November 29, 2005

New work

My current contract (at MedQuist) has ended, and they offered me a position. Well, they offered to offer me a position, and I accepted that offer. The second offer. The offer for the position, that is. So, as soon as I finish the paperwork, I guess I'll get the offer. The offer that I have accepted. I think they hired me for my succinct loquaciousness.

So, one aspect that's nice is that I get to move on to Java development. I've been doing the basic stuff at home (JSPs, servlets, etc. on Eclipse) but will have a chance to get much deeper into the mix at MedQuist. MedQuist is the world's leading medical transcription service provider ... blah blah blah, yackety yackety blah. The bottom line: their products deal with medical transcription through coding (classification) of those transcriptions. They also cover all of the speech rec in between using the Philips engine. I wasn't expecting to be hooked into a permanent position but have met a few others at the company with a very similar development philosophy. It's nice to be in your element and have such a wealth of interesting projects to work on.

And what a great time to start a permanent position: Xmas Holidays!!

posted by sstrader at 10:54 PM in Personal | permalink

November 27, 2005

Today's comments

Standardizing tagging, tags - On the need to eliminate synonyms in tagging systems

posted by sstrader at 1:01 PM in Personal | permalink

November 26, 2005

Movie roundup

Movies from the last couple of weeks:

  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes) - Clever, quick black comedy about a petty thief (Robert Downey Jr.) who gets mistaken as an indie actor and pairs up with a Hollywood private eye (Val Kilmer) to sleuth several murders. Downey veers sloppilly from wit to idiot, both equally entertaining, while Kilmer is the well-dressed Felix Unger who can barely tolerate his accidental partner. (4/5)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes) - Many good moments and not too long. Dark and violent and definitely PG-13 with much of the darkness psychological. Lisa felt, and I agree, that the ending just sort of dropped off with no well-expressed denoument; the characters simply stated their minds and the credits rolled. Unsatisfying after the previous 2-1/2 hours of conflict. (3/5)
  • Fever Pitch (IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes) - Well-cast and well-written romantic comedy. Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon are sweet and real and avoid most of the romantic comedy cliches here. Good writing from the Farrelly brothers who can often inject pathos in unlikely situations. (3/5)
  • Layer Cake (IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes) - A Guy Ritchie-styled film (no, not Castaway...) with classy drug dealer Daniel Craig always one step behind the Big Bosses but still out-smarting them, if only barely. Nice twists and nice characters but another unfortunately flawed ending. Overall edgy and entertaining. (4/5)
posted by sstrader at 12:23 PM in Cinema | tagged harry potter | permalink

Blogdex is back

In the past few days, Blogdex popped back online--around a month after it first disappeared. And, of course, BlogsNow is still up.

posted by sstrader at 11:25 AM in Science & Technology | permalink

November 25, 2005

Today's reading list

  • The Man Who Sold the War [ via Rolling Stone ]
  • The CIA paid the Rendon Group more than $23 million dollars to help bring down Saddam Hussein through propaganda and media manipulation. That propaganda, fed to Judith Miller among others, once reported was used by the administration to bolster support for the war. In one breath John Rendon criticises the media for reporting unflattering and incorrect information about the war, in the next he boasts of feeding incorrect information to that same media. Jackass.

    It reminds me of the essay "Astroturf: How Manufactured 'Grassroots' Movements are Subverting Democracy" from The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2003. In it, Jason Stella outlines how propaganda--lies--from the Kuwaiti government was used to push lawmakers to vote for the first Iraq war.

  • Crisis in Cosmology [ via In Defense of Marxism ]
  • First, I find out that string theory is in question, now the big bang too? My head is spinning. All of those problems that still exist with the theory could eventually bring it down--and in the process describe a universe that is at least 70 billion years old instead of 13! This is big. At the center of the dispute is plasma cosmology.

    The article is, however, absolutely dispicable in the way it presents modifications that occured in the big bang theory. At several points, scientific adjustments are presented as some sort of weasling out on the part of the scientists. Look: theories are meant to adjust as new facts are presented. That's what science is. If the theory eventually falls apart--which the big bang may-or-may-not--then the theory that best represents the new facts will replace it. Too much sensationalist science reporting. Jackasses.

