Waitaminute. I've played this game before.

A Carrom board.

If you visit our ThoughtWorks Pune office, you'll commonly see team members unwind over at a small table in the corner, shooting small wooden pucks at one another. The game is Carrom, and for lack of energy and adjectives, I'll describe it as billiards you play with your fingers and coin-sized discs; a larger, ceramic disc serves as the cue "ball". I played Carrom last year when I came to our Bangalore office for Away Day, surprised to find a game so similar to the default Canadian Christmas game of my childhood: Crokinole.

A Crokinole board.

Where Carrom resembles billiards, Crokinole resembles curling (of course!). Shoot for the middle of the play area and try to get as many discs as you can inside the opponent's inner-most disc. The very centre of a Crokinole board is recessed, which provides one's cousins with ample opportunity for extremely violent shots involving discs projected off the edge. Carrom, by contrast, is a relatively calm game.

Apparently these two games have been combined (or Crokinole has an intermediate ancestor) in American Carrom, which has the central pegs of Crokinole but the corner holes and square shape of Carrom. It certainly sounds more engaging, but since it's American it will surely lead to your children drinking 3 Starbucks a day and invading foreign countries on weekends. Avoid at all costs.

An antique Carrom-Crokinole board, also known as "American Carrom".

Tightpinkproduct inches ever closer.

I promise I'll write about something fun soon. Maybe tomorrow.

The Gap.

One of the roadblocks to the Tightpinkproduct is The Gap. My friend installs Ubuntu and complains about the difficulty of installing Flash or forcing WMV files to play inside of Firefox. He shouldn't have any reason to complain. All these things work. More often than not, they will work with packages living inside repositories. I, too, would complain but I've become too used to the routine of installing such packages on top of a default Linux installation (much in the same way I've become accustomed to fixing a default Windows installation or patching up OS X).

The Gap is the virtual distance between the open source desktop you receive today and the open source desktop lazy dopes (like me) desire. EasyUbuntu is a step in the right direction, but for some reason they've decided to give me, the user, choices. Such choice only messes things up. Do I need the video codecs? The plug-ins? The Rar extractor?

Just give me everything. MP3 playback, RARs, SVG-for-GIMP plug-ins, Flash, DVD playback, binary drivers... I want it all. The naughty things Linux (or BSD or Solaris or whatever) doesn't like but can package and redistribute should come by default. The naughtier things which lawyers only want on the internet (not on a DVD) should come at a touch of a button: "Make Linux great." Some argue this button should read "Make Linux tolerable."[1] I'm cool with that.

The Principle of Lease Surprise is a good idea for cute, Japanese languages. It's a great idea for these infernal machines we've decided are so fundamental to business and recipe-sharing.

The Tightpinkproduct could reasonably come with all these things by default. Assumption 1: distribution licensing is available for Naughty Thing X. Assumption 2: Selling laptops is still a profitable business.


[1] Obviously we need a machine which reads the happiness of users as the years pass and things improve. Let's turn the microphone on and listen for swearing! But what if someone follows Freeciv's example and builds FreeCounterStrike? Crap. We'll need some switches in there, I guess. In any case, we can feed all this data back to the super master megacomputer at debian.org and tally happiness to arrive at an appropriate i18n value for that little button. If ever there were a more perfect plan, I'm... unaware of it.


Anyone I've ever discussed ThoughtWorks with knows I work here because of the people. I enjoy the company of almost every ThoughtWorker I've ever met (and I've met hundreds). But I'm in awe of a select few.

Heroes? Indeed.


If I ever get married, I want this guy to print my invitations.

The clip reminds me of the type of things one would see on the CBC. Self-referential irony: As I shirk outdated technology (read: television), it becomes nostalgic. Perhaps when I'm old and bearded I'll watch an old tele just to show the youngin's how it's done.

On water droplets and wobbling windows.

Sometime in the past (it may have been four months, but it was probably more... my sense of time degrades in direct proportion to the length of time I've existed since a given event) I coincidentally found myself on a plane with Jason. We discussed many things, not excluding our shared obsessive compulsions, the fact that we both hate take-off, and operating system GUI toolkits. Jason is a Mac guy -- complete with beard, hipster glasses, and supercool Asian girlfriend. He should have his own action figure. I'm a Linux guy -- complete with psoriasis, caffeine addiction, and a compulsion to steeple when I discuss politics or Spiderman.

I like talking to Jason a lot, because it's sort of like living Jason Said interactively. Plus there's usually beer. When it comes to GUI toolkits, we have similar opinions. Practicality and beauty both rank high on our lists, much as they apparently do for DHH -- as heard in this recent interview with Sexy MF and some guy who probably writes Visual Basic for a living. Mr. Heignarmeigher-Hansen complains that the water droplet effect in Mac OS X doesn't add to usability; "it's just eye candy for nerds like me," he says. Or something to that effect. My memory is as faulty as my sense of time. Jason had the same point of view when it came to wobbly windows: they're neither pretty nor do they serve a practical purpose.

