fighting the lack of good ideas

a modest proposal

Today is Valentine’s Day in the US (and, I presume, elsewhere). This is the first such day I have had with my wife (last year we were only engaged, so she was my fiancee, not my wife).

And two years ago we had only just been matched on eHarmony. Yesterday in our Sunday School group, the question was asked, what do you do for Valentine’s Day?” After going around the room and listening to all the couples there, it became readily apparent that most of us think Valentine’s Day is kinda pointless: all the guys like to surprise their girls throughout the year just because they can. And the girls [mostly] don’t like one day in particular to be elevated for “romance” above any other.

Focusing on One Dayโ„ข puts an awful lot of pressure on guys who should be thinking all year how to be nice to their girls. And it puts a lot of pressure on girls to expect something Really Really Awesomeโ„ข – so when it doesn’t happen, they tend to get saddened. Oh, and let’s not get into what single folks feel like they’re forced into doing because this is the Most Romantic Day Of The Year.

So, I’d like to propose we get rid of Valentine’s Day. Gone. Boop. No more.

Just be good to your spouse/SO all the time ๐Ÿ™‚

without remorse by tom clancy

One of the [very] few novels I have ever reread is Without Remorse by Tom Clancy – and I’ve reread it several times: each time noticing something I hadn’t before, and each time reacting quite viscerally to how the book’s main character (I hesitate to call him a “hero”) goes about his desired objective.

If you’ve never read any of Tom Clancy’s novels, this is probably the best one to start on (and yes, I’m a little biased!)

Mr John Clark is introduced for the first time (by release date of the novels) in Clear and Present Danger – but Without Remorse goes back to the “founding” of Mr Clark. As the book opens, we are introduced to one John Terrence Kelly – a demolitions diver working to sink damaged oil rigs in the gulf after a hurricane during the height of the Vietnam war.

What transpires next sets-up the rest of Mr Clark’s career – his wife is tragically killed in a vehicle crash while he’s on a dive, and he “hermitizes” himself on the island they used to live on in the Chesapeake Bay. On a routine visit to Baltimore to buy food stuffs for his home, he picks-up a hitchhiker and ends-up falling in love with her. She’s had a mottled past, but is on the road to recovery – encouraged my John’s friendship and true interest in her. However, he gets a little too curious about where she’s “from”, and takes her back to the seedy part of Baltimore where she had been “working”. John’s overconfidence in his abilities (he’s been on a couple tours with the SEALs in Vietnam) proves to be mortally dangerous to his companion, Pam, and nearly costs him his life, too.

After a wild turn of events from what he thought was “safe” and “curious” brings Pam back to her former employers, and then costs her her life, John takes matters into his own hands, reverting to his training, and learns the new “jungle” he is now operating in no less dangerous than those around the world where “little yellow people in black pyjamas” are fighting against (and with) his compatriots.

John T Kelly (later John Clark) does what we all wish we could do when someone hurts someone we love: just like Dirty Harry did what we all wanted to when dealing with corruption and evil – but either think is wrong, or is too far “outside the rules”, so we don’t (or we believe in the system, no matter how flawed: and characters like Mr Clark give us hope that there are people who take care of what needs to be taken care of – whether it’s inside or outside the system).

The book cover describes the novel as a “tour de force” – and it most certainly is: hardly a page goes by without action, force, violence, and redemption. This is not a story for the weak-stomached, and not for the young: it is “adult” in nature – so be aware ๐Ÿ™‚

I have unusually-high expectation, based on this being my favorite novel, but I just found out that this is being turned into a motion picture with a tentative 2011 release date: needless to say, I can’t wait!

  • Quality of writing: 5/5
  • Entertainment value: 5/5
  • Historicity: 4/5 (this takes place in and around the Vietnam war, and is plausible in its timings, and correctly cites many actual events during the story)
  • Overall: 4/5 (I suppose there could be some improvement – but I don’t know how)

firsts – programming

I realized earlier this week that it’s been 19 years since I first started programming. Not my first exposure to computing, which was in about 1986 on my aunt’s Mac 512 .. but still a long time ago ๐Ÿ™‚

My aunt gave me a Tandy 102 laptop that had a whole walloping 21446 bytes of storage. It had the capability to store up to 19 files, and the names had to be in a 6.2 form (ie, not the “standard” DOS 8.3 naming convention).

It shipped with MS BASIC somethingorother, and had a 40 character wide by 8 character tall screen. Oh, and don’t forget the built-in 300 bps modem (that ‘rotary’ dialed)!

I learned BASIC from Learning BASIC for the Tandy by David A Lien. I learned a LOT from that book – not the least of which was that color doesn’t work on a monochrome screen ๐Ÿ™‚

I also learned how pseudorandom numbers can be “manipulated” to help you win games .. and that typos suck : mightily.

