I recieved my letter of admission from the Copenhagen Business School yesterday. Though I'm of course pretty happy, it didn't come as much of a surprise. An insider had already told me about the school's stellar predicting skills: Increasing capacity with 30% in a year with a 35% drop in applicans. Everyone who applied basicly got in. It takes a little bit of the accomplishment out of it.
Let's just hope that the 35% drop is due to all the gold diggers who got scared when they heard about the Internet industry going bust. Good riddance, then.
Anyway, I'm going to spend half of the next five years getting acquainted with Michael Porter's Five Forces Model and other economic theories, and the other half learning (more) about Java, databases, and nifty tech stuff like that. When I'm done I'll get to call myself a cand.merc.dat graduate. That's not til 2006, though. I can't even grasp the concept of that far in the future.
But man am I excited. The introduction week is less than a month away. Not much time to turn my spending habits from that of a full-time worker's salery into that of a students. Yoinks. But who cares? It's at least not like I have to pay to tuition like those poor American kids. It's time like these when living in a country where everyone's paying 50% in taxes feels great.
Impressive people have a tendency to invoke feelings of inspiration and envy at the same time. This twosome of feelings usually comes by knocking on my brain whenever I read the products of clear and clever thinking. When I wish I had those great thoughts and were able to articulate them just as well.
Joel, Dave Winer, Evhead, and the guys from 37 Signals are some of the people who have made me feel like this from time to time, but lately a new-comer named the talking moose have been hitting my favorite mind string companions in a regular beat. His "Motivating Software Artists" just did it again.
My fears of growing old and stubborn almost disappear when I think of the opportunity to grow old and wise (how's that for a 21 year-old :)). By keeping this blog I hope I don't bore anyone to death in trying to reach the latter.
Oh, oh - almost forgot. That favorite moose of mine mentioned that he loved my URL today. What an honor. I'm going to try hard to also make him care for the content behind it.
Have you ever stopped to wonder what happens when middle managers don't care about their product? The moose just made me (scroll to CNET Whining). Caring about the product might not seem too important when your main objective is manageing people/time/money, but the problem is that the attitude rubs off on the people who has to care to do a good job: The developers.
It's hard to get enthusiastically worked up about doing your best for the product when the manager assigning you couldn't care less. When whatever you're doing is just another task on a long list on their list, it quickly get's just another task on your list. Just something that needs to get done - the quicker, the better. Your sense of accomplishment diminish rapidly when operating in this mode.
I salute the moose in saying that businesses should only employ managers who care about the field they're working in and the products they're working with. Regardless of whether it's in journalism or software development or any other intellectual area.
Memento showed me how fascinating a film can be when it doesn't follow a linear trail. Something I've been craving more of ever since, so imagine what a pleasent surprise it was to get lucky at the local Blockbuster the other day (err, picking a up movie, not a girl :)) with a film that fed just that craving.
The Limey is the story of an ex-con from England going to the States to investigate/revenge the murder of his daughter. So, not even close to being as interesting as Memento in the plot department, but the way most of the scenes are contructed using past, present and future at once is just as fascinating an experience as seing a movie backwards. It makes the character development a very different, but welcome, experience, and I wonder why more directors haven't used this technique.
But some probably have, and I'm betting you can point me in the direction of the result. So, if you've discovered any films - new or old - that plays with structure and time like Memento and The Limey I'd be grateful to hear from you :).
Technical promises made to developer peers instead of managers improves the chances that of realistic estimates without excessive padding, motivates people to perform to the best of their abilities, and make them less defensive about their work. This epiphany just arrived in my brain. Though it came as a bit of a surprise at first, it's not really that complicated: Your peers appreciate how you solve problems and (most) managers do not.
When solving problems for managers - or anyone who doesn't understand or appreciate the details of your work - you're likely to cut corners, let ugly patching slide, and spend time on unrelated work (if you're smart, your manager won't know the difference anyway). Less work gets done and it'll be of lower quality. Nobody likes that. Neither the developer nor the manager.
Managers should recognize this (the smart ones probably already have) and assign work in such a manner that peer promises becomes an important part of the workflow. If they do most developers will have to cease bullshitting their way out of deadlines and requirements and stop delivering sub-par products. The managers might now have caught it, but other developers certainly will.
