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# Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I was thinking today about the proliferation of the "Foundation" terminology in the new Microsoft offerings (e.g., Windows Workflow Foundation, Windows Communication Foundation, and Windows Presentation Foundation).  It occurred to me that the broader foundation for all of this is the .NET Framework and the CLR.  One option that came to mind was Microsoft Intermediate Language Foundation, or MILF.  I can't imagine why they didn't go with that...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005 10:09:15 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 
# Friday, November 11, 2005

It appears that my previous remarks have not fallen on deaf ears.  Last night, on "The Colbert Report," I was pleased to see Mr. Colbert "swearing himself in" and saying that Jesus Christ is the only true God, that he established a Church with Peter as its representative on earth, and that the current Pope Benedict XVI is his successor (roughly quoting, but that's the gist).  That's more like it Mr. Colbert; thanks for clearing that up.

And because of that, I'll take back my call for a crusade against him.

I was also pleased to see some wit targeted at the Da Vinci Code in the segment called the Da Colbert Code, in which he illustrated the ridiculous reasoning that is rampant in the Da Vinci Code.  Each day I watch the Report, my opinion of Mr. Colbert is raised.

On top of that, a few nights ago, he had Catherine Crier on the show.  She wrote a book about how 'activist judges' on the far 'right' are changing America's laws to conform with their own views of the world.  Mr. Colbert was seemingly joking in his criticisms, but I think you can tell whether he really thinks what he's joking about thinking.  In this case, he seemed to be only half-kidding, and I appreciated his perspective.  It's nice to hear someone ask "would that be so bad" about America becoming more religious.

That said, I must admit that I do think that any kind of activist judge is not a good thing, whether or not I agree with the judge's philosophy.  We make our laws through our elected representatives, and for good or ill, I don't want any judge or group of judges to overturn them just because they don't like them.  If they stick to strict, historical, and reasonable interpretation, I think our country would do just fine.  The problem with so many judicial decisions today is precisely that the judges don't do that and prefer to shape the country in their image instead of the Founders', who were overwhelmingly religious and Christian.  If judges did stick to that kind of interpretation, our country would be much better off (and more morally sound in its laws).  That's where I think Mr. Colbert is right in asking 'would that be so bad?'


Friday, November 11, 2005 9:43:38 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [3]  | 
# Thursday, November 10, 2005

Yesterday on the aspnet-architecture list (on AspAdvice.com), we had a little fun going off topic, but rather than continue that discussion there, I thought I just post my thoughts here on something that sprung up (again), namely, the "outsourcing threat." 

Now I'm going to be (potentially) elitist.  Simply put, if you are valuable enough, there is no such thing as an outsourcing threat.  All natural-born Americans have something unique to offer, which is their expertise in American culture and American English.  These are not skills that someone can just pick up at an ESL course or even at a four-year college.  This is something you only get by living here for a long time and, likely, since childhood, and these can be used to your advantage in business.

Granted, I'm not going to say that outsourcing isn't replacing jobs that would otherwise be filled by Americans (that would require living in a fantasy world).  But the jobs that can go off shore are only those that don't require the skills mentioned above.  In the software industry, this is typically going to be low-level support and programming, typically jobs that only require a very basic level of proficiency and little interaction with the business.  I know, for instance, a company that sends off a lot of coding to India, but they still employ a lot of Americans to do the business analyzation and design and even some development. 

The reasoning is obvious--the business is American and Americans like working with Americans because of the aforementioned skills; there is no language or culture barrier to overcome.  Getting software right is hard enough without introducing these barriers, so any company worth its salt will see the value in that and hire Americans wherever interaction with American business is required.

So that's one way in which any American can get the upper hand.  Take advantage of your American-ness.  That's something you can't just ship off shore.  And I can promise you there are tons of businesses, especially smaller businesses, that will never consider off-shoring their work or working with non-American companies.

