Saturday, December 30, 2006

Blackjack Basic Strategy

Since I am turning a certain age next month, I decided going to Vegas for my birthday would be awesome.

The goal is to have fun and perhaps make some bucks. To that end, I'm learning blackjack basic strategy. I should also study up craps strategy, since it seems that with a little luck you can make out fairly well in craps. The only thing to avoid are the sucker bets - which abound.

Luckily I have a full set of poker chips, a number of decks of cards, and a girlfriend to practice with. Also internet blackjack too. Strategy charts, and, I think I should be ok.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Fair use... doesn't care?

I posted previously about some website indicating that fair use was somehow not applicable. I also promised to post any reply email. Well just to set the record straight, they (of course) did not reply. Big surprise. I guess they were crushed under the overwhelming might of angry boing-boing readers everywhere. Or maybe they tuned their spam filters to be "dissent filters".

Saturday, December 16, 2006

As you may have no doubt heard by now, due to a massive storm which dumped tons of rain, and about a million-a-mile hours winds, practically half of Seattle and area is out of power.

Since the nature of the power outage is winds blowing trees and poles over, the pattern of outage is semi-random. The core areas are all fine, downtown, nearby neighbourhoods, like Queen Anne (mine) are just fine. There were some streets nearby me that were without power, but I myself did not lose power at home.

Although work did not fare as well. On Thursday around 3pm our security folk emailed us to come pick up our emergency flashlights. I guess a few months ago they discovered that the batteries in the "emergency lights" were dead, and the whole building had to escape in the pitch black stairs. So this time, we had flashlights. First power outage hit around 4-4:30 while I was in the bathroom. Nothing like a pitch black bathroom - the power came back less than a minute so my next stop was to pick up a safety flashlight. It never left my side for the next 4 hours.

I figured it was time to leave work when they shut down all the servers, I couldn't get any work done, and also the storm "drain" was more like a storm "undrain" and actually spewing water out in a small 1 foot fountain. When cars were driving through 6" of water I knew it was time to leave.

Lucky I took the bus, and caught the first Seattle bound bus, figuring being on the right side of the 520 bridge was the most important consideration. Especially since there is a wind limit and they close that bridge (and they did close it for about 14 hours). So I looped via the University District, then downtown. Including a quick stop at Metropolitan Market for the snack-on, it took about 3 hours to get home. I had to walk the last half mile, that bus just wasn't coming.

Considering that over 1 million people are without power, I am lucky. Also double lucky - no work, no possibility of doing remote work either. It really sucks for those farther out - in some of the nooks and crannies it could take up to a week or two (or three!) to get power back. Mostly this is because crews have to find every little fallen pole and set it right again. For power outages to just a few homes due to a fallen pole, they are in for a long cold wait. Good luck to all.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Google Analytics

I gotta say I love Google Analytics. Easy graphs, minimal setup, great conversion data. For example, in the marketing summary, here is the top 5 keywords that got the visitors to my blog:

  • "zipfizz liquid shot" - 3 visits this week
  • "wow item" - 3 visits this week
  • "when will wow be back up" - 3 visits this week
  • "wow items" - 2 visits this week
  • "ears hurt" - 1 visit this week

Those are for the week 12/1 - 12/7. Now, a few referrals from Google in a week for one search isn't exactly a powerhouse of website - I'm no, uh, Google. But this blog dates to September only. And note, that if you search for "ears hurt" I'm #8 on the total results. I'm not sure that the entry referenced is a good place to go if you are worried that your ears hurt.

I attribute my high ranking due to the fact I am linked from The Joy of Tech, specifically the Jobs-O-Lantern cartoon. I'm tickled pink even if my blog is not the most relevent result for "ears hurt".

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Ignite Seattle

I'm at Ignite Seattle, and I just saw a speaker talk about innovation. I disliked it so much I just had to complain about it online while at the actual event. The guy is Scott Berkun who talked about the myths of innovation. Unfortunately for me, I didn't agree with his assumptions. He started by saying we think of ideas as seeds that stand alone. He then went on to talk about the myth of Newton's Apple, talked about Edison, and so on.

Unfortunately for me, the content of his 5 minute speak was overshadowed by a sense of "yes yes, I know that" and another sense of "why is he dumbing this down so much?"

Know your audience.


I'm doing some Java coding. One of the things I find most weird about most Java programs is how much cruft there is - not in old weird programs, but in well maintained, TDD produced, Agile-approved code. I think the language encourages you to create lots of objects that no well defined purpose in life.

What do I mean by well defined purpose? Here are some warning signs your class is pointless:

  • Your interface has no methods whatsoever.
  • Your methods just call super versions of themselves.
  • Your methods don't really seem to actually _do_ much.
  • You seem to only exist to store data to return from another method.

And the list could go on. All of these are artifacts of the fact that in Java, everything, but everything, must be an Object. But, not everything actually is an object. So the problem is you have objects where you may not actually need or want objects.

