Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The best $5 I Ever Spent on Technology

I recently discovered xGestures and someone had better tell my wife because I'm in love!
I've been a long-time user of mouse gestures in Firefox (the plugin I currently use is FireGestures, but there are others). I recently changed to a combination of Camino and Safari, but there aren't any really good gestures plugins available for them.
My search led me to xGestures, and it truly is the best $5 I've ever spent on a piece of technology. Not only does it make my browser more productive (or rather, almost as productive as Firefox on Windoze), but as an added bonus it applies mouse gestures to every application. It's an amazing productivity boost.
For those who aren't familiar with mouse gestures, they are an alternative input mechanism whereby you combine a mouse click with dragging motions in order to trigger a command or action. Basic drag-and-drop is, essentially, a mouse gesture (one that every personal computer user is familiar with); the iPhone and iPod Touch use gestures quite extensively. I've heard them described as "controlling your applications by drawing little mini-pictures with your mouse." Wikipedia introduces them like this:
In computing, a mouse gesture is a way of combining computer mouse movements and clicks which the software recognizes as a specific command. Mouse gestures can provide quick access to common functions of a program. They can also be useful for people who have difficulties typing on a keyboard. For example, in a web browser, the user could navigate to the previously viewed page by pressing the right mouse button, moving the mouse briefly to the left, then releasing the button.

For those like me who make heavy use of the mouse, the productivity boost gained by not having to find menu items or awkward keyboard combinations is outstanding. If you've never used mouse gestures before, it's probably kind of hard to understand the value unless you try them out.
As I've said, I'm in love with xGestures on my MacBook, but there are also similar programs for Windows. I haven't tried any of them out, but some that look promising are:

So, Planet Eclipse readers are probably asking why this is showing up there... Well, I haven't yet configured xGestures to do anything in Eclipse, but I'm thinking about it. Sometime today I'll set up some gestures for the things I do most frequently in Eclipse (like open the Find Type and Find Resource dialogs). But I'm curious if anyone else uses gestures in Eclipse and, if so, what gestures do you use frequently? I'm interested in exploring the power of combining the best IDE and this great "new" input method to make me even more productive. Eventually I'd like to explore the possibility of writing an Eclipse plugin that adds gesture support and contributing it for inclusion in the platform.

Also, if any Windows users have other gestures programs that you like, let us know.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Looking For an Easy Way To Contribute To Eclipse?

Are you an Eclipse user who is looking for an opportunity to get more involved, to contribute something back? Maybe you've considered reporting bugs (or even done so, but not consistently). Or maybe you've even thought about trying to implement a feature or fix a bug with a code patch, but were intimidated by the huge code base and/or ignorant of how to get started with that.
Well, if you happen to also be a Windows 64-bit user there is an excellent specific opportunity for you to get involved. The next major Eclipse release, code named Helios and based on version 3.6 of the platform, is considering offering 64-bit Windows versions of all the EPP packages*. But they need commitment from people who can test and report bugs with the Win64 builds; the team is small and given all the combinations of packages (there are now 9, maybe more by the time Helios is released) and supported platforms (there are currently 6, Win64 would be number 7), it's a daunting task to verify that each one is working correctly. But here is where you can help; if you are on 64-bit Windows you can offer to test the milestone builds of such a package and report bugs if you find them.
This is a low-barrier-to-entry way to contribute real value to Eclipse, by doing something (using Eclipse) that you already do. Plus, you'll get early access to all of the new features, enhancements, and bug fixes that the 3.6 release is bringing!
So, go ahead and comment on Bug 293969 and add your pledge to help test - I'm sure the EPP team would be thrilled to have the help.

* For those who don't know, the Eclipse Packaging Project (EPP) is responsible for producing the various useful packages of Eclipse projects that are the result of the yearly coordinated release train.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What's happening with Eclipse recently?

