Sunday, April 02, 2006

Ahh, movie weekends.

Scrat - Ice Age 2I went with a friend to watch Ice Age 2 yesterday afternoon. I had, I must admit, somewhat low expectations of this one just because the first one was well-done enough to be hard-to-follow. But regardless of what Roger Ebert says, I enjoyed it. Sure, it's not as original as the first one (it is a sequel to an animated feature after all), but it had me laughing out loud at times, so in my book that means success. It has the standard fare of little kids' stuff plus some funny, subtle adult stuff (right from the beginning). The scenes featuring Scrat, the little sabre-toothed squirrel, are terrific and the story itself is not too bad. As Ebert points out, none of the characters ever seem to eat, and how the meat eaters could possibly survive if everyone in the animal kingdom (with the exception of the fish) just gets along so swimmingly (pun intended) is a mystery. But hey, again it's an animated movie, and I can live with it. I own the first film on DVD, and I'll be buying this one, too when it comes out. If for no other reason, just because there's bound to be more Scrat scenes in the extras.

Simpsons Homer BartBefore the feature film started, though, along came a surprise trailer (or "preview" for those of you who prefer that term) for "The Simpsons Movie, coming to the screen, July 27, 2007." Woah, cool. I had to do a second take - 2007? Okay, okay I can wait - but like Homer says, "Oh oh, we better get started!" Supposedly (according to The Hollywood Reporter, anyhow) the trailer will also air tonight prior to the Sunday evening Simpsons episode on FOX (which means it will be posted all over the Internet by the time the first commercial break is over). I just hope the hype doesn't create expectations that can't possibly be met. Note that "simpsonsmovie.com" is registered to 20th Century Fox but there's no web site attached to that address as of this writing. And by the way, on a related note, if you have not seen the "real-people" version of the Simpsons TV show intro you can go here - and you can compare the cartoon version and the live version side by side here. Rumor has it, too, that the live-action version will appear on the Simpsons TV show tonight. Either that or this is all one big April Fools joke. Hope not.

King KongFinally, on Friday I bought a copy of King Kong on DVD and took it home, where we loaded it up and gave it a run at blowing out  the speakers in my home theater. The speakers survived that attack, but it sure is amazing what incredible sound and special visual effects we get from movie makers these days - and in our own homes too boot. I remember when Dolby ProLogic surround was way cool - and now it sounds like oatmeal. It makes me wonder what's next. And DVDs sure are coming out more and more quickly these days. Didn't we just watch King Kong in theaters? Anyhow, it's worth the purchase if you liked the movie or if you want something to stress test that audio system with heavy bass and loud growls with lots of dynamic range.



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Sunday, April 02, 2006 9:47:27 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Manager 2.0 chartOver on the Creating Passionate Users blog, Kathy writes about "Manager 2.0," which many would say is the desired role and style of effective managers in technology companies today. It's a good read. Once you get past the fact that anything with "2.0" attached to it is cliche hyped, click over and read a bit.

I have to agree that community is something that should be a part of every team in the tech world. It's not always easy to do. Professional managers are those who work not only for the company, but for the team as well. Not in a counter-productive, dysfunctional be their best friend kind of way. Rather, the idea is to empower the team to drive the ship, determine the routes to the destinations, and maybe even when the ship should arrive.

This, of course, flies in the face of traditional management (which is more dictatorial and doesn't always respect the ideas and input of the team members). So, it's not something everyone is comfortable with implementing. rely on others to do their part in my success? Give up control??? Huh?!?!?!?

It takes the strongest kind of manager to allow others so much control and influence, and to still effectively be the boss and manage. When it comes right down to it, the real value in management is in it's ability and willingness to stay out of the way and to enable and empower the people that create and do amazing stuff to - well - create and do their most amazing stuff. Let good, smart people be good, smart people. Quite a concept.

From Kathy's post, over to the right is a table comparing management styles. Which style would you rather work under? Which manager are you most comfortable being? Be honest... I can see a couple things here that I could improve on, but I'm glad to see that at least some of this I already buy into and try to execute on a daily basis. And if this is even remotely interesting to you, be sure to go read more at Creating Passionate Users (which is a great blog, by the way).

