Visual explanations: US states GDP map

by Map, October 15th, 2008

I was searching for some stats on the world’s GDP and came across this amazing map: US States Renamed For Countries With Similar GDPs. Wow. The only problem with this map is when staring at it in a fully mesmerized state of mind :-) I tend to attribute the size of country’s GDP to the size of the corresponding state, which is not correct, of course. Other than that, it’s a wonderful little example of information visualization.


by Ulf, October 6th, 2008

Many people seem to like the new Pixar flick, but I think it’s a far cry from the likes of Ratatouille and Toy Story. A little robot cleans up the over-littered earth after all humans have decamped for more hospitable grounds far away, and he falls in love with a visiting robotess who’s looking for life left on the planet. Sure, it’s cute, and it’s fun to see where mankind might be headed once people are too obese to walk on their own, but the plot never really engages the viewer, and seems an incoherent whole.

More info at

Got myself a new bookshelf

by Map, September 10th, 2008


I hate twitter. I hate the idea of twitter. I don’t want to read about how some friend of mine just returned from his/her trip to bathroom and how it all went. And most of us aren’t visited by great ideas worth to be shared with the rest of mankind every 30 minutes. I know I am not. The only thing I am interested to know every 30 minutes is what my friends are reading, what page they are on and what they think about the book at this very moment. :-)

GoodReads’ online book warehouse got it pretty close to what my dream book warehouse looks like. It comes with pre-installed “read”, “currently reading” and “to read” shelves, which is how I naturally sort my books. It allows you to rate your books and to post quick comments, and here they got it right again. To write a full-blown book review is time-consuming and I often lack will power to finish mine, or even to start them. A bookshelf so inviting to “quick-and-dirty” style of book reviews instantly won me over. Sometimes the book is so uninspiring, so all I want to do is to give it 1 star and to add “I wonder why it is even written”. Sometimes I want to keep a few quotes in hope that some day I will add some profound comments to them.

Thomas Paul apparently types away a couple of pages for every book he reads, but who else can do it? For the rest of us there is GoodReads.

Outstanding Talk by Kent Beck

by Ulf, September 9th, 2008

I‘d like to recommend Kent Beck‘s keynote from this year‘s RailsConf to everybody interested in software development. Kent talks about his involvement with patterns, developer testing and extreme programming, how each came about, and what he thinks about the outcomes. An MP3 file and the presentation slides are available here, and a video feed (which helps tie together the slides and the talk) is here. The talk also touches on a range of other topics, such as architecture, Ruby, IDEs, technology adoption, marketing of ideas, and much else, and is a joy to listen to. The following are the books that get mentioned (and are thus implicitly recommended by Mr Beck). Christopher Alexander in particular has long been on my reading list; maybe this will actually coax me into reading him.

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Review of JavaFX Script by James L. Weaver

by Ulf, September 4th, 2008

JavaFX Script („JavaFX“ henceforth) is a new way to develop client-side Java GUI applications, comprised of a more declarative code syntax, and some new ways to couple behavior to code. That being the case, it (and by extension, this book) has two audiences: developers proficient in Java who want to learn about JavaFX, and web developers interested in building rich client applications who may not know much (or any) Java.

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Watching Paris

by Ulf, August 20th, 2008

The film depicts a neighborhood of Paris and its inhabitants in their pursuit of happiness, or simply their daily life. The focal point is a severely ill man who watches the people from his balcony but can’t take part any more, and his sister who helps him cope. There are some similarities to Short Cuts, although more attention is given to love and companionship here (as befits the city), sometimes in all its undignified -but all too human- glory. Imperfect people try to make the best of life in a great city, or -as the main character summarizes it- “That’s Paris – everybody complains, nobody just enjoys living.”

More info at

How to spot your compatriot in a crowd

by Map, August 19th, 2008

Not difficult if you happened to be a Russian. Yesterday I was waiting in line in a pharmacy, and there was a woman before me who walked carefully, leaning heavily on her walker. Something was strange in her posture, and then I figured what it was: she was wearing shoes with high heels. Even before she started to talk to her husband I knew: she was a Russian.

Ridicule of „The Mojave Experiment“ hits the mainstream business press

by Ulf, August 13th, 2008

A recent article in the Economist talks about various ads Apple has used over time to position itself, e.g. Ridley Scott’s famous 1984 video, and the current “Get a Mac” campaign that targets Microsoft Windows. Now that Microsoft has a marketing problem of its own (in the shape of the much-maligned Windows Vista), it has come up with “The Mojave Experiment“, which is supposed to show that Vista isn‘t as bad as people think it to be. The premise of the experiment is rather flawed, which has been widely discussed. Now the Economist -which is not generally concerned with operating systems- joins in: “You could be forgiven for wondering whether Apple had commissioned the advertisement. It was Microsoft at its worst.” Ouch. The article goes on to mention that Microsoft has also started to work with another ad agency…

The Pushing of NetBeans and the Dumbing-down of Java

by Ulf, August 11th, 2008

To me, one of the more useful pieces of the WS-* stack is WS-Security. Web services are out in the open and need proper security. Unfortunately, there isn‘t yet a standard on how to apply WS-Security to a SOAP service, so each SOAP stack does its own thing. The Metro stack -the reference implementation of JAX-WS and a slew of related APIs- is no exception. Recently I was trying to figure out how to apply WS-Security to a  JAX-WS service. Without using NetBeans or GlassFish, neither of which I use. Go ahead, try to find an example of how to do that. The closest I found is this article, which talks about the web service features of Java 6 SE, not JAX-WS per se.
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The ephemeral beauty of rocks

by Ulf, August 11th, 2008

Last week one of the famous rock arches of Arches National Park in Utah -called Wall Arch- collapsed from erosion under its own weight. These are before/after pictures of it:

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