August 2010 Archives

We have the Russians to thank for the Internet. In 1957 they won the race into space by launching Sputnik (satellite with a cool name), which remained in orbit for some 3 months. Shortly thereafter (early '58) DARPA was formed .. by the U.S. military, with the purpose of keeping up with the Jones-niks. Technologically.

Nagasaki bomb[ Seems like a great time to join the nascent military-industrial complex. No? Where do I sign up? ]

Nearly a decade earlier (in '49) the Soviets had acquired the bomb (4 years after Hiroshima & Nagasaki).

So it's no surprise that surviving-a-nuclear-strike would become an objective for the boys at DARPA.

That's where the idea originated for a 'robust' network .. that would eventually grow into the global Internet we now take for granted.

In other words, the Net was originally conceived as a 'nuclear grade' network of sorts. So you could say it's somewhat 'radified'. =)

On the other hand .. it surprised me to learn that the Web (World Wide Web) is less than 20 years old. The Web runs on the Net, as a 'service.' The Net predates the Web .. by 10 or 20 years.

If you look up the terms 'net' and 'web' in any dictionary, you'll see how similar their definitions are. But the net & web that WE use are different. How so? you ask?

Sputnick Russian satellite»» The Internet = Hardware + TCP/IP

The Net = hardware (servers, routers, switches, wires, etc.) + the TCP/IP protocol ..

.. which makes the data stored on the web servers available to you & me (.. via the URL, entered into your browser of choice).

Not sure if your PC, when it's connected, is considered part of the Internet. Probably .. especially if it's acting as a server, which many PCs do these days.

The Internet sorta got its 'start' in 1965, when a project to create a 'robust' network was launched at DARPA.

[ Can almost hear the Stones playing in the background » (Can't Get No) Satisfaction. ]

The first connection came 4 years later in October 1969, between UCLA (Los Angeles) & the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California (.. which would become part of Silicon Valley, just south of San Francisco). UC Santa Barbara and the University of Utah were added (to the connection) shortly thereafter.

So you could argue the Internet began in 1969. This is definitely the coolest of the 3 dates I propose. It's the one I prefer to use and probably the most popular. [ Can amost hear the Beatles playing » Come Together. ]

The Internet that we all know & love so well uses the TCP/IP protocol (software). TCP/IP got its start in 1973 at Stanford (Palo Alto).

The term 'Internet' was first used in 1974 .. to describe a global TCP/IP network. So, you could also argue the Internet (that we know today) began in 1973 (.. with TCP/IP).

The first TCP/IP-based wide-area network was operational in January 1983. So, you could also argue the Internet began then. But no later.

Note the Internet has a backbone, which helps to conceptualize it. Our system of road-works seem to offer a suitable analogy .. with bigger/faster sections branching out into smaller/slower ones. All being controlled by rules (protocols) to maximize flow and minimize collisions.

During the '80's the TCP/IP protocol became increasingly popular. And here we are. I just don't know when the first non-U.S. connection was added .. to fill in my mental timeline, cuz I like to learn about the things I use on a regular basis. But Nigel says (in an email):

Trying to pin a date on the Internet is pointless. What mattered was the things you could *do*, not the specific technology. During the 70's lots of folks could already do lots of "internet" things (mail, forums, etc.). Only missing was the mass accessibility on a global scale.

Speaking of mass accessibility on a global scale...

End of the Magic?

Feels like the end of the magic. The Bug begins school in a few weeks. Kindergarten. I can feel it hovering nearby, like a heavy cloud over the horizon .. headed this way.

Pooh and PigletMonths ago the idea of kindergarten was freaking me out. Now it's bumming me out. Feels like the end of the magic is nigh.

For years people have been telling me, They're only small for a short time. Enjoy it while it lasts.

I always thought that an obvious remark. (Duh.) But now I can see » they weren't talking about size. Rather, they meant » the magic. A child's enchantment.

