Saturday, June 23, 2012

From Kether to Malkuth

Taking our ~1 mile desert walk today with these two intrepid souls, Phoebe was doing her usual Station to Station behavior, dashing to and fro between little islands of shade as if they were sepheroth on the Tree of Life, which reminded me of this great David Bowie song.

Like other cabbalistic dogs, there was method to her behavior - it's damned hot here now, high nineties every day. By noon it's uncomfortable. By 5.00P it's almost unbearable to be outside. We've given up on the evening walk for now, it's just too unpleasant. It's understandable that she seeks shade.

It's so hot Phoebe let this interloper live when he showed on our balcony. Unusual for her, she has eaten every fly that's made it into our apartment. She grabs them in mid flight, and they are no more. This dog is a brilliant sight-hunter. He hid and was spared.

Next come the monsoons, which I don't think happened last summer. Places like Ruidoso, a cool little town that had the misfortune of a wildfire, will experience bad flooding in the monsoons since a lot of the nearby vegetation is gone.

This is truly a place of natural extremes, in the summer anyway.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Philbrick's The Last Stand

Custer, as a General during the Civil War
Sitting Bull in 1885

I'm reading Nathaniel Philbrick's The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

If you've read any of Philbricks books, you know why I am excited to be reading this one. I've read his Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War and also  In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex the event which was the inspiration for Melville's Moby Dick (or at least it's premise). Philbrick picks big subjects, and charges into them with gusto and detail.

Philbrick is a gifted writer and historian. His writing reads almost like fiction, with character development, conflict between actors, color commentary, development of location, but it all goes to the same end - a deep understanding of the why's of the history, not just the what's. There's no fluff, but it's a much richer landscape than most history I've read.

Philbrick knows that his readers all know how the battle turned out for Custer, and from the little I've read so far makes no secret of it. As it should be. But it's still a page turner, because of the amazing detail revealed about the people, their intentions and how they came to them, the places, and the supporting actors like boat captains, upper level commanders, and scouts.

It's telling that Philbrick, unlike most historians writing about the third day at Gettysburg, let alone Little Bighorn, actually knows about Custer's charge at east cavalry field, effectively stopping J.E.B. Stuart's 6,000 strong cavalry from getting at the Union rear. This is a significant, but nearly completely overlooked aspect of the battle of Gettysburg, yet Philbrick manages to unearth it and include it is this book.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New Blog Format

Phoebe and I selecting the Timeslide view

I've changed my blog ( over to what Google Blogger calls "Dynamic Views". I think it's pretty cool. You, the reader, get to change how the blog is presented in real time. If you hate dynamic views, click "Classic" on the top view menu to revert to the old format.

The dark grey vertical bar on the upper right is a hover over context menu that gets you a list of labels, so that you can see only all the posts labeled Civil War or Food, or whatever. You also can get the blog archive, and subscribe, which seems superfluous, since everyone is already on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

If you close this entry by clicking the X, you'll get dropped back to my blog.
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Managing Technology

My title is Chief Technology Officer. Since my company, Factor, is a tiny startup (no, you can't see our website yet - it's not finished), I do a bunch of non C level stuff, like project management, managing programmers, logical and physical database design (a boatload of that) and more. This is as it should be in a startup. 

But I also have to deal with technologies I don't know and have never used, and I have to make decent decisions about those technologies. Like whether to use PHP or .Net to build a data access layer between our database and our Flash modules. We went with PHP, so now I have really talented PHP/Flash programmers who are great, but who often say technical things in meetings that I know nothing about. They are good about educating me on their stuff; but marshalling these Flash apps through to completion is tough.
Where I work

I also have MS Access/SQL Server developers whose work I do understand well, and it's a real joy working with them, since I know their stuff, and they are very good at their work.

The lesson I'm learning is that I can't know all the technologies we use as if I were a programmer in each of them, but I can manage the work if I make sure to hire really, really good people to do it.

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