Using Squeak to Create Desktop Wallpaper

Posted by steve | Smalltalk | Tuesday 20 January 2009 9:27 pm

I wrote a simple step-by-step example of how to use Squeak to create a colorful radial gradient desktop wallpaper.  It’s not difficult to follow along if you have some basic Squeak skills.

The tutorial is here: Wallpapers tutorial.


My frustration about Guitar Hero

Posted by steve | Music | Monday 19 January 2009 6:46 pm

So, our teenager has been anxious to have us purchase the Guitar Hero video game, and guitar controller.  It’s an enormously popular video game and I can understand it’s appeal.  I’m going to go out and purchase it.  However, I’m also going to use this BLOG to vent a little about the whole concept.

Guitar Hero and Rock Band (similar video game themes) annoy me.  Here’s the deal.  As a musician, I have a lot of frustration with the general degradation of modern musical values.  I honor creativity expressed in music.  It just sounds like a lot of popular music today is nothing like what I call “real music”.  And, yes I know that classical composers generously “lifted” whole excerpts from each other.  

Yet when I hear modern popular music that has obvious copied sections from music I listened to 20 years ago, it really disappoints me.

I know.  I sound like an old fart complaining about “the newfangled crap these kids call music.”

What bothers me about video games like Guitar Hero is that it seems to substitute learning about playing a real music instrument with learning to play a “fake” music instrument.  The musician in me finds the whole concept difficult to abide.  The best argument I can support is the one where video games like this teach how to play in time and how to recognize chord changes.

It just feels like it further establishes a public acceptance of “just doing” things instead of learning things or gaining a valuable skill.  Learning to play an instrument is difficult and rewarding.  I’m not sure what learning to play Guitar Hero accomplishes.  That’s a bit harsh.  I’m okay with playing video games for the “fun of it.”  I just struggle when I think the video game is a substitute for the fun of playing a real musical instrument.

Okay.  I’ll step off my rant soap box now.


An example of calm

Posted by steve | General Commentary | Saturday 17 January 2009 6:44 pm

My wife and I were recently discussing how we’ve seen people handle crisis so differently.  I was reminded of an experience.

Lately I’ve been on a strong technical career path, at least for the past 7 years now.  Prior to that I spent some time in technical management, and before that a blend between the two.  When I was a manager I had a reputation as being someone that handled crisis pretty well.  It took a lot to shake me up.  But nothing compared to an experience I remember from about 25 years ago.  It was how my boss at that time handled a crisis.

I’ll avoid names as the story gets retold.  Back then I worked for a manufacturer in their Systems Engineering department.  And one day, pretty late in the day, some of use were still hanging around at the office going over a few items before leaving.  There were 4 of us standing around this Remote Telemetry Unit (RTU) that some of our engineers had created as part of one of our projects.  The person who wrote the firmware in the RTU, the lead graphics interface developer, the boss, and me (I was the tech lead) were standing around having a discussion about how the unit should respond when a customer would press the Emergency button.

And the phone rang over in the boss’s office.  It was about 20 feet away.  He left the conversation, walked over to his desk and spoke briefly on the phone.  We were unable to hear any of the conversation.  He came back over to our little group and we resumed our discussion.  After about 10 or 15 seconds there was a lull in the conversation.  So the boss says, “We’ll let’s resume this discussion in the morning then.  I’ve got to go home.  I just received a call that my house is on fire.”

We were amazed at how calm he was.  He walked back to his office, put on his coat and walked towards the exit.


Confusing Refrigerator

Posted by steve | General Commentary | Friday 16 January 2009 7:30 pm

At work, in the cafeteria kitchen, there was a new refrigerator unit installed, added to the 3 or 4 already there.  I saw it this morning and it caused me to stop and snap this picture.

Confusing Messages

There on the shelves, they were selling salads on the left side and deserts on the right side.  And to top it off, there was a large “Eat Healthy” sticker on the front door.

I figure this about sums up how confused food choices are for most of us.