It seems that recent times have seen some disturbing (to me) trends in the Eclipse community, most notably the loss (or significant reduction of involvement) of several key individuals. I count myself in that group, since my 5+ month search for Eclipse-related development contracts came up dry and I ended up taking a local job that is totally unrelated to Eclipse. It seems that Eclipse has been bleeding valuable talent in the past year or so - or is it just me?

The most recent happening that concerns me is Bjorn's announcement yesterday that he has been locked out of involvement in producing EclipseCon 2010. While I'm sure the conference planning is in good hands, this seems like a strange decision given the past success; the cynic in me can't help but wonder if it has anything to do with Bjorn's recent outspokenness and willingness to voice controversial thoughts. Let's hope not...
Mike M. commented on Bjorn's blog posting with a most-politically-correct "thank you for your service," but that is a far cry from an open explanation. I think, given his contributions to and love for the community, that Bjorn deserves more of an explanation. I am certain that the community deserves a bit of explanation.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mac OS X and Eclipse Debugger's "Drop To Frame"

After years of using it, I've become dependent on the debugger feature, Drop To Frame (described here, here, and here). Briefly, it allows you to select any level (frame) in the call stack during debugging and force the JVM to rollback to that point. It's a little difficult to explain briefly, but trust me when I say that once you've used it you quickly learn to depend on it.

So you can imagine my dismay when I recently started doing all of my Eclipse work on Mac OS X and discovered that Drop To Frame is disabled. It is a feature that not all JVMs support (specifically, those prior to Java 1.4), but I just can't believe that the modern Mac JVMs don't (I've tried running my apps in both Java 5 and Java 6 JVMs).
I asked about this on the Eclipse newsgroups/forums and on IRC, but no response so far. I'm hoping that the blogosphere might have some more insight...

Update: it seems that Drop to Frame is enabled sometimes, but only part-way down the stack, and sometimes not at all. The app I'm debugging has no native code in it, so that's not the culprit in this case. So I'm still looking for some insight into what enables/disables the feature.

Friday, August 14, 2009

My Experience with OmniPod

For those that don't know, I am an insulin-dependent diabetic. About a year and a half ago I changed from taking 3-5 injections a day, to using an insulin pump. But no ordinary, tubes-hanging-out-of-you, beeper-looking-thing-attached-to-your-hip, insulin pump - no, I chose the OmniPod tubeless pump system. I've had some requests for my overall impression, and below is something I wrote in response to one of those requests.

I've been a Type I diabetic for over 20 years and I can honestly say that OmniPod has changed my life. For me, not only is the technology an improvement over injections, but it has re-invigorated me and my interest in controlling my disease. In other words, using OmniPod somehow got me more interested in managing diabetes again, instead of being complacent.

Of course like most 'Podders, the big attraction for me was the lack of tubes. I had been turned off by traditional pumps for years because of the tubing, but OmniPod was intriguing because of the freedom from tubes that it offers.

As for cost, even with good insurance it is likely that using the OmniPod will cost you more than injections. My insurance coverage is pretty good, but I still have a deductible each year and then pay 20% after that (used to be 10% until this year). If cost is a big concern for you then you should definitely find out exactly what your policy covers. I think any kind of insulin pump is going to have higher cost. You local sales rep at Insulet can tell you exactly how much it will cost before you have to pay anything.
If you want specific examples... My deductible is $300 per year, which even before OmniPod I would easily use up for lab/blood work. After that, the pod cost is somewhere around $250-$300 per month, 20% of which I must pay under my insurance plan. So it's not dirt-cheap, but for me easily worth it.

I find the system to be very easy to use (but I am a tech geek and love all kinds of gadgets). Even for the average person I think they've spent a lot of effort to make it simple. The process of changing a pod has about 4-5 steps, but they are easy and the PDM (controller "computer") guides you through each one. I think after only 2 or 3 times the average person will be very comfortable with the process; and the training is very thorough. Honestly, think about testing your blood or taking an injection; think of how natural that is for you and how you don't really have to think about it while doing it. Using the OmniPod is the same; you do it so much that it quickly becomes second-nature.

