Armen Chakmakjian

Archive for October, 2008|Monthly archive page

OK so I published my book…Urtaru…on Kindle

In career, Literature, Science Fiction, technology on October 26, 2008 at 4:27 am

Supposedly in 24 to 72 hours my book will appear on the Kindle site.  I had to scramble to make a book cover so that it had something to show when it listed it.

The publishing process itself wasn’t so bad.  I had to take the book which I have written in Apple’s Pages, export it to Word format, dump it to html and then upload it.  At that point I was able to see flaws in my stuff.  In one section (the piece I put here in a previous blog entry) the settings for the footnotes got all screwed up and ended up as end notes.  Being as how this wouldn’t make sense since these were footnotes for a chapter which was being presented as a excerpt from another text, and not the whole book I had to play with the HTML to get it to the right place.

Once I fixed that I noticed that on the very last page, I never indicated that book was finished.  So I added some text to indicate that this was the end of the first of 3 books.

Setting the price was strange.  I have no gd clue how much this book is worth.  and Amazon gives me 35% of the price that I list it for.  so if they sell it for more I get screwed.  But if they sell it for less, there’s a chance that they’ll lose money.

So in a couple of days, the book should be available for kindle download.  I haven’t heard that people are getting rich beyond their wild avaricious dreams but you never know if someone likes it and wants to make a movie 😉

Firefox -> Minefield

In technology on October 25, 2008 at 4:21 am

So I’m playing with Minefield, an alpha version of Firefox this evening.   This thing SCREAMS.  I’ve tried the WSJ, QuickBase and My Yahoo.  It is alpha code and doesn’t have a lot of compatible plug-ins or a flash player.   But it renders grid edit in QuickBase really fast.  It does have some flaws (I’m using on OSX) like as it was rendering part of one app (our issues list) the bottom of the screen seemed to be rendering the the wsj webiste that I was previously viewing IN REVERSE!  I was cracking up…have never seen anything like that.

I actually can’t compare this to Chrome since Chrome isn’t available yet for OSX.

Anyway if you are willing to play go to the latest build


In technology on October 23, 2008 at 1:05 pm

My introduction to modern electronic social networking was LinkedIn.  I was invited to join the day I left Teradyne.  It seemed kinda weird, sort of an online resume so I thought it not a bad thing, especially since it gave me the option of somewhat limiting my audience.    I kinda avoided the myspace thing, it just seemed too weird and the few people’s pages that I was referred to sang back at me so I would get annoyed.  Nothing like slamming on the mute key in a coffee shop because a friend referred me to their page that played the tune they karaoked the night before in the Atlanta underground.

When I joined Intuit, Intuit itself was (and still is) going through a massive transformation.  It actually has a lot of web properties, but the mindset (and the cash cows) were on the desktop.  At this point I knew that I had to figure this thing out.  So over the last year I signed up for facebook and created a wordpress blog and experimented with twitter and plaxo and utterli and various other things.

My conclusion after watching other people’s tweets go by this morning is that this is attempting to replace the traditional physical neighboorhood/ghetto/small town where everyone knows your business to the web.  Now anyone and everyone is in your mental ghetto.   You tweet and your facebook status gets updated and people comment on it.  Your blog has an rss feed watching your tweets and people start following you.

Random people read about “Steak Armeen” and leave only a footprint that you can trace through your dashboard.  The come into your ghetto somewhat anonymously and exit when they’ve satisfied their curiousity.  If they are motivated by what you say, they might comment, although if you look at the wordpress blogs with the top hits it’s not always friendly banter.

The one other difference in the iSocial network vs your neighborhood is that in your neighborhood the information, your whereabouts, your acquaintances were monitored by the old lady on the second floor of the 2 family sitting on your porch.  If your house had smoke coming out of it, she’d call 911.   On the web, we create a sense of neighborhood, but with none (or at least very little) of the old lady watching to make sure that the neighborhood was safe.  To some extent we rely on the site owner/moderators, but the truth is the one thing that is truly missing in this neighborhood is the collective protection that we as social animals have relied on since sitting around the fire.  Somebody was supposed to stand guard.

