Armen Chakmakjian

Archive for November, 2008|Monthly archive page

Cooking with QuickBase…

In Random on November 27, 2008 at 9:58 pm

There’s an explanation of this on the QuickBase Blog

Suffice it to say we try to have fun at work beside delivering a couple of web platforms…

Robertson Davies…

In Literature, Random on November 25, 2008 at 2:14 pm

On my list of inspiring writers, I completely forgot one person.   Many years ago, probably in the early 90’s, Newsweek had the “perspectives” article at the beginning of each issue.  One week they featured the comments of the Canadian Writer and former play actor Robertson Davies.   As he looked like Santa Claus, I read the article with interest.

In that article he talked about what it was like to be Canadian, what their role in the world was and how they viewed themselves in contrast to their neighbor to the south.   I thought the article was quite interesting but locked all the facts away in my brain for the future (like many things I come across that appear to have to no particular value at the time).

One day my wife and I were in the now long ago gone Royal Book Store in Arlington.   I was passing by the “value” table which had a pile of books on it in no apparent order.   That’s where I saw the name again.  I picked up the book “What’s Bred in the Bone”.  I opened the cover and on the back, there was Santa Claus again, along with a bio that confirmed my recognition.  About 4 dollars for a hardcover, so I bought it.

I was completely entranced by it once I started to read it.  It was a story about a foundation that was trying to turn a libretto into a full opera on the Arthur and had to hire talent.   The subtext though was that this was the Arthurian legend playing out in the context of foundation putting a piece of artwork together.  There were gypsies (representing Morgan Le Fay) and a Fallen Priest (who was Merlin for all intents and purposes), the main character was named Arthur (for Pete’s sake) and his best friend slept with his wife who was now with child…and the best friend was the greatest actor on stage et cetera.

I subsequently read the first two books in the Cornish Trilogy and then the Deptford Triology.  In each case, Davies not only experimented with which voice the story was told from, but he also had a sub-story each in each.   These sub-stories usually dealt with other art forms or technology.  So in one of them he explained how a painting forger made millions by creating technology that aged his paintings.  In another he explained how gyspies restored old violins using manure (yes there was a long chapter about the use of all kinds of secretions and excrement throughout history as elixirs and treatments…it was quite interesting actually).  Another sub-story dealt with the circus.  “What’s bred in the bone” dealt with Opera.

The line that cracked me up was when they were trying to figure out who to cast as Arthur for the actual opera that they were pulling together.   One of the characters suggests a particular person who happened to be a noted Tenor.   The reaction of the characters around the table was essentially “No way!  You can’t make Arthur a Tenor.  A Cuckold and a Tenor!”  They eventually found a Baritone.

Thinking about that line and the very little I knew about opera, I cracked up.  Yes he was right, you can’t make Arthur a Tenor…it would be awful.

Anyway, so maybe after Jorge and Umberto and George and Ulysses, there’s a little bit (probably more than have previously admitted) of Robertson Davies in me.

On going back to school…

In Random on November 25, 2008 at 2:41 am

So beside everything else I’m doing:

  • Husband and Father
  • managing 2 software development platforms
  • teaching Sunday School
  • writing the second book of the trilogy
  • experimenting with viral marketing stuff for my first book

…I started on the path toward my MBA this fall.   I’m taking a stats class first and it has been an interesting experience.  The first thing that I noticed was that when I put my backpack on and walked across campus late in the early fall, I got this certain familiar feeling.  Those 5 years (4 plus co-op blocks) 20 years ago were a very strong influence on my life.

So walking around the first couple of times to class it was like I had stepped back in time.  Though after about 15 minutes, I could tell something was amiss.  First off, I’m trained as an engineer, and I’m now in business school.  Got over that in a few minutes.

Then there was the day where the power went out at work.  A truck hit a wire 2 buildings up and took down the whole office complex.   People were scrambling to go home and VPN in, and some people were going to the local coffee shop that had internet access.  I thought for a moment and said, oh cool, I can go to Bentley and sign up for a room in the library and work.   That worked out ok, figured out to reserve a room.  Then I went to claim my room.   The interaction was like this:

Armen: (knocks on door and opens it) I have this room at noon.

Student: (takes his buds off) You have to clean the room?

Armen: No, I have reserved this room at noon.

Student: Oh ok (reluctantly packs his bags)

Armen: Sorry.