    This, oddly, makes me wish Brian Greene had a blog. I wonder what the discussions are in the physicist and cosmologist circles...

    And, bravo to Eric Lerner for his vigilance in keeping the Wikipedia entry on plasma cosmology unmolested by rabid graduate students. New science is new science and it needs to be presented with fact and not ridiculed with emotion.

  • TiddlyWiki
  • Self-contained wiki based on JavaScript contained within the HTML pages. Basically, you can save your entire, functioning wiki to a single HTML file. Client-side scripting at its best. Now I have to think about porting my development wiki, and maybe even my blog, to this.

posted by sstrader at 8:58 PM in Politics , Programming , Science & Technology , Today's reading list | permalink

Today's reading list

  • The Wilson-Plame-Novak-Rove Blame Game [ via ]
  • Painfully detailed and dispassionate timeline of what-happened-and-when. Worth several readings.

  • So I says to myself, "Self, what's up with these Googlecounts?"
  • Whilst researching a snowclone, Benjamin Zimmer points out some interesting inconsistencies with Google searches when used to research statistics of language use. For example: the search count for "A" should be equal to the sum of the search counts for "A" "B" and "A" -"B". Instead, the numbers are wildly different. The first search can return thousands more results than the sum of the other two.

  • Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse [via Wikipedia ]
  • I recently had heard several comments suggesting that America did not torture its prisoners. Some people apparently still believe that. With Bush and Cheney double-speaking their way around questions on the military's policy, was I missing something? I don't think so. Major General Antonio Taguba's report from April 2004 states that we committed egregious acts and grave breaches of international law. It also states that 60% of the Abu Ghraib prisoners were not a threat (a point I noted back in June 2004). Why is this forgotten?

posted by sstrader at 12:45 PM in Language & Literature , Politics , Today's reading list | permalink

November 23, 2005

Local food

I went to The Barrelman beside Eno's with the intent of picking up some Georgia cheese's to bring to my brother's tomorrow. I love that there's a little cheese shop right down the street and that it offers a choice of local produce. We've gone there a couple of times before, and I am constantly making resolutions to support the local shops by making weekly sallies to the cheesemonger. Cheese, Gromit!

It wasn't meant to be. The salesperson was busy with a wine enthusiast--they also sell wines, of course--so I had some time to read over the cheese-names-I've-never-heard-of and decide on a good set based on their descriptions and respective animals. After five or so minutes of reading, I did the eye contact thing. The wine customer seemed to be finished and was making small talk. Several minutes of attempted and successful direct eye contact and nods and raised eyebrows and gestures and such got me no response. No acknowledgement or even a simple "I'll be right with you." Hmm. I was 10 minutes in so just gave up.

Second half of the trip was at Toast where they have fresh loaves of bread for sale. The last time we ate there, I had noticed and asked about the small bakery in the front. Their selection is small but looks very good. I walked out with a ginormous loaf of bread for $4, plus two apple torte things that they threw in for free. Very friendly and pleasant--as was our previous meal there.

Now, I'm not trying to draw any conclusions. Not as such. Maybe I get a little too cranky with waiting and this was only one instance, but the experience at The Barrelman was such an inattentive snub that I will probably not go there again. Eno's an excellent place to dine or sit at the wine bar, so I don't know what's up at the sister shop. I think they're makin' the Big Buck off of wine collectors and probably very little off of cheese eaters. I should've just lined up eight of the rarest vintages on the counter and stood there with my wallet open ... and then walked out.

People love local shops with good food and service--how did they screw this up so badly?

posted by sstrader at 5:16 PM in Personal | permalink

November 22, 2005

Web standards

Finishing up layout for a bunch of Web pages: they look perfect in Opera and Firefox but are completely messed up in IE. The causes were: missing selector support, padding or margin differences with LI elements, differences in TABLE width with TABLEs contained in multiple DIVs, and the often-reported DOM differences. All is almost well now, with the only serious problems left involving the CSS menu system. I can either consider it a "learning experience" or be pissed off at IE. Considering that I'm following CSS specs dated 1998, I'm leaning towards the latter.

