03 December 2005

All I want for Christmas...

Powered and controlled by your USB port. Control the aim and the firing mechanism of the darts via your computer. Just one more interesting thing found via digg.com

01 December 2005

Burt Rutan: The Future of Space

This last Summer I went to the famous EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2005 with my Dad and 5 brothers. It was amazing. For those who might not know what the Oshkosh Airshow is all about-many of my friends and coworkers have never heard of it-here is the summary from Wikipedia.org:

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) is an international organization of aviation enthusiasts based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. EAA was founded by Paul Poberezny. Today the organization is run by his son, Tom Poberezny. Paul still works with EAA as its Chairman of the Board. On January 26, 1953, Paul and 35 other aviation enthusiasts created the EAA in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as a club for people who were constructing their own homebuilt aircraft. Homebuilding is still a large part of EAA, but the organization has grown immensely over the years to include almost every aspect of aviation and aeronautics. Each summer EAA presents the largest annual aviation event in the world, 'EAA AirVenture Oshkosh', also known as the Oshkosh Airshow. During the airshow, the city's airport, Wittman Regional, is the busiest airport in the world. The week long event annually attracts around 10,000 planes and about 700,000 visitors to the region.
I can't really explain how big this airshow is. There are so many planes, shops, shows, booths, demos, sales, restorations, how to presentations and generally fun things to do, it's frankly overwhelming. One of the presentations I attended was one where Burt Rutan, Sir Richard Branson and Will Whitehorn talked about the Future of Space. I had my video camera with me, so I took video of the presentation. I found the presentation inspiring. I've encoded the video in a format suitable for use with the video capable iPod. Now some disclaimers about the video: The video is a bit shaky. This is because I didn't bring my tripod and I was literally holding my video camera with my hands for the whole presentation. People who have held a video camera, no matter how light, for longer than 15 minutes can understand. Because of muscle fatigue, stabilization later in the video it gets worse. I'm sorry, but the audio is still good. :) I'm constantly trying to avoid heads and moving people. I didn't get to the presentation near early enough. Each presentation in this outdoor hanger starts every 1 hour 30 minutes. I got there an hour early, but when the prior presentation finished, I think maybe 20 people of 300 left. The were all there for this presentation 1 to 2 hours early! The upshot is that unless you got there early enough to get a good seat for the prior presentation (around 2+ hours early) you basically didn't get a good seat. For this reason I'm zoomed in the full 10x optical zoom on my Canon SR10. Obviously this exacerbates the image stabilization problem. I've encoded this video as a MPEG-4 movie so you'll need to download QuickTime 7 in order to watch it. I've tried a few of the of compression options available in iMovie, but decided on the video iPod compatible format in the end. As I mentioned earlier, I have some online storage and transfer limits, so I was really looking for the best quality given these limitations. Here are some of the best parts if you don't have a spare 1 hour 5 minutes and 10 seconds. 00:00:50 - Space Ship Company founded to manufacture 5 space ships dubbed SpaceShipTwo or is it Space Ship 2? 00:01:15 - Will introduced as Paul Allan who was NOT there. :-P 00:01:50 - 30th anniversary of Brut Rutan bringing the Very EZ to Oshkosh. 00:02:41 - Able to hold on to SpaceShipOne long enough to bring it to Oshkosh. Apparently there was pressure to put it in the museum quickly to avoid putting it at risk. I love that Burt wanted to fly it, and even had an engine all prepared for his flight. 00:03:19 - It doesn't take the government to put people out side the atmosphere! 00:04:40 - Less than 450 astronauts in the last 45 years! 00:05:00 - Spaceline will only be a reality when space flight is 100 times safer. SpaceShipOne and carefree re-entry is part of that. 00:06:30 - One or two degrees loss of control with the Space Shuttle on re-entry would cause catastrophic results. SpaceShipOne attacks that problem face on. 00:07:00 - Thermal protection isn't the big danger, it's the flight control failure that are the risk with Shuttle re-entry. 00:08:00 - SpaceShipOne's hybrid motor and airlocks were big advances just like the feathered "care-free" re-entry. 00:10:00 - Great story about Burt's Dad watching an airplane take off and thinking he'd never get to fly one because he could never afford it. 00:11:30 - Mention of some secret plans for the space program once the safety of space travel is proven. I wonder what this is and why he wouldn't want to share it just yet. It's not like he has a whole bunch of imminent competition. Still interesting to speculate. 00:13:30 - His plea for key talent, what he calls, "fire-breathers" :) I love his comment that, "I will not look at your grades, but I will look into your eyes to see if you have the passion." 00:15:00 - Will's dream of space travel as a kid. Sadly, taking risks for the cause of a dream is no longer encouraged. The shuttle program didn't have a dream or a vision. 00:17:00 - Great story about Will's son getting sent out of class for telling the students, "My Daddy is going to build a spaceship." 00:19:00 - The vision is lowering the cost and as proof of this Virgin Galactic is ordering 5 Spaceships! This talk of courage, and risk and simply doing the valiant thing is what is driving these men. It's not the money and it's obvious. 00:21:00 - Sir Richard Branson talks about focusing on sub-orbital first, then orbital and then after that "other" things. 00:23:00 - Branson talks about the environmental damages caused by the Space Shuttle and commits to helping make Spaceships that are much less damaging to the environment. This is a cost of space travel that I've personally never considered before, but I'm glad that they are aware of it and think they have a solution for making less damaging space travel. 00:25:30 - Question: What is your plan for dealing the bureaucracy of certification? (Part 25 conformity in particular) 00:35:20 - Launch license for SpaceShipOne: Faith in the American government. Amazing. 00:37:00 - Funny story about British Space Program. 00:37:45 - Question: Any comment on the Shuttle foam issue? 00:38:00 - Question: Will you be going public soon? Answer: Virgin Galactic will invest all profits back into the program so the goal is space exploration, not profits. This proves the focus on exploration and not the money. Very noble in my humble opinion. 00:29:00 - Question: How does T-space relate to the SpaceShip company? 00:42:00 - Question: Honeywell employee plugs to supply parts for SpaceShipOne :/ 00:43:19 - Question: How do you address the velocity difference between orbital vs sub-orbital? 00:44:00 - Burt compares SpaceShipOne with X15. SpaceShipOne only gets up to 270 degrees on re-entry. Thermal protection is really needed for accent boost, not decent. SpaceShipOne has 10 times the thermal protection it really needs and that's only 14 pounds of thermal protection. 00:46:00 - Question: Can an non-US citizen's apply for a job? 00:49:00 - Question: How might the economy effect your venture? 00:51:30 - Question: Could this scale to intercontinental travel? 00:52:00 - Interesting note about how intercontinental travel would work. Bouncing on the upper atmosphere 00:53:00 - Question: Is debris up there a problem for sub-orbital travel? 00:55:20 - Question: 4 Phases of Innovation. Commercialization too soon? How are you going to keep government at bay to allow you to innovate? 01:00:00 - Question: Didn't the airline industry grow because people were able to get from here to there quickly, not because they got to see pretty pictures of the black sky. 01:01:40 - We have the internet because we had a decade of people buying computers, "just for fun" 01:02:15 - Airplanes for fun and how great innovation starts with just doing things for fun. "There are 5,000 pilots at Oshkosh, and I don't think they're traveling anywhere, they're having fun!" 01:02:55 - Question: Are you going to stick with the current propulsion system? The movie link: Burt Rutan: The Future of Space

