Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Why software is so bad these days

I believe the problems leading to poor software is not in the C++ or Perl or Java, but in the "English", the language the original problem was specified in.

I just read this post on another blog, "coding horrors".
The question is Let's say, hypothetically speaking, you met someone who told you they had two children, and one of them is a girl. What are the odds that person has a boy and a girl?
Now in a conversation we would make the intuitive leap that the other is a boy, but it may be a man or woman. Looking at the parent would probably fill in the blanks.

There are some 500+ replies to that post. Most debating 50% or 66.6% as the correct answer, pulling in permutations and probabilities. All nice and mathematical. A few pedants in the crowd start being smart about XY XX chromosome and shared father stats'. If they want to get into that, it's going beyond the information we have. 50% chance for a child being a boy is an accepted fact, it may be more like 55% for a girl. Is this a global given value?

Since it's on a programming forum I'd like to think it's pointing out how people miss hear/interpret information. Everyone thinks it's a rephrasing of a standard problem, and are solving that.

You know what they say about assume, it makes an Ass out of U and Me.

Happy New Year all...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

What to do with my Christmas money?

So between my parents and my in-laws I now have a bit of extra spending money. Thanks guys.

Anyway, the question is, what to do with it? I really want to get a camera lens, but which one?

The options include
  • zoom lens - 55-200ish for my DSLR.
  • perspective correction lens
  • 3-D lens
  • pinhole lens.
Now what can these do for me?

Well, until I switched to Nikon I had a telephoto zoom lens, it was a 75-200 for my regular SLR. It was what I used for more than half my photo's, picking out detail in architecture, getting closer to wildlife etc. I really don't think I can go much longer without adding one of these to my camera kit. I can just do a digital zoom when I offload the picture to the PC, that does for on-line displaying of photos, but a proper zoom would be an asset.

A perspective correction lens will reduce or eliminate converging verticals on photos of buildings. I take a lot of photos of buildings, so this should be an asset. I've never had one before, and I don't know if I have the patience to use one. You can also use perspective correction software after the fact too.

3-D lens. This is actually a pair of lenses that give a stereoscopic view of the world. When the photos are done, those of us with the right sort of vision can see some depth in these photos. It sounds like a fun deal. There again, my wife and a few other people I know cannot look at 3-D images without getting put off balance, and feeling queasy. Where is the fun in taking photos you cannot share?

Pinhole cameras are an interesting breed. They are meant to offer excellent depth of field, but due to the ridiculously small aperture they require careful use, and cannot really capture action scenes. I still think it would be fun to try one. Of course you can make your own pinhole. They never end up perfectly round, and the rough edge gives each pinhole camera a unique feel. I somehow think a laser cut pin hole takes some of the charm away from the image, but it will give a clearer image I believe.

These are just the camera related options. Other options include a new rocking chair (glider), or something towards the computer, or a new car stereo - the old one is having trouble ejecting discs now, and having a Bluetooth capable stereo for hands free cell usage sounds like a good idea.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Firstly, this old hanger is now the "Bladium" arena, the lighting is a combination of the overhead lights and the red score boards.

This next one is the old Pan Am Clipper hanger, the sun was setting behind the hanger, and there light, after being diffused through rear and front doors had a lovely golden color.

The third is the reflection of the windows on the side of the clipper building shining on the adjacent building, which is now the Alameda Naval Airstation museum offices.

This final picture was taken between door panels of the clipper hanger.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The First Place on Earth

Those of you who are really into space stuff, especially the Apollo missions, will know the name USS Hornet. The Hornet is the aircraft carrier which recovered Aldrin, Armstrong and Collins after the first moon landing.

This fine old ship has been saved from scrap, and is now a museum, right there in Alameda at Alameda Point.

Alameda Point used to be Alameda Naval Air Station, as featured in Star Trek - The Voyage Home; of course, Checkov spent all his time on a nuclear carrier, and never really got to walk around outside.

Anyway, these are some photos of the Hornet I took while practicing with my D80 last night. Enjoy...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pelicans (again)

Last time I posted about pelicans, it was to say how I find them an impressive bird in the air. I waffled on about them for a bit, but had no pictures.

