When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

20 July 2010

People love Shopsin's for their own reasons

Apple executive, about owner: The way I see it, you plop down 14 dollars to listen to Kenny talk for an hour.

Fire department regular, paying check: I'd pay 24 dollars for Kenny to shut the fuck up while I'm trying to eat.

--Lower East Side

Overheard by: mhopkins
via Overheard in New York, Jun 25, 2010

Background and explanation:

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20 June 2010

Building forts with Bob

Bob Campbell, my father, was an engineer by trade. 

bob den

Bob Campbell at home, early 1980s

He trained as an electrical engineer in the late 1950s and then went to work for IBM. That was pretty much getting into the (digital) computer industry on the ground floor, and back then it was reasonable and even honorable to work for the same company for your entire career.

"Playing" with Bob was always a mind-expanding experience. Flying kites would turn into an impromptu lesson on aerodynamics, which I drank up every word of and retained basically nothing from.  Still, I thought my dad was the smartest guy in the world.  (At least until I became a teenager.)

flying a kite

Bob and Barry, flying kites at Holden Beach, circa 1972

My Father's Day memory of Bob: 

My friends and I, around age six or seven, were building forts in the back yard, down by the creek (a common play area in our neighborhood), wherever there was room.  I was having some difficulties with structural integrity, and I asked Dad for advice.

"Hang on a second, I'll be right back," he said, and wheeled into the house. I imagined that he was going to get some tools out of his workbench, but I wasn't all that surprised when he returned with a clipboard, some graph paper and an ink pen.

Dad drew out plan and elevation views of a structurally sound fort, along with notes on where to excavate in our fortifications for best results.  He then gave me written permission to use one of Mama's garden trowels out of the shed for these efforts, but only if I brought it back (1) promptly and (2) clean.  (Yes, he numbered the requirements.)

(It's no wonder that I turned out to be a tech writer.)

Dad, it's been five years since we lost you.  You were a good father when you were raising me, and later you were a good friend, too.

I'll drink a toast in your memory today.  Since you're not here to drink it with me, I'm going to make it a double Scotch on the rocks.

dad in van ibm brochure
This is a scanned sidebar from a print article on hiring the handicapped that ran in some official IBM publication in 1984.


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29 May 2010

Memorial Day 2010

This post is a Memorial Day tradition at enrevanche, begun in 2006. Thanks to guest blogger C. Scott Smith.

If you're headed to the beach, drive safe - and let's remember the reason for the holiday.  This post will remain up all weekend; I'll "see" you Tuesday.

The date on the grave is shown as March 18, 1945 and the site at the Henri-Chapelle military cemetery is, if my memory serves, on a long rolling hilltop in the middle of farmland in Belgium about an hour from Brussels.

C-02-33 Heinlein 1

I visited it once with my mother in 1967 after a harrowing taxi ride along single-lane farm roads from Brussels. The grave belongs to my grandfather, Crayton Mack Heinlein, who was killed fighting the Germans in World War II.

Family lore, or at least that lore passed along by our often unreliable grandmother, tells us that Mack, as he was known to his friends and fellow soldiers in the 9th Infantry Division, was killed in action in the battle just before the Battle of the Bulge. This information would seem at odds with the date of death listed on his grave, since the Battle of the Bulge took place from December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945 and Granddad was listed as having been killed in March.

I for one never really thought that knowing the correct date that he died was all that important. He was dead long before I was born and whether the date we were all told by Grandmom was the right one never really seemed to matter.

We do know, thanks to surviving letters from him, that Mack landed with his division at Normandy on D-Day plus 3 and fought across France, through the killing hedgerows of Normandy, and from there into Luxembourg and Belgium where, if Grandmother was to be believed, he died sometime before the Ardennes offensive which was launched by the Germans in their last gasp to fight their way to Antwerp and force a negotiated peace with the Allies. If the Army’s date is correct, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge before being killed.

He was almost too old to serve in the Army, having been called up at the age of 39, but he went without complaint. During the winter of 1944-45, one of the coldest on record in Europe, he lost part of both feet to frostbite (his first Purple Heart) but refused medical evacuation; once he had recovered, he rejoined his unit--where. during a short sharp firefight, he was credited with saving the life of his best friend. He was killed shortly thereafter (his second Purple Heart), the details of his death never really being made clear since no one from his original infantry platoon survived the war and the Army was confused as to the actual date and cause of his death.

