Armen Chakmakjian

Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

A recurring theme: my Kindle DX

In Business & Finance, iPad, Kindle, Literature, Social Media on May 30, 2011 at 4:36 pm

The last two days were pretty much consumed with home maintenance and yard maintenance.  I woke up late this morning, and various muscles hurt in places that I didn’t think I used.  So I went and set up the coffee and checked my phone for email and messages.  It was a pretty quiet morning from a data pov.

Once the coffee was brewed, I decided that I wanted to read a newspaper.  Having read through the Sunday Globe yesterday, there wasn’t much there.  I thought to myself, Hey how about the FT on the kindle? So I got my DX out and went to the store and saw that the FT available as a single issue to me was from Friday.  I didn’t want to read Friday’s news.  So I decided that I’d download today’s New York Times.  It was only $0.99.

I poured my coffee into my official home coffee mug that was a Xmas present from a couple of years ago.  It is a mug my wife bought when we visited the Statue of Liberty 2 years ago during our Thanksgiving trip to NYC.  Anyway, coffee poured and newspaper downloaded I went and sat outside on the patio.  The sky was a bit overcast, and every few minutes, I’d feel a drop, but it never started to rain.  I sat there reading the today’s New York Times on my Kindle DX out in my backyard.  I had forgotten my phone inside so there were no electronic distractions.

As I was reading and sipping coffee, I heard the birds chirping.  I’d hear a rustling in the leaves under the Forsythia bushes next to my grill gazebo, and I’d see a squirrel digging around.  I returned to reading.  I read about Doctor’s in Maine, trouble in the soon-to-be Southern Sudan republic, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and the Tornado saga from the midwest.  I learned about a guy building a to scale replica of Noah’s ark in Holland, and how he had to work through all the modern building codes.  I read editorials, op-eds and letters to the editor.  I noticed that the coffee was low in the mug, went inside, poured a second cup and went back outside.  I read some sports stuff, a chipmunk ran across the yard, read about Tom Watson in particular.  Then after about an hour, I finished.

I really enjoy reading on my Kindle.  I had an iPad for a while, and I just never saw the utility, especially since I have my droid phone and my mac.   I tried all kinds of apps, but I just didn’t get into it.  I can see how others would (that’s why I own apple stock).   However, I  think that Jeff Bezos’ is right in the idea that people who “read deeply” need a device .


Sweet Potato and Blueberry Pancakes Armeen…

In Random on May 29, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Paul Butterfield asked me to post this recipe.

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • cinnamon to taste
  • 1 medium-sized sweet potato
  • 1 cup of fresh blueberries
  • 1.5 cups of milk
  • 6 tbsp of butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, separated

Ok notice, this recipe has no sugar.  Your favorite syrup will fix that later.

So this is what you do:  Microwave the Sweet Potato for about 4 minutes.  That should soften it up pretty well.  Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl with a wisk.  If you are OCD, sift them.  However you melted the butter, mix that with the egg yolks.  That will cool the butter down (why? we want to avoid cooking the egg whites or curdling the milk with the hot butter…the yolk has a lot of fat so it mixes with the hot butter and stays liquid) .  Mix the egg whites and milk in a bowl.  now pour in the butter/yolk mixture into the wet ingredients bowl.   About now, the sweet potato comes out of the microwave.  Peel off the skin and chop up the meat into blueberry sized pieces (just as a reference…you can go smaller if you want but larger would be bad).   Spread the sweet potato pieces on a disk so that they cool off quickly.  Pour the wet bowl contents into the dry bowl.  Add the blueberries and sweet potatoes.  With a spatula scrape from the bottom of the bowl to the top to mix the wet and dry ingredients.  Mix it till the mixture is sorta lumpy from the flour and liquids combining…don’t try to get it smooth because I’ve been told that makes pancakes hard like crepes.

Now cool the pancakes on a pan or griddle that has been greased a bit with either butter or some spray oil.  (I have one of those oil sprayers you pump to build up the pressure).

As I said before, this recipe relies on the sugar in the sweet potatoes and blueberries.  Once you add syrup you’re all set.   Did I mention to start brewing the coffee just before starting this recipe. 🙂


Oh Please…

In Random on May 21, 2011 at 2:38 am

This week made Bill Clinton happy and Ted Kennedy kick once.

I just wish the news was a little less interesting to the easily titillated.  $14 Trillion of national debt, wars or drug wars on 4 continents, and the most important thing on TV (and on the web) are Ahnold’s love child, Newt getting covered in glitter and the International Monetary Fool.

and the discovery that Osama Bin Laden was taking Herbal Viagra or something…Oh and the commercial is the Amazing Pocket Chair…

Wow we’ve really degenerated…

My once a year coding ritual…

In career, Random on May 19, 2011 at 3:30 am

So the mission on the star trek sim is winding down this week and a new one starts next week.  My semester at Bentley ended successfully last week, only 7 more classes to go.  I’ve done a bunch of other writing, started my first email campaign, received a few comments on my book on goodreads from the giveaway winners and Sunday School is winding down this Sunday for the summer.

So I performed my once a year ritual to code something mostly useless to humanity but I had spare cycles this evening.  Last year I coded some C# up to move things between two related by unconnected databases.  the year before I wrote a widget in VB that made excel into microsoft project.  There was a perl riff the year before to solve some problem.  A few years ago it was that Rube Goldberg thing where a cron job called a make file that called Korn shell script to get a set of bugs out of CMVC, sort them in perl, read them into excel auto generate some pivot tables, and some VBA to move data around so that I could graph our burn down chart and predict out time to zero issues.