If you want more, try reading Execution in the Kingdom of Nouns

What has me excited

I'm fairly excited about the new WOW content patch. 483 MB was a pain to download, but I did it at work, so no biggie. Bliz adjusted a bunch of things, added a new LFG interface, changed the PVP ranking system (no more brutal PVP grind) and also refunded all talent points. This last bit is exciting because I've been wanting to respec my level 56 rogue, but I wasn't sure I wanted to pay the 10g or so it would cost. But now I don't have to!

So maybe if you don't play WOW you wouldn't be as excited as me.

I'm also attending Ignite Seattle a mostly Make oriented Seattle geek night. Also Amazon Web Services will be there in force. I'm not sure how I feel about that - after my experience at Amazon I know I wouldn't trust any AWS service. The big question is, should I actively promote my view to other attendees?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Today I went to lunch at Caffe Macs at building #3, 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino. You might recognize this as the Apple corporate HQ. I wanted to have lunch with a old school buddy, but he is too busy and could not come to Google for lunch. So I went to Apple instead. The cafe is very nice, and since it was a nice day today, outside eating was great.

While at Apple I had a visit to the Apple Company Store. The store is great, awesome Apple schwag. Actually having to pay to be a walking billboard for Apple is a privilege, one bestowed only to those who make the trip out to Cupertino. And I did make the trip, I did pay, and I am now wearing a t-shirt that says:

859 miles and 180o from Redmond.

Hopefully I'll make a bunch of people angry back in Seattle.

Finally, I am on Google campus yesterday and today. Here are some things you might see if you were here too:

  • People playing beach volleyball in December.
  • Giant real life sized metal skeleton of T-Rex.
  • SpaceShipOne replica hung over a starway.
  • Excessive sunnyness.

And much more of course. It is nice to have somewhere to visit, somewhere to stay (I could sleep somewhere on campus pretty easily), somewhere to eat when I visit the valley. And to top it off, since I'm here actually doing work, I don't have to pay my own flight down. Overall it's pretty much awesome. It's nice to realize things are awesome while actually doing it. So much we realize later how good something was. Live in the moment, and all that Zen stuff!

Monday, December 04, 2006


The latest rumours of the iPhone have me psyched. The rumour says that the iPhone (or whatever it will be actually called) will be ultra-full featured and not locked to any network. This is great for several reasons. None of these are my original thought, but you'll have to deal with my non-attribution.

Networks currently control which phones are sold. Since most people get their new phones on contract ups, what the networks decide to sell is what is sold. Meaning the choice is fairly small. The situation is so dire, an entire network (MNVO) was created to meet the demand of korean uber-advanced phones. Hopefully we can get people used to the idea of purchasing phones as a high tech gadget investment (like an iPod), rather than as an item to settle on the best for the least.

The other major problem is the limited UI some carriers are well know of crippling. Add this to rather uninspired design, both on the software front, and the hardware front, and you end up with a whole lineup of weak phones. I enjoy my phone quite a bit, however it doesn't run Google Maps well. I keep on having to approve network access, and the phone heats up and battery life is reduced.

Of course, no well designed product is the fusion of 2 corporate communication and marketing teams in conference rooms in New York and San Jose. That is just recipe for disaster. And that is exactly how many cell phones are pushed to market. Eg: All Verizon phones have OBEX Bluetooth disabled - meaning you cannot download images via bluetooth. My PEBL is from T-Mobile so I can download images via bluetooth. Why does it matter which network you're on? Consumers are just lucky that number portability was created. Or unlucky, since most cell companies are making serious bank from the fees they are allowed to charge.

Luckily this is a blog, so my accusations can go unsubstantiated. But I'm pretty sure I read about those things.

Guitar Hero

The absolute best thing about this game Guitar Hero, is it really convinces you can be a mega-rock star. When you hit those awesome combos and really nail a hard sequence, you get a SERIOUS "I Rule" moment. This ties back to the creating passionate users stuff - make your users rule. The beautiful thing about Guitar Hero is all the positive feedback. If you make it all the way through the game the screen says "You Rock!" and the fake newspaper headline shows your paper review - either 3,4 or 5 stars. The headline ranges from " puts on solid set" to " amazes the croud". So if you just squeak through, you still rock.

The other beautiful thing about this game is the great music. I have started to just love some of the songs just because I played them many times. I made a small mix cd of about 7 of them and listened to those songs for an 11 hour car drive. You close your eyes and see the scrolling field of notes, and can make the finger motions.

I have heard that playing video games is not a skill - well clearly this is not true, since people can become better at it, I think what people are really saying is "I think it's a waste of time". The value judgment has to come out as an absolute statement, but I think that is just a generational gap thing. I remember a Nintendo DS game called Brain Age which trains and stimulates your brain. This might well be the first game targeted solidly towards baby boomers.

In the end, for some of us, video games are not just consumer items, they are pop culture items. They are as essential and integrated with our self identities as the rolling stones were to those growing up through the 60s and 70s.