Friday, July 23, 2010

"Liberal media" what a laugh!

I have always found it both amusing and alarming to hear the right wing of this country blast the mainstream media for its liberal bias. What a joke. Sure, lots of journalists might be left-leaning or centrist. But the content and direction of the media is determined by its owners, and what this means (among other things) is that the quality and quantity of critiques of corporate mis-behavior are minimized.

Also, the coverage of non-right wing activity in this country is pitiful and most clearly demonstrates how the media is biased towards the right.

Case in point: the tea party movement holds a meeting of several hundred people, and the national media are all over it, live interviews, commentary, blah blah blah. 

Compare that to the scene in Detroit in late June, when the US Social Forum held a convention to discuss and plan ways to increase the quantity and quality of justice and equality in this great nation of ours. Over 18,000 progressives, lefists, whatever label you want to apply to them, gathered together for five days.

18,000 people gathered to talk politics, to challenge the tea party ideas, press Obama and Congress to do more. That's pretty amazing, isn't it? Certainly worthy of some basic, minimal media coverage on every mainstream outlet. 

So who from the major media were present? Venezuela's TeleSur and Al Jazeera English.

That's just pitiful, and an incredible disservice to the millions of people in this country who are angry at the status quo and are looking for alternatives. 

How can you call the media "liberal" when it so clearly promotes and highlights right-wingers while ignoring those on the left?

Monday, July 19, 2010

My Son, Eli, Takes on APEX

My youngest son, Eli (23), has spent the last several years honing his skills as a guitarist and composer. He's very talented, but it's hard to make a living as a musician, especially in the current economy.

Much to my delight, Eli has decided that he would like to try his hand at being a software developer. He has a basic foundation of mathematics, but no programming experience. He has, on the other hand, well-developed powers of abstraction, used to conceptualize and organize music and songs. He is excited about diving into the world of software.

I've decided to have him learn Oracle fundamentals and APEX 4, as the quickest path to making him productive. I have lots of work to be done in APEX for my various projects.

I will also take this opportunity to deepen my familiarity with APEX; it certainly makes sense given that PL/SQL is the foundation technology. I've just been hard-pressed to date to make time for learning a new technology. So we will learn together.

Having said that, it will be very helpful for Eli to have some mentors in the APEX world, someone who knows the product well and would be willing and able to provide some advice.

So if anyone reading this knows APEX well (I doubt he will be utilizing APEX 4 features for quite a while) and would be willing and able to answer the occasional question from Eli, please send me a note at I would be most grateful, as would Eli.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A little bit of corporate sanity and hope

I read an article in the NY Times today regarding an apparel factory in the Dominican Republic that, according to the Times, "is a high-minded experiment, a response to appeals from myriad university officials and student activists that the garment industry stop using poverty-wage sweatshops. It has 120 employees and is owned by Knights Apparel, a privately held company based in Spartanburg, S.C., that is the leading supplier of college-logo apparel to American universities, according to the Collegiate Licensin." 

There have been efforts in the past to pay a "living wage" to workers, but it usually led to high costs to the consumer and very limited distribution. In this case, Knights Apparel has a market-leading position and support from many universities. This could really work, and lead the way for future, similar initiatives.

I will, from this moment forward, be on the lookout for Knights Apparel products and purchase them, instead of the products of their competitors, such as Nike. I hope you will consider doing the same.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The moratorium on deepwater drilling and human arrogance

I am stunned at the pressure mounted by Gulf Coast-area politicians and businesspeople on the Obama Administration to allow resumption of deepwater drilling.

Without a doubt, this moratorium has clear and profound impacts, in terms of loss of jobs and revenue and more. So I can understand the immediate reaction to be one of "The BP disaster is a once-in-a-lifetime event! Drilling is overwhelmingly safe! Let us get back to it!"

What is missing from such a response is an understanding of the concept of unacceptable risk.

Sure, it would be really nice to avoid the financial impact of the moratorium. Sure, it is very, very unlikely that another disaster will occur anytime soon. But that's just statistics. Then there is the real world, in which corporate negligence and corner-cutting, plus the unpredictability of weather and ocean, can clearly lead to outcomes whose impact could be catastrophic.

I would feel far better about lifting the moratorium if the oil companies openly acknowledged that they have spotty maintenance histories, that BP clearly took shortcuts to improve profitability. I would feel like we have learned from this disaster if the government launched a thorough investigation of all deepwater rigs, examining all company records and the rigs themselves, verified that we don't have any other disasters waiting to happen.

In other words, we need to make as sure as possible that this entire industry isn't a disaster waiting to happen. After 8 years of Bush and "hands off" regulation, we should have no reason at all to think that these companies and their equipment can be trusted.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Big day for me - and at least a few PL/SQL developers

Today (in one hour in fact, 10 AM Chicago time), 48 developers will compete in the first-ever PL/SQL Challenge quarterly championship, with a grand prize of US$1000, second prize of US$500 and third prize of an ebook collection of all O'Reilly Media Oracle books.

It has been a long three months from the launch of the PL/SQL Challenge on 8 April. I have learned so much from the many developers who have played - and critiqued - my quizzes. I have been very pleased with the response of so many developers to the Challenge: enthusiasm, increased interest in the PL/SQL language, eagerness to compete...

Hopefully all will go well and smoothly. OK, back to preparations....

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

PL/SQL Challenge taking off - 1000+ daily players

The PL/SQL Challenge is rapidly gaining momentum. We are in our second 1000+ player day (I think we will break 1200), and the fourth 900+ player day in a row. I am very excited. I have this feeling that the PL/SQL Challenge will soon be a key gathering site for PL/SQL developers, and the only way for them to demonstrate through public rankings their expertise in the language.

Many players have shared with me  their enthusiasm for the daily quiz, and how much they are learning  about PL/SQL from the quizzes.

Who knows? Perhaps references to PL/SQL Challenge rankings will start to appear in resumes!

We will be holding our first quarterly championship next week, awarding the US$1000 and US$500 prizes for the first time since we started the Challenge in April 2010.

If you haven't yet started playing the daily quiz, now is a great time to start. It's only the fourth day into a new quarter, so you can certainly still rank up near the top and qualify for the next quarterly championship if you start playing today.

Just visit, register or login, and take the quiz. It's free and easy!