Sunday, May 01, 2016

May First, 2016

I started my day by having coffee, showering, and meandering over to Multnomah Monthly Meeting.  I purchased a drawing by a guy in front of New Seasons, camped out on the sidewalk.  Carl Abbott, a Meeting Elder, agreed it could be seen as a horse.

Trevor was turning fifty today, and had arranged for a special event at Mother Foucault's, a bookstore specializing in esoteric tomes.  He has been collaborating with a small press in Baltimore, and another local artist, to bring out another edition of a forgotten early 1900s comic strip:  The Outbursts of Everett True.

Before Trevor's talk, I caught up with Jim Heuer, a stellar programmer and one of the principals with Evos SmartTools.  Jim has featured in this blog before, as a teacher of "truckology".

He knows a lot about the LTL ("less than truckload") shipping business especially, wherein companies make bids on shipper loads, and shippers choose whom to go with.  Optimizing is a difficult problem and humans still play a role, but computers make the job easier.

Jim's software smooths the whole process of working in the LTL business by turning it into a rule-based "computer game", meaning a set of processes and workflows based in computing.

By "game" I don't meant to imply anything simulated or unreal.  We're talking about real tonnage, and paying customers who use these tools every day.  Having a coherent Ux makes the work seem more game-like.  Computers have introduced gamification to the workplace.

We met at Costello's, the travelers' cafe on East Broadway.  I'd been watching a bunch of Youtubes recently, aimed at those involved in startups.  Earlier, I'd lurked in on the Stanford course about not screwing up your startup.

Is pouring old (and valuable) wine into a new startup model (bottle) a recognized way to go?  Could a new company form around Evos and take it to scale?  I wondered aloud if PSU's Business Accelerator might have any advice along these lines.

Jim is a brilliant programmer, and shares my Visual FoxPro heritage.  He uses Microsoft components to serve the web, in cahoots with Apache, but has moved a lot of the business logic over to Python, with which he communicates via Windows COM objects.  That's a diverse and inclusive skill set.  Hacking on Jim's code could be mind-expanding for a whole team. 

A lot of his data resides in the FoxPro DBF format (inherited from dBase), but with CodeBase exposing this format directly to Python.  Now that Jim has discovered MongoDB, he sees that may be his best path forward, for speed reasons in particular.

I like talking shop with Jim because we've used a lot of the same tools, but then he's a transportation engineer and knows a ton about the trucking business, which I do not, though I've been learning.

Trevor has been studying Egoism for quite awhile by now.  That school of thought was founded by Max Stirner and later picked up in the early 1900s by a colorful cast in Chicago and their Hobo College.  One of the faculty was named Sirfesser Willkesbarre.

The publisher, Underworld Amusements from Baltimore, was present for this unveiling, as was one of the artists who helped retouch and restore the Everett True comics.  I got all three collaborators to sign my copy.

Patrick helped lead the BSA troop at the beach and is back in town.  He came over to inspect the odd pooling of water in a mysterious place, far from any obvious source of water.  I called it ectoplasm as a joke.  We actually managed to find the cause, a pin-sized hole in a water jug.