The Amazon Credit Card

Over the past 5 years I have ordered the following items from and received them for free:

My wife and use a credit card for most of our purchases. The credit card earns points that can be redeemed for merchandise at, so every time we buy gas, groceries, pay for tuition, or go to the movies, we earn points that we can eventually redeem from Amazon. We keep track of our spending, and pay the entire bill at the end of each month, so it functions almost like a debit card and we don’t end up accumulating debt.
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Can you see it?

If you stare at the block long enough you should eventually be able to make out a giraffe. This is because of the special optical properties of files known as animated GIFs. :)

I sent this to my mom and somehow it got converted from an animated GIF to a static TIFF. She claims she stared at it for 2 hours before she gave up.

Violino Piccolo

While looking through the score of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto’s I ran across an instrument I had never seen before. It was called the violino piccolo and appeared to be written in a key other than C like the rest of the stringed instruments.

Evidently the violins were not very easy to play in the higher registers. The violino piccolo addressed the problem. The instrument was about 13 inches long and looked very similar to a child’s 3/4 size violin, but it was tuned a 3rd or 4th higher. The higher tuning allowed musicians to play the same notes as a violin lower on the fretboard which made it much easier to play. The smaller size and higher tuning gave it a brighter sound in the higher registers

As the design of the modern violin evolved the fretboard was extended toward the bridge. Better technical construction and new playing techniques eventually pushed the violino piccolo out of common use and violin piccolo parts are now played by normal sized violins.

Actual Conversation on Amtrak

I took a train from Grand Rapids to Chicago to pickup a car. This is an actual conversation that took place two seats in front of me on the ride down:

Lady: …. this is my first train experience …
Ticket Man: Well then we will make sure it is a miserable one. Can I get you anything else?
Lady: Coffee?
(They don’t serve coffee because the pots might tip over)
Ticket Man: (Sarcastically)I wish. It’s pathetic.

I wonder if this is why most of the train was empty?

Passing the Java Programmer Certification Exam

After using Java for about four years, I started wondering how well I really understood the language, so I started looking into Sun’s certification. Sun offers the following certifications:

  • Sun Certified Programmer
  • Sun Certified Developer
  • Sun Certified Web Component Developer
  • Sun Certified Business Component Developer
  • Sun Certified Developer for Java Web Services
  • Sun Certified Enterprise Architech
  • Sun Certified Mobile Application Developer

The Programmer certification is the pre-requisite for all of the other certifications. It consists of a 61 question, two hour test taken at a Prometric testing center. You need at least a 52% to pass. At first I was surprised at such a low passing score, however it makes more sense given the complexity of the questions.

The Developer certification involves writing an actual application based on specifications from Sun. After completing the program, you take a test over your design choices. It seems the test is to make sure that you actually wrote the code yourself.

Sun Certified Programmer & Developer for Java 2 Study Guide (Exam 310-035 & 310-027)Since the Programmer certification was the only one I was eligible for, I started looking for a good study guide. Several years ago I worked through a book by McGraw-Hill when preparing for a CCNA exam. I liked the format so I was pleased when I found for the Java exam. I ordered it used from Amazon. After it arrived I noticed it was jointly written by Kathy Sierra. Kathy specialty is cognition and learning. She worked for Sun and helped develop the Java exams. She is also the creator of the Head First series of books published by O’Reilly and Java Ranch (a website dedicated to Java certification topics).
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