The coolest part of being a parent .. is that for a few 'short' years .. you get to be part of their enchanted little world. Part of being a parent involves cultivating this enchantment. (I endeavor to share a little of that magic here.)

These last few weeks, the Bug has been the happiest I've seen. I mean, he has always been a happy kid. But these last few weeks with him have been .. one nectar day after another .. from the moment he wakes. Everything in my world feels 'sparkly' when he's laughing.

I have a video of him .. imprinted into the database of my mind .. walking across the length of the coffee shop .. on his way to get a cookie (snickerdoodle) .. swinging his arms like a sailor in port. Radiating happiness. Of course, he came back with two. Grinning cuz he got the second for free.

In-n-Out» Ice Cream Trucks

Yesterday we rode our bikes to In-n-Out .. to split a burger & fries.

On the way there, the Bug spotted an ice cream truck .. in heavy traffic, heading the opposite direction .. just like the one that patrols our neighborhood. (He * loves* ice cream trucks.)

Ice cream trucks are better than In-n-Out, he says.

Ya know, I said, I couldn't hear very well back there cuz traffic was pretty loud .. BUT .. it sounded to me like you said .. ice cream trucks are better than In-n-Out.

Yeah, he says.

Now wait a cotton-picking minute, I said .. repeating the whole thing about how I couldn't hear very well. The idea is that I can't believe anybody would prefer an ice cream truck over In-n-Out. But he was finding it humourous, so I continued my schtick .. all the way to In-n-Out, while he defended his position.

Longboards Ice Cream truckFew minutes after we placed our order, an orange van-like truck pulls into the parking lot. Hey, look, I said, A surfboard truck. Cuz a picture of a surfboard is painted on the side.

But on closer inspection, I can see the words 'ICE CREAM' printed below the surf board.

It's actually an ice-cream truck, for Longboards Ice Cream .. of Huntington Beach (.. which lies up the road a few miles .. known as Surf City USA, where the U.S. Open was held earlier this month .. won by Brett Simpson, an HB native, for the second year in a row).

One guy stayed in the truck (to guard the cold gold) while the other headed for the walk-up window.

Hey, the Bug calls out to the guy approaching, Is that an ice cream truck?

I haven't forgotten about the handsome doctor question. Just having trouble condensing my thoughts into a single entry. So many interesting tidbits to share. The long version I have in mind is still too long, the short one too short.

Ernesto 'Che' Guevara - the ArgentineI put down the book weeks ago .. to begin digesting the info. So I've had time to reflect.

What the heck. Let's give it a shot.

What *did* drive a handsome doctor down the path (up the path?) of becoming the world's most popular militant revolutionary? Certainly the most celebrated.

The 'short' answer (.. get ready) » a girl. Yeah.

You probably knew it all along. I mean, what else could it be? What else drives men so crazy?

Yes, there were many things in Ernesto's childhood (.. both genetic & environmental factors) that you could argue would encourage a person to pursue a radical career path (.. tho religion was not among them).

But the only place where I find enough raw emotional energy (.. the nuclear grade stuff) .. is with the GIRL. And this event was closest to the time when he went 'radical'. Certainly closer than any of his childhood experiences.

Her name was Maria del Carmen "Chichina" Ferreyra. She was 16 when they met. The term 'lightning bolt' was used to describe how hard Ernesto fell for her. Feelings were mutual. He was 19 or 20. She was a beauty they say.

Che Guevara »» The Wealthy Become a Target

Chichina was from a wealthy family. Ernesto too came from blue-blood Spanish descendants. But her family was super wealthy.

They didn't mind their daughter dating Ernesto, cuz they found him intelligent and entertaining. But when the question of marriage came up, they discouraged her.

[ Ernesto badmouthed Winston Churchill at the dinner table once, dismissing him as another "ratpack politician." Churchill's name was invoked with reverence in the Ferreyra home, and this insult offended Chichina's father enough that he left the table.

