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Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

The start of a new school year

In School on August 26, 2009 at 2:07 am

Every year at this time I get excited. Regardless of how much I got done, or didn’t get done, during the summer and regardless of how prepared I am for the new year, I get excited. New students come in and I get to meet them. Other students return and tell me what they’ve learned over the summer. The different things they do amaze me. Some have been working on robotics systems at NASA, others have been developing Web applications and yet others have been doing some interesting research. They come back with so many interesting ideas and enthusiasm for continuing their work with their courses and especially their MQPs.

This year I’ve promised myself that I’m going to limit the number of projects that I advise. Last year I had eleven of them and that just didn’t work. I wasn’t able to do a good job as an advisor. In previous years I had several MQPs that went together on umbrella projects like Webfoot. Last year I didn’t have any like that. This year will be different. I’ve got three (at least) that will all be working on WPISuite, the Webfoot replacement and new software engineering workbench and collaboration framework.

But what I really get excited about are the courses. I’m giving the Object-oriented Analysis and Design course for the seventh time. I’ve taught it every year that I’ve been at WPI. It’s evolved every bit as much as my software engineering course. I really like it because it’s more technical and intellectually challenging than the software engineering course.

This year I’m adding some material on the OSGi framework and am going to introduce Maven as a build tool. Should be lots of fun.

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Cycling scores

In Cycling on August 22, 2009 at 3:35 pm

I really enjoy getting out on my bicycle. I have a hybrid bike—a Bianchi Boardwalk—that I don’t get out enough on. I did just hit the 3,000 mile mark on my bike, but that’s over several years. I’m hoping that I’ll have over 500 miles this year before I put the bike away for the winter.

Since I got into cycling, I’ve been interested in how people ride. Specifically, I look at whether people ride safely or not. It’s only common sense that one should wear a helmet when riding, especially if they use toe clips or have the locking shoes like I have. More than once I’ve not been able to disengage the shoe from the pedal in time as I came to a stop and ended up falling. A couple of times my head hit the ground. Thankfully I had my helmet on. Although some think that I’ve got a rather hard skull, I’m sure that I would have had a few cracks in it were it not for the helmet.

What really amazes me is the other things people do when riding. My wife, Vikki, and I have begun to count the number of cyclists per hundred who don’t have helmets on. The Jersey shore is the worst place since so many people are there for vacation and just go off riding without thinking about safety. during the summer the average is 10-15 per 100 who wear helmets. Around here there is a much higher incidence of helmeted riders since most of the people are out on bike trails or on the roads getting their exercise.

Lately, Vikki and I talked about a more fun way of counting the people on bikes. We want a point system. Here’s what we’re thinking (low scores are best).

  • Wearing a helmet (-2 pt.)
  • Going with traffic (-1 pt.)
  • Going against traffic (1 pt.)
  • No helmet (1 pt.)
  • Kid with helmet, parent without (2 pt.)
  • Talking on the cell phone while riding (2 pt.)
  • Texting while riding (4 pt.)
  • Carrying a passenger (handelbars or otherwise) (3 pt.)
  • Dog in a front basket (2 pt.)

So, what am I missing? I’d really like to hear what people think. Maybe I can create an app for a mobile device that will let one tally the scores easily—you know, when we’re driving the car and not paying attention to the road but looking for cyclists. 🙂

What’s happened to the idea of the public servant politician?

In Politics and issues on August 21, 2009 at 2:06 pm

I’m always amazed at how far we’ve gotten away from the notion that our elected officials are servants of the people who elected them. I’ve often thought that the race for the most corrupt politicians in a state was a toss-up between Massachusetts and Illinois. After all, in Massachusetts the last three speakers of the house have left in disgrace (Bulger, Finneran, and Dimasi). We’ve had pols caught with in the act of taking bribes, some who have come out and said that they vote the way they do because their constituents are not smart enough to know what’s right.

Illinois, of course, has had a long history from Mayor Daley in the ’60s who had almost as many dead people vote for him as living to the recent fiasco with Gov. Rod Blagojevich. I guess I was living in a fantasy world because it’s become clear to me that these two states don’t have a lock on the political morons—enter New Jersey.

I just spent ten days on the Jersey shore getting Mom set up with health care at home as she came home from recovering from a broken hip (at 95 years old!). Looking at the newspaper there—the Asbury Park Press which is as good as any up here and much more affordable—it struck me that they’re just as bad in NJ as in MA or IL. The ads for the governor’s race is as negative as I’ve ever seen. More than one local mayor or councilman are up for recall votes.

Maybe I’ve been naive, but it seems to me that we should expect more from our leaders. I guess that most people are like I have always been—apathetic. I can’t say that I’ve gotten religion about politics, but I have started sending messages to my representatives. The replies are often quite funny. Like most politicians they can’t answer a question directly. But at least I’m making my voice heard. I’d like to get more examples of really bad politicians, just to verify that I’m not biased. What I’d really like is to start a movement to “Vote them all out!” Send a message to the professional politicians that we’re not happy. Just vote all the incumbents out of office. Replace them with someone from the same party if that’s what you want, but just vote all of these leeches on the public out of office. Their replacements will be more aware of paying attention to the people they serve!

OK, I’ve ranted enough for today. I’ve got more interesting things to write about. My next post will be more upbeat.

Welcome

In Uncategorized on August 8, 2009 at 4:27 pm

After years of reading blogs I thought it’s about time I started blogging. I”mnot sure if it’s a waste of time, a time sink, or something that might be useful. I’m kind of tired of using Twitter to express any reasonable idea. In fact I just cant do it in 255 characters. However, Twitter does have its uses.

I plan to use this to add thoughts about software development, maybe even some software engineering thoughts.

There are other things that concern me that have nothing to do with software and computers. Specifically, after years of being apathetic about politics and social issues, I’ve become more interested, and appalled at what those in power are doing. I don’t plan on having posts that are biased towards the left or right–after all, it seems like the moronic behavior does not respect party lines.

I’ll also post travel-related articles. If I could, I’d travel at least six months out of the year. Travel is one of the most mind-broadening experiences one can have.

I don’t know what else will go on these pages, but I’m sure that something will go there. Anyway, if you enjoy what you read, or it gets your dander up and you want to comment, I welcome all views. But I just ask that you keep things civil. Intelligent discourse and debate is a great learning tool.

So, welcome and read on.