I had not thought about his grave in years. and yet recently something caused me to recall that trip my mother and I took by taxi from Brussels all those years ago. We used to have a photograph that I took as an eight year-old of my mother kneeling next to her father’s grave, a young woman of 28 with tears rolling down her face and seeing her father’s grave for the very first time in her life. There was another photo that my mother took of me at that time and in it I’m standing at attention next to the grave attempting to look solemn.

Neither picture exists any longer and Mom died in 1987.

I don’t know why I started thinking about Granddad’s grave, but I did, and the thinking about it drew me to Google, that divinely inspired fount of all knowledge both useful and less than, and within about a minute I had located the web site for the American Battle Monuments Commission, and from them I was able to locate my grandfather in Belgium 61 years after his death and almost 40 years since my visit to his grave.

The Battle Monuments Commission does an incredible job of maintaining the graves of our fallen soldiers. There are over 5,000 of them at Henri-Chapelle alone. If you have the name of the fallen you can easily find his or her grave, and if you request it, they will take photographs of the grave for you and return them via email or regular international mail within days of your request.

In order to make the inscription on the cross or Star of David stand out better in a photograph, the lettering is filled in with contrasting beach sand for the photo. The sand used can only come from Omaha Beach at Normandy (the site where over 2,000 American GIs fought and died on D-Day) because, as I was told by the superintendent of the cemetery, only sand from hallowed ground can be used to touch a grave marker that marks a hallowed site.

I was going to try to write something to finish this that might serve as a final statement and fitting tribute to the man my grandfather must have been. Upon reflection, I think that there can be no better statement about who he was, what he did and what the men and women with whom he served and died with accomplished for us all than this photograph.

Crayton Scott Smith
Seattle, Washington
Memorial Day 2006

09 May 2010

The Fawaffle Experiment

Carrie may have just hit upon a million-dollar idea!

She came up with the idea of the falafel-waffle - the Fawaffle, in other words - and conceived of it as a thing that could hold all kinds of sweet and savory toppings, perhaps a form of street food, even.

Falafel is sort of the national food of Israel, but it's a crossroads of many Middle Eastern cultures that Carrie and I love so much, really.

And it all starts with chickpeas and fava beans.

You need to soak chickpeas overnight and then cook them until soft - simmer for 90 minutes or so.

Cooked chickpeas

The fava beans you can soak and then cook down to a slurry, spicing it heavily with turmeric, coriander, cayenne and black pepper, cumin...

Fava bean slurry

When it comes time to assemble the actual falafel mix... a food processor can be a big help.  I tossed in minced onion and garlic, more spices, and just a thimbleful of olive oil.

Preprocessed falafel mix

What you wind up with is a smooth paste that you can add to your favorite waffle batter (I think 3 parts falafel and 5 parts batter is about right, but you should start with half-and-half and see where it takes you.

Processed falafel mix

The first batch of Fawaffles turned out awfully well!  There's much recipe tinkering to be done, but the proof of concept is right there and tasty.

First batch

Carrie conceived of this as a platform for various savory condiments - here are some that we tried:

Condiment testbed

The inventor says, "Hurray for fawaffles!"

Carrie, tasting

And so does the chef:


Barry, tasting

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03 May 2010

Please allow me to introduce myself

Dear members of the OpenNMS community:

Please allow me to introduce myself. :-)

Barry Campbell January 2010 Posterized

My name is Barry Campbell, and I’ve just joined The OpenNMS Group, Inc. as Director of Communications.

In my new role, I’m taking responsibility for technical communications, marketing communications, and industry analyst relations. Every day, I’m going to work as hard as I can to improve the public awareness of OpenNMS, The OpenNMS Group, Inc. and the great OpenNMS community supporting the project.

I’ve worked in the IT industry for the last 25 years, for companies large and small, as a technical writer, trainer, information designer, department manager and (very) hands-on executive. I’m now going to bring my years of experience to bear on the issues and concerns that OpenNMS Group has as it faces even more rapid growth.

I’ll be reaching out to the community in coming days, weeks, and months.  If you don’t want to wait for me to get in touch with you, please feel free to reach out to me first!

Here’s my new work contact info.

Barry Campbell, Director of Communications
bcampbel -at- opennms dot com

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19 April 2010

Sometimes Google Voice transcripts are really shockingly accurate. And sometimes...

From my Google Voice inbox, this thoroughly puzzling "transcript" of a caller's message:

"Bye really what your bye. So I want balls and I don't know if you have them. He's the trail from capsules. I just this is black box. Okay, see you. I don't know. But I that connect because it bye. I don't know if late but this trip. Yeah. Yeah. Mrs. From 00 North, but if you can all of it. Bye."

