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2004 (old posts, page 1)

Upcoming events

Just a few more things before I call it a night. I've a busy few weeks ahead with trips here and there. Next weekend I'll be in New York, meeting up with Bob Wilson to run the marathon. I've been training fairly well over the last few months, ramping up more recently and feeling fairly positive but I'm well aware it's still going to be a very long way. After that I'll be taking a forced vacation to Vancouver B.C. to get a new H1-B stamp (why oh why you need to leave the country to do this is beyond me) for a few days. Then it'll be Thanksgiving (might leave town for that) followed by a couple of guests spending some time in Seattle and then back to the UK over the holidays.

It'll be my first Christmas (Day) at home for four or five years and it's feeling long overdue.

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The shame of it all

Finally brought together all of my old entries and set up .Text for some more blogging action. The fact that my New Year's snowboarding trip is still in the last ten entries suggests I've not been keeping up here as I should have been. It's a shame, I really enjoy writing things when I have the time and that's the one thing that's been lacking recently.

It's currently early morning on the first Tuesday in November of a presidential election year so the talk of the town has been overwhelmingly focused on the race between Bush and Kerry. According to CNN, every has pretty much given up predicting which way it's going to go given the polls are showing a dead head. Except, of course, the party shills who have an incredible ability to skew questions and facts to fit in neatly with their talking points. The fact that there even exists a 'spin alley' and a (supposedly unbiased) media to which party representatives openly talk about their strategies gives me cause for concern. It's not that the voters are treated like prey being hunted (this is a competition after all), it's that they're free to talk about voters' habits simply because those casting the votes that matter aren't paying attention. It seems that the race is so close (and the country so divided) that the outcome will be down to that set of individuals who are still undecided merely hours before casting a ballot. And then there's the weather; a bad day means a lower turnout; come on folks, it's one day every four years, a little rain isn't going to hurt. It's scary.

One interesting side note is that the networks are agreeing not to broadcast exit polls until voting has ceased (8pm, excluding mail-in ballots). Allowing people to see where there state is going throughout the day can apparently bring about unnecessary bias. If the indicators point to one candidate, those with marginal support of the other decide to get up and make the trip to the polling station thus narrowing the margin and staring a swing in the opposite direction. It's all about the feedback loop and would give grounds for some absolutely fascinating analysis (matching time of vote against prevailing trend).

For posterity, as of Nov 1,�is predicting Kerry 298 - Bush 231. Let's see how this map looks tomorrow.
Electoral vote

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Fancy phones and podcasting

It hardly seems like it's been a year that I've been porting my Motorola MPX-200 smartphone but�AT&T Wireless (soon to be engulfed by Cingular)�just released a new�Windows Mobile phone, the Audiovox 5600. It's what they call 'candy bar' shaped like the old-school Nokias and has two great qualities - it's much faster and has a built in cameraphone. Other than that, my dependence on Outlook sync just carries over from the MPX-200 like a crack habit. Actually it also ships with Windows Media Player 10 Mobile which, when combined with a mini-SD data card, allows me to avoid purchasing an iPod for quite some time (good thing). Whether the novelty of watching last night's TV on the bus ride to work will last, that we'll have to see.

Coincidentally I've been casually watching the�the fanfare around podcasting of late�and it's the timeline that's interested me the most. Folks have the idea of attaching sound files to RSS feeds (with enclosures) and it ticks over for several months�with moderate novelty value. I'm guessing there was a eureka moment at some point shortly whereafter iPodder was born. With these files now automatically syncing to a portable music device it suddenly gets a jolt of potential. As with all�new ideas, the initial enthusiasm is intense and the in just three weeks the mainstream media picks it up (that time delta is rapidly contracting). I've been enjoying the idea to listen to conference speeches and the like but I'm�not convinced this is broadcasting v-next just yet.

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More fun with the debates tonight. No knock-out blows; both candidates seem to know where they stand and they're sticking to it. It's getting closer though but is still far too close to call.

Meanwhile, while trying to get a bit of work done this evening I lost my wireless connecton for a period. Two years ago when I moved in to this apartment I had the only wireless access point in range (early adopter, whatever) and yet now I can see over thirty. That was quick. In the process of reconnecting I stumbled�upon the new political message platform - promote your candidate by SSID.

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Don't just take a stand, vote.

My H1-B visa extension was approved today. My days of being an illegal alien (all twenty of them) have come to a close and I'm now legally permitted to live and work in the US for another three years.

But I still can't vote. With it�being election season and being bombarded by political propaganda from all directions,�it's a little frustration. What was it they�used to say?�'No taxation without representation'? What a novel idea. Still, I picked this lot�and�I'm sticking�with it. If you can, you should; don't just take a stand, vote.

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Jack of all trades

One of the hardest questions I find myself having to answer outside of work is 'what do you do?'. Chris Pratley takes a shot at it:

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.
I don't know how anyone could resist taking a job with that description. Despite, or because of, all the schedules, meetings, project plans and specs, this is where it's at.
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Flower-Power Could Help Clear Land mines

Been a bit busy since the New Year but things are finding order again. Plenty to report but I'll save that for another time.Meanwhile, one of the coolest things I've heard in ages:

A Danish biotech company has developed a genetically modified flower that could help detect land mines and it hopes to have a prototype ready for use within a few years... The genetically modified weed has been coded to change color when its roots come in contact with nitrogen-dioxide (NO2) evaporating from explosives buried in soil... Within three to six weeks from being sowed over land mine infested areas the small plant, a Thale Cress, will turn a warning red whenever close to a land mine.