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Talk on Data Integration Technology at Portland DAMA

I'll be giving a talk on data integration and extraction technologies at the Portland DAMA chapter's October 18 meeting. Free if you're a member, $25 to non-members. PDF of the slides will be online in the near future. As soon as I get them done. I never meet deadlines. I watch them recede into the distance.

Also on my speaking list is the November Data Warehouse Institute conference where I'll be doing a half-day session on the same topic. Expect more dirt about vendors and products than the DAMA session. The February TDWI will be even better: full day session, where the afternoon will be spent putting the vendors on the spot to run through technical scenarios and explain how, why and what they're doing, live and on the big screen. The vendor list isn't finalized but will include some of: Informatica, IBM/Ascential, Business Objects, Microsoft, Oracle and SAS.

HP Lovecraft Film Fest in Portland

[Lovecraft Poster]Yog-sothoth be praised! The annual Lovecraft-inspired film festival is in Portland, Oregon October 7-9. With a promotional poster this stylish, you know the film fest will be good. Lovecraft is one of the masters of gothic horror, so if you like good (and sometimes cheesy) horror films, this is the weekend event for you. The schedule of films will be up soon. In the meantime, enjoy the list of entries this year:
Feature films will include: world premiere of Stuart Gordon's Dreams in the Witch House Marebito, Beyond the Wall of Sleep, Cast a Deadly Spell, Forbidden Quest, Strange Aeons: The Thing on the Doorstep, and The Dead Inside.

Shorts will include: Arcane, The Call of Cthulhu, The Gibbering Horror of Howard Ghormley, The Lovecraft Syndrome, Read me a Story, Ryleh, The Vessel, Late Bloomer, Experiment 17, The King in Yellow, March the 13th, 1941, The Courtesy Nudge, Let Sleeping Gods Lie, The Night of the Octopus, The Statement of Randolph Carter.
I will most definitely try to be there. In the meantime, read a Lovecraft short story or entertain yourself with one of these great Lovecraft inspired/influenced stories (free dammit! where were the internets when I was a kid and had to scrape money together for Galaxy?):
I just realized that all of these were written by Charlie Strosss. I know there are more stories out there - just can't find them. Either that or nobody else is writing new fiction under the influence of Lovecraft. Here's a quick backgrounder from wikipedia on Lovecraft, for the unknowing:
"Much of Lovecraft's work was directly inspired by his nightmares, and it is perhaps this direct insight into the subconscious and its symbolism that helps to account for their continuing resonance and popularity. All these interests naturally led to his deep affection for the works of Edgar Allan Poe, who heavily influenced his earliest macabre stories and writing style. Lovecraft's discovery of the stories of Lord Dunsany moved his writing in a new direction, resulting in a series of imitative fantasies in a "Dreamlands" setting. It was probably the influence of Arthur Machen, with his carefully constructed tales concerning the survival of ancient evil, and his mystic beliefs in hidden mysteries which lay behind reality, that finally helped inspire Lovecraft to find his own voice from 1923 onwards."

Update: "A Shoggoth on the Roof" Lovecraftian musical. "Sticky stuff everywhere. And the smell..." Outstanding.

Claudia Imhoff Interview of Me Available as Podcast

Claudia Imhoff interviewed me* and Frank Dravis for a podcast at the last Data Warehouse Institute conference. The mp3 is available on their site, along with podcasts from a legion of other people in the industry. Yes, I know they left my name off the podcast title, but that's fame for you. Make a few baskets, do a little dance, and everyone's embarrassed to use your name...

It's too bad about the Pitney-Bowes acquisition of Firstlogic. I really like them as a vendor. Has some of the nicest people I've met in a software company. I think that comes from being in the Midwest, away from the coastal extremes. I saw that once before at some startups populated by folks from Wisconsin. I think all software companies should be started an run by people from Wisconsin. The programmers would be happier, the customers would be treated better and the products would probably do what they're supposed to.

Hopefully Firstlogic will be left alone to do the work they were doing. I haven't figured out what P-B is trying to do in this market with their acquisitions. The purchase is odd to me too. $50 million for the outstanding ~90% of the company, when the company makes $55M per year in revenue? Awfully low for an established high-tech company, particularly one with very good technology. I keep wondering if there wasn't some secret pressuring somewhere, sort of like the IBM purchase of Sequent. Man, did that deal have the sleazy fingerprints of manipulation all over it.
*"I" always sounds right but I'm assured this is grammatically correct

High-tech Gear for the Mosquito Plagued

[Mosquito Magnet]If you find yourself swarmed by mosquitoes every time you step out the door this product may be for you. Those purple-lighted bug zappers are completely ineffective for biting insects because parasitic insects are not attracted to light. They are attracted to various chemical cues like carbon dioxide, octenol and lactic acid, as well as to body heat.

