Efectos Especiales

Ramblings, rants, musings, ideas and observations. Topics include (but are not limited to): programming (especially Python), books, games (especially CCGs and board games), astrology, design, writing, painting, etc.

icon:nl #809 (old comments) Bad reputation

De Telegraaf: Reputatie Nederland slecht. The (short and biased) article talks about how the Netherlands have a bad reputation abroad. Roughly translated, it starts with: "The Netherlands are a country of milk and honey, of windmills, wooden shoes, moats and art. Or are they? Coffeeshops, prostitution, abortion and crime are at least as well-known abroad." Followed by the opinion of one (!) person who is ashamed of his country's reputation, because everybody he talked to in the US associated the Netherlands with drugs.

Fortunately, Dutch readers rose to the occasion by posting lots of comments and showing that they are every bit as prejudiced as Americans. emoticon:biggrin

Having lived in the US for almost four years now, my experiences are:

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-07-25 14:41 */

icon:ada #808 (old comments) III

If I do another blogging tool, it'll be different...

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-07-23 16:58 */

icon:harrypotter #807 (old comments) Half-blood

OK, like half the world, I read the book... I was going to write a whole bunch about it, but changed my mind. emoticon:smile Instead, I'll point to a nice interview with JKR (3 parts). Warning: contains spoilers.

She doesn't say it explicitly, but I get the distinct impression that certain theories that are currently going around in newsgroups etc, are far-fetched. A few things are said that make these theories less likely. Maybe sometimes things are exactly what they seem. Then again, she could just be deliberately downplaying these theories. [Yes, I am being extra vague, to spare those who haven't read the book yet. You wouldn't want to buy the book, go home, open my site and find out that Draco hooks up with Bill. :-]

Now we have to wait two more years (or so) for book 7. emoticon:no Fortunately, Robert Jordan's Knife of Dreams is coming out in October... and it promises to be better than the previous books. Here's a little taste of the prologue. (Contains spoilers as well!)

[Update #1] It appears some Python luminaries read HP too, and even discuss it in newsgroups! ^_^

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-07-19 12:04 */

icon:zwart #806 (old comments) ...

When I look back, the 80s, with the Cold War and all that, seemed like a nice and safe time to live in...

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-07-07 12:19 */

icon:programming #805 (old comments) Agility

Is agile development just a buzzword?

Traditional thinking about programming suffers from the "programming is like architecture" metaphor. You make a specification; you make a design based on that specification; then you build. Great, but it doesn't work like that in real life. Customers often don't know what they want, or change their mind halfway.

Of course, you can take the position that that's a no-no, that a spec must be made and completed before any programming is done, and that this spec will be followed rigidly. If the customer changes their mind, tough luck; they cannot request changes until everything is done. Needless to say, such a situation can lead to lots of frustration on both sides.

Agile development takes the pain out of this. You know you want X, but you're not sure if you need Y or Z, and there's a chance you'll need Q later? Not a problem. We just make what we can, have the customer evaluate it, and together we decide what the next step would be. Using agile programming languages makes it easy to change things quickly. As a result, customer satisfaction is much higher, and the program is finished sooner.

At least, that's how it works in theory. emoticon:smile I haven't tried the "hardcore" stuff like XP myself, but I've been using a number of agile principles. IMHO, lots of communication with the customer during the process is especially important. Expecting that the customer knows everything they want up front, in great detail, just doesn't seem reasonable to me. Of course, if they *are* capable of doing that, cool. I still think that they would appreciate it if they can change their mind somewhat during the process, though.

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-07-05 12:47 */

icon:adventures #804 (old comments) Treasure chest

This site has a bunch of old Infocom text adventures (or interactive fiction, whatever floats your boat). Includes various Zorks, Wishbringer, Spellbreaker, and much more.

(My personal collection of IF links can be found here. Or, for many more links, see here.)

/* Posted by Hans "xyzzy" Nowak at 2005-06-27 21:54 */

icon:lambda #803 (old comments) Chinese water torture

Note to self: Lisp packages are not Python modules, and should not be used as such.

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-06-26 22:30 */

icon:default #802 (old comments) Summer of Code

Re Google's Summer of Code: The final per-organization project breakdown is in. The PSF ended up submitting 19 final applications, all of which were given thumbs-up by Google.

Note that there was no lack of acceptable proposals... it was more a matter of finding mentors for the best proposals. Some people, including me, mentor multiple people. As such, there will be two people working on Wax. (Their names will be announced soon.)

On a side note, it's quite interesting to be on "the other side" for once... not so long ago, my grant application was rejected by the PSF, and now I am judging applications myself, together with PSF members. One thing that was clear from the start (at least for Wax, but probably for many other areas too), was that there were too many good proposals, and we simply could not accept them all. For Wax, there were 5, one of which unfortunately had very little information, so it was rejected early. Of the 4 others, one stood out, so that was an early favorite of other PSF members, who ranked it up, and I agreed. The second one was pushed up after I indicated I was willing to mentor two people.

It looks like I will have two highly capable people to work with this summer, and I'm looking forward to the collaboration. ^_^

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-06-25 22:35 */

icon:food #801 (old comments) A city in China, tipping is not

I was wondering... how much do people usually tip in restaurants? I understand this varies greatly from person to person, and also depends on the situation and quality of service, but I hear that 15%-20% is considered normal. (This is what we usually tip.)

I am asking because I come from a country with different tipping standards than the US. In the Netherlands, leaving a tip is considered polite, but it certainly isn't mandatory (and I know several people who don't leave tips at all). (I suppose this is one reason why the Dutch have a reputation of being cheap. emoticon:smile) When one does tip, it certainly won't be 15%. (At least, I've never seen anything like this, but again, this will of course vary from person to person.)

When I visited the 'lands in 2003, we went to eat at a restaurant with a group of five people. The bill was around €100 (which doesn't seem so bad, looking back). Americanized as I am, I added a €10 tip, which produced startled reactions from everyone (including the waitress); such a tip was considered outrageously high. But by US standards, it wasn't particularly much.

I just read this blog post and the comments. Unsurprisingly, it appears that people have different ideas about what makes a good tip. Someone mentioned that even crappy service gets a 15% tip. (I don't think so; if your service sucks, you should be glad if you get anything at all.) A waitress says she considers anything under 20% an insult. (Which goes a bit far, IMHO, but let's not go into that.) Others bring up valid questions: why should the tip be a percentage of the bill, when it's not necessarily more work to bring out an expensive meal than a cheap one? And why should the customer be expected to compensate for the waiter's (low) salary?

This last one is something I don't understand, personally. There is a minimum wage in the US. Why are certain jobs, like waiting tables, not covered by it? (In the Netherlands it's a job like any other, so waiters make at least the minimum wage, and a tip is more of a token of appreciation than a socially expected compensation for low wages.)

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-06-25 12:59 */

icon:usa #800 (old comments) L

How many states are there in the United States? 50, right? Yet many people seem to think it's 52. Even the government gets this wrong. Washington DC is not a state; neither are Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands. Wikipedia has the correct answer.

For extra fun, here's a hilarous discussion about this question, with bad data and "all your base" style English. (Did you know there is a state called "Farmhouse"?) emoticon:smile

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-06-23 00:36 */