Until you use them.

It frustrates me to move windows in Windows and OS X these days. I expect to be immersed. I want to live those windows. But I can't. And other words in italics. They are just bricks with which I build my castle. I so quickly get bored of building castles as I would as a child of constructing "real" things from Lego. I prefer to construct kitchen appliances which reverse time or glasses which give me flight. I make haste, and run back to the soft, squishy world of unstable-but-organic OpenGL-accelerated window managers. Ahhh, they're like my Mother's arms. I'm at home here.

I'll bet you my left nipple Leopard will have wobbly windows. Mr. Steve will do a great job of recreating them in his image. And they won't ever crash or miss-click. Will Jason be convinced? Only time will tell.

Fidget weights.

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm running through all my old draft posts and cleaning house. So here goes with entry number five (or something): Fidget Weights.

I saw Thoughtless Acts a while back and it immediately reminded me of an idea Drew and I came up with years ago. It came to the attention of people who frequented my basement office that if one became engaged in conversation, he or she would inevitably stand on top of some octagonal free weights I had lying around:

Perching oneself on these long enough would lead to fidgeting. The participant would roll them over and gradually get more aggressive by lifting and rotating the weights in various directions. This was almost entirely absent-minded, but I know I was always at least semi-conscious of crushing my foot while performing such acts.

The idea Drew and I had consisted of duplicating this structure, with flat ends rather than pudgy octagons and a thick, soft rubber coating. Different shapes (hollow triangles, cylinders, etc.) would provide for a variety of fidgeting. Owners would leave such items lying around the house for visitors to enjoy.

XTech 2007 - numéro deux

I should have posted this ages ago. I didn't.

Liz Turner gave me a brief preview of ICONAUT, a cute tool for visualizing data, on the balcony of some fancy building the XTech folks rented out for socializing and eating French hors d'ouvres. Rain cut the demo short, but it's now online for the world to see. I don't think it dynamically pulls in new data from Harper's, as the newest articles seem to be from 2005. A shame, but it is still beta after all.

Check it out. How could you use this concept in your next reporting application? Could you do it without Flash?

Plane crash simulator?

I've flown more in the past 9 months than I have in the previous 25 years of my life. I still consider myself an amature passenger; my familiarity with turbulence, in particular, is lacking.

Every time my plane runs into bumpier weather than I've experienced before, the question crosses my mind, "Is this it?" The plane slides and twists. The wings wobble. The moving parts chatter and clank.

So far I always come out the other end alive and well. But it begs the question: What does a commuter plane crash feel like? Surely we have enough black box data and physics simulators to reconstruct this with reasonable accuracy. That way, I'd be aware of an imminent plane crash a few minutes before spiraling toward the dirt... providing me more time to repent.

Lazyweb, if someone has built this, please point me in the right direction.


My Dad recently sent me an album of the yearly Deobald family camping trip. Unable to attend, due to my 12-month departure to the subcontinent, I had only those photos coupled with last year's memories to pacify me.

Memories... jogged by images of Kubb. Soaring higher on the desire-o-meter than even hot dogs, three bean salad, or cold beer in the Saskatchewan summer heat, Kubb was easily the best part of last year's trip. It's a back-and-forth yard game played with a series of wooden blocks. The rules are simple, making the game a relaxing past-time for everyone in a large family or group of any age. Though you can apparently buy the blocks online for a tidy fifty bucks, ours are hand-made (thanks Dad) and look much like this:

Pretty darn cool.

The tightpinkproduct has a shape.

Rectangles are nothing special. But it would appear they're special enough to prevent an entire industry from using them.

Vote for MPP.

Ontarionian? Vote for a Mixed Member Proportional system on October 10th.

Generic Canadian? Donate $10.00 online and pledge your support.

If we can catch up to Germany in the political scene, perhaps one day our graphics demo specialists and techno DJs will surpass them as well.

better mutual shoes or the reed leprosy

I discovered this bug a couple weeks back, but I keep running up against it: Try running a modern Java IDE (NetBeans or IntelliJ, specifically) on a fancy new Linux installation, such as Ubuntu 7.04. If you have Beryl or Compiz running, you'll see nothing but an empty window. Turn off eye candy and everything works -- but anything requiring your fancy 3D window manager has to go to sleep while you slice and dice code.

I suppose it's better than nothing, but I'm starting to demand quite a bit from Linux. Here's hoping someone starts selling a Tightpinkproduct soon.

Masaki Katakai proposes some possible solutions. Try them out. Let me know how things go. If nothing else, the start of that post worth a read when translated into English. That's the sort of thing that would drive me to learn Japanese if I had any ambition.

I bought a cycle.