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  • Michael Krakovskiy 9:00 am on February 11, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: architect, Berberov, , car accident, Chocolate, Declaration of Independence, Dog, , Lion, Lions, Megafauna, National symbols of Singapore, , Pit bull, Pitbull, , Roy Horn, , Siegfried & Roy, Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter, , , ,   

    Perfectly Safe 

    My wife’s friend’s pet is a female Pitbull rescued from a dog shelter. Having a 4 year old daughter and two cats I do not approve of pet Pitbulls, or in fact any large dogs bred for attack/defense duty: Rottweilers, German Shepherds, etc. There are other horse-sized dogs capable of grievous harm, but since they were bred for other purposes, like pulling sleds/rescuing people, they are somewhat safer.

    But any Pitbull owner will tell you that their dog is “perfectly safe”. No amount of statistics will persuade them that “shnookums” can rip off a toddler’s face or maul a person or kill a cat. I always tell them about “Chekhov’s gun“. The genetic memory of dogs bred for attacking might be dormant most of the time, but you never know what might activate it.

    Yet, there are always people out there who underestimate animals, like that woman who had a pet chimp and ended up on the front page of the Post. I’m sure that chimp used to be perfectly reasonable previously. Chimps are seemingly cuddlier than Pitbulls, aren’t they?

    Even professionals are sometimes underestimating animals. You probably heard about the tragic death of Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter. He made a career out of teasing dangerous animals on camera and yelling “whoa, crikey” when they lunged at him. He was done in by a stingray, a docile and non-threatening creature.

    When you take an unorthodox position about safety of something, there’s alway a chance that your death will be tragically ironic.

    For instance, if you rail hard against seat belt laws and die in a car accident in which everyone wearing seat belts walked away from, people will talk. Or poor ol’ Dr. Atkins, promoting the high fat diet dies of heart attack (while weighting 258 pounds). To me, these cases, while ironic, are not absolutely moronic. A lot of people became healthier on the Atkins diet, and a small number of people were killed by properly worn seatbelts.

    But when it comes to dealing with wild animals, thinking that they are “perfectly safe if you know what you are doing” – there’s no such thing. If you hang out with wild animals long enough, chances are they’ll kill you. Or at least will try to.

    A prime example is Roy Horn, and his tiger accident. It’s not like The Simpsons writers did not predict it. While I was not surprised that a tiger could do harm to Roy (even if he was “carrying” Roy offstage to “save” him), I was very much surprised at what level of medical treatment millions of dollars and fame can get you. They performed a decompressive craniectomy, a procedure that involves removing a quarter of a skull top and storing it in an abdominal cavity(!) for a while to relieve pressure in the brain. I doubt that an HMO patient would last long enough after a tiger attack.

    The worst tiger story that comes to mind though is from the Soviet times. There was this guy by the name of Berberov, an architect. He kept a lot of animals in his apartment, but really achieved fame when he raised a lion cub. The lion, named King, lived in a city apartment with Berberov, his wife, kids and a host of other animals (including a wildcat). The lion starred in a number of Soviet films and they wrote a book titled “Don’t be afraid, it’s a lion.” The lion was shot by a policeman when it got away and tried to play with some kid’s dog.

    Things were about to get worse. Like the Simpsons, the Berberovs decided to raise an new cat. The Simpsons got Snowball II, the Berberovs – King II. Mr. Berberov died of a heart attack, but his wife insisted on keeping the lion in the apartment still. It ended up badly – the lion, provoked or otherwise, attacked the wife. Her son tried to restrain the lion, which in turn, with a swat of a paw killed him by breaking his neck and scalping. Once again, a policeman shot and killed the lion. The puma, which escaped in the melee was also shot and killed.

    What’s a worse idea than keeping a lion in a city apartment? Living with grizzly bears, of course. This lunatic tried to do just that and ended up mauled and half-eaten:

    “In the Werner Herzog-directed documentary, Treadwell is shown singing and reading poetry to grizzlies, calling them names like Mr. Chocolate, and even petting one on the nose.

    Experts say Treadwell was an example of how not to behave around these animals.”

    The right to risk ironic death and/or injury, is somewhere in the Declaration of Independence. It falls under liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    Thank you for sticking with my rant. Here’s a song about Pitbull Teriers from one of my favorite movies – “Black Cat White Cat“:

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 5:40 pm on December 24, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: architect, Banksy, , , , famous graffitti artist, , graffitti artist, , , , Human development, , Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Maslow's pyramid, Microformat, Personal development, , , , , ,   

    Deadprogrammer’s Hierarchy of Web Needs 

    I recently received a phone call from a recruiter. He wanted to lure me away to some “big company” that still had “small company feel” to participate in a “redesign of a major website”. He felt like all of these things, as well as “a well stocked kitchen” were big selling points.