And her April 1 blog entry about a new book, "The Emo Programmer Book," is great.



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Sunday, April 02, 2006 8:20:01 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Last week I was in Dallas, Texas for a conference. Typical of my way of doing things, I landed at the DFW airport and headed for the hotel and realized that somewhere in the back of my mind there was a lingering thought that was hinting that Dallas, Texas might have some importance, like maybe there was something (in addition to the conference) I needed to do since I was there. You know what I mean: One of those "seems to me there's something important I am supposed to do if I ever travel here, but I can't think of what it is..." kind of things.

Eventually it popped into my mind: My mom had told me that my Aunt Marsha and Uncle Mike had moved to Texas a couple years ago. Maybe it was Dallas? My memory was not helping me much. I called them up, and sure enough they're living in Richardson, which is northeast of the big city. So, I got to spend a couple fun evenings at their home catching up, eating dinner and meeting their dogs. It was a good time.

During one of my visits, my aunt brought out some old family photos and things that she thought I might be interested in seeing. It was fun and interesting to run through the old photos, but there was also one piece of paper in the stack of things that especially caught my eye. It looked to be a family tree reaching back many generations, showing a history of the family dating back several hundred years. Wow! I've always wondered if something like this existed, and have never really known where to look. Score!

What I found our really caught my interest - Thirteen generations back, on September 6, 1628, my ancestors arrived at "Naumking" on the Massachusetts Bay (which they would eventually rename to "Salem") with John Endicott, who would become the first governor of the Massachusetts colony. They were the first group of Puritan colonists in Salem, and had left from Weymouth, England June 20 of the same year.

Encouraged by one sheet of paper, a few names and some rough dates, I have once again personally discovered the truly awesome power of searching with Google.

My Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather was named Charles Gott. Charles and his first wife, Gift and their two young daughters sailed from Weymouth, England, on June 20, 1628, aboard the ship Abigail with Captain Endicott. They landed in Salem, Massachusetts, on September 6, 1628 and the sea voyage must have been harrowing ("the sea roared and the waves tossed us horridly ... it was fearful dark and the mariners made us afraid with their running here and there, and there was loud crying one to another to pull this or that rope."). The passengers of the Abigail were Salem's first settlers, and in 1635 Charles was made a deacon of the first Puritan church established in America. Gift apparently died in about 1636, and Charles then married Sarah Mansfield, with whom he had three children. One of those children was named Charles as well, and the line runs from there.

I've located on the web - again thanks to Google - several people who have traced the genealogy of their families back to the Gotts, and who's lines intersect mine. Distant relatives. I'll have to start sending some email to those people and say hi. I'll also have to finish this research and post it here so people can do the same with me.

On a loosely-related note (no pun intended), I read recently where Buzz Bruggeman sent a DNA sample off to Family Tree DNA, and the service found some relatives of his in their matching process. I ordered a kit and yesterday I completed my ritual cheek-scraping and will be sending the samples back to the DNA lab on Monday. The test focuses on the paternal side, so I wonder what I will find out about my dad's side of the family? My wild guess is Ireland, but hey who knows? I'm excited to possibly find out.



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Sunday, April 02, 2006 12:29:59 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, April 01, 2006

The other day one of my coworkers, Brent, asked me if I've given up blogging.

No, Mr. Sarcasm - I have not. But with the recent wholesale replacement of part of my spine, plus travel, work, a variety of stressors, the need to rest and a ton of other things, I have not been writing much here lately.

I have a lot to write about, though - eventually. I just need to get better caught up with life. Heck, we're losing an hour of sleep tonight. That doesn't help any!

So don't worry. I'm not dead yet.



