A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Monthly Archives: December 2006

The new digs

Powerset’s new office in San Francisco. (I’m still in Michigan and haven’t seen it yet, but I hear it’s nice).

Forwords and Backwords

A ‘forword’ is a word in which all the letters are in alphabetical order, with no repeats. Here are the longest ones I could find, using a particular word list I have on my computer (all six letters):


If you allow repeats, there’s also ‘beefily’ and ‘billowy’ (at seven letters).

Backwords are the same, in reverse. The longest are (at seven letters):


If you allow repeats, there’s also “trollied,” at eight letters.

QuickNDirty Ruby code:

def inorder? (word)
    fmt = "a"*word.length
    srt = (word.unpack(fmt)).sort.uniq.reverse

while (line = gets) do
  puts line if inorder?(line) and (line.length >= 7)

Word become flesh

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six wingèd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

Liturgy of St. James

4th century, translated and adapted by Gerard Moultrie. Also posted at a simple desire.

Welcome, Tim Converse

Since the news is out about where Tim is going after he leaves Yahoo!, I’d like to welcome Tim Converse to Powerset. I’m looking forward to working with Tim again. We’ve had interesting working relationships in the past:

  • He worked for me writing code to parse RAP System execution code under C++,
  • I worked for him (and Joyce Park) doing webdev using Dynamorph, an unlamented language that preceded JSP and PHP and Ruby on Rails.
  • When he and Joyce were living a semi-entrepreneurial lifestyle in Chicago, I was a semi-advisor.

Since he left for the Bay area, I’ve had hopes that someday we might work together again. I didn’t expect that it would happen in this way, though, and I couldn’t be happier about it. His You still working on that? blogpost gave me my first inklings on how difficult, and how interesting, web search could be:

The real problem of web search is this: the user is going to type some incredibly random stuff into that search box there, and in response the engine should show the user about ten links, chosen from a set of four billion, that will make the user happy. (Tim later said he was only off by an order of magnitude or so).

It is remored that Tim will be responsible for developing the search engine for the upcoming lunar colony. (Imagined conversation. Dave: Open the pod doors, Hal. Hal: I’m sorry, Dave, I can’t do that. Too much spam). Well, enough silliness. Welcome, Tim!

Jane Oren Wend

I’ve been trying to find the right words for this, but I haven’t been able to. So I must just plunge in.

Last Saturday morning, my mother-in-law, Jane Oren Wend, died. Today was her burial and memorial service. The service was held at First Presbyerian Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan Wayne Conner read words by Jared (“Jerry”) Wend, her husband who died about three years ago, inviting people to remember, grieve and live in hope. We sang “All things bright and beautiful” to honor her love of the natural world, and her love for children. We read the beatitudes, Psalm 23 and John 14 for comfort. Bob Rasmussen, our dear friend and former pastor–and Jane’s dear friend and former pastor–gave a beautiful meditation on the hospitality of Abraham at the oaks of Mamre. How eager Abraham was to greet the stranger and protect the alien, which Bob connected to Jesus’s welcome to us, and Jesus’s call to us to welcome others; and then to Jane’s life, which was a life of welcome to many different people.

Dear wife Bess bravely led a time of remembrances, of how her mother continued to learn through her life: to better communicate with Jerry and others; and how her Alzhemier’s disease led her to one useful forgetting: Jane forgot that she “couldn’t sing,” and began to sing quite sweetly even as the disease progressed. Others talked about Jane’s love for people throughout the world, her quests for peace, and more about her welcoming spirit.

Several of us–specifically, Walt and Gretchen Erhardt and their children and in-laws (Martin, Cristoff and Wendy, Annie and Phil) and myself–sang John Newton’s “May the grace of Christ our savior” to Converse (“What a friend we have in Jesus”), the traditional sung benediction at North Presbyterian when Bob was pastor and Bess’s family and we were members. (This was the first time I’ve ever led a group of singers in a ‘performance,’ for what it’s worth).

We ended with Mason’s “Joy to the World.” In Jane’s last week, this was a tune that she responded to quite strongly, so it was a special joy to sing it today.

I first met Jane when I was hitchhiking from Goshen, Indiana to East Lansing, Michigan, returning from a summer trip to Mexico. It was 1976, and Bess and I had been corresponding over the summer. I thought I might be falling in love. I called from a gas station just off highway 131 in Kalamazoo to see if Bess would care to see me. Jane immediately came out to get me–welcoming this stranger into her home. Jane and Jerry put me up for the night (if I remember correctly) and paying bus fare up to East Lansing. We think Jerry knew then that we’d eventually marry. But how kind Jane was, how kind they both were.

Rest in peace, Jane.