If you're a developer, don't get your hopes up though. Regardless of the benefits, I doubt getting manager support for peer promises will be easy. It requires managers to recognize that they don't share the same respect from developers that other other developers do. I can't recall any managers willing to do that.
Thanks to the very limited support for folding (compacting a text area to increase the overview of a large file) in the text editor I normally use (UltraEdit), I've been giving the open source VIM editor a spin.
Boy is this different. VIM is an improved version of the Unix VI editor and comes with all the obscurity and power you would expect. Most importantly, the folding capabilities in the new version 6 are really nice. You can operate with multiple levels of folding, add new lines to existing folds, open and close multiple folds at a time and everything else you ever wanted folding to do.
Whoever, as stated the incredible power of VIM comes with a hefty price of obscurity. There seems to be literally hundreds of hotkey short cuts and everything behaves a lot different from what you as a Windows user would expect. The investment required to learn this would normally have me bailing in no time, but I'm sticking through it.
Learning VIM doesn't seem like such hard work if you're thinking of it as an expansion of your horizon (learning a radically different interface from what you're used to). And you get the ability to command an extremely powerful editor to show for it when you're done.
I just had a really nice lunch talk with my favorite discussion partner of the moment about the effects of legislation and personal choice. I'm actually in the process of changing my position on both (or actually it's somewhat the same) issues from a pragmative stance to a more idealistic approach. It feels good. More specific loud thinking will follow shortly.
If growing up means accepting a certain identity mask, as in choosing a single self-image, deliberatly or by course of action, and sticking to it for good, I really don't want to grow up. People who've been wearing the same mask for a long time tend to be unable to imagine it being another color or size, which makes it very hard to accept any kind of change in character or display any inconsistency in the choices they make.
Once you stop accepting identity changes your ability to remain open-minded and learn new things is on the fast track to exstinction. Take a look at your parents. When was the last time they ever truely tried something new, changed the way they live or demonstrated any signs of new insight? I certainly have a hard time remembering any such episode, and I doubt that my parents are particularly exceptional in this case.
While thinking about this I did a freightening discovery: I don't even have to look as far as to my parents to see the negative effects of living life according to an unwielding mask. It's visible all around me in friends and co-workers who're unable to learn or show weakness out of fear of the disobeying the mask.
Out of all the people I know, the most interesting and inspiring are without a doubt those most willing accept change and unafraid of letting their identity evolve, regardless of whether it exposes their weaknesses or not.
I aspire to live like that; To let my personality keep changing and never becoming a slave of the identity mask.
Skipping words I didn't understand was how I read online for a long time. The thinking went that getting the meaning of a sentence was good enough, as it was too cumbersome to look up something up and it would disrupt my reading if I did.
No more, thanks to an Greymatter-inspired addition to my right click menu in the browser. Besides having the usual choice of copying, deleting, undoing, etc. I now have a "Look up in dictionary" option, which on selection will open a new small window with an explanation of the selected word(s) from Merriam-Webster. It requires a minimum of fuss to initiate and I have my explanation in no time.
With this new right click-wonder looking up unfamiliar words is growing into second nature resulting in increased text understanding and vocabulary. I've created right click-wonders for looking stuff up in the Merriam-Webster dictionary and thesaurus and for searching Google. As a bonus I've also created a set for bookmarklets to go with them for looking up words you enter yourself.
Enrich your browser with these tools.
That's why we have to educate our customers that browser compatibility in this imperfect world is an expensive wish. And I wonder how many customers are really that concerned about shafting the small procentage of potential users who uses an arcane browser if it means they have to pay twice or thrice as much for the solution.
I wish I didn't need to get 8-9 hours of sleep every night, but sadly I do. That is if I wish to get any enjoyment out of the hours in the following day. I've come to terms with that because I value the quality of hours while I'm awake. What good does two hours extra a day if it signaficantly lowers the quality of the rest of the hours?
I'm paying for not following this simple truth right now. Only getting some 6 ½ hours of sleep last night (that's all it takes) have left me yawrning already . I feel like doing nothing. I feel like subjecting myself to bad television. Luckily I've been putting up a good fight against that last sin, but how long will it last?
Lesson relearned: Treasure the waken hours. Don't dilute their quality by adding more. It's going to cost you.