I've only had one or two very minor issues, and with the help of the customer service and the local trainer I've been able to solve them. I've read of some people who have certain problems (like someone who says the pods don't stick well to their skin and try to fall off before the 3 days is up), but I really think those are the minority because thousands of people use it successfully. I've never had any kind of trouble like that, even though I am very active and play several different sports with the pods on (including wrestling with my 3-year-old son).

My control is much improved since I started using OmniPod. I was always turned off by insulin pumps because of the tubing; it was a big turn-off for me to be attached to a pump all the time. Now that I've been using OmniPod for over a year I can't imagine going back to injections. It is very discreet when I want it to be, but I've found it to be a great "conversation piece" too; everyone is fascinated to hear about it if I talk about it.

I love how it lets me be more free to do things like a normal person, instead of having to worry about carrying insulin bottles/pens, needles, and alcohol wipes everywhere. I am so much more free I can't even tell you!
Here's an example: this summer we took our son to Disney World for his birthday. We were at the park from 10am until 11pm. We ate at odd times, food that I was not certain of the ingredients or carbohydrate content, and several little snacks. Plus, we were doing lots of walking which tends to lower my blood-sugar quite a bit. That day would have been a nightmare if I was still using injections. I used to take Lantus as a basal, once per day, and then Novolog (pen) at meal times. I would have had to adjust my Lantus the night before to account for the exercise (walking) and then would have worried about keeping my Novolog pen cool throughout the hot day, taking several injections to cover the small "meals" and the unknown carbs I was getting. I would have almost certainly been too high or two low most of the day because of all the uncertainty and irregular schedule. But with the OmniPod, I was able to easily decrease my basal rate once we started walking, based on what my blood-sugar measured. And I was easily able to take a meal dose each time we ate something or I tested my blood-sugar and found it a little high. I was able to do all of this while standing in line for a ride or sitting on a bench watching my son play. No having to sneak off to the bathroom or some other private place to do an injection. I actually enjoyed the day with my family instead of worrying about my diabetes; I didn't really "think about" diabetes at all that day. For me, that is the big advantage of using OmniPod.

I guess I've written way too much, but hopefully this will help you understand why I love the OmniPod. If you have any more specific questions, don't hesitate to ask. In fact, I'd even be willing to talk on the phone if you'd like.

I am very enthusiastic, but I realize this is a big personal decision to make, and of course the OmniPod (or any insulin pump) is not the right thing for everyone; there are always some people who will be better off with injections. But I'd definitely encourage you to give it a try if you've been curious or considering it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Updated Eclipse Community Forums plug-in

I've released a slightly updated version of the little Eclipse Community Forums plug-in I made last week. I added more of the standard web navigation buttons (back/forward/reload/stop/home) and eliminated the Login button/action (it was a real hack , didn't work 100% reliably, and I'm not sure anyone would really care about that feature anyway).
If you've already got 0.1 installed you should be able to update it from the About dialog, Installation Details, then select the Eclipse Community feature and click the Update button. If not, you can install it from scratch from the update site
  • http://www.rizzoweb.com/Eclipse/updatesite
Still looking for feedback - even if it is "This isn't very useful, you should drop it."

Monday, August 3, 2009

Access the new Eclipse Community Forums from inside Eclipse itself

Thanks to Denis Roy, Eclipse now has a modern web user interface for its user/developer newsgroups. While I, personally, still prefer to use Thunderbird to access the newsgroups the "old fashioned" way, I'm sure many users will appreciate this big improvement over the old web interface.
The new forums site is still in a "beta" stage (please report any problems or suggestions to bug 284281), but I thought it would be nice to have easy access to it from right within Eclipse itself. So I've developed this little plug-in that adds an "Eclipse Community Forums" view to all perspectives. The View is basically an SWT Browser widget that is hard-coded to the forums site, along with some basic toolbar buttons for navigation.

