November 2005

November 15, 2005

The Exploratorium

Put Your Nose Here

We celebrated Nani’s 19th birthday on Saturday with a trip to the Exploratorium.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been there and I’m always amazed how little it changes between visits and how fun every visit is. Of course, nowadays part of the fun is watching the kids run around and interact with everything. The Exploratorium distinguishes itself, I think, because visitors can interact with everything. And you’re usually not forced to consider the scientific principles in order to enjoy each exhibit. Rather, because you’re enjoying the exhibit, you want to understand it.

The photo is of an installation which demonstrates how you’re more likely to notice moving objects in your peripheral vision than stationary objects. You manipulate a doo-whacky* at the end of a metal bar to the point at which you’re unable to see it, then press a button to make it spin. At which point it becomes clearly visible. Of course, that’s understandable without going through the exercise, but who can resist following such an enticing instruction? :)

If you’ve been thinking about going, do so. If you can’t make it, check out this list of online exhibits.

* Here’s a short list of words Mac OS X suggested as correct spellings for “doo-whacky”: do-whacky, boo-whacky, coo-whacky, goo-whacky, moo-whacky, too-whacky, woo-whacky, zoo-whacky, and (of course) do-o-whacky.

November 14, 2005

BayCHI with Cooper+Greenspun

As I was digging through the services that had been built on Yahoo’s new Maps API a couple weeks ago, I stumbled upon the program for the November BayCHI meeting. With both Alan Cooper and Philip Greenspun speaking I figured, “If you only attend one BayCHI event this year…” So I asked Rob if he’d like to go and about a week later we found ourselves back at the PARC.

Cooper’s talk was titled “Ending the Death March”. (Apparently, “death march” can refer to a doomed software project.) Other software development gurus have written about how to survive such situations and Cooper’s goal was to reframe the problem by looking at ways to end them. (And thereby presumably, although this wasn’t explicitly stated, to avoid them.) He discussed organizational and workflow structures which would help projects avoid scope creep and unrealistic deadlines. Some of his ideas were very agreeable (such as breaking down the “silo” effect of handing off projects from design to engineering without much communication between the teams), some highly suspect (such as centering all teams around one universal document which describes all aspects of the project). The big downside to his talk was the presentation which went way over the allotted time and was often of the “droning PowerPoint snoozefest” persuasion.

Greenspun’s talk was on his “internet appliance” concept (which is really not a personal computer even though it sounds a whole lot like a one considering it has an operating system and a motherboard and an optical drive and monitor and a keyboard… etc.) I think his point is that most people don’t want to have all the freedoms you currently get with computers, they just want the key services without all the mucking about de-fragmenting their hard drives and running Norton Anti-Virus. I can sympathize with that, but my solution is to buy Macs, not limit what I can do with my computer. :)

Greenspun’s been writing a lot of great stuff since his talk:

November 9, 2005

The Fuzzball and the Missing Pre-Molars

It looks like a cat exploded in our apartment.

A few weeks back the vet said one of the cat’s teeth had to go. We immediately confiscated her PSP and told her that if she wanted it back she would simply have to teach herself how to floss. She (as usual) played the “no opposable thumbs” card, rolled on to her side and started pulling herself along the carpet sideways (which is what she does when she’s trying to be cute).

Cute or not, she went into her cage last Saturday and was whisked off to the vet to be shaved, drugged, and relieved of her rotten tooth. Or so we thought. Upon return, she was missing not one, but both of her upper pre-molars (aren’t they supposed to clear additional extractions with you in advance?) and was wearing a rather dazed and dopey expression.

Along with the stoned, somewhat-more-toothless cat we got two forms of medicine and a series of instructions for how to administer it. In a nutshell, it’s a matter of squirting liquid into the cat’s mouth at just the right moment to make her involuntarily swallow most of it before drooling it out onto the linoleum. Only a precise hit will set off a chain reaction.

(Still with us? I’m impressed … and concerned. There are some really excellent weblogs which have nothing to do with feline dentistry or post-extraction pet care and yet you want to see this story through to the end? I will do my best to bring us around to the cat-explosion summary quickly.)

So I give her the pain medicine and the antibacterial stuff twice a day, shortly after her food. This requires me to crawl under the dinner table (her top-secret lair), act as though I’m only there to say hello, scoop her up and carry her to the kitchen, give her the medicine and then set her free so she can go feel sorry for herself.

For a little while in the evenings all is forgiven. She’ll come by for a pat and show me how far she’s gotten in SOCOM (at which point I usually grumble that if she can command a team of SEALs, she can floss her remaining handful of teeth). But each day the cycle of medicine giving repeats, and each day she’s getting a little more uncomfortable.

Her discomfort is manifesting itself in the form of significant fur loss. The first sign was abnormal amounts of fur on the carpet, then there was the appearance on the back of her neck a small area with no fur at all, and then tonight as she scratched her head you could actually see the fur flying off into the air.

It may be that she’s allergic to the pain medication and if that’s so then we’re in good shape because we’re out of it and she probably isn’t hurting anymore anyway. It may be that she’s stressed out by the trip to the vet and the tooth pulling and all the medicine giving and if that’s so then it will fade in time.

Hopefully, it’s not that delightful third category where you have no idea what’s going on so you have to bring the cat back to the vet and wind up being sent home with cream for her skin and rubber gloves. (Shudder.) We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed that we don’t have to go down that road. Keeping up with her demand for fresh Memory Sticks is expensive enough. :)

The end.

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