21 November 2005

Save $250 on Mac Office Pro

Just in time for your shopping, if you are going to buy a Mac this holiday season, don't miss this awesome deal. Office Pro comes with Office 2004 + VPC 7 + Windows XP SP2 and with this rebate you save $250! Check out our MacBU home page for more information.

Office XML an ISO standard

Today Microsoft announced that the XML file formats to be supported by default in the Office "12" product will be open.

"We are going to bring the Microsoft Office Open XML formats to a standards body with the intention of eventually making the formats an ISO standard. This should really help everyone feel certain that these formats will always be available and fully accessible. We are going to work with Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, the British Library, Essilor, Intel Corporation, NextPage Inc., Statoil ASA and Toshiba to form a technical committee at ECMA International that will fully document all of our schemas so that anyone can understand how to develop on top of them. This is obviously a huge step forward and it really helps to increase the value of these document formats because of the improved transparency and interoperability. This will help to create a large ecosystem built around these formats that will support them in a large number of different scenarios for customers.
This is great news, for various reasons, but what this means to consumers is this, if your data is stored in Office 12 file formats, in the future the question will not be if you will be able to get to your data, but how you will get to it. I've had documents in several file formats that have eventually died and getting the data out has been a real chore. This kind of commitment is a great thing for everyone involved. I hope it is well recieved.

18 November 2005

Endless Imitation

I've often wondered about how things we create so often attempt to "represent" things that are already created. From Object Oriented Design to Database Theory to Human Computer Interaction, there is a theme that I'm only beginning to see, and that is our search for doing things like they are done in the natural world. Sometimes it's using the examples of schools of fish or clouds of flying grasshoppers to elucidate dense transportation problems. Other times it's as simple as organizing a set of data the way a tree organizes its leaves for sunlight. As one of my favorite poets writes of little children this way:

Behold the Child among his new-born blisses, A six years' Darling of a pigmy size! See, where 'mid work of his own hand he lies, Fretted by sallies of his mother's kisses, With light upon him from his father's eyes! See, at his feet, some little plan or chart, Some fragment from his dream of human life, Shaped by himself with newly-learned art;     A wedding or a festival,     A mourning or a funeral;         And this hath now his heart,     And unto this he frames his song:         Then will he fit his tongue To dialogues of business, love, or strife;     But it will not be long     Ere this be thrown aside,     And with new joy and pride The little Actor cons another part; Filling from time to time his "humorous stage" With all the Persons, down to palsied Age, That Life brings with her in her equipage;     As if his whole vocation     Were endless imitation. William Wordsworth - Ode: Intimations Of Immortality From Recollections Of Early Childhood
I just finished reading a most interesting article entitled Turing's Cathedral where George Dyson visits Google on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of John von Neumann's proposal for a digital computer. All of it is interesting. This part I really liked:
Fifty years later, thanks to solid state micro-electronics, the von Neumann matrix is going strong. The problem has shifted from how to achieve reliable results using sloppy hardware, to how to achieve reliable results using sloppy code. The von Neumann architecture is here to stay. But new forms of architecture, built upon the underlying layers of Turing-von Neumann machines, are starting to grow. What's next? Where was von Neumann heading when his program came to a halt? As organisms, we possess two outstanding repositories of information: the information conveyed by our genes, and the information stored in our brains. Both of these are based upon non-von-Neumann architectures, and it is no surprise that Von Neumann became fascinated with these examples as he left his chairmanship of the AEC (where he had succeeded Lewis Strauss) and began to lay out the research agenda that cancer prevented him from following up. He considered the second example in his posthumously-published The Computer and the Brain. "The message-system used in the nervous system... is of an essentially statistical character," he explained. "In other words, what matters are not the precise positions of definite markers, digits, but the statistical characteristics of their occurrence... a radically different system of notation from the ones we are familiar with in ordinary arithmetics and mathematics... Clearly, other traits of the (statistical) message could also be used: indeed, the frequency referred to is a property of a single train of pulses whereas every one of the relevant nerves consists of a large number of fibers, each of which transmits numerous trains of pulses. It is, therefore, perfectly plausible that certain (statistical) relationships between such trains of pulses should also transmit information.... Whatever language the central nervous system is using, it is characterized by less logical and arithmetical depth than what we are normally used to [and] must structurally be essentially different from those languages to which our common experience refers." Or, as his friend Stan Ulam put it," What makes you so sure that mathematical logic corresponds to the way we think?"

27 October 2005

How to look for customers

James Duncan Davidson has a great post about his experience shooting pictures of folk as they present and interact with customers in a public way. I think it's great advice for any one who works with the customer directly, not just CEOs or big wigs giving keynote presentations. Check it out.

The Emperor Has No Perf/Watts!

Arstechnica has a great article about why the MacTel switch and why there's more to it than Mr. Jobs' "perf/watt performance road map." Here's my favorite bit:

But they didn't jump ship for performance or performance/watt reasons. They jumped ship because they no longer care about making leading-edge computer hardware. They also don't care about PC market share, or any of that other G3-era Mac Faithful malarkey. From now on, merely "good enough" is good enough for the Mac line, and the real innovation will come in the form of post-PC gadgets and entertainment-oriented, techno-cool doohickeys.
It's anyone's guess what Apple will do, but it's certain their options are pretty open. If the PowerPC becomes important, the could use it and switch back. If the Intel really does gain, they've made the right bet. By moving to Intel, the performance comparisons become much more meaningful and not so full of caveats. If their deal with Intel gives them cheap access to chipsets they need for their "next big thing", it sure is nice that the open ended question: "Will Apple license their OS to other hardware vendors?" will continue to taunt Microsoft and pundits alike, even if they never pull the trigger. What's more clear now, is that what we heard Jobs preach, was much more like a favorite short story of old.