A few notes on this "first draft" implementation:
  • I've only tested it on OS X (Cocoa) so far; please let me know how (or if) it works on Windows XP, Vista, and Linux.
  • The View is supposed to be automatically added as a Fast View to all perspectives (and it does correctly when I test it in a self-hosting environment), but when I installed it into an existing Eclipse instance I had to manually open the View via Window > Show View > Other...
    If anyone has some ideas why it isn't automatically added after installation, please let me know.

  • The Login toolbar action currently only takes you to the Login page, but my plan is to have it (optionally) automatically submit your login credentials if you choose to store them. I need to get with Denis to help debug why my attempts at submitting a login via URL isn't working.
  • The Shortcuts list is an extension point that any plug-in can contribute to. For now I've included just some of the more popular newsgroups forums; if I get this accepted as an official plug-in, the vision is that different Eclipse projects would contribute to the extension point to have their forum included.
  • Notice the "Open in External Browser" button in the View toolbar (not the toolbar that is inside the view above the browser). I waffled back and forth on whether to put the Login and Shortcuts actions up there, too. If you have a UI design opinion about that, please let me know.
  • My goal is to get feedback and improve this over the next week or two and eventually submit it for inclusion as a first-class citizen of the SDK and package builds. So please let me know what you think and help me make it better.
You can install the plug-in from this update site: http://www.rizzoweb.com/Eclipse/updatesite

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Thoughts on Google's operating system announcement

The rumors have finally been confirmed, Google is working on an operating system.

My thoughts on this are simple and limited: I see a small niche market for such an OS, but I just don't see the majority of computer users willing to accept web-only applications across the board. Connectivity is just too inconsistent and unreliable at this point, and even trying to own "constant connectivity" access (3G-based mobile and/or wi-fi access point access) is still way too expensive. Do we really think the 3G carriers are going to spend billions to make 3G as reliable and fast as the broadband that we're all used to getting at home and work? I doubt it. Without that, the web-only user experience will suck, because it won't be consistent.
Not to mention that I, personally, consider most web-based apps that attempt to replace a desktop app to be inferior in key ways. There are exceptions, and things are improving, but not enough for me to see this being a broad appeal by next year.

Having said that, I'm not foolish enough to bet against Google, who have quite a track record of success when it comes to delivering on new ideas and technology.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Screencast: Creating an Eclipse download package "from scratch"

UPDATE: As of Service Release 1 (SR1) of Eclipse Galileo (aka, 3.5.1) the process described in this screencast is no longer necessary for 64-bit Mac OS X builds. 64-bit Cocoa builds of all the download packages are now available directly from the Eclipse downloads page.

If the cave you've been living in does not have Internet service, then perhaps it will come as news to you that Galileo was successfully released last week. It's a truly impressive feat to release so reliably so many projects year after year - you'd think that corporate internal and consumer software projects would take note and figure out what it is that enables the yearly release train to succeed when so many projects deliver late, over budget, or not at all. But, I digress...

Being a recent immigrant to the Nation of Mac, I was among the glad to see the Cocoa port graduate from incubation. However, all is not 100% happy in Eclipse+Mac land. The Eclipse Packaging Project (EPP), the small group that produces those easily consumable downloads, the themed packages of plug-ins built on top of the core platform, has limited resources. And with limited people, they can not produce the packages for every hardware/OS platform on which Eclipse is known to run. Of particular interest to me is the conspicuous absence of EPP package builds for 64-bit OS X. After some discussion, it appears we the community can't make a 64-bit build happen until the first "service release" of Galileo, sometime in the Fall. I'm disappointed, but I (mostly) understand the position that EPP is in.

So, what do we do if we want to make full use of all the 64-bit goodness of our operating system and Java 6 JVM? Well, it turns out that re-constructing the EPP packages from the "base platform" SDK is not all that difficult. Ekke Gentz has already blogged some text+picture instructions; my screencast below brings the process to life.