You can try to mimic it by having your friends and friends kids all on facebook (let’s say) and hope that someone is watching with the intent of helping you, but truly, you are on your own.   I think that solving that problem, creating the safe zone or collective security, is the next real innovation that needs to be done.  I guess you can call it web gangs to in it’s logical extreme.  And parental controls on the computer is not a substitute for it.

The top 25 most played songs in my iTunes Library…

In Music on October 23, 2008 at 4:05 am

1 Falling in and out of love (Pure Prairie League)
2 Aimee (Pure Prairie League)
3 Sister Golden Hair (America)
4 More Than a Feeling (Boston)
5 You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (Beatles)
6 Sinfonia- Handel’s Messiah (Sir George Solti/Chicago Symphony)
7 Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen)
8  Don’t Cross the River (America)
9  Bach: Brandenburg Concerto #2 in F Major – Allegro (Herbert Von Karajan/Berlin Philharmoniker)
10 Bach: Brandenburg Concerto #2 in F Major – Allegro assai (Herbert Von Karajan/Berlin Philharmoniker)
11 Bach: Brandenburg Concerto #2 in F Major – Andante (Herbert Von Karajan/Berlin Philharmoniker)
12 Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (Crosby, Stills & Nash)
13 Lonely People (America)
14 Think I’m in Love (Eddie Money)
15 Help! (Beatles)
16 Gabriel’s Message (Sting)
17 The Night Before (Beatles)
18 Clear as the Driven Snow (Doobie Brothers)
19 Hotel California (The Eagles)
20 Hold on Loosely (.38 Special)
21 Long Train Runnin’ (Doobie Brothers)
22 You Keep Runnin’ Away (.38 Special)
23 China Grove (Doobie Brothers)
24 Rockin’ Into the Night (.38 Special)
25 Walk Like and Egyptian (The Bangles)

My Guitars…

In Music, Random on October 18, 2008 at 4:09 pm

I enjoy playing the guitar.  I do not play with the skill of Eric Clapton.  I can’t play lead for beans.  There’s a certain element of bounded creativity to play lead that I just don’t get.  It never sounds right to me, no matter what sound effects I use. I can memorize the licks, so for example Freebird or More than a feeling or name your song, I can mimic it pretty well, I just can’t go there without a tether. So I stick to rhythm and chords.

The guitar in the my blog header is a Martin 000c-1e. I bought it in 2000. It’s a pretty nice guitar and the pickup works pretty well for the few cases where I’ve had to use it for a recording or in concert.   I have an old Sigma that I used since high school that I repaired myself without the right equipment.  It’s more of a dreadnought body and it definitely resonates the bass more than the 000, but the 000 has a very pretty sound in comparison.

A picture of a firebrand I found on the internet.

A picture of a firebrand I found on the internet.

I have a Les Paul Firebrand that I haven’t used much since High School that I bought new in 1980.   It pretty much stays in the attic with my 25 watt Gorilla amp.  It’s not a bad guitar, it’s got the double humbucker pickups and when I use the foot pedals I can have some fun.  Crank up the distortion and set the flanger a certain way and play “Snowblind” by Styx or something.   I discovered that now that I’ve had it since I was 16.5 years old that I can consider it a “Classic”.  When I poke around on e-bay, it looks like it could gather a couple $k (maybe 2) but I don’t think I’ll sell it.  I’ve never had any work done on it and so just for ha’s I might get it a tune up some day and see if works any better.

If the economy recovers and I recover from my MacBook purchase, I’d like to buy a nice 12 String.   I had a friend who had a Guild 12 String that was an awesome sounding instrument.  I’ve played around at the local shop a few times with a Martin 12 string and a Takamine.   $2500 dollars for a guitar, even a 12 string is an investment.  We’ll see.

My new 15″ MacBook Pro…Review

In technology on October 17, 2008 at 12:46 am

The powerbook was feeling its years, and I’m now a happy new owner of the new MacBook pro 15″.  Yes the new one that Steve presented the other day.   I purchased it last night and brought it home.  They hadn’t even put them out on display yet.  Spent most of the evening migrating my account from the powerbook to it over the home wireless g.

here are the stock specs:

Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo
Processor Speed: 2.53 GHz
Number Of Processors: 1
Total Number Of Cores: 2
L2 Cache: 6 MB
Memory: 4 GB
Disk: 320G SATA 5400rpm

FIRST WORD OF WARNING:  Don’t let the Apple store help give you the first firewire cord they think might help migration.  The powerbook had both firewire types, the MacBook Pro only has the 800.    The cables are different and if you just let them grab one, you’ll be surprised when you plug one end into your powerbook and sit there at midnight not able to plug the other end in.  I didn’t look and trusted the guy as I was playing with an iPhone at the time.

