Saturday, July 29, 2006

Training in Downtown San Francisco

Sun Java Studio Creator is an integrated development environment (IDE) geared to simplifying the development of Java-based web applications. To complement the Creator Field Guide book, the Anderson Software Group has created a 3-day overview of the Creator IDE.

Last month Paul and I delivered the Java Studio Creator IDE Overview courseware in downtown San Francisco, just a block from the famed TransAmerica building. When attending JavaOne, we always stay in the Union Square/Theatre district. This time we stayed in Chinatown. It's a great location and a nice change. Walk out of the hotel, turn right and you're in the midst of Chinatown. Walk out of the hotel, cross the street, and you're in North Beach, with its fabulous selection of Italian eateries. We did not go hungry.

The course itself was well-attended with participants from as far away as Ireland and Canada and as nearby as a few blocks. In the three days the students worked through 15 different labs, with the most popular being a drag and drop master-detail database page and an AJAX auto-complete component example. One of the advantages of a public course is that attendees get to see what the other students are doing and can learn from each other.

A highlight of the course occurred when three Sun Microsystems staffers visited the class to answer a whole bevy of questions, from esoteric technical to general marketing. Participants were enthused about Creator being integrated into NetBeans (as we all are). Winston Prakash, one of the engineers and our go-to guy for all things technical regarding Creator, wrote about the session in his blog here.

We will be providing additional training as requested. If you're interested, contact Sun Microsystems.
Next Entry: Summer Beach Days

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Have You Scene It?

Okay, it's time for a little fun. Warning, this is a major time sink! I recently received an email from my daughter that included an XLS file with scenes from films with the actors' faces removed. This file is making its way around the Internet community like wild fire (I don't know its origin, so if anyone does, feel free to comment). For example, do you recognize this movie?
You have to guess the movie!
Yes? No? How about this?
You have to guess the movie!
Here is the complete xls file. Here are the answers. Good luck, and don't say I didn't warn you! (By the way, I'm still working on mine and with lots of help, I have identified 35 out of 60.)
Next Entry : Training in Downtown San Francisco

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Yielding Up to the Dark Impulse

Grazing Elk
My most recent selection for Book Club was Close Range, Wyoming Stories, by E. Annie Proulx. This collection of short stories is brutal and intense, with characters that are a product of the harshness of a Wyoming winter--a long Wyoming winter. Proulx (pronounced "Proo") uses elegant language to describe the forlorn landscape and haunting lives, where few find happiness. Here's a few choice examples

"The house trailer I rented was old. It was more of a camper you'd tow behind a car, so small you couldn't cuss the cat without getting fur in your mouth." (A Lonely Coast, p. 189)

". . . until you pull off the road to close your eyes or look up at sky punched with bullet holes." (A Lonely Coast, p. 189)

"There were times when I thought the Buckle [a bar] was the best place in the world, but it could shift on you and then the whole dump seemed a mess of twist-face losers, the women with eyebrows like crowbars, the men covered with bristly red hair, knuckles the size of new potatoes, showing the gene pool was small and the rivulets that once fed it had dried up." (A Lonely Coast, p. 200)

Yet the stories don't just apply to Wyoming, but show us what can happen to people in an isolated society where civilized rules of behavior--morals--are replaced by the anarchy of too few social interactions, too few group support networks. It's every ranch, every family, every soul for himself or herself. Indeed in the story "Pair a Spurs" we learn that the state's unwritten motto is "take care a your own damn self" (p. 151).