This time I have pictures, but no words.

I was happily taking some photos around San Leandro Marina, when there was a loud splash right behind me, and only 30ft away. It was this cheeky chap. He drifted down the waters edge and enjoyed a fish breakfast before loping away.

I am still playing with my new camera, getting used to it. I'd been practicing with auto bracketing at home at night and had turned the camera on to ISO1600 emulation. I'd forgotten about this, and so shot these photos are at the same film type; consequently they are quite grainy. Shame as the pelican was close enough I should have got some good detail. Maybe some other day I'll get chance for a do over.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Quantum of Solace

So what can I say about the new Bond film? I think it's a good advert for Ford.

The opening scene is a chase between Bond's Aston Martin and two Alfa Romeos. The chase is joined briefly by a Land Rover. Of course the skip truck was a Mercedes, but not everything is a Ford.

Once in Bolivia Bond is met by the leading lady driving a Ford Ka, something not seen in the US, but known elsewhere. This car makes the Fiesta look spacious. I was expecting plenty of action in this little car, but sadly no.

We meet the bad guy, and he tootles around in a caravan of Ford Edge SUVs. These are badged as Hydrogen powered, but I'm not sure if that is true. Ford seem to be working on a H2 PHEV Edge, so this could be subliminal advertising.

Various other scenes Bond is driving around in a Range Rover. Probably during filming Ford still held a stake in Land Rover (sold to Tata Motors in March 2008).

Another Ford shows up when Bond steals an old red SUV, yup a Ford Bronco.

So a Ford full movie, where the US government is painted as hopping into bed with the bad guys and stealing oil left and right. The US are briefly tarred with the same brush, but in a "everyone else is doing it, for national survival..." type of way.

Oh, and the only named airline again was Virgin, but no appearance from Branson this time.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


From My Amoeba Sized Bit of the Web

DW looked at this pic and said "Fish".

hint:- rough, women, motion.


By lavender I am referring to the background behind the dandelion. I don't know which came first, seeing this dandelion or getting the urge to rewatch "Cosmos" today.

Mid afternoon I walked into the kitchen, and was inspired to get a few more photos. I just liked the light through the mini-blinds as they struck the dishwasher.

Of course I then got restless and had to take the camera for a walk. It was about 3:30 when I got out, great clear sky and low autumn sun. Some great textures.

There were some great shadows too.

And some great red leaves too. Strange, they were green when reflecting light, but when the sun shone through it was red.

I think I'll try to touch up a few colours in Photoshop later.

"Aerial" by Kate Bush

No, this post isn't by Kate, but the album is.

It's been a long time since "The Red Shoes", and I gave up looking at the Kate Bush section in the CD store (yes I do still go into such places). As a consequence of this, and my choice to not listen to commercial radio, I missed Kates latest album (in 2005) completely until an on-line friend blogged about it.

Aerial is a double album, split in two parts "Sea of Honey" and "Sky of Honey". They are two separate, but linked works (to my ear). Unlike "The Hounds Of Love" and "The Ninth Wave" where I prefer one over the other, I cannot pick (nor should I have to) a preferred disk.

There are some good ideas on the album, I like PI musically, but I think having to listen to her sing the number each time will lose it's newness. Having said that I do still catch myself singing songs like "Numbers" by Kraftwerk.

I like the last couple of tracks on disk two. They have a nice flowing rhythm.

After reaching the age of 40 I finally get some Rolf Harris in my music collection, something that would more normally happen to a 7 year old. Rolf Harris is a professional Australian working in the British entertainment industry. He is famed as a cartoonist/artist, providing "the other side" an alternative to the BBC's Tony Hart in shows encouraging and tutoring kids in artistic methods. Rolf is also famed for being a folk musician, bringing the Wibble Board and Didgeridoo to Britain. Hmm, I wonder if he was the didgeridoo player on Kate's earlier album "The Dreaming"? The title track there also featured this distinctive instrument.

