Jason Specland: An Occasionally Funny Software Guy

Making it up as I go along. Always.

Page 4 of 13

Reading About Moses (The One Who Parted Brooklyn, Not the Red Sea)

I’m doing research for a project involving the history of transportation in New York City.  Naturally, one can’t discuss such a history without talking extensively about Robert Moses.

I’m a big eBooks fan, but unfortunately, the books I was looking for on this particular topic aren’t available in electronic form.  I received the physical manifestations of these books today, and I instantly realized yet another advantage of eBooks.

Two books about Robert Moses, "The Power Broker" and "Robert Moses and the Modern City: The Transformation of New York."

Thousand page tomes aren’t quite so intimidating in electronic form.  Yikes!

Improv Words of Wisdom

Please don’t slap my back and say, “Got your back.” If you have to let me know that you do, you probably don’t. — David Razowsky, from an interview on the “My Nephew is a Poodle” improv blog.

Computer Geeks to the Left, Improv Nerds to the Right

Since I was tired of conflating my two online personalities here, I’ve created a new blog about SharePoint and other technologies that I work and fool around with.  If you wish to follow it, you can find it at http://www.jayspecthetech.com.  If you’re Twitter inclined, you can follow @jayspecthetech. The rest of you improv nerds and people actually interested in my personal life, you can stay right where you are.  🙂

Never Tell Me the Odds

Like many, I purchased a Power Ball ticket today.  I usually buy a single Quick-Pick ticket for every drawing for which the prize is greater than $100 million.  I know the statistics are way against me, but for $2 I can fantasize for a while about what it would be like to be utterly, ridiculously wealthy.

I used to wait for it to go to $175 million, so I’d have a positive expected value.  Then they changed the price of the Power Ball to $2, raising the expected value bar considerably higher.  Then I realized that the expected value calculation is meaningless since I’m not immortal, and drawings don’t occur every nanosecond.

Part of the fantasy relies on the fact that the odds are so utterly, completely remote that human beings can’t possibly conceive them.  So I tried a thought experiment to see if we can get the sheer incredible unlikelihood of winning into something I can comprehend.

Imagine you’re in a completely full football stadium, filled to the brim with 100,000 people.  They announce a raffle, in which they’re going to randomly pick a ticket, and whoever is sitting in that seat wins.  You’re one person in this football stadium.  How do you like your chances?  Not impossible, sure, but it’s not like you’re going to be the farm.

Now imagine that there are not one but ten, completely full to the rafters football stadiums, each filled with 100,000 people.  And they’re still going to pick only one seat from only one of these ten stadiums to see who wins.  Really try to imagine it… Ten football stadiums, filled utterly and completely with fans, all right next to each other.  (Oy, the traffic when this contest is over!)  How do you like your chances now?

Got that image in your head?  Feeling the sheer remoteness of winning a contest with this one-seat-in-ten-football-stadiums scenario?

Now imagine 1,752 completely full football stadiums.


Disturbingly Insightful Benji Quote of the Day

Me: I forgive you, Benjamin.

Benji: You don’t forgive me.

Me: Are you calling me a liar?

Benji: I’m calling you a parent.

Awesome Things my Friends are Doing: The Vo Vo Voting Song

I haven’t done an “Awesome Things my Friends are Doing” post in a while. It’s not because my friends aren’t doing awesome things. They not only do them, but they do them at quite astonishing frequency. I’ve just been lazy in relating the awesomeness to you. For that, I apologize.

But, I hope to make all that up to you now, by posting this: The Vo Vo Voting Song, by my musical improv teacher and mentor (and host of Marvel’s “The Watcher,” and inexhaustible source of awesomeness) Lorraine Cink and my East Side Orphan Riot teammate (and PITch host, and musical writer, and similarly physics-defying source of awesome) Ryan Dunkin.

I think it’s fun to watch their lips as they pronounce those runs of “vo” sounds.