Migration Assistant: worked intuitively even though I did a network install.  Anyway, this morning moving my 70G of docs, pics, music and movies was over.

Virtualization: During the day I installed VMware Fusion, then XP.  Worked like a charm.  It is slightly disconcerting to hear the XP song coming out of my apple speakers, but I’ll get used to it.   I did not install XP on the bootcamp partition.  I hear it works really well that way, but my windows needs are very specific and it just wasn’t compelling to waste my time.  I could always do it later.

Windows/Office: A little while later I installed Office 2003 (Office 2007 barfed complaining that I didn’t have Windows installer 3.1).  Way cool.  Now I have IE for those goofy sites that only look right in IE and Firefox and Safari for everything else.

iSight and VMware: My next problem was that I couldn’t activate the iSight camera under the XP VM. XP knew it was attached but didn’t have a driver.   I googled it and found that all I had to do was put my leopard dvd in, explore till I found the apple iSight driver in the boot camp directory and voi la, the camera was up.  I need this because the hybrid classroom software at Bentley U. will only allow you to use video from the VM not from the native drivers when in OSX.  Whatever.  I’m up.

Next I did notice that that VM and OSX fight over the camera.  This is kinda dumb I think.   It should just work for both, depending on which os/vm is got control.  Yes yes, if both screens are up this could prove confusing, one does have to win.  That’s the kind of problem sw engineers are supposed to relish…a mutex here, a semaphore there.  Anyway…

Performance: Did I mention that this machine SCREAMS.  It is so fast (compared to my powerbook of course…)  The XP vm is pretty good.  I haven’t done any serious stuff on it yet but it looks ok for running excel and stuff.

Battery-life: I know I’m supposed to get 4-5 hours a charge.  In normal mode, I probably got 4+ but I don’t think it was a whole 5 hrs.

Keyboard: works great.  has a good tactile response.  backlight works more consistently that on my powerbook (the powerbook always seemed to get itself tied up in knots as to whether to light the keyboard from being asleep.

New Mousepad/Trackpad: It’s huge, responds well to multi-touch commands (although I’m still learning about what to do with more than 2 fingers).  The mouseclick is a bit awkward.  The primary place where it responds mechanically is right along the center axis.  If you click high or low it makes a mechanical clicking sound but it does not actually do anything.  So I have to train myself to get my thumb pretty close to the middle for a click.  I expect that this will be a disat for new users as it is not always responsive.

Display: oh it is so beautiful.  It appears to have more overall control than my old powerbook.   dimmest to brightest is a huge range.

Built in Audio: Strangely enough it sounds very tinny at low volume and then when you push it up a bit it sounds like it gets a bass boost that I didn’t have on my powerbook.  I could be imagining it of course because the display is so beautiful it could be making think that it sounds awesome.  I’m listening to Pure Prairie League’s “Aimee” right now and it sounds really good.

Other Software Compat: I had to reinstall the Air engine so that Tweetdeck would come up right, evidently the migration assistant didn’t get it right.   Firefox works great.  iLife 08 seems to be converting things over pretty well.

Conclusion: this is an incredible machine and I can see that the quality that went in.   As I come up with more thoughts I’ll post them here.

Did something weird happen on WordPress this evening?

In Random on October 13, 2008 at 11:17 pm

All the formatting on my my blog and on the dashboard pages is looking weird

A small excerpt from my book…

In Literature, Science Fiction on October 11, 2008 at 3:33 am

OK so I finished my science fiction novel just before starting school again.   348 pages.  I spread these kinds of explanatory reference chapters throughout the book so that people can understand what’s going on.  They are to be read as if from a future text written to explain these times.  Given the limitations of the blog  editor (and not wanting to go into the html and try to format it for hours) I moved all the footnotes to the end.  Also, the chapter number is to be taken as it was from that future text.   In my novel, this actually appears as chapter 9.