Another way you can make off-shoring irrelevant to you is simply by becoming good and staying good at what you do.  This requires extra effort, but it will pay off.  It requires passion about what you do.  If you're just in the software industry because you think it is a cakewalk and pays well, you probably won't get very far and off-shoring should be a concern for you.  But if you're passionate about software and translate that into just becoming d**n good at it, you will never lack for employment, whether that's working for a company or as an independent contractor.

Let's quit victimizing ourselves.  American economy is built on the free market, and it has proven time and again that it works.  The latest example of this is the recent oil conundrum caused by the hurricanes.  We had many people predicting ridiculously high prices and suggesting government controls, but by simply going up to where they did, demand was strangled and prices were forced to come down.  You can apply the same to the software industry; it is a matter of supply and demand.  You need to identify where there is a demand and fill it.  There will always be a demand for Americans who understand American culture and business as well as software, and there will always be a demand for good people. 

So rather than complaining about the free market and trying to get the government to control American businesses, which is rarely a good thing, focus on yourself, make yourself an indispensable commodity, and you won't have to worry about the fact that some jobs are being off-shored.

Thursday, November 10, 2005 9:24:05 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [4]  | 
# Monday, November 7, 2005

This weekend I finally acted on something I've been considering off and on for some time.  I decided to cut my hair.  For those who don't know, I've had long hair (longer than shoulder length) since roughly 2002.  I started growing it out in July of 2001.  To give some perspective, my daughter was just a few months old when I started growing it out; she's now four and a half.  She has no recollection of my having short hair.  And of course my son doesn't either.  So it was interesting seeing her reaction: "What did you do with your pony tail!?"

Why did I cut it?  It's just one of those mystical things when you know it's time.  I've considered it quite a few times before, but this time, it just seemed like it was time.  The more I thought about it, the more I felt convinced.  Here are some specific things that I thought about:

1) Long hair really is more work, if you take care of it.  While there is something to be said for just waking up, brushing, and tieing back, it definitely takes a longer time to wash and condition.  And then, if you don't want to potentially damage it with a hair dryer, you have to let it air dry, which takes hours.  This means you really can't wash your hair in the morning, and that has always bugged me because that's when I prefer to shower.

2) My hair never really all stayed back in a tail.  Some people have more success, but for me, I always dealt with keeping the wild ones in place, especially on the sides.  This was one thing I had hoped would not be a problem when I grew it out; I thought I'd just be able to pull it back and it'd all nicely stay.  Not so for me.  And I didn't want to put gunk in my hair to keep it in place because that can damage the hair and because that would warrant more washing, which was a pain (see #1).

3) There are very few men's hats that look good with long hair, in my opinion.  Baseball caps are right out.  This became more of a problem once I got my convertible.  Although I did find an Aussie breezer that looked good, it was kind of a pain to always have to wear it.  And I did have to restrain my hair somehow (see #2).

4) I don't feel the longhair image is the one I want any longer.  This was really the key.  Obviously, I put up with 1-3 for a few years, so they weren't enough.  I still, up until recently, felt that longhair was something I identified with.  For guys, it has to be this way because there is noticeable social pressure to not have long hair.  There has to be a reason to not only go to the trouble of 1-3 but also to put up with the social stigma. 

Granted, I have been blessed in that I chose a profession where long hair is more acceptable for men than others, so it has never (I think) really hurt my career.  In fact, in some ways, the image can help in this field, but there's still a good bit of anti-longhairness in our society.  I think that it is silly, but its there--there are plenty of stories from less fortunate guys than myself who can attest to it.  The worst I got was people saying "wow, I never would have guessed" (with dripping sarcasm) when I say I'm in software, so it was never a reason for me to cut it.

I've also been told by a number of people that to work for X company or to get to N level in X company, you can't have long hair.  Again, this was not a sticking point for me, but it just goes to illustrate that there is still resistance to and a stigma with long hair on men.  So you really have to want long hair, as a guy, in order for you to go to the trouble of having it.  You have to feel it is part of your identity, as many "longhairs" will attest to.  If it's not, it's just not worth the trouble.

