The World According to Nick
Politics, News, Photography, and Triathlons... What don't I talk about?
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Discovery World Fail

I was at Discovery World on Saturday to see, among other things, the Les Paul exhibit.  While that particular exhibit was pretty cool, I have to say that overall, Discover World is really not that great.  It's very poorly organized overall, and many of the exhibits really didn't work right.  While the aquarium is pretty cool, the "Great Lakes" mock up they have is hardly impressive at all.  I can't even imagine how much money was blown on that.

The Technology area is terrible for kids.  Really, its just an advertising venue for major area technology companies like Johnson Controls and Rockwell Automation.  However, the displays are hardly suitable for teaching anything.  In fact, on many occasions I saw kids walking by half the displays because they just didn't even know where to start "discovering" anything.  The problem?  All the displays try to use incredibly advanced and difficult systems to teach simple concepts in technology.  Because of that, kids often times don't know where to start (and often times neither did their parents), and also those systems were hardly kid proof and were in broken states.

Clearly the companies that donated the systems were more concerned with showcasing the latest in their product offerings, instead of creating something that was actually usable for teaching kids.

Aquarium Fail

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Monday, May 26, 2008
A Brief Movie Review

Indiana Jones 4 was horrible.  It was without a doubt, not even close to being worthy of the other three.  If you haven't taken the time or money to see it yet, then save yourself the trouble.  It's not even worth renting it.  If you must, then wait 'til it's on HBO.

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Friday, January 18, 2008
New Book Review Posted

I have a new book review posted on BlogCritics.  It's on Programming WPF by Chris Sells and Ian Griffiths.  This is probably one of the best technical books I've read since doing book reviews.  If you're interested in learning the latest framework for doing GUI programming in Windows, then this ought to be the book you buy.

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Monday, November 26, 2007
How Good of an Estimator Are You?

Don't be ashamed to admit that you aren't a good one.  Many people are not, and I'm definitely not as good as I should be, given my profession.  But then again, in my profession, most people are terrible estimators.  That's why I picked up the latest book from Steve McConnell, called Software Estimation - Demystifying the Black Art.  This is the same guy who wrote Code Complete, which is considered by many (including me) to be the ultimate manual on practical software engineering.  I have a review of his new book on BlogCritics.  Check it out.  This should be on your book shelf, right next to The Mythical Man Month.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007
Uncharted Territory

Saturday night I had the absolute pleasure to listen to the Concord Chamber Orchestra at St. Matthews Lutheran Church in Wauwatosa.  Among other great talents in this volunteer group is our very our Ally from Milwaukeean Rhapsody.  From the very outset of their two hour performance, I kept looking around and thinking to myself... "Why aren't there more people here?  This is incredible music."  Saturday's performance included a selection of Scottish and Irish inspired compositions, including Sean O'Boyle's Haggis, Scottish Fantasy by Max Bruch, several Scottish dances, along with several other compositions.

Scottish Fantasy was especially impressive, as it featured an incredible violin solo by Gerald Loughney.  Loughney, along with the accompanying orchestra, took you on a moving journey of strings and horns that just seemed to flow perfectly and left me with a smile at every small break as I closed my eyes.

The night ended with Sir Maxwell Davies' An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise, which left smiles on everyone's faces.  Before this final piece, we were let in on the secret that the middle portion was supposed to be played in such a way as to make you think everyone was drunk.  It was a charge, and the entire audience has reason to laugh as we listened.  It was then punctuated at the very end by Kimberly Siegel, playing the bagpipe.  And if the bagpipe wasn't enough to end the night with a bang, they had a haggis as part of the after show refreshments.

I'll be the first to admit that orchestral music is not my normal faire, so in many ways this was as much uncharted territory for me as it was for them, as their season is entitled "Uncharted Territory".  I'm thankful that I didn't let that stop me from enjoying a wonderful night with the Concord Chamber Orchestra.  For those of you who missed it, and you really missed something, they have several more performances throughout the year.  Their next public performance is on December 15th at the Basilica of St. Josaphat.  You'll definitely want to be there.