Wow. Just wow.

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14 April 2010

At liberty: Writer, editor, manager, geek, chef de cuisine, raconteur

Hi. I’m Barry Campbell, and this is an application for a job.

I’m an experienced writer, editor and manager based in Chapel Hill, NC, although I also have many clients and friends in New York City, where I lived for the last 14 years.

I can do at least a couple of things that are worth paying me for:

  • As a manager, I lead highly skilled, cross-functional teams to produce complex and demanding deliverables on tight deadlines and budgets. (Often, these deliverables are documents with significant business and legal importance, such as proposals and statements of work.)
  • As an individual contributor, I explain complex technical concepts to nontechnical audiences, and craft compelling, persuasive business cases and presentations for proposals and grant applications.

Whether you need to hire a player or a coach – I happily do both jobs, by the way, and as a manager I strongly prefer a role as a “player-coach” – I have a long track record achieving excellent results despite limited resources and demanding schedules. Besides “player-coach,” other (printable) words colleagues have used to describe me include trainer, facilitator, mentor, problem-solver and creative thinker.

I relocated to North Carolina for family reasons. My wife is going back to grad school at Carolina, and my mother, who lives in Raleigh, is in poor health; we needed to be closer. Besides, I grew up here, and attended UNC myself; who wouldn’t want a chance to return to Chapel Hill to live? I love New York City and will happily travel there as required for business, but the Triangle is now my home.

I’ve spent the last four years working with a very dynamic company in hyper-growth mode (see: “Inside the Tornado,” by technology guru/visionary Geoffrey Moore, if you’re curious about what that was like), and I helped the company grow its proposal-based business eightfold (an 808% increase, to be precise) in the first year, once they decided to let me meddle with the processes a little. (OK, I'll cop to it: I built their processes from the ground up and eliminated a lot of churn.)

Root-cause analysis of the company’s rapid growth in the last several years would lead you, at least in some small part, to a snapshot of me and my team huddled over our keyboards, knocking out a volume of precisely targeted proposals and RFP responses that would likely surprise you. (It surprised us!)

I was also responsible for more conventional technical documentation and training requirements, analyst relations, and some other fairly important things, too.

If certifications impress you, I have some. I’m ITIL v3 Foundation certified (and was v2 certified before that), and a PRINCE2 certified project manager, and a bunch of other things actually; ask to see my resume if you care. (If you’ve been in this business a while and certifications don’t impress you all that much, I like you already. Even if you don’t hire me, we should have lunch.)

I’m at liberty, available May 1, and I’m taking a lot of lunches. ;-) You know how to get in touch.

27 March 2010

Reviewed briefly: "ITIL Lite" by Malcolm Fry

Reviewed: "ITIL Lite" by Malcolm Fry (ISBN 9780113312122)

SUMMARY: If you're thinking of implementing ITIL v3, read this book first. * * * * (4 out of 5 stars)

Malcolm Fry, who has been around the block a time or two in the IT Service Management (ITSM) world, is a big fan of ITIL v3.

But in the real world, especially when you're starting out, you may increase your chances of success if you only attempt to implement a core, defined subset of the full ITIL v3 lifecycle model.

His new book, "ITIL Lite", is about just that: being successful with a defined subset of ITIL. Mr Fry is writing about process improvement in the real world, as real people live it, every day, in real workplaces. He doesn't believe in jargon and The Next Big Thing in process wonkery means nothing to him. 

If you're thinking of implementing ITIL v3, read this book first.

Related: "ITIL Lite" article at BSM Review

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22 March 2010

Current events in snapshot form

Maria the Korean Bride gets married in Raleigh, NC 

Western Union Building, 60 Hudson St Manhattan
 60 Hudson St, NYC, aka the Western Union building, from a morning walk in the rain


Breakfast in Chapel Hill with Mark, Joyce and Carrie


Drinks in NYC with Jamey, Inness, and Jeejo

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And Obama is Wellington. Afraid so, yes.

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.

Only, the hardliners overlooked a few key facts: Obama was elected with 53% of the vote, not Clinton’s 42%. The liberal block within the Democratic congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than it was in 1993-94. And of course the Democrats also remember their history, and also remember the consequences of their 1994 failure.

This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.

Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.

Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan. Could we have leveraged his desire to align the plan more closely with conservative views? To finance it without redistributive taxes on productive enterprise – without weighing so heavily on small business – without expanding Medicaid? Too late now. They are all the law.

David Frum, "Health Care is the GOP's Waterloo", 22 March 2010, The National Post 


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27 February 2010

Reviewed briefly: "The Stick and Cane in Close Combat" (Tom Lang, 2006)

One of the most thoughtfully written and nicely illustrated "how to" books I've seen in a long time, "The Stick And Cane In Close Combat: Jointlocks, Takedowns and Surprise Attacks" is about how to use a stick, staff or cane as leverage in grappling. It's a compendium of jointlocks and takedowns, basically, from the practical to the fanciful, with only passing reference to the short, sharp shot (the best way to fight with a stick is to hit somebody with it, usually.)

A little knowledge of anatomy and physics is a *truly* dangerous thing. I am far from an expert martial artist, but Mr. Lang certainly is, and it appears to me that at least some of these techniques would remain completely accessible/available to older people who might have reduced strength, range of motion, or even balance.

It turns out that Tom Lang is an instructional designer and medical/technical writer, in his day job.  No wonder the book reads so well!

Related links:

Jointlocks and Takedowns with the Stick and Cane (Tom Lang)

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26 February 2010

Reviewed briefly: "I'm New Here," Gil Scott-Heron (2010)

4 out of 5 stars (* * * *)

\He sounds like forty miles of bad road, but Gil Scott-Heron, the hard-living New York Poet who once taught us that The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, is back with a recording that poignantly examines rebuilding your life, even if you have to start from scratch.

Audio and video here:

15 February 2010

Americana/alt.country playlist for Bunny

And anyone else who's interested.

Lyle Lovett: "Lyle Lovett" (debut album), "Pontiac," "It's Not Big It's Large" (with the Large Band) - a good introduction is "Anthology Vol 1, Cowboy Man", but there are no bad songs on the early albums and damn few on the later ones; it's worth buying the full albums in my view. 

Steve Earle: God, anything really. But especially "Guitar Town" and "Transcendental Blues."

Townes van Zandt: Anything and everything.  A good introduction is "Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, TX" - there are some compilations but I don't like the looks of them.

Willie Nelson: Anything and everything.  A good introduction is the recent comprehensive box set.  Just buy it. :-)

Guy Clark. The alt.country singer-songwriter's singer-songwriter.  Anything.  His last couple of records ("Dublin Blues," "Some Days The Song Writes You") are solid as they come.

Joe Ely - both as a solo artist and with The Flatlanders.  Look for an anthology.

Robert Earl Keen - another member of the Texas smart-country set.   "The Party Never Ends" is canonical.

Buddy and Julie Miller: If you buy just one record, buy this one: "Written In Chalk".

T-Bone Burnett: Producing more than performing these days, but proves that Christian Rock does not have to be "I found God and lost my talent."  He writes heartbreakingly beautiful songs.

John Prine - all of it.

Emmylou Harris - all of it pretty much.

Lucinda Williams - all of it, but especially "Car Wheels On A Gravel Road."

Tift Merritt - a good introduction is "Live in Birmingham" (England, not Alabama)


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30 January 2010

Quants and wealth destruction

On Wall Street, they were all known as "quants," traders and financial engineers who used brain-twisting math and superpowered computers to pluck billions in fleeting dollars out of the market. Instead of looking at individual companies and their performance, management and competitors, they use math formulas to make bets on which stocks were going up or down. By the early 2000s, such tech-savvy investors had come to dominate Wall Street, helped by theoretical breakthroughs in the application of mathematics to financial markets, advances that had earned their discoverers several shelves of Nobel Prizes.

PDT, one of the most secretive quant funds around, was now a global powerhouse, with offices in London and Tokyo and about $6 billion in assets (the amount could change daily depending on how much money Morgan funneled its way). It was a well-oiled machine that did little but print money, day after day.

That week, however, PDT wouldn't print money--it would destroy it like an industrial shredder.

26 January 2010

Why *would* Edmund Burke support it?

You may not know this. But all the smartest people on the Right are basically ashamed to be associated with you. Your “success” in building a set of near-permanent institutions, think-tanks, and magazines to promote your ideals in an uncontaminated environment leaves us with two choices:

1) Sell out to the movement. That is, we may occupy ourselves by explaining that whatever the GOP is promoting--whether it be torture, pre-emptive war, Mutually Assured Destruction, or supply-side economics--is an enduring Western value. If John Boehner is doing it, we're supposed to figure out why Edmund Burke would support it.


2) Sell out the movement. That is, pitch our articles to liberal audiences. Trash the movement (like I’m doing), and trade our actual conservative convictions for the ephemeral respect of our peers.


Don’t get me started on foreign policy. There we were always at odds. I was a kind of isolationist. Your two unwinnable wars did little to dissuade me on that point.

But then this free market stuff. Live within your means. Fend for yourself. Be responsible. I believed that. But the people you elected didn’t. Bankers, GE, Archers Daniels Midland, military contractors, really all sorts of speculators--they deserved wealth transfers, cheap credit, debt cancellation. These are your welfare queens, conservative movement. Do you know how bad this makes us look, after having attacked poor people and minorities as free-riders? 

Dear Conservative Movement: Stop Ruining My Life, by Michael Brendan Dougherty

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Poken card

24 January 2010

Silver Star

New York City (subway)
10 mi (16 km) Newark (PATH)
58 mi (93 km) Trenton (River Line)
91 mi (146 km) Philadelphia (SEPTA)
116 mi (187 km) Wilmington
185 mi (298 km) Baltimore (Light Rail)
225 mi (362 km) Washington, DC (METRO)
234 mi (377 km) Alexandria
334 mi (538 km) Richmond
362 mi (583 km) Petersburg
460 mi (740 km) Rocky Mount
530 mi (853 km) Raleigh
538 mi (866 km) Cary
598 mi (962 km) Southern Pines
626 mi (1,007 km) Hamlet
700 mi (1,127 km) Camden
733 mi (1,180 km) Columbia
782 mi (1,259 km) Denmark
870 mi (1,400 km) Savannah
1,018 mi (1,638 km) Jacksonville
1,076 mi (1,732 km) Palatka
1,128 mi (1,815 km) DeLand
1,160 mi (1,867 km) Winter Park
1,165 mi (1,875 km) Orlando
1,183 mi (1,904 km) Kissimmee
1,233 mi (1,984 km) Lakeland
1,296 mi (2,086 km) Lakeland (stops here twice)
1,264 mi (2,034 km) Tampa
1,312 mi (2,111 km) Winter Haven
1,353 mi (2,177 km) Sebring
1,395 mi (2,245 km) Okeechobee
1,456 mi (2,343 km) West Palm Beach
1,474 mi (2,372 km) Delray Beach
1,484 mi (2,388 km) Deerfield Beach
1,498 mi (2,411 km) Fort Lauderdale
1,506 mi (2,424 km) Hollywood
1,522 mi (2,449 km) Miami (Metrorail)

14 January 2010

"We aren't at all entitled to use our moral instincts in the correct way."

Michael J. Totten interviews Christopher Hitchens (Part I, Part II).  

Here's the opener to Part I:

MJT: Ireland has a new anti-blasphemy law.

Hitchens: Yes.

MJT: At the same time, Kurt Westergaard was just attacked in Denmark by a Somali nutcase with an axe for offending Muslims with his Mohammad bomb head cartoon. How is it that supposedly liberal Europeans have come to agree with Islamist fascists that people like Westergaard ought to be punished, even if they think he should be punished less severely?

Hitchens: Let's do a brief thought experiment. I tell you the following: On New Year's Eve, a man in his mid-seventies is having his granddaughter over for a sleep-over, his five-year old granddaughter. He is attacked in his own home by an axe-wielding maniac with homicidal intent. Your mammalian reaction, your reaction as a primate, is one of revulsion. I'm trusting you on this. [Laughs.]

MJT: Oh, yes. You are correct.

Hitchens: Then you pick up yesterday's Guardian, one of the most liberal newspapers in the Western world, and there's a long article that says, ah, that picture, that moral picture, that instinct to protect the old and the young doesn't apply in this case. The man asked for it. He drew a cartoon that upset some people. We aren't at all entitled to use our moral instincts in the correct way.

This is a sort of cultural and moral suicide, in my opinion. It's not exactly comparable to the reaction of the church in Ireland which wants to make it illegal to criticize any religion, which in Ireland doesn't really mean much more than one. Many Irish people I know are already publicly planning to break this law.

There you see, I have to say, a different phenomenon, maybe a different version of the same one, a claim of the right to protection against offense from a church that just lost at least two senior bishops who had to resign not because they had not thoroughly enough made themselves aware of the child abuse—why do we call it abuse? The rape and torture of children—where it seems from the Irish government's report that only a minority of children were not made victims of this hideous iniquitous predation.

The same absurdity is present in both cases. These two religions make very large claims for themselves, that "without us you cannot get to heaven, and without us you will go to hell." They claim the right to high, middle, and low justice over everything from public affairs to private morals. They make these immense claims for themselves and further say they should be immune from criticism. It's not enough to be an absolutist party, but you're not allowed to disagree. This is totalitarianism.

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