Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield

I just completed the abridged audio edition of Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The protagonist Xeo recounts his life story among the Spartans in order to give the Presian King Xerxes an insight into the Spartans’ unique character and bravery. The novel uses the stilted language of ancient epic, which made the audio edition particularly enjoyable.

Mortgage insanity

This Business Week article attempts to answer a question that I’ve wondered about:

One of the more puzzling aspects of the current housing boom is that mortgage lenders have been offering ever-sweeter deals on loans. These days it’s increasingly easy to qualify for a loan with little or no money down. . . Why have lenders been so liberal when they run the risk that many of their marginal customers will go into default?

The answer, according to the article, is just shortsighted greed:

Many lenders are just plain desperate for business, according to some experts. In a bid for market share, mortgage lenders are offering highly favorable terms to borrowers. That’s forcing the rest of the industry to match their terms or lose customers.

I find this answer believable, but incomplete. Still searching…

Interviewing software engineers

This has been making the blog rounds the last few days. Joe Kraus has three interview questions can be used to tell whether an engineer might be a good fit for a start-up software company:

  1. Do you have a blog?
  2. What’s your home page?
  3. Do you contribute to an open source project?

When I read his post, I immediately thought of a coworker with whom I’ve worked at two start-up software companies. This guy is brilliant, articulate, hard-working and one of the most productive programmers I’ve ever seen. He’s been a huge asset to both start-up companies. But when this guy leaves the office, that’s the end of his technical life for the day. As far as I know, he doesn’t look at a computer outside of work.
So, this co-worker passes the spirit of Joe’s questions with flying colors, but would fail the actual questions miserably. I see what Joe is getting at with these questions, but the questions themselves are an absurd reduction.

The Dark Wind by Tony Hillerman

I’ve listened to some pretty heavy audio books lately, so I decided to try something a little less demanding. I just completed the unabridged audio of Tony Hillerman’s The Dark Wind. Katie and Hannah have read a bunch of Hillerman novels, but this was my first.
For its genre, I thought the novel was pretty good. The Native American context is fascinating, and it was a pretty well written mystery.


On Saturday, while I was mowing the yard, I noticed a big box turtle out on the greenbelt behind the yard. When I went to look at it, I realized it had its butt stuck in a damp hole in the ground. Apparently, it was laying eggs. It stayed in the same position for at least an hour. Later I noticed it was gone; the hole was completely filled in and the only way I could even find it was that the dirt was a little damp in that spot.

I am not a lawyer

Xeni Jardin posted an entry on Boing Boing about a bakery in Brooklyn that stopped making cakes with images from customers due to litigation fears for copyright infringement. The entry also includees some feedback from BoingBoing readers about the legal situation.
I am not a lawyer, so I cannot comment on the legal issues. What I find sad is the scorched earth aspect: that the legal fears led to the bakery’s ceasing this service altogether.
Couldn’t the bakery apply some common sense: if a customer brings in an image that they know is copyrighted, decline to do it and explain why to the customer. And if a customer brings in an unfamiliar image, ask the customer what it is. If the cusotmer replies, “Oh, this is my daughter’s favorite TV character”, then decline and explain. But if the customer says it’s an original image and the bakery thinks the customer’s explanation is reasonable, go ahead and make the damn cake.
It’s a shame that a by-product of the current legal situation is the abandonment of good faith and informed judgment.
This smacks of ‘zero tolerance’ policies we often hear about.