Ultimately, that's what I came to recently.  I no longer feel that it is important to me.  Sure, I liked the look, but it is no longer worth the trouble for me.  In fact, I have a positive desire to change my image in this way because of that.  It is a significant choice because growing your hair out is a long and awkward process, so if you change your mind, it is a rather significant pain to go back.  That's why I took so long to decide and act, though I'm sure it seems sudden to anyone but my wife.

So that's the long story of why I cut it.  If you want a short story, feel free to make one up. :)

And now, for the low-quality, self-taken, camera phone evidence that so many have already asked me for:




Geesh.. not very flattering.. oh well. :)  I'm not 100% keen on this particular doo, but it's what I got for now.  So there ya have it; I'm no longer a longhair.


Monday, November 7, 2005 11:52:24 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [6]  | 
# Friday, November 4, 2005

What the greatest computer ever to be built could not determine (the question for the answer to life, the universe, and everything) is now clear:

What is the revision number of the final release build for the Microsoft .NET Framework Version 2.0?

Friday, November 4, 2005 5:08:51 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 

Two nights ago on "The Colbert Report" (pronounced "koalbear repoor"), Stephen Colbert, the show's host and star, called Pope Benedict XVI a "nazi pope" while explaining how he's managed to offend many religious groups as part of his 'apology' to the Muslims for claiming that Halloween is a better holiday than Ramadan.  He says that he can call our pope that because "[he's] Catholic."

Not true, Mr. Colbert, not true.  Our pope is not a nazi, and your even saying that in jest is unacceptable.  So I've decided to call for a Catholic crusade to trump the Muslim Fatwa that was called against Mr. Colbert.  Let's take back our pope from those who defame him in public!

Ooooooooeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!  <-- New anti-Colbert war cry.

Mr. Colbert, if you don't comment on my blog and apologize for your statements, you're a coward!

Friday, November 4, 2005 4:06:01 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [3]  | 
# Wednesday, October 26, 2005

It's been a while since my last writing tip, and I just have been doing more editing lately, so I thought I'd toss one more out there.

Vary your sentences!

Okay, I'm just in a yelling mood.  But to elaborate, when writing, you need to think about the feel and flow of your piece as a whole.  This is a somewhat more advanced tip than the tips thus far on this blog (most of the others are just syntactical), but this is stylistic and is, therefore, subject to more interpretation.  That is, it is somewhat subjective.

However, I can assure you that it is still a valid tip to keep in mind.  When you are assembling your sentences, think about how they sound in relation to the surrounding sentences.  Do they all have the same length?  Do they all have the same basic structure?  Do they all have the same pronouns repeatedly?  Do you feel assaulted when reading them together?

Take the last paragraph (just before this one) as an example.  I asked four questions in a row.  Each of them has more or less the same structure and length, and had I asked just a few more, I imagine you would feel somewhat assaulted by the repetition.  As it is, I was hoping to do two things: illustrate the effect you can get by using repetition and actually give you some meaningful questions to ask yourself.

It does illustrate that repetition, when used strategically, can be advantageous to not only get your point across but to do it in such a way that leaves the reader feeling a certain way about your text.  Maybe you do want to assault the reader in classic tommy-gun style.  But my guess is that most of the time you don't; you don't want to assault and therefore isolate your reader because then you lose rapport and they stop listening to what you are saying.

Repetition can also just be dulling.  If you have the same sentence structure over and over again, your reader can become bored and lose interest.  You don't want that, right?  After all, what's the point of writing if you do it in such a way that readers lose interest and just ignore you?

So now for a fun example of repetition.

I got up.  I walked my dog.  I ate some breakfast.  I took my daughter to school.  I drove to work.  I worked a lot.  I came home.  I ate dinner.  I watched the TV.  I went to sleep.