Soderberg, who directed the movie, made it clear (in the supplemental DVD) that Che wasn't the best at winning friends & influencing people. Warm-n-fuzzy he was not, regarding his interpersonal skills. ]

And who did Ernesto go after when he became 'Che'? That's right » the wealthy. I don't think it was a conscious decision. But I think his emotional wounds took long to heal. Permanent scarring? Probably. Pain can be a powerful motivator, especially for the hot-blooded.

There's no way to know for sure, but I bet, if her parents had given their blessing, and the lovers were free to marry (.. and Ernesto had been a fan of Churchill) .. the world would never know anything of a militant revolutionary from Argentina nicknamed 'Che.'

Inception Review & Game Levels

Couldn't stand it any longer & went to see » Inception .. the new movie (starring Leo) everybody's talking about .. how it represents a generational divide. Younger viewers love it (totally), while old farts don't get it. (Huh? Say what?) Unable to follow the 'dense narrative'.

Inception: The Movie / FilmLet me tell you. I am sooo glad I get it. Cuz that means I'm not an old fart. (Least not yet.) But I was worried.

The movie is mentally stimulating. I love movies that do that. No, I didn't find it difficult to follow. Not at all. I don't get what there's not to get.

And there have been other movies that WERE difficult for me to follow (.. such as Syriana). Yes, you *do* have to pay attention.

Inception is defined as » beginning, start, origin, source. So, the question naturally becomes » Beginning of what? The origin of what? [ Answ » an idea. ]

Biggest thing that struck me was the recognition of an 'idea' as something powerful. Dangerously so. That ideas can grow & spread & grow some more .. until. [ Check out some of the ideas contained in the book titled » The Great Thoughts, which you can open to at any random page .. for examples of ideas that have grown. ]

The driving force of the plot is the goal of planting an idea into someone's subconscious .. so deep that they think the idea *originated* with them. That it was their own idea. That they believe *they* were the source. Hence the film's title.

And dreams are how you go deep, because our protective psychological defenses are suppressed during sleep. But to go real deep, you need to have a dream within a dream. All of a sudden, your point-of-reference for reality becomes obscured.

Inception poster - Movie FilmThis is where you need to pay attention, and where older viewers might depart from narrative 'reality.' The film actually does a 'triple' » a dream within a dream .. within a dream. Where am I? would not seem a strange question at this point.

The scene from which I grabbed the screenshot posted above is destined to become a classic in the annals of 'special effects'. In the trailer, it's cool. But in the theater, on the big screen, with big, honking speakers turned up loud, it's a real trip.

And they just sit there .. on the sidewalk at the cafe. (Just like you in your seat at the theater.) Great contrast with everything going to pieces around them. That one scene is reason enough to see Inception on the big screen.

They're sitting in an unreal world called a dream. You're sitting in an unreal world called a movie. What's the difference? I'm sure you've always wanted to know what it feels like to have your world go to pieces around you.

Other James Bond-like effects were thrown in. All nicely done. Maybe even better than.

Court today | "You're free to go."

I was in court today. Spent most of the day there. So if I seem disorganized, that's probably why. It's not an experience I would characterize as particularly edifying or spiritually rewarding.

Supreme CourtThe only people I know who spend more time in court .. are those who work there. Otherwise, I don't know anybody who's even close .. to the number of days I've logged over the years.

First thing I always do after entering the courthouse (.. after clearing the metal detector) is » pop an Advil. =) It has become a ritual of sorts. Okay, let's do this.

I could never be a lawyer. Least not in Family Law, where the emotions (kids & custody) are so high. The stress must be brutal. Tho few would argue the decisions rendered in Family law courtrooms are some of the most important, cuz they affect kids.

Takes wisdom to wield that kind of power. Lots of it. How can it be 'just a job' when kids are involved?

I usually get sick a couple of days after court. Takes a toll, emotionally. Brought along a copy of The Road to read. Story about a father & son trying to navigate a challenging environment.

