The Abstract Truth

Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

The Blues and The Abstract Truth

Posted by rbpasker on April 3, 2008

The title for my blog, “The Abstract Truth,” comes from the Oliver Nelson album The Blues and the Abstract Truth.

For me, TBATAT is one of those perfect albums, like Sgt Pepper’s, The Glenn Gould recording of the Goldberg Variations, and The Köln Concert by Keith Jarrett.

A perfect album is an indivisible singularity in the space-time continuum. The mind doesn’t separate one track from the other, and each phrase is a synecdoche not for the track, but for the entire album. As each song fades, the emotional response to the next song begins, even before the first note is heard. You cannot listen to a prefect album on shuffle play. Even Chuck Norris cannot separate Stolen Moments from Hoe-Down

Tonite, Freddy Hubbard, the trumpet player on TBATAT, plays at Yoshi’s new San Francisco venue. Over the last 19 years, have been to all of the jazz venues in SF, including such institutions as Jazz at Pearl’s (which seems to be closing as of April 2008), Biscuit and Blues, and Rassela’s, but these clubs never really drew international talent.

And for some unfathomable reason, the San Francisco Jazz Festival held most of its headline shows at the Masonic Hall, which has the absolutely worst acoustics in all of San Francisco. The last year I went to the Jazz Fest, I walked out of an Abbie Lincoln concert because the acoustics made it impossible to enjoy.

To hear the best Jazz in the San Francisco, one had to go to Yoshi’s in Oakland. I’ve been there at least 10 times. But having to travel to Oakland, in my mind, meant that San Francisco had ceded to Oakland not just its waterfront, but its jazz scene as well. So much for San Francisco as a world-class city.

My hope tonite is that Yoshi’s will live up to my expectations! The intimate Oakland venue has headline artists, great acoustics, no columns to block the view of the stage, comfortable seats, and reasonable food in the attached Japanese restaurant. If the SF venue even comes close to matching Oakland, you’ll find me there catching the best of the best.

Now excuse me while I put on TBATAT. You can get your own copy here.

Posted in personal | 2 Comments »

My photograph on Curbed

Posted by rbpasker on March 13, 2008

Yesterday, I was wondering what was happening in this lot next to my building building, so I sent Curbed this picture. They wrote back and said they would write a story. Here it is!

Its no art piece, but hey, it’s someplace on the internet besides my Flickr page 🙂

The Renwick Fully Revealed: Hot Chicks in the Sticks

Posted in personal | Leave a Comment »

My Letter Made Boing Boing Today!

Posted by rbpasker on March 5, 2008

See the “Update” section below the article.

Censorware that blocks BB mentioned in Denver Post piece on filtered WiFi at DIA – Boing Boing

Posted in personal | Leave a Comment »

Its Not About Open Source

Posted by rbpasker on January 20, 2008

Another blogger is using my post “JBoss Should never have happened” to bolster their claim open source won the app server war.

What I wrote was that BEA was tied up in its existing expensive pricing structure, and JBoss was cheaper. Even the JBoss people themselves knew this: when JBoss raised money, I assisted one of the VCs with due diligence. I saw the JBoss investor powerpoint presentation. It was not about open source being better for customers. It was about a lower total cost of ownership.

I don’t believe (and never wrote) that the “innovator’s dilemma attack” by JBoss on BEA was a result of JBoss being an open source product. And, indeed, IBM’s WebSphere is not an open source product, and unlikely will ever become one. Neither is SAP’s NetWeaver or Oracle’s OAS. IBM bought Geronimo to prevent JBoss from doing to WebSphere what JBoss was doing to BEA: undercut its prices.

There is another aspect that pundits attribute only to open source, and that is frictionless adoption.

When we made our products available for a free download, all you had to do was click through an ELU and register. But there were a few things we could have done to make life more difficult and chose not to do:

  • We never changed the URL of the download page. If you had the URL, you could download the software without going through any hoops, and we never prevented anyone from downloading new versions.
  • You could type anything into the registration page. We never validated any of the fields. Lots of people put in junk, but plenty more filled the boxes in with correct info.
  • The license manager was easily defeated. We never tried to make it foolproof. People who wanted to hack it found it pretty easy to do, and we were flattered when instructions turned up on a warez site!
  • We never used an obfuscator. Paul Ambrose used to say that because of the decompilers, writing software in Java was like playing open-faced, naked poker. Some people sent in workarounds to bugs which were obviously made through decompilation. We didn’t care. We even had a joke about customers decompiling the software: “It looks like this guy used transcendental meditation to figure out what’s wrong.” (We did obfuscate some code which we had licensed.)
  • All the documentation and tutorials were online, and that was one of our best marketing tools! Even before they tried the product, prospective customers could read everything about it and decide for themselves. Some people using competitive implementations of standard APIs wrote to us to say how much they appreciated our putting the documentation and tutorials online!

