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  • Michael Krakovskiy 9:00 am on February 10, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , And Brooklyn College, bonesman president, Brooklyn College, , Collegiate secret societies, Computer scientist, Connecticut, Dean Kamen, Don't Blame Me, Ed Fredkin, electric car, Elihu, Elihu Yale, Eulogean Club, George Bush Presidential Library, , , Human skull symbolism, , , Oscars, , , Princeton Review, Secret societies, Sheepshead Bay High School, Skull, Skull & Bones, Skull and Bones, Skull and Crossbones, Steve Guttenberg, The Tomb, Thousand Islands, , Yale,   

    Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Kodos 

    Who controls the British crown?
    Who keeps the metric system down?
    We do! We do!
    Who leaves Atlantis off the maps?
    Who keeps the martians under wraps?
    We do! We do!
    Who holds back the electric car?
    Who made Steve Guttenberg a star?
    We do! We do!
    Who robs the cave fish of their sight?
    Who rigs every Oscars night?
    We do! We do!

    “Treehouse of Horror VII”

    Who? Well, it’s the Stonecutters Masons Illuminati Knights Templar Members of the Eulogean Club. In case you haven’t noticed, in the past overlord election both candates were members of Skull and Crossbones. I wonder what it was like to be freshly tapped bonesmen at the time of the election. There must have been no suspense: one way or the other there would be a bonesman president.

    In my mind, as far as secret societies go, Skull and Bones is the coolest one. It found exactly the right balance of secrecy/publicity. What fun is it to be in a secret society that is so secret that nobody knows how cool it is? Bones have alway had a double standard: on one hand the members are sworn to absolute secrecy, on the other, the tapping process (invitation of new members) was almost always a very public act. Their meeting place is not a secret underground bunker, but a huge very well known, although mostly windowless clubhouse building, The Tomb. George Bush Presidential Library proudly shows a Bones yearbook photo, complete with a grandfather clock and (supposedly, but not likely) Geronimo’s skull stolen from the grave by Prescott Bush.

    Yearbook photos like this show up in the stranges places, like this livejournal community post. I was almost expecting to see Montgomery Burns (who’s known to be a member) in those pictures.

    The coolest amenity is not the Tomb or the loads of morally questionable and/or stolen stuff inside (there are reports that they stole and kept things like Elihu Yale’s tombstone and eat off of Hitler’s china). It’s their own fricking private island. It’s not in the most convinient or most secluded location – there are literally thousands of islands in Thousand Islands.

    My favorite quote from “Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power” is this:

    Guests sleep in cots in cabins-granted, some of them are double-bedded cots — if they can slumber through the blare of the tour boat that sometimes circles the island with a guide shouting through a megaphone, “And there is the secret island that belongs to Skull and Bones!”

    Yes, being “secret” like this, famously and loudly is probably the Bones’ greatest achievement. That, and the three Bonesman presidents of the United States. And the innumerable CIA directors, senators, judges and other notables.

    Anyway, a lot of people own islands, most of which are cheaper than an average Manhattan 2-bedroom apartment. Computer scientist Ed Fredkin has one and so does denim fetishist inventor Dean Kamen. And a lot of societies, secret or otherwise have cool clubhouses (at Harvard, even The Harvard Lampoon has a cool castle). See, you don’t need to belong to free-world-ruling elite to enjoy cool stuff like that.

    Fancy societies with awesome amenities seem to be a perogative of those with Ivy League education. I really don’t have that. It’s wasn’t Andover and Yale for me. It was Sheepshead Bay High School (one of the so-called dirty dozen, 13 worst schools in New York) and Brooklyn College.

    I don’t agree with those pooh-poohing American educational system, as my experience with it was very positive. In the high school I was able to take many college level classes with many outstanding teachers. And Brooklyn College is not on Princeton Review’s top 10 best value colleges list for nothing.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 5:40 pm on December 24, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Banksy, , Brooklyn College, , 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 1:03 pm on July 16, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Brooklyn College, Campus Sugar Bowl restaurant, , Dark Horse Comics, , Fossil, , Ingersall building, Monster movies, , Paleontology,   

    To the Moon, Alice 

    I recently visited my alma mater, Brooklyn College. Some things changed for the better, like the gorgeous new library addition, some for the worse, like the Campus Sugar Bowl restaurant replaced by Starbucks.

    On the other hand, the science classrooms and offices in the old and new Ingersall building seem to have been frozen in time, down to the wall niches. You see, most floors have these glassed in niches which the various departments fill. Compsci displays books written by professors, Geology shows off a collection of minerals and fossils (a fancy one at that), Biology has a series of stands with pickled and dried specimens that I think dates to the 1940s, like something out of a Hellboy comic.

    The Physics department has a very old, dusty and ironic display, seemingly not opened since the 80s:

     
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