14 October 2005

It's a great time to be a Mac developer!

I've been saying this since 2000 and it's even more true today. Recently the Journal Times wrote an amazingly positive piece about MacBU entitled, Microsoft Corp. is plugged into Macs In that article there is this gem:

The autonomy of this relatively small division allows Microsoft programmers to cut loose and design the best software they can imagine without having to conform to the restraints of the mammoth parent company.
I absolutely LOVE being in the MacBU here at Microsoft. It's at the confluence of all this Microsoft Technology and all this Apple simplicity. It's really an exciting combination which allows for a pretty good perspective. I've often wondered why we are next door to Redmond MSR, but I think it's just because all the "cool kids" hang out together. ;)

05 October 2005

Focused Study vs. Cursory Survey

I just read a great quote as I begin another of Henry Petroski's books, this one named The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance. The quote is from the Preface of the books and is as follows:

I believe that a person who is attracted to bridges, for example, can learn more about the method of all engineering-–including such seemingly diverse branches as chemical, electrical, mechanical, and nuclear engineering-–from a focused study of bridges alone than from a diffuse and cursory survey of all the past and latest wonders of the made world. Yet a focused study need not be overly technical. It need only place the artifact in a proper social, cultural, political, and technological context in order to allow the essence of engineering to be distilled by the receptive mind.
This has been true in my life. As I've focused my curiosity deep in a subject I love, I have been forced to learn more about almost every other ancillary subject. For this very reason, I'm excited about how my younger brothers are working to build an airplane in my parent's backyard. I'll paraphrase what I remember Burt Rutan saying in one of his presentations at Oshkosh when talking about how he hires people, "We will not ask you about your college grades, but we will ask, 'What did you do?' and hope to see that fire in your eyes." The focused study of anything over time in my experience has a deeping and broadening effect that like a deep tap root, makes for strength, but also well rounded influence and understanding. When someone says you need a "well rounded" education, don't think cursory survey of everything, think deep, focused study. With the "deep" will come the "breadth" and it will make a whole lot more sense in context.

04 October 2005

Tuned for the Task

I was just reading a post by Steven Sinofsky and he mentions the new UI in Office "12" with this comment

One of the things that has made us very comfortable thinking about change has been the role of new hires and interns in our group. They have seen the work we are doing and take to it right away. In fact they don’t see it as nearly the huge change that folks who have grown up with the products see it. The generation of people that move between TiVo, iPods, and IM have not been indoctrinated by “consistency is all that matters” or the goal of having “one single user experience”. Rather they experience life, and productivity, through a series of programmed experiences each tuned to the task at hand remarkably well. Our job in Office is to build those tuned experiences while integrating the work products seamlessly across the entire range of programs in Office.
In physical life, where phsyical things are created and made, this happens quiet a bit. Design, good design has a lot to do with understanding the process and needs of the user as well as the specific task at hand. I'll give an example. My small yard has grass and in that grass a small plant likes to grow called by us Duvall folk Dandelion. They spread around the yard like crazy and really distroy the look of the lawn. You can go and weed them out, but with their tap root, it's really hard to get them fully gone, and they just come up again, this time closer to the ground. Well, the other day, my neighbor introduced me to a tool that is specifically designed for this weed removal task and as a proud owner, I can say it's perfect for the job. Here's what it looks like and some pictures on how it works: The basic idea is that the suspended nails pierce the broad leaft vegitation and surround the tap root while simulaniously squeezing it, so when you pull up, the whole root comes up. It's perfect. It's called the Weed Hound and the whole Hound Dog web site is full of specially purposed tools. The point is someone actually sat down and worked out how to solve this very specific problem, and by doing so, produced a tool that is aguably not general purpose, but also perfectly suited for maximum effeciency given the specific purpose for which it was intended. The same can be said for Office. When you look at what people do with Office there are certain patterns, problems that show up again and again. It's taking the time to specifically solve those problems in a tuned way that makes the UI changes to Office "12" so exciting.

03 October 2005

A Good Vacation

I just read an interesting post by Chris Pratley on the History of the Project Manager position at Microsoft. He ended it with this bit that resonated with me:

I'm not sure where this saying came from originally, but one way to describe PMs is that they not only "pick up and run with the ball, they go find the ball". That really defines the difference between "knowing what to do and doing it", and "not knowing what to do, but using your own wits to decide what to do, then doing it". That means as a PM you are constantly strategizing and rethinking what is going on to find out if there is something you are missing, or the team is missing. You're also constantly deciding what is important to do, and whether action needs to be taken. The number of such decisions is staggering. I might make 50 a day, sometimes more than 100 or even 200. Most of the time there is not nearly enough hard data to say for certain what to do, and in any case almost all these decisions could never have hard data anyway - you need to apply concentration and clear thinking. Some years ago I realized that as a PM, my definition of vacation was not just going somewhere to have fun (work is quite fun most of the time). Vacation means getting to an environment where no decisions have to be made. I used to drive my friends nuts, since I would go visit them, and they'd say "what do you want to do?", or "where do you want to go?", and I would simply say "you decide".
Some times it's hard to for everyone to realize that a vacation can be simply not doing what you have to do normally. For my wife, it's often time away from the house and kids. For me it's time to think and be home. What ever it may be, it sure is important to find time to relax and really re-create.

01 October 2005

MacBU: The Movie Trailer

Well, kind of... Last MacWorld I got to help with building what the Marketing team calls a "sizzle reel." If you've ever been to MacWorld and seen the Microsoft booth there, you know that there's a projection screen in the "theater" area where we demo Office. Well when we break between demos we show stuff on the huge screen for folks just walking by. So that's what you have here. I asked for a copy after we finished back in January, but just re-discovered it on my hard drive and thought I'd share it. Why it's cool:

  • It shows how long the Mac products have been around and how important they were to young Microsoft.
  • It shows that we are still very much committed to the Mac. It seems like that comes up every 6 months in the news media.
  • It shows super old 1.0 versions of Word and Excel that only ran on the Mac.
  • You get to see the Mac Lab where we run all our automated testing. You see me pretending to check out the lab machines. (If I really had to walk around the Mac Lab every day and "monitor" our millions of automated tests, I'd go insane, but they thought it looked good, like I was working or something...)
  • You get to see prototype boxes for Office 2004 and VPC that we ended up not using for the final products.
  • People in the video are NOT models, they actual members of the MacBU, so that's kind of cool too.
  • Shows the "real" reason people buy VPC: Solitaire. ;-) One thing I learned through all this is the amazing quantity of footage that goes into just a short clip like this. We have a big Mac Lab. I think outside of Apple, it's the biggest Mac test lab the world. The only company that may come close, is Adobe, but we think we've got them beat too. Hundreds and hundreds of Macs. Even so, I wasn't expecting to spend 1 full hour taking shots at different angles and speeds. I think it turned out okay in the end. I hope you enjoy it.