My Dieting Willpower, in Various Situations

At work: Steel (Bring donuts to the meeting. See if I care.)
At the PIT: Iron (One beer after a show never hurt anyone…)
At home, normal: Zinc (I’ve been good today, I can have seconds if I want them.)
At home, during hurricane: Silly Putty (EAT ALL THE THINGS!)

More SharePoint Annoyances: User Field Defined in XML Not Appearing in ListData.svc REST/Odata Output

Here’s another one my improv peeps can ignore.

So here’s the deal: My company has declared that they’re going to be moving our SharePoint installation to Office 365 some time in the not-too-distant future. There go my farm solutions. Add to that the fact that SharePoint 2013 is deprecating the sandbox and the writing on the wall says I’d better learn JavaScript ASAP.

So I work on a sandbox solution (since I’m still on 2010) to deploy some lists, with an included web part that uses JavaScript to query ListData.svc (and do neat stuff with the interface using knockout).

I have a User field in one of the lists called “Owner.” However, when I query ListData.svc, it doesn’t appear. (No, it’s not deferred. It’s just not there. The OwnerId field isn’t there, either.)  I bang my head against the wall a bit.  Then I add another User field to my site columns, content type, and list in Visual Studio.  Still no dice.

Then I think to add a field using the plain-old web interface.  Suddenly it works.  Could I have been defining my User columns incorrectly all this time?

[sourcecode language=”xml”]


(I changed the name of the column, in case “Owner” was a reserved word in OData or something. Don’t judge! I was desperate!)

Apparently, all this time I’d been missing the List=”UserInfo” parameter in my list definitions. And the only… ONLY symptom I’ve ever seen from this is that the field doesn’t appear when queried via the REST interface.

Once again, SharePoint has driven me to distraction (and blog posting).

Get Out of Your Head By Making a Fist

Found on kottke.org by way of the Next Draft Newsletter:

Study: Athletes Perform Better Under Pressure When They Make a Fist With Their Left Hand

Apparently, the act of squeezing your left hand focuses the activity on the right hemisphere of your brain. The right hemisphere is focused on the mechanics of taking action. It also disengages the left hemisphere, which is where “freaking out under pressure” is concentrated.

Can this work for improvisers? It might be impractical to justify why you’re making a fist all the time. But maybe I’ll give it a try once or twice and see…

Upcoming Shows: 9/20/2012

I’m doing a lot of stuff this week at the Peoples Improv Theater. (123 E. 24th St., between Park and Lexington Avenues.)

PITch (Musical Improv open jam)
The PIT Underground
Thursday, September 20, 2012, 6 PM
Join me and some of my musical house team friends for an open jam of improvised musical mayhem. A perfect way to get your feet wet in a fun, low-pressure environment.

East Side Orphan Riot (Musical Improv)
The PIT Underground
Thursday, September 20, 2012, 8 PM
$5 (FREE if you get you attend PITch and get your hand stamped)
Watch us make up a brand new musical before your very eyes! Who needs a “score” or a “book” or “any idea what we’re actually going to do before we do it?” Followed by the sexily talented group “Harvey.”

The PIT Mainstage (Striker Theater)
Monday, September 24, 2012, 7 PM
It’s a massive puppet variety show! Watch us bring fur and felt to life in a completely silly manner. Special non-puppet guest star Glennis McCarthy of the Gorgeous Ladies of Comedy.

The PIT Underground
Monday, September 24, 2012, 9 PM
I team up once again with my non-musical house team buddies. For a raunchy good time, call 1-800-LONDON. Why raunchy? I don’t know. We’re like a bunch of high school kids when we’re together. But it’s funny, man.

I Trust… Beth White
The PIT Underground
Tuesday, September 25, 2012, 7 PM
In “I Trust…” The PIT’s amazing Donna Lobello picks a new partner with which to perform two-prov. Additionally, she brings in two other two-prov groups to share the evening with her. That’s where Kathryn and I come in. Our two-prov group, Marmalade, makes me so giddily happy it’s not funny. Well, actually, it is funny. That’s rather the point.


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