This is of course an extreme example, but we are all guilty of it to varying degrees.  Now I will communicate the same information by varying my sentences.

This morning, I got up.  I walked my dog and decided to eat some breakfast.  After breakfast, I took my daughter to school, and then I drove to work.  I worked a lot.  Later in the day, I returned home, ate dinner, and watched some TV.  And finally, at the end of this full day, I went to sleep.

As you can see (I hope), with a little work you can vary your sentences and make your text more interesting and appealing to your readers.  You can do this by adding adverbs here and there, using dependent clauses, using coordinating conjunctions, eliminating pronoun repetition by combining actions by the same subject into one sentence, etc. 

As an aside, note that I left "I worked a lot" alone.  I did this intentionally to give an effect, to make the reader pause.  The sentence is short and terse amidst longer more complex sentences, and it makes it stand out by stopping the general flow.  You can do this when you want to draw attention to a particular thought.

I'm sure that I haven't done this subject justice, but I hope you will think about it more when writing if you don't already.  And as you incorporate this tip into your writing, you can take it a step further and apply the same rules to paragraphs: vary your paragraphs!  This means not using the same transitional phrases repeatedly, varying their length, etc. 

Forget the "every paragraph must have three sentences" rule if you were taught it.  It's garbage.  The more important thing is that paragraphs communicate a complete thought, so if you can do that and add variation along with it, you're on the road to writing better!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005 1:28:33 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 
# Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Looks like VB is growing up.  It finally has curly braces thanks to LINQ:

Dim People = {New Person {Age := 42, Name := "Erik"}, _
  New Person {Age := 12, Name := "Wouter" }}

It was only a matter of time until they admitted the power of the curly brace.  MUAHAHAHA! :)

To be more VB-like, I suggest:

Dim People = Begin Anonymous Type _
Begin New Type As Person(Age := 42, Name := "Erik") End New Type, _
Begin New Type As Person(Age := 12, Name := "Wouter") End New Type, _
End Anonymous Type As Anonymous Type

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 2:00:56 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [5]  | 

I just ran across this thread on TSS.NET.  I found it somewhat curious that there is a Microsoft guy on there claiming that DLinq is not an ORM.  While I don't doubt there's a way to construe the definition of ORM to make it not true (as the MS guys seems to try), I think that's counterproductive and just plain silly.  As one of the commenters said, it looks and feels like an ORM, so why not just call it that? 

At the MVP Summit, it was confirmed that LINQ will support extensibility into third-party tools via expression trees.  The problem is first that they don't have that stuff documented and second that they plan to change it.  This was gleaned in a session on DLinq where the product team was looking for feedback.  They're very concerned about getting feedback, as Dinesh has illustrated, about DLinq, but I think that they need to first focus on getting their API for extending LINQ (a la expression tree structures and the like) solidified and documented ASAP.

On that note, I've talked to Paul Wilson here at the ASPInsiders Summit about DLinq and the aforementioned blog by Dinesh.  Both of us have written ORMs, and both of us have commented on Dinesh's blog.  However, you'll note, neither of our comments have shown up.  I'm not sure what that's all about, but if you have feedback for the LINQ or DLinq team, you can post it here, and I'll make sure that the related teams are aware of it.  Now is the time to give your feedback on these products as they are early enough in the design cycle and are focused on that feedback.

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 11:23:48 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, October 3, 2005

I guess since Plip already blogged about it, it's public knowledge now.  We've just heard about this revolutionary technology codenamed "Spang."  Of course, now that the word's out, there are parties within Microsoft trying to deny it.  Oh well, it is too cool, almost as cool as LINQ.

[Edited] It now appears there is a web site dedicated to this new technology...

['Nother Update] It seems that some of my colleagues think that a good clean hoax is somehow a serious issue, so our fun has ended.  Everybody just needs to lighten up!

Monday, October 3, 2005 3:46:17 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 

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