Programming Goals Revised

At this halfway point of the year, I thought it would behoove me to examine how I’m doing on my programming goals for this year.  Back in January, I wrote down some things I wanted to work on this year.  I didn’t publish it, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say that those things were:

  • Write more unit tests for my home projects.
  • Start migrating towards Microsoft Visual Studio 2008. Install at work, too, though I doubt I’ll be able to use it for anything but experimentation.
  • Learn the basics of LINQ without sacrificing my SQL skills.
  • Learn what the heck Windows Workflow Foundation is and why Microsoft thinks it’s useful.
  • See if Windows Presentation Foundation is really superior to WinForms or just “different.”

Results So Far

“Write more unit tests for my home projects.”  I haven’t done very well on this one.

“Start migrating towards Microsoft Visual Studio 2008.”  I have been using VS2008 exclusively at home since February, but I’m still stuck with VS2005 at work.

“Learn the basics of LINQ without sacrificing my SQL skills.”  Have done nothing on this yet, although I recently identified a place in one of my projects that would be a good place to start learning.

“Learn what the heck Windows Workflow Foundation is and why Microsoft thinks it’s useful.”  I did a cursory examination of it, but I do not yet know why Microsoft thinks I should spend valuable time learning it.  Am still not clear why a “workflow” is any different from a “program.”

“See if Windows Presentation Foundation is really superior to WinForms or just ‘different.'”  I ported an old .NET 1.1 project to WPF and found it an enjoyable experience, although VS2008’s WPF support doesn’t feel very mature to me yet.

Revised Goals For 2008

I will now revise my list for the rest of the year.

  • Learn the basics of LINQ without sacrificing my SQL skills.  I think this will be a useful job skill, but it is still imperative that SQL remain the top priority.
  • Acquire Microsoft MCTS certification.  I have been putting off studying forever, so I’m going to have to just go ahead and schedule a test to force myself to study.
  • Learn some Silverlight basics.
  • Learn some Flash basics.  In all my web development years, I’ve never had an occasion to create a Flash animation.

Paid Bloggers

Lowell wrote:  Bloggers as Paid Consultants.  So, um, was that supposed to dispel the myth that Raising Kaine is a pay-for-play blog?  Lowell’s post basically says, “Yeah, I’ve always been pay-for-play, but since I’m telling you about it now, it’s okay.”

I must admit I’m not quite clear on how bloggers being in the back pocket of candidates (and/or vice versa) is supposed to be a good thing for the citizenry.  Whatever happened to independent bloggers holding politicians accountable?  In my opinion, bloggers who are paid consultants to a candidate must either stop blogging about the campaign, or put a “paid for and approved by such-and-such campaign” disclaimer at the bottom of every single post.  Anything less is willful dishonesty, and frankly I’m not so sure it shouldn’t be illegal.

Unless somebody wants to pay me $1500 a month to setup a $15 web site and write some favorable blog posts.  In which case I would take it all back.  Because here in America, capitalism trumps all ethical considerations.

Best and Worst Stephen King Adaptations

Best movie adaptations of Stephen King works:

  • The Dark Half
  • Delores Claiborne
  • Firestarter
  • Misery
  • The Mist
  • Pet Sematary
  • The Shining (the mini-series, not the Kubrick movie, which bore little resemblance to the novel)

Worst adaptations of Stephen King novels:

  • Desperation
  • It
  • The Langoliers
  • Salem’s Lot (all versions)
  • Tommyknockers

Note that I have not had an occasion to read Stand By Me or Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, which are popularly considered among the best adaptations, so I don’t include them.

Robert Yarbrough

As I’m writing now on the morning of the 26th, before bringing up the ol’ blog aggregator, I’m anticipating a predictable partisan silence from the right and predictable partisan outrage from the left regarding last night’s execution of convicted murderer Robert Yarbrough.

My personal opinion on capital punishment changes frequently, so I usually try to stay out of it.  On the one hand, there is the completely justifiable desire to extract punishment for unusually heinous crimes, but on the other hand, it leaves a rather unpleasant moral aftertaste.  It’s kind of like shooting a horse with a broken leg.  Yeah, it really needs to be done, but it’s just not fun (well, for most people).

I’m now writing at 11 PM and there are no signs of any posts from anybody about Yarbrough.  What gives?  Didn’t anyone on the left have a prepared statement of outrage about this?  Isn’t anyone going to politicize this?  (Okay, I suppose the right is way too busy claiming victory for the entirely predictable (and, incidentally, correct) upholding of the Second Amendment to congratulate Timothy Michael Kaine on keeping his campaign promise.)

Eric Cantor for VP!

Lots and lots of reports completely unsubstantiated rumors are flying around that Eric Ivan Cantor could become John Sidney McCain’s running mate.  As someone who lives in Virginia’s 7th district, I’d also like to urge the The Partisan Robot to leave… err… run.

Budgets of Glimore vs. Warner

I’ve been watching the recent exchange* between Waldo and Spank with interest.

In the minds of Virginia bloggers at least, the Warner vs. Gilmore Virginia Senate race basically comes down to a single issue:  Mark Warner breaking his pledge not to raise taxes.  Gilmore supporters will spend all their time reiterating it, while Warner supporters will spend all of their time defending it.

The Warner camp says he had to raise taxes because Gilmore left a much worse budget situation than he let on, while the Gilmore camp counters that the budget was fine and Warner lied and raised taxes because that’s just what those evil socialist Marxist communist tax-and-spend Democrats do.  (Possibly an exaggeration, but not by much.)

