The June 2005 Blog
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Nice Looking Conference Schedule (Monday, Jun 27)
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And speaking of visualizations (as I was the other day), here's a nice "week at a glance" view of a conference schedule:

DB2 Conference Schedule

That's the schedule for the upcoming IBM DB2 Technical Conference at Disney World in September (download the overview brochure for the original schedule graphic and more information).

I won't be going to the DB2 conference, but I sure would like to see a schedule like that at a certain other IBM conference that takes place at Disney every January. It's a nice, concise quick reference.

In lieu of that, maybe some of the members of the fancy new graphic design team that IBM is using for the Notes "Hannover" client could take some of the agenda suggestions I made after Lotusphere 2004 and pretty them up.

Please...? There's almost 7 months to get it together.

Man, here it is the end of July and I'm already talking about Lotusphere. I need a life...

On The Frequency (Saturday, Jun 25)
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So I read Rob McDonagh's recent post about Global Frequency, mentioned it to a few people, and... well, let's say that a friend of mine screened the pilot for me. Good show. Two things that are interesting about this whole thing to me:

1. The storyline definitely had potential, and I think it had a pretty good hook. Kind of X-Files meets Mission Impossible. The characters were a little more shallow than they probably could have been, but it was the first episode. However, as far as producing a TV series goes, I'm sure that there are tons of politics and negotiations and things involved that have nothing to do with the quality of the show, so the reason the show never made it might have had nothing to do with the show itself. Who the heck knows.

2. The fanbase/Internet movement behind the show is great to watch. It's also lucky (and amazing) that the show's producer has a blog, which means that at least someone is listening. If the Global Frequency pilot ever does see [official] the light of day, I will love to read the story of how it all happened, and what things the fan base did that actually made a difference.

Also, if you're interested, I ended up with a copy of the Global Frequency ringtone -- WAV and mp3 formats. To be honest, I have no idea how to actually get something like that on a cellphone (maybe Xingtone?) but it would be cool to do...

Visualizing Your Data (Thursday, Jun 23)
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One of the things that the IBM Research Group talked a lot about at Lotusphere this year was visualizations. They did one or two screenshots of Martin Wattenberg's Wiki history visualization tool, and they also had something from a study they did on graphing information flow between people who are "energizers" versus "de-energizers" in an office setting (the "energizer" graphic had lines all over it, indicating how everyone was interacting with each other; the "de-energizer" one was barren).

I thought of this again when I saw that the IBM alphaWorks site has a Visualization Technologies page now. On the surface that seems like either mundane or highly academic stuff, but it's unbelievably useful to have good visualizations of data. It's hard, too. Especially when you have lots and lots of data, and you're trying to catch a trend.

Here are some examples to whet your whistle:

Man, I wish I could do that kind of stuff. I can't even design good UI's...

Dead Right (Tuesday, Jun 21)
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I was listening to the How To Win Friends And Influence People audio-book last week. It's one of those modern classics I've always meant to read but have never gotten around to, so I got the audio-book from the library. If I'm not going to read it, I can at least try to glean the concepts as I'm driving to and from work.

Anyway, most of the book seems to be around how to win arguments with people. One of the basic notions is that you can't force someone to accept your ideas, especially if they have an opposing idea. You have to get into a somewhat friendly discussion with them and allow them to come to a conclusion by themselves. There's a lot of tongue biting and pride swallowing involved.

There are also a lot of good quotes in the book from various people. One of the quotes that I really stuck with me was this fictitious epitaph, printed in the Boston Telegraph newspaper long ago:

Here lies the body of William Jay,
Who died maintaining his right of way.
He was right, dead right, as he sped along,
But he's just as dead as if he were wrong.

I guess I can just relate to that on so many occasions: just because you're right doesn't mean you're going to win. It's also a good "choose your battles" kind of message.

Bedtime Help Desk (Monday, Jun 20)
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As I was getting the kids ready for bed tonight, my daughter asked me to help her with something. I can't remember what it was (something about jammies, I think), but I was doing a couple of other things at the time. So I gave her my typical Daddy answer of "Hold on a second." And she gave me her typical daughter response of "Huh?"

Instead of repeating myself, I just looked down at her and said:

"Please hold while we transfer your request to the next available representative. The average hold time is... 5 minutes."

Then I started laughing. She just looked at me with a really confused look (the "Daddy's gone crazy again" look) and walked away.

Funny how even though she didn't really get the reference, she had exactly the same reaction that I have when I hear that statement. Just hang up and try again later.

Slow Comments (Tuesday, Jun 14)
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I realize that the comments system that I use (Enetation) has been awful slow for about the past week. I think I might finally try to bring my comments "in house", like Ned Batchelder did a while back.

I'm torn between asking for his code and doing it myself. On the one hand, his comments certainly seem to work and I'm sure he's a better programmer than me, so I really should try to beg, borrow, and steal wherever possible. And I probably don't have the time to properly write and test and putz around with that sort of thing.

On the other hand, writing new code is so fun...

