Viewing By Category : culture / Main
August 25, 2008
set your time--or else!
if you have servers/workstations in Thailand you probably should know that as of aug-23rd every business computer in the kingdom has to set it's time to the new TST (Thai Standard Time) or get fined a wheelbarrow full of money (from 100,000 to 500,000 baht, that's about $2500 to $15,000 US, yikes). i can understand the idea of using a timeserver to keep stuff in synch (really, who doesn't?) but man, that's a whopping big fine for being "time dumb" (especially if that's a per computer fine!). this article claims one of the reasons for doing this is so that everybody hears the national anthem at the same time.

the Royal Thai Navy's Hydrographic department is in charge of providing a national time server & it looks like they got windows covered at least (yes they devoted more than 1/2 of that page to windows 95/windows ME, no Mac, no Linux--not sure what stats they're running off).

in any case, if you're in Thailand, point your time server at:

and bob's your uncle. i like the idea of having a "local" time server so we swapped tout de suite. works plenty fine. the navy, as usual, did a bang up job.

August 7, 2008
the end is nigh
my hair and fingernails started falling out. there is a gray pall over the whole landscape. the summer sun feels weak, like mid-winter. birds are dropping out of the sky. even the bugs stopped buzzing.

brett favre's a new york jet?

oh my.

July 16, 2008
dr. horrible in the big mango!
got to hand it to the whedons. they had a problem with international viewers not being able to connect to the video. they publicly acknowledged the problem on the blog's blog and then i'll-be-darned they went and fixed the problem.

geez, they've left nothing to complain about ;-)

so be there or be square.

July 15, 2008
say it ain't so dr. horrible!
got up at the crack of dawn today to get on my bike and get my intervals out of the way early (nothing like starting the day with some physical agony, the rest of the day can only get better ;-) so i could watch the first episode of Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. to my surprise (especially since the blog was discussing the episode's timezones for europe and down under) this turned up instead:

ouch. but hey ok, there was a "download from iTunes" link. so hey ho, off to the iTunes store i go. a buck ninety-nine? a bargain. click the buy button, "content not available in thai store". geez louise. ouch again.

suffice to say i'm fairly disappointed, i was expecting something a bit more global from these fine folks.

ps: none of the links in that flash filler work.

July 11, 2008
be like me!
if you're a fan of Joss Whedon's work (like say buffey or firefly) you may want to know about Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. which of course has a blog.

note the release dates:

  • 1st episode july 15th
  • 2nd episode july 17th
  • 3rd episode july 19th

the free airings will get pulled midnight july 20th.

they've got a comic over on mySpace.

everything is, of course, done up in flash.

so remember, if you have a friend that excels in math and science, report them!

January 2, 2008
timely advice: exercise!
not that anyone should need more reason to exercise but a recent blog post from the wonderfully named Terra Sigillata blog from science blogs points to another very good reason--especially at this time of year--exercise can help with alcohol related brain damage. and as we all know, coldfusion/flex developers need all the un-damaged brain cells we can find.

you younger folks out there probably should pay particular attention as an NY Times op-ed piece points out that the younger you start binge drinking, the more significant the effects on the goop between your ears.

no matter your age though, exercise is supposed to help. so get on your bike, put on your jogging shoes, head for the gym, etc. and do whatever it takes.

your brain needs the exercise.

December 4, 2007
brett favre: SI sportsman of the year
the venerable sports illustrated just named brett favre it's sportsman of the year for 2007. they've got a very interesting 10 "page" article here.

maybe romo, brady, et al should take note?

July 24, 2007
Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back From the Grave
the wonderfully named "moronland" site has a page for the 13 worst translation mistakes. most of these should be familiar if you follow tex texin's (the unicode bulldog) Marketing Translation Mistakes.

the "moronland" page is kind of unique in that it coins the term Babelfished, as in I wonder if these companies just Babelfished the slogans into another language.

another set of examples why you should use human beings for translation ;-)