  • War and Peace

    I'll never forget reading this post by Robert Scoble:

    Two guys, heading back to Iraq Yesterday, when I was boarding the plane in JFK airport I saw two guys, dressed in US Army uniforms, huging their wives, crying. One had a young daughter hanging off his leg while her parents clung to each other with the kind of hug you give someone you know you might never see again. They said their goodbyes and entered the plane behind me. "Where you off to?" "Back to Iraq." I don't care what your politics are. I don't care what your view of the war is, or your position on what we're doing over there. There are plenty of places and times to argue those things. It's just that scene has just been burning in my mind all day. I'll never forget the sacrifice that these guys are making on my behalf. Voluntarily.
    I enjoy reading the pithy news bite as much as the next person, but some topics, and often very important ones can not be summed up in one small statement. Even E=mc^2, while an accurate summary, does not justice to the subtlety and implications involved. The challenges of NASA's Space Shuttle program are not something you can fully describe in a headline. Often I see references to Iraq or the War on Terror without giving the issue the full discussion needed. I just recently read this speech written by the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints, Gordon B. Hinckley. I think it accurately and fully expresses my opinion, so much so, that I'm going to quote it in it's entirety. It's true, that as a member of the LDS church, I view these words as prophetic, but independant of your religous or political views, take a few minutes to read this speech and see if you don't agree also. I think there is a tenor in this treatment of the topic, that to me, speaks of wisdom that only comes after long experience with life, real life.
    War and Peace President Gordon B. Hinckley My brethren and sisters, last Sunday as I sat in my study thinking of what I might say on this occasion, I received a phone call telling me that Staff Sergeant James W. Cawley of the U.S. Marines had been killed somewhere in Iraq. He was 41 years of age, leaving behind a wife and two small children. Twenty years ago Elder Cawley was a missionary of the Church in Japan. Like so many others, he had grown up in the Church, had played as a schoolboy, had passed the sacrament as a deacon, and had been found worthy to serve a mission, to teach the gospel of peace to the people of Japan. He returned home, served in the Marines, married, became a policeman, and was then recalled to active military duty, to which he responded without hesitation. His life, his mission, his military service, his death seem to represent the contradictions of the peace of the gospel and the tides of war. And so I venture to say something about the war and the gospel we teach. I spoke of this somewhat in our October conference of 2001. When I came to this pulpit at that time, the war against terrorism had just begun. The present war is really an outgrowth and continuation of that conflict. Hopefully it is now drawing to a conclusion. As I discuss the matter, I seek the direction of the Holy Spirit. I have prayed and pondered much concerning this. I recognize it is a very sensitive subject for an international congregation, including those not of our religious faith. The nations of the earth have been divided over the present situation. Feelings have run strong. There have been demonstrations for and against. We are now a world Church with members in most of the nations which have argued this matter. Our people have had feelings. They have had concerns. War, of course, is not new. The weapons change. The ability to kill and destroy is constantly refined. But there has been conflict throughout the ages over essentially the same issues. The book of Revelation speaks briefly of what must have been a terrible conflict for the minds and loyalties of God’s children. The account is worth repeating: “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, “And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:7–9). Isaiah speaks further concerning that great conflict (see Isaiah 14:12–20). Modern revelation gives additional light (see D&C 76:25–29), as does the book of Moses (see Moses 4:1–4), which tells of Satan’s plan to destroy the agency of man. We sometimes are prone to glorify the great empires of the past, such as the Ottoman Empire, the Roman and Byzantine Empires, and in more recent times, the vast British Empire. But there is a darker side to every one of them. There is a grim and tragic overlay of brutal conquest, of subjugation, of repression, and an astronomical cost in life and treasure. The great English essayist Thomas Carlyle once ironically shared the observation, “God must needs laugh outright, could such a thing be, to see his wondrous mannikins here below” (quoted in Sartor Resartus [1836], 182). I think our Father in Heaven must have wept as He has looked down upon His children through the centuries as they have squandered their divine birthright in ruthlessly destroying one another. In the course of history tyrants have arisen from time to time who have oppressed their own people and threatened the world. Such is adjudged to be the case presently, and consequently great and terrifying forces with sophisticated and fearsome armaments have been engaged in battle. Many of our own Church members have been involved in this conflict. We have seen on television and in the press tearful children clinging to their fathers in uniform, going to the battlefront. In a touching letter I received just this week, a mother wrote of her Marine son who is serving for the second time in a Middle Eastern war. She says that at the time of his first deployment, “he came home on leave and asked me to go for a walk. . . . He had his arm around me and he told me about going to war. He . . . said, ‘Mom, I have to go so you and the family can be free, free to worship as you please. . . . And if it costs me my life . . . then giving my life is worth it.’ ” He is now there again and has written to his family recently, saying, “I am proud to be here serving my nation and our way of life. . . . I feel a lot safer knowing our Heavenly Father is with me.” There are other mothers, innocent civilians, who cling to their children with fear and look heavenward with desperate pleadings as the earth shakes beneath their feet and deadly rockets scream through the dark sky. There have been casualties in this terrible conflict, and there likely will be more. Public protests will likely continue. Leaders of other nations have, in no uncertain terms, condemned the coalition strategy. The question arises, “Where does the Church stand in all of this?” First, let it be understood that we have no quarrel with the Muslim people or with those of any other faith. We recognize and teach that all the people of the earth are of the family of God. And as He is our Father, so are we brothers and sisters with family obligations one to another. But as citizens we are all under the direction of our respective national leaders. They have access to greater political and military intelligence than do the people generally. Those in the armed services are under obligation to their respective governments to execute the will of the sovereign. When they joined the military service, they entered into a contract by which they are presently bound and to which they have dutifully responded. One of our Articles of Faith, which represent an expression of our doctrine, states, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” (Articles of Faith 1:12). But modern revelation states that we are to “renounce war and proclaim peace” (D&C 98:16). In a democracy we can renounce war and proclaim peace. There is opportunity for dissent. Many have been speaking out and doing so emphatically. That is their privilege. That is their right, so long as they do so legally. However, we all must also be mindful of another overriding responsibility, which I may add, governs my personal feelings and dictates my personal loyalties in the present situation. When war raged between the Nephites and the Lamanites, the record states that “the Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for . . . power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church. “And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God” (Alma 43:45–46). The Lord counseled them, “Defend your families even unto bloodshed” (Alma 43:47). And Moroni “rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole. “And he fastened on his headplate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren” (Alma 46:12–13). It is clear from these and other writings that there are times and circumstances when nations are justified, in fact have an obligation, to fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat, and oppression. When all is said and done, we of this Church are people of peace. We are followers of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the Prince of Peace. But even He said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). This places us in the position of those who long for peace, who teach peace, who work for peace, but who also are citizens of nations and are subject to the laws of our governments. Furthermore, we are a freedom-loving people, committed to the defense of liberty wherever it is in jeopardy. I believe that God will not hold men and women in uniform responsible as agents of their government in carrying forward that which they are legally obligated to do. It may even be that He will hold us responsible if we try to impede or hedge up the way of those who are involved in a contest with forces of evil and repression. Now, there is much that we can and must do in these perilous times. We can give our opinions on the merits of the situation as we see it, but never let us become a party to words or works of evil concerning our brothers and sisters in various nations on one side or the other. Political differences never justify hatred or ill will. I hope that the Lord’s people may be at peace one with another during times of trouble, regardless of what loyalties they may have to different governments or parties. Let us pray for those who are called upon to bear arms by their respective governments and plead for the protection of heaven upon them that they may return to their loved ones in safety. To our brothers and sisters in harm’s way, we say that we pray for you. We pray that the Lord will watch over you and preserve you from injury and that you may return home and pick up your lives again. We know that you are not in that land of blowing sand and brutal heat because you enjoy the games of war. The strength of your commitment is measured by your willingness to give your very lives for that in which you believe. We know that some have died, and others may yet die in this hot and deadly contest. We can do all in our power to comfort and bless those who lose loved ones. May those who mourn be comforted with that comfort which comes alone from Christ the Redeemer. It was He who said to His beloved disciples: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, . . . that where I am, there ye may be also. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:1–3, 27). We call upon the Lord, whose strength is mighty and whose powers are infinite, to bring an end to the conflict, an end that will result in a better life for all concerned. The Lord has declared, “For I, the Lord, rule in the heavens above, and among the armies of the earth” (D&C 60:4). We can hope and pray for that glorious day foretold by the prophet Isaiah when men “shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4). Even in an evil world we can so live our lives as to merit the protecting care of our Father in Heaven. We can be as the righteous living among the evils of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham pleaded that these cities might be spared for the sake of the righteous. (See Genesis 18:20–32.) And, above all, we can cultivate in our own hearts, and proclaim to the world, the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Through His atoning sacrifice we are certain life will continue beyond the veil of death. We can teach that gospel which will lead to the exaltation of the obedient. Even when the armaments of war ring out in deathly serenade and darkness and hatred reign in the hearts of some, there stands immovable, reassuring, comforting, and with great outreaching love the quiet figure of the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world. We can proclaim with Paul: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, “Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39). This life is but a chapter in the eternal plan of our Father. It is full of conflict and seeming incongruities. Some die young. Some live to old age. We cannot explain it. But we accept it with the certain knowledge that through the atoning sacrifice of our Lord we shall all go on living, and this with the comforting assurance of His immeasurable love. He has said, “Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me” (D&C 19:23). And there, my brothers and sisters, we rest our faith. Regardless of the circumstances, we have the comfort and peace of Christ our Savior, our Redeemer, the living Son of the living God. I so testify in His holy name, even the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

