Voxer Lite available at the Apple App Store

свети георгиПравославни икониMary and I have been at RebelVox for over three years now (That helps to explain how few posts there have been here for awhile). The application we have been working on, Voxer, is now available at the App Store if you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. It provides Live Voice Messaging… Download

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Mary on October 11th 2010 in Uncategorized

RebelVox gets some attention

Just a couple of brief pointers. Earlier this month, RebelVox presented publicly for the first time at eComm. Mary posted about eComm on the RebelVox Blog. And today, a we got a mention on TechCrunch, which includes a video that gives a feel of what we have been working on. The video is also on the RebelVox website.

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Mary on March 27th 2009 in Uncategorized

Voicemail and Email

Mary and I are both now blogging periodically on the RebelVox site. Here is my first entry, describing some of the limitations of how voicemail works.

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Mary on December 22nd 2008 in RebelVox, Technologies

Jim’s first Heisenbug

Back to a theme of problem solving. In this case – the interesting part is the problem – not how I found it…

I was in college, working with ‘Real Hessenberg Matrices’ – which are generally sparse matrices. So it was reasonable to read in the values from punched cards. As I recall, some of them were 500×500.

I wrote a bunch of code to calculate eigenvalues (the real task was comparing different algorithms – optimized an not with various compilers, and counting instructions, to evaluate what order things really were, and at what point the size was overwhelmed by the order.) The program would work – and then not work. And it failed in the ugliest way imaginable.

The problem turned out to be in the routine (which I was given by my advisor) to load the sparse matrices.

The values came in four to a card (yes – punched cards). The Read statement that read them was something like:

READ (5)  i1, j1, x(i1,j1), i2, j2, x(i2, j2), i3, j3, x(i3, j3), i4, j4, x(i4, j4)
5 FORMAT (i2, i2, f7.2, i2, i2, f7.2, i2, i2, f7.2, i2, i2, f7.2))

This said (cleverly) read in the coordinates, and then the value, for four elements of the matrix. So a typical card looked like:
01 01 12345.22 01 07 12346.00 99 99 12344.11 50 50 12341.12
This loaded X(1,1), X(1,7), x(99,99), x(50,50)

It drove me crazy for way too long. Turned out that there were not a multiple of four elements in the sparse matrix. The last card only had two sets of values on it:

01 01 12345.22 01 07 12346.0

Cleverly, the READ statement put the value 0.0 at location 0, 0 of the NxN matrix.  That location was somewhere in my code… It would work for awhile – and would work on any matrix with a multiple of four data elements.
The fix was trivial (because my thesis was almost done and I was tired of school). I replaced the last data card (above) with:

01 01 12345.22 01 07 12346.0 01 07 12346.0 01 07 12346.0

Yes – repeating the last value two times…

Next installment – the infinite loop that ate my entire budget of $150 of computer time at the UCSF data center.

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Mary on December 12th 2008 in Problem Solving, Technologies

Grand Teton Music Festival

We are in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a long weekend for a management retreat for Rebelvox. A year ago we met here for a week to kick off our company, and have returned to spend some time on strategy and planning, and to have some fun. The fun has included floats down Flat Creek, walks, good food, and a bar-b-que. But one evening we went to the Grand Teton Music Festival as guests of Tom’s friend (and now our friend) Pete Selkowitz. Last year we had been here during the festival – but hadn’t managed to schedule a concert. This year when Pete learned we were going to be in town, he made the arrangements. The Festival’s music director is Donald Runnicles, the current music director and principal conductor of the San Francisco Opera. The program included a piece by Oliver Messiaen, and Gustav Holst’s most well known piece, The Planets. The Messiaen featured the women of the San Francisco Festival Chorale, and a variety of keyboard instruments, including a Celeste, and an Ondes Martenot. The Ondes Martenot is an early electronic instrument which sounds a lot like a Theremin. The Messiaen was more texture than melody. The various keyboard instruments, and the choir, adding to that texture. It was beautiful. We were talking with a couple of the musicians before the concert – one of the violist was saying how interesting it is that their don’t seem to be that many pieces by Holst – pretty much limited to The Planets, and Saint Paul Suite. I mentioned a couple of band pieces (he wrote  two suites for band). The violist laughed – because of course band pieces wouldn’t be on the top of his mind. There are other pieces – but these four pieces are by far the best known. A special treat with this performance was a video show that was displayed as the orchestra performed – produced by Jet Propulsion Lab, with images from various space missions. I loved the performance of the orchestra. I was giddy during the better known movements (Jupiter and Mars), but enjoyed it all. The orchestra is made of wonderful musicians from around the US. They come in for one to six weeks of the festial. They feel like an orchestra that has played together for a long time – and many of these musicians come back year after year – so there is some truth to that. The rest of my party particularly enjoyed the images. They are incredible – and the very fact that we could send probes in to space to get the picture of a volcano eruption on the moon of one of the planets (among other images) is phenomenal.  But for me – it was about the music. I want to come back next year – and attend more concerts.