May 21, 2007
party like it's 1999
there was a recent aticle in Time that once again reminds me that the world is a big, complex place. while at one time Ethiopia was probably best known for famine & despair and LiveAid (though i prefer to recall their great long distance runners & links to bob marley), come september 11 (yes, 9/11) they'll literally be partying like it's 1999 because in the Ethiopic calendar (also known as the Ge'ez calendar) it is 1999. september 11 marks the end of the 20th century according to their calendar. the Ethiopic calendar, which is kind of based on the julian calendar, has twelve months of 30 days each plus a "13th" month consisting of five or six epagomenal days (fancy way of saying inserting a leap day, etc to make a calendar follow the seasons or moon phases). and since i know you're dying to know, today, 21-May-2007 (gregorian calendar) is 1999 Genbot 13 in the Ethiopic calendar (of course icu4j has an Ethiopic calendar component).

and yes, even though it helps "date" me, i am still a fan of Prince's 1999.

September 18, 2006
analysis of the olmec hieroglyphs
michael everson, a virtual language encoding machine and leading light in the unicode world, has just posted a brief analysis of the recently discovered "olmec hieroglyphs". while the analysis isn't a "decipherment", i find the way michael attacked the analysis fascinating.

June 9, 2006
OT: rolling rock moving to new jersey?
one of the icons from my youth in pennsylvania, rolling rock beer, was recently bought by Anheuser-Busch (AB). as soon as the deal was closed AB announced it was moving rolling rock production to its newark brewery!

from a beer drinker's standpoint, this is a bad thing. the brewery is different, the water is different, the ingredients will probably be sourced differently, geez louise how can it be the same beer? pretty much anyone who is serious about beer knows that commodity beer is usually bad beer and commodity beer is what AB is all about. i don't like any of the AB products, so slapping a rolling rock label on the dish-water slop they normally churn out seems like a sin to me. there's a social impact to this as well. the folks in latrobe, pa. where they make rolling rock, are devastated. it was a big deal for them (well that & the pittsburg steelers training camp, btw why aren't any steeler fans raising a ruckus?). this is just a bad deal all around.

you can read more here. there's an online petition but it seems broken at the moment. there's also the website.

April 12, 2006
happy new year
today (the 13th) marks the start of the traditional thai new year, Songkran. the new year was originally an astrologically calculated date (curiously the traditional thai calendar was lunisolar but the new year was based on solar calculations) but is now fixed on april 13th (i think some time during WWII). it marked the actual start of the new year in thailand up until 1880 AD. it became another national holiday in 1940 AD, when the new year in thailand was set as january 1st.

so it's time to leave your watch & wallet at home & wrap up your money & mobile phone in zip-locked baggies. here comes the water :-)

btw you too can help celebrate this holiday, grab a water pistol or bucket of water & dowse everybody in sight ;-)

October 25, 2005
language matters?
you bet it does. just ask the 20 poor slobs who had to cough up 100 new turkish lira (about $76US) each for using the letters "Q" and "W" in kurdish language placards in turkey. it seems that these letters aren't in the turkish alphabet and there's a 1928 law ("Law on the Adoption and Application of Turkish Letters") that requires all signs and what not to only use turkish letters. in case you don't already know, turkey moved from an arabic to a "modified" latin script in the 1920's, pretty gutsy thing to do. i guess they needed tough laws to push this kind of reform through.

this is all news to me....i wonder how they advertize windows there? i know we have a good group of turkish coldfusion users, care to shed some light on this guys?

from CNN.

March 7, 2005
cultural bias, leaping leap years batman!
pretty much everybody knows what a leap year is and when one occurs. and in case you don't, coldfusion has a function isLeapYear() that will tell you if a given year is a leap year in the gregorian calendar. in fact most calendars have the concept of a leap "something". the chinese and hebrew calendars have a "leap month" but apparently no concept of a leap year (though the icu4j HebrewCalendar class API are full of references to leap years). the civil version of the islamic calendar has a "leap day" which is added to the last month of 11 out of every 30 years but again no leap year. the persian calendar does have the concept of a leap year, handled via the PersianCalendarHelper class isLeapYear method.

