Tuesday, September 29, 2009

R - Iron Bravo by Carsten Stroud

Subtitled "Hearts, Minds, and Sergeants in the U.S. Army" this is a fictional account of one sergeant's experiences in the Gulf War (Desert Storm). Mixed in with it is a fair bit of military history, also told through the viewpoint of the sergeants at the time. The real story, however, is the classic tale of a man growing older and confronting the limitations and changes imposed by the calendar. Sergeant Dee Crane has fought in Vietnam and served faithfully in the so-called "peacetime Army", but now finds himself getting ready to go to war again, but this time his comrades in arms aren't his contemporaries, but a bunch of volunteer men and women who are young enough to be his children. The gap between them grows more evident as combat looms nearer, but Crane's respect and even affection for the young soldiers under his authority grows as they face that test together.

I can't speak to the accuracy of the military parts of the book, but the emotions of a middle-aged man looking both ways at his life are all too real. It is a good solid read, but I caution you that you may never look at pencils the same way again.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I - More Wikipedia Wonderings

Is Wikipedia a Victim of Its Own Success?

I notice right away that the dateline on this article is September 28th, a day which is still 5 days in my future. Odd, but not particularly significant.

I admit that I love Wikipedia. I read every article that I see that mentions it and have been known to spend hours just clicking from article to article as my attention wanders. Of course I used to take the encyclopedia off the shelf as I was growing up and just read an entire volume cover to cover, so this isn't really new behavior, but it is a lot easier to do on Wikipedia. Most of the article (which you probably need to read before my comments make sense) is pretty obvious to me. When a community gets big it needs more structure to make it work. No surprise then that Wikipedia keeps adding layers. Likewise, as the cost of failure rises the investment in preventing failure will rise as well. In the wiki-world cost of failure is the loss of trust in the information you are presenting. When Wikipedia became the most frequently referenced site for finding information they stopped being the Wild-Wiki-West and had to become Boston downtown. Stuff has to be right when millions of people are looking at it.

The thing that did catch my attention was the last couple of paragraphs where the entire future of Wikipedia was being called into question. Quite simply, I can't see Wikipedia going away. There is too much there. Someone will make the effort to keep it alive one way or another, maybe not in quite the same environment, but it will be there and will still be accepting information because too many people around the world are hooked on quick access to reasonably accurate data about virtually everything. I'm hooked to the point that I'd even pay for access if that is what it took to keep it there (and especially to keep it growing and accurate). The web is full of information, Wikipedia currently provides the best way to actually distill facts from the cloud. Unless someone finds a revolutionary new way to do that I see Wikipedia continuing as long as the web exists.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

L - Things to ponder.

What can I say?

T - You know what's more dangerous

You know what's more dangerous than texting while driving? Good looking women in short skirts!

Monday, September 7, 2009

I - Serious Drug Problems in S.F.

Crack keeps Bay Bridge closed in San Francisco

All I can say is that I hope the guy writing the headline has a sense of humor! The article should read something like:

"Traffic was halted for several hours today across San Francisco's Bay Bridge while two drug dealers tried to collect all the lost rocks from their stash. What started as a minor fender-bender ended as a day-long traffic jam when one of the drivers accidentally spilled a large bag of crack cocaine when he got out of his car to swear at the other driver who had clipped him. As bystanders realized that there was crack all over the bridge deck they tried to grab as much as they could, prompting the original dealer's partner to leap from the car brandishing a 9mm handgun to try to reclaim the drugs. Confusion and chaos ensued. Film at eleven..."

Or maybe there are structural problems with the bridge...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

R - TweakGuides

TweakGuides is a web site devoted to making things better - or at least making your computer system run better. I haven't read most of the gaming stuff, since I don't do computer games, but the bits on optimizing Firefox and dealing with some of the Vista annoyances are good. If you are into trying to squeeze the most performance out of your system that you can then I'd say give it a spin.