Some of my programming habits that I still carry (even in writing “throwaway” scripts), come from my time of writing programs on an extremely limited machine.

After playing with BASIC for a year or so, I started writing for my aunt’s old Mac iiVX (which had 5MB RAM and an 80MB hard disk!) using Microsoft QuickBASIC 1.0 (a compilable BASIC), then moved into Turbo Pascal for a couple months, and then into C++ in 1993. My introduction to C++ was in the form of working with a family friend from church who wanted to learn C++ (but knew C), and who wanted to try-out some ideas he had for work with finite element analysis software. So we (I built the mesh generator/parser, and acted as syntax fiend) built a FEA application using Borland C++ 4.0 on his 486 running Windows 3.11 for workgroups. That was a screamer compared to my little laptop: it ran at 66Mhz, and had 16MB RAM! Wow: those were the days ๐Ÿ™‚

My cell phone has more RAM than that now, and a faster CPU, to boot!

I know I didn’t start as long ago, or as young, as some of my friends, colleagues, and cofiends – but there’s my story ๐Ÿ™‚

the 4-hour body by tim ferriss

Upon the recommendation of my friend Steven, I picked-up a cheap copy of Tim FerrissThe 4-Hour Body.

My first observation is that Tim Ferriss is not one to necessarily edit his speech patterns for writing. While not rife with them, there are a fair number of vulgarities throughout the book – all of which seem to have not been removed/altered just because he could.

Second, and perhaps even more importantly, this is NOT a book for kids or teens: it is for adults who are not uncomfortable with “taboo” subjects – the subtitle is, “An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman”. Some of this material is presented in an “uncut” form, and potential readers would benefit from knowing this.

Thirdly, most of the material was developed from self-proclaimed “experiments” he ran on himself trying to improve certain aspects of his body, and many are either not cheap, sketchy, or outright pointless for the “normal” person.

He does go into pretty extravagant scientific/engineering detail on several aspects of what he did and why – some of which is downright entertaining to read about. Data appeals to geeks and nerds, so it’s definitely one of the reasons I like the book.

There is a lot of name dropping, product promotion, and apparently pointless/unrelated anecdotes shown throughout. There are also some interesting testimonials and observed data.

Nothing in the book is really earth-shattering or “new” (at least to me), but it was certainly combined in different ways than I had seen previously. The “slow-carb” diet he promotes is nothing new, just renamed and slightly more focused than other editions that have surfaced before: cut carbs (including fruit and especially fruit juice), add lean protein and veggies.

The chapters on improving strength and coordination all make sense: though his focus on the “MED” (minimum effective dose) goes counter to popular thinking, but after some review and thinking, it makes sense to not overwork yourself when trying to improve strength/balance/etc – no point in hurting yourself and making the process last longer than it needs to. Likewise, eating higher quality foods (less sugar/starch especially) goes along with semi-conventional wisdom surrounding general health.

Mr Ferriss also has the benefit of being pretty well-off financially (and has been for quite some time), so many of the things he discusses just “doing” are going to be beyond the vale for the “common man”. It’d be great to just go to Nicaragua for a couple weeks of tourism and then get bloodwork and MRIs taken cheaper than the US – but, quite frankly, I don’t have $7500 to do that: and especially not just for myself.

Overall I think this is a decent book – but by no means worth the cover price. Much/most of what is contained (excluding the anecdotes) is available from other sources, but not in a compilation like this one. Personally, I think Mr Ferriss’ prior book (The 4-Hour Work Week) was better as a book. If you can pick it up for at least half off the cover price (should be simple from Amazon or eBay), go for it. If not, go to the library ๐Ÿ™‚

Oh – if nothing else comes of having read the book, adding cinnamon to my coffee is pretty good ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Quality of writing: 3/5
  • Quality of content: varies chapter to chapter, and your interest level 2/5
  • Entertainment value: 4/5
  • Overall: 2.5/5

jeopardy tryouts

Jeopardy! has been a favorite of mine for years: it’s the reason I eat fast.

I’ve tried-out a couple times in the past – once in person at Southpoint Mall in Durham NC and once online. Tonight I did again – so here’s hoping I did well enough ๐Ÿ™‚

moving – what a pain!

I hadn’t paid attention to all the things that have to be setup when you move in such a short period of time before: electric, gas, water, change of addresses… what a pain!

But it’s worth it since we’ll have more privacy, more space, and less-close neighbors ๐Ÿ™‚

I have the electric set to switch over to my name this weekend: now I just need water, gas, banks… yay :-\

new residence

Though it’s not the ideal we have of owning our own home, my wife and I will be one step closer in a few days as we will be signing a lease on a rental home here in Lexington and moving out of the apartment complex we’ve been in since we got married.

I think she’s pretty excited ๐Ÿ™‚