One of the most striking things about Aerial is that is has reasonable artwork on the CD cover. Remember when you had those gate and triple fold album sleeves pinned up on your bedroom wall, or the poster from inside the sleeve? Those days are gone, as are the multimedia CD's with a little quicktime presentation. Anyway, this card sleeved album is triple fold, with a 22 page book, with plenty of art in it. Including a good photo of Kate and some interesting bird images.

Okay, for the music overall. I kinda feel like I did when I got "Scarlet's Walk" by Tori Amos. Kate's voice has changed over the years, part of it is the style she chooses to sing in on several of the tracks. There are some definite signature sounds, and one track which strikes me as a cross between Pat Benitar and The Pretenders. No, I don't regret getting the album, it is for the most part very listenable. Sure there are a few "experimental" pieces. I'm not I can listen to "Mrs. Bartelozzi" many more times, and I have my doubts about Pi, though it has a great tune.

Die hard fans will already have this.

Didgeroos also appeared on "The Hounds of Love" in the tracks "The Big Sky" and "The Jig of Life", played by Paddy Bush, her brother.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Dublin BART

I was just discussing THX 1138 on another forum, and realized I still haven't posted a blog about the "end of the line". Bit of a leap? BART actually featured in THX-1138 before it was open to the public, so it's not a huge leap.

Dublin BART station is a long way short of Victoria or Grand Central, heck I don't think it can even compare favourably to Manchester Oxford Road. However there are a lot of fun things in its architecture.
From Dublin B.A.R.T.

The basic design philosophy was to squeeze it in between the East and West bound carriageways of 580 as it punches it way out to the Central Valley. However, the surrounding approaches and covered walkways to the station are very self referential to pre-existing BART infrastructure, the walkway on the North side of the station is very reminiscent of the elevated track around San Leandro, but more particularly in Oakland alongside Martin Luther King Jr Way by Childrens Hospital.
From Dublin B.A.R.T.

The same sweeping curve is seen in the Southern approach as well.

To the North is a new parking structure, another two matching garages are astride the freeway in Dublin, one behind Stoneridge, the other by the new offramp from 680, these will service the new Dublin station which opens early next year.
From Dublin B.A.R.T.

There is something about these garages, in their mix of open and mesh covered "windows" and the sand and white construction that rends them not displeasing, though the Dublin garage does rise above the flats of the valley floor.

In the above image you can see the sort of cheeky fun they had designing the street furniture, note the downspout from the shelter looks like it is feeding into a dog legged torchier lamp.
From Dublin B.A.R.T.

I thought glass bricks were passe, but here they are incorporated into the arch. Behind, and framed by the arch, you can see the shiny metal roof, undulating over the platforms, the car is in lane 5 of Westbound 580.
From Dublin B.A.R.T.

So there we have it, until the system is extended out to Vasco, this remains the end of the line. Recent activity in the center divide of 580 suggested possible work on the hoped for track, but it is simply the addition of a much needed car pool lane. Who needs an electric train when we all have cars to burn gas...
From Dublin B.A.R.T.

Apache Wedding Blessing

Now you will feel no rain
For each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now each of you will feel no cold
For each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no loneliness for you
For each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two persons
But there is one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place to enter into the days of your togetherness
And may your days be good and long upon the earth.

This is one that we had for our wedding. I like it, and I'm glad that it's pretty true for us. She is my best friend, and I'm glad to have her with me all these years.

The Wonders of I-5

There's a road that I've traveled about half of. It runs from Canada to Mexico through Los Angeles, Sacramento, Redding and a bunch of places I have not been to yet.

The bits of I-5 I have driven are from Sacramento heading North to the volcanic Mt. Shasta, and from Stockton, South to San Diego.

There is a lot of driving to do when getting from A to B on that road, my last trip was some 300, on the way to LA.

Despite a chunk of hot straight dry boring road across the San Joaquin Valley, there are a few interesting points. The most dramatic is the meandering path called The Grapevine, through the Tejon Pass mountain pass that crosses the youthful mountains. Near the top of the pass there is an area which is under perpetual repair, this is where the highway crosses the San Andreas Fault. The fault is continuously slipping, and so the road needs periodic repairs.