Apparently watching TV is a really, really bad habit. It makes you stupid, lazy and brings you all sorts of evil. A way of killing time designed for the masses, while the intellectuals spend their time on more important things (like shinning their holy glory). Or at least that is what you're often left to believe. Even Dave Winer, who I otherwise have tremendous respect for, has jumped on this nonsense with that "declaration of indepence" he posted a while back.
I don't buy it. At all. It's like bashing the Internet because some derranged people use it to display their hideous hate. Or condeming music all together for being the medium where boy band after boy band repeat the same fabricated lines we've heard a thousand times before. It doesn't make any sense.
Take this night of TV watching as an example. I spend some 2+ hours in front of the tube and enjoyed every minute of it. Like with any medium you just have to be selective. My choice cuts for the night was:
- Simpsons: The Lisa's Rival Episode - This has got to go down in history as one of the best Simpsons episodes ever. Homer's addiction to sugar and his monologue about "The terrifying lows, the dizzying highs, the creamy middles..." are pure gold.
- One of the newer Futurama episodes - I haven't been following Futurama nearly as closely as The Simpsons, but the new stuff that's coming out is actually really funny (much more so that the shows from the first season I've seen).
- 60 minutes with Andy Rooney on power cord usability - Mr. Rooney is clearly a personal hero of mine. He always got something interesting to say, and this time it was on the subject of usability in regard to power cords and switches and how they always seem to be different. Oh, and the rest of 60 minutes was stellar TV journalism as always.
- David Letterman featuring Edward Norton and Dido - Edward Norton is a really great actor and from what I could gather from his appearence on Letterman a really great guy as well. He tells his stories with a warmth and sense of humor that makes you feel good (no, I'm not gay nor in love with this guy ;)). Oh, and Dido made an outstanding performance of my favorite track from her No Angel CD, Hunter. It triggered a reliving of her album for me that's still going.
So please. Take your generalizing opinions about the quality of TV today somewhere else. I'm perfectly happy with the state of affairs (well, maybe not that happy, but you get the point). I'm proud to pledge my love for good TV shows and equally proud to be able to shut it off when there's only rubbish on.
I think personal blogging feeds off the same mentality that make people call help- and hotlines, go to support groups and seek company in chat rooms. The craving for listeners whos feedback we can be selective about accepting.
It's a lot easier to block out negative feedback from a total stranger than it is from your family and friends. If you share a character flaw, depressions or dark secret with someone you're likely/forced to see again the stakes are high. What if they'll think less you? Or get mad at you? Or get hurt?
When sharing with strangers you don't have that fear. If you piss them off, so what? There's likely to be no consequences. And chances are that if they do get pissed off or think less of you that you won't ever find out.
It's an excuse, arguably a good one, to get stuff of your chest with a sense that someone out there is listening. Caring. Understanding. Who wouldn't want all those nice things at zero, or nearly zero, risk?
(This thought was originally posted in a thread called "Blog Mentality?" by Paul Smith on the Greymatter message board)
One of the best things about putting your thoughts in writing is the act of doing it. You're forced to take your thinking to a much more structured level, which often reveals new areas of insight. The process of subjecting loose/rapid thinking into written sentences (instead of the usual speech fragments) and paragraphs requires you to get consistant and invent supportive arguments for your position.
Some of this happens conciouesly, that's the stuff you capture in the first draft, and some of it happens unconciouesly, that's the stuff you get access to when your position is challenged. It's like a secret argument department in your brain is running a covert operation to build surprise defences in case of an attack.
Which of course leads to the notion that it's good to put your thinking to the test. Expose the weaknesses. Have someone take an aggressive stance on your ideas, and you'll be able to leverage the power of your secret argument department. Incorperate the surprise defences you uncovered in another draft of your thinking and the cycle repeats.
I've already started to see the effects of this in our lunch discussions at work. If we're dealing with a subject that I've treated in writing the fragmentation of my oral arguments is significantly less. At first it feels strange, but then you start to think about it, and write about, and all of the sudden it makes perfect sense.
This joke probably already toured the internet a few gazillion times, but it never passed me before, so I'm taking a chance and posting it anyway. It's a series of one-liners that (lame) managers usually say when they're out of arguments and needs to close a technical discussion before it gets embarrassing (because the world would come to an end if they lost, of course).
Top five things to say when you're losing a technical argument (and want to look like a fool):
- Yearh, we already tried that, but it didn't work.
- Yes, well, that's just not the way things work in the real world.
