Saturday, June 30, 2007


Why do people try so hard to make simple stupid things sound important?

I'm putting up an electric fence around my rose garden as a deer deterrant. Lowe's had a package of danger signs which I purchased to warn away children and neighbors, should they wander near the fence. A plastic yellow sign which says "Electric Fence" (in three languages, for well travelled deer) seemed self-explanatory, but nooo...this is so much more...

The packaging points out that they have "two holes in top for fastening to fence wire" which I thought was nice of them. But it continues, "or for nailing to wood post." Wow! Without those holes I couldn't have done it.

Lest you think I'm being over-critical, let me share the final line of the description. "MADE OF RUSTPROOF PLASTIC." I'll sleep well tonight knowing my plastic signs will never rust.

What will them thar Tennessee folks (Fi-Shock inc) think of next? Dehydrated powder?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Manual Arts

John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin) was on GMA this morning promoting Pixar's new Ratatouille film. His other comments were most notable to me. He started the "Nuts, Bolts, and Thingamajigs Foundation" to foster manual skills required by industries.

His book, Made in America, honors skilled labor within the United States. The following excerpt caught my attention:

ON WORKERS: The manual arts always has and always will take precedence over the fine arts. Everything physical that the fine arts depends on—from theaters to canvases to printing and binding—depends on the manual arts. Educators who make the rules have bought into the popular notion that we’ve moved out of an industrial economy and into an information age, and therefore, they think, every student has to be educated in the same cookie-cutter way that ignores the importance of manual skills.


I guess I should at least look for his show on the Discovery Channel.

Information Systems

The most important part of an information system is not what features it has, it is who uses the system. Wherever your network of people and information resides, that is where you must be to operate effectively.

The World Wide Web is an information system. The world participates and search engines like google make it useful. It'd be technically simple to create an all new WWW and use a different port and protocol, but futilely ignorant. The world uses the WWW. Join the system or be irrelevant. is effective because that is the wiki that the world updates. There must be millions of other public wikis, but they don't work as well as wikipedia...because the people use wikipedia. It is an information system all its own. Join the system or be irrelevant to it.

Digg, Delicious, and reddit are information systems for labelling and sharing information on the Internet. These systems can be useful when that is where the people and information reside. Same with myspace,facebook,live spaces,xanga, and tons of others. Which tools will eventually win over the people? Those will be the ones with relevance.

How many information systems exist within your organization? How do you migrate people from one system to another? Every system has it's strengths and weaknesses, so 100% buy in is impossible when you suggest any "upgrade." The result is a splintered mess of information systems which do not work. The solution is seldom technical. The solution lies with the people.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Life's Lessons

Years ago while I was working as a software engineer at a small company I was reminded to respect those who take pride in their the janitor. I had moved my pc and was wiping the dust off my desk (as any anal-retentive engineer might do) when the janitor appeared in my cubicle doorway. He was quite put out by the fact that I was cleaning my own desk. It took a bit to sink in what this man was telling me. He was quite proud of the way he did his job. Cleaning was his duty and he took it very seriously. I've thought back to that moment many times. Take pride in what you do to gain the respect of others.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Professional Development Challenge?

Anyone up for a challenge?

Professional Development for anyone associated with education should include updating It'll be easy to add to your list of personal goals. It'll be a little tougher to add it to your co-workers' list of goals. It'll be even harder to get credit noted as part of promotion and tenure, but it *should* happen.

The reasons are many. Fill in your own. Meanwhile, start with updating a private wiki if you'd like, but make it a priority to edit Blogs may be nice because everyone has something to say, but wikipedia is better because everyone has something to add!

The best part if the deal is that your additions will then be reviewed and made better by the largest group of editors in the world.

The challenge is to make it happen.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Saving iTunes to non-iPod

I don't like sharing external links via blog, but this one is likely very useful for so many of us. My experience with iTunes was that it didn't like anything other than an iPod. This should eliminate that problem.

Sagging Door Repair

Originally uploaded by gparmer
I got tired of slamming the side door to our garage to make it close. The fix was easier than I expected, so I'm sharing...

(The "Network Redneck" content is simply that I'm able to be social after taking out the trash without using foul language.)

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Everyone Comes Around At Their Own Pace

When you introduce a new idea or concept to someone, don't automatically expect them to share your enthusiasm. Everyone needs time to adjust to new ideas. If you're reading this you probably are someone who "comes around" to new tech ideas fairly quickly. On the other hand, most folks need time for things to really sink in. In fact, it is a common response for people to be defensive about their old way of doing things. When a person is heavily invested in something, change is difficult (and often expensive). If you doubt this concept applies to you...give it a little while to sink in. You'll come around.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


I don't really want a picture a day of me, but if "I" were a plant or a termite or a garden...the tools could really be neat...

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Random snippets from the day (2 from AA's twittering)

Interesting movie about learning in the future..."Shift Happens"

'Nuther social networking site --

How many social relationships can a person maintain?
Dunbar's Number

Source code search tool

MDM -- Master Data Management -- new buzzword. Rich Kochhar's advice "Don't start with the technology as the centerpiece of the solution. Start with the corporate strategy."

Funny...back to that question..."What is the strategic goal of the University?"

Saturday, June 2, 2007


I was recently discussing with a colleague that RSS feeds and newsreaders weren't really anything new, since Usenet has been doing that since 1979. Why should I really care about RSS? The difference I was told, is that Usenet is now gone but RSS is still here. I'm not really sure which viewpoint was more obsurd.

Usenet news is as popular now as it ever has been. My organization abandoned our feed because we were unable to keep up with the volume. We kind of let it slip into oblivion without a second thought. When you are researching a technical problem and don't find the answer you need on what do you do next? You click "google groups" of course, since there's as much up to date technical information (if not more) available there as archived on the web. Did you know that Google Groups searches a Usenet News archive? If you'd like to download audio books or other likely copyrighted works while "flying under the radar" where do you turn? Still Usenet News. Sites like "" have nice interfaces to let you read or download news, since you've probably forgotten or never heard of the now ancient "nn" news reader and it's many counterparts. The interfaces may have changed, but Usenet News lives on.

That brings us to RSS feeds. 'Blogs, forums, and discussion boards all tend to have RSS built into their websites. RSS gives us a mechanism similar to Usenet News (syndication) for obtaining information. What's new is that this technology exists over the top of web pages. In other words, it is basically a way to subscribe to only the updated pages on web sites which cover topics of your interest. That's almost perfect, since it means you can use a newsreader (like Google Reader) to get new content without having to visit a list of websites. What's just as important is that the same content is also accessible from a web browser for those slow adopters not inclined to use a newsreader.

I say "that's almost perfect" because there's very little reason (ok, no reason at all) to keep an RSS feed on topic. This is my 'blog and even though I've posted relatively few times, the topics are all over the map. Eventually the tagging systems and filtering mechanisms will evolve to maximize the signal to noise ratio in RSS. Until then, I'm not terribly impressed with RSS, but will continue to use it just as my colleagues continue to use "Google Groups."

Incidentally, it seems quite simple to feed Usenet News to a website and syndicate it via RSS. Is that not being done? Seems like a great project for or google.