Get Your Star Wars Pictures Here... (Thursday, Jun 9)
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I've noticed a lot of hits to my September 2004 blog page this month, and I couldn't figure out why. I checked the referers lists and the Google and Yahoo searches in my stats, but didn't notice anything unusual or different.

Then I checked the raw access logs, and saw a lot of hits coming from Google Image search, with links to the page in question. A little more investigation, and I realized what was going on.

People are finding the Star Wars pictures from the Let There Be Lightsabers article on that page. Turns out that (at the time of this writing) I'm result #46 on a search for "Darth Vader" and #2 on a search for "Stormtroopers" using Google Images.

That's one of the interesting things about putting random information out on a blog like this, I guess. You never know what people (or search engines) are going to find useful.

Of course, unexpected results like that could be really annoying too. For example, I recently saw that this guy's blog entry is #1 for a Google search on "walmart online application", which has led a number of... um... not-so-web-saavy people requesting WalMart job applications from him (see the long list of comments). Pretty funny, as long as it's not happening to you.

Watching Firefly (Wednesday, Jun 8)
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Since Serenity will be out in a couple months (and it looks like a really cool movie -- thanks again to Libby for pointing it out a little while back), I decided to watch the Firefly series on DVD in preparation.

We watched the first disc last weekend (3 episodes), and it was good but not tantalizing. I mean, it was filmed very well, and all the effects and costumes and visuals were top-notch, but so far it's not drawing me in as much as I had hoped. I'm sticking with it because I know where the story is going (having seen the movie preview) and I know I like Joss Whedon, but otherwise I'm not sure that I would. The big draw is supposed to be the mystery about what happened to the River Tam character, but they're just not making her interesting enough in the first few episodes. She's mysterious, but I don't really care about her yet.

But I'm an optimist, and I'm sure it'll get better. On to disc #2.

I also read that Dark Horse Comics will be releasing a Serenity comic mini-series next month, which is supposed to fill in the gap between the end of the series and the movie. If I decide to really geek out about this whole Serenity thing, I might track down the comics when they come out.

New Computer Build Settings (Tuesday, Jun 7)
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Last week I got a new laptop at work, which means it was rebuild time. I firmly believe in reloading everything from scratch rather than trying to use images, because a fresh new computer build ends up so clean and fast.

Unfortunately, reloading from scratch takes a huge amount of time. It took me about 2 full days to get it like I wanted it, and there are still things I'll be installing and tweaking over the next few weeks, I'm sure. So I can remember what all the steps are and where all the software came from, I decided to write it all down here for future reference (because I know I'll have to do it again sometime).

Julian's New Computer Build Settings

Maybe it'll be a good reference for you too. If nothing else, you can take a look at the freeware tools and Firefox extensions I use, to see if they might be useful.

And no, one of my build options was not "Format the hard drive and install Linux"...

A Day No Clothes Would Dry (Sunday, Jun 5)
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Random house maintenance note:

I noticed that the last several loads of laundry I've done have taken a really long time to dry. My first thought was: "Crap, the dryer's broken." Then my second thought was: "Maybe I'm lucky and the dryer exhaust is just clogged."

Always eager for a chance to walk on my roof, I grabbed the ladder and climbed up to take a look at the dryer exhaust flume (editor's note: I have no idea if "flume" is the right word here, but it sounds better than "roof vent pipe thingie").

Man, was that thing stuffed full of lint. Uncompressed (meaning: after I pulled it out of the flume and piled it on the roof), the lint that I could reach with just my hand was about the size of a melon (honeydew, not watermelon). There was definitely no air coming out of there.

The dryer is working much better now, although I still need to disconnect the pipe that goes between the dryer and the wall and make sure that's all cleaned out too. I guess that's one more thing I have to add to my mental maintenance list, right next to "change the filter on the air conditioner" -- 'cause that gets a little linty too.

Free Doughnut Friday (Thursday, Jun 2)
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Homer Simpson Clock There were a few other things I was thinking of writing about, but this little announcement just had "stop the presses" all over it:

Come in to participating U.S. Krispy Kreme retail stores on JUNE 3rd and to express our appreciation for your support, we'll give you a free doughnut of your choice!

I know you can't hear me, but I'm making great big ol' Homer Simpson drooling noises right now. If you've had Krispy Kreme doughnuts before, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, you really owe it to yourself to try one right now. A hot one. Fresh out of the oven.

Mmm, doughnuts...

[via Just Another Weblog. Homer clock (pictured above) available at, among other places.]

My New Notes Desktop (Wednesday, Jun 1)
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I think I'm done playing around with the new INTEGRATE!People Light Edition tool for a while. It's a lot of fun creating new Notes desktop/workspace skins, but it's also a big time waster for a non-graphics person like myself. Here's what I'll use for now (click to enlarge):

Oceanic2 Notes Desktop

It's a minor variation of the "Oceanic" skin that was included with INTEGRATE!People Light, and it's a little colorful but still easy to look at (especially if you've got icons all over your workspace pages like I do).

Here are the graphics I used, if you want them.