    I am a veteran of many website redesigns, major and minor. I’ve come to dread the word “redesign” because very frequently it meant taking a perfectly good website and making it significantly worse, and then through major struggles making it marginally beter. In the past I wrote a rather bloated article titled “The Russian Tea Room Syndrome” about this. Today I would like to write a bit more about this, as this topic rarely leaves my mind and my life.

    Earlier in my career, I had very little influence over the redesign process, but this is changing. This is the primary reason why my job title has the shameful word “Architect” in it: I write code and configure servers, but I want my say in strategery as well.

    So, Michael, you might ask, what is the problem with redesigns? Aren’t redesigns about making websites better? Well, many redesigns suffer from not following IBM’s famous motto.

    IBM has one of the best corporate mottos ever: CRUSH and DESTROY. Uh, I mean THINK. They even give out props with the word “THINK” on it and publish THINK magazine.

    Many redesigns happen simply as a knee jerk reaction: oh, look company X is doing Y and using Z. When you sit in a meeting and somebody is describing a redesign purely in terms of things other people do, you are likely in trouble. No thinking is involved at all.

    But sometimes it’s the type of thinking that is going on that is the problem. You have to think about the relative importance of things.

    I have a picture by famous graffitti artist Banksy hanging on my wall. It is a metaphor about true and false importance.

    In 1943 a Brooklyn College professor Abraham Maslow outlined what is now known as Maslow’s Hierarchy: a pyramid that ranks human needs. It looks like prior to him nobody really gave a lot of thought to relative importance of pooping and morality. Well, maybe a little – there’s a Russian idiom for a person of untrustworthy nature that originated during WWI when soldiers relieved themselves in rows, next to specially dug trenches: “I would not take a dump next to this person”. Also see “I hope they serve beer in hell

    Here’s Maslow’s pyramid in all of its glory:

    I decided I’d come up with the hierarchy of web needs:

    standard adherence: strict XHTML, CSS, etc

    choice of technology: language, CMS, OS, cloud/servers, etc

    other features: widgets, games, microformats

    multimedia: video, podcasts, interactive flash

    design: graphical elements, typography, pleasing layout

    semantic web: metadata, tagging

    usability: text size, image size, logical layout, uncluttered interface, site name/urls, browser support

    community features: comments, ratings, feeds

    googliness: search, speed, security

    content qualities: usefulness, interest, freshness, uniqueness

    content: text, images, links

    In my opinion unsuccesful redesigns happen when people start from the wrong end of the pyramid (always skipping the first step: I’m yet to meet anybody with power who thinks about these things are important).

    I will expand on this in my next post.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 4:58 pm on July 26, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , American Federalist Party, architect, Caribbean, Constitutional Convention, Eliza, Federalist Papers, Federalist Party, first federal government, first Treasury secretary, George Washington, , , Political philosophy, , ,   

    Alexander Hamilton 

    From National Book Award winner Ron Chernow, a landmark biography of Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father who galvanized, inspired, scandalized, and shaped the newborn nation.

    Ron Chernow, whom the New York Times called “as elegant an architect of monumental histories as we’ve seen in decades,” now brings to startling life the man who was arguably the most important figure in American history, who never attained the presidency, but who had a far more lasting impact than many who did.

    An illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, Hamilton rose with stunning speed to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp, a member of the Constitutional Convention, coauthor of The Federalist Papers, leader of the Federalist party, and the country’s first Treasury secretary. With masterful storytelling skills, Chernow presents the whole sweep of Hamilton’s turbulent life: his exotic, brutal upbringing; his brilliant military, legal, and financial exploits; his titanic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and Monroe; his illicit romances; and his famous death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July 1804.

    For the first time, Chernow captures the personal life of this handsome, witty, and perennially controversial genius and explores his poignant relations with his wife Eliza, their eight children, and numberless friends. This engrossing narrative will dispel forever the stereotype of the Founding Fathers as wooden figures and show that, for all their greatness, they were fiery, passionate, often flawed human beings.

    Alexander Hamilton was one of the seminal figures in our history. His richly dramatic saga, rendered in Chernow’s vivid prose, is nothing less than a riveting account of America’s founding, from the Revolutionary War to the rise of the first federal government.

     
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