According to research quoted in this Science News article on mosquitoes body odors work well:
Several years ago, Willem Takken and his colleagues at Wageningen Agricultural University in the Netherlands found that a species called Anopheles gambiae loves both stinky feet and Limburger cheese. A bacterium used to make Limburger is also found on the human foot, accounting for the similarity in odor, Takken says.

[Cheese]After reading this, I wondered about that fact, so I learned how Limburger cheese was originally made. Monks trampled the cheese, transferring those distinctive-smelling foot bacteria to the cheese. The origin of "toe cheese" is finally revealed.

My only worry about the device is that it attracts more mosquitoes to the area than it sucks up. The attraction part works fine: they were landing all over the machine within ten minutes.

Update: one week, over 500 mosquitoes inside the trap! Problem is, I was still getting attacked outside at dusk. Looks like one is needed at an upwind position, and one downwind, to clear out an area.

Weak Dollar Shmeak Dollar, Go Buy Pork Products

After experiencing 2X dollar exchange rates in Europe, I was curious about the effects of the weak dollar. After other sources like The Economist failed Fafblog came to the rescue:
"I like the Economist because it covers a wide variety of topics and makes them easily approachable. Take this article for instance, it has a picture of a really fat man with an american dollar sign on him. This shows me that Americans are fat, and that their currency is fat, too. Thank you Economist!"
It's really hard to find useful tips on how to deal with the souring US economic picture and effects of a weak dollar. Fafblog helps in this respect too:
"Most important: if the dollar gets real weak, you should trade it in for items with "harder" value which can be traded back for dollars when they become valuable again. May I suggest pigs. Everyone loves pigs, and pigs become bigger and fatter by nature as you go along, which means you get more pig and therefore more dollar when it is time to trade in again."
This advice fits well with my German ancestry. Lead on, noble Fafblog.

Print Books From Your Flickr Photosets

This is frickin' cool - Qoop can print sadlle-stitched or perfect-bound books of your photos from Flickr. The price is reasonable when you consider you're getting a perfect-bound paperback on glossy print at 8 x 10 or 8.5 x 11 size. 28 pages starting at $15.95.

I've been working out the economics of short-run printing for full color for a while and I have yet to make it work out like it does for black and white printing. For runs of tens to a hundred color books you're still better off with a good inkjet or laser printer and some decent paper and taking it to a print shop for binding. But if you just want a couple books of your pictures, this is a great deal. I may upload some of the thousands of flora and fauna pictures I've got and see what the quality of the book is like.

The application-as-platform model allows for so much mixing and matching of services that possibilities pop up overnight as people get ideas. A simple application for managing photos has been extended repeatedly in unexpected ways, providing a glimpse at the potential of this type of software architecture. I wish IT shops and IT vendors would spend more time architecting their solutions to fit into a real SOA model, rather than the legacy-wrapper lip service we see in most applications. SOA is a mostly a marketing label for them, akin to "New and Improved With More Bleach!" stickers.

On a side note, it's too bad that Yahoo bought Flickr, and now Yahoo is starting to demonstrate corporate evil.

The Evils of Powerpoint, Again

Powerpoint is pilloried by the press periodically, fairly in many cases. The latest article brings up some of the same criticisms as prior articles but one underlying theme is mentioned. That's the removal of analytic or nuanced thought, ostensibly in order to provide a direct point A to point B kind of flow.

I don't think PowerPoint is to blame for this. I think it's cultural, and particularly inherent in business and bureaucratic culture. "Don't bother me with details" and "Just give me the answer" have replaced thoughtfulness in many managers. Another thing Powerpoint does well is reduce presentations to the lowest common denominator and hide intellectual incompetence. I like this quote from one of the articles.
"One of the criticisms that's been raised about PowerPoint is that it can give the illusion of coherence and content when there really isn't very much coherence or content," said Edward Miller, an education researcher."
Perhaps if people weren't looking for simple black and white answers, the pollution of Powerpoint slides wouldn't be such a problem. I think Powerpoint is an easier target when the people putting together the presentations ought to be the primary target. I use Powerpoint, but I also tend to use more pictures and less bullets, hopefully avoiding the worst offenses. I like where the writer from Wired went:
Perhaps the politicians who are so worked up about the ill effects of violent video games should turn their attention to PowerPoint instead.


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