Mostly I don’t code much anymore, but I have this yearly ritual where I spend a day or a few nights relearning how to think in objects and classes.  This time it I was looking for a way to model our kanban board so that I could make some predictions about the optimal ticket size we should shoot for to keep our flow constant.  The reason for Excel and VBA?  Pretty simply, Excel is can be my database and my UI.  VBA does the that Excel can’t including running a set of data in a loop.  The nice thing about excel as a UI for a business process exercise is that It’s like a quick and dirty dashboard.  I can vary the input, the WIP limits on stages, the length of time per stage, et cetera and see the result of my contraption immediately.

So anyway, I had to re-remember for the nth time how VB classes work…in these days of ubiquitous info, that was about 30 minutes of poking around and typing and an Ah yes…Anyway, as always, the hardest part is that when you aren’t coding all the time, you suffer a certain ADD when it comes to scripting logic when you come back to it.  It takes a couple of hours to just settle my brain down and start thinking in a linear fashion.   I had to debug and trash a 75 line method and rewrite it in about 25 line when I finally settled the synapses down.

In the end, I go the thing to work about 9pm tonight.    Once I got the basic board flowing and could control the number of tickets going in and stuff I’m going to expand it to handle resource bottlenecks and recording each day’s results in a separate table.    The inspiration for this was a tool that I used in my BPM class last year that did process modeling.    That was a cool tool.  We mapped out Car Washes and Book Stores and manufacturing flows.  I wish I could have used that tool for this exercise, but without it, I took the opportunity to crack open my brain for a couple of hours.

Catching up…

In career, Random, Religion, Science Fiction, Social Media, technology, web 2.0 on May 14, 2011 at 6:56 pm

I’ve been pretty busy and 2 things that I used to do I kinda pushed aside to get to this point.  One of them was writing more of Book 2 in the Urtaru series.  The other thing was blogging.

In truth I’ve been micro-blogging all along, and you can see a trail of bits in twitter and fb (and ff and plaxo and where ever else I have connected up).

My last major blog post was my retro on 2010.  In there I hinted that my work situation was probably going to change, but I tried to stay away from the topic as best as possible.  To catch up, on Jan 21, 2011, I left my job at Intuit QuickBase and on January 24, 2011 I started my new job at Constant Contact.  As if that wasn’t enough I started another semester at Bentley on Jan 27th, taking a class on Usability and a class on User Research to get through the first of my two concentration.  In the process of taking those two classes, I learn how to create and run a usability test on a website (from requirements gathering, project plans, expert reviews task lists, scripts, execution and the report out).  On the user research side, I did a similar set of stuff that culminated in a focus group on electricity usage and monitoring software…and then the subsequent report out to the client replete with graphs, results, quotes and recommendations.

Both classes were fun and although there was some turbulence wrt team dynamics on one of the classes I did learn a lot that is directly applicable to my day-to-day work.  Ultimately that is the point of taking these classes, not the degree.  I still have 7 classes to go (out of a total of 18 that I need to take).  I’m actually looking forward to my starting my other concentration in marketing in the next two semesters…that one will really mesh with what I am doing now at work since we’re small business email marketing company (and going into social media marketing sometime…actually we’ve already started with things like our new feature Simple Share).

The funny thing about the kinds of jobs I’ve been getting lately is that the software being developed I can use myself.  So in the case of email marketing, I can use it for my book.   At my previous job, I could use QuickBase to keep track of stuff, and the free copy of TurboTax was a plus.  How I could use Semiconductor ATE equipment for my own purposes was always a stretch. 🙂

Anyway, I also got into a new hobby which was simming.  I wrote about it in another entry.  I have a character on a Federation starship and we write one chapter after another taking the story where we know no where it will go.  It’s kind of fun and kept me writing creatively in small bits and pieces.

I also did another open mic night, and posted the videos on my YouTube channel.  That was fun.  I’ve never played in a band before, so getting up in front of people alone and imitating a rock star was kinda interesting.  I’ve played in other venues over the years of course (middle school orchestral band, church and high school folk groups, campfires, playing guitar at church for the kids in Sunday school in the last few years).  Most of those activities though were either simple (kids) or I’d blend in with a bigger crowd (folk groups).  Standing alone on stage singing a song I taught myself on the guitar and only played in my house most of the time was a bit intense.

A few weeks ago my Apple Time Capsule died.  When I took it to apple they basically said that out of warranty it was cheaper to buy a new one than fix the old one.  So instead for the moment, I’ve removed the drive and put it in a tin usb can.  It turns out that the drive had crashed and I lost all my backups.  That’s not so bad I suppose, I don’t think I lost any singular data.

I also continue to teach Sunday School (high school grades).  Once in a while I can see that all the stories click in the mind of a teenager and they blurt out something I taught them.  Hopefully they’ll remember that feeling and do something similar themselves and get that kind of feedback (from teaching I mean, not necessarily Sunday School teaching, although that would be a happy results for me)

A week ago was our 21st anniversary and yesterday was our 23 anniversary of our first date…which was also a friday the 13th in May.  I also walk under ladders. 🙂

Finally that other thing I do, promoting my book, has been going pretty well.  Although I’m not selling in the several hundreds of copies yet, and I haven’t made back the amount of money I’ve spent on advertising, it has been a learning experience.  I’ve done several book giveaways on, and I’ve gotten back some good reviews and a couple of kind criticisms.  All in all I’m getting enough good feedback that I haven’t been discouraged that there’s no market.  Now if I could only get the movie made 🙂

I’m not going to take any classes this summer and I’m going to try diligently to write more chapters of my next book….that’s the plan anyway 😉

I’m playing with the Hootsuite integration

In Random on May 10, 2011 at 8:40 pm

I’m playing with the Hootsuite integration on Constant Contact’s email marketing feature