Continue reading "Web standards"
posted by sstrader at 12:19 AM in Programming | permalink

November 18, 2005

Where was I?

Pot luck lunch with the developers on Thursday. We have: Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Brazilian co-workers, so the eats were varied and delicious. I brought my famous chili (that's American, isn't it?) and got many compliments. It's the spice that makes it nice (TM).

Drinking with blogfriends (TM) on Thursday night at Limerick Junction. Mingaling made the plans and was roundly mocked for picking a place with live music (that interrupts our briliant conversations?!?). However, the space worked very well for those who attended, and M got us all to impluse-drink a round of Irish Carbombs (or, as I remembered them, Irish Pipe Bombs) with the waitress. I give it seven thumbs up. I talked to people afterwards, although I'm not sure who. Later in the evening, HMB and I met up with The Wife and The Gals at Bazzaar. With my slackwear jeans and old sneakers, I'm not sure how I got in to such a swank joint.

posted by sstrader at 6:34 PM in Where was I? | permalink

November 17, 2005

Domain changes

Two quick thoughts: first, art feels more relevant to the observer not only when it's externally familiar but also when it's internally familiar. Pop songs are externally familiar. Internal familiarity is when the artwork contains internal repetition and variation of themes or structures. Poetry illustrates this with its use of alliteration, assonance, consonance, and other rhyming techniques. Phrases are made more compelling with rhyme no matter their content. This should be classified under the same rule as that of external familiarity.

Second, there can be a related disconnect of content and structure in music performance. Music that feels good in your hands can start a feedback to your ears. This is partially why beginning students enjoy playing "Heart and Soul," but also points to a relationship with the first idea of familiarity. To put it in an extreme: you can hate listening to music you love playing (although it could never be that extreme).

These seem very related, although my opinion may change tomorrow. Both ideas involve art that is structurally beautiful but expressively deficit.

posted by sstrader at 7:50 PM in Music | permalink

November 16, 2005


I hadn't written anything on the sad demise of Arrested Development because I just didn't have anything pithy to say. We'll miss it, and one of the best gifts we'd received in the past was the season one DVD. I recently heard an interview with the creators on Fresh Air and they pointed out what we all love: it's an eminently re-watchable show because it is so dense with gags.

Now, although I love Arrested Development, I don't trust people who insist that it's "too smart" for TV. What the hell does that mean anyway? It's too easy to pat yourself on the back as a Sophisticated Consumer when a well-written show that you like goes under. Its quirky humor and (unfortunately) erratic schedule combined to aid in its demise. Oh, and the fact that it's made up of an ensemble cast including several veterans might make it a little more costly than The King of Queens or (shudder) Two and a Half Men. There are many good shows that make it. This one didn't.

OK, enough ranting.

My intent here is to point out a suggestion over at Lost Remote that bump had pointed to. LR proposed that Arrested Development should investigate the VOD and streaming models. This, in combination with its healthy DVD sales, could support the costs. Great ideas there. And some good musings in the comment section. Much more pithy than any rant I could come up with. The concepts may-or-may-not work, but they are certainly related to what we'll see in the future, and who better to begin the trend than such a Very Smart show?

posted by sstrader at 10:37 PM in Culture & Society | permalink

Oh, drat

I've gotta drop Target. I'm keeping the Magic 8 Ball though.

"Are we living in a theocracy?"

Rely on it.

posted by sstrader at 6:05 PM in Culture & Society | permalink

Crystal Reports: displaying a graph of the most recent data

I had to create a report in Crystal Reports--containing graphs of historical data within subgroups of users--that ended up being more complex that I had expected. Much of the information comes from the Crystal Reports Knowledge Base article C2011945 with little else available on the Web. Here are some notes using CR10:

Continue reading "Crystal Reports: displaying a graph of the most recent data"
posted by sstrader at 12:36 PM in Programming | permalink

November 13, 2005

Where was I?