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Mary on July 27th 2008 in Arts Commentary

Madison, Wisconsin

Mary has commented on our trip to Madison (Mary Panttaja). Madison is a great University town. We had ice cream one evening near the Memorial Union, looking out over the lake. Lot’s of people eating hot dogs, drink beer. Lot’s of great bike trails – we rode one to two hours every night.

And one night we saw fireflys as we walked back to our bikes. Hadn’t seen them in years.

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Mary on July 25th 2008 in Travel

Oregon Shakespeare Festival – Fences and The Clay Cart

Over our years of coming to the festival, we have seen five or six of August Wilson’s play. He wrote a cycle of plays, one for each decade of the 20th century. They have always been a highlight of our week. Fences is set in the 50s. The acting was perfect. The set incredible. The story is somewhat difficult. As you watch the lead mistreat one of his children, and mistreat his wife, you have a hard time at the end accepting his wife’s observation that he was doing the best that he could. But as his son came around to this observation, so did I. I was intrigued that though he had an affair, and that affair was important in showing his faults, it wasn’t what the story was about. It in some ways wasn’t important to the story. On the same day we saw The Clay Cart. This is an Indian play. The new artistic director wants to present new traditions to his audience, including world theater. The production is beautiful (and as always, the actors wonderful). The story is not elaborate, and fits with Shakespeare’s comedies with mistaken identify, and one person who is killed – but isn’t really dead. I wish I had more context for the play. I am thinking back to my comments on Our Town, and realizing that I need to make sure that I don’t believe that with this play I now understand Indian culture. I have gotten some small glimpse – but don’t know nearly enough to understand how to extrapolate my knowledge. It was interesting that on the same day that I saw Fences, this is another play where there is what we would view as infidelity (it is mostly a love story – but it turns out the man is married). But again, that infidelity is not really essential to the plot. Friday was also the opening of the outdoor theater season. We had viewed all of the outdoor plays earlier in the week in their last preview. But there is an extra buzz around the festival, and for dinner, the Feast of Will. This is a benefit dinner put on by the local Lion’s Club. We enjoyed a chicken dinner sitting in the park, with bagpipes and a choir. And after dinner, the Green Show included the renaissance dancing and musicians that we used to watch when we first started attending the festival 20 years ago. It was still enjoyable. Along with much of the rest of the audience – I had missed this music and dancing.

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Mary on June 14th 2008 in Arts Commentary, Uncategorized

Oregon Shakespeare Festival – Comedy of Errors

We have met a man several days in our hotel breakfast room. He is a grandfather, and was surprised that we had our grandchildren with us. He views this as a place for adults. Thursday was one of our days for the kids. There are lot’s of things for our kids to do, but the highlight is taking them to my sister-in-law’s ranch.

We take turns babysitting the girls during the plays. The time may be spent swimming (difficult this year because the 19 month old is not big on swimming), swinging and climbing at the playground, walking the labyrinth, having ice cream, and sleeping. And they certainly enjoy meals with us (often lunch in the park with everyone picking up their favorites on the way. If there are bits of rice – or whatever – dropped on the lawn, it doesn’t matter). And in the evening the green show. With the green show, they get a feeling of performance. If the music is lively, they may dance. And there is usually some snack while sitting on the lawn.

In the morning there is a breakfast room at our Inn. That allows us to slowly gather as different waves of people wake up, and have something available for the girls as soon as they need something. Sometimes they are early risers, other times, the last (ok – almost the last) to arrive. All in all, the girls are entertained, and throughout the week get quality time with aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins. It is fun watching the different way that they interact with familiar people other than their parents (and for that matter fun to watch how they interact with their parents).

Ah – but back to the ranch. Melinda has horses, dogs, cats, goats, cows, deer, chickens, turkeys, doves and a camel (I am sure I missing something). There is always a walking tour – this year we arrived at feeding time (perhaps it is always feeding time), and my older granddaughter got to ride on Hank. Hank is 30, and used to be my horse.

But we did come here for the theater. We only had one play on Thursday. We saw Comedy of Errors. I view Comedy of Errors as  a diversion. It is about two sets of twins, separated soon after birth, searching for each other. They end up in the same far off town (in this case, in the old west).There is confusion as they are taken for each other. In the end it all works out (I hope I didn’t ruin that for you).