Anyway, enjoy reading.

The Compendium of Universal History
Chapter 53:
A study of religious and political conflict and the effect of comparative eschatology of Pre-Naerian Empires

During the Pre-Naerian period two competing prophetic texts and eschatologies were used by men to vie for control of known space. The religion behind each eschatology consisted of a mythological messianic figure around whom hope and eternal favor was sought. The historical spread of these religions had some cultural biases that they exploited.

Both of these religions grew from a common monotheistic myth. This myth was based on a single god that created and destroyed at will. That god created the universe and under his watch individuals had to prove their worth and goodness daily. This proto-religion started on planet Naerius but now that religion is lost to time. Naerius is a mountainous and rocky planet with great storms and extreme changes in weather which inspired this belief in a fickle lord of the universe.

One of the competing religions had a messianic figure who was cast as a mythological divine sacrifice. His tenure in the universe was marked by his rejection rather than acceptance of temporal authority. There was no physical conquest but rather spiritual and intellectual. This religion was so closely identified with its messianic figure that it had the eponymous name “Dol-Tarprush” or “Dol our sacrifice” in Albion.

Dol descended from the stars to Naerius and during a period of off world hegemony preaching his new form of human interaction based on love of others and self-sacrifice. Dol was a strangely charismatic figure and caused more trouble by avoiding direct confrontation with authority than by indicting it. Eventually he could no longer avoid a confrontation with authority and in an epic battle in which his crazed followers attempted to protect him, he was captured and killed in a gruesomely slow and painful way. He was slowly tortured and eviscerated. Long ago, the people of Naerius aligned themselves with “Dol-Tarprush”.

His death was broadcast into every direction of known space as an example to all what fate awaited them. Of course the opposite of the desired effect happened. Whereas his death should have been the end of his religion, it continued to spread initially under the radar of temporal authority through the close by Raslavon system and eventually to the Albion system across several other systems.

Dolism’s spread was rapid through races in which religious life and secular life were somewhat separated and more personal. In these systems there was a common thread of viewing both religious and secular authority with some degree of skepticism. Although each pervaded a person’s life, and somewhat controlled it, the two were never merged in any of those systems into the rule of a theocrat. In fact the philosophical view in those systems was such that it was healthy that the two opposed each other…each giving way to the other in a time or event that was appropriate.

Several centuries later1, and in direct response to Dol’s death, a separate movement arose on the Barsifi home world. The name of that religion from the ancient tongue from which it arose was “Khardish” roughly translated into Albion as “submission”. The mythological figure who led this movement of cleansing was Ramesh, who was fully human but whose actions and victories seemed to portend divine backing.

After seeing the transmission of Dol’s death, Ramesh was so affected that in a dream that night he saw a vision of many super-beings sitting at a table and giving him the mission to cleanse the universe of its barbarity and particularly Naerius. In his dream, the super-beings who were organized somewhat in a pantheon, ordered him to have the universe submit to their will. Hence the name “Khardish” or submission.

The revelation was provided to him by the pantheon of 20 beings the head of which identified himself as the source of the monotheistic belief. He noted that the other 19 were of his race, but only he had authority over creation. The others interacted with the creation but could only affect the outcome of events but not create or destroy directly.

Ramesh, awaking from his dream, began to scribble down what he had seen and the message to creation. “Submit or be conquered” was the first message. Each night for 14 nights, Ramesh was given new insight into the history of the universe and the desires of the creator and of the members of his race. He compiled these revelations in a book call Yeraz. He carried this book into battle and was virtually invincible. He led his horde of conquering races across the quadrant and enveloped Naerius. 2

At this point the Raslavon empire had begun to form and seeing that the cradle of their religion was about to be taken, they fought a great battle with the Barsifi, each claiming divine recognition for their deeds.

Ramesh was stopped here. This wave of conquest spanned the latter part of his life, and at the pinnacle of his power when he was just about to take the seed of iniquity (Naerius) and cleanse it, he disappeared without a trace. Khardish philosophers of the subsequent era opined that he was assumed into the pantheon awaiting for a situation in which to return.