Should we have become an open source product? Well, we did talk about it, and there were a few strong proponents in engineering. But at the time, open source enterprise software was still a few years out, and there didn’t seem to be a compelling reason.

When JBoss started to show up, BEA should have taken proactive (rather than dismissive) measures by lowering the TCO and making adoption frictionless again. They didn’t necessarily have to open source the product (although they could have); they just had to get rid of the cost and friction motivation for new adopters. Hindsight is almost always 20/20. I’m not sure what we at WebLogic, Inc., would have done under the same circumstances.

Posted in personal, startups, tech, work | 1 Comment »

Respect your Competitors

Posted by rbpasker on January 20, 2008

Some people have used my post “JBoss should never have happened” to gloat about the demise of BEA and the rise of JBoss.

I’m sorry, but that’s bullshit.

Rather than being paranoid at our competitors, Paul Ambrose kept in touch with them. He had good working relationships with Ofer Ben-Shachar and Zack Rinat of Net Dynamics. He knew Joe Chung of ATG, paved the way for alliances with Vignette, and always spoke in awe of the big deals that Kiva Software landed. He never said a bad word about anyone, and always made sure that our database drivers worked as well with competitors’ server products as it did with ours. As the market shifted towards our standards-compliant product (which was the template for J2EE), he championed discussions with competitors about licensing our core server code to them.

That is not to say that he was not fiercely competitive. But the energy he gave off was always positive, and he drove us all to compete fairly and squarely by building better products and winning deals. He never saw it as a zero-sum game, where the only way we could win is if everyone else lost.

So imagine my surprise when, one day in 1998, after we uprooted a competitor in a big account, one of the engineers who had worked on the project came to me and said something to the effect of, “this is another nail in their coffin. We’re going to kick their ass, and drive them out of business.”

I was floored! I knew the both CEO and CTO of the company, and they were good people. We had met at conferences and sat on panels together. I didn’t want them to go out of business, and I channeled Paul and told him that if he wanted to keep winning, to go back to his desk and fix some bugs.

More recently, I was shocked to read the blog of a guy whose company was recently bought, as he lay into his (admittedly combative) competitors. He wrote (I’m paraphrasing here): “To all my competitors who didn’t get bought: you’re in trouble because there’s nobody left to buy you. It must be scary for you if your exit strategy is acquisition.” (Many details purposely left out for obscurity)

Here’s what I wrote him in private email:

dude, please be a little more gracious. there are still a hundred or more people out there who have been working their asses off for years and will have little or nothing to show for it. if they pull your beard, so what? maybe they’re desperate. but there’s no reason to rub it in their faces.

He wrote me back:

I wish I could be more gracious. Unfortunately, my graciousness now gets translated by our competitors as an invitation to attack us, and when that affects the people that work for me, I feel like I have a choice other than to kick them sufficiently hard in the teeth so that they don’t do it again.

Five hours later, he wrote me back again, and said he’d taken the post down.


The proper way to demonstrate leadership to your employees is not to lash out at your competitors. Learn to be a good winner. Tell your employees to go back to work: write some code, get out in the field and win deals, think up a winning marketing strategy. By showing respect towards your competitors, your employees will respect you more, not less.

Posted in personal, startups, tech, work | 1 Comment »

The Lower West Side

Posted by rbpasker on October 17, 2007

Curbed finally printed my letter. Its the middle article.

HUDSON SQUARE—While our neighborhood name poll rages a wee bit south, a Hudson Squarite wants to reclaim the retired LWS tag: “We live near Greenwich and Spring Streets, in the area west of Soho, south of the West Village, and north of TriBeCa, which you guys are calling ‘Hudson Square.’ The problem with that name is that it seems totally artificial. Nobody knows where it is, and why name an entire neighborhood after a tiny little park that no one visits? Other suggestions have been: West Soho and West of Varick (WeVar). My suggestion — which, because it seems obvious in hindsight, has to stick — is “Lower West Side.” isn’t the symmetry with UWS, UES, and LES beautiful? And geographically and descriptively, it fits perfectly.” We’re church-going boys, so if Trinity tell us it’s Hudson Square, it’s Hudson Square. [CurbedWire Inbox]

Some of the responses on the Curbed blog are delish! Nobody seems to like Hudson Square.

Question is, who the hell is this Trinity person?