    29 September 2005

    MacBU Bloggers

    Yesterday we had our Office 2004 Service Pack 2 ship party, and I got to talking with Rich Schaut about his blog and we started to list all the MacBU bloggers. We kept listing names, but they no longer work in MacBU, so the qualification became: currently working at MacBU and has a blog. The funny thing is we only came up with three people: Rich Schaut (Dev) Andy Ruff (Entourage blog) and something here... (PM) David Weiss (that's me) (Test) It's all about transparency, and I expect that this list will grow, but who am I missing?

    27 September 2005

    I Love My Jobs!

    Last Friday we had the 26th Microsoft Company meeting and celebrated Microsoft's 30th anniversary. As a member of the Macintosh Business Unit I got to attend. Microsoft rented the SafeCo baseball stadium for the 7 hour meeting and it was cold. It was fun. I'm overall pretty sure my underwater stock options will come up gasping for air, eventually. So that's good. Part of the tradition is that everyone brings, hats, shirts, noise makers etc. to distinguish which tribe or team you're a part of. The MacBU was no different in this aspect, and we got the rebellious slogan, "go ahead, mac my day." all lower case at no extra cost. In the test team, we came up with some other slogans, that didn't make it on the shirt, but that I thought I'd share for your enjoyment: I love my Jobs I have a good iWork-iLife balance... On the other side of the fence, the grass is always greener. So are the Apples. I work with iPods My Software runs on a Mac. Does yours? My Office is prettier. Guaranteed not to run on Vista Turn up the AAC! An Office for the rest of us Uniting the world: Macintosh, Unix, Intel, Microsoft Always nice to work with a bunch of Mac heads. :)

    21 September 2005

    We choose to go to the moon!

    From President John F. Kennedy's address at Rice University on the Nation's Space Effort, Houston, Texas, September 12, 1962:

    We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
    There is some passion in this address! To me it's saying "We do things not because there is a return on the investment, but we do things that are hard simply to prove that we can and enjoy the growth that comes of it." I felt this same drive and same ambition listening to Burt Rutan speak of SpaceShipOne at Oshkosh 2005 and quite frankly, it's contagious and inspiring. If NASA's new space program produces more creative drive, more ambitious "Why not?" questions, especially in the youth of today, it will be worth every penny it costs.

    Pressing and Eager Young Churchill

    Yesterday I was listening to a podcast and found this gem, the first paragraph of which is simply the background by Neal A. Maxwell for the quote:

    I think, for instance, of the towering and courageous Winston Churchill, admired in so many ways, including by me, but who had serious difficulty containing his ego which sometimes tarnished his otherwise remarkable contributions. One winces, even at this late date, as he reads Balfour's rebuke, in 1905, of a pressing and eager young Churchill in Parliament. Just after Winston had been excessive, Balfour rose in dignity and said: As for the junior member of Oldham . . . I think I may give him some advice which may be useful to him in the course of what I hope may be a long and distinguished career. It is not, on the whole, desirable to come down to this House with invective which is both prepared and violent. The House will tolerate, and very rightly tolerate, almost anything within the rule of order which evidently springs from genuine indignation aroused by the collision of debate. But to come down with these prepared phrases is not usually successful, and at all events, I do not think it was very successful on the present occasion. If there is preparation, there should be more finish, and if there is so much violence, there should certainly be more veracity of feeling. [Ted Morgan, Churchill: Young Man in a Hurry (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982), p. 175.]
    People just don't talk like this anymore.

