Tuesday, June 30, 2009

New Firefox with a Personal Twist

Mozilla has released Firefox 3.5 today. It's no secret to anyone who has perused this blog page that I'm a Firefox fan, and I'm pleased to see that 3.5 will be faster and more memory conscious.

As an additional, personal note, Mozilla has added a dashboard page (that will not work with Internet Explorer, because it doesn't support the open standards that enable the live page updates) that lets you see in real time how many Firefox downloads are happening and where they are going.

I mention this because at the bottom of the page is a logo that says "Powered by SQLstream," which is my little startup company. It's our first real public splash like that, and we're quite excited about it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What's in a Nickname?

I was tickled to see this article, pointed out by a friend I worked with in D.C., years ago:
If you want to score a meeting with Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), know this: His scheduler/office manager, Elizabeth Becton, is to be addressed by her full name — not Liz or any other variant.
It goes on to detail a rather lengthy and heated exchange over how this person wishes to be addressed. And while I don't particularly appreciate the heat of some of the messages in the exchange (there is definitely a level at which this particular issue is getting in the way of her doing her job effectively), I can certainly relate to the level of frustration.

Probably the single most irritating thing about working on Capitol Hill for me was the glad-handing and false intimacy that was affected by many, and especially lobbyists. Dealing with lobbyists is part of the game, of course, but that doesn't mean they should be able to just assume they can call you by the nickname of their choice.

I realize that some of this is generational, but when I introduced myself as "Richard," it was irritating in the extreme to have the introducee come back and call me "Dick." Not my nickname: never was, never will be. My friends knew I was "Chard," but professionally, I would use my more formal name, if only to avoid having to explain my nom de vegetable to someone who was only a casual acquaintance.

I suppose part of it is an introvert thing: I don't share personal stuff with just anyone. Letting someone call me by my chosen nickname is a way of controlling my personal space. People who call me Chard (mostly) know me. People who call me Dick definitely do not.

I won't claim this is the only or even the main reason I decided to get out of the political life, but it was certainly a factor. The whole question of who owns my identity is actually important to me, and I didn't like the assumption by others that they could decide who I was.

It makes for an interesting step into a forum such as this blog, where my ramblings are available to virtually anyone. In practice, the only ones reading this are, in fact, my friends and family, and you all know me as Chard. Heaven forbid this should ever become "popular," leading all the unwashed masses to my doorstep, armed with my preferred name.

No danger there, I think.

But it's true that this is a personal blog, a place where it's safe to be Chard. I would have to think really hard about what to do if I were to write serious or professional material here. Luckily for you, I don't step into that very often!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Programmer Humor

Just skip this if you're not a geek. Really.

Cute blog post someone pointed me to a couple of weeks ago, and I'm just now getting to pass it along. It's a humorous time line of programming languages.

I quite liked this bit:

1964 - John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz create BASIC, an unstructured programming language for non-computer scientists.

1965 - Kemeny and Kurtz go to 1964.

Update: I just clicked through to another post the same guy wrote about diving with a whale shark. He's a pretty amusing writer:

But this was one big krill swilling machine. He was big enough that an accidental bump would be like an accidental bump from a large dump truck - a large dump truck with a mouth the size of a Volkswagen.

Still, Brian and I were determined. So we quickly squashed down our near-pathological fear of dump trucks and swam towards the magnificent creature.

My Broken State, Part II

There will be plenty more where this comes from, sad to say.

Good posting on Calitics today by Robert Cruickshank about why raising taxes is preferable to (the inevitable, common wisdom) cutting spending (credit to Atrios, an actual economist, for pointing it out). Short take:
How will budget cuts help promote economic growth?

It's a question that I rarely ever see asked, and one that is never answered, certainly not in a state where the conventional wisdom is that revenue increases are impossible, even though we've never tried to make them happen. Instead the supposed "political reality" of no new taxes is trumping the economic reality that taxes are preferable to spending cuts in a recession. The result is that spending cuts are treated as inevitable even though they are a sure path to Depression.

I'm not saying he's absolutely right or anything, but I'd say it's a clear sign of how broken things are that no one is even raising the question as part of the "debate" on what to do about the broken budget.

Here's a hint for those in the state legislature: You can't win if you don't even play the game. It's unclear that they even know they're supposed to be in one.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Happy World Oceans Day!

Just a quick post because I'm busy, but I wanted to make sure I mentioned World Oceans Day. This year marks the first time World Oceans Day is an officially-recognized, international holiday.

The short history is that Canada proposed World Ocean Day in 1992 at the Earth Summit, and various folks have been celebrating and observing it for a number of years (including local celebrations coordinated by a group I work with, COARE). Just this year the United Nations declared World Oceans Day (including adding the "s" to "Ocean") as a worldwide holiday to celebrate the ocean.

So take a moment today to ponder the ocean that covers nearly 3/4 of the surface of our planet. This is not a political event or an excuse to support a particular cause. The ocean means something different to everyone, but it's also critically important to everyone in the world. So regardless of whether you agree with my particular issues (such as shark conservation, marine protected areas, ocean-bound waste, marine mammal conservation, coral reef protection), this is a great day to think about what the ocean means to you and your life, and think about what you can do for it.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Portrait of an Obscure Vegetable

My friend Rod passed this along. I thought it was relatively hilarious:
In our last episode of “Weird Veggies I Have Known and Learned to Love”, we talked kohlrabi; today it’s that ‘not quite celery – where’s the beet’ thing called Swiss Chard. Chard suffers from a branding problem - how good does it feel saying the word “chard”?
I think my favorite bit is the notion that someone has a series of "Weird Veggies I Have Known," etc. But I'm unclear on what's so unpleasant about that particular name.

And this:
Try it. Then try it again. Learn to like chard. If you have to tell yourself ‘It’s good for me’, then so be it. It IS good for you. Put more colorful and flavorful veggies into your diet. It really IS good for you.
I have a confession: I've never liked the stuff, myself. But it is very good for you. You should buy it or grow it and eat it. Lots of it.

This post reminded me of a column by Gerald Nachman I read back when I was in high school. (I had no idea he was from Oakland!) I believe it started with the sentence, "Unfortunately, chard is very good for you." It later quoted laboratory rats who were part of FDA tests as saying "I'd rather be dead than eat this stuff anymore." Quite humorous.

Anyway, chard is a fine vegetable and gets a bad rap. Just because I don't like it, there's no reason you shouldn't eat a lot of it. Now go and be healthy.