I used to think courts were about right & wrong. Now they've become something of a trip to the twilight zone.

[ Imagine, if you will. You're sitting in a courtroom. Where horrible things are being said about you. The most horrible accusations you could imagne. Everybody is staring. They don't know you. Nor do they know the truth.

And maybe somebody sitting there has had bad things happen to him. Similar to the things you're being accused of. Very similar. Maybe he thinks he doesn't like you very much. Just imagine. ]

Funny how reality can change your idea of things.

Here's something I never thought I'd hear in court » "You're free to go." Has a nice ring, no?

You never seen me exit a place so fast. Didn't even stop to talk to my lawyer until we were out of the foyer and into the hallway. Ooh! I said. You. Are. Good.

Did you understand what just happened in there? she asked. [ Not really. But I understand 'You're free to go.' ]

»» Nuclear powered ballistic missile submarineWisdom of the SNOB

In the waning days of my Naval enlistment, when I became the SNOB (Shortest Nuke on Board), shipmates would send the new guys to hear my words of wisdom, distilled from years of experience, stationed aboard a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (.. where we ran a floating reactor for the military).

I had 3 rules. Every SNOB has 3 rules. The term 'short' refers to the number of days remaining on your 6-year enlistment .. as in » ".. so short I'm tripping over dimes." A 'nuke' is somebody who works with a (nuclear) reactor.

The SNOB is next in line to return to civilian life .. usually because he has become disenchanted with the military (.. else he would re-enlist & stay in). Or maybe it's a purely financial decision. Either way, his experience makes him both valuable & respected.

It's not an official position, yet one that comes with responsibility and a proud tradition to uphold. Here be my 3 rules:

[ Today's entry could be subtited » The Database Room. ]

Easy to confuse the term 'database' with the software that runs one .. which is actually a 'RDBMS' » Relational DataBase Management System. I've used the term 'database' myself (many times) when what I actually meant was » RDBMS.

MySQL Relational Database Management SystemOkay to use the term 'database' generically, I suppose (.. to refer to its parent software), long as you're aware you're doing it. (Which I wasn't.)

Heck, even MySQL refers to the software it produces as a 'database.' (But it's actually a RDBMS.)

Interesting how sharply the (conceptual) line cuts .. where none existed only a short while ago. Cool to watch programming concepts take form.

A 'database' is a simply collection of tables .. similar to what you find in a spreadsheet. Whereas an RDBMS is the software that powers/runs the actual database.

Of course, I am FAR from being a database guru. (N00b is more like it.) But from what I can see, DATABASES look pretty cool (*).

[ I don't know much about RDBMS's, other than the software seems to function similar to the way a web server works, such as » Apache or LiteSpeed.

The 'relational' part seems to refer to TABLES, which can be 'related' to one another, in any way you like, but only when you explicitly specify the relation.

The database for the Drupal CMS, for example, contains 68 'related' tables. Bigger and more complex applications tend to have more tables. ]

(*) My background contains some mechanical engineering, so that's what I tend to use as a conceptual point of reference. It happens on its own. Here's what I see (» a physical analogy):

»» The Database Room

A good-sized ROOM. I call this » The Database Room. It's empty except for BOOKCASES .. on 3 of the 4 walls .. BOOKCASES that run both wall-to-wall & floor-to-ceiling .. all divided into many perfectly square little cubes.

The only other thing in the room sits mounted to a circular pedestal in the center » a big, shiny, mechanical ARM (made of Inconel stainless-steel) .. which both deposits-items-into & retrieves-items-from the bookcase .. which it does both quickly & efficiently.

Running into the room from the outside is a conveyor belt. (Black, of course.) The conveyor runs both to & from the big mechanical arm. Deftly the arm grabs packages from the conveyor and places them into their designated boxes/cubes (.. in the bookcase). It also retrieves requested packages from other cubes and places them on the outgoing conveyor.

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