Note: the URL of the EPP update site used in the screencast is

UPDATE: The package downloads page has been updated so that the Mac 64-bit SDK download is available directly, rather than having to go through the "Other Downloads" page. This makes the process a bit simpler than what is demonstrated in the screencast. If you're following this process for 64-bit Cocoa on OS X, you can get the Platform SDK directly in the Eclipse Classic section, as shown here (click to enlarge):

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Looking for Work

About a month ago, the layoff wave finally caught up to me. Everyone at Skyway was gracious, saying repeatedly that they wish they had the money to keep me on board and that they'd really like to bring me back when the economy starts to turn around. But obviously I'm not holding my breath.

Here is my LinkedIn profile, including plenty of recommendations from colleagues and supervisors.

So if you know of or hear about any Eclipse-related positions, either contract or "perm" staff, please keep me in mind. For now I'd really like to try to stay in the Eclipse development world (designing/writing plug-ins and RCP-based applications, mentoring, training) but I'm open to just about anything to involves Java and Eclipse.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Eclipse: Talkin' To Users, Redux

This is a follow-up to Wayne's post about the Eclipse newsgroups. As I commented there, I understand that the barrier to entry into the newsgroups is higher than it should be, I really do get that. But, personally, I find web-based forums like phpBB to mostly suck. There are some things about them that I do wish we had on the Eclipse newsgroups, like:
  • the ability to earn and give reputation points for good answers
  • the ability to easily find threads that a given user has contributed to
  • the ability to search across multiple groups easily.
It is true that, other than the points system, most of the other features of web-based forums can be done with newsgroups if you have a good client. But with so many people using web-based email these days, isn't it too much to ask them to install a separate piece of software just to participate in the newsgroups? I think so, much as I prefer newsgroups myself.
I've been trying to put my finger on why, exactly, I prefer newsgroups and I think it all boils down to flexibility. Because they are based on NNTP, an Internet standard, there are many clients that are capable of participating. That gives the user total control over his reading/posting experience. Contrast that with most phpBB-style forums, where the most control you usually have is the color scheme and whether or not you want a "flat" view or a threaded one.
The other big win, for me, that newsgroups have is the tight integration with my email; because I use Thunderbird all day to read multiple email accounts and RSS feeds, newsgroups fit right in like just another account. So, for me, it's flexibility and integration that win out.

In the comments to Wayne's post, someone mentioned FUDforum and it's newsgroups bridge. To me, this sounds like the best-of-both-worlds solution. It even has email list integration, so potentially we could offer total flexibility in how users participate: NNTP, web, or email, take your pick. To me that is an ideal solution.

So, are there any other options available? Either competitors to FUDforum that can bridge between web and NNTP, or some completely different technology? Remember, what I consider important is flexibility, giving choice and control of the client to the user, and integration with software I'm already using every day.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Great Urban Race Tampa 2009

Jazmine and I competed in The Great Urban Race when it kicked off its 2009 season in Tampa this weekend. It turned out to be a bit longer than we expected, but was still a great time. We both had fun, got some exercise, and the best part is we are not itching to file for divorce after the ordeal / adventure!

We didn't finish very quickly, 4 hours and 15 minutes which put us in 113th place (out of approximately 150 teams). The winner supposedly did the entire thing in under 2 hours, which I seriously think is impossible without cheating. I mean, we covered over 10 miles of distance and I just don't see how it could be done in less than 8 miles. When you account for having to figure out amd locate clues, it just seems silly to finish in under 2 hours, even if you seriously ran the entire route.
Oh well, we weren't there to win, we were there to have fun which we most certainly did!
You can see a
map of our route, including all the stops we made for clues. According to that, we walked/ran almost 5 miles - no wonder I'm sore and worn out!
I give the organizers credit for making it challenging, but I was a bit disappointed in the decision to take us all the way to Hyde Park without a decent public transit option for getting there (at least, none that we could find that was available on Saturdays).