- Our support infrastructure simply can't handle the volume that change would involve.
- No, no, no. We're really working on an N-TIER architecture, here.
- It would probably be best if we deferred that until version 2.0.
I've experienced all of them in one form or another. Thanks to my main man Curtis for forwarding them to me.
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Working three years with desktop job using the computer all day and then continuing to do so at home all night gives you some rather unhealthy habits. One of them is drinking vaste amounts of sodapop, especially that sweeet, sweeeet Coca Cola variant (aaarhhhh - takes a moment to drool). Drinking 2+ liters of that stuff is definatly not doing wonders for your body, but who cares, right? Well, apparently my body just started.
First of all "it" lifted the ban on regular tap water. I used to find that stuff dreadful to drink more than a single cup or so of a day (and rarely did even that), but not any more. The last couple of days have seen a steady increase in the amount I drink per day. Just take today, it's not even noon and I've already taken care of a whole liter. Amazing.
Add to that the reapperance of breakfast (müsli, even!), a good nightly set of sit-ups and push-ups, using the rollerblades to get to work reguarly, and I'm shaping up to be a lot healthier person than I used to.
No reason to get overly optimistic though. Let's see how long it'll last.
I've been thinking about and discussing the noble art of argumentation quite a lot lately, and have reached at least one important milestone in the process. I've come to realise that you shouldn't engange in arguments you're not prepared to lose. Not only because it'll make you look like an idiot to the person(s) you're having the argument with (if you're loosing), but because it halts your ability to learn and to grow as a human being.
Most people (I've meet) enter discussions with the notion that no argument in the world is going to change their position - and most of the times it shows. When you're not interested in listening to what the "opponent" (makes it sound like a battle, which it doesn't have to be) have to say, you're only being quite while he or she speaks out of manners. Of course you're not going to acknowledge that you *gisp* could be wrong or, more likely, just unenlighted when you don't even hear the opposing arguments.
This leads to a stagnation in your learning process. Who would want to give up the chance to be a wiser man because of silly pride? Apparently a lot of people, but it doesn't have to be this way. Come to the realisation that you don't always have to be right and you'll learn something from every argument you engage in. If you can't do that please refrain from joining arguments.
So what if I'm not one of the "revolutionaries" running Linux? I don't have to give up Windows to get that self-gratifying rush of rebel disobedience. Instead of uninstalling the OS I'm fighting my battle through the exciting world of freeware/shareware that promises to scratch all the itches left to scratch by the major software corporations - and trust me, there's plenty!
However nice it is to get an itch scratched (like being able to map a FTP-site to a network drive thanks to WebDrive - ahhh), it's far from the only benefit from continuously being on the lookout for cool freeware and shareware. The immaterial benefits are even better.
First of all, I get to feel like an explorer. The search itself takes on a higher purpose, and every new discovery feels like a conquest. From time to time I even get to relive how Columbus must have felt discovering America while looking for India. That happens when I find a cool new tool to do something I never knew I was missing all the while curing a certain itch. It's great!
Secondly, I get to give something back to a developer that helped me -- A person with a name and a face. I don't think I need to explain why that feels so much better than giving money to some faceless corporation. It's one of the only occasions where I'm actually happy to pay up -- he mechanism of reciprocity working its wonders.
Finally, I get to feel like I'm part of the rebels fighting The Empire. Every installation is a new fortress and a victory, and I got one itch less to show for it.
There you have it: The three reasons why I'm in love with free- and shareware. I'll post my list of favorites soon.
Multiplayer-heavy games like Half-Life and Quake have been creating an unfortunate level of replay value expectations among a large (or at least vocal) group of gamers that seems to think it's only worth shelling out for a new game if it's going to supply them with years of entertainment. Blinded by the dream of infinite replay value in every game, you hear these spoiled gamers proclaim their dedication to only invest their (usually extremely hard-earned, for some reason) money in games with extensive multiplayer support, whether it fits the style of the game or not.
Case in point: Max Payne. Remedy have been sweating blood and tears for four years to produce what looks to be a stunning story-driven single-player experience. And all the infinite-value-fanatics can focus their energy on is questions about quantity. How many hours of gameplay is it going to offer? Why is there no multiplayer? As when these questions recieve answers like "in the area of 16-18 hours of gameplay" and "because we chose to focus on making the best single-player experience" the fanatics turn preachers in a second. "So what if it looks cool? I'm not going to pay $40 for 16 hours of entertainment. Screw that" or "Remedy sucks for not including multiplayer. Max Payne is gonna bomb!" are common variations on the theme.