which brings us to the point of this blog entry, this method expects the year argument to be a persian calendar "year" (right now its 1383 in the persian calendar). which i didn't quite grasp at first, as the other calendars (gregorian, buddhist and japanese) with leap years have an isLeapYear method that expects a gregorian year (yes, even the buddhist and japanese calendar classes expect a gregorian year, i imagine this is because these calendars extend the gregorian calendar class). and that's the way i expected the new persian calendar to behave (my own cultural bias--i use the buddhist and gregorian calendars on a daily basis). but it doesn't and why the heck would it? it is a persian calendar after all. so that got me to thinking about the other calendars and the way these "should" work and what other cultural biases have leaked into our code and test harnesses--especially the tests.

first thing i did was to rewrite the i18nIsLeapYear functions across all the calendars to expect a year argument in that calendar's system (it converts to gregorian year as needed and now automagically returns false for calendars lacking the concept of a "leap year").

then i went a hunting for any other places where my cultural bias might have leaked thru....and promptly found it in the getYear function. the getYear function takes a gregorian year value and returns the year in that calendar's system. i was doing that by creating a date:


(and just in case you were wondering, the 2 for the day value is to make sure the date value created fell into that year, given that we're using UTC as the time zone standard for all the calendars). and then setting the calendar object to that date and returning the value for that calendar object's YEAR field:

return tCalendar.get(tCalendar.YEAR);

simple and worked swell for the gregorian, buddhist and japanese calendars because these calendars' year started at the same time. but after looking at the year values of formatted dates from the other calendars i realized that the getYear function was returning horrible nonsense for the other 4 calendars. without realizing it, i'd let my calendar bias creep in and assumed the calendar's were all the same as far as years were concerned. gregorian 2-jan actually falls into different calendar years depending on the calendar (of course, they're different freaking calendars). and the tests were only reporting whether the getYear function "worked" by checking if the year was a positive integer, no eyeball comparisons against the year bits of the formatted date strings. there's a lesson here some where.

so better grab the new code and maybe give the calendars a good poking at to make sure no other cultural bias is left in it.

February 22, 2005
i seem to have datetime on the brain this month. one of the trickier things i've been trying to get a handle on was how to calculate japanese "rokuyo". what's "rokuyo"? well, let me tell you....

a lunar calendar was used in japan from the 14th to the 19th century. that calendar had a six day week and those six days were known as rokuyo. and like any other calendar system, each day had a name and a particular meaning (you do know that the english weekdays are named after one of the seven "planets" of ancient times?). and of course, each day had a significance:

  • sakigachi good luck in the morning, bad luck in the afternoon
  • tomobiki good luck all day, except at noon
  • sakimake bad luck in the morning, good luck in the afternoon
  • butsumetsu Unlucky all day, as it is the day Buddha died
  • taian 'the day of great peace', a good day for ceremonies
  • shakku bad luck all day, except at noon

while i'd guess few people would admit to closely adhering to this system, it does invoke some strange "better safe than sorry" behaviors. for instance, some hospital patients in japan won't agree to be discharged on butsumetsu day, as it's regarded as being very unlucky. rather they'd stay the extra 24 hours to be discharged on a lucky taian day.

the calculations for determining rokuyo turn out to be surprisingly difficult. in fact, the only published code i ever saw for this was developed by Eirik Rude, a cf developer (at that time living in japan). the complexity comes from the need to calculate lunar months (remember the old japanese calendar?). since i wanted to integrate this functionality with our existing icu4j-based calendars, i poked thru the lunar calendars (chinese, islamic and hebrew) that i knew about to see if we could use any of these. of course, the old japanese lunar calendar was basically the lunisolar chinese calendar. using Eirik's basic logic and the icu4j library i was able to considerably reduce the code's complexity (the complexity's still there, but i pushed it down into the icu4j java library where smarter people than i have already dealt with it).

the rokuyo testbed is here and the i18n calendars package incorporates this new functionality (pick japanese calendar from the select). and this is a good resource if you want to read more about rokuyo.

February 21, 2005
gonzo journalist gone
CNN's reporting that one of the icons of my youth, hunter s. thompson, committed suicide at his home in colorado on sunday.

oh my.