So I was mistaken for a janitor! Sigh…

The other thing is that when I hang out in the hallways before class I look at most of the people in the hallways waiting with me.  The unmistakable feeling is that I’m slightly younger than their fathers. In fact I have about 3 years on the professor.  Hmmmm…

Anyway, the class has been good.   This is all stuff that I can handle mathematically but sometimes the “Why?” takes me time to digest.    Case in point when we were studying confidence intervals and figuring out how many samples we’d need to take to get to 95% confidence.   Since I was raised on 6 sigma, you know what your criteria are and what your acceptable failure rate is.  So you measure your process.  In this case your start from the outside in…create a metric based on your expected results.  ouch!  How un-engineering!

Next semester I have to take this odd 3in2 session.  Accounting, Finance and Managing People, 3 classes served in 2 sessions.   This is supposed to catch me up so that I can take the actual graduate versions of those classes.  That ought to be quite interesting and I expect a lot of work.  The following fall semester I take the other half of the catch-up which is Marketing, Operations and Integrated Perspectives.  Then I get to the nitty-gritty I guess…

This so far has been a great experience for me.  The hardest part is trying to carve out time to do justice to the understanding of the topics.   But I’m glad I started.  And no, I don’t think that I should have done it sooner.  I would never trade this for the time I spent with my kids when they were little…

OK next experiment: Wikipedia

In Random on November 23, 2008 at 6:16 am

Given that my book is published, I wrote a Wikipedia entry on the book.    I tried to follow the rules, we’ll see if the pediapowersthatbe allow a generally available work like an ebook to have its own entry on Wikipedia.  From my reading they should.   I tried hard to not violate the rules and put it references and stuff.  We’ll see.

Another cool little trick for QuickBase

In technology on November 21, 2008 at 5:57 pm

I created a little kiosk app using QuickBase for those who might be interested, and posted it on the QuickBase Blog

Adobe Max and the Intuit Partner Platform

In technology on November 21, 2008 at 4:19 am

The new Intuit Partner Platform was showcased at the Adobe Max conference this week.   Great Job Guys!

This was the culmination of an enormous effort this year by our development teams, our business unit and Intuit, not to mention several 3rd parties that we worked with to provide things like our billing subscription service for the developers, our development framework and our ability to get QuickBooks desktop name data into the cloud.    In the background, the thing you don’t see is that we used technology originally developed for QuickBase (the product that occupies the other half of my brain) to deliver this new platform.

The economy may be down, but this is a pretty exciting time to be a part of the team developing a new generation platform that ties together all kinds of web services.  In the process we are enabling all kinds of new businesses to be created by developers who will generate new innovative solutions for small businesses that are already using QuickBooks.

My next advertising experiment…Google AdWords for Urtaru

In Literature, Science Fiction, technology on November 17, 2008 at 3:47 am

So I’m attempting to reach a slightly wider audience than facebook users who have marked Sci-Fi as an interest.  So I’m doing the Google AdWords for my book Urtaru.  I did see a bunch hits right after the ad started to run, including to my facebook page for the book.  Not a lot but we’ll see after a couple of days how the take is.  Obviously the ultimate test is to actually sell the book itself, but that this point I just want to get in people’s faces and see the traffic.

MS-Word gotcha..

In technology on November 15, 2008 at 5:58 am

So last night my younger son handed me an essay he was writing, asking me to read it.  I started marking up the page and then asked him why didn’t he fix this in word? 

He said that word wasn’t reporting any errors any more.   I was incredulous so I went over and tried to turn grammar and spell checking on and it was on, but it wouldn’t report errors.   My son informed me that he even cut and paste the contents of this word doc to an empty word doc, and it didn’t report errors.  I tried it myself and he was right.

I spent a few minutes going through all the settings and finally threw up my hands.  then I opened a new doc and typed in “be it ever so himble”  and bango himble was underlined.   Then I pasted in the copy buffer, and it still had no errors…AHA!

So then I opened notepad and pasted the text into it and then cut it again and pasted it back into word and voi la, the errors were starting to get reported again.

So when I asked my son “are you sure that you didn’t touch anything?”  He said that there was a pull-right “ignore all” that he hit when he had selected the whole doc…AHA!

Evidently the paste buffer on office is preserving more than just the
formatting of the text copied, it is also carrying over any settings
about actions/parameters for the copied text.  Yikes.  I wonder how many people were driven nuts by this feature.