Since when was movies or music ever subjected to this same level of quantity scrutiny? I don't ever recall anyone putting The Terminator down for only running 107 minutes just because The Matrix goes on for 136. Movie and music fans normally discuss the quality of the various offerings instead, which seems like the sensible thing to do.
Judging games solely on the raw number of hours they're likely to offer is a great injustice to both yourself and the game makers that are looking to further story-driven and other primarily single-player focussed genres. Once you realize that, the door will be open to an exciting world of new experiences that are likely to entertain you on another (though not necessarily better) level. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it.
I used to be able to work or read with just about any type of music playing in the background, but during the last year or so that ability have been fading rapidly. I'm now getting more easily distracted by a wider range of tunes - especially the kind where the vocals matter. Instead of focusing on the task at hand or the line of text I might be reading I get lost in the music. The task of listening to the lyrics seems to be getting discontent with the status of "non-essential" and keeps upping itself to "important". Fairly annoying.
So I've been resorting to a lot of instrumental music to get some work done. The 1:42 minute Braveheart theme has consistently proven effective and has found its way into the repeat-of-the-day section a lot, but it does get somewhat boring after a while. That has led me to experiment with different kind vocal-based music to see if I could find something that wouldn't consume 80% of my attention, and my level of succes seems almost random.
I've been listening to "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" by Eve (featuring Gwen) all day along with no problems whatsoever even though it has Eve rapping continuesly through the song. But almost any Everything But The Girl tracks throws me totally off even though they contain a lot less complicated lyrics. I'm puzzled...
For reasons that'll probably make it into another posting on this site some day, the company I currently work for decided to cut the sodapop service a few weeks ago and the grim reality of this decision is now kicking in. Our beverage stock is almost depleted. We're down to Pepsi Max and Coke Light. And since I just can't get that Coke Light stuff down, no way, that leaves me with Pepsi Max. Drinking that stuff probably wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for this strange force demanding I hate the brand, and making me feel dirty when I proced to consume it anyway.
What is this strange force you ask? My brand loyalty. The brain-washing machine they call Coca Cola have done an excellent job on yours truely. All those attractive commercials of people experiencing adventure and slogans about "life tastes god" have converted me into a brand zealot for a company with alledged connections to the CIA, obstruction of justice and bribery (according to the Coca-Karma report from Guerrilla News). I should be smarter than this.
Having your kid brother editing video footage all day long can turn anyone into a wanna-bee director/photographer. And that's just what's been happening the last couple of weeks while that kid brother of mine have been working on his inline skating film (featuring him and his friends skating the streets of Copenhagen).
I feel a strong urge to go out and spend a lot of money on a digital camera (I thought I'd start out with the still images), but my record of buying fancy gizmos only to have them collect dust is getting near perfect. No need to add further bodycounts to that list. So I'm going to give it some more thought before shelling out that $1k.
My 12th grade Danish teacher kept repeating that "if you got something on your mind, write it down. If you've written something down, rewrite it". The papers I turned in usually only complied with the first part of his teaching. But now, just on my second post of this blog, I can't seem to get enough of the second part. Constantly evaluating each sentence. Changing subtle things. My old teacher would be proud :).
I was laying zombie-like on the couch zapping like the beating of my heart depended on it, when I stumbled over a show called The Third Watch. Police and fire men and women going through the days trying to save everyone but themselves. Actually not that bad - or perhaps just decent, compared to most of the mindless drivel I've been fighting to consume for a while. (Note to brain: Get better at keeping your promises and give me the power to turn off or away from bad entertainment!)
Anyway, the episode I watched had this emotional everybody-let's-look-hazzy ending that featured an incredible beutiful song rendering the otherwise stereo-typical scene in strangely moving. It got me flying off the couch and google-ing. As the song continued to play in the background, I struggled to enter a line or two from the lyrics, while lost the music.
Google didn't dissappoint, of course, and I was at the Over the Rhine website in seconds. To my surprise the front page linked directly to the Third Watch remix of Give Me Strength (the name of the song). I'm on my tenth spin or something already. Oh and I just learned that Dido co-wrote it. No wonder it's good. Go get it!
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