No Mas Libros para Tu

I'm done posting book reviews in the blog area. The fact of the matter is that I've been turned on to a site call Good Reads. It offers a formal mechanism for rating and reviewing titles. An added bonus is that they also have a Facebook plug-in. For those not in the know, I'm a big proponent of consolidating social networking services. Back in the day I had CollegeClub, Friendster, and Orkut. They all basically did the same thing but because my friends were scattered across these sites I had to be on all of them as well. Ignore the fact that we were all attention spans like a gnat and gladly jumped on whatever new service came out. But now this ability to add new functionality within a framework is something I can get behind.


Technology BS Ahoy!

I was doing some self-study on the topics of SOAP and SSL today and came across this little gem of information. What really caught my eye is a sentence from the last paragraph that reads, "...since HTTP is stateless and entirely unreliable..." Wait, what? Hold up there, hoss. HTTP runs atop TCP, which is both stateful and reliable. So how does a protocol running on a reliable layer magically become unreliable? In all the computer science I've studied it can't. Maybe this fellow found a magical new field of study. The lesson is: beware the Internet my friends. This is crap out there.


If Nicholas Cage Could Act

While listening to National Public Radio a few months back I heard about an interesting book called Merchant of Death by these two journalists. It chronicles the rise of a business empire owned by a Russian named Victor Bout. Bout is about as close to a real-life Lord of War (awkwardly played by Nicholas Cage) as you'll ever get. His myriad of companies specialize in air cargo, but somehow his planes always seem to be carrying some kind of weapons to parts of the world where people are eagerly killing one another (Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, Congo, Afghanistan, etc.).

The book itself is incredibly illuminating. The reporting is about as objective as I've ever read and chronicles in minute detail the inner workings of this gun running enterprise. It's frightening to think of how all this went on under the noses of the Western world while they were all busy patting themselves on the back for the fall of the Evil Empire.

Now, I can't give a complete review of the book at this time because I didn't quite finish it. My biggest complaint so far is that the book is as dry as the Mojave and as clinical as a prostate exam. The feel is of a series of newspaper articles glued together to make a book, which makes sense since the week after I got the book from the library I read another article on Bout in the Washington Post as written by one of the authors. I think it's because of these factors that I couldn't finish the book before it was due back at the liberry. Fear not! For I have re-reserved the book and as soon as the other five people before me are finished with it then I too shall finish it!


Renn Fest

I spent an afternoon this past weekend at what is known as a "renaissance festival". Or you can call it the "renn fest" if you're as cool as Ol' Blue Eyes. However, no one there was remotely cool enough.

I've never understood the obsession with the renaissance period. European culture was just beginning to crawl out of the gutters of medieval times. Basic hygiene and sanitation were still just theories. Well, I guess they got that part right. Everyone focuses on things like adding pointless "e"s at the end of words and the clothes. And the clothes! Dear night take me now... There's a reason men don't wear cod pieces anymore. And my highly scientific research reports that 99% of the women there shouldn't go with the bustier look. It's much like squeezing a tube of toothpaste from the middle. Oh how I hate that too...

Goode nyght, and goode lucke.


Big Box Fun

Last week I sat in on a presentation by a Wal-Mart representative about the proposed expansion of our neighborhood store. They're working on upping the floor area by about 50,000 square feet. If I had to summarize the experience I'd do so as: unequal expectations.

The Wal-Mart rep obviously came expecting a free feedback group because she brought all kinds of glossy artist renderings of the expansion. The theme was all about some prototype new facade that this store would have first, increased light in the store, and trying to keep shoppers longer.

The expectations of the neighborhood residents was about either improving the existing situation and/or preventing the expansion from happening. When the rep was asked pointedly about the possibility of blocking the expansion she did gave corporate answers about owning the property, etc. Long story short: it's a done deal, and that didn't make some people very happy.

I will say that people weren't shy about asking tough questions about things like the poor condition of the store and the dangerous traffic. She quickly got defensive and threw out useful links like the (completely unbiased) Wal-MartFacts.com. After a while she even started admitting that the store manager hadn't been doing his job, and assured everyone that the situation was being addressed. However, this didn't consist of the manager being fired.

A final note: apparently the Mid-Atlantic region is being condensed in terms of Wal-Mart regional responsibilities. My interpretation is that fewer people are getting more work. So I don't really have high hopes for the situation.