    24 August 2005

    Oshkosh Videos of Burt Rutan

    If you are wondering where my Oshkosh videos of Burt Rutan and friends are, well, they're on my hard drive, beautifully encoded in MPEG 4 and waiting to be given to the world. The problem has been a technical one. If you care for the details, I can't "seed the torrent" from behind my AirPort Extreme connection to the Internet. Anyhow, I'm looking into some other solutions, so don't worry, I'll get them posted as soon as I can.

    Chainless Bike

    I've mountain biked quite a bit here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and bent my fair share of axles and derailleurs, so this seems like a perfect solution. You get better ground clearance (13 inches), because there front gear is gone, but I wonder how you grind over a log with this thing. For $750 it's not exactly cheap, but it's not out of this world either. No grease is nice, and breaking a chain becomes a thing of the past, but if the internal gear box does break, I'm guessing you're out of luck. With a chain a few simple, light tools and extra links and your back on the trail. Still, looks very interesting. I'd love to give it a ride and see what kind of gear range the "Shimano Inter-8 Premium - planetary gears" really have. My guess is they've not quite got the range worked out just yet. Another worry is this bold text from the owners manual: If you shift while pedaling, reduce your pressure on the pedals. Excessive tension on gears makes shifting difficult and speeds the wear of the components. When they come out with the "racing transmission" edition, where I can switch gears with full force on the drive train, I'll absolutely have to give this a ride.

    20 August 2005

    Hubble: Galaxies Across Space & Time

    It's this kind of stuff that makes me love astronomy. 9 billion years of cosmic history that in 2 minutes 51 seconds.

    These galaxies were photographed by Hubble as part of the Great Observatory Origins Deep Survey (GOODS) project. The original source image contains over 600 million pixels. Hubble scientists and imaging specialists worked for months to extract individual galaxy images, placing them in a 3D model according to their approximate true distances as determined by ground-based photometric redshift data.
    More info here and here.

    18 August 2005

    A Modified Computer Case

    This is really just amazing. It's called the ORAC3 It took 7 months work to make this metallic-water-cooled-transparent-case computer a reality. I'm very impressed. I love good looking computers, that's one reason I like using a Mac, but this really lifts "computer mods" as they're called, to a whole new level.

    11 August 2005


    Before I share some of the media I gathered at Oshkosh, I think I better explain a little about how to download the stuff. If you are a computer geek that understands what I mean when I type /. then you can skip this post, otherwise read on: Let's start at the beginning: In the world of computers data takes up space. In the physical world books or pictures or CDs or video tapes all consume a certain amount of physical storage space. If you've ever known someone with a large collection of books or CDs you know what I mean. Space always costs. You have to build shelves, expend energy moving all of it as you change location and even organizing it enough so that you can get to what you want easily costs time and energy. In the world of computers space costs in much the same way. But there is a big difference and that is how much MORE space is required for pictures, audio and video. Space in the real world is measured in dimensions like height, width and depth and density. Space in the computer world is measured in bytes. A byte is simply a bunch of numbers that together mean something to a computer. Well, the text that you are reading right now might consume something like 5,000 bytes. That may look like a big number, but let me add to the comparison so you can get your bearings. When I take a picture with my digital camera, that single picture might consume on average 500,000 bytes! That picture "costs" 100 times more space than all the text you've been reading! But wait, it gets worse, audio data like a song you might Download from iTunes would consume around 5,000,000 bytes! That's a lot of bytes. When you make video on a computer you add lots of pictures (each second of video contains around 25 to 30 picture frames to provide the illusion of movement) and then add the audio and you end up with a very large file. I've got a video that is 1 hour and 5 minutes and how much space does it consume on my computer? About 14,000,000,000 bytes! Now that's a lot of bytes. Storage of all this data wasn't the only problem, moving it around quickly becomes rather important. Once the Internet began people started to share data with other people online. At first it was just text, but it didn't take long before Grandma Sue wanted to see video and pictures of her grandchildren and things started to get tricky. Moving around 14 billion bytes or even a picture of 500,000 bytes doesn't happen very quickly. It takes time. The first thing people tried to do was reduce the total number of bytes that are needed to represent the data. Some really smart people got together and figured out how to compress the data into a package that consumes less space but was still recognizably the same. A few compression formats you might be aware of are JPEG for digital pictures and MP3 or AAC for audio data. Compression has helped a bunch in solving the extreme space demands of pictures, audio and video. Compression also helps with data transfer costs since you don't have to transfer as much data from point to point. I have an online storage account with Apple that is part of my .Mac subscription. I pay $150 a year and I get 1024 megabytes (MB) of online storage and 10 billion byte (10 gigabytes or GB) transfer limit per month. If more than 10 GB of data is transfered from my online storage, then it's taken offline until the next month. There are other services that I could use to store and share my data, but I like .Mac because it's easy and comes with other useful features like data synchronization. If I take that 14 billion byte movie and compress it with iMovie I can get it down to about 80 million bytes or 80 megabytes (MB), which goes to show what amazing work these compression folks have done. At 80 MB and with my 10 GB transfer limit after about 120 people have downloaded the video, my online storage would be taken offline for the month and I'd be sad because I want more than 120 people to see the video. The Solution 1. Compress video and audio as much as possible 2. Distribute the transfer cost between everyone that wants the data I use iMovie to compress the video and BitTorrent to distribute the transfer costs. BitTorrent is an application that downloads big files. The difference is that once the file is downloaded, the BitTorrent application also shares out the file for others to safely download from your computer. This way everyone avoids downloading the large file from a single location, but everyone enjoys downloading small parts of a large file from everyone else that has already downloaded the file. Like compression, it gets complex fast and involves some cool math, but just trust me, it works really well. BitTorrent is not the only application that does this kind of thing, but it's the one I like best. So when I put a link to video on my web log here, more then likely, I'll link to a BitTorrent file that you can download from. What you'll need to do, is download the BitTorrent application to your computer and use it to down load the video. Once you've downloaded the video, consider leaving BitTorrent running so that others can download bits from your copy as well.