This is a great company of actors. I have mentioned this before, but having the depth of actors to populate an entire play with actors of this caliber is incredible. This acting was good, the physical bits were brilliant (sliding down stairs, use of a lariat, well timed chases). Though the placement of this is the old west was entertaining, it wasn’t totally satisfying. Some of the humor was not amusing. I have never been a fan of fat jokes, and this production was full of them. But the play is a diversion, and this production filled that role.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival – Our Town

I remember very well reading and studying Our Town when I was in high school. I hated it. Nothing happened. There was this narrator on stage telling me the story. The speeches didn’t feel like anything people would actually say. So, I was not looking forward to this production. Then I read the director’s (Chay Yew) comments on the production. He also wasn’t impressed with it when he read it in high school. But was excited to be directing it. So I went in open minded (mostly).There were many things that helped me to like this production. I now have a better sense of theater history (The play was written in 1937 and won a Pulitzer). The use of a ‘chorus’ has been a tradition in the theater forever, but this chorus is a bit different. The stage manager is creating the play, not just commenting on it. I now understand that distinction. The company provides an incredible pool of actors, which allowed the town drunk to be played by Dan Donohoe, who was Iago the night before. The cast in this production was phenomenal. And Anthony Heald was great as the stage manager.I now have a better sense of Thornton Wilder (I haven’t read all of his writings, but have read a couple of his books). I think Our Town was not a great introduction for a high school student to Wilder – but two of his books were written after I studied Our Town in high school. I now know about New England. When I was in high school, I had once been out of California to Nevada. I have now been to New England many times on business and vacation, and lived close by in Poughkeepsie New York for three years. The sense of history – especially in the graveyard – is hard (though not impossible) to find in California. That New England sense of history is important to the details (though not the substance) of this play.We went to a talk by one of the actors before the play. The actor who was supposed to be there forgot, and they literally dragged in an actor off the street. Dan Haley is in his second year at the festival. He is from Idaho (and knows my cousin Dean Panttaja who is chairman of the theatre department at University of Idaho). In response to a question about a previous years play, he observed that the director has to be careful with their decisions. They certainly need to be creative – and present their message (within the context of the playwrights message). But the director also has to be aware of the impact on the audience. In this production, the two lead children didn’t work for me. I am sure that they presented what the director was looking for, but I was taken out of the play by their performances.  The young woman spoke with a lilting indian accent. The young man seemed much older than the character (though of course they were in a ‘play’ directed by the stage manager).  The performances were fine – but for a moment, I was taken out of the play.I won’t claim to ‘understand’ Our Town, but I did understand enough to have enjoyed some conversations with my family afterward. 

Annual Sojourn to Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Coriolanus, Othello

We have again traveled to Ashland for our annual visit to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. We arrived Tuesday and saw our first two plays: Othello and Coriolanus. The first day notwithstanding, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is not ONLY about Shakespeare. Of our 9 plays this year (yes, 9), four are Shakespeare. It is opening week (for the summer season) this week, so there is extra buzz in Ashland. The Green Show has changed this year – last night was an enthusiastic group playing Marimbas, with music of Zimbabwe.  Later this week the schedule says that the period dancers and musicians that were here until about eight years ago are returning (some of the musicians have been here all along – but no longer playing period instruments). I am looking forward to that. Coriolanus is a timely play of a man groomed to be a soldier, who is unable to transform in to a politician. Reviews of the play often characterize him as being unsympathetic to readers or reviewers, but this production did give me a connection to, and sympathy for Coriolanus. It was staged in the New Theatre, in the round. The stage was spare – but the features they had (including a couple of trap doors) were used effectively. Coriolanus was clearly shaped by his mother to be a soldier (she made it clear that the honor might be greater if he failed to return from battle. But ultimately it was her appeal that led him to pardon Rome, and ultimately led to his death. I was in the action – literally. I was on an aisle – several times there were soldiers or townspeople on the steps next to me. We had coffee with one of the actors (who in fact had been standing next to me on the stairs), and he said that they had trouble with some of the student groups reaching out and touching actors.The scene changes were quite effective. There was little to move around – and several of them took the lights down, and immediately brought them up in another section of the theatre. There was not time to relax, you were instantly taken to the next scene. It brought more life to the action of mob scenes and battle scenes. Coriolanus is killed in the last scene (I hope I didn’t ruin that for you).   As the lights come up and the actors gather themselves for the curtain call (with no curtain to allow a delay to gather yourself), the actress who played Coriolanus’ mother (Robynn Rodriquez) checks on the actor who played Coriolanus (Danforth Comins). It feels like a quick look to make sure the actor is ok. He takes an extra second, then looks up and winks at her. Coriolanus is gone for the day, and he is back.Coriolanus focused on the manipulator (Coriolanus who was created by his mother, and plays out his role). Othello is about the manipulator, Iago.It is his play, and the play unfolds exactly to his plan. Again, a spare stage used effectively.I was realizing how much the festival has shaped my view of the theatre. Over the last 20 years I have seen about 120 plays here. Although I have seen plays in other venues (six years at Cal with Mary a theatre major, living in Poughkeepsie, and getting to Broadway on occasion, our daughter’s high school years with her in several plays, several years of Mary being on the Sixth Street Playhouse board of directors…), this does represent a huge percentage of my theatre experience. It has created my expectations of theater. It makes it easy to bring our family back year after year.