So I’ve been wondering how a diligent voter would go about finding the middleground of truth on this issue.  I myself wasn’t paying attention to politics when Gilmore or Warner was governor, so I have no memory of what happened.  And clearly we can’t trust what either campaign is saying about it during election season.  So what to do?

Oddly enough, I discovered part of the answer amidst Spank’s otherwise evasive drivel:  The Virginia Department of Planning and Budget web site.

After scanning the budget tables on that site, I can see why Gilmore has an uphill climb in this election (aside from his general lack of charisma).  For the average voter, myself included, tables of budget numbers are completely unintelligable and incredibly boring to look at.  Not many people are going to sift through all those numbers and figure out what they mean, so they are going to have to rely on radio sound bites and newspapers to summarize it for them.  And unfortunately for Gilmore, Waldo is correct:  Most media reports that I’ve ever seen on this subject say that Mark Warner saved us from Gilmore’s budget train wreck.

I’m not saying that’s true — I can’t say one way or another because I won’t be able to get anything out of those budget tables without sitting down for days of painstakingly unrewarding study.  But if I were to guess based just on human nature and past observations of politicians, I would say that both sides are probably padding the numbers for their own benefit.  Big surprise, there.

So I guess it’s time to sit down and learn how state budgets work.

* By “exchange,” I mean Waldo making a thoughtful remark followed by Spank trying to twist everything around and embarrass himself.

Silliness from McCain

Here’s something I don’t get about John Sidney McCain’s offshore drilling policy.  He’s fine with tearing up the oceans looking for oil in the continental shelves, but he’s against drilling for the oil we know is there in ANWR.  Kids, can you say, “pandering for votes?”  Or, “have your cake and eat it too?”  Or maybe just plain, “WTF?”

Oh, and regarding McCain’s $300m government prize for building a new car battery (or whatever), somebody should tell him that the X-Prize Foundation is already offering a prize for building high tech fuel-efficient cars.  The prize that McCain is offering is, well, just a typically wasteful government contract. 🙂

Offshore Drilling For Transportation

I just saw this come through the ol’ aggregator and it almost knocked me right out of my chair:  Chris Saxman to introduce off-shore drilling bill.  They want to use offshore drilling revenues to fund the Virginia transportation budget.  BWAHAHA.  That’s the Republican solution to the bone-jarring, pothole-filled roads I have to drive over every day??

(Warning:  Potholes and the complete lack of progress by the Virginia General Assembly in fixing the roads, largely due to Republican stubbornness, greatly annoys me.)

I can see the Republican strategy session now:  ”Check this out guys!  First we’ll refuse to compromise and block every effort by the Democrats to do anything meaningful, then we’ll stall until the next gas “crisis” (ha ha!) has everyone scared that they won’t be able to afford cable TV and cell phone service anymore, then, after the sensationalist media has whipped everyone into just the right level of frenzied panic with their constant “pain at the pump” stories, we’ll slip in all these offshore drilling bills the oil companies wrote for us, and we’ll get all kinds of corporate donations and headlines for saving the day!  We’ll be heroes!  And rich!  What’s that?  Oh, the roads?  Yeah I guess maybe in 5-10 years we might start getting a little extra revenue to work on the roads or something, but we’ll probably be out of office by then so somebody else will have to worry about that.”

Yeah, whatever.  If I may be permitted to paraphrase… PAVE HERE.  PAVE NOW.  CRASH LESS.

P.S. And while you’re at it, build more nuclear plants so we can all drive sporty electric cars to the beach to look at the new oil rigs.

Opera Pretty Cool

I downloaded Opera 9.5 the other day and I have to say I’m pretty impressed.  I’ve wanted to try Opera for years, but I just never got around to it.  Now I’m sorry I haven’t been using it all along.

At it’s heart, Opera is basically just like every other browser:  You load pages, and it renders them in a window.  Every mature browser should render every page identically, and Opera so far renders everything just fine.

The big advantage that sticks out to me is the application speed.  The “feel” of the program is noticeably faster than Internet Explorer, in terms of navigating the menus and dialogs and tabs and so forth.  This is how an application should be, considering all the horsepower in modern computers.  Sadly, most Microsoft software — and almost all open source software that uses those crazy complicated skinnable GUI libraries to run on different operating systems — is so bogged down with layer after layer of APIs that the software feels incredibly sluggish even on a fast computer.

Opera seems to render page content much faster, too, although I admit that is probably the result of their design choice on rendering images of unknown size.  Internet Explorer 7 waits until it’s downloaded all the images of unknown size referenced on a page before it will try to render the page, which results in a longer delay before seeing any part of the page.  Opera (and Firefox) shows you what it knows about the page and fills in the images later, which results in a much faster feel, but the tradeoff is the possibility of the page shifting around to fit the images as they load.

I like the “speed dial” feature a lot, too.  In IE7 and Firefox 2, when you open a new tab, you just get a big white empty page, then you have to navigate where you want to go.  With Opera, you get a “speed dial” page with lists nine customizable sites that you can just click on and go.  Also, at any time, you can just hit CTRL and a number and the speed dial page comes up in a new tab (like, instantly).  Pretty cool.

(Oops, I just ran across a Javascript compatibility issue in one of my web sites… I guess it can’t all be sunshine and roses.)

Neeraj Nigam makes ballot in VA 10th

There is a distinct lack of Third Party representation in the Virginia political blogosphere, so I’m going to start making a point to pass along any relevant third party news I come across.

According to Third Party WatchNeeraj Nigam, running as an Independent for the U.S. House of Representatives, has collected enough signatures to make the ballot in Virginia’s 10th district, where he will face Judy Feder (D) and incumbent Frank Wolf (R).