Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The State of Oz

I am in my third week visiting Brisbane, Australia. I have always loved living here and this trip has been no exception. We are in our old house, our tenants having vacated just before we arrived. There was a lot of work to be done on the place, mostly due to the climate. Overgrown gardens needed trimming, mold grows fast when plumbing leaks, termites in a section of a retaining wall (but not the house!). Nothing unexpected for Brisbane. All of it is now repaired, along with much new paint. The house is feeling like the top property it is again.

Food has become quite expensive here. We were shocked at the prices! A simple sandwich and coffee is well over the ten dollar mark. Lunch at the tourist restaurant on top of Mount Coot-Tha for the four of us neared A$60! Even groceries for the month have been exorbitant.

Paul tells me that it is no longer reasonable to expect to rent a house here for a price which would cover a mortgage payment. That agrees with our experience. The combination of food prices and rental prices points to a real problem with the economy here. The weather is still beautiful, though!

We have had a wonderful time bush walking Mount Coot-Tha, Mount Warning and South Stradbroke Island. The Eumundi Markets are as good as always. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and the Australia Zoo were big hits with the kids.

Brisbane remains a truly livable city, with its excellent bus service, walking trails and superb entertainment. It is a concern, though, that it may be becoming too expensive to live here.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Hello, Redland

After years of viewing RDF through the Kowari lens, I have finally moved on. I wrote my first Semantic Web application using Redland today.

Redland, by Dave Beckett, built and installed easily on my Mac Powerbook G4, but I had trouble getting the Java and Python language bindings to build. For the moment, I'm settling on the Perl and Ruby bindings, which is what I mostly use in any case.

The application, for those interested, was a small prototype showing how Semantic Web techniques could be used to foster requirements traceability in software engineering. I automatically generated software collaboration graphs from code, then laid documentation RDF alongside. I used a single SPARQL query to show when the requirements required re-validation. The idea could become an interesting Eclipse plug-in.

Monday, March 20, 2006

A Practitioner's View of Software Development

I've been asked to give a guest lecture tomorrow to the CSSE 3002 class (The Software Process) at the University of Queensland. The topic is "A practitioner's view of software development". Professor Dave Carrington wanted me to tell his software engineering students what they can expect in the real world and how to prepare for it.

The slides are available in PDF and PPT.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The End of an Age

Americans seem to treat our status as the world's most powerful country as given. Few recall that our ascendance to dominant superpower status occurred only after World War II. We squandered our good fortunes on a costly war in Vietnam, which resulted in President Nixon ceasing to back the US dollar with gold. That marked the first time in two millenia that the world did not have its most powerful currency backed by a scarce commodity. Instead, we moved it to being backed by simple goodwill.

Now, while our manufacturing has moved to China and the promised services boom has gone to India, we are squandering our remaining dollars on a costly war in Iraq. It should come as no surprise that the Euro countries now claim a larger economy and a more stable currency. Our days on top would seem to be numbered and we had better adjust our attitudes.

How long will it be before China catches up to the E.U. in total economic might? Less than a generation, that much is pretty certain. Then we will be at least number three.

Foriegn investments in US dollar bonds float our economy. They pay for our ballooning trade deficit and our overseas wars. What do you think will happen when those foriegn investors start to buy Euros instead? It is already starting to happen. We have less cash, less growth and less economic security than we think we have.

We used to claim the world's most populous city. New York is now number thirteen, behind Mumbai, Shaghai, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Moscow, Delhi, Karachi, Istanbul, Beijing, Mexico City, Jakarta and Tokyo. Don't know where all of those are? You'd better learn, and knowing at least one of their languages wouldn't hurt, either.

I don't know about you, but I am rearing my children to be prepared for a world that is not centered on America. Are you?