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Monday, May 14, 2007
The Stupidest Gift of All Time

I never know what to get my mom for Mother's Day.  What's worse is that for any gift giving holiday, not only do I have to deal with figuring out what I'm going to get her, I also have to deal with answering questions from all of my sisters who don't know what to get her too.  So after some thinking, I decided to get my mom an iPod Nano.

It was a gift with the best of intentions.  She enjoys very specific music, but there aren't many stations that play her favorites any more on the radio.  She volunteers at the local library several hours a week, and could probably use a convenient way to listen while she works.  And she does some long drives at times where it's hard to find what she likes on the radio (so I got her an iTrip FM Transmitter too).  And, she really likes Melinda Meyers, but doesn't get a chance to listen to her radio show that often.  But, Melinda Meyers has a podcast she could subscribe too.  In theory, this is a freakin fantastic gift.

But in reality, this has "stupid gift" written all over it.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  What was I thinking?!  My mom has a hard enough time checking her email.  And God help us if someone sends her an attachment she has to open.  And now I think she's going to be able to use an iPod?  Nick, you moron.

I did spend quite some time at Circuit City beforehand trying out all sorts of different MP3 players, and using the interfaces, trying to find one I thought would be the easiest.  To Apple's credit, I did think that the iPod's was the easiest to use.  And I know iTunes is very easy as well.  Out of all the possible combinations of software and hardware, it probably is the best.  Throw in the fact that there are FM transmitters that plug easily into the dock port and "just work", and I got sucked into the idea that this might not be a miserable failure.

And to my mom's credit, she seemed excited by the idea.  She even was able to navigate around with the scroll menu, adjust the volume, and even turn it on and off (after we looked in the instruction manual to figure out how to turn it off).  Speaking of which, everyone expects to see a "Power button".  It's a standard part of any user interface.  Don't be so clever that you remove it.  So, right now I'm looking at this as the ultimate usability experiment.  Can a 68 year old woman who has trouble using computers and checking email learn to use an iPod?

I fear I just gifted myself with a maintenance nightmare.

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Monday, March 26, 2007
WTF?!

Regarding the Battlestar Galactica finale...

I kinda figured we'd see at least some more crew members as suspected Cylons... but I don't think they are for sure.  I'm wondering how much of it is a mind game, maybe based on planted seeds through hypnosis from when they were on New Caprica.  All those people were thrown in jail on New Caprica at some point weren't they?  And Starbuck coming back was kind of a given.  I mean... next to Six she's the most popular character.  You can't just get rid of her.

But what's really getting me is... the next season in 2008?!  Are you frackin kidding me?!  Don't make the same mistake as the Sopranos and put too much time between seasons.  You need to strike while the iron is hot.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007
This Book Was One Bait and Switch

My latest book review is up at BlogCritics, on Bait and Switch - The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream.  It's advertised as a book which delves into the plight of the unemployed white collar middle class.  But the only bait and switch was by the author, who had a preconceived idea of what she wanted to write about, and then found only evidence to support her claim.  In the end, it's easy to see exactly what she wanted to prove, which is pure B.S.  Read the rest here.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007
Can You Say Watered Down?

I was at the new Mo's Irish Pub in Wauwatosa last night.  It was very busy, and they have a nice setup going.  The atmosphere is what you'd expect, and everyone was very friendly.  I can see why parking is such a problem there most nights.  The only problem is that after four Jack and Coke's... I wasn't feeling buzzed at all.  I could taste the Jack, but couldn't feel it, even on an empty stomach.  For as much as they charge for a drink, they really need to start adding actual alcohol to it.  Watered down drinks just aren't going to cut it.

I suppose one of the reasons behind the popularity is that they actually have a reserved area of the bar where you can actually smoke.  With Wauwatosa being one of the local communities to enact a smoking ban, I'm sure this is a big selling point.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007
I Fear For The People of Muncie Indiana

Is this new CBS show, Armed and Famous, supposed to make me have more respect for the police, or less?

Dancing is for wimps!  Five brave celebrities will train to become sworn police officers with the Muncie Police Department in Indiana.  They will help clean the streets by arresting bad guys, including drug dealers, hookers and johns, wife-beaters, the drunk-and-disorderly and more.

