Travel Scrabble

Travel ScrabbleThis season, Hasbro is pushing their new Scrabble Game Folio, which is designed for travel: the gameboard sits inside a zip-up binder and the miniature tiles snap into place so that the game can easily support airplane turbulence and being packed up mid-game to be finished later. Kenny and I, having appreciated playing Scrabble at our B&B in Manarola after all of the tourist attractions closed, decided to pick one up for our trip to New Orleans.

While compact for a board game, it’s still a bit bulky, and I wouldn’t recommend it for international travel if you are trying to pack light. However, it was fabulous for the plane, and in general for a short domestic trip it seems to work great. We probably played 5 games of Scrabble during our various flights and layovers this week, and it certainly made the time go by faster. This was a godsend for me, since my laptop is out of commission awaiting a new motherboard.

I’m still not great at Scrabble, but definitely improving. I can usually get at least one “bingo” per game these days, and I’m working on memorizing all of the two-letter words (there are 5 new ones in the latest edition of the Scrabble dictionary. Kenny and I managed to use both “za” and “qi” in one game of Scrabble on Sunday :)). The short list of words that use Q but not U are also quite useful. I think we are getting to the point at which those who aren’t big geeks like us don’t enjoy playing with us anymore.

Kenny still beats me at Scrabble more that 50% of the time, but the scores are usually very close (they usually hover around 300 points each). If we continue to fly as much as we have in the past, we should both continue to improve over time. I’m just hoping that I can improve more than he does. ;)

A Tale of Seven Wedding Blessings

This past weekend, I started working on the program that Kenny and I are going to distribute to our guests at the wedding ceremony. The program will have short blurbs on the Jewish traditions that we are incorporating into the ceremony, and the full English and Hebrew text of the Sheva B’rachot, or “Seven Blessings”, that are the central part of the Jewish wedding liturgy.

When I started, however, I found that the text of the Sheva B’rachot was nowhere to be found on the internet, either in image form or (as I preferred) text form. Unwilling to give up, I finally decided I was going to have to type them up myself. I downloaded a free Hebrew font, got out my tattered printed copy of the blessings, and set to work. This was no easy task, because the English-Hebrew keyboard mappings are not at all intuitive. And because Hebrew has a lot of complexities with the placement of vowels and dots and things all over the place, I had to spend a lot of time playing just to figure out the magic incantations to type in order to form the letters and words that I needed. For example, alef, the first letter in the alphabet, was mapped to the close paren (shift-0). Who knew?!

But after much pecking away, I finally figured out all of the mappings I needed and within a couple of hours I had my perfect rendering of the Sheva B’rachot. In my attempt to save some poor unsuspecting engaged Jewish couple from the same pain, I’m posting the MS Word doc containing the Hebrew text here. Enjoy! You’ll need the SPTiberian font, which is free and available for both Mac and Windows.

As a side note, I realized today that I would have been much happier on Saturday if I’d done a quick MSN Search for “SPTiberian” and found this convenient key mapping chart. Oy.

Postal Delivery

The ketubah came today! It is crazy and very exciting to see our names printed in Hebrew and English interspersed throughout the text. Apparently the trendy new thing to do is to get the ketubah framed before the wedding, but leave the glass out until after it is signed. I think it’s a neat idea — better than putting it on an easel with a chintzy cellophane protective covering during the ceremony and reception.

And the other thing that came in the mail today was a letter from the IRS — apparently I forgot to send them my W2 with my taxes. Oops. That’s what happens when you don’t e-file. I have to admit, I was pretty freaked out when I saw the IRS on the return address at first, so I was rather relieved when I opened up the envelope and saw the note. Phew!

Old and New

Three years ago today, I started work as an intern on the Windows Application Compatibility team. This team represents what Joel Spolsky likes to call “the Raymond Chen camp” at Microsoft — a team full of individuals committed to making old apps work on newer versions of Windows. I wasn’t directly involved in the types of heroic projects that Raymond describes — I spent more time thinking about tools that would help developers avoid the common pitfalls that necessitated that heroic work.

One of my projects was helping to beef up the security tests in the Application Verifier, a runtime code verification tool that developers can use to catch all kinds of common pitfalls in their apps — e.g. heap corruption, using certain APIs incorrectly, creating weak ACLs, etc. The AppVerifier ships as part of the Application Compatibility Toolkit, which is now in its third version (I worked on version 2.50). I even got to contribute to Michael Howard’s security column, with an article describing the new security features that I spec’ed that summer (of course, this didn’t actually get published until after I started at Microsoft full-time, to coincide with the release of AppVerifier 2.50 :)).

Now I’m here full time, working on the Avalon team (it’s been almost 2 years already!), trying to revolutionize the way applications are built. And today, a new intern started working for me. I hope he’ll have as much fun as I did in the summer of 2002.