Friday, April 29, 2005

Another Review Posted

I finally posted another review after a long hiatus. This time I reviewed a C# book published by Mike Murach and Associates. I am glad I liked the book because I have had dealings with Mike and he is a very nice person. I would have hated to have to write that his book sucked. I have been using his books in all my classes and generally my students like them. Certainly they are much more popular than the Deitel books which I had used for a couple of semesters.

Friday, April 22, 2005

A new dog

WoofWe are the proud owners of a dog, which makes me glad I don't live in Turin. We picked up a Boston Terrier through a rescue agency. The dog had been taken from a puppy mill that was using her for breeding. The dog's name is "Lily Beans". We drove out to New Jersey a couple of weeks ago and picked her up. Her name was Lily but the "Beans" was added because the dog is rather... flatulent. On the way home Michel kept asking if it was the dog or just New Jersey that stunk. Anyway, the dog has a great personality. Mikey loves her because she gives lots of licks and doesn't growl or bite no matter what he does to her. The cats don't particularly care for her. We are working on getting them to be friends but this appears to be a long effort. Lily Beans is a small dog (17 pounds) and is five years old. She's already housebroken but she doesn't appear to know any tricks other than to retrieve. She sleeps in a pet carrier in Beth's room at night so that we can be sure she doesn't bother the cats. As with most Bostons, she snores and drools when she is sleeping.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVIThe headline reads, "Leaders Welcome New Pope, Liberal Catholics Dismayed." I guess the liberal Catholics were hoping for a Pope that would abandon Church teaching and let them have some fun. The liberal Catholic mantra seems to be, "But the other religions get to do it, so why can't we?" The idea that if they want to be like the other religions they can simply convert doesn't seem to occur to them. They want their cake and to eat it too. They want the tradition and majesty and faithfulness of the Church without any of those inconvenient rules. The new Pope is unlikely to go along with their ideas. As one person complained, Cardinal Ratzinger actually had the nerve to (gasp!) fire a Catholic theologian who was teaching heresy at a Catholic university! "Ratzinger is not the Pope that we would ideally like," said Joelle Battestini, associate convener of the Australian group Ordination of Catholic Women. Yes, I bet that is true. But he is exactly the Pope that the Church needs.

Portal Development in SAP

It has been awhile since I wrote anything about work. I am part of the team that is writing the new enterprise portal (EP) for my company. The new EP will be developed using SAP. My plan is to discuss the process of developing portlets in SAP as I learn about it.

The first thing to note is that you have to be a member of the SAP Developer's Network (SDN) to get access to the downloads required to do portal development. SAP uses Eclipse but with special class files and plug-ins. The plug-ins allow the creation of par files (portal archives) which can be loaded into EP. So the first steps are to download and install Eclipse and then download and install the Eclipse plug-ins. This version of the plug-ins requires Eclipse 2.1. We are using JDK 1.3 for development.

Next step... develop a simple iView (portlet) using the SAP provided class files.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Aunt Tina

I have a couple of notes from Aunt Tina. Those who are regular readers may remember that Aunt Tina dropped in from Phoenix for a visit last month.

First, Aunt Tina sent a present to everyone in our house from Amazon. Michel got the book, Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants. Beth got the ultra-cool book, Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants which she has almost finished! Mikey got the new Spongebob Squarepants Movie which the whole family has been enjoying. And I got the best of them all, Baudolino by Umberto Eco. The best part was the comment Tina put on the note that came with the order... Tom - This has your name all over it. Actually, it just yelled at me and said: "Give this to Tom." Being told that a book by Umberto Eco calls out your name is quite a compliment. Tina must think I'm a smart cookie. As soon as I get my new reading glasses I will start reading it.

Second, I received an email from Tina in which she said she saw an article that made her think of me... "Doctors Remove Leech From Woman's Nose". I will leave as an excercise to the reader to determine what this means Tina thinks of me! ;-)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Happy Birthday Mikey!

Yesterday was Mikey's 8th birthday. I can't believe how much he has grown. Thinking about Mikey's birthday got me thinking about the website, Down Syndrome: For New Parents, that grew out of Mikey's birth. The site is the result of what I do for a living, computer programming. I wanted to learn about Down syndrome but I also needed a therapy, a need to do something. The site grew out of that need. I started on GeoCities as a free site with a single page and the answer to a few questions that I had looked up. The site grew bigger and bigger during the first couple of years after Mikey was born. At some point I added a simple forum and then updated it with a more complex forum. I am not sure when or how it happened, but at some point the site reached a critical mass and the forum exploded with parents supporting each other. Strangely enough, this occurred with virtually no help from me.