Dinner Friday night at Avra. Greek food that was just OK. Appetizers were octopus and dolmades, then I made the unusual choice of tomato and pepper stuffed with rice and beef (I usually go the lamb route, or as it was advertised at a restaurant on Mykonos: lamp) and an equally unusual choice of Metaxa as a digestif. Later, we each had a flight of four Barolos at Eno.

Saturday was jogging, practice, and coding, while Lisa was at Milltown Arms freaking out over LSU's narrow overtime win. Later was a house party OTP to socialize and watch the DJ battles. Grr! We only watched the first set because we're slackers.

battle royale

I should get my four-month-late emission's test done today, but won't.

posted by sstrader at 2:54 PM in Where was I? | permalink

November 12, 2005

Futurama drinking game

Drink whenever:

  1. Fry scratches his butt,
  2. You are aroused by Amy (drink twice if you're female), or
  3. The Professor says "good news" (twice if he says "bad news," just "news," or any other variation)

If Flexo makes an appearance, drink a shot of Tequila.

posted by sstrader at 3:01 PM in Culture & Society | permalink

Silverman the racist

Reading several reviews of Sarah Silverman's new film Jesus is Magic, I saw that The Chicago Tribune brought up the interesting opinion that rather than skewering racism, as Silverman explains her humor, she is actually laughing along with racism. I've sort of thought about this before with The Simpsons. Their characters are so cliched--a cop that looks like a pig, a corrupt Kennedy-sounding politician, an Indian convenience store owner--that it's a wonder they ever get beyond vaudevillian stereotype jokes. There are no fried-chicken-eating blacks or stingy Jews, so the racism/stereotypes are very G-rated and relatively uncontroversial, yet they are still presented as characters that are Funny Because They're Different from Us (or "Us"). How many times can we laugh at Akira's broken English before we feel a little uncomfortable? I'm kind of fascinated to see the Middle Eastern Simpsons just to see what stereotypes they abuse.

Continue reading "Silverman the racist"
posted by sstrader at 1:35 PM in Culture & Society | permalink

Book numbers

To me, Amazon's SIPs always seemed linguistically interesting but demotically useless. Reading languagehat's passing along of the concept of using SIPs as book summaries, I decided to try it on a book that has increased in value since I'd read it: Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. I'm still ambivalent about their usefulness.

However, while revisiting them, I found that Amazon has added--I believe relatively recently--two additional metrics. Along with SIPs, entries have CAPs: capitalized phrases. To these, a Concordance and Text Stats have been added. The Concordance contains the 100 most frequently used words using that recently popular technique of varying font size with importance. The Text Stats contains measures of relative complexity, readability, and various counts and "fun stats." According to Amazon's measurements, Cryptonomicon is easy to read and not all that complex, but you get over 50,000 words per dollar! This is ideal for anyone who has obsessively checked the text stats of their writing in MS Word.

posted by sstrader at 10:53 AM in Language & Literature | permalink

November 10, 2005


From /.:

Sony just loves everyone $sys$anally. They are the greatest company ever when it comes to technology $sys$that $sys$sucks. Everyone is gonna love $sys$to $sys$hate Sony, and they will $sys$not buy any Sony product that they see. It's because Sony loves $sys$to $sys$fuck $sys$with their customers.

Good joke. Poorly implemented, but still a good joke. And we really do need to start spreading around the phrase "infected with DRM." Sony's rootkit is the perfect catalyst.

posted by sstrader at 1:48 PM in Programming | permalink

November 9, 2005

Clause trophy

A week or so ago, Sound & Fury returned to the music blogging scene (furiously) with an entry that contained amazingly long sentences on the verge of un-understandability (89 words). I loved it. I had written an entry on it. Then I deleted the entry because my praise and rambling was directionless, even though what drew me to it (although much draws me to the S&F blog, as it acts the counter-weight to the permissive newness and, as he likes to label it, postmodernism of modern aesthetics and those ideas that I both champion and challenge) was the artful and almost impenetrable overlong sentences. Who likes those run-on tight-rope walks of grammatical daring? I do. Almost as much as hyphens.

Anyway, one of my other favorite blogs-who-serve-to-take-me-to-school is of course Language Log. I had apparently missed their (singular "they") post on the sad demise of embedded clauses in our presidents' speeches only to catch up when Trent Reznor is referenced.