We did a couple of strategic things that I think helped a lot:
  • Based on advice from a blog about last year's race, we stopped on our way to the race at the transit center and bought single-day HART passes. For less than $4 each we could ride any bus or the streetcar all day long. We used the passes 3 times, so it paid off.
  • Because we didn't arrange for a "support person" to be available on the phone to look up clue information, we took the notebook computer and scoped out some free wireless hotspots near the starting point. This proved invaluable as we spent about 15 minutes looking up the clues that we didn't have a clue about otherwise. Without that, we would have had to call someone and rely on them to find information and relay it over the phone. The only thing we could have done better was to use that internet access to get better bus route information; the maps we had did not provide enough detail to find the stops, nor the times.
Here are the clues along with the "answers" when appropriate.
  1. Solve the following puzzle assuming the hyphenated word is "anti-gravity." Then do what it says. Be careful, some letter symbols have subtle differences. [strange symbols were given along with the letters they represent]

    This was a pretty simple "decode" task, but a little tricky because the symbols were small and some
    very similar to each other. The message decoded to "Take a picture of both teammates with the anti-gravity rock." Google quickly helped us figure out that it was on the UT campus, next to Plant Hall. Of course, we walked all the way around the building to find it because we took a 50/50 chance on which way to go and Murphy's Law dictated that we chose the longer way.

  2. Go to Lifestyle Family Fitness in Hyde Park and complete the boot camp in the group fitness room. Each teammate must complete the activities required by the trainers. After completing the challenge you must get a business card from the person near the entrance to prove you completed the task. This challenge is only available from 1:00pm - 4:00pm.

    The Lifestyle location was easy to find, but by the point of the race when we arrived we were already pretty tired from 2+ miles of walking/running and lack of food. The "boot camp" consisted of a handful of machine and dumbell exercises that weren't too bad, finishing with lunge steps that were brutal. My quads were screaming by the end!

  3. Find Judy's Cuties in the Saturday Ybor Market (open until 3pm). Take a picture of both teammates wearing the jewelry set aside for the race. After taking the picture, return the jewelry.

    This was right around the corner from the race starting point and so was the first task we performed. By sheer luck, we walked right up to Judy's booth - in fact, we were the very first team at this clue. So despite our relatively poor finish at least we can take pride in being in first place for 5 minutes!

  4. DETOUR (complete one of the following two):
    Bring a box of Grape Mike and Ike's candy to teh finish line.
    Bring a real copy of a publication named Boat Shopper to the finish line.

    This ended up being a lot harder than it sounds, and this was the task that we skipped. It was not for lack of trying; we looked in at least 5 different stores for either of the items, but no luck.

  5. Purchase a minimum of 3 non-perishable items per team and donate them to 2nd Harvest of Tampa Bay. 2nd Harvest has a donation truck waiting for you somewhere in the Publix parking lot on Bayshore Blvd. After donating your items, be sure to get this clue sheet stamped!

    An easy task/clue, but a nice gesture from the race organizers to help out
    a local charity. The Publix is right across the street from the Columbus statue (see clue # 11 below), so we did them back-to-back. Jazmine actually scouted out bus routes to Hyde Park while I did the shopping.

  6. Take a picture of both teammates with the following sculpture clearly visible in the picture. [the clue sheet include a small photo but no hints about location]

    At first we recognized the sculpture but couldn't remember from where. It turned out to be at the
    St. Pete Times forum, where we've attended dozens of Lightning games over the past few years, so we're embarrased that we spent even 5 minutes Googleing for it. Credit goes to Jazmine for remembering first and convincing me she was right. Google Street View confirmed her memory.

  7. Find Frankie's Tampa. There will be a tray of cheese cubes in the back room. Take a picture of one teammate dropping a cheese cube into the other teammate's mouth.

    Frankie's is on Kennedy Blvd, just west of the UT campus. We did this one right after Clue #1, the anti-gravity rock.

  8. DETOUR (complete one of the following):
    Take a picture of four or more people total with at least one t-shirt from a convert visible in the picture.
    Take a picture of six or more people total with at least two people wearing a necktie.