Successive generations of followers watched the Barsifi influence slowly drained until once again they were contained in their own space. In the power vacuum, the Darjiki race became ascendant and fought wars under the banner of Khardish with Raslavon. Naerius passed back and forth between their empires for many centuries having only sporadic self rule.

The unique nature of the Darjiki was that they attempted to separate secular rule with Khardish. In all the systems in which Khardish was the prevailing religion, the Darjiki were viewed as blasphemers or at least usurpers of Ramesh’s religion. To these traditionalists, religion and secular authority were one and the same and the Darjiki system a blight.

In both the collected sayings of Dol, and the revelations given to Ramesh, there is a similar eschatology. In different allegory, they speak of a three generation war, in which Naerius would be the center of conflict and field of Armageddon. Both eschatologies dealt with the return of an object to Naerius which we assume was to change interstellar relations amongst the warring clans.
Albion philosophers for centuries had argued these two prophecies were of the same myth. The interpretation of both stories say it would take 3 successive generations of one family, a patriarch who would attempt to return home but gain power outside of Naerius. He would pass the mantle of return to his son and he also would fail to return but take another great power down, and finally a grandson who wuld restore order in the galaxy on his father’s death and retake his rightful place.

This would normally be sufficient mythological and eschatological information to explain many of the things that were reported to have happened during the period known as the “Urtaric peace”. From writings of that era we see the evidence of belief that a force was unleashed by the 3rd of 3 as he was known, Adam Willem Urtaru, Emperor of the Known Universe. The legend of the time was that Emperor Urtaru placed a sacred object in its lair and by this his rule was sanctified and peace was spread.3

The involvement of the far off Albion Empire in the ascendance of the Urtaru clan to power was another historical curiosity. The Albion philosophers at the time had determined from their readings of Dol’s and Ramesh’s works that there was an active temporal power which would carry the prophesied hero back to his home-world. They of course convinced themselves that they were that power, and this is why they insinuated themselves in the tribulations and wars between the various empires far away from their home system. Trade, diplomacy, religion, and war were all tools at their disposal to affect the return which they believed would benefit them as a race.


1 The several century delay in transmission and reception was due to the ancient radio frequency broadcast used widely at the time. Our modern message accelerating spatial synaptic technology had not been invented.

2Interstellar travel and our modern methods of communication seemed to arise at this time amongst the various systems. Anthropologist and Historians today still ponder how a technology could become manifest across the universe in diverse systems concurrently. Earlier historians of this era consider this a miracle, although more recent works of Prof. Theodore Barsanti (published in 25487) attempt to dispute any miraculous intervention.

3 We know now from the historians and diarists of the era that what was truly unleashed was a reorganization of the various smaller empires which he conquered within a short time of taking power.

QuickBase Tricks I know…

In career, technology on October 3, 2008 at 10:08 pm

So I’ve written a little blog entry about a cool feature of QuickBase and I thought I share on the QuickBase Blog

I have an awesome job and I’m pretty sure I’m riding the crest of a wave with the Platform as a Service concept.

A turn of a word…

In Literature, politics on October 3, 2008 at 1:01 pm

Sometimes Peggy Noonan can draw a picture that is so pillowy and soft about the Reagan years I feel like I’m moving lightly amongst the clouds when I am reading it.  I don’t remember the time with those same ethereal feelings, but somehow her words float by like billowing cumulus clouds with wispy cirrus tails…

On the other hand, she can be brutal with that same skill.  I really enjoy writing that has irony and a wry descriptions of things.  A good simile or metaphor just captures the essence of the problem being studied.  Here’s an example of that in a recent editorial she wrote about the VP debate:

We saw this week, too, a turn in the McCain campaign’s response to criticisms of Mrs. Palin. I find obnoxious the political game in which if you expressed doubts about the vice presidential nominee, or criticized her, you were treated as if you were knocking the real America—small towns, sound values. “It’s time that normal Joe Six-Pack American is finally represented in the position of vice presidency,” Mrs. Palin told talk-show host Hugh Hewitt. This left me trying to imagine Abe Lincoln saying he represents “backwoods types,” or FDR announcing that the fading New York aristocracy deserves another moment in the sun.