    Summer Fun at Oshkosh

    It's summer time where I live and we've been taking advantage of the situation. Lots of hikes, camping and visiting family. It's been great. One of the coolest things I've done is attend EAA's AirVenture Oshkosh 2005 It was amazing. The bulk of the next few posts will be cool things I saw and discovered at Oshkosh.

    01 July 2005

    iRobot Customer Support

    I've had the Roomba robotic vacuum for over 6 months now, and it's time to get some new filters. I called customer support and talked to a very nice man who helped me place my order and even get some free replacement brushes since mine had worn out too soon. Well, a few days later I got a package in the mail with not only the 3 filters I ordered, but a super duper iRobot cleaning tool. What can I say? I'm impressed. As any Roomba owner will know, after a few cleanings, long hair and carpet fuzz gets all wrapped around the main brush as well as in the two bearings. This tool with it's small comb, pick and embedded knife make for a perfect companion for cleaning every so often. I really get the feeling the iRobot people are thinking about me, their customer and this is a good thing. P.S. If anyone can tell me what the two little holes are for, I'd like to know.

    The Trust Cycle

    My Dad is constantly telling me that to build a high performing team, you've got to drive trust deep. One of the central reasons I enjoy working on the Infrastructure team in the Macintosh Business Unit is our mutual respect and trust. I just found a new blog on agile methods and what do you know, but that's exactly what he defends: Trust is the Essence of Agile

    Agile software development brought the idea of trust to the forefront. When there is trust, there is less waste, less extra work, less verification, less auditing, less paperwork, less meetings, less finger pointing, less blame-storming. Building trust between the engineering group and the customers is the first goal for any agile manager. Equally building trust with and amongst the engineering team is also essential. So many aspects of agile methods are about building trust - frequent delivery, focus on working code rather than documentation, face-to-face communication, pair programming, peer reviewing, stand-up meetings, shared responsibility and joint accountability, direct customer collaboration including on-site customers and customer involvement in modeling sessions, estimating, tracking and reporting based on customer valued functionality, information radiators, big visible charts, burndown, cumulative flow and ultimately complete transparency into entire engineering process. Agile for the first time, enables us to run software development like other parts of a business. It clears away the fog. It lifts the veil of secrecy. It blows away the opaque clouds and reveals the naked truth of what is really going on.
    Good stuff. He's working here at Microsoft now, trying to change things around. It will be interesting to see the effect.

    08 June 2005

    It's easy, just a recompile right?

    After some time to digest the news about Macs with Intel Inside, I've observed something that makes me worry. Not worry about the transition, but about some developer's view on software testing. First from Will Shipley the long time NeXT developer at Omni Group and now cofounder of Delicious Monster. Speaking of his work at Omni when NeXT moved from the Motorola 68K CPU to the Intel processor, he says:

    My then-company ported all of our apps to run on Nextstep for Intel Processors in a couple days. I think OmniWeb took the longest; if I recall the others pretty much recompiled and ran.
    Then he talks about his experience working on the Mac Intel prototypes at WWDC as follows:
    It turns out all Apple has ready now are prototype machines, which are in plentiful supply here at WWDC. So, we went into their lab, opened up our source code for Delicious Library, clicked on the "compile for 10.4 only" option, and compiled our program for Intel processors. And it ran. It looked great to us. So, to sum up: no source code changes. We clicked, it compiled, it ran. The program we built will now run on both PowerPC and Intel machines.
    (emphasis mine) Then there's James Duncan Davidson that regularly writes tech articles for apple who wrote:
    And, when you see an app recompile on the new machine and run just fine—or even when you see one and see issues, but know that it's just a matter of cleaning up some bits and bobs—well, it's not a scary proposition anymore. What's left to do is straight forward coding. There's nothing that requires massive, or even minor, changes to the design an application. It's just making sure that the code doesn't make any assumptions it shouldn't.
    (emphasis mine) Compare that with the more measured response from Rich Schaut, a long time Developer of Mac Word at Microsoft, he explains:
    For a more concrete example, Apple have produced documentation for developers who use PowerPlant. PowerPlant uses various resources to describe the UI objects that are created--windows, menus, dialog boxes, etc. Reading these resources correctly in the context of a universal binary will be crucial. They've included some sample code to flip bytes in PowerPlant resources. It's more than 780 lines of code--780 lines of tedious, byte flipping code. [...] No. The PowerPlant resource example isn't extreme. It's just a common, specific example for which Apple have been kind enough to provide a solution. Anyone shipping serious applications that have not already had to solve this problem for cross-platform scenarios has quite a bit of tedious work to do. While I've welcomed this change for my own circumstances, I don't envy the position in which a number of my compatriots down in San Jose find themselves.
    Maybe it's my perspective as a full-time software tester (more about that in another post) and I might be missing the light here, but Universal Binaries just doubled the amount of testing I need to do to verify, as Will put it, that the "code doesn't make any assumptions it shouldn't." This is simply a non-trivial task. Sure, I've been around a while and maybe I'm jaded, but when someone says to me, "Hey, I clicked the check box, it compiled and booted, looks good!" I get all sorts of bad feelings about what hideous bugs are lurking inside. Software testing is perhaps one of the most difficult disciplines in the software industry and good testing costs. It costs time and money. Thanks to a new CPU, a new complier for Intel and a new run time translator for PowerPC applications on an Intel box, Apple has single handedly increased the cost to test a Mac software product by at least twice if not three times. That, my friends, is not a good thing. Let me hasten to add that, elegant romantics aside, I think this is a good move, but for a software developer and especially as a software tester, it's going to cost. I should mention that I think all of these developers I mention do test and work very hard to produce high quality software. But high quality software is SO much more than a compiled and launching application, and I think that aspect is being missed in the discussion.

    06 June 2005

    Mac OS x86 Leopard

    I can't really let this day go by without saying something about the stunning change announced at Apple's World Wide Developer Conference today. I just watched the keynote presented by Steve Jobs and I don't really know what to think. The big news is as follows: 1. Apple will be transitioning to the Intel processor over then next 2 years 2. When Longhorn ships, Apple will ship Mac OS X Leopard 3. Apple has been building Mac OS X secretly on Intel since Mac OS X version 10.0! 4. They will have a binary translator named Rosetta for older PowerPC apps 5. iTunes is going to catalog podcasts on their music store with chapters and album art 6. Steve Jobs wore a black shirt, black pants, and black shoes rather than his customary jeans and mock turtle neck I don't know how this is going to effect everyone, but if it means a faster Mac and a better laptop experience, I'm all for it. I really thought it would never happen. I'm amazed.