A sad thing to watch…

In Random on November 11, 2008 at 4:07 am

My father was an Armenian born in Jerusalem, and lived there until the 1948 war.  He told me stories about he and his brothers going to the Holy Sepulchre and serving mass there early in the morning.  It all sounded so holy and mysterious.  Part of me watches this and thinks Monty Python, and the other part of me is just really sad.   So just so you understand, you’ve got Greek and Armenian Monks fighting each other and in order to separate them before they kill each other Israeli soldiers and Palestinian Police break it up.   I’m wondering if the Copts and Abyssinians were pelting them all with small stones from their balcony views.  🙂  I might have to use this situation in my next book…nothing like a good religious brawl…I love the smell of incense in the morning…it smells like victory…

OK tonight I’m trying a Facebook Ad experiment.

In Random on November 7, 2008 at 4:26 am

I’ve placed a facebook ad for my book Urtaru.  I have no idea whether it will be seen or not, but if you see it, let me know.  It’ll show up in the ad space on Facebook on the right side

Truly Historic Times…

In politics on November 5, 2008 at 5:58 am

8 days before I turned 5 years old, Neil Armstrong Landed on the moon.  I remember watching it on a black and white Zenith TV.

I saw Nixon resign on a color Magnavox TV.

I saw a Polish Pope get selected saying Be Not Afraid.

I remember John Paul II appearing in Shea Stadium on a rainy day and watched it clear as he drove into the stadium.

I saw the Hostages get freed when Ronald Reagan was inaugurated after 444 days.

I remember the site of an Electrician in a Polish shipyard start a movement against tryanny

I remember both Reagan and the Pope getting shot and recovering.

I watched the Berlin Wall Fall and the Soviet Union Collapse.

I remember listening to the mother of all briefings by Norman Schwartzkopf

I saw the first internet boom and then the bust.

I cried when I saw the WTC come down on 9/11

I watched the United States get itself tied up trying to react appropriately to being hated.

I just watched the most amazing thing of all.  I saw our nation heal its historic open wound.  I saw a man of color elected to the Presidency of the United States.  I voted for him after voting Republican for President for the last 5 elections.   I knew that this was the most important thing we could do for the country.  Congratulations to our country, the United States of America.

Starting to work on Urtaru II: The Judge…

In Literature, Science Fiction on November 4, 2008 at 3:51 am

So I’m working on the second book in the trilogy: Urtaru II: The Judge.   My idea is to write this in the first person as Adam Philip-Augustus Urtaru, the 2nd of 3 of 3 in the prophecy writes a compendium of information for his son, who is the 3rd of 3.   Essentially he will be building a case against his own father, Pascal Adam Scintilla, who makes some devastating mistakes later in life.  In the process he pronounces judgement on his father.  Pascal knew (from his dream sequence in the first book) that his son would be his judge.

Anyway, the Judge being a powerful metaphor in the Bible, I think I can build a story around it.   In the first book I used the biblical metaphor of the Ancient City as a basis for the actions of the characters, and I used the Battle of Vienna as the historical story around which the actions of the battling armies and leaders were acting.   The Judges in the Old Testament gave way to Kings and there is something in that that can be used as the basis for the character transformation of the 2nd of 3.  Putting aside the religious stuff for a moment, the Bible has great stories and metaphors that are central our western understanding about the conflict between good and evil.

The other idea that I have is that the American Civil war is the perfect model for the next intergalactic conflict that the urtaru clan must deal with.  The American Civil war had many “personalities” which you could base characters on.  Lincoln, Seward, Grant, McClellan, Lee, Davis just to name a few, it’s ripe picking one or two as character profiles.   Of course, the 2nd of 3 is also supposed to be based on my father, so his personality traits will seep into the text, especially the judgements he let me in on about his own father and his attitudes on education, work and moving from one place to civilization to another.

So anyway, that’s the idea.   Given that it took me about 20 months to put the first book together, this is going to take some time.   By that point either the Kindle will be mainstream or it will be another palm pilot handheld (useful and ubiquitous for a while and then nothing).  Wish me luck.

John Cleese on Rupert Murdoch…

In Random on November 1, 2008 at 12:14 pm

If you can get by the initial continental salivating over an Obama presidency, this is pretty funny.

You have to get all the way to the end, but I was already laughing pretty hard and then I completely lost it.