Who are these brave new recruits?  International television star Erik Estrada ("CHiPs"), singer and author La Toya Jackson, moviestar and professional skateboarder Jason "Wee Man" Acuña ("Jackass"), television personality Jack Osbourne ("The Osbournes") and seven-time WWE champion wrestler Trish Stratus will venture into the streets to serve the people of Muncie.

But first, they will go through intense police training in order to become cops.  They will learn everything from firearms to hand-to-hand combat; they'll even find out what it is like to be on the receiving end of a taser!  Upon completion of their training, they'll be issued badges and guns, and will be partnered with veteran officers to hit the streets of Muncie.

The show is already running into problems.  Erik Estrada got into a screaming fit with a suspect when the suspect thought he was Emilio Estevez (via Agent Bedhead).  I can understand why CBS thinks this would make a funny show, and might bring in good ratings, even though I'll never watch it.

What I can't understand is why any good and decent police force would allow this to happen to them.  Do they think this is good public relations?  Because I'll tell you this.  This show will do nothing but harm not just this police force, but sully the name of all police officers.  Policing this country is a serious matter, and turning it into a joke like this not only harms the police, but also harms the concept of our civil liberties.  By saying that any "jackass" ought to be able to have a gun, and run around to play cop, and arrest people, it harms us all.

The police are the only ones in this country who we allow to take away our rights.  They can arrest you, place you in jail, and search your homes.  We allow them to do this because we trust them to be good and professional servants of something more important than themselves.  The fact that the police in Muncie is participating in this means that they've lost sight of that important fact.

What's next guys?  The Running Man?

Update:  This isn't the first time this sort of idiocy has gone on.  Last year, Shaquille O'Neal participated in a SWAT raid on the home of a suspected child pornographer.  The problem?  They raided the wrong address.  He's a reserve deputy and "pursues his interest in law enforcement during the off season."  He's also been accused of roughing up suspects during drug raids in Louisiana.  Just the type of person who should be participating in a highly volatile SWAT raid don't you think?  So much for professionalism.  I like playing paintball during the summer... can I go on a SWAT raid too?  Both links via The Agitator.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007
My Latest Review Is Up

My latest review at BlogCritics is up.  It's on The Trouble with Physics by Lee Smolin.  It's another critique on String Theory, but involves a lot less math, and more philosophy, history and critical thinking.  A very good read if you're interested in the topic.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Where Have I Read That Before?

Hmmmmm.  This review seems so familiar.  It's almost as if I wrote one just like it a week before.  Must be deja vu.  Thanks for watching my back Jenna.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Seems Like a Familiar Premise

TBS has a new sitcom on Tuesday nights, My Boys, and it's the subject of my latest review on BlogCritics.  Go check it out.  Here is a little taste:

As the old saying goes, everything that's old is new again, and that's the case with the new TBS sitcom My Boys.
...
As I watched the series premier, and one follow-up episode Tuesday night, I was struck immediately by how closely it resembled another show that TBS has picked up in syndication, Sex and the City.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006
I'm Everywhere These Days

I'm really digging this new show Monday nights on NBC, Studio 60.  It's witty, well written, and very very controversial.  But I think they actually do as good of a job as Hollywood can do covering controversial topics well.  My latest review on BlogCritics is up, and it's of the latest two part Studio 60 episode, Nevada Day.

Update:  And hello once again to Cleveland, who is among the other cities enjoying my review in syndication.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Now That's Really Wrong

When an idea isn't right, not only can it be wrong... it might just be "Not even wrong".  This is attributed to Wolfgang Pauli to denote that an idea had no merit at all... after all... even a wrong idea can prove useful as something to learn from.  Something that's "not even wrong" can't even be proven false, and thus provides nothing of value.

There is a new book out by Peter Woit called "Not Even Wrong" which dissects String Theory, calling it failed science, and explains his view.  Having read several books on the subject with great interest, including a couple from Brian Greene, it was good to read the counter view which is very unpopular in the scientific community.

You can read my review of this new book on BlogCritics.

Update:  And welcome readers from Cleveland, New Jersey, and a few other newspapers who are enjoying my review in syndication.

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