And I realize the appreciation, or at least my appreciation, may have come in part from that of David Foster Wallace's writing (ignoring whether I was drawn to it from appreciation or whether I'm drawn back from learned appreciation). Although who doesn't love a good discussion of semantic complexity?

posted by sstrader at 10:33 PM in Language & Literature | tagged david foster wallace | permalink

I'm a pretty lady

OK, so I never do these dumb-ass quizzes ... wait, more precisely, I never publish the results of these dumb-ass quizzes ... but who can pass up that chance to post an image of a hot cartoon chick in a bra?

Your Hair Should Be Purple
Intense, thoughtful, and unconventional.
You're always philosophizing and inspiring others with your insights.
What's Your Funky Inner Hair Color?

Not me, that's for sure. I guess it's because I'm "unconventional." Thanks, LC, for allowing me to live out my opposite sex fantasies.

posted by sstrader at 9:54 PM in Personal | permalink

November 8, 2005

Fast answers

At work, I sit near a couple of wackos who hourly ... minutely ... regurgitate the right-wing wackiness they apparently absorbed that morning on the way to work. Their discussions are long and loud and have a certitude that ignores any depth in the subject matter (e.g.: the recent riots in France prove that it's an inferior country to America, period).

Continue reading "Fast answers"
posted by sstrader at 11:47 PM in Politics | tagged new orleans | permalink

November 7, 2005

Where was I?

Man, this past week has been weird. Or busy. Or I just lost track. I waste time on the weekends (mostly recovery from over-indulgence) and then feel hurried during the week.

Last weekend (not yesterday, but the one a week before) we went to a big fat fuckin' Halloween party on Leslie St. in Kirkwood and met Matt and Lori (briefly) and Lady Crumpet and Scott (with whom I crawled into a crawlspace to dig through a cache of Ebony magazines circa 1970). It was the third year of my gorilla suit, so Lisa and I came as King Kong and Faye Wray.

No, the other way around: Faye Wray and King Kong.

Anyway, it was relatively low-key except for The Driving Home of the Annihilated Friend. And no, it wasn't me. That happened around midnight and we headed back till I'm not sure when. Bonfire in the back and creeeeepy decoraaaations.

faye wray

The night before was an Octoberfestivus celebration at Liz and Matt's where I made it through Shaun of the Dead but crashed halfway through The Shining. I'm a lousy guest but at least it saved my energy for a late night of creeeeepy decoraaaations. Sunday was recouperatin'.

The next weekend (the past few days) began with a false start on Friday at Krog Bar (way too small) which quickly moved to dinner at Eclipse Di Sol on Highland. The occasion was our old co-worker/friend/thespian Diane (old photo of us here) was back in town for the weekend and we were wont to celebrate. After that it was--ugh--off to Hand in Hand where I'm told we hung out until 3 or so. Photos exist documenting the night, but who knows where. Saturday, recoup and head over to Alicia and Dan's housewarming at their extremely neat-o house. I am such a condo person, but this was the first time I was ever jealous of a house. And surprise of surprises: Lady Crumpet and Scott were there too! Things happened and I think I kissed another old co-worker when she and I were re-enacting a series of humorous sight-gags. I apologize, friend, but I suspect it got the laugh I was shooting for. Movies exist documenting the night, but again, etc.

My first thoughts the next morning, mostly headache free, were of the I-gotta-change-my-life sort. Yeah, I know, I know...

Yesterday was the Wyeth exhibit at the re-opening of the High which I was eagerly anticipating. Beautiful beautiful pieces. Then a lousy lunch at Einstein's (Chardonnay instead of Sauvignon Blanc and then very only warm biscuits and gravy). Walking into the place, I got a really weird vibe as sort of a premonition of a bad meal to come. I had originally passed it off as someone just giving me the stink-eye, but realize now that a bad vibe is a bad vibe. Respect the vibe.