January 31, 2005
iraqis got sand
man, those voters in iraq have got sand. after weeks of violence, threats targeted directly at the election process, suicide bombings on the day of the election (CNN reported that one polling station was attacked by a suicide bomb in the morning but folks were back voting in the afternoon), they still turned out in the millions. that's like a resounding "up yours" to the terrorists. this is truly admirable.

and i used to hem and haw over bad traffic/bad weather on election day.

interesting contrast between the "international" coverage by CNN and BBC. CNN laid it on pretty thick with a special report full of their big gun reporters (i guess it was also for the US as well, they had some domestic anchor leading the show, she led into each story with some kind of smarmy/trivializing line, rankled me no end). BBC had some iraqi election coverage (one reporter was parading around empty streets thumping on his flak jacket--like we couldn't see the darned thing against his light colored shirt) but then switched to covering the michael jackson trial. oh my.

ps: "got sand" is an old western (as in cowboy) slang meaning to have guts, courage, or toughness.

January 19, 2005
interesting BBC news article on the "extinction" of minority languages. according to the article, one of the world's 6,000 languages will be lost every two weeks. and what's lost is sometimes irreplaceable even by one of the world's steam roller languages (english, chinese, french, etc.). for instance the Inuit language has a bunch of verbs for the word "know", covering various "flavors" of "knowing something"--"utsimavaa" - meaning somebody "knows" from direct experience to something like "nalunaiqpaa" meaning someone's "no longer unaware of something".

the article goes on to claim that welsh is a "great example", citing the existance of welsh porn. i guess they forgot about the irish.

anyway something to think about.

Puijilittatuq? why that's an Inuktitut (eskimo) word meaning "he does not know which way to turn because of the many seals he has seen come to the ice surface". man that's some kind of efficient communication.

December 24, 2004
Gajan Kristnaskon
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Yukpa, Nitak Hollo Chito
Afvcke Nettvcakorakko
Mitho Makosi Kesikansi
En frehlicher Grischtdaag unen hallich Nei Yaahr!

Mele Kalikimaka & Hauoli Makahiki Hou
Mata-Ki-Te-Rangi. Te-Pito-O-Te-Henua
La Maunia Le Kilisimasi Ma Le Tausaga Fou

สุขสันต์วันคริสต์มาส และสวัสดีปีใหม่
Selamat Hari Natal dan Tahun Baru
Selamat Hari Natal
Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon
Chuc Mung Giang Sinh - Chuc Mung Tan Nien

Natale hilare et Annum Nuovo!
Buone Feste!
Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath ur!
Nollaig Shona Daoibh Athbhliain Faoi Mhaise Daoibh
Nollaig chridheil huibh
Nadolig LLawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda
Wesolych Swiat i Szczesliwego Nowego Roku
Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!
Joyeux Noël! Bonne Année!
Glædelig Jul og godt nytår
God Jul og Godt Nyttår
Bon nadal i feliç any nou!
Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo

Geseende Kerfees en 'n gelukkige nuwe jaar

April 22, 2004
u.s. hispanics prefer english news?
i was a bit surprised by the results of a Pew Hispanic Center survey reported by CNN. it seems a majority of u.s. hispanics actually prefer to get their new from english language sources. CNN's quoting the report as saying "over time immigrant Latinos steadily migrate from Spanish to English media". sorts of takes some of the wind out of the sails of one my reasons for going the G11N route in web developement, the u.s.'s "backyard" spanish speaking market though that doesn't belay the fact that companies are still spending dough on non-english advertizing.

something i guess i should look into some more.

December 17, 2003
OT: joel on software on biculturalism
i really enjoy reading joel on software articles and since no one seems to have mentioned this one, i thought i talk it up a bit. this week's is on biculturalism (its actually a review of a book by eric "i-love-a-good-controversy" raymond) and while it deals with two programming cultures (unix and windows) it does serve as a very good reminder about the importance of trying to understand "cultures" other than one's own.

i've lived in bangkok for more than 20 years and have had my nose rubbed in thailand's culture all the while, my east coast american cultural skin has been rubbed clean off in places. perhaps because of this i don't find it all that hard to get into other cultures while i develop cf applications. its "normal" for me to make an app come out of the gate i18n. but you certainly don't have to live 20 years in some place other than your hometown to get an i18n mindset, all have you to do is not be so "provinicial" and recognize that there's other places in the world than what you have in your frontyard--there are also a lot of messy technical details but that's another story.

in any case, the article's a good read, my ranting aside.