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# Monday, November 28, 2005

As I was riding home this evening, I tuned into Classical Radio on Sirius. Normally, I'm more inclined towards classic jazz, Christian rock, or, in my more energetic moods, hip hop. But tonight, it was dark and rainy, and I was in the mood for something more mellow and just happened to stumble across this station.

The program playing was an old-time bank robber story with the familiar, even cliché, gangsta and of course the melodramatic dames that go along with the old movies and radio. But it was a not-unwelcome reverie of that bygone era when clichés were okay, when men were men and women were women. And Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Down With Love are both pleasant pastiche that take one back.

Though all of these call back to a time before my own, I can still appreciate them, partially because I often watched older movies as a child (and so they hold some nostalgia on that point) but also because they were unabashedly fiction. It seems that real fiction is becoming increasingly rare in the popular media.

Sure, we still have fiction, but what do you hear folks talking about at the coffee pot or water cooler? How about Survivor, Apprentice, the news, or "the game"? Even shows that aren't technically non-fiction are essentially about everyday happenings or dramatizations of them. Take as an example ER, House, the ubiquitous CSI, or the even more ubiquitous Law and Order. What about the abundance of other reality shows, crime dramas, self-improvement, home improvement, science, history, etc.? And in literature, though it is admittedly losing some favor, the most popular genre of late seems to be memoirs and other stuff that barely passes for fiction, if fiction at all.

The media seem to have collectively lost their imagination. There are a few shows that are welcome respites, such as Threshold and Ghost Whisperer, and the SciFi Channel has a regular plateful of fiction, although it is often, sadly, poorly done, with the notable exception of Battlestar Galactica and, at times, the various flavors of Stargate. Firefly and Farscape were both awesome, original science fiction series, but both were canceled before their time, and from the looks of it, Threshold will go the same way soon (why else do they keep changing show times?).

But of course, the media aren't only the ones to blame. They're at the mercy of popular sentiment; the money follows the eyeballs. So the real question is whats wrong with us? Have we become so dull and jaded that even our entertainment is nothing more than our reality?

I think this is indeed a symptom of our deadened imaginations, imaginations that have been repeatedly quashed by our teachers and the scientistic ideologues that inform our educational system; the ones who have been forcing materialist dogma down our throats since early childhood.

After all, why should we expect anything more than reality if thats all there really is? If I can't see it, touch it, smell it, taste it, or hear it, it's not worth my time. Or at least thats what we've been taught to believe, and now that dead view of reality is making itself painfully apparent in our popular entertainment and literature, which should be our liveliest, most imaginative relief from the banality of ordinary life.

The current state of the media is in the death throws of its imagination, throwing people together in ridiculous circumstances and seeing how they'll react or, rather, act. I'm at a loss for what do to about it. I think all I can hope is that people will grow weary, as I have, of the pathetic offerings that most of the media are dishing out today and throw their sentiment in with more creative and imaginative outlets, forcing the majority media to respond and give us back our collective imagination.

Yet there is hope, I think. The popularity of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and, more especially, of Harry Potter are positive indicators. Zathura and Narnia are welcome additions that I hope will further spark the imagination of the younger audiences. One can only hope that as that generation grows (one not far behind my own, I might add), there will be a resurgence in demand for good fiction and we may yet save ourselves from this post-fiction world, and maybe some of us who will soon be inheriting the world can do our part to provide good fiction for our hungry and weary minds. The world needs more Tolkiens, Lewises, and Rowlings.

Monday, November 28, 2005 4:47:39 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 

Now this is the most useful innovation using .NET technology in the realm of ASP.NET that I've seen in a long time.  Fabrice Marguerie of metaSapiens has released a small framework called PageMethods that provides ASP.NET developers with an easy way to do both retrieval and validation of HTTP parameters as well as retrieval of URLs in a strongly-typed manner. 

I haven't had time myself to really play with it, but looking over the site gives me the impression that it is a well-thought-out architecture and I would think should be something that the ASP.NET team considers adding to the framework in the Orcas timeframe.  It's one of those ubiquitous problems that we've all implemented different solutions for in the past, so it is a perfect candidate for such adoption.

Good job, Fabrice!

Monday, November 28, 2005 1:10:14 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Friday, November 18, 2005

I don't think any of us can get away from thinking WWF initially when we hear or read about Windows Workflow Foundation.  The other F's in WinFX (WCF and WPF) both abbreviate and use the natural acronym approach, but obviously, we can't use it for Windows Workflow Foundation.  This point is addressed in Scott Woodgate's blog here, and also in the webcast referenced here.  Scott thinks WF is an acceptable compromise, but I agree with one of the commenters on his blog that for consistency and disambiguation, we should use something with at least three letters.  Another commenter suggests WinWF, which is better but is still inconsistent and almost too long.

I suggest WFF.  The reasons are:
1) It is three letters, starts with W and ends with F, like the other WinFX foundations, so we achieve consistency.
2) It isn't used by anything I know of.
3) WF is actually a common acronym for WorkFlow in our industry.

So it would read Workflow Foundation, with the Windows being implicit, but we still get the consistency, disambiguation, and lack of other cultural references (that WWF has).

What do you think?  If you like it, start using it.  Microsoft has said they're not going to make an official one, so it is up to the populus to determine it, and the way for that to occur is via common usage.

Friday, November 18, 2005 9:45:05 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Yesterday, Mrs. dotNetTemplar wanted to order pizza for lunch.  (I was working from home.)  So I pulled up papajohns.com and put in an order.  About 45 minutes later, the delivery guy arrived, and I met him at the door.  I just happened to be wearing one of the shirts that Microsoft has given me.

"You know, you oughta put that shirt up on eBay," he said.  "You might be able to get two Linux shirts for that one Microsoft shirt."

"Well, ya know, it pays the bills, hehe," I retorted kindly, and he acquiesced on that point, returning to his car.

It wasn't until a minute or two later that the full irony of the exchange hit me.

"You might be able to get two Linux shirts for that one Microsoft shirt," said.. the.. pizza.. delivery guy.. to.. the.. full-time.. professional.. software developer.

Hmm...  maybe he just loves delivering pizza...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005 1:47:10 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [3]  | 
# 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:

Frontal

 

Profile

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]  | 

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