ITHCWY: Robert Ellison's Blog

As a courtesy

As a courtesy to the next passenger

I'm on a recently built A340-600. This sign is about as useful as the ashtrays. This must be a weird tradition that gets handed down from airplane to airplane from one sign author who got grossed out by the thought of a moist sink but has never squelched around in piss on the lower deck stink fest that is installed on this particularly strange airbus.

It's like someone loved the whole elegant spiral staircase up to a bar motif of the 747 and thought wouldn't it be a giggle to do the exact opposite.

Real Time

Real Time

Real Time with Bill Maher is the most excruciatingly awkward show on TV.

The typical setup is that Bill has a first important guest, then three panelists and finally a second important guest. So it kind of sucks to be a panelist. Just by being there you're signalling that you're not important enough to negotiate the first or last slot.

It's not great for anyone though. After the first interview slot Bill is going to jump up and walk over to his desk for the panel session. And you have a horrible choice. Either you follow the stage directions and sit still, somehow emasculated, while Bill leaves you behind. Or you stand up too, asserting yourself but looking somehow awkward and presumably you don't get invited back in a hurry.

Next the panel gets to argue for a while before the second important guest is wheeled in. At this point Bill interviews the newcomer for a long time leaving the panel hanging. Just sat there.

Right when you're wondering if the panel has left the building Bill brings them back into the conversation and at this point they are so desperate to get a few points home that the second important guest is often frozen out.

It doesn't last long though because Bill then cuts to New Rules and ignores the second important guest and the three panelists for a few over-written jokes followed by a variable five minute diatribe.

I cannot believe how many politicians, journalists, comedians, commentators and authors are desperate enough for HBO sized chunks of publicity that they'd put themselves through this social wringer.

I love it.

(Image credit: screenshot from Real Time with Bill Maher opening credits)

Book reviews for April 2017

Palace of Treason (Red Sparrow Trilogy #2) by Jason  Matthews

Palace of Treason (Red Sparrow Trilogy #2) by Jason Matthews

3/5

 

Red Sparrow (Red Sparrow Trilogy #1) by Jason  Matthews

Red Sparrow (Red Sparrow Trilogy #1) by Jason Matthews

3/5

Reasonable spy thriller, strangely has a recipe at the end of each chapter which cuts through any tension. You end up wondering what snack in each chapter is going to be featured at the end. Ruins the pacing. Doesn't work as a cookbook either as the recipes omit quantities and cooking time and instead just touch on ingredients and rough technique.

 

Search Me!

It's a week of dealing with thrilling product deprecations for me. Over the weekend I abandoned CodePlex. Over the past couple of evenings I've ripped out Google Custom Search (they've discontinued their Site Search product and I've never liked Custom Search and I'm now worried that it will be next for the chop). I looked at various open source options but after a bit of poking around decided to just write my own search engine. After about two hours the first version is now live.

CodePlex Shutdown: Shapefile, Orb, StackHash and Blogger2BlogML Migration

CodePlex Shutdown: Shapefile, Orb, StackHash and Blogger2BlogML Migration

Microsoft is finally pulling the plug on CodePlex. I've hosted various projects there over the years and have just finished migrating everything over to GitHub which looks like it just might have a future:

  • blogger2blogml - Migrate blogger format blogs to BlogML.
  • orb - Controller library for Ambient Orb devices.
  • shapefile - parse the ESRI Shapefile format.
  • stackhash - full client for downloading and debugging Windows Error Reporting (WER) crash dumps.

The Harvard Business Review Fallacy

A typical Harvard Business Review two by two grid where it's easy to guess the good quadrant

Every Harvard Business Review article worth it’s salt boils some complex problem down to a two by two grid. Usually something like awesomeness and profitability:

Being non-profitable and not awesome is no fun. Awesomeness without profitability might work for some organizations. Being profitable but not awesome for others. But the place to be is awesome and profitable!

With this bracing insight the authors will cherry pick some companies that match the upper-right hand quadrant and tediously stretch their turpid insight out to book length.

In reality this is a false dilemma (or technically a false tetralemma, but that’s an awkward phrase so I prefer the HBR fallacy instead).

My favorite example is Pascal’s Wager. This is a typical HBR two by two grid based on belief in God and the existence of God.

  1. Don’t believe / No God, you’re fine (meh).

  2. Don’t believe / God, go to Hell (infinite punishment).

  3. Believe / No God, you’re fine (meh).

  4. Believe / God, go to Heaven (infinite reward).

You only have one rational choice here says Pascal.

There is a lot wrong with this argument, but the wrongest thing is the HBR fallacy. There are infinitely many possible Gods with infinitely many good and bad outcomes. You might be living in a universe where the only God is the God of the Thargoids. The one real God might send you to Heaven only if you kill a gopher every Wednesday.

Nobody is going to open any doors and show you any goats.

The end of Facebook

Holy shit I just finished Facebook. Didn't think that was possible. It was passably tolerable while it lasted but I guess I need to find something else now...

Excessive Book Reviews

You know how you're debugging and comment out that return statement that stops book reviews from being posted more than once a month so you can get to the bottom of a problem without constantly deleting posts? And then you get distracted and push a new version of the blog software with that return statement still commented out? Thankfully that task is only scheduled to run every four hours. Sorry.

Book reviews for March 2017

UnHappenings by Edward Aubry

UnHappenings by Edward Aubry

4/5

 

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

4/5

 

News: When should web designers use modal overlays?

When should web designers use modal overlays?

"OK, yes, there are times when modals make sense (compose new tweet comes to mind), but if the web has a bigger annoyance than this (apart, possibly, from autoplay video), I don't know what it is."

Please enjoy the irony of trying to read this article on a mobile phone while the text shifts crazily around the page to make room for the autoplay video ad.