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Saturday, April 01, 2006 10:00:22 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, March 30, 2006

Google's got some beta UI changes kicking around in the background, and you can check them out yourself if you like. Here's how:

1. Go to http://www.google.com

2. Copy and enter this line into your address bar:

javascript:document.cookie="PREF=ID=fb7740f107311e46:TM=1142683332:LM=1142683332:S=fNSw6ljXTzvL3dWu;path=/;domain=.google.com"

3. Do a Google search and see the difference

Of course, if and when Google implements thes new UI changes, this tweak becomes useless. But for now it's fun.

Thanks, Trevin.



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Wednesday, March 29, 2006 11:21:20 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, March 23, 2006

If you ever end up at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, be sure to rent a car. Especially if you fly into Terminal B (which is pretty much every flight that's not American Airlines (which is the airline that RULES the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex)).

Board the bus that delivers you to the rental car complex, and if you're lucky, it is there that you will meet Stewart.

Stewart is to rental car shuttle bus driving as Texas is to the rest of the United States - one great-big personality. From the second you meet him, it's apparent that Stewart is here to welcome you to the place where Everything Is Bigger™. He doesn't have a think drawl, but you can tell where he's from, if in no other way, by his personality, which is Big and Friendly.

I boarded the bus for my ride from the B terminal to the Avis desk, along with some other people and a whole slew of college-age guys sporting "North Carolina State Ultimate" garb. Who knew Ultimate (a game played with a flying disc and seven men on the field (and often incorrectly called Frisbee™ Football)) was a college sport? Well, it is.

Anyhow, Stewart saw the jerseys, too. After launching into a friendly and boisterous rendition of Helpful Hints for Visitors to DFW (which was very useful, BTW), he started a friendly over-the-loudspeaker conversation with the Ultimate guys and the rest of the passengers. He asked if they thought they'd be champions (and they said yes, of course). "Hey," asked Stewart, "do you want to hear a true story about the man who was perhaps the greatest sharpshooter ever?" Everyone (of course) said yes, and so he started to tell the story, which was approximately seven minutes long (and which, he explained, also happens to the the amount of time it takes to drive from B terminal to the rental car facility). It was clear that Stewart has a knack for telling stories and captivating an audience.

So - about seven minutes later, we got to the rental car terminal and as I stood up to get off the bus, I realized (seriously) that I'd completely forgotten to go to the baggage claim to get my suitcase when I got off my flight. I guess umpteen hours of flying and time zone changes incurred while crossing the Atlantic twice had baked my brain or something. I told Stewart what I'd done and laughed at myself, and he smiled and looked a bit concerned about me having to go back for my bag. Maybe he thought I had to be somewhere or something. No big deal, I told him - I'd just stay on the bus and ride back around and get my bag at the terminal. He looked a bit pained when he had to tell me he wished he could do that, but that I would have to go up to the upper deck and take the out-bound bus from up there. That last time he tried to return someone to the terminal on his bus, he'd gotten into some trouble.

Not a problem, I told him, and thanked him. He told me where to go and I located the upper deck access and then rode the bus back to Terminal B. I retrieved my bag after some searching and speaking with the United baggage office, then went back out to the curb to catch one of the buses back to the Avis desk.

Along came one of the buses, and off came a zillion people. When I climbed on, there was Stewart, smile on his face. We were the only people on the bus. "NOW," he exclaimed, "now you're ready for a rental car!" I laughed and agreed. "You want to hear a story?" he asked. "Yeah, but not the one about the sharpshooter," I said. He laughed and turned to me. "I have a repertoire, you know," he said. "Three stories. They're all about seven minutes long." And then he told me the story of Goldsmith Mare, perhaps the greatest race horse that ever lived. If you want to know the details, you can either Google for it or you can fly to DFW Terminal B and jump on the bus to go to the Avis counter. Maybe you'll be lucky enough (as I was twice in a row) to get Stewart as your driver.

My point is, EVERY airport should have people like Stewart. Hell, I'd fly to Texas and rent a car once a year or so, just to enjoy the seven-minute ride on the bus, along with a good seven-minute story and a smile.

Welcome to Texas. Thanks, Stewart.



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Thursday, March 23, 2006 6:53:19 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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