I've driven the road quite a few times, but this last trip was most interesting as my travel partner was from L.A. and had local knowledge, and could point out local landmarks, and tell me a little of how things have been changing over the last 30-40 years.

When all's said and done, I-5 is cheaper than flying, and you don't have to rent a car when you get there, but it does put a 7 hour dent into the first and last day of the journey, and I've never gotten home before midnight after being down South.

Will try to find some pictures later.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My local freeway

The above image was taken by the local news paper ( Dean Coppola/Contra Costa Times). It looks bad, there's a coastguard clipper, and a huge smokey fire. What is going on? Well, this is a view of the 880 freeway in Oakland CA, taken from Alameda. The view is across Coastguard Island.

The fire is the result of a fuel tanker overturn accident on the freeway. They closed all 4 southbound lanes, and the road that runs parallel, Embarcadero, this would force all freeway traffic onto city streets around the area. Also Northbound was closed, but has since re-opened.
It took an hour to fight the blaze, and yes, that is an airport crash tender on the freeway, borrowed from Oakland International Airport, which is about 5 miles South.

Some footage here.

Last fire on 880 was about 3 months ago, that was a garbage truck, and it closed the lanes for emergency repairs which lasted about 12 hours.

The fire before that was a couple of years ago, and it demolished an overpass.

See that story in the NY Times.

This is one of the roads I use most often. Pretty bad eh.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Think I'll code in Pascal...

I am working in a very hardware centric environment, and every time I come to talk to physical devices, they are all "ones based". For example, there are three LED's, LED_1, LED_2, LED_3. I want to handle them in a table in software, they become LED[0], LED[1] and LED[2]. But that is only because I'm using C. If I were using Pascal I would be calling them LED[1], LED[2] and LED[3].

But no, I'm using C.

Of course, I could make the arrays one entry larger than I need, and ignore LED[0]. Quite right, unless I was in reduced memory space (I've got 2k RAM on one of these systems, and things are getting tight).

Then when it comes to processor pins, they are zero based numbers, and for bit masks I need to be zero based. Oh, why do hardware designers have to start with one being first instead of zero.

Plugging Serenity, an Amazon Test

I'm going to plug "Firefly" again, just for the heck of it, and to see if Amazon Associate Links work...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My camera isn't idle.

It's actually earning its keep. For example documenting a board mod. For size reference, the silver square is a USB port.

Still, I wish I had some more exciting pictures to share.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Evening Leaves

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New(ish) Pierce

Just saw this today, and absolutely fell in love. This is a newer fire engine for Alameda County, this one stationed in Castro Valley. It has a very different look from the truck that used to be here, which was a very 80's looking long nose International.

I like the short puggy nose on this one, and the added Old Glory radiator grille.

Of course the early evening light conspired to add to the overall appeal of the scene.

More Photos in my Picasa album
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Gaudi from Google

Now I'm impressed. So we are all used to seeing Google Maps, and being able to use satellite, street view, traffic, ride finder and all the other good bits of that service. We are also just getting used to Picasa being able to recognize people in your albums as "the same person". Now I've just found a wonderful new Google service, "Google Audio Indexing".

It seems they are running speech recognition on YouTube videos, and then you can search for key-words and phrase. Now it's not perfect, I searched for "Sacramento", and I saw that someone said "from Sacramento", and the text read "in Sacramento", but still, this is a powerful tool. Where will Google end?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

So what did we learn today children?

1) Copper is malleable. This means that it will bend and deform under the right pressure/torque.

2) Read the instructions twice, then have someone read them to you, this way less mistakes are made.

3) Keep your garage/workshop tidy so you know where your tools are.

4) Water is very wet, and T-Shirts absorb water.

5) Light is as important in plumbing as in photography.

Now all said and done, it is nice having an under the sink water filter and non drippy faucet which is tall enough to get our big pan under while there are dirty dishes in the sink.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ever Changing

Think back to the 1970's.

What if someone told you that everyone would carry a telephone in their pocket?

What about the idea of putting a little CO2 canister in a beer bottle?

How about TV's being on in restaurants at lunch time?