Oddly, I had a good week or so of piano practice and a couple of days jogging. This week should be very busy work-wise though.

posted by sstrader at 10:03 PM in Where was I? | permalink


BBC et al. quote Phil Collins on the possibility of a Genesis reunion. This is pretty much a non-news news story, but it could be signs of something that is happening behind-the-lines. As old geeks are hoping for a Gabriel-era reunion with life-sized flower and slippermen costumes, old pop kiddies will be happy to hear songs from the "first" Genesis album, aka Invisible Touch. Blech. As a good omen for the former, we heard "The Carpet Crawlers" from LLDOB while eating lunch at Einstein's yesterday.

a flowa!?!

posted by sstrader at 1:48 PM in Music | permalink

November 4, 2005

Good Night, and Good Luck. (5/5)

good night

Nuanced and well-constructed. The story centers around the point in time when Edward R. Murrow and his team guardedly began reporting on the hypocricy of McCarthy's investigations. I was ready for a simple story (McCarthy = Evil) but was delighted to see how, in a way, director George Clooney made the 50s the main character. There's much to appreciate here.

Years ago, a co-worker tried with bluster to convince me that McCarthy was a true patriot who performed a noble service to this country. I appreciate a good Devil's Advocate, but this was ridiculous and scarey because he was serious. This was several years before 9/11, so I thought the guy was just presenting a fringe, kook-pot position that could never surface again in the mainstream. Oh well. One important point that should be considered: in the 50s it was the politicians that were in control of the fear-mongering and persecution. Today, to a large extent, it's the fringe media and their terrifyingly numerous following. Where McCarthy once declared anyone who contradicted the president as anti-American, today it's personalities like Ann Coulter who do the same.

The movie is not as extremely political as my comments here. However, I'm the target audience of such a subject, so the distasteful parallels resonate. Don't let that keep you away from a truly skillful piece of cinema and more proof (along with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) of Clooney's surprising artistry.

Continue reading "Good Night, and Good Luck. (5/5)"
posted by sstrader at 6:58 PM in Cinema | permalink

Free, at last

Unless you've been living under a rock (which I have to some extent), you've probably heard that that jackass Kenneth Tomlinson has resigned from the board of the CPB. Keep your laws off of my news!

posted by sstrader at 6:17 PM in Culture & Society | permalink


Throughout college (and after), I mooned over Andrew Wyeth's work. Although somewhat New England and austere, he's a model of the technically skilled and emotionally expressive artist. And he too is a watercolorist, so that ain't too bad. I put him in the same school as the composer Walter Piston: a clean, very American mid-century realism but not without expressive depth. And they lived in that unfashionable world of realism and tonality while many (rightfully) praised modern schools were flourishing. Their work is somewhat anachronistic but very much valid.

I saw my first "live" Wyeth in an art museum in the old Roswell Square [?] several years back with Lisa. I had some interest in going, but didn't expect to be as stunned by the works as I was. Seeing paintings up close is always a completely different experience than seeing the glossy Art History textbook version, but I never really anticipate the impact. They were captivating for their size and detail. Much larger than I had expected, and his hand was so physically present in the brushstrokes and washes.

So anyway, the High is having a Wyeth exhibit when they reopen on the 12th (earlier for us members who will be going to the member preview to avoid the unwashed rabble!). I'm looking forward to it.

posted by sstrader at 12:05 PM in Art | permalink

November 3, 2005

Accursed serial numbers!

That serial numbers site saves me again! And for the same reason: we own the software, but no one had written down the serial number (probably provided on the disposable packaging).

posted by sstrader at 5:36 PM in Programming | permalink

Crystal Reports bug: tables from multiple databases can only have one link

Using Crystal Reports prior to version 10, tables from different databases cannot be linked using more than one column. So, if two tables are joined by the columns id1 and id2, you can only specify a link for one of those columns. More than one join will display a message box with the error "Invalid file link. Not all fields in same index expression."


I tested using the demo version of CR11, and could successfully link multiple fields.

posted by sstrader at 3:12 PM in Programming | permalink

Crash: C++ objects moved in memory after construction

I encounted a crash a few days ago that took two days of testing to resolve. It was caused by the addition of an otherwise simple 20-line header file.

Continue reading "Crash: C++ objects moved in memory after construction"
posted by sstrader at 12:46 PM in Programming | permalink