The final story in the collection is "Brokeback Mountain", a heart-wrenching love story, a modern-day tale of star-crossed lovers. But besides not figuring out how to live happily ever after, Jack and Ennis must hide their love. After all, this is Matthew Shepard country. And Matthew Shepard is no award-winning short story, he is real. (Proulx originally published Brokeback Mountain in the New Yorker in 1997, a year before the Shepard murder.) Like Matthew Shepard, Jack meets a brutal death. Tire accident or tire iron? Ennis is convinced it was death by tire iron murder: "So now he knew it had been the tire iron." (p. 282) In the end, Ennis accepts Jack's death, remembering their love as best he can. "There was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you can't fix it you've got to stand it." (p. 285)

Consider some other stories in this collection:
  • The heartless castration of poor Ras in "People in Hell Just Want a Drink of Water". The story ends with "We are in a new millennium and such desperate things no longer happen. If you believe that you'll believe anything." (p. 117)
  • The shooting melee in "A Lonely Coast". What was accident, what was dark impulse? "Friend, it's easier than you think to yield up to the dark impulse." (p. 207)
Lest you think Wyoming is its own isolated evil, we are reminded in a recent LA Times article entitled "Right, wrong? In a group, it's harder to tell" by Shari Roan (July 17, 2006). The article's premise is that, depending on the social dynamics (or lack thereof), people have a hard time acting morally. One of her key examples, which we discussed in Book Club, occurred in Iraq, where five American soldiers are accused of raping and killing a teenage Iraqi girl and also killing three members of her family. There is no definition of liberation I can think of that comes close to describing these actions. Where was the moral compass for these young men? What sort of social network are we building over there that even allows these brutal actions? Yeah, I know, it's a war!

Here's another example. A two-part series in the LA Times "The Enclave: Blind Eye to Culture of Abuse", May 12, 2006, Part I and "The Enclave: Where Few Dare to Disobey", May 13, 2006 Part II by David Kelly and Gary Cohn, details the polygamous culture of Colorado City, Arizona. While polygamy itself is not inherently evil, the culture, yes, the people, in this community abuse children, abandon boys, encourage and indeed, force, very young girls to marry, and offer little relief to any who would protest. Individuals who want to act morally by protecting the children must buck the system and risk complete ostracism.

So Proulx's stories might take place in Wyoming, but they reflect a hidden darkness that humans share. Lest you despair that we're all doomed to be evil, look to your own village and look to your own God for love and support and moral guidance.
Next Entry: Have You Scene It?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Most Important Rule of Book Club

Books we have read
I belong to a Book Club and we meet the second Saturday of the month. The club membership has evolved over the years. Although it began in 1998, I've only been a member since 2003. We have two married couples, various unattached singles, and a couple that has been dating since meeting each other in book club. I am married, but am in book club solo. I have brought in one of my long-time friends who also participates without her significant other. We all like the fact that our club is co-ed, since it helps cultivate the book selection variety.

As far as I have been able to figure out, there are several rules of book club.
  1. You have to have already read the book before selecting it. We don't want anyone to judge the book by its cover.
  2. Don't select a book that's on the best seller list. Best sellers are easy to pick up and read on your own. Part of the joy of book club is your exposure to books you might not otherwise read.
  3. The book should be readily available, preferably in paperback, or at least available from the local library.

In my experience with book club, all of the above rules have been broken at one time or another. And that is the first rule of book club: that although there are rules, they sometimes get broken!

However, there is another rule, a rule that apparently is so in-grained with our group that it has never been articulated: an unspoken, yet firmly adhered-to rule.

Thou shalt not peak into any participant's book bag, since it may contain the next month's selection.
The selection is unveiled with a dramatic buildup at the end of our meeting. Early exposure of a book selection can rob the selector of his or her highly anticipated offering, a selection that has been incubating in the Book Club Possibility Bin for perhaps many months.

Well, unspoken rules like this one exist solely in our common psyche until a newcomer, who hasn't quite assimilated into the group, breaks the rule. The raucous! The affront! And yes, my poor, unsuspecting book club guest, who bravely attended on her own since I was sick at the last moment, innocently peaked into Chad's curious-looking brown paper bag. Taken by surprise, Chad quickly reacted to the faux pas, grabbing the bag away from her before any damage was done. Relief! My startled invitee could only ask "What? What did I do?" And thus, the Most Important Rule of Book Club was finally, clearly, and unambiguously verbalized for all.
Next Entry: Yielding Up to the Dark Impulse