  9. We got lucky on this one. The streetcar from Ybor to Channelside was packed with racers. Someone convinced a couple of friendly tourists to don their neckties and pose with some of the racers for the photo. I think at least 8 or 10 teams got the same picture thanks to the good nature of the tourists, one of whom even opened his suitcase (he was on his way to the cruise ship that was docked at Channelside) to get a tie to wear.

  10. Take a picture of both teammates in front of the arcade game called Chip Away in Gameworks and win at least ten tickets (that means 20 'points') from any game in Gameworks.

  11. This was the last clue we did, and I'm embarrased at how badly my skeeball skills have deteriorated over the years!
    Originally I was thinking we'd use this one or the Improv one (clue # 12) as our skip clue, but because we could not find the candy or shopper magazine from clue #4, we ended up having to do both.

    (Can you tell by our enthusiastic faces that we were nearing the end, of the race and our patience?)

  12. Take a picture of both teammates in front of this red phone booth in Hyde Park. [the clue sheet included a small picture of the phone booth]

    This was dead simple; anyone who's ever been to
    Hyde Park Village has seen that phone booth, and it's right on the main street as you walk or drive in. Even if you didn't know about it, it would be hard to go to Lifestyles for clue # 2 without seeing it.

  13. The monument is mentioned in the song "Ybor Way" by T. W. Ramsay, 1959. Take a picture of both teammates in front of it.

    Google really helped for this one, as no-one we asked had heard of the song. It refers to the statue of Columbus at the Platt St. end of
    Bayshore Boulevard Linear Park; we stopped there on our way to Publix for clue # 5.

  14. Find Tampa Improv's secondary stage. Once there, you must tell a joke (of your choice) to the judges. If it makes the judges laugh, you'll get a stamp and this clue is complete. I your joke does nor make them laugh you must perform another joke. Your joke can b simple and does not need to involve both teammates. Our judges are looking more for effort than hilarity. You must receive a stamp on the clue sheet from one of the judges! This clue will only be available from 1:0004:00 so strategize accordingly.

    We did this one next-to-last after we returned to Ybor from Hyde Park. It was kind of hard to get up there in front of two volunteer judges who had clearly heard more than they wanted of amateur comedians and bad jokes. Not to mention the other teams who were gathered around waiting their turn.
    The first joke we tried bombed:

    Who's there?
    Impatient cow.
    Impatient c-
    [rushed, interrupting] Moo! Moo! Moo..."

    In desperation, I threw out my own made-up corn joke:
    "What do you say to corn before you eat it? ... 'See ya tomorrow.'"
    One of the judges actually snickered and I think the other one felt pity on us so agreed to give us the stamp.

Here's a map of the route we took (click "View Larger Map" underneath to see details and descriptions of the place-markers):

Friday, January 2, 2009

R.I.P Dion Gillard

I learned today that a long-time colleague of mine, Dion Gillard, passed away back in September. Although I knew him only electronically, we participated together on a close-knit mailing list for many years.
He had melanoma and wrote a bit about it here. I looked at photos he had posted over the years, some of them eerily peaceful when viewed in light of his passing.
Many people on the email list have expressed regret that we did not notice his departure until now, 3 months after his death. That is sad evidence indeed of the state of our too-busy, information-swamped society, but I feel something else...
For some reason, even more than the lose of Dion himself, I feel sadness for his children. I'm feeling the kind of deep sadness and sense of hopelessness as I did yesterday watching a performance by Eric Clapton; I was wondering how Clapton could ever experience happiness again after losing his young son years ago. Now I find myself wondering how Dion's children (and wife?) will ever feel happiness after losing their dad and husband.
As scary a thought as my own death is, I think I fear even more the thought of losing my wife or son. To me, the ones left behind continue to suffer more after the dying have rested, and that saddens me. It saddens me so much that I am near tears for a family I have never met and don't know the first thing about.
To the Gillard family, my prayers are with you; know that God hears them.