Monthly Archives: December 2007

links for 2007-12-27

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Almost ready to fall off the GND wagon

I brought a bunch of technical books home for the holiday, with the idea of working on a web service to help me get things done. So far, I haven’t opened any of the books, nor have I touched the project.

Instead, I’ve been practicing GND: Getting Nothing Done.

That’s not quite true: I have managed to enter a couple of shelves’ worth of books into LibraryThing, I’ve read a few books (mostly not fiction) and have blogged about them, and I even spent a day adapting some code I’d written for my Temple to their new membership data system. And I’ve been going to the JCC a lot (and eating a lot of tasty food to make up for it). But, in general, I’ve been enjoying my downtime (and, very specifically, I have not checked my work email).

But I’m beginning to feel restless. I’m not quite to the point that Todd wrote about earlier today: “[Y]ou may have reached that consummate stage of holidaydom where you’re not enjoying your down time much — you know, the part where you’re bored out of your mind and need to get a technology news or general Web fix” but I could see myself there in another few days.

So it’s time to dust off the to-do list and start looking at it. Looking can’t hurt, can it?

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Oxygen at work

I hate having to do research during dinner, but it was necessary tonight. We brought some wine with us to dinner, having been impressed with it on our previous encounter — but when we opened this bottle, there were purple crystals at the cork, and the wine was flat, lifeless, and raisiny.

A quick trip across the room to the computer, and the verdict was in: oxygenation. (And I bookmarked three more links on del.icio.us, too.)

I’ve reported the problem to the place we bought the wine; it’ll be interesting to see what kind of response I get.

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What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

I wrote about some of the great events at the IBM Technical Leadership Exchange back in April. But there were some other, more mundane, benefits of attending, too. One of them was the “TLE Bookstore”, which had a selection of technical and leadership titles available for the effort of filling out a paper form — a far easier process than our usual internal book-buying system. So, naturally, I picked out a lot of books, including the one I just finished, Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.

Goldsmith is an executive coach; he deals with people whose salaries have a zero or two more than mine. But that doesn’t make his ideas and advice inapplicable to me — far from it.

The McGuffin here is his list of 20 “transactional flaws” that one person can commit against others. I’m happy to report that I am not guilty of all twenty flaws, but I do see a few of them in myself, including #2 (adding too much value) and #16 (not listening).

Of course, Goldsmith doesn’t just help you identify flaws — he offers suggestions for ways to combat them, especially apologizing and thanking. And he also strongly suggests that you advertise your intention to change, and find a way of really measuring how you do (or don’t) change your behavior. He also points out that you only need to change those behaviors which cause problems with other people (so I’m safe in not working on my messy files at work!).

I will be returning to this book in the New Year and developing an action plan to obviate at least some of my flaws. Recommended.

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links for 2007-12-25

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Charlie Wilson’s War

When I was in 12th grade, we spent the second semester of our US Government class as a Mock Congress. At the time, the Democrats controlled Congress, and since I wanted to be in a position of “power”, I chose to play the role of a Democrat so that I could be Majority Whip. And because I wanted to do a good job, I researched the Democratic positions of the time and found, much to my surprise, that I agreed with them — and I’ve been a Democrat ever since.

That was an effective civics lesson.

Today, we went to see Charlie Wilson’s War, an even more effective civics lesson, and one based on a true story, with dialog improved by Aaron Sorkin. Charlie Wilson represented the 2nd Congressional District of Texas. He was not the kind of Congressman held up as a role model in my Government class — the film opens with him in a hot tub, with a couple of strippers and a Playboy model, along with booze and drugs. But somehow, he had sufficient concentration to watch a “60 Minutes” report on Afghanistan that happened to be on, and, since he also happened to be on the committee which controlled funding for covert CIA operations, he decided to do something to help the brave Afghan fighters.

That something involved trips into dangerous beds as well as dangerous country, wheeling, dealing, and probable violation of several laws — and, at the same time, he was being investigated on drug allegations.

I was completely consumed by the movie, even though I knew how it would end. I don’t think they’ll make the sequel — it would be too depressing.

Recommended.

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links for 2007-12-24

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Three more apps out the virtual door

Jeff is now, by definition, finished improving his Common App — he submitted it (along with supplements and *sigh* payments) to three colleges this evening. He still has three more to do (each of which wants its own essay), along with one more college which hasn’t Gotten With The Program yet.

I’m not sure if this is easier or harder for him than it was for me — certainly it’s much easier to apply to more schools, but then again, there are more people competing at each school, too. But if nothing else, he has the advantage of being able to fix typos and the like without retyping an entire sheet!

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Two books by Charles Stross

Until this week, I’d only read one of Charles Stross’s books, Iron Sunrise, which I read in preparation for Hugo voting in 2005 (I didn’t actually vote on the Best Novel Hugo that year, but I thought about it…). I enjoyed it, and when I happened to be in the library earlier in the week and decided I wanted some SF in hand, so I picked up two of his.

Singularity Sky takes place before Iron Sunrise and introduces some characters who figure in the latter book, but it wasn’t critical to read them in the right order. I did something with Singularity Sky that I haven’t done in a long time — I read it in one evening. The story moves along briskly, with enough red herrings to keep me interested. This story is set, like Iron Sunrise, in a post-Singularity world where the Eschaton (which appears to be the transcendent computers of Earth) has scattered about 90% of the population of Earth across a few hundred light-years. There is FTL travel and instantaneous communication, but causality violations are Right Out…Or Else. The story opens with a weird infovore culture, The Festival, raining telephones on the New Republic, which has all the lovable characteristics of the Soviet Union of the 50’s and 60’s, but without the technology…except for the military. There are secret agents and wheels within wheels galore — strongly recommended.

I can’t say the same for Missile Gap, a short alternate-history-with-aliens piece. The McGuffin here is that, in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis (which became a hot war), the surface of the Earth was picked up and deposited on a huge flat world in the Magellanic Cloud; there are, of course, many other continents across the ocean, and the US and Soviets are desperately exploring and colonizing. But…We Are Not Alone.

The premise was intriguing, but there were too many threads for so few pages, and none of the characters really came to life for me. It was a pleasant read, but no more.

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links for 2007-12-22

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