Curbed: CurbedWire: Blaichman Targets West Village, Lower West Side Plea, I Hate Glass

Posted in personal | Leave a Comment »

A Note from a Hero

Posted by rbpasker on September 13, 2007

Iraq and other foreign military adventures often seem so far removed, so when I got this most recent email from my friend and colleague Quan about what he has been doing for the past 6 years, it brought things home for me. I may not agree with the policies of the administration, but I thank Quan and his buddies that there are men and women of courage who are manning the battlestations. Here is his letter in its entirety.

After 9/11 I volunteered myself back on active duty with the Marine Corps. As some of you may have heard, I was part of the invasion force in Iraq March 2003. I was eventually released from active duty and returned back to the U.S.

At the beginning of 2004, I was recruited by the State Department to go back into the the Middle East. I worked for the office of DSS (Diplomatic Security Service)/HTOP (High Threat Operations); I guess the HTOP says it all.

Prior to 9/11, I was enjoying life & running my own boutique headhunting business. During the past several years, I always knew that I would return to that business. Even though the 007 lifestyle fulfilled the machismo aspect of my life, I missed the business competitiveness that exists in the headhunting.

Turning the page…

For the past six months I have been helping my friend run his headhunting business in South America. We have offices in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay. If anyone is going to be in the area please look me up. Managing 120+ people is interesting; very much like babysitting.

Wish me luck!

I leave you with these final thought.

Regardless of your politics, please remember that there are still many of our fellow Americans in harm’s way. A lot of people say that they “support the troops.” I hope that it isn’t just election time rhetoric.

The next time you’re at the airport and see an 18 year old service member in uniform, approach him/her and say the following words that will change his/her life… “Thanks.”
For us, who have worn the uniform, those words are better than any medal/awards that politicians could ever come up with… especially coming from our fellow Americans.

BTW, you don’t have to thank me… I have volunteered for everything that I’ve been part of.

Quan M. Nguyen

“For Americans war is almost all of the time a nuisance, and military skill is a luxury like Mah-Jongg. But when the issue is brought home to them, war becomes as important, for the necessary period, as business or sport. And it is hard to decide which is likely to be the more ominous for the Axis — an American decision that this is sport, or that it is business.”
-D. W. Brogan, The American Character

Posted in personal | 1 Comment »

File Under: Law of Unintended Consequences

Posted by rbpasker on August 23, 2007

Elizabeth’s sister Laura Crosta is a professional photographer (and director, and graphic artist, and photojournalist).

Her edgy, hyperrealistic images have appeared in Rolling Stone, on album covers, and in major advertising campaigns.

But she also does many personal projects, including the one she describes below. You can see this masterpiece about my underwear by visiting her site, and navigating to “Projects” > “Bob’s Underwear”.


Posted in personal | 2 Comments »

My first post on the internet

Posted by rbpasker on August 17, 2007

According to Google Groups my first USENET post was on 24-March-1989 from my account at RTI (AKA Ingres).

I had moved to California from NYC just the month before.

Path: utzoo!utgpu!!mailrus!!EDDIE.MIT.EDU!think!rtech!bunny::pasker
From: think!rtech!bunny::pas...@EDDIE.MIT.EDU (Bob Pasker, X2434)
Newsgroups: gnu.emacs.bug
Subject: Gnuemacs
Message-ID: <>
Date: 24 Mar 89 03:29:23 GMT
Distribution: gnu
Organization: GNUs Not Usenet
Lines: 10

Mail seems to be the only thing I know how to use on the internet.
How can i fetch a copy of the latest GNUEMACS manual from your node?
Can you just mail me one via the internet?Any help would be appreciated.

thanks, bob pasker

Relational Technology
VAX Development

Posted in net, personal | 1 Comment »

Fastidious and Precise

Posted by rbpasker on August 7, 2007

While reading a computer manual today, I came across the following:

When comparing objects, six different predicates can be useful: smaller, smaller or equal, equal, not equal, greater or equal, and greater. However, defining all of them is fastidious, especially since four out of these six can be expressed using the remaining two.

I have never seen fastidious used in the way, and I don’t think it’s right. defines fastidious as:

fas·tid·i·ous (fă-stĭd’ē-əs, fə-) adj.
1. Possessing or displaying careful, meticulous attention to detail.
2. Difficult to please; exacting.
3. Excessively scrupulous or sensitive, especially in matters of taste or propriety. See synonyms at meticulous.

A person can be fastidious, but I don’t think it can be used as an adjective for defining.

Posted in personal | 1 Comment »

%d bloggers like this: