Holidailies 2008

Postings during the 31 days of Holidailies 2008 (www.holidailies.org).

The One Thing I Want for Holidailies 2009

A day late and dollar short, that's me. This article's title is the writing prompt from yesterday, the penultimate day of Holidailies 2008.

Let's get this out of the way right now: Holidailies 2009 is not a given. Holidailies is a labor of love, and we won't do it unless we're feeling the love. That's not a passive-aggressive plea, but a statement of fact. It's a lot of work to organize and maintain. It all comes down to whether, a year from now, Jette and I feel like we'll have the capacity to do it again. I hope we do, because it's a lot of fun.

So, if we're writing a wish list for Holidailies 2009, the number one thing at the top of my list is to do it again next year.

More tactically speaking, I can tell you some of the potential changes I have half-baked in my mind, should Holidailies make another appearance.

Purchasing a Down-Spec Television

I've blogged before about my home audio/video setup. The confluence of big recession-fueled discounts and product ownership envy (my wife bought herself a new car) induced me to buy a new television this weekend.

You might expect, given all of my interest in A/V tinkering, that I'd buy a top-of-the-line set with the best specifications. I didn't, and I thought it might be interesting to explain why.

My plan is to replace a Sony KV-30HS420 30 inch widescreen CRT television with a larger flat-screen set. The very best 40 inch LCD televisions are in the $1200-1400 range. We're talking 1080p resolution, 120Hz refresh, 10000:1 contrast ratio.

DTV Transition Presentation

DTV conversion box coupon program logoI did a presentation today at a local senior center on the digital television transition.

At this point, most people are aware of the transition and what they need to do. The residents I met were all aware of the low-cost converter boxes, as well as the discount coupon program.

What I was surprised to find was the number of reported difficulties these people had getting their coupons. They were given excuses, such as they were ineligible because they had cable. Or their request was placed but the coupons never arrived.

(By the way, if you subscribe to a service such as cable you are eligible to participate in the discount coupon program. You will, however, be limited to a single coupon. Households without a subscription service can request two.)

The Wisdom of Dumb People

I'm told that in this way new web 2.0 world we're supposed to trust to the wisdom of the masses. User-generated content! Crowdsourcing! Digging and tagging!

That's great, except for one small thing: 50% of those people are below average—or worse! Trust to the wisdom of crowds? I'd rather trust to the wisdom of smart people.

I have a feature on my website that asks people to "rate this article". After about a year, I'm ready to declare the experiment a failure.

I've tinkered with the algorithm. I think I have the formula right, but the results are still bogus. All I've done is create a mechanism that identifies which articles are most visited by spammers. (For some inexplicable reason, spammers often click the rating widget before posting their link for penis pills.)

I know it's out of fashion, but I like it when smart people help me make choices. We have a name for those smart people: we call them editors.

The Most Overlooked Movie of 2008

The end-of-year movie lists will begin appearing over the next week. I have a prediction for what will be the most overlooked, undeservedly ignored movie of the year. It's Standard Operating Procedure.

Standard Operating Procedure is a documentary by filmmaker Errol Morris, creator of some of the most important documentaries of our time, such as The Thin Blue Line and The Fog of War. He did some cool Apple ads too.

The film is about the Abu Ghraib incident. We all saw those sickening photos of American soldiers performing abusive and humiliating acts on Iraqi detainees. So, we go into the movie pretty much knowing all about it, or, at least, thinking we do. Morris deconstructs the photographic evidence with rapier precision, and interpolates all the individual data to determine exactly what we can say about what did and did not happen behind the bars at Abu Ghraib.

Foiled by CakePHP

Yesterday, I was all poised to launch myself over the top and be completely caught up on my Holidailies posting. That was the plan. Unfortunately, something intervened: CakePHP.

As I noted the day before, I built the new Holidailies 2008 site using the CakePHP framework.

One reason I wanted a framework was so that I had a solid structure on which to build new capabilities. As the month of Holidailies has progressed, that's what's happened. One unfortunate side effect, however, is that the complexity of the site has now grown to the point where changes may have an unpredictable result.

How to Cheat at Holidailies

Holidailies 2008 badgeToday is day 11 of Holidailies 2008, which puts us about a third of the way through the month of daily postings.

When I participate in Holidailies, a theme often emerges, albeit unintentionally. For instance, back in 2005, the theme was "open source". I was doing a lot of open source software work that December, so, sensibly enough, I blogged a lot about open source software.

The theme for this year, sadly enough, seems to be rants.

I need a new hobby.

Oh, wait, I've got a hobby. It's coding Holidailies.

Rants aside, I've kept up with the expected one-a-day posting rate. Unfortunately, I jumped in a day late (I told you, I was busy coding), so I've been one post behind all the way through. That means I've been straddling the dreaded line of doom: the horizontal separator drawn in the left sidebar that separates the winners from the slackers.

CakePHP: The Good, The Bad, and The Hurty

As I noted in a previous article, I opted to use the CakePHP framework for the Holidailies 2008 rewrite. It's a PHP framework for web application development. It implements the MVC (model-view-controller) design pattern commonly found in web frameworks (such as Ruby on Rails). I made a very good choice moving Holidailies from complete custom code to a framework. I'm not completely happy, however, with my choice of framework. I'll tell you about some of the things I've found.

What I Liked

The best thing is that it implements magic ORM (object-relational mapping). Manual ORM, such as that implemented by Hibernate, is a major annoyance. You have to create all these useless getter/setter classes, construct an XML index, and go through a lot of work to build the ORM. And heaven help you if you make any schema changes. It's painstaking and fragile.

The iPhone: Stupidity for the Credit Card Economy

Hello there happy iPhone user. How much do you love your iPhone? What would you say if I offered you $1500 if you gave me your phone?

I am absolutely serious. Will you take me up on this offer?

If you decide to do it, then please follow these instructions: First, carefully wrap your Apple iPhone in layers of protective wrap. Next, get a ball peen hammer. Then, smash your phone into tiny little pieces. Finally, keep an eye on your bank account. A year from now you'll have $1300 that you wouldn't have otherwise. You can get the full $1500 if you wait a couple more months. Or, if you just hadn't bought the stupid thing in the first place.

My wife was phone shopping a couple months back, worrying about the prices on the various phones, especially the smart phones. I made her stop that. "The phone is free," I explained. It doesn't matter whether the phone costs $20 or $300, the cost of ownership is predominated by the monthly service fee.

Changeling, The Wrestler

Sometimes the ending makes a movie. Sometimes it breaks it. I recently saw one of each kind.

Changeling (2008) stars Angelina Jolie as a mom in desperate search of a child. I watched a "for your consideration" screener. The movie is so long (141 minutes) that it's split across two discs.

I watched the first disc one night, and went to bed thinking this was something very, very special. Jolie did a superb job, and I was completely sold and intrigued by the improbable premise. At times it seemed almost like an M. Night Shyamalan story (the good kind, back before he became a self-referential joke) shot with the economical sensibilities and gritty reality of a Clint Eastwood movie (which it is).

Then, on a later night, I watched the second disc. The story ended with a suspenseful and exciting courtroom scene. The movie, unfortunately, continued on for another half hour. That really undid all that had been created before.

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