellent ideas – whether technical or organizational (or I suppose sales/marketing, although I really don’t understand those suits) – can’t get traction just because of organizational structure.
Wow. OK, at this point I’m realizing this point is really boring and obvious to anyone good at managing businesses, and really painful and obvious with anyone who has great technical ideas but doesn’t happen to be brilliant at convincing CEOs to invest in them. I guess the real points in my high tech industry muse are that:

  • It’s frustrating to have great ideas for new stuff, but not have the money to make it happen in big business
  • Communication skills are key for anyone in the high tech industry, unless you happen to be both brilliant and have acolytes who will do your bidding

I suppose that’s some of why I like working in open source so much, especially at the ASF – merit is based primarily on technical skill, and projects grow by developers frying their own fish, and adding useful technical things immaterial of the immediately obvious gain.