Forget which side you are on.  It’s the writing and placement of the words and ideas.  I’ve been laughing for 10 minutes now.  I wish I could write like this.  Placing “Six-Pack”, “Backwoods types” and “Fading Aristocracy” in one distilled concept…beautiful…

So who is really qualified to be a president…

In politics on October 2, 2008 at 12:50 am

Nobody. No one is prepared to be President.  I’m going to lay it on the line.  Unless some financial or sexual scandal pops up, I’m voting for Obama for reasons that I’ve outlined before in this blog.  Much as I agree with McCain politically (aka mostly conservative, jump across the aisle to fix specific problems), I think that a new non-Vietnam generation needs to come into power.    However, I do not think that Barack Obama is the most qualified person in the country to be the president (and I don’t think that Hilary or Biden are either).

The thing that I really resent though is the elitist scrutiny that Sarah Palin has been subjected to.  Regardless of how you disagree with her (and I know that my friends on the left are absolutely apoplectic about her), she probably is just like most of us but got the political bug.  She did all her homework, played hard on the basketball court, competed in beauty pageants, got herself involved in politics,  and debated old white guys on TV and rose to the highest executive office in Alaska.   No small feat.

Probably 5 years from now, on a normal trajectory, she’d have run for the Senate and then she’d have met the qualifications for national leadership that the other 3 guys supposedly have.  Truly, not one of them has “executive” experience, even her.  And don’t tell me that Obama has “executive” experience because he ran a political campaign.  Bunk.   Handlers have surrounded him like any political property not dissimilar to Hollywood stars and their agents walking on the Red Carpet.    If he were truly “more” qualified than the rest of the democratic field his primary battle with Hilary Clinton would not have come down to 51/49 in his favor.

The press has been extremely rough on Sarah Palin.   What if McCain had shown up on your doorstep and said “I think you’d make a great VP candidate?”  or even Obama for that matter.  Would you turn them down based on your modesty?  “Oh Mr. Obama, I’m wholly unqualified to be the President, and therefore for the good of the nation I must turn down this offer”  Remember, she got the political bug and you may or may not have gotten it.

So she is kind of a duh.  “What magazine do you read?”  “Everything”  “Specifically?”  “All of them!”  That says to me that her handlers have so “prepped” her that she knows not to say she reads the Wall Street Journal, The Juneau Journal, the Moose Hunt Times, Newsweek and probably Better Homes and Gardens.  But is she not qualified?  She’s obviously a quick learn.  George HW Bush had the best resume of any presidential candidate ever sent by any party…businessman, congressman, son of a Senator, Captain of the Yale Baseball team, top of his class academically, Youngest pilot in the Navy in WWII, Decorated War Hero, Ambassador to China, Head of the CIA, Vice President…and you and/or your parents KICKED HIM OUT OF OFFICE!   Harry Truman was a Pendergast henchman who didn’t have a college degree, who never saw a business he couldn’t run into the ground and was a less than front office Senator.  When he was the president, he threatened to punch a critic of his daughter’s voice in the nose for a bad review.   In retrospect did Franklin Roosevelt screw up when he chose the common man from Missouri?  People hated Harry Truman especially the Taft wing of the Republican party. He drove them crazy!

Does anyone remember that Joe Biden dropped out of the 1988 race because he got caught plagiarizing a speech from Neil Kinnock, head of the opposition in Great Britain?  Is he qualified?  If he was so damn qualified, how come he couldn’t convince some significant percentage of 37 million Democrats that he was the most qualified to be president.   Do you remember that line from the Philadelphia Experiment, where the guy who had travelled forward in time asked who the president was and the response was “Ronald Reagan” and he looked quizzically at her and said “The Actor?????”

Do you remember the last 4 Legislators who served as President that were in office in succession?  Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford.   Ouch!   Kennedy couldn’t figure out how to invade Cuba and wiretapped MLK Jr, Johnson got stuck in Vietnam, Nixon oh man, and Ford freed Poland.  They were our best and brightest?  YIKES!

Anyway, I think that people ought to lay off.   Ask her real questions and if you disagree, awesome.  She doesn’t have a twitch like Inspector Dreyfus, she has a clean record for the most part, and for some people she’s a good conservative.   Truly this is the worst of all elections because none of them are really exceptional people, even by loose requirements.   I’m voting for Obama, but let her debate, succeed or fail, and lets move on.