Saturday, October 18, 2008

The natural enemy of cats

I'd searched everywhere - the dresser, yesterdays jeans, the laundry, under the couch cushions. I was late for work and getting a little desperate - had some0ne stolen my wallet? I took a deep breath and tried to visualize when I had last seen it. Yesterday afternoon I'd stuffed it under the car seat - eureka!

I went out in the garage and carefully reached under the seat, feeling for the lost wallet. My fingers touched something unexpected, soft, furry. Perhaps a fur lined glove or a fur hat? Why was there something soft and furry under my car seat? There was a strange sound, it sounded sort of like "hissssss .... murrrooowwwwwwww!". I jerked my hand away.

Crouching under the seat was one very scared cat. I had left the window open, and the cat had crawled in during the night. I tried to reach in and pull it out, but it hissed and tried to claw me.

I opened the door and said "here kitty kitty". The cat wasn't going anywhere. I waited a few minutes - still there. Time to try something more direct. I brought a spray bottle from the kitchen and spritzed the cat with water. It just hissed dug in.

I'm sure that if I waited, the cat would eventually leave, but I was late for work! I couldn't leave it there or it would escape in Raleigh and never find it's way home.

I had an inspiration - what is a cat's mortal enemy? That's right, the vacuum cleaner. I dragged the vacuum into the passenger seat. As soon as I turned it on, the cat shot out the door, ran across the street and into the woods. My wallet was under the seat, just as I had suspected. Mission accomplished.

That evening my neighbor stopped by. Had I seen a 13 year old tabby cat? The story had a happy ending - the cat returned home that night.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Field Guide to The Common Code Monkeys

(Content warning: Despite the cute pictures, this article is extremely geeky)

C# Monkey: There is great excitement in the coding world about this fresh new code monkey. The first of a new generation of managed code monkeys, many consider the C# to be the ultimate monkey coder. He is powerful, quick, and reliable, and is rapidly out competing the venerable C++ and Java monkeys.

C++ Monkey: For many years this magnificent creature reigned as the king of the code monkeys. Descended from the prehistoric “C” monkey, his speed, dexterity, and power made him the choice for the most demanding jobs. Unfortunately an arrogant and obsessive addiction to complexity left him vulnerable to low productivity and unstable code.

JavaScript Monkey: This nervous little fellow is amazingly agile, able to accomplish acrobatic wonders of coding. Like most scripting monkeys, poor organization and lack of cleanliness can cause difficulty.

Java Monkey: This wise and intelligent monkey is a careful planner. He has an extremely painstaking personality and is prone to being haughty and condescending. Java’s are often seen lecturing other monkeys. Despite a highly developed intellect, the Java monkey is rarely observed in the act of coding.

VB Monkey: This venerable simian can accomplish small tasks with great rapidity. He is proficient at simple tasks, but falters when confronted with complexity. He suffers from poor personal hygiene and an inflated view of his abilities. Often seen taunting C++ and C# monkeys.

Ruby Monkey: Several years ago, this small agile monkey amazed the world with its amazingly effortless websites. Unfortunately, its short lifespan has left it unable to exploit early successes. Now slowly disappearing from the internet environment.

Haskell and Erlang Monkeys: These rare creatures are not true monkeys at all – they are members of the marsupial order. While having many monkey like characteristics, they are excessively specialized. Despite their rarity, they can be valuable when properly deployed in multi-threaded applications.
Perl Monkey: Another one of the common script monkeys. The Perl monkeys is simple but versatile, and is most commonly found in a Linux environment. Although specialized for text processing and administrative tasks, the Perl monkey his high ambitions. Sadly, despite its pretensions at being a real code monkey, it's just a dressed up scripting monkey.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Obsolete Technology II

The 1914 edition of the "Century Dictionary, an encyclopedic lexicon of the English language" is 9 inches thick and about 11,000 tissue thin pages long. This weighty tome contains a "complete collection of the technical terms of the various sciences, arts, trades, and professions". Being a modern up-to-date publication, the editors included entries for the hottest new technologies, like the airplane and the automobile. Here's a selection from the section on the airplane:
This is a picture of the famous Blériot monoplane, which first flew in 1909, and was the first aircraft to cross the English channel. The diagram is pretty detailed, identifying many of the important parts. The thing you'll notice is that this vehicle is basically a bicycle with an engine. Compare it to the diagram of a General Electric TF39 turbofan engine, designed about 60 years later (1965). This particular engine was built for the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy transport. Notice that this engine is about 100 X more complex than the entire Blériot.

I don't want to belittle the early airplane, it was more revolutionary for it's time than the GE engine. The GE engine is now around 40 years old, and was designed with slide rules, drafting pens, and typewriters. The engines on a 21st century Boeing 757-200 are quite a bit more complex. The 757 was designed entirely with CAD-CAM software, and would have been impossible to build in 1965, let alone 1909. (Oddly enough, the paper dictionary itself is obsolete too.)

My young grandfather would have been comfortable with the technology of the Blériot airplane. I grew up up seeing the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy flying overhead. My children (in college) grew up with the 757.

My point? I think it has something to do with technology and change. Makes me want to ask the big questions: Where are the flying cars? Forget plug-in hybrids, if we got where we are in a mere 100 years, I think we're due for flying cars by, lets say, 2010.
© 2008 Raoul Rubin