April 09, 2007
dcoombs: aren't you
forgetting the part where there is some "issue" halfway through the
journey and the train stops for 3 hours while you sit around in tedious
boredom wondering just how late you're going to be? That's generally
what I expect when I ride Via.
April 15, 2007
I don't think I've mentioned this before, but I tend to be a champion of
getting more women interested in computer science. As Larry Page puts it,
we're missing out on an incredibly large talent pool right now by having
so few women in computer science. We could be solving more problems and
more interesting problems if we had more people working on them, and over
half the population is female, so the industry in its current state is
clearly losing out.
According to Wikipedia,
the number of women in computing the US declined from
35.2% in 1990 to 28.4% in 2000. Wow, talk about a step
in the wrong direction. Why is this? There have been many
and the reasons can often be distilled down to feelings of exlusion and
lack of respect. A principal source of both of the above is immature crude
Which is why when I saw this,
I felt compelled to write this post. As immature jokes go, it is relatively
mild. I have certainly seen and heard far worse. But it doesn't
really matter; it's still inappropriate, and it's still bound to make people
feel uncomfortable, and even more importantly, it's completely unnecessary!
The poster could have made the same point using any number of other metaphors,
and could have easily found another funny metaphor to use instead of the one
he did choose, if he was hell bent on trying to make his post amusing.
Anyway, that's my rant for the day. I personally feel that as rude as it
may be, attempts at public shaming like this may be the best way to get
people to stop with these silly jokes. Pointing these things out isn't half
as rude as starting them in the first place, and hopefully can help people
realize how pointless and damaging they are.
April 16, 2007
So Facebook seems to be
all the rage these days, the cool kids are all over it. It
does something that most social networking sites (including Orkut) do, that really, really pisses
me off. Somebody "writes on your wall" or comments on a photo,
or adds you as a friend, or whatever. You get an email. Great.
But to drive traffic to the site, and for no other reason,
they don't actually include the content inline in the email. You have
to click through, login, etc.
I understand they want to increase traffic, so they can sell more
ads, so they can make more money. My employer has become an expert
at this. But there are much less annoying ways to do it. You know,
like providing more cool features and genuine reasons to visit the
site, rather than just stuffing it down people's throats.
With Calendar, we took
the view that we really don't care if people are using the product
from the web interface. Some users only use it through GData and
SMS notifications. Fine by us, if that's what makes them happy.
We also provide all the information about an event in the
invitation, and if you use Gmail, we even provide a mini-calendar
display of your day's events and a way to respond inline without
leaving page. Users are your friends. Don't piss them off.
I will say, however, that I am impressed with how fast Facebook is, given that it's written
in php and probably MySQL or Postgres, an architecture which can be
very difficult to scale. Yet everything is really snappy. One of the
things that plagued Orkut and one of
the big reasons (IMO) it didn't take off in North America the way
Facebook did is that for a long time it was dog slow. Because they
wrote it in C# on MS SQL. They have since re-written it in Java and
something not SQL, and it is now fast :P
April 17, 2007
Does anyone want to try Joost? I have 3 invitations. I
will give them to first 3 people to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you don't know, Joost is a new streaming video thingy. They have clients
for Windows and Mac; no Linux. I tried out the Mac version because I was
curious. It's not very exciting (at least there's no content I'm interested
in) and the UI is really, really unresponsive.
So, now that I've told you how cough awesome it is, who wants to try
April 21, 2007
Snapped this today from our balcony. I have a somewhat crummy camera
which can't really do it justice, but it's still a nice shot.
Some of you may know that I'm a bit of a coffee enthusiast. Some
may even argue that that characterisation is putting it a tad
lightly. Well, whatever you call it, I do have somewhat of a fondness
for coffee. I recently discovered that we live only a few blocks from
what is supposedly the best
coffee in New York.
I stopped by there today, and I'll believe it. Their triple
ristretto was fucking amazing. Very nearly brought tears
to my eyes. Literally. About 1 cm of crema, and the
espresso was naturally sweet. It was delicious! Better even than Open
Da Night in Montréal.
I couldn't stop with just the triple ristretto, however. I ordered
a cappuccino after the ristretto and was equally impressed. Their
latté art was impeccable, the blend of the microfoam with
the espresso crema utterly delicious. Their baristas are freaking
Which brings me to my next point, about the pr0n. I am trying to
improve my own barista skills. Now I have been pulling espressos
for about 6 years at this point, so I am by no means a beginner. But
professional baristas pull hundreds of shots a day on the very best
equipment. Much of my time as an amatuer barista was spent toiling away
on cheap, $100-$200 consumer machines, and even on my most decadent
days I don't pull more than 10 shots. While I managed to get some
decent shots out of those machines, there's only so much you can do
with a cheap machine like that. I have since upgraded to a commercial
machine, and have been pulling better and better espressos through it.
My most recent upgrade was a new tamper and portafilter for the
machine. You see, every aspect of preparation contributes to the
quality of the espresso. The bean, the roast, the grind, the tamp,
and finally the pull. My new portafilter is a so-called "naked"
portafilter, meaning it does not have a spout. Why would you want that?
There are 2 main reasons. The first is that with a traditional
spout portafilter, you lose some amount of the delicious crema in
the spout. The crema is the best part of the espresso and losing
even a single drop is a tragedy. The second reason is that the
naked portafilter lets you see the pull much more clearly than with
a traditional spout filter. This helps you learn and adjust your
tamping to eventually get a perfect tamp. Ideally the pull should be
even across the filter so that the espresso coalesces into a single,
long drip from the filter. As you can see in the image to the left,
I still have some work to do. My tamp there was a little too firm
towards the back of the filter. However, I am getting some nice
crema through the front. That shot was a triple 400 micron grind
of Kona beans from Hawaii. An enjoyable shot, though not as good Gimme Coffee's.