Jane’s newspaper obituary:

WEND, Jane Oren (Carolyn )
Kalamazoo, MI
Passed away on Saturday, December 16, 2006 following a long illness. Jane was born on July 15, 1919 in Evart, MI, the daughter of the late Robert and Anna (Conway) Oren. Jane graduated from Western Michigan University and taught in Greenville, MI before joining the Navy as a Wave in World War II. She enrolled at the University of Michigan upon discharge from the service and there met the love of her life, Jared Scudder Wend who proceeded her in death in April of 2003. Jane and Jerry became engaged on May 15, 1947 while canoeing on the Huron River. They were married on January 1, 1948 and celebrated 55 years of marriage. Jane received a Masters degree from the University of Michigan and taught in various capacities before and while raising her family. She returned to Kalamazoo in 1956 when Jerry joined the faculty of Western Michigan University. Jane was a long-time member of the First and North Presbyterian Churches and was active in the lives of those congregations. Additionally, she was a strong advocate for social justice and was active in civil rights, peace, environmental, and other community efforts. For 12 years prior to her retirement, Jane worked for the Region 12 SAPE program and the Calhoun Intermediate School District. A high point of her work with SAPE was the development of a Family Communications curriculum which was utilized in the region for more than 20 years. Jane loved the out-of-doors and enjoyed camping, hiking, and canoeing. Lake Michigan breakfast picnics, blueberry picking, bird and wild flower hikes, and fresh homemade applesauce were shared freely with friends and family. She was a warm and caring friend who continued to share her love of people through her long battle with dementia. Jane was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Jared on April 3, 2003; a son, Robert Oren Wend; an infant daughter, Katherine; and 2 brothers, Robert and Horace Oren as well as two sisters-in-law, Ruth and Lois. She is survived by 4 children, Anne (Alexander) Lipsey of Kalamazoo, James (Kathleen Lake) Wend of Milwaukee, WI, Elizabeth (William) Fitzgerald of Kalamazoo, and Jean (Thomas Weeks) Wend of Ann Arbor; 9 grandchildren; 2 great-grandchildren; 2 brothers, William (Helen) Oren of Kokomo, IN, Ventry Conway Oren of Jackson, MI, sister-in-law Ellen Oren of Grand Rapids, MI; and several nieces, nephews, and cousins. Special thanks is extended to Linda Hunter and Gwen Lewis who provided Jane with special care during the last year of her life as well as Tammy, Beatrice, and all of the Amber Way family. A memorial service will be held 11 o’clock Friday at the First Presbyterian Church, 321 W. South St. There will be no visitation. Private burial will take place in Mt. Ever-Rest Cemetery. The family asks that memorial contributions be directed Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes, 913 E. Alcott, Kalamazoo, MI 49001 or the Life Enrichment Fund at Amber Way, 300 Golden Drive, Kalamazoo, MI. Arrangements by Langeland Family Funeral Homes, Memorial Chapel, 622 S. Burdick St. 269-343-1508.

Published in the Kalamazoo Gazette on 12/19/2006.

Harry Potter and the …

… Deathly Hollows.

You read it here, first.

Do I want to talk to you?

This cartoon explains an important fact about hobbies and other activities that require special communication protocols and equipment. You’ll want to make sure that the other people you talk to talk about things you want to talk about and are the kind of people you want to talk to.

I came close to becoming a ham radio operator back in the early 80’s until I realized that what ham radio operators talked about most (at least back then) was ham radio equipment.

The Man in the Ceiling (A review)

Jules Feiffer began writing children’s books in the early ’90s; his first children’s book, apparently somewhat autobiographical, was The Man in the Ceiling. Lovely wife got it out of the library, and I’ve read it this evening.

The story centers around Jimmy, a boy who isn’t much good in at sports (as a real boy should be), but who can draw cartoons very very well. He’s got a driven father, a forgetful mother who is a fashion designer; an older sister prone to tantrums, and a little overlooked sister prone to being a bit of a pest. And there’s an uncle who writes plays that consistently flop. This is a vivid exploration of the talents and troubles of a family, how people change, and how people face failure. The story’s denouement left me a bit breathless.

And of course, there’s Feifer’s wonderful cartoons, both drawn from his adult perspective, and Jimmy’s cartoons, which are exactly what you’d expect from a precocious talent.

I guess I’m gushing, but it’s well worth a read.

Snow Day

After a week or so of unseasonably warm weather, we woke up to heavy, sleeting rain and promises of up to a foot of snow. School is called off, and probably most work sites are closed (but not for us telecommuters).

It must be hard to live in temperate climes where you can’t experience the joy of a snow day; or, as we say here in Michigan, Snow Day!!!!!!! My brother, the UPS driver, would probably use a different set of punctuation.