    04 June 2005

    Diminished Readership

    While doing Saturday chores I listened to a talk given in November 9th 2004 by Dallin H. Oaks entitled “Where Will It Lead?”. The part that got me thinking was this bit: "Second is the matter of diminished readership of newspapers and books. The circulation and readership of daily newspapers in the United States is declining significantly, even while our population is increasing. Specifically, the per capita circulation of newspapers in the U.S. in the last 30 years has declined from 300 to 190 per 1,000 population. To cite another measure, in the four years ended in 2002 the percent of those ages 25 to 34 who have read a newspaper during the past week (either in hand or on the Internet) fell by almost 10 percentage points—from more than 86 percent in 1988 to less than 77 percent by 2002 (U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1989 [109th ed.], table no. 901; and Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2003 [123rd ed.], table no. 1127). The proportion of adults who read books has also declined significantly in recent years (see National Endowment for the Arts, Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, Research Division Report #46, June 2004, Washington, D.C. [www.nea.gov/pub/ReadingAtRisk.pdf]; and Christina McCarroll, “New on the Endangered Species List: The Bookworm,” Christian Science Monitor, 12 July 2004, 1–3). "Why are these trends of concern? More and more people are not reading the news of the world around them or about the important issues of the day. They apparently rely on what others tell them or on the sound bites of television news, where even the most significant subjects rarely get more than 60 seconds. Where will this lead? It is leading us to a less concerned, less thoughtful, and less informed citizenry, and that results in less responsive and less responsible government." I wonder, do blogs help or hinder informed citizenry? Blogs certainly level the playing field and diversify the voices out there, but do they promote a thoughtful, informed citizenry? How does the multiplicity of blogs help finding the truth? At least with large establishments, there's a finacial benefit to publishing accurate reports, but in a world filled with blogs, where is the accountability? Trusting in the masses isn't very reassureing to me.

    Throw Away Your Mop!

    This last Christmas season my wife surprised me buy getting me a robotic vacuum. It was one of those great moments when you get a present, that you really wanted, but didn't really know you wanted it. The geek side of me totally took over and I spent hours watching it and trying to figure out how it works. The model she got me is the Roomba Discovery and we continue to use it to this day. We probably use it more than they expected, because the flexible side flapper that cleans edges broke. I went to the web site to order the part, and was greeted with this: Sure enough, they are going to make a robot that mops your floor too! I have to admit, this is a great use of technology and if it works well, I'll probably drop the cash for it. When I got through to the customer support people they quickly ordered new parts for free, because they thought they shouldn't have worn down so quickly. Very cool. I'm impressed.

    01 June 2005

    Dublin to Copenhagen

    I just finished a business trip in Ireland. I enjoyed the work, loved getting to know the people there and of course enjoyed exploring the town of Dublin and the country side after work. The town seems to be growing like crazy. A short drive to the country side seems to put you back in time. It's a beautiful, breath taking green. It rained most of the time we were there. Still, I could easily get used to living there. On the way home I caught a flight from Dublin to Copenhagen and then from Copenhagen home to the US of A. The first leg of the flight was a short 2 hours and I ended up sitting next to a wonderful Irish couple in their thirties or so. No children, out for a long weekend in Denmark. I don't know how it started, but it seems like almost immediately the lady was asking me about what it's like to be a Mormon and how the church works. During the course of the conversation I found out that she is both a lawyer as well as a psychologist and very well read. She is Catholic and participates a weekly study session with 2 nuns, herself and a few other friends of other faiths as far as I could tell. A she is very interested in religion and asked many very good questions. We didn't agree on everything, one rarely does when talking about religion, but on most things we did and the conversation was amicable and had a fun pace to it. Her husband certainly was nice, but didn't participate declaring with a smile, "When it comes to religion, I've been there, done that." So we continued talking just us the two of us. One of the most interesting things for me was our discussion of a pre-mortal existence. The idea the we lived before were born seemed a brand new idea to her. When we discussed the idea that before we were born, we lived with our Heavenly Parents and that "Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." it seemed perhaps the newest idea that had crossed her path in a very long time. We got pretty quickly to the question of the purpose of life and while she didn't share with me what she thought it was, I did with her. She did share some very interesting insights into how she thought people change and grow and was able to explain it in very sociological terms. Basically, for us to change, we need to have a input that allows us to see a contrast, and the input must come from something or someone external. This way we can make a choice. Without the input, we continue as we are and change cannot occur. I thought this was very insightful, and it reminded me of a bit of scripture: "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility. Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God. ... Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other." We then discussed more about why we would need to come to this earth and experience life in this way. I explained how I believe that we must learn from our own experience right from wrong. And by learning to choose the right, we experience more happyness and joy. The purpose of life then is to increase our joy and happiness by becoming like our Father in Heaven. We do this as we learn to think as He thinks, do as He does, love as He loves. We both agreed that this process would take us far into the next existence and then the flight came to an end and we said our good byes. I often speak with those I meet. Everywhere in fact. I really enjoy learning about others and how they see life and what interests them. I came away from this conversation feeling like maybe I take for granted far too much of the religious truths I hold dear. It's not always too acceptable these days to speak of religion in public, at least at work, but I can't help but think that the simple truths, about God, the purpose of life, and the role of Christ in our redemption and eventual return home, simply sooth the soul and invite a reflective hue on life that ingenders change. And change, that's something we can all use.

    31 May 2005

    Customer Signature

    In July 2003 I was issued an American Express credit card. It just expired. I've used it for almost two years and I never signed the back! I have never, not even once, been asked to sign it! I guess I'm not alone! I wonder what the signature on the back of the card is supposed to mean anyway. If it is just to verify against the receipt I sign then it seems it is a sorely under-used security precaution. Once again, security is so very dependent on human process. If the process fails, so does the security.

    A good example of the human factor in security is this article. An estimated 500,000 people (perhaps as high as 1,000,000) had their account information stolen in "what may the biggest security breach to hit the banking industry." Who did this crime? "Account information on the customers was illegally sold by bank employees to a man identified as Orazio Lembo, whom police said was doing business by illegally posing as a collection agency." Brilliant.

    The Thing Legends Are Made Of

    Check out this fan made Nike commercial.

    Possibly the best golf shot of all time. Seriously, even if you don't play, you should watch this. It's 60 seconds long.

    Hello World!

    Nothing like a beginning! This is my very first web log and it will be mine in every way. Here you will find thoughts, ideas and commentary on things I think are interesting or important. I hope you enjoy your stay.