The Imaginative Universal

Studies in Virtual Phenomenology -- by @jamesashley, Kinect MVP and author


Friedrich.Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog

Bill Ryan is a man spoken of in awed tones at the Magenic offices in Atlanta.  There are various ways to develop a reputation in the computing world.  Some people post to technology discussion groups.  Some people write books.  Some speak at conferences.  Some people are good at making friends with Microsoft developers in Redmond.  Some strive to get abbreviations tacked onto their names like MCAD, MCSD, and MVP.  The problem with all of this is that the more time you spend on these particular pursuits, the less time you actually spend coding, and so there can be a certain hollowness to these technical reputations.  The people writing the books on how to use certain technologies are often the last people you want actually building a system for you using those technologies because, as a consequence of their writing and speaking obligations, they don't actually have any real world experience using them.

Bill, as people at Magenic say, is "the real deal."  He talks the talk and he walks the walk.  Speculation around the water cooler is that he could have only accomplished all that he did, while with Magenic, by never sleeping.

He is basically the living ideal of what a software consultant should be.  The fact that the consultants I work with, who in their own right are all remarkable technicians and gentlemen, view Bill in this way says much.

What is the genesis of such a reputation, and such a high level of technical competence?  My guess is that Bill is just hardwired that way, and was born to greatness.  In a blog entry from 2004, however, he provides a different origin story, one that has an almost Horatio Hornblower quality to it.

This is my third pass at learning “Patterns” and it's going a little easier.  I tried reading the GoF book but it might as well be written in Martian b/c while I can read it, I have a mental block or something because absorption isn't there.  So my first goal of the new year (starting three days ago) is to get proficient with at least 20 Data Access Patterns.


My next goal is to have a full command of all of the new ADO.NET 2.0 Features BEFORE the new framework is released.  Made a lot of progress so far but have a long way to go.

I want to be able to build a fairly sophisticated Sharepoint portal without “Having” to look for help.  That's not to say that I'd ever want to build anything without referring to some stuff I've read - but if I know I can do it if I had to - I'll be where I want to be.

Ditto for Biztalk -

This fragment provides a fair portrait of what Bill was up to at the end of 2004.  He gave himself some extremely ambitious goals -- accomplishing any one of these would have propelled your typical developer into an architectural role in most companies -- and, more amazingly, accomplished them.

It has been roughly three years between that post and this, which shows what can be accomplished in a so brief time.   His attitude is inspiring, and so I'll give it a shot also, in the same way a Greek youth might once have repeated a mantra he overheard outside the walls of the Parthenon.

  • I will learn Silverlight 2.0 thoroughly before the official Go Live license is released with the beta 2, sometime in May.
  • I will strive to understand the inner workings of WCF until I can understand half of everything Juval Löwy, a technical theoretician of the highest caliber, might have to say about it.
  • I will complete a code generation tool that actually builds a fully working CSLA business tier, instead of only allowing class by class generation.  Ideally, I will make it work inside the Visual Studio IDE and also have it generate a Silverlight GUI to sit on top of the business layer -- if a future release of Silverlight gets all the databinding features working correctly.  I will accomplish this before Rocky Lhotka finishes his next CSLA book.
  • By the end of the year, I will finally get to the last chapter of Wheelock's Latin.
  • By the end of the year, I will get back into phenomenology, and write a short monograph on the relationship between Husserl's phenomenology and virtual reality.

Yoda said,

"Try not. Do or do not. There is no try."

Mr. Miyagi, more prolix, but with equal sagacity, said,

"Walk on road, hm?  Walk left side, safe.  Walk right side, safe.  Walk middle, sooner or later get squished just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do "yes" or karate do "no." You karate do "guess so" -- squish just like grape."

Cicero couched the same insight in these terms:

"Ut enim qui demersi sunt in aqua nihilo magis respirare possunt si non longe absunt a summo, ut iam iamque possint emergere, quam si etiam tum essent in profundo, nec catulus ille qui iam appropinquat ut videat plus cernit quam is qui modo est natus, item qui processit aliquantum ad virtutis habitum nihilo minus in miseria est quam ille qui nihil processit."

The Bonobo, the Potato, and the Giant


Beth at Cup-Of-Coffey has a new entry about why she loves the Internet involving a video of hundreds of inmates at a filipino prison performing Michael Jackson's Thriller.  It's a testament to the human spirit, sort of, but more importantly it is a testament to the peculiar character of our modern world in which wonder can be inspired simply by clicking a link.

The New Yorker has an article about Bonobo apes -- also known as hippie apes due to their gentle natures, compared to humans and chimps, as well as their sexual promiscuity -- in which one of the leading researchers in the field comments, regarding field work:

“You always think there’s going to be something round the next bend, but there never is.”

My experience this week on the web has been quite the opposite.  The Internet is much better than I have been led to believe, and here are a few reasons why.

Conrad H. Roth, over at Varieties of Unreligious Experience, has a film-review of the 1966 documentary Africa Addio unlike any film review I have ever read.  The film itself is a disturbing and violent portrayal of the chaos of post-colonial Africa, but Conrad's explanation and recommendation of the film raises it to the level of a dark portrayal of the human condition.  Conrad brings up the petite-tyrant Roger Ebert's review, summed up in the words 'brutal, dishonest, racist', only to convince us not only of Ebert's smallness of character but also how this basically accurate description of Africa Addio is part of what makes the movie great.  It is all this and more.

The Polyglot Vegetarian, who hadn't posted anything since April, has finally blogged about the Potato.  PV has picked out a special niche in the blogosphere -- he blogs eruditely about veggies, giving their linguistic and social history.  He makes the lowly noble.

If you liked The Da Vinci Code, or if you happened to prefer the original version by Baigent and Leigh, then you will certainly enjoy Raminagrobis's explanation of "the much and justly maligned" Claude-Sosthène Grasset d'Orcet's theories about how to decode Rabelais's Gargantua and Pantagruel through the discovery of the proper uses of punning.

Finally, the Beta 2 of Visual Studio 2008 has just be released for download, as explained on Scott Guthrie's blog.  In certain corners of the world, this is a fairly momentous event, but falling in such an interesting week, it is a bit underwhelming for me against the backdrop of dancing prisoners, darkest Africa, the bonobo, the potato, and the giant.