What about being told there will be no payphones in public?

Smoking would not be allowed in pubs.

Imagine being told light bulb technology would change from filament bulbs and fluorescent tubes to something new.

There are more recent changes that I didn't really notice. Today in the airport I passed a bar which has 5 CRT TV's. That's right, those big old tellies they used to use a few years ago. I guess flat panel screens are so prevalent that these actually looked clunky and out of place.

There is a new shopping mall in Anaheim opposite the theme parks, they have fancy LED lighting all over the place. You could blend RGB with incandescents, but nobody did. Yet now the color scheme of the mall changed noticeably every 30 seconds.

We are so used to change that we are almost immune to it. My parents were in the generation which saw teabags become adopted widely, I saw the introduction of round teabags, tetrahedral teabags and teabags which have drawstrings to squeeze the flavour out. What's next? Everyday something new. Everyday some old favourite obsoleted. How many types of Ritz Cracker can there usefully be?

This must all have something to do with my impending birthday.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Anime Women and Reality

So what was that comment about real women, porn women and cartoon women?
I think I’ve got a pretty sensible head on my shoulders. The anime chicks I like are not the big busty ones, though I do have a certain fondness for Kim Possible, and the E-Surance girl.

I think it nice when the toon girls have almost human proportions, but the expressive eyes are helpful to the image. Of course I have a preference for lean and toned anime girls. I’ve not settled on a preference for hair length or colour. I think I again prefer them to be more on the natural shades, rather than the bright pink or powder blue. I don’t fantasize about possibly being with cartoon women, they just sometimes are pleasant to look at.

I’m pretty much the same way with “real” women, actresses on TV or on the silver screen. You won’t find any Pamela Anderson in my collection, or running around in my fantasy world. I don’t have TV drools as such, but if I get a chance I’d watch Kaylee in Firefly, or Gabby in Xena. I want to see Battlestar Gallactica, but mostly for Grace Park in the role of Boomer. Sure, all three of these are pretty, but they also have interesting personalities. I guess for the most part they are personalities that wouldn’t intimidate me.
Of course these girls also have a strength to them; either in a warm sharing way, or a bit of an ass kicking way. Maybe I want a girl to protect me.
In the anime I watch and manga I read, it’s interesting characters like Mimiru from .hack//sign, and Nausicaa from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, or Triela from Gunslinger Girls, or Lain from Serial Experiments that I latch onto.
Triela is a 13 year old who was fatally wounded, and made into a cyborg by the government. She still carries an interesting personality with her, is immaculately dressed, and is one character in a show which carries a weighty social commentary. The title is where the cheesiness ends.
Mimiru is such a fun person, and a little reminiscent of a college friend of mine. She is a little goofy, sometimes her youth shows through in some childish behaviour. She looks like an Amazon because that is the character she chose to play in “The World”, the on-line game which the show is set in. Despite being a heavy sword, she has a big heart.
I do also like just looking at good looking women. I also like looking at good looking fire engines too. But again, it’s the good looking I’m looking for, not the big boobs stereotypical porn star. This cowgirl is about as busty as I take them.

So Lego girls in leathers and anime chicks are quite prevalent, nothing but a hint geeky. Of course if I had thousands of them and preferred them to “the real thing” then I’d be worried. I do actually like the real thing too though. Again, nothing over the top; not trolling for porn. If I wanted a biology lesson, we have Grays Anatomy on the shelf.
Sometimes it’s nice to just gaze upon soft curves and gentle lines, as in this picture taken from “The Pillow Book”, a film by Peter Greenaway. Or maybe the following image from the Domai website, a site which is dedicated to simple nudes. This one is uncharacteristically close to “fine art”; they normally are casual, relaxed pose nudes.
Of course, admiration, or objectification of women is not the only way of seeing soft curves, or pleasing tones, as illustrated with this picture on an early 60’s American La France, above, or this black and white photo of a DC3,
or even in this low resolution image of a Morgan.
I guess all I can do is leave you with this montage of Kaylee that I found on-line. Or add some more pages.
This rambling post was originally a letter to my friend.