As Mikey got older, we realized that Mikey was not like typical children with Down syndrome. He could sit and spin a plate endlessly even though he had very poor fine motor control and couldn't even hold a crayon. In fact, Mikey would spin anything and stare at it. We sort of knew that Mikey was autistic although we avoided saying it. When we took him to Johns Hopkins for an evaluation, Doctor Capone told us that Mikey was probably autistic but he wasn't telling us anything that we didn't already know in our hearts.

Once I realized that Down syndrome wasn't going to be Mikey's big disability, I started participating in my own site less and less. At the same time, I had no desire to start an autism web site. Down syndrome is something understandable. We know what causes it, we know what kind of behaviors to expect, we know what the future holds to some extent. But autism is a blank slate. I don't understand autism. I don't understand what is going on inside of Mikey's brain. For example, Mikey will ask me for a sock. Unless I give him a very specific type of sock he will reject it. When I give him the right sock he will sit and shake the sock while staring at it. Why? I don't know. He doesn't smile or laugh while shaking the sock so I guess it doesn't make him happy but it must provide some kind of stimulus that he likes. Sometimes when I am sitting with him on the couch, he will try to remove all the creases from my pants, an impossible task as moving one crease creates another. But he can do this for long periods of time. In other ways he is very typcial; he likes to dance and to watch videos and go for drives in the car.

Mikey is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. He is cute and wonderful and funny and full of love. I don't understand him but I love him more than mere words can say.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Killing Terri

I knew it wouldn't take long for it to happen. The first article was an opinion piece in Wednesday's New York Post. The author makes the point that if killing Terri was the right choice then we need to punish those who don't make that choice for their loved ones. The author tells us that New York state spends $14 billion a year on long-term care. We need to get those costs down, he tells us. Families feel the pain of taking care of a loved one who is in long term care, but they don't feel the economic pain so there is little economic incentive to get them to "pull the plug". It's time to make people pay out of their pocket so that they will be more likely to make the "right" choice and dispose of this drain on the public largesse. The author ignores the fact that not everyone in long-term care is on a feeding tube so I assume the author would have the state provide suitable pillows to suffocate those that are in long-term care but still manage to feed themselves.

So why am I not surprised? Because as a parent of a child with Down syndrome I have been told that the state shouldn't pay for services for Mikey because we chose to have Mikey. Down syndrome is "preventable" so why should the state pay for my "bad choice". This is what choice is in America today... choose to dispose of those who are an inconvenience or pay the consequences. And if you dare to disagree, you are just pushing your religious views on everyone else.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Pope

Pope John PaulI happened to glance at Salon (yes, I know it isn't worth reading but...) and an article by Joan Walsh caught my attention. Ms. Walsh says that she can't forgive the Pope because her mom left the Church near the end of her life in 1976 because of the Church's stand on abortion. In other words, Ms. Walsh is mad at the Pope because the Church has moral values that she doesn't like. Tough! One wonders if she would be equally mad if her mother had left because of the Church's stand against adultery. In fact, the absurdity of Ms. Walsh's article can be seen by simply replacing "abortion" with "adultery".

Mark Steyn in the Daily Telegraph brings this point home. "The root of the Pope's thinking - that there are eternal truths no one can change even if one wanted to - is completely incomprehensible to the progressivist mindset." The Church believes that there are universal truths that can't be abandonded because they are uncomfortable or have fallen out of fashion and the dignity of the human person is one of those universal truths. The Church will greatly miss Pope John Paul. We can only hope his successor will carry on with the vigor that John Paul brought to the fight for the sanctity of life.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Daria - The Misery Chick

Daria!There are not too many TV shows that Beth likes that both Michel and I also like. Beth and I like a lot of mystery shows such as Nero Wolfe but Michel has no interest in them. One show that we all enjoy is Daria which used to be on MTV eight years ago and is now on The N in reruns. Daria is a high school girl who is really smart but is surrounded by fellow students who are interested only in their looks and their sports teams. Daria Morgendorffer is probably the most cynical person on the planet and because of her attitude everyone thinks of her as the "misery chick" even though she really isn't miserable. Daria's sister is a member of the fashion club, the school group whose main concerns are clothes and makeup. (Michel does a great imitation of Sandy, the president of the fashion club.) Each episode follows Daria as she attempts to get through another day of high school. The main problem with the show is that it is on at 4 in the morning and isn't available on DVD! So we tape it. If we had Tivo life would be easier.

Friday, April 01, 2005

New P2P Communication Technology

Opera Software ASA has announced a new breakthrough in P2P, direct, real-time, platform independent speech technology. The press release reveals some of the details of this incredible breakthrough. The key details are revealed in this line, Based on open standards, Opera's patent-pending P2P speech technology uses analogue signals carried through open air, enabling users to communicate in real- time without the use of computers or mobile phones. There are several drawbacks related to the system including limited range and serious privacy issues. There are also issues related to being able to recognize a message sent to a specific peer. However, the ease of use of this new technology and the low cost will probably lead to wide spread adoption.